by Hella Winston

“Yearning to Breathe Free”

Refugees from the hasidic world

The women are doing all they can to make me feel welcome (plying me with food, complimenting my sweater, producing photos of children), though I am sure this is just as awkward for them as it is for me. All of them are members of the extremely insular Satmar Hasidic sect, and mingling with a secular Jew like me—let alone having one in their home for a meal—is something most would do only under very unusual circumstances, if at all. But despite their hair coverings (monochromatic cloth turbans) and modest dress (long sleeved, high-necked sweaters, skirts well below the knee, thick stockings), there is something about these women that seems familiar, and soon I begin to feel more at ease.

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Leaving the Hasidic World

The articles in this special section:

Malkie

by Malka Schwartz

An immigrant to the wider world adjusts her compass

“Yearning to Breathe Free”

by Hella Winston

Behind women’s masks of perfection ("My kids are wonderful. My life is happy. Feminists are wrong.") having to keep even tiny transgressions (like reading books in English, or flirting in a bar) from the eyes of the neighbors.

Seeking a Way Out

by Lynn Davidman

Some Hasidic men, despite no newspapers or T.V., learn to question. Escape routes for women follow a different path.