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Author Archives: Leah Lax

The Lilith Blog

May 13, 2020 by

On Unorthodox: The Hasidim Are Not An Anomaly

Not long ago, I saw a young woman in Hasidic garb on the plaza outside Lincoln Center. She was sitting at the top of the steps with a cup and a cardboard sign, her long skirt spread around her. She wore a look of abject shame, her eyes trained on the ground.  

I pictured her as I watched the recent series Unorthodox. Television is aspirational, director Maria Schrader said in an accompanying documentary. Aspirational stories have a simple shape—the heroine escapes a monster and finds her way to freedom. At the end of Unorthodox, Esty fingers a compass given to her as a gift and smiles.

When my memoir about leaving Hasidic life first came out, it was held up as a banner in a number of secret online groups of Hasidic rebels. I am a Texan who joined the Hasidim as an idealistic teen and a lesbian, but no matter—some among them saw in my book something of themselves. Most of them had grown up in schools that denied them secular knowledge yet claimed to be accredited and drew government funds. They could be barely literate, and as culturally ignorant as a new immigrant. The group is sadly marked with addiction, depression, suicide. They share information, hold successes up and cheer one another—who learned to read, who got into college, who got to see their children. 

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The Lilith Blog

November 25, 2014 by

Fabulous Hair!

leah lax photo w grey hair us“Fabulous hair!” That came from a neighbor I barely knew while I was out walking our Airedale Gracie through our neighborhood lined in old live oaks, their bent branches arching the street like the protective arms of old crones. Her hair was short, straight, and unnaturally blonde, and she was a little older than me, with a determined look on her face as she strode past carrying a tall cup of Starbucks. I just shook my head. This had been happening ever since I started letting it go gray.

I do not have fabulous hair. I have unmanageable Jewish hair with waves in all the wrong places that tends to frizz in humid Houston, where I live. A hairbrush or blow dryer just makes it worse, so I resort to getting out of the shower and raking it back with my hands, then letting it fall where it falls, which is often in my face.

I used to dye my hair back when I was a covered Hassidic woman, even though I had to keep it hidden at all times. I would clip it short so it wouldn’t be a nuisance under the scarves and wigs I wore day and night, then I avoided the mirror except when I was wearing my very-expensive wig, as if that way I would only see who I was supposed to be.  

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