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Tag : Hasidic

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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April 12, 2018 by

Girls at Hasidic Summer Camp

Be on the lookout for Pearl Gluck’s Summer, a short film of sexual exploration set in a Hasidic sleepaway camp in the Catskills. Gluck, 45, went from growing up Hasidic in Borough Park, Brooklyn, to college at Brandeis, with a quirky feminist affection for her roots. At the film’s world premiere at the January 2018 New York Jewish Film Festival, she cheerfully admitted to autobiography in this film she wrote, directed and produced.

The 18-minute film captures the ferocious energy of a camp full of adolescent girls and the gentle secrecy of two friends’ illicit inquiry into a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves. (Though with all the current complexities of “consent,” one girl’s pressuring another makes this reviewer a little uncomfortable.) The attractive young rebbetzin entrusted with the campers’ moral education stays on message: “You are always in the presence of God, but you are also always in the presence of matchmakers.… Above all, don’t mess up your chances for a good match.” Look for Summer, with score by The Klezmatics’ Lisa Gutkin, on the film festival circuit.

Gluck’s Hasidic filmic feminism goes back to Divan (2003/Netflix, Amazon, Fandor). It’s her own Hasidic tale, journeying through Hungary in search of the ancestral couch where revered rebbes slept. Not a one-note filmmaker, her latest film, The Turn Out, explores sex trafficking at America’s rural truck stops. More on Gluck’s films and contact information to arrange screenings, at palinkapictures.com

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