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Tag : Orthodox

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 20, 2020 by

Prayer, Your Way •

The Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance’s goal is to expand spiritual, ritual, intellectual and political opportunities for women within the framework of a Modern Orthodox interpretation of Jewish law. Their resources can help you discover where women can say kaddish, join women’s prayer groups, find “partnership” minyanim (for women and men) and hear women read from the megillah on Purim.

jofa.org/prayer-compass

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April 20, 2020 by

Digging Up the Rotten Roots

I woke up and went outside to harvest. I spent the morning digging up roots, rinsing them clean, putting them into containers to store. Then I checked the news. 

Hasidic Jews in New York attacked with a machete inside their Rabbi’s home on Chanukah. The ninth anti-Semitic attack in New York during this week. Visibly Jewish people bearing the violent brunt of the story told about all Jews: that we are the ultimate source of people’s suffering. And that by harming us, killing us, that suffering will be alleviated. 

The roots of our society are rotting. It is time to dig them up. 

The roots of racism and anti-Semitism have run deep through our society’s history and have grown violence for generations. The exploitation of Black and Brown people, since before our country’s founding. The story that says that Black people are subhuman, that Black labor is white people’s to commodify, that Black communities can be destroyed in an infinite number of ways if white people can benefit. Stories that pave the way for gentrification and expulsion. And the stories that say it’s the fault of the Jews, stories imported by white nationalists for generations that claim that Jews control the banks, control the government, and ultimately control people’s lives. We have breathed these stories in since before we were born. They have always been written and spread by white supremacists and white nationalists, but at some point they came to be understood as common knowledge and we have failed to belong to each other ever since. 

All of these stories serve to divide and conquer. All of these stories are meant to keep power in the hands of those who hold it. 

As Carin Mrotz writes, “Just as capitalism absolutely depends on racism in order to justify exploiting black and brown bodies for labor, it absolutely depends on anti-Semitism in order to scapegoat the Jews and obscure the wheels of its own violence. Poor people are told it’s the Jews who are to blame for their poverty and oppression. Oppressed people are driven apart and pitted against each other. That’s the whole point. It’s so, so painful—and as we see, violent—when it works the way it’s supposed to.” 

Most Hasidic people in New York experiencing this violence are poor. They live at the same economic level as the communities around them. But this isn’t the story that gets told. Because if we enable our suffering to connect us to one another, then we constitute a threat. 

We must constitute a threat. 

This doesn’t mean returning things to the way they were under the Obama administration. This means digging up the rotten roots. 

DOVE KENT, “Tearing Up Anti-Semitism by the Roots,” The Lilith Blog. 

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July 9, 2019 by

The Epidemic of Unscientific Anti-Vaxxism

The false messages that they say convinced hundreds of New Yorkers not to vaccinate their children weren’t spread in a Facebook group or on YouTube, but through a glossy magazine written by and for Orthodox Jewish parents…

“The Vaccine Safety Handbook” looks legitimate but is filled with wild conspiracy theories and inaccurate data. Published by an anonymously led group called Parents Educating and Advocating for Children’s Health, or PEACH, the handbook disputes the well established dangers of illnesses like measles and polio, challenges the effectiveness of vaccines in eradicating those illnesses, and likens the U.S. government’s promotion of vaccines to the medical atrocities of Nazi Germany.

Yet according to New York State’s Department of State and internet domain registration records, PEACH appears to be linked both to a decade-old misinformation hotline targeting the Orthodox community and to Enriched Parenting, a website that peddles new-age cures from a Jewish perspective alongside vaccine hoaxes.

Enriched Parenting’s website features retouched photos of children picking flowers in fields of lavender alongside articles that explain how concern over the measles outbreak is overblown. There are articles about how to beat back-to-school blues and treat urinary tract infections with herbs. There is also a forum where members trade sourdough recipes and alternative cancer treatments.

It’s not just trendy, it’s effective. Research shows combining vaccine misinformation with alternative medicine, homeopathy and diet content this way is one of the most pervasive and persuasive techniques used by anti-vaccination advocates to forward their agenda. “When a piece of misinformation is linked to other beliefs, attitudes, values and behaviors that one already accepts, that misinformation becomes easier to understand and accept,” said Meghan Bridgid Moran, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “And anti-vaccine websites can leverage this…”

In 2017, members of Pittsburgh’s Orthodox Jewish community— which has largely embraced vaccinations—complained on Facebook that PEACH was targeting their neighborhoods by mailing out unsolicited copies of the handbook.

BRANDY ZADROZNY, NBCNews.com, April 12, 2019.

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