UNCHOSEN by Hella Winston


The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels
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Ph.D. candidate Winston turns field research for a doctoral dissertation on a facet of Hadisic Judaism into a book about religious fundamentalism and those trying to escape it.

Winston reflects on the lives of a few renegades, considered apostates by family and friends, who are unwilling to adhere to the rigorous practices of the orthodox sects in which they were raised. It’s an insular life, founded on religious study for the men and steadfast homemaking and care of children for the women. If a Hasidic family member rebels, he or she brings shame to the community, wrecking opportunities for “appropriate” marriages for their siblings and children. In the author’s case histories, there’s trouble when Leah leaves her husband and tries drugs. And there’s trouble when Yossi gets a shave and Dini wears a short skirt, when Motti listens to a Yankees game and Malkie dons jeans and goes to college. (Malkie’s is the only real name used here, the author notes). Weary of leading double lives and changing costumes like comic book heroes, these former conformists may be found at Starbucks, in neighborhood bars and on the Internet. Winston’s rebels are, understandably, dispirited and disoriented. “Even with the big fur streimel on his head, Yossi was freezing his tuchus off,” the author clumsily writes of one rebel wandering the streets of New York. For these explorers, American life outside the old neighborhood is disappointing and considerably shy of the expected glamour.

Starter sociology, facile ethnography.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-8070-3626-9
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2005


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