Top critical review
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It's not journalism, but read it anyway.
on October 31, 2004
No, it's not "good journalism," it's biased and even angering as the previous reviewers have stated. The author doesn't speak to as many Hassidic sources as he does to townspeople. Part of the way through the book, he takes a side completely and stops speaking to the Hassidim entirely. He doesn't break down many myths about either side but particularly he doesn't understand how the Hassidim treat women, which is disappointing given his natural position as potential ambassador between the two groups. It's clear that he does not practice what he preaches (that is, remaining objective and having two sources back up each fact that he uses). So, the first 200 pages of "analysis" are a little bit disappointing and predictable, speaking in vague terms about mild anti-semitism.
What makes this book truly worth reading is what happens about 200 pages in. Bloom stops reporting on the situation and starts reporting more correctly on several specific topics, namely: the business practices of the Hassidim in Postville, certain incidents in the local area, and - most fascinatingly - about the criminal actions of and obstruction of justice by a small handful of Hassidim in Northeast Iowa.
It's absolutely worth reading Bloom's tepid analysis for 200 pages to get to these 130 pages of rather engrossing stories.