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Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels Paperback – November 15, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
For something better, I reccomend "Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakers" by Stephanie Levine. She interviews and analyzes Lubavitch girls, and comes up with some fascinating insights. And she includes some "rebels" in the girls she profiles, and I think does it a lot better.
And by the way, all you idiots out there saying Unchosen is just an excuse to critisize Judaism, she says like ten times that of course this isn't how most people feel about the religion, and even the rebels she interviews have things they loved about it. And I'm Orthodox Jewish, and I didn't think it was biased at all. So there.
If one thing stands out from this outstanding book is that so much of the survival of insular religious communities depends on an unspoken fear of 'standing out' and not being accepted. This fear is enforced by a group mentality that is instilled by community leaders, rabbis, teachers and parents. Any challenging of the rules results in sharp condemnation and a rebuke to 'get back in line.'
The heroes and heroines of this book refuse to live by medieval ways of living. They want to explore scientific ways of thinking , they want women to have equal rights as men, they want to find their friends and partners on their own, they want to engage with the society in which they live, they want to see the world outside of their protective cocoons. In short, they want to be individuals!
Thank you Ms. Winston for telling their stories, and I hope the romaticized view we have of such communities will become more nuanced as we are exposed to the silent suffering of good and decent people who are struggling to find themselves. After reading this book the old saying which resonated with me so strongly was 'to thine own self be true.'
Hella Winston calls these escapers or would-be escapers "Hasidic rebels." She has talked to quite a few such people, and their stories make interesting enough reading. And these stories are no doubt important. But there is a question that needs elucidation: important for what ?
Winston's book is based on research that she did for her dissertation in sociology, but the book is not the dissertation itself. That work, it appears, remains to be completed. When it is, she will no doubt give us social and historical context, and it is such context that will clarify how and why these "Hasidic rebels" have something important to teach us.
A consideration of context can take any of a number of forms:
1) Hasidism has a long history. These current "rebels" are not the first in this history. How do they compare (or contrast) with earlier ones ?
2) As Winston points out, there are a number of Hasidic groups -- the Satmar and the Lubavitch are two of many. How do the "rebels" fit into the internal politics of each ? How, in other words, do the different groups differ (or resemble one another) in the treatment of such dissidents ? This question could give us important information into the variety that is today's Hasidism.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The reviews for this book are all over the map so I went into it with minimal expectations. Although I skimmed some chapters, I found it quite the compelling read. Read morePublished 11 months ago by TravellingCari
This book explains a lot I didn't know about Hasidic traditions. The strict rituals and rules. Very interesting about people that want to leave.Published 12 months ago by Karen Hutt
Six years ago a friend warned me that the book Unchosen will be a tedious read. (Mainly because it shows Hasidim leaving our strict life style, only in the prism of a few... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Moshe Freedman
Very interesting and controversial. A side of hasidic life with which I was not familiar.Published 12 months ago by perthaus
Well written. Having once flirted with joining the Lubavitch and being unable to give up science and rationality Or sitting beside my spouse in public. Read morePublished 15 months ago by DickGordonCan