Sunday, November 13, 2005

Author talk by Hella Winston, author of Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels

A surprising and controversial exploration of Hasidic Jews struggling to live within or leave their restrictive communities

When Hella Winston began talking with Hasidic Jews for her doctoral dissertation in sociology, she was excited to be meeting with members of the highly insular Brooklyn Satmar sect. Several Jewish journalists and scholars have produced admiring books describing the Lubavitch way of life and the group’s outreach efforts, but very little has been written about the other Hasidic sects, despite their combined greater numbers. Unlike Lubavitch, members of these other groups do not engage in outreach and are raised to avoid all unnecessary contact with outside society. Winston’s access was unprecedented.

She never could have guessed what would happen next—that she would be introduced, slowly and covertly, to Hasidim deeply unhappy with their highly restrictive way of life and sometimes desperately struggling to leave their communities. First there was Yossi, a young man yearning to leave but, like most male Hasidim, a Yiddish speaker with only fourth grade English and math skills. Then she met Dini, a wife and mother called before the all-male modesty patrol because someone had spotted her outside a bar in a T-shirt and miniskirt. There were others still who had actually left.

Unchosen tells the story of these and other “rebel” Hasidim, serious questioners who long for greater personal and intellectual freedom than their communities allow. In so doing, Unchosen forces us to reexamine the history of these communities and asks us to consider what we choose not to see when we romanticize them.

Hella Winston is pursuing her Ph.D. in sociology at the Graduate Center for the City University of New York. She lives in New York City.

Schedule: November 13, 2005 4:00 PM
Language: English
Audience: Adults
Branch: Central Library
Location: Second Floor Meeting Room


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