Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Anthropologist Studies Socialization of Girls in Orthodox Jewish Community

It wasn’t easy for Fordham University anthropologist Ayala Fader, Ph.D., to gain access to the Hasidic community in Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood. In many ways, it’s a world unto itself — and not particularly open to outsiders.

But Fader persisted by getting to know people within the community and eventually she got the kind of intimate access that an ethnographic study invariably requires. And what she was able to document was the remarkable ability of mothers and teachers to refashion the secular world, especially the English language, so as to allow them to build boundaries around their way of life and imbue children with a deep sense of what it means to be a Hasidic Jew.

“My initial thought was that these women and girls, all of whom speak much more English than Hasidic men, were trying to become more like secular Jews,” Fader said. “Over time, I came to see that it wasn’t the right interpretation. Actually, as they do with many aspects of secular North American life, Hasidic women and girls are combining English and Yiddish in new ways so that Hasidic English is actually becoming a Jewish language. This happens in socialization practices, how parents, and really mothers, teach kids to become members of their community and thus to stay within that community and reproduce it while they also they actively change it.”


Does anyone remember a book written by Hella Winston entitled 'Unchosen:
The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels
(Did anyone read it)? I think this
story is much nicer.


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