A look into Hasidic Judaism

Hasidic Judaism is a religious movement within the religion of Judaism and most Hasidic Jews can be found in the US and Israel.

The religion was founded by rabbi Israel Ben Elizier and originated in Ukraine. There are a number of denominations within Judaism which include: Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist. Hasidic Judaism is a subset of Orthodox Judaism.

The largest percentage of Jews identify as Reform. This denomination emphasises Jewish ethical tradition over the Jewish law, also known as the Halacha. This movement focuses on adapting tradition in the modern world and sees itself as social justice orientated.

Conservative Judaism sees Jewish law as an obligation. This denomination is in between Reform and Orthodox as it has adopted some changes such as driving to the Synagogue on the Shabbat (the day of rest) and gender-egalitarian prayer.

Orthodox Jews are known for their strict obedience of the Shabbat such as no driving, no working, no use of electricity and no handling of money. Within Orthodox, there are modern Orthodox, Haredi Orthodox, Yeshivish, Hasidic and Open Orthodox.

Hasidic Jews arose from the spiritual revival movement. It is a very strict religion especially when it comes to marriage, according to a Haaretz article on Ultra-Orthodox Jews. Touching of any kind is strictly forbidden before marriage and an arranged marriage is very common. However, this article explains that they do not think sex is a bad thing but that it should occur within marriage.

However, not all who are born into a particular religion want to abide by it. This is true for Deborah Feldman. A Netflix show called Unorthodox documents Feldman’s experience of growing up as a Hasidic Jew and how she broke free.

She grew up in Brooklyn and realised that she was not like the others and didn’t want to be. Unorthodox is based on Feldman’s life, however, it is very different in some parts. Similar to the main character Etsy, Feldman was also arranged to be married at 17 years old.

When Feldman had her first child a few years later, she realised she wanted to give him the experiences she never had. She left with her son and enrolled in Sarah Lawrence University. She then experienced everything that she was told was “sinful”.

In an article by the New York Post, Feldman detailed what it was like to live as a Hasidic Jewish woman. Some of the strict rules women must abide include: women can only wear woven fabrics as they do not cling, women are not allowed to eat out, women are expected to shave their heads and wear a wig, women cannot be touched for two weeks every month and cannot even be handed a glass or sit on the same couch.

Feldman said the rules “make you feel so gross,” and when it came to having sex, it had to be in the dark and it was not something that people were allowed to enjoy. She said “There is an actual rule that you learn before you get married that you are never supposed to look at genitalia… There is no boob touching…There is no oral sex. After the first time, you have to call a rabbi and he asks the man questions such as ‘did this happen?'”

Feldman divorced her husband and her son sees him on every Shabbat. She said that since publishing her book, she has received hate mail and that she cannot even have her name on her own doorbell for her safety. She also said that since she left, more rules have been placed that limit women, for example, they are not allowed on the street after a certain time in the evening. “We hear all these stories about Muslim extremists; how is this any better? This is just another example of extreme fundamentalism.”

Roisin Maguire

Image Credit: Wikimedia