Religion & Beliefs

What We Can Learn From the xoJane Article About Orthodox Judaism

An article written by an Orthodox Jewish woman defending her lifestyle sparks comments more illuminating than the article itself Read More

By / May 23, 2012
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For much of Tuesday afternoon, countless friends and colleagues were emailing me, passing along an article that was published on xoJane, the women’s site founded by former Sassy editor Jane Pratt. The piece, written by a Hasidic woman about women in the Hasidic world, was itself a response to a post that appeared on Jezebel painting Ultra-Orthodox Jews in a negative light, comparing their world to the “dark ages” after this past weekend’s men-only anti-Internet rally at Citi Field.

The xoJane writer, Chaya (she doesn’t give her last name), tries to set the record straight, but ultimately swings to the opposite extreme, painting Hasidism as a woman’s paradise.

Giving one example, she writes, “All you need to know is that the practice of not touching your husband when you’re on your period and then immersing in a mikveh is awesome.” Many would disagree with that assertion, but none of this is new—it’s just a rehashing of decades of Jewish women’s debates, now offered up for public Internet consumption. Luckily, the piece offers something much more interesting: the comments.

In the first three hours the post garnered 260 comments, ranging from glowing (“The most awesome thing I have read to date. Thank you for shining the light.”) to seething (“Making kids wear long sleeves, black clothes, and stockings in the summer is downright unhealthy and could be considered a form of abuse?”) to those who just felt a need to shout out whatever they have picked up about religious Jews, however incorrect they may be. (Apparently Hasidism “was a reaction by some super scared Jews after the Holocaust.”)

Most likely, this piece will one day become source material for a Jewish Studies dissertation on the Internet’s role in the religious experience. But for now, just savor the top five comments:

5. Alley Colton: Thanks for writing this! I have always been curious. I have more questions…. why do all you Chassidic ladies have the most beautiful, glowy skin?

(Seriously, is that a thing? Maybe it’s all the Shabbos makeup?)

4. Viva: Quick question. I worked at a NYC dungeon… you know, the kind with whips and chains and handcuffs, BDSM stuff and the like. At least 1/3rd (33%) of the customers that came in were Chassids. They’d visit often. Usually it was once or twice a week but at certain points that would escalate to three or four days in a row. One of my co-workers mentioned that Chassidic men couldn’t touch their wives during the wife’s period so they frequented the dungeon instead. There was a great deal of contact involved in every session that I witnessed….

(The best part are the women who respond and affirm her observation. As one later commentator noted, there needs to be an xoJane piece on this stat.)

3. Vivahate: But the instability of the naratee makes this confusing. Are we coke-snorters or Puritans? The author’s points are important, and I don’t even care if the tone is scathing—that is both understandable and often effective. My reaction is based on the contradictory construct that is built via references to mainstream culture/values.

(Ugh, PhD students. This is why no one let’s you out of the library.)

2. RoseY: my husband told me when he was younger he had the curly paot (side burns) some curl it with water and sugar.
MorrisI: little secret about the sidelock (peyos) curl—apple juice. No joke.

(I’m pretty sure that’s a company secret. Now do you understand why the Internet is assur?)

1. MsGuest: This article reads like chassidic scientology with a dash of public relations training.

(AKA the Chabad handbook—and I mean that in a good way.)

(Photo credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Sarah Breger is managing editor of Moment Magazine. She has never dipped her hair in apple juice.

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