Hasidic Jews and the Amish

2 Comments
  • Zeno Lee
    Posted at 09:17h, 02 May Reply

    I went to Amish country in Lancaster a few years back and yes there are stark differences between Amish and Mennonites. The Amish eschew technology. They don’t use electricity nor telephones. They don’t use automobiles either and use horses and buggies. Because you would never be able to stay at an Amish person’s place because they are more “devout” and more insular, we stayed at an AirBnB whose host is Mennonite. There was no WiFi but there was electricity and they were farmers that used farming equipment with motors, compared to the Amish who did everything by hand, such as using scythes to reap tobacco leaves. We went to the Amish library center and the first book I noticed on the shelf there was a FAQ where the first question was on the differences between Mennonites and Amish. The author said harshly, “This question is driven by ignorance, or by malice.” I understood then that for some Amish, even though Mennonites have the same roots as they, might take offense at being associated with each other. Across each household lies in a spectrum of how closely they follow the rules. We booked to eat at an Amish dinner host who allowed her daughter selling paintings in an adjacent barn to use WiFi (for credit card processing). This would not be in a stricter household. In general, they seem to be struggling with adapting to modernity. As the Amish are dependent on agriculture and carpentry, I was told that they are struggling as it has become more expensive to own land in Pennsylvania and they cannot compete with produce being sold from West Virginia. Anyway, Lancaster is not too far away and I would highly recommend a visit!

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 09:55h, 02 May Reply

      We went to the Amish library center and the first book I noticed on the shelf there was a FAQ where the first question was on the differences between Mennonites and Amish. The author said harshly, “This question is driven by ignorance, or by malice.”

      See – this is the kind of tribalism that resonates and seems much more complex and real than the superficial stories we read about the Amish.

      My initial guess would be the Amish would struggle more to adapt than Hasidim because Hasidim take technology and change it for their own use, but there are so many variables among the Amish that I don’t know. This is why I approach learning about the Amish with so much cynicism (although I am *fascinated* by subcultures, as I’m sure you noticed) Because it’s so hard to get to these nitty gritty variables.

      To be honest… I don’t know how to say this without sounding dismissive or condescending… (I don’t think it is!) I don’t trust many telling about Amish even from Amish and ex-Amish because I see in my own experience, that many Hasidim and ex-Hasidim tell a story highly influenced by what outsiders want to hear or by what the teller wants outsiders to hear. For instance with Hasidim, many will insist that they are now social distancing hell over high water, but if you visit their neighborhoods you can see with your own eyes that things are not so simple. (Personally I say – enough with keeping young children in the houses, it’s cruel.) But the point is, when an Amish person repeats the pop culture lines, or seems to say “we all find joy in our own way” I’m like — eh, be specific or I have a hard time buying any of it.

      Which is why something like the intra attitude between the Amish and Mennonites is so different.

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