May 24, 2019 RESOURCES ON HASIDISM
Over the years, I’ve read and collected many different resources on Hasidic Judaism. I’ve put together a selection of some of the most noteworthy ones for you to read, watch, eat, take in, and enjoy. You’ll find books, movies, tv shows, eateries, a whole virtual goodie-bag! I hope you’ll find in this list something interesting worth sinking your teeth into. I hope this will grow your curiosity.
PS: If you enjoy my resources, please tell your friends about my tour or consider supporting my work.
Some of my Best Work
#On Hasidic Women
A response to outsiders who imagine that Satmar women wait to be rescued.
A response to Hasidic men about why women embrace their own oppression.
Commentary on the naked playboy who traipsed Williamsburg naked in order to ‘raise awareness’ of oppression.
___ #On Books & Films about Hasidism
A review of the book Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman
A review of the book Becoming Eve by Abby Stein
A review All Who Go Do Not Return by Shulem Deen
A review of the Netflix documentary One of Us
A review of The Netflix series Unorthodox
A review of the Israeli TV series Shtisel
___ #On My Story
My unpublished memoir, serialized on Patreon
A longer podcast recounting of my journey
Not fitting in as a Hasidic girl
A recounting of my get/religious divorce
A recounting of trying to date post Hasidism
___ #On Particular Hasidic Issues
On how Covid was handled in the Hasidic community
On women shaving their heads
On Hasidic men’s education
On the Hasidic economy
On technology and kosher phones
On high lead levels lead levels in Hasidic kids
On separation laws between husband and wife.
On anti-smartphone collector’s cards
Shtisel / 2019 / Netflix, 2 Seasons
Shtisel is a brilliant, beautiful, gem. It is a lovely TV show and it does everything right in its treatment of its complex subject. It is the best way to learn about Hasidic Judaism. It’s hard to get into, but totally worth it.
Menasha / 2017 / Movie
The well-received movie about a Hasidic widower and his relationship with his son was filmed in Brooklyn, and features a storyline much more sensitive to the particularities of the Hasidic community. The main character is played by a Hasid, Menashe Lustig.
A Life Apart; Hasidism in America / 1997 / documentary
As far as documentaries go, this 1997 film is probably the best available primer on Hasidism in America with spectacular and intimate footage. Watch it especially for the stories of the rebbes and how the holocaust shaped American Hasidism. However, it gives only the surface story of modern Hasidic culture.
Fill the Void / 2012 / Movie
Before the niche fan-favorite Shtisel, I used to rant about this film. It’s among my favorite works set in the Hasidic world. A careful director brings the levitate marriage dilemma to life from the eye of someone inside, not the outside. Clearly, the good work on Hasidism is happening in Israel.
Fiddler on the Roof
Fiddler on the Roof is timeless; it captures the intimate reality of generational differences and conflict between modernity and religion with all the pain, idealism, confusion that is as relevant today as it was a hundred years ago. The scene of Tevya rejecting his daughter will always cut to my soul. There is so much of Fiddler on the roof that captures the experience of sheltered Judaism today, so many years after its creation.
Mendy / Movie / 2003
Among former Hasidim we often joked that there are more movies about leaving Hasidism than there are people who leave. The movie Mendy is certainly not a perfect example of the leaving process, but rather a perfect example of how those in the community imagine the journey.
Felix and Meira / Movie / 2014
A recent movie about the common theme of leaving, but from the perspective of a woman with a child. The main male actor is Luzer Twersky, a former Hasid who bring the role to life with all the proper kvetches.
HASIDISM, A NEW HISTORY / 2017
Book by Benjamin Brown, David Assaf, David Biale, Gad Sagiv, Marcin Wodzinski, Samuel Heilman, and Uriel Gellman
The definitive, comprehensive, well-written introduction on Hasidism. This is an academic work and requires some work on the part of the reader. But for those interested in sharp insight, this book provides a modern history complete with analysis, a deep understanding of its subject and an ability to dissect the limits and problems of various ways Hasidic history has previously been understood. The book to be read by any student of Hasidism.
Goes like a couple in love with the Historical Atlas of Hasidism, by one of the above authors.
This little, unknown gem was written by a former Hasidic English teacher, a community outsider, as he reports on the poignant and funny experiences of teaching secular studies to Hasidic boys who have little respect for what he has to teach. A rare glimpse.
A recent memoir by Shulem Deen, a former Skver Hasid who left behind 5 children when leaving the Hasidic community. He doesn’t always pain a well rounded portrait, and at times the book is a little self serving, but it still remains the best memoir of the genre out to date.
A bestselling memoir by a Williamsburg woman who left the sect – soon to be a Netflix miniseries. Feldman’s views of Hasidic life are very influenced by her own rejection of the community, but her book gives us good insight into the process of leaving the community and feeling “different”. Interesting, she wrote a school essay about life in Williamsburg when she was still a member of it.
Rabbi Eli Hecht
I found this book useful in understanding what life was like in the ten years after the holocaust, when surviving Hungarian Hasidim began to settle in Williamsburg. While Rabbi Hecht has a particular religious narrative which I find very limiting, the book is one of the few helpful English language resources in researching the story of this period.
Here are sme food places to check out in Hasidic Williamsburg. Yum. I’m sharing some good places, but the spot for my favorite rugelech remains secret. To find out you have to either come to my tour or be the New Yorker food critic and come to me to apologize profusely for not even mentioning Hasidic bakeries in the piece A Search for Superior Rugelech, and the Harlem Baker who’s Making the Best in New York.