On Unorthodox -The Year After

 Posted by on February 20, 2013
Feb 202013
A secular girk reads Unorthodox and a relegious woman reads Ununorthodox

It was a day of love. Cupids twittered through the air, roses were exchanged, arrows were shot and a dozen or so of us SLC students filed into our class with a round table for a roundtable on a recent Jewish memoir, Deborah Feldman’s Unorthodox, etc. All semester we have been discussing classic Jewish memoirs, and Valentine’s Day 2013 would be specially dedicated to last year’s hot tome about one woman’s scandalous rejection of her roots.

The discussion was presided over by scholar of Hasidic silk, Prof. Glen Dynner, who selected this book from hundreds of possible choices. Royalty-wise, the authoress must surely have made $18 from our bunch at least, depending on the terms of her book deal. Are SLC alums given priority in SLC literature classes? Inquiring minds wonder.

Roundtable guests included UCLA professor David Myers, who happens to be writing a book about the holy shtetl Kiryas Joel, and could tell our class definitively that “Satmar” does not now and never meant St. Mary in Romanian (Wikipedia says so too), my friend Joel Feldman, who happens to be the “Feldman” in Deborah Feldman, Hershey Goldberger, Frimet’s husband and another KJ “specimen” along with myself, making up our Hasidic quartet at the roundtable.

Joel was there because naturally he was interested in an academic discussion about a book in which he reluctantly guest stars, and also to convey publicly some of his own impressions and respond to public perceptions of him. Hershey was Joel’s wingman. Frimet was there to pummel and debate our professor into oblivion. I was there to cringe over the proceedings. And Myers was there to conduct Satmar research.

After a brief introduction from Dynner and Myers, the roundtable was directed to discuss the question of reliability in memoirs in general and the question of misimpressions in this memoir in particular. Was the memoir genre a kind of permission to bend the truth under the general heter that everyone has their own personal truth? The roundtable agreed that there was no definitive answer, but some thought that they were critical readers and could tell if the memoirist was being self-serving, deceptive, etc. Most readers like to believe they are intelligent, thank you. Someone thought that it was odd that Deborah Feldman seemed to see herself with a halo with nary a self-deprecating word to be found in the book. The roundtable also considered whether or not this 12-month old book may have staying power. Could we imagine it still being read and analyzed after 200 years ala Solomon Maimon’s influential, genre-creating memoir? We conceded that we would meet at yet another roundtable in 200 years and find out. Then everyone took off their clothes and dived into the tank and wove baskets as per Minhag Sarah Lawrence College.

Here is how some of the discussion went down:

PROFESSOR: I know many students feel strongly about the book. Some of you had said some very strong things against the book

Frieda Vizel

Frieda Vizel left the Hasidic community, the Modern Orthodox community and the Formerly Orthodox (OTD) community. She now lives in Pomona and is actively looking for a new community to leave. She deals with the perplexities of the communities she left by drawing cartoons about them, a habit that gets her into an excellent amount of trouble.

  7 Responses to “On Unorthodox -The Year After”

  1. I just vomited all over my keyboard.

    I guess the moral of the story is that you kept your composure intact throughout, let alone didn’t vomit all over them, which arguably you should have.

  2. As usual you are informative and insightful. Wasnt DF scheduled to have a book out in October? Persoanally, I’m waiting for your book. I suspect it will be done with talent not talons. Enjoy Purim with the little one. I see you Shmmmoosh his name as I do with my Shmooo (grand–I give him back at the end of the day)

  3. Love the stereotypes created in this dialogue. Laughed and laughed, especially “Eloquent Girl from Catholic Family.” Like Feldman, you illustrate exactly how memoir isn’t exactly a lie. But, it’s life seen through a personal lens of experience.

  4. Hmph, I think you cooked up this whole scene from scratch and good dialog indeed.

    Seriously, a book (representation) from a relatively unknown or misunderstood culture will be taken as the definitive word when it is the only one. So get busy my dear.

  5. Her book is already being dumped by barnes and nobles for 5.95, and its not worth that either.

  6. This is a life-changing book. The Music of the Soul is a journey of change to realise your highest potential in this lifetime.

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