I’ve wanted to do cartoons for a long time. A long, long, long time. As far back as I remember. Back to the time when I was a primitive ape in a cult… no no, maybe not that far back. From when I learned to walk upright and use a number two pencil. It’s an old dream, you see.
I remember confiding years ago to a friend and fellow Hasidic misfit about my hopes and dreams. I was about twenty years old, a married Hasidic mother with the scarf over my head and full Hasidic dress over my body, just as I draw it now. I looked very religious and serious but under the regalia I was harboring feelings of discontent and uncontrollable curiosity. I had dreams bigger than Hasidic provincial life. I had a dream to find a gold treasure under a bridge, yes, but I also had dreams of leaving the Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel with my little baby and live freely with opportunity. I wanted to express myself creatively and intellectually. And I wanted to publish a cartoon blog.
My friend thought I was dreaming too big. He fidgeted with his long sidecurls that swung close to his black curly beard and sighed. “You know it’s not realistic” he said in Yiddish. “We are Hasidic and we’ll stay.”
But I kept dreaming and digging under the bridge. I watched my baby learn to speak his first Yiddish words and be fearful of non-Jews, and I was determined to give him more out of life. For years I fought with family, rabbis and community for a different reality, and with every setback I lay there and kept dreaming. More often than not it was a nightmare. After some years I finally left the community with my son. It’s a path I took that was often lonely and hellish but which I’m proud of.
My Hassidic friend was wrong. I wasn’t dreaming unrealistically big. But this blog isn’t about getting an apology out of him (although it would be nice…). My son and I have settled into our new life and I feel ready to take on my old dream and be a cartoonist.
Cartoons weren’t generally appreciated or taken seriously among us Hasidim, but when I was still a little girl we used to get a pamphlet in the mail warning all Hasidim about the dangers of the internet. The fliers always had a funny drawing of a monstrous Satan popping out of the big clunky desktop screen (remember those?) and Satan consumed the innocent Hasid sitting in front of the screen. I adored that flier and I looked at it enviously, wishing I could do cartoons too. Ironically, looking at the cartoon whetted my appetite for doodling but it didn’t deter me from going after the Satan of the internet. It was my participation in the frum blogosphere that put all these ideas of freedom into my head.
Why cartoons, you ask? Ah, because I love the way it can make the reader laugh and think at the same time. Because it can allow the author express scenes, memories and opinions in an entertaining way that can be smart and funny. I can muse over Hasidic life, ex Hasidic life, Jewish life, politics, life as a single parent and anything in between. Cartoons are a wonderful medium for social commentary. There is endless amusement to be had in the drawing of details a Hasidic wedding or convalescent home or rabbi or housewife. And I draw to laugh, to opine, to critique. And sometimes a Satanized girl like me has to use her pitchfork a wee little bit too.
I hope you enjoy the cartoons. My drawing is amateur, but as New Yorker cartoonist Bob Mankoff says: “It’s not the ink, it’s the think”. And I’m steadily learning, especially with your feedback. Please comment!!! Because of my busy schedule my good friend Shpitzig Shtrengkind is running the blog but that shouldn’t stop you from sharing your thoughts. Like me on Facebook and follow me on twitter and on Pinterest. But beware of where following me can lead!