Chassidic Fundamentalist Environment in a

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

It is the boy who decides. A 'good girl in my community who sews, knits, crochets, is a darling with babies and agrees to support her husband in learning whilst she will bear child after child and look after them is the type that all the boys want to marry. Me? Forget it. I'm the one who none of them want to marry and therefore I've been told to at least pretend that I can sew; to be quiet' to at least pretend to be interested in the guy. Forget it. I do not know how to start my own life, even thoguh my counselor has repeatedly told me to.

Learning Aactivity Two

Log Entry 3, Part 1: Gradually becoming acquainted with the vast differences between the Chassidic groups (as for example between Lubuvitch and Satmer -- polar opposites), I realized that although interesting, they were rarely helpful. I, therefore, decided to read materials and newspapers published by that community as well as to listen to audiocassettes and read magazines. They do not watch movies nor are allowed to use the Internet; therefore I limited myself to the reading material. This was actually the most helpful since it 'sunk' me into their world, let me see their terminology and employed narratives, as well as giving me some insight into their tastes on fashion, food, education, and other memes and cultural trends.

Log Entry 3, Part 3: What I soon enough discovered was that 'Jewish' tastes as per stereotyped assumptions were non-existent here. The Woody Allen kind of Jewish stereotypes are Hollywood style can simply canto be universalized. Jewish is such a huge and variegated mish-mash of people, ethnicities, backgrounds, rituals, folklore, history, society, geography, groups, and subgroups -- and so much more that each subgroup (and Chassidus for instance may have as much as 60 odd after each little Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, Slovenian village and hamlet; and has recently created groups after American localities, such as Boston and New Square) that one simply cannot blanket customs as general. I had to approach that group from the inside. I think Ellie would understand that feeling.

Log Entry 3, Part 4: (writing as Ellie): my social worker tried to understand the world I live in. She does not realize that she can never understand it. It reminds me of a book written by someone called Husserl that I had read the other day. It was similar to the Cartesian technique that I had done on myself but, either way, this guy thinks that you can see the world and stuff objectively by 'bracketing' your opinions and assumptions and seeing things as they are. It seems to me that my social worker tries to do likewise but how can she ever understand my background coming with all the detritus of her particular experiences. Just as I can never actually and really understand her world. Nonetheless, her attempts to understand my world are interesting. Particularly her description of the books that she had read. Again, she cannot understand that the language of my culture has nuances and meanings that no outsider can adequately grasp.

Learning Activity Three

Log Entry 4, Part 1: For my third learning activity, I decided to visit a home in Ellie's neighborhood for shabbos. Once having learned how to dress and conduct myself, mainly from Landau's (1993) book and from their own material, as well as having solicited advice from Ellie and having perused online web sites and accessed relevant chat groups having asked them their advice, I then accepted a shabbos invite from a family who, thinking I was an ignorant Jewish person and thus a 'Mitzvah for them to enlighten' eagerly welcomed me intending to show me the 'ropes'.

Log Entry 4, Part 2: The experience was confusing and, truthfully too detailed and complex to elaborate on here. There was the candle lighting, and the shabos meal by night and the shabbos meal by day and attending synagogue (called shul) and attending a lecture, and another meal and then havdala (ceremony at end of shabbos) and then another meal before I finally went to sleep. During that whole 24 hours, I could do literally no 'muktzah whatsoever. This was more than work, This meant no phone calls or texting, or computer, or writing, or driving car or bike (although they didn't have the latter), or turning on light, nor using electricity in any which way or form. Cooking was done in a special way with all having been cooked before and placed on a special 'blech' -- aluminum cover to keep warm. The food was actually tasty. The Gs whom I stayed with had 11 children and this family, actually seemed different than Elli's description of hers with the parents seeming to have warm connections with the kids, with the kids seeming to be content and play well with one another -- there actually seemed to be affectionate bonds between them -- and with the family being well-mannered and courteous to their guests. They had 5 guests at night, and 8 guests the coming day. There was singing and a give and take where the man -- Rabbi G. -- actually seemed interested in his guests' opinion and the women and girls seemed to be involved, albeit talking amongst themselves rather than to the men, whilst the men talked amongst themselves rather than to the women. The females also seemed to have a more abashed manner to them looking down when spoken or responding to someone, rather than making direct eye contact as is won't in conventional American society. The conversation mainly devolved around Jewish things; in fact, Yiddish was the common language spoken with broken English interspersed in between. Much of it I could not understand, but although my initial reaction was to 'freeze', I felt comfortable and accepted by the end of the day.

Log Entry 4, Part 4 (writing as Ellie): My social worker told me about her shabbos experience, which sounded somewhat strange coming from her. I felt that she was trying hard to understand me but nonetheless was still somewhat off target since (a) she had gone to a different family than the one I had the 'privilege' of growing up in, (b) she compared it to a Rockwell painting, telling me that she thought the scene straight out of his pictures. Now come on! His paintings featured descriptions from traditional American families in the '40s and '50s, whilst these families that she saw were scenes of Chassidic families who tried to recreate -- unsuccessfully, I think, given technology, a different country and different era -- the conditions of the shtetl life of 14th to 16th century Eastern Europe. Rockwell! No way. But my social worker has something of it

Learning Activity Four

Log Entry 5, Part 1: Still attempting to prove my knowledge of and interest in Chassidic heritage to Ellie, we engaged in a discussion on the philosophy of 'normal and abnormal'. This was particularly interesting given that Ellie had until comparably recently believed that she was literally abnormal but wondered why she still felt normal inside her. I thought a discussion of her culture's take on 'normality' would prove informative to both of us.

Log Entry 5, Part 5: The experience did prove useful as regards Ellie, for it helped me somewhat more to identify with her and realize what it felt being an alien in such a close-knit, claustrophobic community. It also helped me understand how someone, inexplicably drawn to an outside more expanded perspective from very young, seeking wider education and attracted to western culture (including opera, art, music, ballet, sports, literature -- all of which Ellie was) would feel contracted and asphyxiated (as Ellie often described herself) in such an environment. I could step out of it and return to my abode. Ellie had to live with it day after day, continuously being told that she was abnormal because she was different. Somewhat like the 'ugly duckling'

Log Entry 5, Part 3: I am not certain whether I remained objective despite my best attempts. As we wroekd our way through the debate, I realized that aspects of Ellie's experience certainly disturbed me. Nonetheless, the warmth of the community -- each for the other, their orderly and predicable way of life, the meaningfulness that they gain from this existence, the romantic meaning of family as understood in the literal sense and as practiced in a stable family -- all of this attracted me. Nonetheless, I did realize that Ellie's family was an anomaly. Tragic thoguh her situation may be and certainly exacerbated by her being an odd duck' in her community, not all Chassidic families may have mistreated Ellie as her parents did. Ellie had the misfortune (or fortune if she uses it to her advantage?) of being an anomaly in a closed community born to parents (at least her mother) who may likely have been mentally ill. Their conception of values is also different to that…