Friday, February 17, 2012

Deborah Feldman's 'Unorthodox' Book Ticks Off Williamsburg's Satmar Jews

It's a book that is being called "riveting;" "harrowing;" "a page-turner;" "a testimony to one woman's courage;" and "frightening."

It's also being called "an insult to all Jews;" "lies;" and "libel."

The book is Deborah Feldman's Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots published Tuesday by Simon and Schuster (available on Amazon). Unorthodox is the story of Feldman's life, travails, and finally escape from Williamsburg's insular Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism -- what she calls "a foreign world right here inside New York City."

In the book, Feldman describes being raised in Williamsburg by her oppressively religious grandparents, Bubby and Zeidy, and a vindictive aunt.

Her mother had been married off to a mentally disturbed man with an IQ of 63. Rejected by her in-laws, her mother fled, leaving young Feldman behind with her husband's parents.

Feldman was told what she could wear, to whom she could speak, and what she could read. She spoke little English. Her schooling was limited to learning the laws of modesty, keeping kosher, sewing, and the rudiments of reading and writing (to roughly the 4th-grade level).

At 17 her marriage was arranged; she spoke to her husband, a stranger, for only 30 minutes before they became engaged. She experienced a year of sexual humiliation. When her son was born she realized she had to make a change. She moved out of Williamsburg, went to college, and wrote this book.

Satmars Up In Arms

Now a noisy controversy has broken out between non-Satmars, who describe Feldman with words like "strong, determined, and gifted;" and "courageous;" and Satmars, who say she is "not right in the head" and "a conniving little bitter girl who lies just about anything."

Critics have fastened onto an incident that Feldman describes second- (or third-) hand: the alleged murder of a young man in the upstate Orthodox town of Kiryas Joel. Contrary to the story Feldman says she was told by relatives, a death certificate obtained by The Jewish Week states that the death was ruled a suicide. 

Comment from the Failed Messiah blog: "She is a conniving little bitter girl who lies just about anything. Besides what she is mocking Judaism in general and those things are true she is also making up almost everything." In Hebrew, another commenter called her a "worthless whore."

Review in Library Journal: "Feldman gives us special insight into a closed and repressive world. . . . her memoir is fresh and tart and utterly absorbing."

Comment in The Jewish Week: "And I thought Simon and Shuster, with a reputation to hold dear, would do some research on a story like this! They both, S&S and Feldman ought to apologize."

Review in Booklist: "Feldman’s evolution as well as her look inside a closed community make for fascinating reading … her storyteller’s sense and a keen eye for details give readers a you-are-there sense of what it is like to be different when everyone else is the same."

From I'm A Mother forum: "Having this woman on Yahoo news made me feel compelled to give a lengthy comment, this is just so sad and pathetic and a terrible kiddush Hashem. I'm embarrassed for my non Jewish neighbors to read this!"

Jewish Journal called Unorthodox "painfully good," and described Feldman's narrative voice as "almost hypnotic."

From Jewcy: "Feldman speaks intelligently, almost in a lamenting tone about the price necessary to pay to sell books, mainly the sensationalist tone adopted in the latter part of the book title . . . or the title of an ABC News piece: Hasidic Hell. For the most part I choose to assume that her publicist desired to create a public persona of Feldman as some kind of forward thinking, independent woman/sex symbol." 

Her family wants her to commit suicide. "They’ve got my grave ready." Email from a family member: “R U ready to CROKE"and  “We are most definitely going to rejoice in your misery.”

The video above features Feldman appearing on The View, where she tells Barbara Walters what an inspiration she has been.

Go to McBrooklyn's HOME PAGE.


Anonymous said...

Deborah Feldman is a very courageous young woman. She steps up to the plate and hits it out of the park, refusing to be silenced by those who seek to intimidate, bully, humiliate and terrorize her into submission. She shares her story in a dignified, credible, and forthright manner. Those who feel threated by her revelations have set out to crucify her. They pretend to diagnose her as having every type of mental imbalance imaginable, yet they are neither medical authorities, nor even very educated themselves. What they are really demonstating is their own state of imbalance, and their inability to tolerate any person within their community deviating from the norm, or voicing opinions other than their own rigid views. How utterly sad.

Anonymous said...

Read about the community's uproar about her in the article titled 'Author’s Claim Of Murder Cover Up In Kiryas Joel Fabricated' at --

Anonymous said...

I hope that more and more people come out of the closet and tell their stories. It's about time the truth came out. The response by the Chasids say it all. If they are truly living in such a spiritual place, the closest to God, then how could they be so nasty and ugly in their posts to Deborah and about her. Would someone like Mother Teresa (rest her soul) EVER do something nasty like that? I am glad I broke away when I did - thank God I had the courage when I did! My poor mother (may her soul rest in peace) had to live in abusive relationship her whole life. She died to get away from my dad. Shame on him. Deborah - good for you!

Anonymous said...

Everything this courageous young woman wrote is nothing but thruth.One should also read the book Mrs Heymans wrote about the long search for her three children who were hidden in Monsey'Satmar community for 8 years until the police forces returned them to their mom. And what about this Canadian jewish mother Mrs Banayan, same long search for her three children (kidnapped by their father at 5, 3 and 1 year old). The only reason she has not written a book to testify about her ordeal is because one of her daughters is still entrapped in a Hassidic community in Williamsburg ...

Anonymous said...

Read what EX Satmar women are saying about Feldman book, has cited practices in the Hasidic community that are non-existent:

Also read this from Hella Winston the famed Author of "Unchosen", claims that Feldman fabricated a story in her book:

Anonymous said...

deborah, your story would be amazing even without all those lies and slander. you are a very talented writer and i wish you much success in your writing career but please next time stick to the truth and only the truth. when you say the truth we do not care because this is what we believe in. even if it sounds weird to all of you. we are g-d's chosen people and we follow the torah no matter how odd or inconvenient it may sound. however, when you distort the truth that angers us. and to all of you that are surprised at our anger i wonder how you would feel if someone decides to take your values that mean so much to you and mock it in such a degrading manner. we are saddened to be spit in the face like that after all we have done to help you. you can accomplish so much with your talent, why waste it on besmirching your own people, your own flesh and blood? i hope you will wake up one day and realize the implications of your actions. (sorry my caps key is broken)

Anonymous said...

Everything this courageous young woman wrote is nothing but lies and she knows it.But being that she is on a mission she wont hold back for nothing as long as she has her fame.

Abe99 said...

So she gets to wear sequined minis and has a more varied menu than those in the Orthodox community do, she enjoys fantasizing about a salacious blissful love life, and has lots of publicity in her life right now, with everyone famous calling to interview her, due to her using her overabundant energy to blacken her very own ancestors and very own blood relatives and making them all out to be foolish robotic dodos. She totally omits any reference to Chassidic and Orthodox people throughout the world, who have contributed much to society, among them medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, law school deans and professors, scientists, inventors, technological geniuses and more. Its as if her view of the people she chose to describe are the only kind of Chassidim there are. A little clarification on this point would have been nice as a broader picture.

Had she been using her overabundant energy to become a doctor or inventor of some kind to make lives easier, or to encourage education, or had she taken on any noble cause, without the negativity and ridicule she employs, I might have been able to understand her, and find some redeeming qualities. But no, all she wants to do is defame the religious practices of her forefathers, instead of just living a normal accomplished, less religious or even totally irreligious life, privately without negativity and finger pointing.

Had she at least attempted to balance her negativity by pointing to some of the many virtues and benefits existing in her former lifestyle and admit that even though she doesn't agree or believe or doesn't have innate discipline, there's beauty in this lifestyle and it has many gainful attributes, she might have deserved some respect. After all even a broken clock is right twice a day. Orthodoxy has to be good in at least some ways, even to those who choose not to practice.

No such thing. In her eyes, the Orthodox lifestyle is all nonsense and shes the brilliant enlightened heroine who can transform the lives of everyone who is religious and naive, if they'd only experience the sweetness of her freedom. She has the key to the door of true happiness. She feels she has the recipe for happiness and freedom. It’s not, it’s a recipe for confusion. I pity her for her pain and confusion and newfound aimless free fun, but I pity her son more, for having to live with and learn life’s lessons from a hateful, guiltless, vengeful person, who smugly chooses to mock and ridicule. With all this she hopes to come out looking like a saviour for her efforts. A modern day saint.

Shes having fun and enjoying popularity with her mission now. She’s a conversation piece at the moment. What will she do for excitement next, when the buzz wears down? Who really respects her for her cheap and nasty mud slinging? So people are getting an enjoyable read. How long will the media be interested in her? Not one second longer than the next scandalous book gets published.

If anything the book should have been named Un-"Satmar" (the name of the Chassidic sect she hails from) or UnHassidic but even among Chassidic people there are highly educated and very worldly individuals.

Are all non- Chassidic people educated and worldly? Orthodox people are VERY highly educated and VERY worldly. (Obama's Chief of Staff!!!)

Bad choice of title, Simon &Schuster!

Kardashian she's not. No beauty. Not her fault, not her choice.
Einstein she's not. No genius. Not her fault, not her choice.
Joan Rivers she's not. No comedienne. Not her fault, not her choice.
Just a babbling buffoon, a seethingly hateful person whose uppermost goal is fun.
And that IS her choice.
She is an example of what not to become, what not to aspire to be, capitalizing on hate, mockery, meanness and exaggeration.

Kathy W. - One Brown Mom said...

Here's the thing - I don't think she's putting down orthadox jews. I see her as telling her own story. Period. Some people can't handle HER truth. Ms. Feldman is a very brave young woman. It's pretty obvious from the hate posts that she's received that she's stepped on quite a few toes. The controversy alone will keep this book on the Times Bestseller's list. So in the end Deborah's haters will make her a literary star. Good for you DF for rising above the frey. Stay safe out there young mother. Some of these posters don't sound safe or sane. I've read your book twice and i'm recommending it to everyone I know!

miriam said...

This book is written by someone who came from a broken family.Her family was totally dysfunctional.It is not the norm. What she says is her own personal experience. Her sexual experiences are her own not everyone's. She is one individual case. What about all the love and warmth in the orthodox home. Her story is hers alone . Simon and Schuster I am appalled at your lack of checking into her misguided information. She says orthodox women have no education, reading level fourth grade. Is she nuts. What about all the women in our community who have masters in hundreds of fields. Women who have their own businesses. This women has an anger problem that has nothing to do with the orthodox hassidic sect. As far a saying Satmar started after the holocoust. HuH definitly did not . Barbra Walters you need to check all the information out before you put someone on your show. I am a happily married women for 40 years. I have 6 beautiful children also happily married and we are all part of the Orthodox Jewish community. There are people who would give everything to be a part of us.

Anonymous said...

she lied about almost every aspect of her upbringing. Literally. just google deborah feldman exposed. the stuff youll see is only half the story. ive spoken to 3 people that have known her personally, one of which her former student when she taught in a satmar school (which disproves her claim that she wasnt accepted in the community, if you arent accepted in the community you would never get a job in a satmar school). they have told me that she lied more then she told the truth. the book itself is full of inconsistencies, ofcourse the book is sensational but once you get passed the sensationalism of it, you will really that much of it is not only untrue but not even self consistent. she says how she didnt know what a vagina was...really?! where was the blood coming from monthly sweetheart? cmon this is simply ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Please - highly educated???? Who ? The men ?? Women are repressed beyond belief - its common knowledge in the " outside world". That women are only allowed to get an education till the 11 th grade then they are considered as not having a hs education that along with he fact that hey are not married in a legal way along with the 10 children thy hv makes them eligible for tons of welfare benefits! Please enlightened ?? In what ripping off the USA !