The answer seems pretty obvious, but in Hush (reviewed last week by Eliyahu Fink, because I hadn’t gotten my copy yet) it is anything but. Hush is the memoir-novel written for young adults about two best friends who grow up in Boro Park. It is written by a chassidish woman who goes by the pseudonym Eishes Chayil and I am quite surprised that none of the Jewish skeptic bloggers have been eating this book up. Devory and Gittel are best friends, Gittel is sleeping over at Devory’s house one shabbos and Devory’s brother is home from yeshiva, Devory is acting strange and doesn’t want to go to sleep, in the middle of the night Devory’s brother Shmuli sneaks into the room and does things in Devory’s bed that Gittel doesn’t quite understand.
For frum Jews the book is both laugh out loud and will make you cry your brains out. I cried for about ten minutes at the point where Gittels husband, who went on a rant about people making up molestation stories, goes to his rebbe to confirm that his wife’s story is just another made up tale gets the shocking news from his rebbe that he has heard hundreds of stories of rape, molestation and subsequent suicide and that he can’t do anything about it.
The innocence and frank insularity of the Chassidish community will make you laugh and give you insight into the some of the reasons Chassidim do things. For instance Gittel is considered more modern by her classmates because her family lives two blocks outside of the physical boundaries of Boro Park, her mother is one of three in her class that drives and her family has a Goyishe family renting one of the apartments in her building. Much of the story is about the interesting relationship and general fear that Chassidim have of goyim.
The talk of shidduchim is also hilarious, in a frank way they take the things I make fun of and blow them out of proportion, yet they are being quite serious. For instance, in this one scene, they are talking about this one girl who’s grandmother was divorced and therefore could never fix her bad tidings.
Unlike many books written about the Chasidish world, Hush is not negative, yet it seeks to tell the truth about molestation and sexual abuse, about why it’s not so cut and dry as many in the media attempt to paint it. Many people who are abused won’t be believed and if they tell the police they are considered a moser (traitor) and the family will be banished and the kids will have trouble getting into yeshiva and getting a shidduch.
I would recommend that every parent, teacher and Rabbi read this book – especially in the orthodox community where many don’t understand the intricacies involving coming out and telling people about sexual abuse. For anyone interested in how the Chassidish world works, this book offers a very intimate look from the inside, despite the subject matter it remains a clean book that is free of any detailed sexual content or bad language.