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Why I believe Deborah Feldman

Why I believe Deborah Feldman

Guest post By David Lerner

Part 1: Concepts of print & Murder, she wrote.

“Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo. It is the peculiar snare of the perplexed orthodox,” – H.G. Wells in The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman (1914, p. 299)

Even before the release of Deborah Feldman’s Unorthodox on Tuesday, there was a lot of discussion on the Internet about it and its claims. Much of it has been positive, but there have been vocally negative opinions of varying degrees of coherency, too. Reading the negative comments, one sees that much has been focused on alleged falsehoods and exaggerations in her writing and interviews. I do not believe she is lying.

In this and subsequent posts, I will strive to explain my position to the best of my ability.

Disclaimer: Deborah Feldman is a friend of mine. I grew up Hasidic, (Chabad,) attended yeshiva, got semicha and am currently “OTD” (Off Their Derech). That is my context. I have biases, just like we all do; I don’t believe in hiding them, especially when defending something where my impartiality can be called into question.

Concepts of print

When a child is at the stage educators call “emergent literacy,” it is important to teach them about the “concepts of print”: A book is read from start to finish, the text is read instead of the pictures, we read (depending on the language) from left-to-right, etc. This is foundational knowledge. As we get older we still need to have concepts of print; we need to know what we are reading. Depending on what one reads, it is read differently; you wouldn’t read Game of Thrones the same way you would a history textbook. As my education department head drilled into us, “context is everything.”

What is the context of Unorthodox? It’s a memoir. (Which is different than an autobiography. That context also serves as a response to those wondering why she doesn’t describe much of her post-Williamsburg life.) Feldman is telling us her story as she remembers it; she isn’t writing a treatise on Satmar Hasidim which would be an entirely different type of book. When one writes memories, it is entirely possible that some things might be inaccurate. For example: she relates the Talmudic tale of Rabbi Akiva’s wife Rachel waiting twelve years for her husband’s return, the Talmud (Ketubot 62b-63a) tells us it was 24. Does this make Feldman a liar? No. Context is everything.

Murder, she wrote

I’m not going to avoid it or start with an easily refuted claim; I’ll go straight to the red meat sizzling on the fire, the murder. Hella Winston wrote for the Jewish Week on the subject of a covered-up murder Feldman tells us she heard about while living in Airmont. Winston claims that her investigation, documents she has seen and interviews she conducted lead her to believe that Feldman fabricated it. Pretty damning, no?

First off, let me address some observations I have about the article:

?        As someone who has edited and researched for (yeshiva) scholarly publications, (yes there are plenty of errors in it, don’t email me about them,) I have a tendency to be skeptical when someone claims to have original documents and does not publish them. When documents are involved, I don’t take people at their word. (If there are legal reasons why they can’t publish them, then it is a somewhat different story. But I reiterate that when it comes to documents claims “I’ll believe it when I see it.”)

?        Winston quotes from Feldmans 2008 post and the comments questioning her claim on her (now defunct) blog, but ignores the comments supporting her. “Every hatzolah member in Monroe and some in Monsey know of this story. I was able to verify this story within 24 hours of reading it here.” True, the skeptical comments and those claiming it was a suicide outnumber those supporting Feldman’s version, but neglecting to mention it is telling.

?        Nobody worth mention disputes the fact that sexual abuse is systemically covered up in those communities; is it that far a stretch to assume a murder could be covered up, too? Death certificates and police reports (that still haven’t been published) could have been written after the boy was in the ground, no? Are cover-ups unprecedented in the Hasidic community? Are bribes? Before anyone claims I’m weaving conspiracies, let me say that I’m not claiming that’s how it went down. I have no idea how it happened. These are just my thoughts when reviewing the story.

At the end of the day, for Feldman to be telling the truth, it doesn’t matter whether it was a murder or a suicide. Remember, context is everything. Its context in the book is Feldman hearing that this happened, not an eyewitness account. It goes into what she felt about the community after hearing this. Her feelings are valid whether what she heard happened or not.

I’ll close with a quote from Feldman in an email to HasidicNews.com: “The way I related that story in the book was exactly the way it happened to me: in a conversation. I described a dialogue word for word in which my husband told me the story his brother had told him. I made no claims about the story itself, or if it was true, I just described hearing it being told to me and my reaction to that telling. It was more about the conversation than the actual story. Since then I’ve received a lot of messages about that story; some people seem convinced it was a murder, others are inclined to dismiss it as a suicide. Either way it’s tragic, but again, I don’t make any claims as to its veracity. I hope someone does uncover the truth though.

I hope so, too.

David Lerner is a former Yeshiva bochur who studied in Tomchei Temimim, Lubavitch – Morristown, NJ and received his semicha in Sydney, Australia. Lerner currently lives in North Carolina and is studying for his teaching licensure and Masters of Art in Teaching

Next post: NY Post, reliable or repugnant & Get a brain, morans [sic].


{ 124 comments… add one }
  • krum February 21, 2012, 7:42 AM

    Your claim that the truth of story is not relevant is dead wrong both legally and morally. By your logic, any gossip columnist can spout lies and simply defend by saying that he was just recounting a conversation with her anonymous source, which of course, he can not (at least under US). While there may be a slight ethical difference between saying “x happened” and saying “someone told me x happened” as a practical matter the message to the reader is the same — that the writer is making a claim of truth regarding x. Now I can imagine situations where this might be fair defense — if for example the writer makes it clear that she is not making a truth claim about the story. But that’s not the case here. Feldman DOES claim that the story is true — at least implicitly. Her responses to her husband indicate that she believed the story (she tells him “I know exactly what they are capable of”) and she goes on to talk about how she empathized with the dead child and dreamed about him. The notion that she is just repeating a conversation is not consistent with what she writes.

    • Audrey Matson June 11, 2018, 7:23 PM

      You might want to re-read the above article. It appears that you don’t quite understand the context notion, nor the fact that Feldman is not a journalist. It is a Memoir. It is her impressions of her own memories. Feldman does not in any way, “implicitly” or otherwise claim that the story about the dead boy is true or that it is not true. She recounts, with understandable emotional horror, how she heard about it, and how the telling affected her. In her account her husband thought nothing should be done. And she remembers him stating that nothing could bring the dead boy back in any case so inaction was best. Any one who criticizes Feldman’s horror and her recounting what she heard seems to misunderstand basic laws concerning human life in this part of the world. As you can see if you bother to reread the piece here by HESHY FRIED , many other people had heard that story before the publishing of, “Unorthodox”. It is therefore unlikely that Felfman made it up. re you suggesting that she did so? We don’t know what happened. Neither does she. I hope you share my basic discomfort with even the mere possibility of such a terrible crime being covered up. I would like the State of New York to issue some kind of statement about the matter. On a lesser note–Perhaps if you read other memoirs you might get a better feeling for how they function.

  • i know him February 21, 2012, 7:54 AM

    Dovid also had a broken engagement, his father got very sick, very strict childhood, things got tough, no wonder he is mad at the world.
    She has a mentally ill parent, abandoned by her mom, troubled person doesn’t even begin to desribe her. Had she been not frum or jewish she would be that kid in school doing drugs, petty theft ect.
    Its one angry person supporting another big deal

    • David February 21, 2012, 8:22 AM

      I don’t think a personal attack is appropriate. If you disagree with the post, (as I do,) explain why.

      • Guest February 21, 2012, 8:36 AM

        Thanks for the info “I know him.” There’s usually a back story. Usually the person/family, or particular community (nebach) has some serious dysfunctional characteristics that are behind this.

        David’s wrong. The real story with OTDers is usually the story behind the story, so personal information is VERY relevant.

        • David February 21, 2012, 8:51 AM

          I think you’re absolutely wrong. If the poster says “trust me because of who I am”, then it would be a good idea to figure out who they are. In terms of his basic perspective, he briefly discussed his background. It’s likely that he has at least some problems with Orthodoxy given the fact that he left the fold. He does not engage in personal attacks in his argument, which would be wrong.
          So, let’s extend him the same respect. Read what he wrote, break it down, find the specific problems with it, and discuss them. It makes life more pleasant.

          • Dan February 21, 2012, 10:01 AM

            Are you him?

            • David February 21, 2012, 4:29 PM


          • i know him February 21, 2012, 10:42 AM

            The point is, he is angry, as is she. So this is not about logic, its about emotion, thats it

            • Eli February 21, 2012, 11:14 AM

              Hi “i know him”
              Why don’t you look up “Ad hominem”. OTD people will argue you have an agenda too – protecting your religion above all else.

            • David Lerner February 21, 2012, 4:50 PM

              Hello wet noodle too afraid to sign his name.

              I’m curious, are arguments made out of anger automatically invalid? I’ve known plenty of logical angry people in my day…

            • Cookie Jar February 21, 2012, 6:52 PM

              but attacking him personally is being logical. Why dont you try to respond to something he actually said?

  • Philo February 21, 2012, 8:23 AM

    Maybe in the book, it’s reported as justr a conversation, but she seems pretty certain on her old blog:

    “I have good sources for these stories. I may not know all the details, but I know what happened. I wait for the day when people will have the guts to stand up for what’s right instead of allowing corruption to overpower them. “

    That’s irresponsible, to say the least. I’ll admit, however, that she likely believed the story. Doesn’t seem like she lied.

  • Philo February 21, 2012, 8:25 AM

    And in a comment, she wrote:

    Hasidic-Feminist said…
    dont you realize how brilliant they are? its sounds so ludicrous who would believe it if it got out? And why would I publish such a story if I didn’t know for sure it was true? I can’t just pull these things out of thin air. I have no reason to.

    Do some digging around, what you come up with will confirm what I write.
    December 16, 2008 7:33 AM

  • Mendy February 21, 2012, 8:34 AM

    Dovid – I don’t get the point of your post. You believe Debra Feldman? You believe that she believes she’s telling the truth? Or you believe that everything is so warped that the truth is really falsehood? You have me all confused!?!?!! –

  • Dan February 21, 2012, 8:45 AM

    Ok, I haven’t read the book yet. But,

    The question then is why she would not repeat a story that is completely not credible.

    If her purpose was to say that this is the type of story that is told, and that she had previously believed, then I would hope it was presented as showing the type of stories that are told, and not as showing the type of crimes that her chassidus does.

  • Person February 21, 2012, 9:10 AM

    “Hasidic-Feminist said…

    I know someone who knows the hatzoloh member personally. The guy is still tortured by what he saw in that basement. He was put under a tremendous amount of pressure, he had no choice but to keep quiet. They threatened to take away his job and make problems for his kids, you have no idea. The guy still has nightmares poor thing. Isn’t it crazy how KJ can make people so powerless? It’s like an alternate universe.
    December 16, 2008 4:31 AM”

    Yeah… This is getting tiresome. But she was pretty clear.

  • Conservative SciFi February 21, 2012, 10:06 AM

    The truth of her story is irrelevant, it is the light that the story places on her community that is Mr. Lerner’s point.

    Using a story with which you are all probably familiar, the Chafetz Chaim once testified on behalf of a yeshiva student entangled in the Polish judicial system. To bolster the credibility of his witness in the judge’s eyes, the defense attorney told the following story: A thief once stole from the Chafetz Chaim, and the Chafetz Chaim ran after him shouting, “I forgive you! I forgive you!” “Do you really believe that?” the judge asked. “No,” said the lawyer. “But Your Honor — do they tell stories like that about you and me?”

    Similarly, do you hear stories about entire Reform, Conservative, or Reconstructionist communities covering up a murder, a pedophile or a rapist? Of course not. It is telling that you only hear such coverups of Orthodox communities, and mostly, only of the haredi type communities, not modern-Orthodox. Many, perhaps many, of these coverups may not be true, but where there’s smoke, there is usually fire.

    • john February 21, 2012, 2:39 PM

      Sure you do here’s a story I heard from my friend who really knows these things. A little boy told his father he wants to become frum, so his father who is reform asked his rabbi if he was allowed to kill him. The reform rabbi said yes let’s do it but first let’s rape him so they invited their conservative and otd friends and had a grand ole time before killing him. Ask around I grantee the story us true, and hey if its not, who cares aft
      er all its a story about them nobody tells the story about Hindus so its very telling

    • Dan February 21, 2012, 2:49 PM

      Yes, except when we’re talking about the stories outsiders tell about a group they are hostile towards.

      So, I don’t know if the Jews put christian blood in their matza, but they don’t tell those stories about Russian peasants.

      • Person February 21, 2012, 3:25 PM

        This comment is true.

        Also, people are scared of what they don’t understand. Orthodox Judaism doesn’t translate well unless you really learn about it in depth. Reform/Conservative Judaism conforms to the norms of society, so they aren’t seen as the strange outsiders.

        • Anonymous February 22, 2012, 6:57 AM

          spot on

  • yitty February 21, 2012, 10:14 AM

    The comment below was taken from FailedMessiah from someone who responded to what David Lerner wrote sometimes last week.
    Although the commenter was too nice to Feldman still its written very well.

    David Lerner — You seem to want to believe her, you want to give her the benefit of the doubt, fine, I don’t take issue with that. But there is a real pattern observed in both her writings and interviews, and the murder is by far not the only questionable thing she wrote. (Although perhaps the most gruesome and the one with the most consequences.)

    I’ll give a seemingly meaningless example, which (along with many other little tidbits) got me really unsettled.

    She writes (in the book — which, yes, I read) of 9/11 happening, and within the next week, right before Yom Kippur, the news spread that a carp in a New Square fish store opened its mouth to call upon Jews to repent. “Since this occurred just after the Twin Towers were attacked and right before Yom Kippur… the story was especially juicy.” (direct quote)

    Problem is, the New Square fish story happened in March of 2003, not Sep. 2011. I would know. I lived a block away from that fish store. What’s more, there was an article both in the NY Times and the Guardian about it.

    We might say, big deal. She’s using some wacky story as a literary device and rearranging the chronology. Fine. Maybe it’s an excuse, maybe it isn’t. But to do that with events that appear in the public record, whose dates can so easily be verified, shows an ease with twisting the facts for the sake of heightening the drama in a way that is justifyingly disconcerting.

    She writes of being the only girl in her class to visit not the public library but even Williamsburg’s religious library. Nobody else was interested in reading what even the chasidic library itself allowed? I know the chasidish world intimately, and that’s all kinds of ludicrous.

    What she said on “The View” about Satmar girls graduating high school with a 4th-grade reading level is also absolutely false. True for men, yes, absolutely. But not for girls. No one is saying Satmar girls receive a stellar secular education, and they don’t necessarily get high school diplomas, but what’s wrong with saying simply that? Why embellish, again and again and again and again?

    Finally, calling her tale an “escape” (as it is on the jacket cover) highlights this problem as well. I know hundreds and hundreds of ex-chasidish OTDs. Never have I heard anyone referring to themselves as “escaped” with any seriousness. What, did she leave in the dark of night with a garbage bag of clothes? Did she speed off while her husband and a gang of Chasidish men came after her in hot pursuit? What, tell me, is the point of calling it that if not an effort to sensationalize?

    Add to that the things she said to the NY Post, the murder story, and lots of other little bits of distortion, and you get a picture of someone who simply doesn’t realize that overdramatizing to that degree really does damage to her own credibility.

    I’m not saying all of this adds up to an blatant campaign of spreading lies on her part, but you can’t blame people for noticing them.

    I should add, I was really hoping I’d like the book, and I did like many parts. Much of the first half was very nicely done. But these little problems really add up, especially if the sum total is to make a point not only about her own life experiences but also about an oppressive society. And sadly, she does damage to those who do seek to uncover chasidish society’s real social ills.

    • jrs February 23, 2012, 2:23 PM

      well done, Yitty.
      (I had the same thought, esp. about the term ‘escape’)

      Feldman may indeed have her legitimate gripes, but, from the title on, this book appears to be aiming for cheap tittilation.

      Ironically, Feldman’s way with a story is 100% pure heimish, as opposed to ‘rigorously professional’—sensationalist… hyperbolic… gossipy… accepting as truth whatever someone tells you because their brother-in-law’s tailor sits next to you in shul so it has to be true…

      Like they say, you can take the girl out of Williamsburg (or wherever), but you can’t take….

  • Fryaks February 21, 2012, 1:26 PM

    wow she really is a Tuna Beigel, A SATMAR being FRIENDS with A LUBAVITCHER?!!!!

    • Josh February 21, 2012, 6:35 PM

      Satmars build Lubab Mikvehs in China and sometimes EX satmars convert to Lubab..

  • David Lerner February 21, 2012, 4:14 PM

    Hi everybody, thought I’d drop in and comment on what had been said so far in the comments.

    I don’t think the one making comments about my personal life merits a response, especially since he’s too much of a wet noodle to even sign his name.

    Krum: As far as legal implications go? I’m not a lawyer, but doesn’t the fact that Feldman never published the boy’s name shield her from it? I don’t think Feldman is being immoral. She believes what she says, a comment on her blog seems to confirm her side. My own research leads me to believe that there was a coverup of some kind, but whether it was a murder or a suicide, only a select few people on this planet know the full truth. All Winston proved is that there is NOW a police report and death certificate, this doesn’t disprove Feldman’s claim that he was buried before it was issued. That community has a history of covering up rape of children and ostracizing those who do make a tumult about it, I don’t see how covering up a murder is so unbelievable.

    Thank you, David (who isn’t me) for telling the oilam that we can disagree civilly.

    Philo, I think she believes it true, too. But from context of book, it wouldn’t matter ass it’s from POV of then.

    Mendy, I wrote “I do not believe she is lying.” I meant about ANYTHING. In my follow-up posts I’ll be addressing the other items causing people to get up in arms. Stay tuned.

    Conservative SciFi makes an interesting point. John, Dan & Person, I think you’re missing this point: The Haredi and Hasidic communities have NO chezkas kashrus when it comes to reporting crimes to authorities. Thus Chafetz Chaim story is valid point.

    Yitty, I had meant to respond to Shulem Deen’s comment there, but other things caught my attention. I’ll respond here:

    I don’t WANT it to be true, I simply believe it to be true that she heard this. I wish the same could be about your desires.
    Yes, she got the fish chronology wrong. Perhaps in recalling how she felt about the world after 9/11, she remembered this is as significant. It proves that she didn’t double-check her dates, just like she didn’t double-check how many years Akiva was away; it proves nothing and is merely a distraction. (??? ????? ???? ???? ??? ???????)
    Your next three paragraphs are also distractions. I can’t know whether her class availed themselves of the Yiddishe library and neither can you. As an education major, I can tell you that most American children don’t like to read, and those are the ones with mostly unrestricted access. I daresay I have a better idea of what the fourth grade reading level is than you do, (it is my field); I will tell you that Feldman can only be saying that from opinion, as no studies are available on this subject to the best of my knowledge. I use the term “escape” myself, I’m sorry you feel it inappropriate, but that’s really just a matter of taste.
    I plan on addressing the alleged “falsehoods” in the NY Post in my next column.
    I’m sorry the book wasn’t to your liking, but one would hope you could set your personal feelings about her to the side and not begin badmouthing it even before it’s released… (vain kahn mekomo)

    • Josh February 21, 2012, 6:22 PM

      Ok now that we have established that Feldman Fabricated the “Suicide” story, how do you explain this, I still didn’t figure out if her Zaidie went across the street to read the WSJ since he does not bring home non-Jewish papers (as the book says in one place), or if he brings it home every day (as the book says in another place)..

      Which part is true and part not true?.

      Thank You!

      • David Lerner February 21, 2012, 7:07 PM

        I’ve lent my copy of the book to somebody else, but if I recall she remarks on a change he made. I’ll look it up when I get my copy back.

        Also, missing the point.

  • David Lerner February 21, 2012, 4:15 PM

    And Hebrew doesn’t work…. Lovely.

  • Sofie February 21, 2012, 9:05 PM

    I really think that e1 should stop writing negative comments about Deborah… She obviously suffered enough!! She “really” must have felt growing up, that no one would begin to understand what she was going threw!
    My question is did she ever see a therapist? (I’m hopeing it’s a yes)
    Children of dysfunctional families may (one of many effects) join a cult to find the acceptance they never had at home, or at a minimum, have differing philosophical/religious beliefs from what they were previously taught. She never denies her fathers mental illness.
    The media should use her as an insight to hasidic or orthodox life in general is rediculous. She is definitely not part of the 99 percent.

  • Rabbi Michael Tzadok February 22, 2012, 8:50 AM

    Ok so you say that the castration rumor may have been an accident, or whatever. How about this:
    On page 86 she claims that the Rebbe’s “only daughter” was pushed down some stairs to her death while she (the Rebbe’s daughter) was pregnant with the Rebbe’s successor. She was killed, Deborah claims, because some other people had their eyes on this position. She claims that this incident took place in the Satmar Shul.
    They only daughter of the Satmar Rebbe to survive the holocaust was Roysele who died in 1953 from a hereditary congenital heart issue that ultimately killed his wife and other two daughters.
    The Satmar shul(located at 152 Rodney Street) was not in Satmar possession until 1967(something anyone can check by searching the NYC Acris system -http://www.nyc.gov/html/dof/html/jump/acris.shtml)

    So here we have another sensational murder story told us by Deborah Feldman whose facts don’t check out.
    Admittedly I am a committedly religious person. However, the issue I have with her book, is the fictionalization and dramatization of events, that take it well outside the realm of truth.

    • David Lerner February 22, 2012, 8:04 PM

      An interesting observation. All this has proven though is that yet ANOTHER Chassidishe Maise told person-to-person isn’t true. I’ll admit that my expertise is the history of the Chabad movement, their families and writings; I know very little about Joel Teitelbaum and his family. But I’m certain that there are who may have heard this rumor. I have seen other Satmars posting that they have heard similar stories.

      To put it bluntly: If Deborah Feldman had been thinking of a Baal Shem Tov story in that chapter, we would have all the analysts proving (probably correctly) that the story couldn’t have happened because of time and dates. MOST of the stories told by Rebbes and amongst Chassidim aren’t true. For further reading, I suggest Shea Mundshein’s excellent “Sipurim V’gliguleihem” series on Shturem.

      So do I say she is not lying? Context is everything. Unless you can prove that there was no such rumor among Chassidic children, your work is still cut out for you. You seem to be making a claim that she never could have heard such a thing because it didn’t happen. I present as a counterargument every Baal Shem Tov and Rebbe maise ever told to us as children.

      Yareh Ha’am V’yishpot

      Context is everything.

    • David Lerner February 22, 2012, 8:09 PM

      I suppose if she had remembered a Baal Shem Tov maise then, you would investigate the dates/locations of it, too and find her a liar if you found it couldn’t have happened…

      Kids are told plenty of stories. Emotions and thoughts we feel from stories are valid whether the story is true or not.

      Context is everything.

      • Rabbi Michael Tzadok February 22, 2012, 10:39 PM

        You really cannot compare a Baal Shem Tov maaseh(or any other Rebbe story) to this. Chassidic stories are meant to inspire faith, and to give hizuk.
        You are correct Deborah Feldman’s stories need to be left in their context. So instead of, as with any other Satmar yid, saying that Roysele was barren her entire life and died from the same tragic illness that took the lives of her mother and siblings(some while still in their childhood). Instead we are treated to a story of murder, intrigue and cover up.
        So what is the context? The context is a book that is meant to inspire revulsion toward the Satmar(and quite possibly other Chassidishe groups as well). To make them out to be a community that kills and covers it up, and that everyone on the “inside” knows it, despite the logistical impossibilities.
        So yes I am taking context into account on this. It does not appear that you are however. She has fictionalized her upbringing. She has fictionalized her elementary and primary educational background. She fictionalized her courtship, ect… Tell me, how does someone lacking a diploma or GED get accepted to Sarah Lawrence?
        Yet with all of her fictionalizations we are supposed to believe that what she is telling is the truth? Nonsense stories, such as those about Rebbeim are fine -until you want to try to revile a community.

        • David Lerner February 25, 2012, 4:53 PM

          Michael, I don’t know if you’ve read the book or only the mostly anonymous and largely unlettered postings on the humorously titled blog. Judging from your own lackluster and semi-coherent response, I assume the latter. If my assumption is correct, any statements from you regarding this book’s context are laughable and can be discarded without a second glance.

          But let’s assume for a moment that you have enough intellectual honesty and self-respect to read a book before passing judgment on it: if the above is your interpretation, than you missed the point of the book.

          One last thing: Plenty of tales about tzaddikim and their families were of the gossip our salacious variety, too. V’ein kahn mekomo.

          • Rabbi Michael Tzadok February 25, 2012, 5:59 PM

            Ah… the Ad Hominem. In debate class I was always told that was the tool for when you have no actual response. I see they were right.

            In my opinion the book and the blog(especially as the blog ceased being anonymous when she did her BBC interview) go hand in hand, most especially as she copied, seemingly uncritically, from one to build the other. I also took into account the various interviews she has done leading up to the book release, such as the View, (hence the Sarah Lawrence comment).

            As the title of the blog post is, “Why I believe Deborah Feldman” not, “Why I believe Deborah Feldman’s Book” I took that to mean, that we were discussing the overall honesty and trustworthiness of Deborah Feldman. In which case all of the material that she has put into the public sphere ought to be considered open game, and not just what is between the covers of her (mostly fictitious) book.

            Anyway, It’s been fun. I have made my point, and you don’t really seem to want to discuss her trustworthiness or that of her book, as much as to be her ardent defender. At least that seems to be the point of your comments. As more of her family comes forward with documentary evidence showing her stories to be false, I see no point in trying to discuss it with you further. It seems like you will simply try to find some apologetic for why she should still be trusted while hurling insult at those who doubt(or show her to be false). So at least until you post part 2. See you around.

            • David Lerner February 25, 2012, 6:11 PM

              Oh, stop with the self-righteousness, Michael. We both know I was referring to that ludicrous “Exposed” blog. A simple reading of my last comment makes that clear. It certainly LOOKS like you read that blog, considering how a chunk of your claims are plagiarized from it…

              Nice how you don’t even answer whether you read the book.


              • David Lerner February 25, 2012, 6:30 PM

                I just glanced at your blog. I see that you write that one should not read her book and provide a link to her old blog (which I have no problem defending; I have no idea where you get the idea that I won’t defend her blog, I quote from it in my article…)

                Again I ask whether you have any authority to claim knowledge of Unorthodox’s context. Knowing the context is typically reserved for those with enough discipline to read a text before passing judgment, but perhaps you are special, Rabbi. I must have missed that shiur in the Semicha syllabus…

                • Rabbi Michael Tzadok February 25, 2012, 6:49 PM

                  Wow… you really like the Ad Hominems don’t you. It’s a shame you can’t actually discuss the issues.

                  Anyway… to answer your question, though I thought it was implicit in my earlier response, but apparently not clearly enough, yes. I have read her book.

                  I have also read her blog(commented there too.) I have also listened to and watched her various media appearances, and for giggles I have kept up with a few blogs that have been buys picking her story apart, as the press(so far mostly Jewish) is starting to turn on her.

                  I hope that answers your questions, and I am sure that you will have a new line of slurs to hurl around in few seconds.

                  • David Lerner February 25, 2012, 7:36 PM

                    You’ve read the book and the context you see is one of an attack on Hasidim? Give me a break. If that’s the context of her book, then it’s SEVERELY incomplete. To document the corruption, violence, rape, intimidation and other crimes endemic among Hasidim would require much more than DF’s 200-some pages.

                    • Robin March 11, 2012, 9:51 AM

                      David Lerner, thou dost protest too much! After reading the above dialogue, I think Rabbi Tzadok eloquently makes mincemeat of your argument. Clearly, you have a bone to pick with Yiddishkeit and you cannot tolerate that Ms. Feldman’s work was never adequately fact-checked– probably due to the popular sport of Hareidi bashing that seems to be in vogue these days. Kudos to you, Rabbi Tzadok.

                    • Gila July 28, 2012, 12:28 PM

                      David Lerner,

                      Rabbi Michael Tzadok makes his point cogently and politely without resorting to attacking you personally and yet all you can do is to state that any statements from him “regarding this book’s context are laughable and can be discarded without a second glance.” You can’t even respond intelligently to his arguments.

                      I read Feldman’s book and I agree with Rabbi Tzadok, and I am neither Hassidic nor Orthodox.

  • Yiddish ~ Kind February 22, 2012, 8:59 AM

    Debora Feldman comes from a broken home, thats very sad, but did she think where she’s heading to? If for example she dies tomorrow (chas vsholom) and she has not done teshuva… Who will cry for her? The media? Any of her so called new friends? Any of her supporters/fans? Only her YIDDISHE family and if she’s lucky it’ll be the Irish man she’s dating…

    Her poor 5 year old son.
    Who will look after him? Who will care for him? Here she wont even be lucky, the Irish man she’s dating wont give a hoot!!!

    When he will be 17/18 years old, he will by long have dropped his mother “Debora”, Or he will by then be reunited with his family and be a tzadikel, or he will give her the same kick she gave to her family, and go FREE to live with someone else!!!

    Good luck Debora
    Lots of shocks still to awaited

  • yitty February 22, 2012, 10:38 AM

    David Lerner, Please try not blending in remarks that becuase “That community has a history of covering up rape of children and ostracizing those who do make a tumult about it, I don’t see how covering up a murder is so unbelievable” just so to throw it in what the community’s history is in other aspects so that people should think of that rather of the murder story.
    You also say “I can’t know whether her class availed themselves of the Yiddishe library and neither can you. As an education major, I can tell you that most American children don’t like to read, and those are the ones with mostly unrestricted access.” So the kids in wiiliamsburg are no different then American children in general,so what the big deal?
    DF claims that satmar graduates have a fourth grade reading level.Which ever way you will try to twist around it is what she meant and that’s called lying.She knows what she does and wont back down even when caught with lie after lie. Go keep on defending her you are in the minority

    • David Lerner February 22, 2012, 7:58 PM

      Yitty, without looking it up on the Internet, tell me what the fourth grade reading level is.

    • David Lerner February 22, 2012, 8:15 PM

      Familiarize yourself with the Talmudic principle “Migu dichashid” and you will understand why the Hasidishe community has no reliability when it comes to reporting crimes.

      The difference is that kids who WANT to read are allowed to read in the rest of the world. Among many hasidim this is not the case.

      “Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.” – Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • Leonard February 22, 2012, 11:39 AM

    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.

  • Josh February 22, 2012, 11:05 PM

    Michael Hoffman a well known Holocaust denier, Anti Semite and Racists gave a 6 star review on the book:


    • David Lerner February 25, 2012, 4:25 PM

      What’s your point?

      • PrettyBoyFloyd February 26, 2012, 11:16 AM

        Ewwww that’s gotta hurt.

  • Phyllis February 23, 2012, 5:12 AM

    Someone who exaggerates and isn’t careful about checking the facts before quoting them is an unreliable source and suspect.

    Deborah Feldman regrettably has a” bone to pick” with the Hassidic community. Her pain is obvious and sad. Yet, that does not give her license to sully an entire community with mass cover up.

    I hope she finds the way back to OTD (On The Derech) soon!

  • Moish the spacedout BT April 5, 2012, 8:25 PM

    I’m sorry that Deborah Feldman went from 2 head coverings to crab cakes in a heartbeat without sampling the joys of left wing MO’doxy that saved my Yiddishkeit when I was in free fall from my BT kiruv sheeta.

  • Anonymous May 29, 2012, 7:15 AM

    dovid wanna come with me to ponte vedra chabad house i have some friends there

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  • disturbed by the book January 5, 2013, 9:35 PM

    I just read the book cover to cover and I must say I am truly disturbed. Her whole idea of a journey to discover happiness/freedom by leaving her faith is false. Who says she is happier now? Her whole story is negative- her whole life was seen through negative eyes and it doesn’t make sense. Could it possibly be that everyone was so horrible? Could it be that her grandparents were so negative? Were they old school and OLD! yes, but I imagine anyone being raised by old grandparents from any culture, race or religion will have a difficult time relating to them! Especially grandparents that survived the holocaust. She never says anything positive about any situation in her life that she describes and for me thats a red flag! was it really all horrible or rather was the way she perceived them? Being that her mom left her and her dad was mentally ill – it would make sense that this girl suffered from some sort of depression. So why write a book about my experience seeing the world through while DEPRESSED? Another think that bothered me was the fact that her marriage didn’t seem so out of the ordinary. Her husband seemed like a nice guy. She mentioned that he wanted to kiss her and be intimate with her but she had no desire. She also mentions that she was attracted to him when they met and he seems like he truly cared about her. It seems like maybe she was the issue and the one with the difficulty with intimacy. Perhaps she is even a lesbian like her mother!? I imagine that whatever issues Deborah Feldman has she will carry them with her to her “free” life of eating pork, sleeping with “goyim” and wearing 7 jeans. The skeltons don’t go away by just running away and it certainly isn’t everyone else’s fault!

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