This story has been popping up on the Facebook feeds of the ex-orthodox people I know, and I'm finding it a really interesting study of sorts on shaping narratives. The common (valid) complaint is that sensationalized outsider narratives can (and often do) bury the discussions of the real problems within the community.

Psychology and sexuality expert Dr. Marty Klein decided that hassidish women are broken because women wouldn't smile for him and little girls didn't take his approaching them kindly.

An article in the Forward popped up defending the hassidim and what I find most fascinating is that its author, Shulem Deen, is an ex-hassid who's incredibly outspoken about the problems in the community.

Deen makes the great point that if you're gonna try to observe a community to make well reasoned critiques, you've gotta make the observations in good faith:

Other things not to do: gawk, objectify, belittle, and otherwise bring your prejudices and misconceptions with you. Leave those at the edge of the Williamsburg bridge, if you must, and you might choose not to pick them up on your way out.


'cause that might not make for the best anthropological sample. Deen also touches on the absurdity of going up to children who don't know you and then complaining that they're suspicious, but yeah this has gotta be my biggest critique. Wariness of strangers is not a hassidish thing, it's a most reasonable people thing.

But the biggest problem with the false narrative, as Deen points out, is that it exacerbates the tensions between the community and outsiders:

Hasidim are often under the impression that the world is out to get them, and articles like Klein's, dripping with condescension and derision, only reinforce that belief. Well-intentioned agents of change then become indistinguishable from mean-spirited provocateurs, and the ones affected most — people within who bear the brunt of some of the community's ill-conceived practices — are the ones who lose out.


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