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Mitzvah Girls: Bringing Up the Next Generation of Hasidic Jews in Brooklynby Ayala Fader
Synopses & Reviews
"This is a superb book. All manner of readers will find themselves moved by this beautifully rendered portrait of the process by which Hasidic girls become Hasidic women. Scholars of language, gender, and religion will find something more--a theoretically innovative synthesis of work on language socialization and the anthropology of morality that points toward whole new areas of study. Put simply, it is one of the most exciting works on religion I have read in some years."--Joel Robbins, University of California, San Diego
"Mitzvah Girls is impressive in its sweep, tackling the considerable topic of how religious communities are sustained and changed. Ayala Fader transcends simple language and culture alignments to bring readers into the usually inaccessible private worlds of Hasidic families. I know of no other book that monitors socialization into gender from childhood to adulthood, while examining how language frames the formation of secular antipathies, adherence to divine legitimacy, self-control, and nostalgia for a lost Hasidic past."--Elinor Ochs, University of California, Los Angeles
"Mitzvah Girls is fresh and fascinating. It is exemplary not only because of the exceptionally fine ethnographic research, but also because of the highly original approach to language, body, and culture. Fader illuminates aspects of contemporary Hasidic life that have never been explored before in ways that speak to larger questions: the place of women in male-centered religions, the gendering of language, and the forms that modernity takes in a world that values tradition."--Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, author of Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage
"With insightful and carefully drawn analysis, Mitzvah Girls challenges how Hasidim and other fundamentalist communities are often regarded from the outside. Fader presents a nuanced look at how both Yiddish and English are gendered in the daily lives of American Hasidic girls and women. This book makes a valuable contribution to the scholarship on American Hasidism, American Judaism more generally, contemporary Jewish language use, women's religious life, and religious fundamentalism."--Jeffrey Shandler, author of Adventures in Yiddishland: Postvernacular Language and Culture
The story of Abraham smashing his fathers idols might be the most important Jewish story ever told and the key to how Jews define themselves. In a work at once deeply erudite and wonderfully accessible, Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin conducts readers through the life and legacy of this powerful story and explains how it has shaped Jewish consciousness.
Offering a radical view of Jewish existence, The Gods Are Broken! views the story of the young Abraham as the “primal trauma” of Jewish history, one critical to the development of a certain Jewish comfort with rebelliousness and one that, happening in every generation, has helped Jews develop a unique identity. Salkin shows how the story continues to reverberate through the ages, even in its connection to the phenomenon of anti-Semitism.
Salkins work—combining biblical texts, archaeology, rabbinic insights, Hasidic texts (some never before translated), philosophy, history, poetry, contemporary Jewish thought, sociology, and popular culture—is nothing less than a journey through two thousand years of Jewish life and intellectual endeavor.
Mitzvah Girls is the first book about bringing up Hasidic Jewish girls in North America, providing an in-depth look into a closed community. Ayala Fader examines language, gender, and the body from infancy to adulthood, showing how Hasidic girls in Brooklyn become women responsible for rearing the next generation of nonliberal Jewish believers. To uncover how girls learn the practices of Hasidic Judaism, Fader looks beyond the synagogue to everyday talk in the context of homes, classrooms, and city streets.
Hasidic women complicate stereotypes of nonliberal religious women by collapsing distinctions between the religious and the secular. In this innovative book, Fader demonstrates that contemporary Hasidic femininity requires women and girls to engage with the secular world around them, protecting Hasidic men and boys who study the Torah. Even as Hasidic religious observance has become more stringent, Hasidic girls have unexpectedly become more fluent in secular modernity. They are fluent Yiddish speakers but switch to English as they grow older; they are increasingly modest but also fashionable; they read fiction and play games like those of mainstream American children but theirs have Orthodox Jewish messages; and they attend private Hasidic schools that freely adapt from North American public and parochial models. Investigating how Hasidic women and girls conceptualize the religious, the secular, and the modern, Mitzvah Girls offers exciting new insights into cultural production and change in nonliberal religious communities.
About the Author
Ayala Fader is assistant professor of anthropology at Fordham University, Lincoln Center.
Table of Contents
Notes on Yiddish and Transcription Conventions xiii
CHAPTER ONE: Introduction 1
CHAPTER TWO: Fitting In 34
CHAPTER THREE: Defiance 62
CHAPTER FOUR: Making English Jewish 87
CHAPTER FIVE: With It, Not Modern 118
CHAPTER SIX: Ticket to Eden 145
CHAPTER SEVEN: Becoming Hasidic Wives 179
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History and Social Science » Anthropology » Cultural Anthropology