Latest update: March 18th, 2013
But I would ask her in all truthfulness, if she really thought that was the case. My guess is that she would answer in the negative. This does not mean that Hasidic women don’t work and help to support their families. Many – perhaps most of them do. It takes a huge income to feed a family of 10 or more children. But her experiences in the professional world are not shared by the vast majority of Hasidic women in communities like Williamsburg.
Which is too bad. There is no reason that the women of Williamsburg shouldn’t go to college and get better jobs. In fact there is no reason that men shouldn’t do that. But the culture of communities like these is to suppress and counter any desire to do so by both men and women. That’s because they fear outside influences. Their leadership is so opposed to secular culture that they frown upon anyone who speaks English well. That’s why they teach it as a second language – Yiddish being the first.
While many (but certainly not all) women raised in communities like Williamsburg do end up speaking English fluently – most men do not. Although there are exceptions – the simple fact is that most of Williamsburg’s male Hasidim would probably not succeed in college under those conditions. Their communication skills in English are tremendously limited and not conducive to college level instruction. While the situation is much better for women, it is probably still more difficult for them than it is for those with a better secular education.
It is obvious from Mrs. Freier’s writing that she does not come from such a background. I would be willing to bet that she had a pretty decent secular education in high school and has been able to communicate with skill long before she ever entered college. My guess is that her Hasidic upbringing was basically in the home and that she probably attended one of the many fine Bais Yaakov school’s in Boro Park where she lived – that offered fairly decent secular departments – at least decent enough to take her into the college and professional schools that enabled her to have the wonderful career she has now.
I have absolutely no problem with this kind of Hasidic upbringing. Unfortunately looking at communities like Williamsburg, Kiryas Joel, and Square Town, I would have to guess that Mrs. Freier’s educational experiences are rare for thoseHasidic women. Although I’m sure that there are a lot more like her in Boro Park. Just as I am sure that some Hasidim in Boro Park are more in line with the Hasidim of Williamsburg
I would love to see Mrs. Freier become the role model for all Hasidic women – and not just for those like the ones she attended school with. If only the Hasidic leaders of the aforementioned enclaves would step back and take a good look at her… applying the lessons learned might lead to a better material life for the Hasidic world without sacrificing any of their spirituality. What a wonderful change in direction that would be.
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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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