October 25, 2011
Over Yom Tov I read some great books and articles. I hope to share some of them with you over the next couple of weeks.
Perhaps the most compelling book I read was hot off the presses: Strictly Kosher Reading by Yoel Finkelman. Briefly, the purpose of the book is to present an academic study of the fiction and non-fiction reading that is published within the charedi community. Analyzing books for children, adults, women, religions and secular audiences gives the scholar access to the framework of charedi Judaism.
The book posits that charedi Judaism is a conscious effort to recreate a Utopian version of Eastern European orthodox Judaism. The book disputes that this society ever truly existed in the way it is imagined and recreated today and calls this version of history unhistorical and a myth. But the point of the book is not to prove or disprove whether or not this is a myth or fact. Rather, the book tries to prove that there a Herculean effort to establish that myth/fact as the reality in 21st century America.
The book only analyzes the charedi community and uses a specific (and very accurate) definition of the charedi community. It is a non-chasidic, “yeshivish” community that does not completely shun the outside world. Charedi communities are not absolutely insular. They teach secular subjects, many obtain secular jobs, English is the primary language, yet there is a conscious effort to reject much of secular culture. Whether it is culture, science, diversity or other contemporary values in secular society, these are all rejected.
This creates a very interesting phenomena. Read…