In the grips of Jewish fundamentalism: New memoir sheds light on Hasidic community

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Book cover of "All Who Go Do Not Return," by Shulem Deen. Photo courtesy of Graywolf Press

Book cover of "All Who Go Do Not Return," by Shulem Deen. Photo courtesy of Graywolf Press

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(RNS) Jewish fundamentalists are often depicted as cuddly, harmless and quaint. But as Shulem Deen describes, in passage after passage, this is myth, not reality.

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  • Ben in oakland

    There are almost NO fundamentalists who are “cuddly, harmless, or quaint”. Whenever someone catches the social diseases of fundamentalism or megalomania, they have already over-identified with their god or gods.

  • resharpen

    Lewis – that is ridiculous. Yes, I will agree that many Chassidim and Ultra-Orthodox are ‘anti-Gentile”. But to allege that ‘this’ is the reason that these beliefs are the ‘root of Israeli Jewish racism’ is beyond absurd. First of all, the vast majority of Jews in the U.S. are NOT Orthodox at all. Many are secular, and the rest of us are mostly Reform or Conservative which are NOT anti-Gentile. These are the Jews, btw, who marched with MLK, were very active in ALL progressive movements, no matter what group they helped. Then, in Israel, there are even MORE secular Jews, as a percentage than here. And the secular Jews there have a lot of antipathy against the Ultra-Orthodox. Read some true books.

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  • Wally in DC

    This article misses several important points:

    First, the Skver group is a tiny sliver of the Jewish population. It is about as representative of Jews in general as snake handlers are representative of Christians.

    Second, having been Jewish for nearly 70 years I have never heard of the “peculiarly American Jewish notion that Jewish fundamentalists are better Jews than the rest of us.” Where is survey which shows such a view is widespread? Or is this simply the author’s view?

  • Susan

    Hasidic Judaism developed in Russia, Poland and eastern Europe. This was an area of extreme antisemitism and persecution. The. Orthodox churches still have not gone through the equivalent of a Vacitan II.

    If you read the entire post, you will discover that Hasidism began as a revolutionary movement. It became ossified over the centuries. I am not orthodox but I still read Hasidic writings and Torah commentary. They always have a unique and insightful take.

  • Susan

    In 1913 Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary students vandalized and attacked the Jews in the village of Kishniev on Easter morning. They murdered 49 Jews. Nothing Jews could have done or believed would have stopped this, They were convinced that Jews had murdered Jesus. Nothing they believed about Jews had anything to do with what Jews really believed. They didn’t know or understand Jews or Judaism. Jews cannot stop hatred of Jews no matter what they do or believe.

    Judaism does not teach that racial hatred must go on. It teaches the opposite despite centuries of hatred and persecution. I always say that Christianity is a valid way to God even though I don’t believe in it.

  • Susan

    The Messiah is supposed to bring about universal peace and brotherhood. The Messianic age is supposed to do away hunger and poverty. The Messiah may have started as a Warrior King, but the Messiah evolved into a harbinger of peace and brotherhood. You just need to read Isaiah.

  • Susan

    “Jewish religion is source of the artificial division of humanity.”

    Yes, before Judaism the world was at peace and there were no divisions of humanity. You know that’s not true. It wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now. Every city-state had its own God and its own King. Each kingdom had its own God which it thought was better than all the other Gods and if you didn’t worship the right God, you were bringing disaster on everyone. Actually, Judaism has had a unifying and a democratizing effect.

    I’ve read the Shema and it doesn’t declare religious war on anyone. You are blaming the victims.

  • Susan

    I you think the Shema is a declaration of religious war. You are not thinking straight.

    Judaism is not about the worship of Jews, of being Jewish. You are just wrong. You never really respond to my posts, you just go on a completely new tirade. You know that people who convert to Judaism become part of the Jewish people as well as being Jewish religiously.

    Since the destruction of the Temple, prayer, study and good deeds have replaced the priesthood. Rabbis are not priests. They are teachers,

  • Susan

    Ha Shem means the name in Hebrew.

  • Garson Abuita

    Name and affiliation of the rabbi who called you rabbi or it didn’t happen.

  • Vill

    Perspective Perspective, this is all from the eyes of a bitter man, which cannot give one a complete and honest view. As is the rebellious kid complaining on everything their parents do, some wiring’s of some brains are just simply tangled.

    Need to hear from the other side too.

  • Susan

    I don’t like typing on my iphone. Ha shem means the name in Hebrew. Ha means the and shem means name. Some Orthodox Jews use it because they think that God’s name is too holy to use except in a real prayer. It has nothing to do with anything else.

    I have no idea what you mean by worshiping God through the priesthood of Judah’s instructions. Their hasn’t been a priesthood since the destruction of the second temple.

  • Susan

    Jews certainly don’t believe that God is a Jew. God is not human so how can God be a Jew?

    The rest is just to silly to respond too, since you see manipulation and lies everywhere even where they don’t exist.

  • Susan

    Judaism has survived for a long time and it will survive you. I have given reasoned arguments, but of course they pass you by. I wonder whether I should respond to you at all or ignore you. Something obviously has happened to you and your obsession with Jews and Judaism is your way of coping.

  • Susan

    I’ve given “no that’s not true” responses, because it isn’t true. I don’t have the time or energy to devote a sick individual who hates Jews and Judaism for his own reasons. I’m assuming that you are sick and not just an antisemite, although I could be wrong about that. I have nothing more to say to you. You are not worth the effort.

  • Susan

    One last comment. I wasn’t even commenting about your anti-Zionism. I was commenting on your ridiculous comments about Judaism’s Egyptian origins and the rest of the comments about Jews and Judaism.

  • Susan

    I am a Zionist, but that does not mean that I agree with everything the Israeli government does. I do speak up when I disagree or don’t approve of Israeli actions. I don’t talk about it with you, because you would just use it as ammunition that Israel ought not to exist at all.

    The rest is nonsense.

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  • stevieb


  • stevieb

    So quick to rationalize -or excuse – jewish dysfunction and criminality….even if it means portraying judaism in a mostly false way. Halakah and hasbara is obviously secular, too….or, the secular/religious divide is mostly a smokescreen for jewish ethnocentrism. ..take you’re pick..!