“Unorthodox” Belongs in the Fiction Section

February 22, 2012 2:52 pm 43 comments

Cover of 'UNORTHODOX: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots', written Deborah Feldman and published by Simon and Schuster. Photo: Amazon.

Who would have guessed that Anti-Semitism could lurk in the allegedly autobiographical words of a young Jewish woman? But they have, in ‘Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots’, the memoir of Deborah Feldman, with stories she tells about growing up as a Satmar Hasid.

I don’t think that Feldman meant to create this monster, yet the intentions, for good or bad cannot stop the destruction this creation is causing. Many in our community say we should let it slide, to ignore it because it will go away in a few weeks and is not worth giving a platform to. I vehemently disagree. I think if we don’t address this lie we are no better than Ms. Feldman because we are allowing the lie to spread.

If we allow a New York Times bestseller filled with half-truths, untruths and outright lies to be the uncontested representation of the truth of our lifestyle and a butchery of Halacha (Jewish law), we are doing ourselves a disservice of the highest proportions. Joseph Goebbels, The Nazi minister of propaganda, used to repeat Hitler’s “Big Lie,” which paraphrased over time simply says, “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.”

While some encourage those in our community to ignore it, saying, “Why don’t you let it slide into oblivion?” the big lie is repeated and repeated and repeated. Obviously even negative PR plays into the hands of such a book, because any controversy is good for book sales but by not contesting the truth and speaking out, a larger evil grows—that of the “Big Lie.”

As of today “Unorthodox” is a New York Times best seller, and I’m not surprised. It’s a book about religious Jews, with our Yarmulkes (skull caps) and traditional dress, our religiously protective and seemingly mysterious lifestyle. We do seem somewhat enigmatic to the general population. Many of those reading this book already think we are all extremely wealthy. They whisper all kinds of rumors about how we conduct our personal lives, what we believe, how we live—all based on the stories of a young girl who admits she hated, resented and rejected everything about her faith, her people and her community. To look for her to deliver a fair and balanced perspective of Orthodox Judaism is to expect an atheist to describe religion in a positive manner.

This is a direct attack on the Ultra Orthodox community, on the Torah (Bible), and on all that we hold dear.

I do not doubt that Ms. Feldman grew up in a tremendously difficult environment. I do not contest the fact that her decisions and her perceptions in life are hers to make. We must all live with the consequences of our decisions and I feel that it is important to point out how her actions have affected others.

I am not attacking Ms. Feldman. I am championing truth. Look around and see how the beautiful, family-values-based kosher lifestyle is being portrayed to the average American’s consciousness in the most degrading way. If left unchecked, that image will change the way practically every non-Jew perceives the Orthodox Jewish lifestyle.

I don’t know how I ended up being the person to write this but someone has to step up to the plate—to take a stand. This is not the time to be reticent.

The coals of the fires of Anti-Semitism have been banked since WWII, but they have never been fully extinguished. I believe that those who fanned the flames of hatred against the Jews half a century ago, can quickly fan the flames again.

There are enough well written pieces and reviews of the book, detailing how its author has essentially written a compelling work of fiction that should cause concern. ‘Unorthodox’ provides a narrative to those who would depict orthodox Jews in the same fashion that allowed the perception of ‘Jews as evil’ to persist in the middle of the 20th century, leading to genocide.

All mighty oaks grow from small acorns. A liberal media, and a world of readers hungry for criticism of Orthodox Jews are watering the acorn that this young woman has planted. The well-written and positive reviews of this book are fertilizing an idea, a perception, a fear and a hatred of Jews among nations who do not know us.

This is why our community must not bury our heads in the sand and wait for all this to go away. We need to come out and forcefully say, “This is not us, at all.”

43 Comments

  • Wait…what exactly do you find fictitious or anti-semitic in the book? I mean, specifically. There are bad and there are good people, Jewish or not. If your only objection is that Deborah Feldman describes her own experiences with people who are bad and happen to be Jewish, then how is that anti-semitic or fiction?

  • Poor Abe, ya drank the Kool-Aid, didn’tcha? Let’s address part of your tome: “Had she been using her overabundant energy to become a doctor or inventor of some kind to make lives easier”… I’m betting that she would easily have gotten into NYU and then, later on, into medical school, with her Satmar Girls High diploma, right? With just that piece of paper signed by the high school principal and the Rabbi? With no proper Math, Chemistry and Biology courses(oops Biology’s a no-no, what with reproduction and all..)and never having taken an SAT in her life? Yep, Satmar education really prepares a girl to take on the world as a doctor, an educator (apparently 16 year old girls with their ‘diplomas’ are considered qualified enough to teach in their schools) or an inventor! I guess if Satmar allowed girls to be properly educated, to live as equals to their male counterparts, and to achieve their dreams, whatever they may be, Deborah might well still be living in Airmont! C’mon Abe, there’s a reason why you have to keep defending your existence and your way of life to the rest of the world.

  • I think what everyone is missing is the fact that this is memoir of someone’s personal experiences. Everyone in and out of her community has a story, and in that story are opinions about how they felt growing up. I have Orthodox friends who love their community and could never imagine living a different life. I know Jews who were raised in very Reform families who are now Orthodox, because they felt that lifestyle was for them. I know Jews who were raised very Orthodox and have chosen to follow a Conservative path.

    You are discrediting the readers by assuming that everyone who reads this book will automatically think that this is how everyone’s experience in the Hasidic is. Also, I might suggest that if you are going to present criticism of Ms. Feldman’s book, you may want to have women comment on it. Since men and women are so separate in the Hasidic community I don’t think you, as a man, are qualified to speak to a Hasidic woman’s experience.

  • You do not seem to be aware how many books talking about negative aspects of the hareidi/hasadic community are already on the market, and they also seem to sell quite well.

    I, for my part, think that recurrent news about Hareidim in good standing throwing stones, spitting on people, intimidating children, calling doctors Nazis, dressing their children as concentration camp inmates, cheating social security, laundering money, burning people’s houses are more prejudicial to the hareidi community than one book, partly fictional. How come those problems are never adressed? What did YOU do to address those problems?

  • I am looking beyond her falsehoods and her animus, and trying to see how we produced such an angry person. We have a girl whose mother abandoned her as part of leaving a community that wouldn’t accept the mother’s lesbianism. She is then left with a developmentally delayed father. Too many of her teachers took this child from a dysfunctional home, and rather than coddling her and giving her some measure of acceptance, mishandled her lashing out.

    Everything she repeats about the community’s scandals, sexual norms, or for that matter much of its stance on Jewish Law and its general culture, are things she picked up from the worst the rumor mill had to offer. But then, we were already introduced to the impression providers of formal education left on her.

    I’m not the sort to shift blame from the criminal to society. It I were to stand in judgment of Ms Feldman, none of the above would be a factor. But there is little merit in my judging her; I am not a trial judge, nor her parent nor her therapist, nor anyone else capable of meeting out justice or healing her emotional scars.

    What I am is a member of a community that allowed a bright girl from an abnormal background fall through the cracks. We failed her. And there are more such girls growing up in the community all the time. Learning from the mistakes that made Ms Feldman such a bitter and angry woman is something we can do, and something that has value.

    We are not the horrible people she describes, nor is our lifestyle anything like the way she perceives it. But we, like any other group of mere mortals, can always learn to do better. In the natural response to being misrepresented and being the victims of an angry daughter slandering her parent community in public, we cannot lose sight of what her story tells us about what we could do to avoid future angry sons and daughters.

  • “Kardashian she’s not?” Abe, on how many web sites have you posted identical comments. The Kardashians are cheap, plastic-surgery fakes. Deborah is ten times more beautiful than they will ever be.

    Why do the Orthodox force their way of life on their kids? Why do they make their kids spend up to 12 hours a day in school, longer than a corporate working day? Why do they tell girls they can’t sing in front of men? It’s one thing if someone chooses this lifestyle. But kids aren’t allowed to choose. That’s what needs to change. Every child should be permitted to decide on his or her own whether he or she wants to follow Orthodoxy or not.

    I knew at age six it wasn’t for me, and I bolted at 16, the best thing I ever did.

    • Good Point Eclipse! but it depends how you look at it, i wont go in to details because i feel its irrelevant but i’l just say my point, if YOU think its not good for the kids you will agree that it should be illegal, for-instance, why don’t we allow kids to have sex with over 18′s? let them decide! why cant they drive cars? and why don’t you let them drink alcohol? let them decide if its good for them! whats about all this over 18′s stuff banned from teens? why don’t we let them decide?! and do you honestly ask from all Christians to let their kids do things against their faith and believes???
      its all about what you believe! if YOU don’t believe its good for children you will have no problem to not let them!!!! get it!?

      • Having sex, driving a car, and drinking alcohol are all activities that require a strong sense of responsibility, without which they could result in accidents, illness, and death. Choosing what school one wants to attend, whether to wear jeans instead of skirts, whether to spend Saturday mornings in services or watching cartoons–these do not come with the same consequences. Many kids know at young ages that they don’t believe in their parents’ religion. Why should they be forced to live that way and be traumatized? Aren’t they entitled to their own beliefs too? The law recognizes the difference between activities like sex, driving, and alcohol on the one hand, and religious practice on the other. You don’t have to be a certain age or get a license to have your own beliefs. Forcing kids to follow something they don’t believe will only result in their being traumatized, and that trauma can have lifetime consequences.

        • Why should a minor get more hurt having sex with a adult than with a minor?
          What would hurt them to see 18+ videos and magazines etc.?
          And What would hurt them to enter or even join a topless bar?
          What would hurt a 15 year old to drink 1 can of beer etc.?
          So It’s all about what YOU believe is good for them!
          why are religious parents (of all religions including Christians) allowed to forbid their kids from violating their religion?
          And we are talking about the law the law lets parents raise their kids the way they believe is right, and why is that?
          Disbelief an any religion causes as much trouble as drugs, sex etc. As there is no responsibility for anything except when getting caught by law enforcement agents!
          Traumatized they can get from anything banned from them if they think they should be allowed to do it, so again why do you bane from them the above mention stuff, if you can get them to understand it’s not good for them, you can also get them to understand why it’s not good for their soul etc. so they won’t get traumatized, and that’s a fact no religious kids are getting traumatized from practicing their religion.
          if there would be a list of decisions that require a strong sense of responsibility, religion would be on top of the list so what makes you think that this should be given in the hands of under age, and don’t worry, when they get older no one will stop them to do what they want!

  • Sarah, I don’t think you understand how hate spreads. It spreads a word at a time, a glance, a rumor, a lie, gossip. It begins as the Rabbi said, as a seed. In the beginning of the war no one believed for a moment Hitler’s hatred, or Goebells, of the Jews would grow to the horror it became. It grew because it was ALLOWED to. It grew because people like you said, “You should be ashamed.” His words are not shaming to those who suffered and/or died in the Holocaust. They are PROOF that someone LEARNED the lesson the Holocaust taught us – that you SPEAK UP the instant someone begins to spew hatred, lies and fears. You squash it before it develops momentum. You cry out “The fox is in the henhouse.” You do not understand what is happening here at all. You think that Anti-Semitism on the scale of Germany was the only time hatred would happen? I’m a Christian. Our New AND Old Testament tells us that in the end days the hatred of the Jews will be so widespread that 2 out of every 3 Jews will be killed and Jerusalem overrun. If people, including the Rabbi, don’t ACT immediately and definitively to STOP this now, it will only grow and spread.

    • I agree with you re the Holocaust.
      I do not agree that Ms Feldman is in any way encouraging or condoning a future Holocaust.

      “In the end days, the hatred of the Jews will be so widespread that 2 out of every 3 Jews will be killed and Jerusalem overrun.” Jewish readers, this is not orthodox Christian theology. This is a radically millenial reading of Revelations.

      Christians are morally obligated to look upon Jews with kindness and respect. They do not have to condone the sort of upbringing Ms Feldman went through. Or the shaming and circling the wagons that is such a big part of the Satmar community.

  • It is very disheartening that some one should feel this way about Orthodox Judaism. If the person feeling this way was any where close to the truth they would become an activist and try to make things better. The reaction of going away from Judaism and Jewishness indicates an inner soreness that is very personal to the person. I as an orthodox Jew feel very bad for this person for the lack of her selfness to be able to feel of what she is going away from and the lack of reconciling her life;the life she was raised with.

  • I think there are already a large percentage of people that have made their mind up about Jews. Sadly there are probably more in the negative camp than the positive, and for those, with or without this book, it won’t make a damn bit of a difference. “Haters gonna hate”. (though adding fuel to the fire SURE doesn’t help). I think though, for all the people on the fence, it’s books like these that can and will push them over to the “hate” side. If a book is filled with lies and myths to smear the subject in question, the reader of the book will be affected for sure. Add to the fact that most religious jews don’t live in the spotlight, leading to there being few if any resources for the reader to discover the real truths, the reader will no doubt leave with a bad taste in their mouth. There is most definitely a parallel to be drawn to Nazi Germany. They used the power of words to incite hate, this book will have a very similar net effect. How can it not? I’ve met countless non-jews living here in NY/NJ, with ZERO knowledge of our way of life. Are you telling me a book like this would NOT affect them negatively?

  • The real problem with Deborah Feldman’s “Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots,” is that, at its core, the subject is boring. People who have rejected their childhood faiths and cultures and co-religionists, including friends and family members, as their people is a story as old as time. Individual Jews who have taken this path have popped up all through history, in every sector of the Jewish community. It is, therefore, not surprising that it would happen in the chassidishe world, too, and it is less than astonishing that Ms. Feldman is now dating a Gentile.

    Her book would be a great deal more interesting if she had left the chassidic community with fond memories of its warmth, solidarity, and overall positive value-structure, even if she decided its lifestyle was not for her. If she had decided against a throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater approach, her book might have been a study of a search for how to express Jewish spirituality in a venue other than the Satmar community.

    In fact, now that some of the true details of Ms. Feldman’s previous life have emerged, it is clear that even those elements would have made her book much more interesting.

    But Ms. Feldman’s scorched-earth screed does not offer any new truths. All she says is that, in America, an adult citizen is free to make her own choices as to how to live her life and what faith—if any—to follow. This is what is being touted as a great revelation.

    The really interesting character in all this is the Jewish husband she left behind and with whom she shares custody of her child. Her former husband, whom she seems to recognize was a decent fellow, has also left the Satmar community, but still identifies as a Shomer Shabbos, kosher Jew. The child spends every Shabbos and Yuntif with the father.

    Now their story, what they think of all this, and how they manage, would make an interesting book, or at least article. Please G-d, let it be written by someone other than Ms. Feldman.

    Susie Rosenbluth
    The Jewish Voice and Opinion
    Englewood, NJ

    • Ispeakthetruth

      I don’t think the topic is boring at all. The fact that Deborah’s book is on New York’s bestseller list is a testament to that. Secondly, your comment “Her book would be a great deal more interesting if she had left the chassidic community with fond memories of its warmth, solidarity, and overall positive value-structure, even if she decided its lifestyle was not for her” makes no sense: why would anyone leave a community about which they have nothing but good things to say? Why would anyone leave a home, family and friends in a warm, positive community full of good values? Umm…possibly because they don’t agree that the community is warm, or positive or imbued with good values?…Besides, from a practical point of view, that book would be pretty slim…!

  • She claims that Hasidic mothers don’t take their children to a doctor, Hasidim don’t wear seat belts, Hasidic women are not supposed to walk on the street at night. If this is not Nazi propaganda, what is?

    Her Kiryas Joel story, that a father killed his son and the community covered it up, has been proven false. And what’s her response when she is presented with the facts? “NO COMMENT…”

    She claims that Hasidim have their own Police and Fire department. Why don’t you tell them that we also have our own president, Congress etc.?

    She makes fun of many sacred Jewish laws and customs that have been observed by ALL Jews, not only the Hasidim, for generations.

    As the days pass by, more and more of her claims are being exposed as lies. And those who drool whenever there is a juicy story on Orthodox Jews, hate the fact that we are countering this hateful diphtheria.

    Kudos to Rabbi Ginsberg for calling evil at its name, “Nazi Propaganda”!

  • Micheal Hoffman and known Holocaust denier and BIG TIME Anti Semite CONFIRMED by the ADL gave very good reviews on Feldman book:

    http://www.amazon.com/review/R11OCFL8OLHVNB/ref=cm_cr_pr_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1439187002&nodeID=&tag=&linkCode=#wasThisHelpful

  • I’d personally find it much more compelling if as a community people were to come forward and say yes, there are areas we can improve on instead of reacting in the manner that the majority of the community is currently reacting. While I’m sure not everything Deborah Feldman writes is true, it gives more credibility to her story when people come forward and attempt to destroy her and her book in the name of protecting the community. Instead such reaction makes the community look guilty of the crimes detailed in Feldman’s book. The truth of the matter is Yiddishkeit is beautiful, but as with all things there are often times bad apples within the community or people that are oppressed in the name of protecting the reputation of the community. Where is the justice for the innocent with such reputation protecting? There is none as long as people cover up sins and flawed thinking within the community. Instead as a whole group, come forward and say yes there have been failures in our human attempts to live out Yiddishkeit and acknowledge that there has been a very real human toll for such failures. That is the best way to combat Feldman’s book if that is what you wish to do. Instead you make dramatic comparisons to Goebbels and appear foolish. Sigh.

  • Deborah Feldman escaped from the cult into which she was born and now she has published a book the describes her experience in the cult. I can understand why that would be hard to take for anyone still inside the cult.

  • I find it almost amusing to read the comments of those of you inside the cult.

    • And I find your bigotry and obvious hatred of religion amusing – especially because you are so pretentious in your presentation of it. Speaking of “cults,” please examine from whence your values come, and realize that the secular humanist environment into which you were born has left you living in a bubble.

  • Dear Mr. Ginzburg,
    I for one really enjoyed reading your response. I was appalled by the way Barbara Walters goaded Devoiry Feldman (A Jew is always a Jew) into talking negatively about us as ultra orthodox Jews. I was watching it, and thinking to myself, that she would never DARE to do such an interview with an ex muslim. We have made it ok to mudsling at all Jews, orthodox, and ultra, by being silent. I applaud you for your insightful review of her completely fantasy sided book. I myself, like you, believe she had a traumatic upbringing, but sheifeleh, get over it.. so did many others. To go on a smear campaign of your own family because you are on a quest to conform to the secular world we live in, is simply pathetic.

  • So your concern is not whether she and other women in the Hasidic community are abused or treated as inferiors but that what she writes will stir up antisemitism? And that gentiles might think all Jews are rich?

    Are you really playing the Hitler card? Comparing her to Goebbels?

    Your incendiary rhetoric may be more to blame for religious hatred.

    You say you are not attacking Ms. Feldman. That’s a lie. It is exactly what you are doing.

    And btw, I note your use of the words fair and balanced. Sounds like you watch the Fox channel. It has warped your brain and your thinking. Turn it off.

  • Wow. I’ve never seen such violent vicious Anti-Semitic hatred since I stumbled across a Nazi skinhead site months ago. The Rabbi said he was not attacking Ms. Feldman. He has a right to his point of view as much as you and Ms. Feldman have a right to yours.

    As a former journalist my concern with the book is whether or not it is accurate, and not skewed to retaliate against a community she was so miserable in. If it happened and she feels as she does, the information should be presented. If she’s angry and making things up to look like it was more evil than it was, that’s just evil and manipulative. Is anyone bothering to investigate her story? She’s refusing to comment. As a journalist I know that means she can’t defend her stories. I’m not Jewish. I’m Christian and a strong supporter of women’s rights. But lying, hating and attacking the Rabbi doesn’t enhance Feldman’s character, it erodes it.

    The Rabbi and his congregation have a way of life that many, obviously, enjoy and embrace. They should be allowed to protect their faith as it is and have a say in what it means to them. The one lesson Ms. Feldman did not walk away from her faith is that of treating others with respect, truth, but the courtesy to report honestly.

  • Mr. Ginsberg,

    What are you and your community so insecure about? If you are unshakeable in your faith as other Satmir Chasidim, then she has done NOTHING to harm anyone.

    This IS the story of her life experiences. And I know it to be true because I went through a very similar situation.

    Leave her alone and go back to your community and keep your mind on your Torah learning.

    F Litz

  • Robert Friedman

    “Unorthodox” Belongs in the Fiction Section”
    Sir you belong back in a small remote Russian village where beliefs such as yours were once the vogue a couple of hundred years ago….

  • robert L. Friemdnan

    Mr. Ginzberg, you are a deluded brainwashed pathetic schmuck. You state of denial is fantastic as Disneyland.

  • Mr. Ginzberg,
    With all due respect,I can relate to your
    passionate fe.elings about the maligning of your faith.
    Currently, there have been negative news reports about my faith Mormonism
    due to reports regarding baptism of people of Jewish faith that are deceased.I believe that the Jewish people that have responded with outrage about the practices of the Mormon church know very little about the real meaning of our beliefs

  • So she gets to wear sequined minis and has a more varied menu than those in the Orthodox community do, she enjoys fantasizing about a salacious blissful love life, and has lots of publicity in her life right now, with everyone famous calling to interview her, due to her using her overabundant energy to blacken her very own ancestors and very own blood relatives and making them all out to be foolish robotic dodos. She totally omits any reference to Chassidic and Orthodox people throughout the world, who have contributed much to society, among them medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, law school deans and professors, scientists, inventors, technological geniuses and more. Its as if her view of the people she chose to describe are the only kind of Chassidim there are. A little clarification on this point would have been nice as a broader picture.

    Had she been using her overabundant energy to become a doctor or inventor of some kind to make lives easier, or to encourage education, or had she taken on any noble cause, without the negativity and ridicule she employs, I might have been able to understand her, and find some redeeming qualities. But no, all she wants to do is defame the religious practices of her forefathers, instead of just living a normal accomplished, less religious or even totally irreligious life, privately without negativity and finger pointing.

    Had she at least attempted to balance her negativity by pointing to some of the many virtues and benefits existing in her former lifestyle and admit that even though she doesn’t agree or believe or doesn’t have innate discipline, there’s beauty in this lifestyle and it has many gainful attributes, she might have deserved some respect. After all even a broken clock is right twice a day. Orthodoxy has to be good in at least some ways, even to those who choose not to practice.

    No such thing. In her eyes, the Orthodox lifestyle is all nonsense and shes the brilliant enlightened heroine who can transform the lives of everyone who is religious and naive, if they’d only experience the sweetness of her freedom. She has the key to the door of true happiness. She feels she has the recipe for happiness and freedom. It’s not, it’s a recipe for confusion. I pity her for her pain and confusion and newfound aimless free fun, but I pity her son more, for having to live with and learn life’s lessons from a hateful, guiltless, vengeful person, who smugly chooses to mock and ridicule. With all this she hopes to come out looking like a saviour for her efforts. A modern day saint.

    Shes having fun and enjoying popularity with her mission now. She’s a conversation piece at the moment. What will she do for excitement next, when the buzz wears down? Who really respects her for her cheap and nasty mud slinging? So people are getting an enjoyable read. How long will the media be interested in her? Not one second longer than the next scandalous book gets published.

    Kardashian she’s not. No beauty. Not her fault, not her choice.
    Einstein she’s not. No genius. Not her fault, not her choice.
    Joan Rivers she’s not. No comedienne. Not her fault, not her choice.
    Just a babbling buffoon, a seethingly hateful person whose uppermost goal is fun.
    And that IS her choice.
    She is an example of what not to become, what not to aspire to be, capitalizing on hate, mockery, meanness and exaggeration.

    • Thanks for a good written reply!.

    • theres a saying:every good lie has truth to it, meaning; if alot of ppl were to believe a lie- it is because its partialy true; now im not saying shes done right or wrong with publishing this book; but as one from the community i can tell u that some if her points are indeed true and can and should be addressed. and no u dont have to be otd or even radicaly change ur lifestyle to solve those problems.

    • Abe, expressed well.

    • Did you even read the book or are you just shooting off talking points? This is her individual story. She has stated several times that she does not speak for the whole community. I don’t see how getting an education and improving the quality of your child’s life blackens the reputation of your ancestors. A reader knows going into the book what it is going to be about, but they are also well aware that this is one woman’s story.

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    The sight of young girls in pinafores and young boys wearing peyos – sidelocks – dangling over their ears is a sure sign that you have entered the enigmatic precincts of the Hasidim – the pious ones. Veteran New York Times journalist Joseph Berger’s new book, THE PIOUS ONES: The World of Hasidim and their Battles with America, takes the reader on a journey into the enclaves where various sects of Jews live a seemingly outmoded way of life in [...]

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  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

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  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

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