Hasidic Judaism is a mystery to me. We share the same religion and pray the same G-d every day but I have very mixed feelings when I come across Hasidic Jews. I’ve met them mostly in Paris and Antwerp and they often make me feel uncomfortable. On the one hand I admire their seemingly unwavering faith but on the other hand I have a lot of problems with what I perceive of the way women are treated in those communities.
Girls are often married, at a very early age, to a man chosen by their fathers and soon have lots of children whom they push in prams that can contain two or three kids. lt usually makes me sad when I see the drawn faces of these still very young women pushing those carts. I guess I should not be judgemental yet I cannot help feeling that, in Hasidic circles, being born a man is a lot less hassle.
A young friend of mine, aged 29, is engaged to a woman from Antwerp. They met, through friends, at the end of October and announced their engagement in November. Thus Eli will be moving to Antwerp where they will live among the Hasidic community as his fiancée is a Chortkov Jew.
I’ve met her. She seems a nice and surprisingly open-minded woman, considering where she is from, but somehow it still makes me feel odd. I suppose I worry that one of the people I’ve been closest to in the past few years might become a bigoted, intolerant and prejudiced man who might start telling me why he no longer reads the books he used to enjoy reading, no longer visits museums or has stopped going to the movies.
Above all I fear I may lose a friend, someone I could confide to, since friendship between man and woman is frowned upon in those communities. Lastly I suppose his choices also makes me question my own and this is never easy nor painless.