Unpacking the work of Allegra Goodman, Tova Mirvis, Pearl Abraham, Erich Segal, Anne Roiphe, and others, as well as television shows and films such as A Price Above Rubies, Nora L. Rubel investigates the choices non-haredi Jews have made as they represent the character and characters of ultra-Orthodox Jews. In these artistic and aesthetic acts, Rubel recasts the war over gender and family and the anxieties over acculturation, Americanization, and continuity. More than just a study of Jewishness and Jewish self-consciousness, Doubting the Devout will speak to any reader who has struggled to balance religion, family, and culture.
Related collections and offers
About the Author
Table of ContentsIntroduction: A Family Feud
1. Orthodoxy and Nostalgia in the American Jewish Imagination
2. Rebbes' Daughters: The New Chosen
3. The New Jewish Gothic
4. Muggers in Black Coats
Conclusion: They Are Us in Other Clothes
What People are Saying About This
Provocative, disturbing, and deeply insightful, Doubting the Devout explores the anxiety over ultra-Orthodoxy in American Jewish life today. Penetrating into the writings that few before her have had the courage to scrutinize, Rubel exposes deep-seated fears that modern Jewsand those who read themalternatively nourish, vanquish, or repress.
Jonathan D. Sarna, Brandeis University, and author of American Judaism: A History
Doubting the Devout analyzes the representation of the Ultra-Orthodox (haredim) in popular Jewish American literary narratives, arguing that these narratives provide insight into the deep anxiety many in the mainstream Jewish community experience in relationship to the haredim. The book's great strength lies in its close reading of texts and the originality and boldness of the argument. Nora L. Rubel makes a significant contribution to the study of contemporary American Judaism.
Rebecca T. Alpert, Temple University
Doubting the Devout reveals a fascinatingand persistentphenomenon in American culture. Haredi Orthodox Jews, for decades relegated to obscurity by more liberal coreligionists who saw them as a reactionary link to European poverty, ignorance, and pariah status, have emerged as a delectable subject in American and Israeli novels, films, and popular culture. Rubel insightfully sketches several patterns in the artistic portrayal of ultra Orthodox Jews and links those portrayals to their social historical contexts. Haredim are sometimes portrayed as authentic in their countercultural rejection of Western materialistic success. More often, Rubel shows, Haredi men are depicted as hypocritical, manipulative chauvinists, exploiting the patriarchal power granted them by rabbinic law for their own purposes and kidnapping the system (and sometimes people). In contrast, Haredi women often play sympathetic roles, beginning as oppressed victims but frequently throwing off socioreligious shackles with heroic creativity. The pervasive fear of frumkeit (religiosity) may surprise some, as the emotionalism Rubel finds transcends mere arguments 'between liberalism and traditional societal formations,' articulated not only by 'secularists who are afraid that the ultra-Orthodox are stealing their kids,' but by traditionalists who worry, 'even if your kitchen is kosher, it might not be kosher enough for your own children.'
Sylvia Barack Fishman, Brandeis University