Monday, February 21, 2005

Denial isn’t just a book reviewer named Wendy Shalit. Meet Jewish book reviewer Ian Heiss who wrote that child molesting Orthodox rabbis don’t exist


At 3:31 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

What do the Ayatollahs of Jewish literature want to do? They want to pretend that our Orthodox Jewish communities are monolithic. They want to pretend that they are filled with only men and women leading Torah true lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like the rest of the world, we have our rashas and we have hypocrites. Bad people exist in our world. Physical and sexual abuse are realities in the Orthodox Jewish community.

So why do these Ayatollahs need to play the frum-ometer games questioning the frumness of authors of books with Orthodox characters that are more real than any of the Ayatollahs of Jewish literature will admit? Why do they want crazy warnings (like Toby Katz advocates at Cross-Currents on fictional works:
>I’d like to see Mirvis put a disclaimer on the cover of every one of her
>books, something like, “This book is a fictional representation of Orthodox
>life and is totally a product of my imagination. Any resemblance to actual
> Orthodoxy is coincidental and entirely unintended.”

Why do they deny the existence of evil among our Orthodox community and its leadership?

It’s because like the Ayatollahs they are attacking the voices calling for accountability, for justice and change.
>Agudah spokesman Rabbi Avi Shafran sent LILITH a press release
>complaining that the attention now being focused on spousal abuse
>among Jews is tantamount to Orthodox-bashing.
>"All the Orthodox rabbis I am privileged to know are
>exquisitely sensitive toward women, as they are towards men,"
>he writes. Those who take seriously those rabbis' advice, Rabbi
>Shafran says, "would be rendered virtually incapable of abusing
>his or her spouse."

“Orthodox-bashing” is their mantra and their attack against anyone who threatens to expose the reality of Orthodox life which includes the same social ills as any other denomination of Judaism. The same social ills as any other religion.

The only way to address these ills and improve our community is to write about the abuses and corruption that exist and fight it. Don’t let the Ayatollahs silence your voices. Confront and challenge their attacks.

I sent the following e-mail to Ian Heiss who has reviewed books for several Jewish publications. He chose not to respond.

Mr. Heiss, I plan to post a story using you and your book review of Primrose Path (see below) as an example of how some Jewish book reviewers refuse to acknowledge any flaws in their religious community and will actually attack books that have any Orthodox characters or situations that show the Orthodox community as anything but perfect.

This story will relate to the current controversy related to Wendy Shalit and an article she published in the NY Times (see below) related to the portrayal of the Orthodox community in several books.

I would like to give you 2 days to respond before I post my article at my blog:

If I receive no reply, I will proceed at that time with my post.

My questions to you:

1) Given:

a. the Rabbi Baruch Lanner scandal (see: ) and

b. the fact that Rabbi Ephraim Bryks (see: and news video: ) threatened to sue Carol Matas over this Primrose Path book as it closely resembled events concerning him,

that there are "example(s) of (an) American Orthodox Rabbi(s) doing what she says her fictional character is capable of".

2) Will you retract your book review and post a retraction on the many websites that have your book review?

3) Why does a fictional character like the Rabbi in Primrose Path scare you so?

4) Are there no hypocrytes or criminal in your Jewish community?

5) Why is the Orthodox community, in your mind, beyond reproach or criticism?

A. Your Book Review (on it is without your name)
Primrose Path takes the reader down one., August 4, 1999
Reviewer: A customer from Pittsburgh
This is a further comment on this book which I already critiqued for having
a plot hinged on a character, the Rabbi, which I do not find believable. On
discussing this "book" with a colleague, she made the excellent point that
in addition to hanging the action of the book on an incredible hook, Mattas
also frames the family as rejecting Orthodox Judaism based on their
experiences. What connection could be brought to bear, between the actions
of such a despicable character, and Orthodox Judaism, which totally
condemns such behavior? The fictional family makes a narrowminded choice at
the end, unfortunately reflecting more on the viewpoint of the author, than
the merits of the situation.

This book stings the sensiblilities of Orthodox Jews, August 3, 1999
Reviewer: from Pittsburgh
Carol Matas is careful to note in the introduction to her book that the
story bears no relationship to any real person, living or dead. She then
goes on to skillfully weave a realistic tale of a young girl, who must
brave the pressure of peers and a respected Rabbi, in order to extricate
herself from an abusive situation. The falsehood in this book is its
strength; It portrays an orthodox Rabbi as an abuser of young girls. Matas
is careful to say that she modeled this character on her imagination. My
objection to this book is that I doubt that she or anyone else can produce
an example of an American Orthodox Rabbi doing what she says her fictional
character is capable of.This book does not portray our world faithfully. It
is a flawed product, and not in good taste.

B. Wendy Shalit controversy
Judging a Book By Its Head Covering
By Tova Mirvis
Forward (NY)
February 4, 2005

Apparently the New York Times Book Review now runs tzitzit checks. Or, in my case, a sheitel check.

In her recent essay titled, "The Observant Reader," Wendy Shalit takes issue with the way Orthodox Judaism is portrayed in various works of fiction. She chastises several fiction writers — myself included — for misrepresenting Orthodoxy, particularly ultra-Orthodoxy, and takes us to task for pretending to be what she calls "insiders." "Some writers claim to portray ultra-Orthodox Jews from an insider's perspective. But are these writers really insiders?" she asks rhetorically.

Although I live my life as an Orthodox Jew, I'm described as being merely "familiar with some traditional customs" and thus have no right to "imagine" myself an "expert." Nathan Englander eats treif, so apparently he has nothing to say about Orthodoxy. Jonathan Rosen and Tova Reich don't portray Orthodoxy in glowing terms, either; therefore they've "renounced their Orthodoxy" or were "never really exposed to it in the first place." Shalit is essentially judging a book by its head covering: The writers to whom she awards a kosher seal of approval earn it as much for the sheitels on their heads as for their words on the page.

Shalit is a latter day Leopold Wapter, the judge in Philip Roth's 1979 novel, "The Ghostwriter," who asks the young Nathan Zuckerman in a letter: "Do you practice Judaism? If so, how? If not, what credentials qualify you to write about Jewish life for national magazines?" At stake here is the question of who owns the imaginative rights to a way of life. Her assertion that Englander and I, in particular, lack these so-called credentials is troubling for two reasons. One, it's not true. But second, and more importantly, it's irrelevant.

Shalit labels the writers mentioned above as "insider outsiders," whereas other, more palatable writers are "insider insiders." Setting aside the obvious comic potential of this callisthenic category assigning, this line of thinking doesn't take into account the numerous ways there are to be an insider. Insiderness, at least the kind that's useful when writing fiction, is neither easily shed nor easily adapted. When you write fiction, it's not about who has fewer sins to atone for each Yom Kippur. Insiderness comes from sitting in synagogue every Sabbath as a little girl and watching the women whisper from under domed straw hats; from being draped under your father's prayer shawl as the Cohanim bless the congregation; it comes from years of afikomen hunts and from being able to know from a few blocks away that the guy in the khakis and Tommy Hilfiger shirt is going to have a yarmulke on his head. Maybe most importantly, it comes from knowing that transgressions, large or small, don't threaten the entire system.

But the fact that we are insiders to the Orthodox world is irrelevant. Since when must a fiction writer actually have lived the life he or she writes about? Since when must one be a murderer to write "Crime and Punishment," a pedophile to write "Lolita," a hermaphrodite to write "Middlesex," a boy on a boat with a tiger to write "Life of Pi"? Yes, it seems, Shalit has outed the whole tawdry lot of us. She's revealed to the public the terrible truth: Fiction writers make up things.

What is true is that these portrayals apparently don't capture Shalit's experience of being a baal teshuvah, or to use her definition, "a deeply observant Jew who did not grow up as one," they aren't consistent with the personal fulfillment she's found recently. And this, I suspect, is what bothers Shalit most. But instead of being able to allow for that difference of experience, she labels these other portrayals as false. If someone doesn't see Orthodoxy as she does, then he or she must not really understand it. Englander has said that he experienced his upbringing as "anti-intellectual." But she doesn't think it was, so what right does he have to say this, least of all publicly? It's this discounting and de-legitimizing of any individual experience other than her own that is so troubling.

It's bad enough she does this to people. What's worse is that she does it to fictional characters. She attacks books for depicting characters who deviate from communal norms. Englander besmirches Judaism by depicting a fight in a synagogue. Rosen creates a character, an unmarried Orthodox man who sleeps with a female Reform rabbi. Reich imagines an overweight dietician who gorges on Yom Kippur. People like Shalit attack a story by saying, "But not everyone is like this." Of course not. But the fiction writer is saying, "Let's imagine one person who is."

The variety and particularity of human experience, this is the stuff of fiction. Novels ask what it feels like to be a particular person; they seek to burrow into a life, an inner consciousness. Fiction isn't about what people should do or should feel. It doesn't set out to confirm what we already believe. Reading isn't an exercise in seeing ourselves as we wish to be seen; novels are not dolled-up photographs in which no one blinks and we always look our best.

But then, "The Observant Reader" isn't really about fiction. It's about ideology. Shalit espouses an approach to literature in which the message matters most of all. The crucial question is whether the portrayal is positive or negative. Shalit can allow for some small moments of human pettiness, as long as they never challenge any pre-held truth. Ultimately, she's advocating fiction as kiruv, or outreach, books kosher enough to be handed out from mitzvah mobiles along with candlesticks and with invitations to Sabbath dinners. It's fiction as travel brochure, advertising scenic Meah Shearim, tranquil, peaceful Monsey.

It could very well be scenic, tranquil and peaceful: That's one of the stories that fiction can illuminate. Take Shalit's story, for example. If I were to write "Wendy Shalit: The Novel," I would think about what makes someone transform her life, what it feels like to be so new to a world and so certain. But her insistence that this is the only legitimate possibility is what's so disturbing. "In real life, thousands of people each year enter the religious fold," she writes. And there are therefore thousands of permutations of stories. Might not one of them sneak a taste of shrimp salad now and then? And even if not, even if all of them have the exact same experience as Shalit, might not fiction still seek to imagine a different scenario?

Her notion of fiction brings to mind the world described in Azar Nafisi's "Reading Lolita in Tehran": "We lived in a culture that denied any merit to literary works, considering them important only when they were handmaidens to something seemingly more urgent — namely, ideology." The Orthodox world might not be Tehran but it does not enjoy an uncomplicated relationship to artistic expression and open exploration; when I read "Reading Lolita in Tehran," it made me wonder about the experience of reading Lolita in Boro Park. Literature in service of some other value is not literature, or at least not good literature. When we require our novels to promote, idealize and proselytize, we strip them of their capacity to explore, express, examine and, most importantly, imagine other lives besides those we actually live. The act of reading lets all of us be inside and outside at the same time.

And that's what's so threatening and so exhilarating about books. There's a reason that the mullahs of Tehran ban books, and a reason that Shalit finds these books so problematic. Books are dangerous and interesting because they're about people, and people are dangerous and interesting. Ideologically driven art wants to tell us that people do not feel these things; they do not think these things; they do not do these things. But they do. At least sometimes. At least some of us. Even if just one of us. Or just an imaginary one of us. Ideologically driven art seeks to shackle the idea of an inner life. It wants us to believe that all is well, that nothing need be questioned. I want to read and write books about people who aren't always sure, who don't always know, who struggle and question and pray and desire and doubt and hope. I want to read and write about insider insiders and insider outsiders and outsider outsiders and outsider insiders. It's my characters' inner lives, their individual experiences, their beliefs, their doubts, their practice and their personalities I want to lay bare.

Oh, and as for my own sheitel? Sorry, Wendy. Only my hairdresser knows for sure.

Tova Mirvis is the author of two novels, "The Outside World" and "The Ladies Auxiliary."

At 3:42 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Of course Ian Heiss never responded. His ilk never do.

I would note that the Toronto Jewish Book Fair did not invite Carol Matas due to her book Primrose Path (she had attended previous fairs).
>Helen Redner, the fair's
>director, said that Matas's
>appearance would be
>``inappropriate,'' but
>declined to elaborate.

Did I mention Wendy Shalit lives in Toronto?

On the Cross-Currents blog Toby Katz comments:
>I don’t recognize my friends and
>family in them. The adulterers,
>drunkards, and hypocrites who
>populate this fiction do not
>populate my Orthodox
>neighborhood. We have our human
>foibles, but that’s what we are:

Maybe Toby Katz just doesn't know her friends as well as she thinks:

At 4:11 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Primrose Path background:

courtesy of the Awareness Center Yahoogroup

Subject: Available on Amazon-1995 book explores dynamics of sexual abuse by rabbi

The Primrose Path (1995) by Carol Matas is available on and there are also used copies for sale there. This book had a low run and is generally impossible to find. But it is one of the best books on the
dynamics of sexual abuse involving a rabbi. Anyone who has dealt with a similar situation in the Jewish community will immediately recognize the
familiar elements. This book is aimed at a teen audience but it reads well for an older audience as well.
List Price: $9.95
Used & new from $4.98

The link below (you may have to copy and paste the lines in your browser) takes you to book and its reviews on Amazon. Some earlier reviews posted on
Amazon are truly disturbing (...It portrays an orthodox Rabbi as an abuser of young girls. ... My objection to this book is that I doubt that she or anyone else can produce an example of an American Orthodox Rabbi doing what
she says her fictional character is capable of...).

Below are some interesting articles on this book and its history. #9 is an excerpt from the book.

1) Children's author to hold reading in Dollard on Friday
Montreal Gazette
Thursday, September 21, 1995

Acclaimed author of children's books Carol Matas will be at the Book Centre in Dollard des Ormeaux on Friday, Sept. 29 to conduct a reading from her new
young adult novel, The Primrose Path.

Matas, twice nominated for a Governor General's Award, will be at the store from 4 to 6 p.m. The reading will begin promptly at 4:30 p.m., followed by a

Matas is the author of more than 15 books, including Lisa, which has been translated into Spanish, French and Swedish; Daniels Story, which was commissioned by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and nominated for the
1993 Governor General's Award and The Burning Time, also nominated for the 1994 Governor General's Award.

In her latest book, The Primrose Path, Matas explores the dark side of a charismatic leader through the eyes of Debbie, a young teenager who feels
uncomfortable about the attention she receives from her home room teacher who is also a rabbi at her school.

* The Book Centre is located at 3349B Sources Blvd. For more information, call 484 5182

2) Primrose Path Montreal Gazette September 25, 1995
Telling the truth; Teens are ready and willing to deal with deep moral issues, author says
Montreal Gazette
Monday, September 25, 1995
Woman News

It happens so easily. The girl is young, a new student in a new
neighborhood. A caring, charismatic teacher takes an interest in her. Soon, the jokes and teasing turn to playful roughhousing. Then, the careless
touches become intimate.

Ashamed and afraid, the girl tells her father, who confronts the abuser. But, the local community draws close around the teacher, ostracizing the girl and her family.

For writer Carol Matas, this story forms the heart of her new book, The Primrose Path. There, the Winnipeg based author explores the dynamics of sexual abuse, in this case by a charismatic rabbi.

"I want to really show how it can happen," she said. "Kids are told to just say no. Well that doesn't convey to them the situation they may be in. Often, sexual abuse happens because the abuser uses love and trust all those good emotions.

"They're not dragging kids into some dark alley. They're saying, `I love you.' "

Matas, who has written more than 15 novels for young teens, will be in Montreal this week to read from The Primrose Path. Although the book is classified as "young adult," she hopes parents will read it as well.

"It's very hard for parents to accept that sexual abuse is happening," she said, because it often means admitting that they've been duped by the abuser.

In her work, Matas has never shied away from difficult or demanding topics. Her book The Burning Time examines the witchhunts that swept through 16th century France. Several of her novels, including Daniel's
Story, Lisa and Jesper, grapple with the horror of the Holocaust.

Matas admits that critics sometimes accuse her of preaching, but she insists that her books are about questions, not easy answers. "There's
always a theme I want to explore. With Sworn Enemies, I was asking all kinds of questions about faith and is there anything worth dying for."

Even in her first novel, Matas said, "I wrote about a Hitler like
leader" so kids could grapple with the use and abuse of power.

And, she adds, despite the occasional nasty shots by book critics, kids never accuse her of preaching. Matas receives from 10 to more than 30 letters a week from kids. The positive feedback, she said, reinforces her belief that teens are ready and willing to deal with deep moral issues.

Matas has also made "a conscious choice" to feature many strong female characters. "I want there to be material out there that young women can identify with," she said.

The Burning Time, nominated for a Governor General's Literary Award in 1994, also reminds girls of a part of women's history that remained hidden for years.

The book shows how the persecution and torture of women, particularly those who acted as midwives and healers, ultimately allowed the Catholic Church and the French government to confiscate the land and money from the families of these so called witches.

"This is women's history that has been buried. If we don't have our
history, what do we have. We have to take it back," Matas said.

The 45 year old author says she didn't grow up thinking she'd become a popular author, one whose books have been translated in Spanish, French and Swedish. "I always wanted to be an actress," she said. After getting a BA in English literature from the University of Western Ontario, Matas studied for
two years at the Actor's Lab in London, England.

She returned to Canada, and started acting in productions in Toronto. There, "I started writing as a hobby. A group of friends were writing and they would show each other their stuff." Impressed by some of the
work, Matas sat down and wrote her first story about the adventures of two kids who shrink themselves. She continued writing on the side, eventually producing her first novel. It has never been published, she adds.

After her first story about kids, "all the stories after than had kids as the main characters," Matas explained. Thus, she began evolving in a writer of a fiction for young adults.

In the late 1970s, Matas and her husband spent four years in Montreal. During that time, Matas sent one of her stories to the National Film Board, suggesting it might form the basis for an interesting animated film.

She got back a letter saying they couldn't use the piece, but urging her to continue writing. "It was just the kind of encouragement a young author
needs," Matas said.

In 1982, Matas has her first book published. Then there was a painful and discouraging four year wait before any publishing house accepted her next book. Since 1986, Matas has produced at least one book a year. Among
them is Daniel's Story, a work commissioned by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

The book tells the harrowing story of Daniel's journey from the Lodz ghetto in Poland to the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

Matas has encountered resistance from adults over the painful nature of her novels. Some schools refuse to have her in the classrooms to read from her
books, claiming the works are too much for young kids. But Matas disagrees.

"It's hard out there for kids today. By 10 or 11, what they've seen on TV, at school or on the playground means they're not innocent. They have a lot of issues they're dealing with," she said. "If we're not willing to talk to them, how are they going to figure things out?"

* Carol Matas will be signing books on Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m. at Bibliophile, 5512 Queen Mary Rd. On Thursday at 7 p.m., she will read from The Primrose Path at the Cote St. Luc Public Library, 5851 Cavendish Blvd. On Friday, her reading will begin promptly at 4:30 p.m. followed by a signing at the Book Center, 33349B Sources Blvd., Dollard des
Carol Matas: "I always wanted to be an actress."

3) Author, students discuss novel on sex abuse
Montreal Gazette
Thursday, October 5, 1995

DOLLARD DES ORMEAUX When Carol Matas's publicist told several Montrealelementary school librarians about Matas's latest novel, The Primrose Path,
the schools tried to withdraw speaking invitations to the writer.

One school cancelled the visit, and another principal had a conversation with Matas whose fiction for young people has twice been nominated for a
Governor General's Award before she was persuaded that the author was a suitable guest for an elementary school.

The Primrose Path focuses on a 14 year old, Debbie, who is sexually
abused by a charismatic, trusted community leader who happens to be a rabbi and the principal of Debbie's school.

"They felt they had to prepare the children in advance and they had not had a chance," Matas's publicist, Morri Mostow, said.

"This tends to be the reaction of adults.

"They tend to shy away from it. They find it too sensitive."

But at the Book Centre in Dollard des Ormeaux last Friday, the story
while upsetting at times if only because it rings true stirred a lively discussion between Matas and a young audience.

Before her reading, Matas, who lives in Winnipeg and is visiting the Montreal area to promote the book, explained that she set the tale of abuse, whistle blowing and ostracism in a Jewish school to avoid buying into negative stereotypes about other faiths.

"I felt `I'm Jewish and I'm dealing with abuse it would be
hypocritical to set it in someone else's community,' " she said.

The audience of about 15 teens and pre teens listened quietly, many with worried looks, as Matas read aloud a scene in which Debbie is tickled by the rabbi. His hand brushes against her breast, and she begins to wonder whether she's comfortable with his intimacy, and whether it's right.

Although Matas did not read later parts of the novel aloud, she did tell her audience that Debbie realizes eventually that the rabbi "has crossed the
line" and tells her father.

Debbie must then deal with the consequences ostracism by her friends, who love the rabbi and don't realize that his caresses are not acceptable.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Matas said she wrote the novel after following several high profile sex abuse cases.

"I talked to kids and crown prosecutors, and psychologists and
psychiatrists," said Matas, who has written 15 books for children.

She hopes that children who read The Primrose Path will be better
equipped to deal with abuse of they ever face it.

"My feeling is this is exactly the kind of thing you want in the

The Primrose Path is published by Bain & Cox. Marcos Townsend, Gazette/
Author Matas, young fans discuss book.

4) Too hot to handle
Monday, November 6, 1995
Opening Notes

Winnipeg writer Carol Matas is an award winning author of 15 books for readers aged 10 to 17. But her newest novel, The Primrose Path, is proving too hot for some people to handle. The book deals with a rabbi who sexually abuses children at a religious school. The story line closely parallels a recent high profile case in Winnipeg, which the public
prosecutions office of the Manitoba attorney general has
under review. Matas says that 10 Canadian and U.S. publishers turned The Primrose Path down before Winnipeg based Bain & Cox Publishers released it
in September.

But the problems did not end there. In Toronto, at least one children's bookstore has refused to carry the novel. And Matas was not invited to the annual Jewish Book Fair there this month, an event she has attended twice
before. Helen Redner, the fair's director, said that Matas's appearance would be ``inappropriate,'' but declined to elaborate. In Montreal,
Willingdon School, an elementary school, cancelled the author's planned lecture. ``It's a good book, but it's not suitable for elementary students,'' says Erika Sebaldt, Willingdon's
librarian. ``Children are aware of the problems of the street, but not in detail.'' Matas, 45 whose two now teenage children briefly attended the
Winnipeg school where the alleged real life incidents occurred disagrees.
``The book is exactly for kids that age,'' she says. ``Those are the kids at

Photo: Matas: concerns for kids at risk

5) Censorship alive and kicking in Canada
The Edmonton Journal
Sunday, February 25, 1996
Books & Authors
Gordon Morash

The review on this page of Ingo Hasselbach's Fuhrer Ex is liable to bring uncomfortable images to enemies of censorship. Mention the word ``Nazi,'' and you can hardly escape the events of May 1933 that resulted in an act of
ultimate censorship. The subject is book burning, and in William L. Shirer's description in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, it is termed the ``nazification of culture.''

The book burning that occurred on the evening of May 10 outside the
University of Berlin was a Joseph Goebbels inspired affair designed to destroy any book which, in the words of the student proclamation, ``acts
subversely on our future or strikes at the root of German thought, the German home and the driving forces of our people.''

Fuelling that fire were not only works by such German authors as Thomas Mann (The Magic Mountain), Erich Maria Remarque (All Quiet on the Western Front),
and physicist Albert Einstein, but foreign authors as well: Upton Sinclair, Helen Keller, H.G. Wells and Jack London. Among many, many others.

A disparate bunch, to be sure, but no less disparate than the challenges to literature that we see today. Consider:

* Despite his tentative venturings to promote his latest novel The Moor's Last Sigh, Salman Rushdie nonetheless is spending his unlucky seventh
year under an Iranian death sentence, accused of blasphemy for writing Satanic Verses.

* Winnipeg children's author Carol Matas was to have spoken at a synagogue this month about her latest young adult book The Primrose Path. Her invitation was rescinded after threats of litigation when it was discovered that her story about a Jewish school and a child abusing rabbi
seemed to closely mirror an actual case in Winnipeg.

Matas, who has published both in Canada and the United States, has
written 17 books, four of which Daniel's Story, Lisa, Jesper and Sworn Enemies concern the Holocaust.

* And still with children, the perpetually under fire author R.L. Stine continues to raises the hackles of parents, educators and other children's writers over his horrific approach to literature. Despite these objections, there are more than 90 million Stine books in print,
showing, perhaps, that not all kids listen to Mom and Dad where literature is concerned.

The current issue of Publishers Weekly features the all time best selling paperback children's books. Out of 252 titles dating back to 1964, 36 of the books are by Stine, each selling no less than 1 million copies domestically.

Each year at this time, we receive a small kit from the Book and Periodical Council designed to draw attention to Freedom to Read Week, the 12th edition
of which runs from Feb. 26 to Mar. 3. As an update to the world of literary challenges and bans, there is no better guide to the sorry state of censorship in Canada. It's a sadly enjoyable read because it usually puts
the lie to the image of ``red neck Alberta,'' where, if you believe some Easterners, we don't let students read anything emotionally challenging.

One of the kit's highlights is a selective 56 title march past of titles, and the reasons for challenges against them. For the first time this year, the kit contains an update of action taken against the titles.

The 1996 list once again shows that if you want to see books challenged, you're best to live in Ontario. Of the 56 titles, 26 of the challenges were from Ontario and only six from Alberta.

Now, one might argue that even one challenge is one too many, but numbers are only part of the story here. We may have had our own bout of embarrassment in 1994 when an Alberta MLA demanded John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men be withdrawn from the reading lists of high schools here because of
198 instances of profanity. The demand was not acted upon.

One demand that was, though, concerned a short story called The Witch by American writer Shirley Jackson, from Inside Stories I, a high school level
anthology edited by two Edmonton teachers. In 1994, a parent from Ponoka County declared the story to be ``very, very disturbing.'' The anthology was removed from county classrooms. (I can recall reading from my own high school days another Jackson story called The Lottery whose climax featured the stoning of a woman by an othewise civilized group of townsfolk. Now, that was very disturbing, too, but I
never thought someone could ever have prevented me from reading it.)

And we share with fundamentalist groups from three other provinces , concerns over the Impressions language arts series, which was said to promote the
occult and satanism.

Though the Burns Lake, B.C. school board voted for the series' removal in 1993, a year later it reversed the decision. The series remains at the
challenge stage in various communities throughout Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.

Personally, I can only shake my head when I see books, which I consider to have had a major impact on my life, hung, drawn and quartered for the most
innocuous of reasons: books like William Golding's Lord of the Flies, which, when examined in the out of context fashion favored by the censor crazed,
was seen by some to contain racial slurs.

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird has been taken to task for its racial stereotyping, when in fact, racism is one of the issues the book explores.
Thankfully, not every parent feels that way about Lee's only novel, which won the 1960 Pulitzer Prize, has been translated into 40 languages, and has sold more than 30 million copies. Last fall, HarperCollins released a 35th anniversary edition.

Mostly, though, I ache for the judgment placed on Alice Munro's coming of age short story collection, Lives of Girls and Women, a book that raised
Toronto parents' objections because of its ``language and philosophy.'' In 1984, one Etobicoke, Ont. school trustee called it ``porn, pure and simple.'' Thankfully, neither accusation was enough to get
the book pulled from school shelves. Even in Ontario.

At times like that, when you're asked to observe Freedom to Read Week by reading aloud from the pages of a challenged book in a public place as I was two years ago, with Margaret Laurence's The Diviners you answer yes
immediately. And loudly.

It's the very least you can do.

If censorship is of concern to you, you can show it in numerous ways in the upcoming week.

* The Edmonton Public Library's Centennial branch kicks off a reading series on Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m. with Forbidden Passages: For Whose Eyes Only? featuring Orlando Books owner and author Jacqueline Dumas, and Alvin
Schrader from the University of Alberta's School of Library and Information Studies. The speakers will discuss recent works that have been banned from entering Canada.

* Mayor Bill Smith will proclaim Freedom to Read Week at 12 noon on Feb. 28 at City Hall during the WordWorks reading series with Candas Jane Dorsey.

* Displays will be set up at Audreys Books, Greenwoods' Bookshoppe, and Orlando Books.

*And if a Freedom to Read Kit is what it takes to get your bile rising, contact CANSCAIP Minus 30, c/o WordWorks, 2nd Floor, Percy Page Centre, 11759 Groat Rd., Edmonton T5M 3K6. It costs $10, plus GST.

Ice on hold: Those of you awaiting the profile on former Edmonton novelist Thomas Wharton, and the international success of his spawned in Edmonton, set in Jasper first novel Icefields, please grit your teeth. The
story will appear next week on these pages. I promise.

PR/ Even Alice Munro was challenged

6) Children must read about the real world
The Ottawa Citizen
Sunday, October 20, 1996
Preview; (Entertainment)
First Reading
Jenny Jackson

Young minds the very phrase fires people up. Adults see children as
moral tabula rasas to be filled with neat, cheery words to live by, no smudges, no scribbles in the margins. Certainly no pranks scrawled on the board before the teacher walks in.

It's an earnest and honest urge, I suppose. But it does so much damage in the name of good because it almost always ends up in artistic lies, dishonest literature that just sounds like in fact, is more adult B.S.

At best, these works are boring. At worst, they're a pernicious form of censorship that denies kids the dignity and consolations of their own literature.

It's always been interesting to hear children's authors talk about this issue over the past few years, but lately it's become alarming.

An Ottawa chidlren's writer was astonished when an ashen faced librarian raged at her for her story of an over wrought mother. The story doesn't underline the fact that there's no father in the family, but it becomes clear that mom is pretty much on her
own. According to the librarian, the book is a direct attack on families, an outright encouragement for them to break up.

Last year, Winnipeg author Carol Matas caused a furore with her book The Primrose Path, the story of an Orthodox rabbi who abuses the children in his congregation. People felt children shouldn't read about a rabbi doing
something like that, certainly not an Orthodox rabbi, and that it was anti Semitic to even suggest it. ``It was clear that if this had been about priest, it would have been okay.''

The most hurtful cut came from her own synagogue in Winnipeg where she was to be guest speaker at an inter faith luncheon. When word of her book got around, she was disinvited.

Another Canadian author got a letter from her U.S. publisher: could she tone down the violence in her historically accurate account of war? This from the
shoot 'em up U.S.A.

A U.S. author dealt with abortion in her young adult novel. In the end, her heroine didn't go through with it; she had the baby instead. But that wasn't
good enough for the religious right. The author hasn't had one reading in a school since.

All these topics the violence of war, teen sex and its sometimes
tragic results, the betrayal of a person in authority, the reality of single parent families are not figments of writers' evil imaginations. Sadly, they are already the stuff of the world, issues children must face every

If we haven't been able to protect kids from these things by preventing them in the real world, then we better help them look at it squarely, much as we
as adults look to books to help us gain a higher vantage point from which to make sense of our world.

Matas says, ``We have this false ideal of children, that they're
innocent, and this makes parents and teachers comfortable. But it doesn't make the children at all comfortable. They are not innocent. They know all about bullies, and teachers that are mean and unfair.

``Parents have to realize that children don't want to be kept in the dark. It's not doing them a favor to pretend these things don't happen.''

Television is another reason to argue for clear eyed books. Books tell us that we're not alone. Television, by showing only happy families, all problems solved in 30 minutes, tells us we are utterly alone.

Good children's authors don't write for kids out of a misplaced
nostalgia for their own sunnier days, or because it's an audience they think they can snow a little bit. On the contrary, many feel they're speaking to people who may never again have such a clear vision of the world, or a purer
sense of justice.

Far from thinking them as easier audience, they find them tougher, more worthwhile, more dear.

Too good to sell short with easy answers.

The Ottawa Citizen

7) Bar and Bench Daily News Digest Canada
Tuesday, December 19, 1995, Vol. V Issue 241
20. LIBEL CHILLS CHILDREN'S AUTHOR Winnipeg children's
books writer Carol Matas had her appearance at an interfaith luncheon cancelled amid threats of litigation revolving around her novel about a Jewish school enduring a child abusing rabbi. While Matas says she was only asked to deliver a speech, the synagogue where the luncheon
was to take place maintains she was going to speak about her new
book, called "The Primrose Path". The book's story bears some
resemblance to a Winnipeg police investigation of Rabbi Ephraim
Bryks, former principal of Torah Academy in Winnipeg. Manitoba's
public prosecutions office last month decided that no Criminal Code charges were warranted against Bryks. (G&M A12)

CM Magazine
Volume 1 Number 16
September 29, 1995

The Primrose Path.

Carol Matas.
Winnipeg: Bain & Cox, 1995. 152pp, paper, $9.95.
ISBN 0 921368 55 0. CIP.

Grades 6 10 / Ages 11 15.
Review by Dave Jenkinson.

As in Sworn Enemies and The Burning Time, Carol Matas again displays her ability to spin a good story while writing about tough, hard hitting subject
matter. Teen readers will profit greatly by pausing to read the brief quotation from Hamlet that precedes the opening chapter. Ophelia's concern about pastors who preach to others "the steep and thorny way to Heaven,"
while treading "the primrose path" of pleasure themselves, foreshadows the book's contents.

Like Ask Me No Questions by Linda Phillips, Peter Ringrose, and Michael Winter, the major focus of The Primrose Path is juvenile sexual abuse, but here the abuser is not a parent but another trusted adult, a Rabbi. Matas
creates a convincing chain of events leading to the abuse. Following the death of her maternal grandmother, and as a new school year looms, Debbie
Mazur, fourteen, moves with her family from the West coast to the East. Debbie's mother, still grieving, finds emotional solace in the charismatic Rabbi of a neighbourhood Orthodox synagogue and decides that Debbie would
benefit academically by attending the attached Hebrew school.

As the Mazurs had previously gone to a Reform temple, Debbie initially rebels and feels alienated by the unfamiliar Orthodox rituals and
observances. Debbie's attitudes change, though, when she is befriended by four fellow grade nine girls who seem to enjoy a special relationship with
Rabbi Werner, their handsome Hebrew teacher. Werner is also the school's principal and the same rabbi who has been providing such support for her mother. But as Debbie comes to discover personally, while tickling and
romping with the girls, Rabbi Werner "accidentally" touches their breasts. At first Debbie is embarrassed and tries to explain away the touching, but when Rabbi Werner eventually extends his "tickling" to her "privates," she recognizes his behaviour to be clearly inappropriate.

Matas effectively captures the young teen's ongoing emotional confusion; because she initially enjoys and even wants the Rabbi's attentions, Debbie vacillates about what to do. When she finally confides in her father, Debbie only tells him about the Rabbi's hugging and non sexual tickling. Though she insists her father take no action, her limited disclosure sets in motion a series of events that culminates in Rabbi Werner having to appear before his board to
answer not only Debbie's charges but those of others as well.

Some adults wanting "justice" may be disappointed by the book's ending, for the wrongdoer is not clearly punished; however, Matas realistically reveals what can occur when questions of morality become tangled in adult "politics"
and reputation. Matas also adds to the book's impact by entwining Debbie's problems with her parents' marital difficulties. The troubled family situation increases Debbie's vulnerability and limits her parents' ability
to respond concertedly.

To help readers unfamiliar with the Jewish faith, Matas provides a six page glossary of terms encountered in the story.

An excerpt of The Primrose Path appeared in Volume 1, Number 15 of CM magazine.

Highly recommended.

Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and Young Adult literature in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba.

Copyright 8 1995 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other
reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201 9364

Excerpt from Primrose Path

CM Magazine Volume I Number 15
September 22, 1995

The Primrose Path

Carol Matas.
Winnipeg: Blizzard, 1995.
152pp, paper, $9.95.
ISBN 0 921368 55 0

Chapter Two

New Girl in Town

I sit in my new house, listening to the clock tick. I feel completely lost. Bewildered. How could this have happened? One minute Baba was dead. The next week Dad came home and said he'd been offered a job teaching at a
community college down East. A steady paycheck. Teaching art and art administration. Good salary, but even better hours. And with Baba gone and his family living down East and Mom's sister
down there too why not move? Nothing to keep us here. Unless Mom's job? But no, Mom said she could get a library job anywhere and it was all decided, except no one asked me. But I told them. I told them I wasn't going. I'd stay with Rachel's family. I wasn't moving. Start grade nine,
high school, in a completely strange place? No way.

But here I am. Sitting in a strange house, no friends, thousands of miles away from Rachel, school about to start in two days. And I find out, just today, that Mom has enrolled me, not in public school, but in the
Hebrew school just down the street. Has she gone crazy? The school is attached to a synagogue and my mother says Kaddish there.
That's the prayer for the dead. My mother asked Rabbi Wienberg how often she should say it. He told her every weekend would be fine, it didn't have to be every day. But she wants to do it every day and she does.

I just got into town today. I did put my foot down and refuse to come before summer was over. Rachel and I went to B'nai B'rith camp together and had a great time. Mom, Dad, and Jordan have been here since the beginning of

I've unpacked my clothes and I've looked at the blank walls in my room for long enough. I decide to go down to the synagogue and check it out. Mom is there with Jordan.

It is the end of August but really hot. I walk down the long block of small red brick houses. Mom said they bought in this area because it's the shortest commute to Dad's work. I reach the one storey, red brick building
at the end of our block. I pull open the glass door and move into the blissful cool of the air conditioned foyer. I find this heat unbearable it's six pm and still thirty degrees. I look around. The foyer is empty.
Straight ahead are stairs leading both up and down and I can see doors off the hallways. Just to my left are four wooden doors. I try the first one. I open it just a crack and hear the sounds of prayers before I see anything. I
open it more.

The first thing I notice is my mother standing all alone on the right side of the sanctuary. My eyes turn to follow the sound of the chanting. On the left side are around fifteen men, half of them dressed in black hats and
suits, the others dressed in regular suits, some with their jackets off. They are swaying back and forth reciting the prayers very fast. Between
where my mother stands and the men is a wooden barrier topped with green plastic plants. In the centre at the front is the Bimah, the ark which holds the Torah, and a few seats. I notice the carpet is red, the wooden benches
covered with bright blue cushions. A very young black suited man faces the other men, leading them in the prayers. I back out before I am noticed, turn
and flee out of the synagogue into the heat. I leave the small red brick building behind and hurry home. I bang into the kitchen, sit at the table,
and wait.

Finally my mother walks in.

I leap up, all my anger exploding.

"Mother, in case you haven't noticed, that's an Orthodox synagogue. You didn't tell me it was Orthodox. This is a nightmare. I'm not going there.


She glares back at me, very annoyed, as she lifts Jordan out of his stroller and puts him on the floor.

"Now just a minute, young lady, don't you use that tone of voice with me! Dad and I will decide where you go to school and that's that." Then she sits down at the table and smiles. "Come on honey, calm down. What's the problem?"

"Are you kidding? What's the problem? I want to go to a regular

"Look, Debbie," she says, getting that "firm" tone in her voice, "you and Rachel were so busy with your skiing and your NFTY last year that your school work suffered badly. Even if you consider a C plus average adequate, your dad and I do not. This school is supposed to be one of the top academic schools in the city. The grade nine class is also the oldest class at the
school and you'll be able to continue with these kids right until university."

"But it's little. It's a little dinky school. I thought it was going to be a big school with thousands of kids and a swimming pool. And even then I didn't want to go. I just want to go to regular school. I'll meet Jewish
kids if I join NFTY. Where's the closest Reform temple? Aren't we going to join a temple?"

Mom pauses. "Well, I don't know. I don't mind this one for now. I know it's Orthodox but it's close and it's easy for me to say Kaddish every day this way. The nearest Reform temple is a half hour drive away."

I get up and begin to pace.

"But why do I have to go to school here?"

"Well, it's the teaching. The Rabbi himself will be your home room teacher. He's brilliant and I've heard he's the best teacher in the city."

Then something else occurs to me. "Is the school mixed?" I demand.

I mean, I know that no boy would ever want to go out with me I'm too tall, my hair is a homely dull brown, and I have boring brown eyes to match. I'm so shy I know I'd never ask anyone out but if it's an all girls' school
I won't even have the smallest chance. By grade nine everyone back home is dating.

"Yes, dear, I told you they're very progressive. Mixed classes, Hebrew studies and religious studies in the morning, English in the afternoon."

"But what do I need all those religious and Jewish studies for?" I protest."I've had my bat mitzvah, I've gone to night school, I know all about Chanukkah and Passover and Rosh Hashanah. This is just crazy. I don't want to go to some small Orthodox weird place."

"Debbie, don't worry. It's just a good school. And the Jewish studies won't hurt. It's good to know all you can then, when you grow up, you can make an informed choice about what kind of a Jew you want to be."

"Well, I'd rather be taking French," I mutter. "Do me a lot more good when I try to find work."

Why hadn't Mom asked me about the school before enrolling me? She could have checked out the different schools with me. It wasn't like her. Not at all. This Rabbi must have made the school sound really great.

"Anyway," I add, "don't you feel weird praying in a place where men and women are separated?"

I mean, I know my mother is this major feminist so I can't quite figure this out. And Baba would never have allowed it.

"Well, it was hard to get used to at first, still is, frankly. But it is close and the Rabbi has just been fabulous. He came to call," she explains,"when we were here signing the house papers. The people we bought the house from were members of his congregation. They'd told him about Baba. So he came, asked me to come and pray any time at his synagogue. I was surprised. I told him I thought women didn't usually do that in an Orthodox synagogue. He said women were always welcome." She pauses. "Of course it feels strange being the only one there, usually, but it is awfully handy and he's been
terrific. You'll change your mind once you get to know him."

I stalk into my bedroom and throw myself on my bed. I feel miserable. I have one good friend who is now thousands of miles away, and the chances of my making any more aren't good I'm too shy and I just clam up when people speak to me. And who knows what the kids at this school are like. A bunch of religious nuts probably. I realize that I've never actually been in an
Orthodox synagogue before today. Why couldn't we at least join a Reform temple so I could be in the NFTY group? Still, Mom was right about me getting involved with NFTY maybe she thinks I'll have an easier time in a small school because I'm so shy. But she doesn't want to say that and hurt my feelings.

Maybe I should pull a Rachel, throw a tantrum and just refuse to go. Rachel always gets her way she just has to throw a big enough fit. It's not my style though. I hate scenes. When Mom and Dad were fighting I just ran for cover. I tried throwing a fit about the move and it didn't get me anywhere. I suppose I could try the school for one week and if it's awful I'll put my foot down and just refuse to go.

When the first day of school arrives I feel so sick I can barely get out of bed. The heatwave continues. It'll be thirty five degrees by noon and
now, at eight in the morning, it's already twenty five degrees. Our house is air conditioned but the second you get outside you melt. The combination of heat and humidity is so bad you feel
like you're in a steam bath. I worried all weekend about what to wear, trying on everything I own two million times, and finally decided on belted khaki shorts, a khaki short sleeved shirt, and
sandals. I put my hair in a French braid and let the braid hang down my back. I look in the mirror. I'm too fat. Baba was right. Dad says I'm the perfect weight for my height, but I'm really big boned so I'll never have that skinny frail look. It's not fair. I want that skinny
frail look! I can't eat a thing. It's 8:05 and I'm completely ready. I just pace around the house for half an hour. Dad tries to talk to me and I just ask him how he can agree with Mom about this school.

"She was so revved up about it," he replies. "She's been going to the Rabbi's office almost every day over the summer to talk about Baba and her death. He's been a comfort to her. She took Baba's death very hard, you know."

Well, I can understand that going to talk to this guy makes her feel
better after all, Rabbi Wienberg really helped me when I went to see him. But why can't she do that and leave me out of it? I could still go to regular school.

"She convinced me it would really help your marks," Dad continues. "But if it's too strict and too Orthodox, Debbie, I'll talk to her, and you'll go
somewhere else. I'm a little uncomfortable about it myself, quite frankly."

Well, that makes me feel a bit better. Like it's not a jail sentence or something.

Finally I walk into the heat, and drag myself down our street to the
school. The school bus has just arrived and kids are tumbling out of it and racing into the building. There is a cement deck in the front where some young boys are playing ball, and then the two sets of glass doors. These are open and parents and kids of all ages are talking and greeting each other and babbling and I just feel like shrinking away into a blob and disappearing. How am I going to walk into the classroom? Also, there's something not quite right, but in all the confusion I can't put my finger on what it is. I manage to find the office which is up a set of steps and the
secretary calls the vice principal who is an older woman with curly white hair. She takes me to my home room. I walk in and there is a group of about
eight girls standing in a small circle talking and laughing. The vice principal, Mrs. Lacy, leads me to them and introduces me but I can't catch their names, I'm too nervous. And now, the thing that was nagging at me when
I first arrived hits me and I realize why I felt things looked a bit strange. I am the only girl in shorts. Not only do I feel like disappearing but I can feel myself turning beet red. I
blush at the drop of a hat and I also break out into hives all over my face, they look like little pimples, when I get really nervous. And now I am really upset. Why didn't Mom warn me? All the girls are wearing skirts which reach at least mid calf and most of them have their arms covered too. The boys are standing in another corner and some of them are wearing shorts. I'm really confused.

I am also mortified, upset, and slightly revolted. I mean, I feel
stupid being the only girl dressed this way but I think they are even more stupid to be dressed the way they are. Don't they fry in this heat, all
covered up like that? And why? Isn't this the nineties? We aren't living in some little Russian village any more. And if the boys can wear shorts, why can't the girls?

The bell rings and jolts me out of one moment of panic into another. Where do I sit? What do I do? A very tall man, wearing a black, pinstriped, three piece suit, walks into the room. He has curly black hair, blue eyes,
and is clean shaven. Quickly he scans the room, the blue eyes landing directly on me. His face lights up and he gives me this incredibly warm smile I can't help but realize how handsome he

"You must be Debbie."

I nod.

"Have you met the others?"

I nod again.

He takes my hand, which shocks me and embarrasses me even more no
teacher back home would ever do that! He leads me to a desk, his hand warm and dry in mine, and says, "I'm Rabbi Werner. I'll put you here right beside Mara and Rebecca."

I sink into my seat, happy to be able to sit down, hoping to fade into the woodwork. He turns and I notice that his kipah is bobby pinned on each side so it won't fall off. The boys in the class have done the same thing. I
think it's strange that no one has invented a kipah that will stay on all by itself maybe one that has Velcro which sticks to the hair or something. And then I notice that one boy hasn't used bobby pins and I realize that his
kipah is probably stuck on his head with Velcro and this thought is so silly and I am so nervous that I burst out in a sort of giggly snort before I can stop myself. The girls turn and stare. The Rabbi seems not to hear and soon has grabbed everyone's attention away from me. Thank God. He starts fooling around with the girls, telling jokes, hugging them, teasing them. I'm too frazzled to really hear the conversation, it's all going by too quickly for me to catch. The girls are all screaming with laughter. The boys are basically hanging around on their side of the room, trying to look cool.
Still, I think some of them look like they'd like to be included.

Rabbi Werner is the grade nine Hebrew teacher, principal of the school, and head Rabbi of the congregation. Must be a busy guy.

The class sits down and he perches on the edge of his desk.

"First a little joke," he smiles, and he gives me a wink. I can feel
myself blush.

"Mrs. Levi rushed to the door of her son's room, banged on it, and
yelled, `Norman, Norman, get up, its late!'

"Her son muttered through his sleep, `I don't wanna get up.'

"Mrs. Levi rushed into the room and shook him. `Norman, you have to get up get washed, get dressed, eat, go to school!'

" `I don't wanna go to school,' Norman objected.

" `Norman!' his mother said, clasping her hands over her mouth in dismay, `What's gotten into you? How can you not want to go to school?'

" `I hate school!' Norman replied. `The teachers despise me. The kids call me "four eyes." They make fun of the way I talk. They throw spitballs at me! They put nails on my chair. They '

" `Norman, stop this at once. You have to go to school.'

" `Why!'

" `Well, there are two good reasons. One, you're forty years old '

" `Oh Mom.'

" `And two, you're the principal!' ''

The whole class bursts into roars of laughter, me included. And after a good laugh, I feel much better. This guy doesn't seem so bad after all. Certainly nothing like the strict, serious, rigid kind of person I imagined an Orthodox rabbi principal would be like.

He's laughing along with us. Now he claps his hands and starts to talk enthusiastically about what we'll be studying this year.

He has a nice voice, not low, even a little high, but very warm and he's just full of energy. Although I was determined to hate every moment, I can feel my resolve weakening a bit.

"We will start the year," he announces, "with Genesis. We'll begin at the beginning. The story of Adam and Chavah," he launches right in, "is the most misunderstood story of all time. You see, Adam was really a being who incorporated both male and female. In order to create two separate beings, Hashem figuratively took a rib from this being and created man and woman.
They are different but equal. Two halves of a whole."

It takes me a second to realize that Chavah must be Eve's Hebrew name and that the Rabbi uses Hashem for God. Still, his voice is compelling, his manner relaxed, and for a moment I forget to be self conscious, I forget it's my first hour at a new school and I get interested. I've never heard this interpretation before. Besides, I was sure Orthodox men didn't view woman as their equals. Why else aren't Orthodox women allowed to read from the Torah? So to hear him say this really surprises me.

One of the girls next to me puts up her hand.

"Yes, Rebecca?" says the Rabbi.

"Rabbi Werner," Rebecca says, "if women are so equal, can you explain why boys thank God every morning in their prayers for not having been born female?"

Do they do that? I think. That's just disgusting. Also, I'm very
surprised that one of these girls should ask such a question. Don't they just accept everything they are taught?

"Women," Rabbi Werner answers, "have a special spiritual station. They are so superior they don't have to pray. Men on the other hand are commanded to pray three times a day because they need more spiritual guidance. A man thanks Hashem he is not a woman as a positive affirmation of being a man and being allowed to pray. Not because women are less important."

"Debbie," he says to me, and my heart leaps into my throat. He's not going to single me out, is he? He couldn't.

"Do you know what Chavah first said to Adam?" He looks at me with his bright blue eyes.

Everyone is staring at me. I can't speak. I can feel my hives popping out, again. How can he call on me on the first day? I don't know what to think, I don't know anything about any of this. All I know is how much I don't know. I manage a small shrug.

" `After we eat the apple, Adam, we're going to do what?' "

Everyone is laughing. I am so panicked that at first I don't realize he's just joking with me. Finally I manage a big grin, the relief I feel is incredible. He didn't expect an answer. Thank goodness I didn't try some big
long explanation.

He turns to a girl with brown hair, pretty plain I hate her dress, something out of the middle ages.

"Sarah, do you think women aren't treated equally in Orthodox Judaism?"

"Well," Sarah replies, with no embarrassment or hesitation, "my mother says it's wonderful to be treated with respect. I think so too."

"Yeah but," Rebecca calls out, "if we get so much respect why can't we carry the Torah? Or read from it?"

My question exactly.

"The answer is not in your inferiority," the Rabbi answers, "but in male weakness. A man shouldn't hear a woman's voice in song or his thoughts
might stray from prayer."

Much to my surprise, Rebecca hoots with laughter at his answer.

I expect him to get annoyed, but instead he grins happily at Rebecca.

"We are the weaker sex," he says with a wink.

Rebecca flushes. The girls giggle. I'm not sure what's going on. Some kind of inside joke? I glance at the boys. They try to get involved.

"Weaker sex. Sure, Rabbi. Not us," they protest in their most macho voices. Everyone starts shouting to each other across the room. Rabbi Werner claps his hands.

"Class! Class!"

Suddenly he's talking to me again.

"You see, Debbie, equality is more than the way things seem on the surface. It's how the society functions in reality, day to day.

"Well, Debbie, just look at the girls in this class and see who talks the most and who runs the class and you'll see that girls here aren't afraid to speak up. They may dress differently than those at public school but they're ten times more confident and assertive than the girls there."

The girls meanwhile are glowing from all the praise. The discussion lasts until the end of the period. I am so busy being impressed with the girls and their questions that I hardly notice the boys they just fade
into the background. I do have a look to see if there are any cute ones. One or two seem OKAY but there aren't any real hunks or anything. Anyway, I like Rabbi Werner, a lot. The discussion is
really fun and interesting. He tells wonderful stories so that one moment you can hear a pin drop in class, the next the whole class is laughing uproariously.

Finally he wraps up the discussion and says to Rebecca, "Rebecca, did you hear about this really pretty girl who suffered from hay fever?" Everyone laughs, as Rebecca blows her nose right on cue.

"Anyway, on her way out to a very fancy dinner party this girl figured she would need at least two handkerchiefs to get through the evening she tucked one into her sleeve and the extra one into the bodice of her dress.

"At dinner, having used up one handkerchief, she reached into her bosom for the other. She searched about for it with no success until she became aware that all conversation had ceased and everyone was staring at her.

" `Excuse me!' " she exclaimed, " `but I know I had two when I
arrived.' "

Everyone in the class squeals with laughter, including Rebecca who blows her nose loudly, flushes, and grins at the Rabbi. The boys, of course, really laugh that one up. I feel a little weird about it I mean, it's not
the kind of joke you'd expect a rabbi to tell, but no one else in the class seems the least bit uncomfortable. Boy, don't
tell me I'm more of a prude than these Orthodox kids. That would be too bizarre!

Is it possible that school could actually be fun? Even interesting?
Maybe Mom wasn't so stupid after all.

The Primrose Path is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to places, events, or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


This novel is fully protected under the copyright laws of Canada and all other countries of the Copyright Union and is subject to royalty. Except in
the case of brief passages quoted in the review of this book, no part of this publication (including cover design) may be
reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means, electronic or
mechanical, including recording and information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, or, in the case
of photocopying or other reprographic copying, without a
licence from Canadian Reprography Collective (CANCOPY).

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to

Copyright 8 1998 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201 9364


May 10, 1996

News Manitoba

Margaret Buffie Wins for The Dark Garden

AT THE MANITOBA LITERARY AWARDS April 27, Margaret Buffie won the McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award for her Young Adult novel The Dark Garden (reviewed in CM vol. II, No. 26), also recently short listed for the
Ruth Schwartz Canadian Book Award.

Buffie has previously won the Young Adult Canadian Book Award for Who is Frances Rain, and was nominated for the Governor's General Award and the C.L.A. Book of the Year Award for her third novel, My Mother's Ghost.

This was the first year the Manitoba Literary Awards have included the Book for Young People Award. Also short listed were Linda Holeman for Saying
Goodbye, Carol Matas for The Primrose Path, Sheldon Oberman for The White Stone in the Castle Wall, and Diana Wieler for RanVan: A Worthy Opponent.

Copyright 8 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201 9364

11) Winnipeg Free Press,Sep.22,1995 City author tackles sexually abusive
Winnipeg Free Press, Friday, September 22, 1995
Entertainment Section

City author tackles sexually abusive rabbi in latest novel
Matas not afraid of truth

By Linda Rosborough
Entertainment Reporter

Carol Matas is no shrinking violet. The prolific Winnipeg author of young adult fiction has already tackled the Holocaust, witchcraft and politics in
her previous novels.

But Matas knew her latest work of fiction, The Primrose Path, a story of sexual abuse at the hands of an Orthodox rabbi, would raise a few eyebrows and hackles.

Published by local imprint Bain & Cox, the book sells for $9.95 and is in bookstores now.

At least one school in Montreal which she plans to visit on an author's tour, has already objected to Matas reading aloud from The Primrose Path, she says.

"They suggested I read from Daniel's Story instead," she says. "In my mind that's worse, because Daniel's story is about the Holocaust and contains
scenes of rape and torture."

While she was writing the book, well meaning friends suggested to Matas that such a sensitive subject might create a backlash against the Jewish community.

"So many people have said, 'Why don't you make him a priest?'" she says from her River Heights home. "That's so hypocritical that's like saying it doesn't happen in my community. I'm Jewish. To me, that's reverse racism. Jewish people are like any they're good and bad.

"To be afraid to write about the truth because of anti Semitism is to weaken your own community."

And so, she wrote the story of Debbie, a teenage girl who grows increasingly uncomfortable with the attention and affection she receives from a much loved and respected rabbi.

When she tells, the community splits and Debbie is confused.

"It is a work of fiction," Matas says. "But I hope it's a universal story in terms of the story it tells. It can happen anywhere."

It's these pillars of society that often seem the most unlikely when accusations are made, Mats says, but we really shouldn't be surprised when people abuse power.

"If that person wasn't in a position of respect and authority, he wouldn't have been able to have done what he's done," Matas says about the rabbi in her book.

"These are the dangerous ones. They have our trust. They're often clever and manipulative. And they can lie. And, of course, they'll choose positions where they're trusted."

In this, her 17th book for young readers, Matas 45, hopes she reaches children who may be struggling with similar situations and don't know how to

And as with her other novels, like the award winning Lisa, Daniel's Story and Sworn Enemies, the mother of two teenagers thinks kids can handle gritty

"That's something I've been fighting my whole career that children are basically idiots and you have to be careful and not write about anything difficult because they might interpret it the wrong way," says Matas, who is
married to writer and theatre professor Per Brask.

(Picture of Matas caption: Matas: universal story)

12) Jewish Post Sep.20,1995 Article Primrose Path
Jewish Post and News (Winnipeg), Wednesday, September 20, 1995

Matas: Novel written to help readers understand "process" of sexual abuse of children
By Matt Bellan

An Orthodox rabbi who turns out to be a child molester is the villain of the story.

He's the respected principal and spiritual leader of an ultra Orthodox school synagogue in an unnamed city.

He's also engaged in a "kashrut war" with the rest of the Orthodox

When "Debbie", the main character, complains that the rabbi has molested her, her complaints are reviewed by the head of the institution which treats them skeptically at first.

And "Child and Family Services" investigates the complaint.

For many Winnipeggers and other Canadians who watched the CBC documentary, "Unorthodox Conduct" last year, much of the plot and some of the characters in Carol Matas's new novel might sound familiar.

But the acclaimed author of the Primrose Path dismisses any suggestion the work is based on the controversy that arose here over Rabbi Ephraim Bryks in
the late 1980s. Then principal of the new defunct Torah Academy and
spiritual leader of Herzlia Synagogue. Bryks left the city in 1990, two years after he was accused of sexually abusing some of his students.

"My response is that it's a work of fiction," Matas said in an interview last week, a few days before the launching of The Primrose Path at the Heaven's Art And Book Cafe. She acknowledged that during the Bryks era here,
she was briefly a member of Herzlia Synagogue and had children enrolled at Torah Academy for a short time.

Some people might see parallels between what happened there and characters and events in the novel, but "I've set it in another city," continued the
renowned Jewish writer of Lisa, Daniel's Story, and other young adult novels. "The characters are fictional characters."

Matas hopes readers will also see parallels to what happens in The Primrose Path in other communities, where respected people have been accused of child

Among others, Matas offered the example of a local gynecologist who was convicted two years ago for actually abusing girls, using the pretext that he was examining them medically.

"He was a revered figure in the Ukranian community. People couldn't believe this man, so loved and respected all those years could do such a thing. The
whole community was split."

That's one of the most important messages of her novel, Matas added.

"I wanted to write it from a 14 year old's point of view."

People in their 40s might look at this ("Debbie's" molestation by the rabbi principal) and say: "Teens have been taught about this and they've been
warned. How could this happen?"

Matas wanted to show how an adult authority figure might molest youngsters in his or her charge, and gets away with it.

She's aiming at readers 10 years of age and older, "I wanted to make them understand the process, so kids will recognize it if it starts happening to them."

"People are so often in positions of trust, authority. It's often easy to get sucked in by that person."

Matas also wanted to emphasize now hard it can be for parents to believe their children's reports of sexual abuse.

"If your child is involved you have to admit you handed your children over to that person. It's so horrific many parents can't do that. It's easier to
say: 'It never happened.'"

As for concerns that the novel's Jewish characters and setting in an Orthodox school might fuel anti Semitism. Matas said that's "something I take very seriously."

"Reverse Racism"
A lot of people who read the novel before publication wondered why she couldn't make the sexual abuser "a priest".

"That would be reverse racism to say it doesn't happen in the Jewish community. It does happen."

In Jewish communities, Matas claimed, sexual abuse of children is "the last taboo", in terms of what can be talked about.

"I think it's very important for the Jewish community to be able to discuss these things openly, in the same way other communities do," the author added "I think silence is not golden in these cases."

As for anti Semites using The Primrose Path as ammunition, she responded: "I think anti Semites will use whatever they want for ammunition. They're not going to suddenly pick up any book for that."

Matas added that she took great pains to emphasize in her novel that the rabbi who's the villain in the book is "not normal."

"He's a charismatic leader who's using his power to do his thing...It's very clear in the book this is not every rabbi."

Matas noted that she also had a Jewish villain as a central character in her historical novel, Sworn Enemies about Jewish children being kidnaped to
serve in the army in Tsarist Russia.

A Jewish school trustee in Ontario tried unsuccessfully to get it banned from school libraries because the young kidnapper was Jewish.

"Of course, you're going to get all these people who are hypersensitive, but I really think they're in the wrong."

(The Primrose Path had an initial print run of 1,000 copies, and publication in the U.S. is also planned. It's available in Winnipeg at Heaven's Art and
Book Cafe and other bookstores. A review of this novel appears this week on this page).

(Photo of Matas caption: Carol Matas: Some readers might draw parallels between her new novel and the Rabbi Bryks controversy, but the book is "a work of fiction".)

13) Jewish Post and News, Wednesday, September 20, 1995
Matas novel daring, compelling
Jewish Winnipeggers might think they see familiar details, but there's an important message in this new book ...
Post & News Book Review
The Primrose Path, By Carol Matas, Published by Bain and Cox, a trade imprint of Blizzard Publishing, Winnipeg, 1995. 152 pages.
Review by Matt Bellan

When Debbie's Mazer's father gets a new job down east, the family has to move thousands of miles to a new home.

Fourteen year old Debbie as deeply upset. Her parents have ben quarreling a lot and drifting apart. She's especially peeved when her mother enrolls her
for the first time in a Jewish day school in the new, unnamed city and an Orthodox one to bout.

But the young teenager with a liberal Jewish background soon starts to enjoy the "family atmosphere" at the religious school, and quickly makes friends.
She especially enjoys instruction by the school's brilliant and handsome young rabbi principal, until...

It's what happens next that will make this "young adults" novel unusually engrossing reading for older adults, too.

Rabbi Werner has a chummy relationship with his older female students, and quickly includes Debbie in that inner circle. When he tickles the girls, she initially shrugs that off as the friendly affection an educator is showing students he feels are still children. But as his sexual advances become more
obvious. Debbie grows increasingly uneasy.

Author of numerous novels with children's or "young adult" content, Winnipeg based Carol Matas has won recognition across the U.S. and Canada.

Her attention to detail and passionate, fast moving plots always make her books compelling reading. Matas also has a special knack for getting inside the minds of young people, her portrayal of young Debbie's thinking as the tension filled plot advances will keep you turning the pages.

Reports about child molestation have also been cropping up more and more in the news lately.

A less skilled author might have been tempted to sensationalize this story, focusing luridly and at length on the sexual episodes. Matas doesn't shy away from depicting those incidents, but she puts them in a larger context:
How Debbie, her parents and others in the community react to her reports that she's being molested by her teacher.

When her mother and many other adults initially treat her allegations skeptically and with hostility, Debbie's anguish and fear will move many to tears.

That's what makes this an important work of fiction, a book that could become a very useful educational tool for older children and adults.

One of Matas's central messages is that adults have to learn to take childrens' reports that they're being sexually molested more seriously, and not just dismiss them as fantasies something she feels adults are tempted to do when the suspects are respected authority figures. (See related story in this page.)

As for concerns some Jews might have that the book's depiction of a rabbi as a child molester might fuel anti Semitism, the author has made it clear in her story that Werner is only one of several rabbis in the book, and that he is the exception not the rule. His employers' ultimate response to his actions is also reassuring.

Some Winnipeg Jews will probably rush to read this novel because, although the author insists it's a work of fiction, it has many parallels to a controversy that occurred in our community in the late 1980s.

It's legitimate to ask whether Matas went far enough in distancing characters and situations in her novel from certain people involved in the
controversy at Torah Academy and Herzlia Synagogue. That's especially relevant since Ephraim Bryks, the real life rabbi concerned, has never actually been charged with child molestation by police, or found guilty of it by a court of law.

But remember too, that the author intended this for a larger audience: she's courageously written a book with controversial subject matter and an important message: When children complain that they're being molested, don't
just shrug off their allegations.

Jewish News of Greater Phoenix
August 10, 2001/Av 21, 5761, Vol. 53, No.44
Rabbi abuses power in teen novel
Staff Writer
"The Primrose Path" by Carol Matas (Bain & Cox Publishers, $7.95 paperback)

This interesting yet disturbing novel explores the painful experiences of a Jewish teen, Debbie Mazer. The book opens with Debbie seeking the advice of
her rabbi about the discord in her home her father is never home, her parents are always fighting and she fears they will divorce. After being reassured by the rabbi, she goes home only to find that her maternal grandmother has died.

Additional tension is added to Debbie's life when her father accepts a job offer and she is forced to move to a new town with her family. Debbie, who had always been active in her Reform synagogue, is now sent to an Orthodox private school. Resistant at first, she is quickly accepted into the circle
of friends at her family's new shul. As Debbie and her mother become increasingly observant, her father becomes increasingly resistant and refuses to become involved in their new life.

Though she has found a place where she feels love and acceptance, Debbie becomes distraught when her new rabbi, Rabbi Werner, engages in disturbing behavior. What starts as improper jokes in the classroom quickly turns to
inappropriate touching and sexual abuse.

When Debbie exposes the rabbi, she is immediately shunned by a community that adores Rabbi Werner including her own mother. What follows is an unsettling look at what happens when a charismatic and popular leader abuses his power with people of all ages in his congregation.

The most disturbing part of this story is the way in which the Orthodox Jews are portrayed. Debbie's Reform rabbi is wise and kind and her Reform friend is sweet, while her Orthodox rabbi is dark and abusive and her Orthodox friends are cruel.

Some important issues for parents and teens to discuss after reading this book are abuse of power, being open and honest with family members, the author's use of stereotyping and how to deal with inappropriate or unwanted
behavior from others. This novel is recommended for ages 13 and up.

At 4:19 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Libel chill leaves children's author feeling censored OPINIONS / Carol Matas's novel about a Jewish school and a child-abusing rabbi touched a nerve in Winnipeg. A synagogue cancelled her appearance amid threats of litigation.
The Globe and Mail
19 December 1995

Special to The Globe and Mail

FALLOUT from a high-profile investigation of child-abuse allegations against a former Manitoba rabbi has created a new form of libel chill for a Winnipeg author of children's books.

Carol Matas had been invited to speak in February at an interfaith luncheon sponsored by the Sisterhood of Winnipeg's Shaarey Zedek synagogue. But her appearance was cancelled after the congregation received a legal opinion suggesting the synagogue could be sued for publication of a libel if it permitted Matas to speak.

"This is paranoia of the worst sort and censorship in the worst way. Libel chill isn't a strong enough term. Basically, they're censoring me and not the book. Somehow, I am no longer acceptable," Matas said recently.

What's prompting the controversy is Matas's latest novel, The Primrose Path. Published by Winnipeg's Blizzard Publishing, it's the story of a Jewish school enduring a child-abusing rabbi. The case bears some similarities to a Winnipeg police investigation of Rabbi Ephraim Bryks, former principal of the Torah Academy in Winnipeg. Now closed, Torah Academy was a school operated by Herzlia-Adas Yeshrun, an Orthodox congregation formerly led by Bryks, now living in New York.

After a year-long review, Manitoba's public prosecutions office last month decided that no Criminal Code charges were warranted against Bryks, who was previously investigated for similar allegations by Winnipeg police and the city's child and family services department in 1987 and 1988.

After a 1994 CBC documentary outlining other child-abuse allegations involving Bryks (which was broadcast before the police resumed their second investigation), the rabbi launched a defamation lawsuit against his accusers and the CBC. But beyond a preliminary notice, these cases have not progressed. Two years after the 1988 report by the city department, Bryks left Winnipeg for New York.

While Matas says she was only asked to deliver a speech, the synagogue maintains that she was going to speak about her new book. By acquiescing to the threat of litigation, the synagogue's decision, to some, appears to be a highly unusual instance of the suppression of an author's freedom of expression, especially since no defamation lawsuits have been commenced against the book, which was published last September.

Matas, who is emphatic that her book isn't based on Bryks, describes The Primrose Path as "a universal story which I based on research across North America. And in two other communities where I've spoken besides Winnipeg, people in the audience believe that the book is about a specific case in their community. It says to me that I'm doing my job as a writer because it is a universal story."

Matas also says she is very upset about the synagogue's cancellation, initiated, it said, because of a "scheduling conflict." "I think it's shameful and outrageous. . . . And being unable to have me as a speaker because they're afraid that someone might sue them is scary business."

Matas says she learned from Shaarey Zedek's president, Samuel Wilder, that her invitation had been cancelled because the synagogue's lawyers said that since "the story in The Primrose Path so closely parallels what happened in Winnipeg, the synagogue would be subject to a defamation action if they let me speak."

Contacted earlier this month, Wilder refused to answer any questions for The Globe and Mail, saying "this isn't an issue for the press."

Denise Waldman, president of the synagogue's Sisterhood, was equally reticent about answering questions and, she said, "if there is any Sisterhood board member who speaks to you, they will have to answer to me. I'm a young president of a flourishing sisterhood and we don't need any garbage."

The Sisterhood's move is, however, attracting negative attention from both inside and outside Winnipeg. Penny Dickens, executive director of the Writers Union of Canada, for one, condemned the decision. "They took the easy way out. It certainly wasn't a heroic decision - they've silenced a writer. . . . This isn't chill, it's a major freeze."

While characterizing libel chill as a term usually involving state action, Toronto criminal lawyer Clayton Ruby had "grave doubts" regarding the legal opinion. "Unless they knew in advance that she's going to be defaming someone, they wouldn't be responsible for giving her a platform."

Ruby also deplored the Sisterhood's cancellation of Matas's address. "They don't understand literature and its role in a free society. It's a message from the community that we don't want to talk about that subject matter. And then authors won't write books like that. It's unhealthy and shortsighted."

David Matas, a Winnipeg immigration lawyer and cousin of the author, agreed with Ruby. "Her work is a work of fiction. It doesn't identify a specific person. It's most unusual for a libel suit to come out of a fictional account," Matas said.

However, Julian Porter, a Toronto lawyer noted for his expertise in libel and defamation, said that it is possible that the author of a fictional book could be sued for libel and that the synagogue could be sued, in turn, by allowing Carol Matas to speak. Generally speaking, he said, the test is if the work of fiction refers, or is capable of referring, to a real person. Although there are no Canadian precedents, civil liability for such cases has been found in the United States, England and Australia.

Porter qualified his comments by noting that these types of cases are very rare. Yet, about 15 years ago, he successfully settled a libel case involving Toronto author Ian Adams, who wrote a novel suggesting that a government representative was part of a Communist spy ring.

Porter predicted that to win such a case at trial a lawyer would have to put a number of people in the witness box, each of whom believed that the book was about the allegedly defamed person. To safely write a roman a clef, Porter recommended that writers should change a host of personal details. "Changing a couple of little things isn't enough."

But Matas's Winnipeg-based publisher, Anna Synenko, dismisses the possibility of libel action involving The Primrose Path. "We haven't received any libel suits yet and I don't think we will. I really don't understand what the Sisterhood's problem is. The book is based on a large amount of research and not on one incident."

Matas is the author of 15 books, most aimed at readers aged 10 to 17. Her novels include Daniel's Story, commissioned by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1993, and Sworn Enemies, which won the National Association of Jewish Libraries' Sydney Taylor award in 1993.

Poignant story grapples with abuse at school
By Arlene Perly Rae
3 February 1996
The Toronto Star

The Primrose Path is about an Orthodox rabbi who abuses his position by sexually interfering with young girls - and some of their mothers - at a religious school.

An actual case of a similar nature is under review in Manitoba, where Matas lives and works.

Despite numerous documented cases of abuse in boys' schools, and by wayward priests or ministers, it appears that parts of the Jewish community are not ready to admit the possibility of such deviant behavior by a rabbi.

Matas was not invited to this year's Toronto Jewish Book Fair because of this book.

In the novel, both Debbie and her mother are vulnerable. A beloved grandmother has passed away and they miss her terribly. The family moves to a city with a highly recommended religious school.

Overcoming initial misgivings and her father's skepticism, Debbie soon feels comfortable and happy with her classmates. But then she experiences other sensations - first a suspicion and later the certainty that the charismatic rabbi is overstepping his bounds.

The story's impact revolves around the trust it takes for a child to tell - and be believed by - the adults in a position to act.

Matas does not intend to cast aspersions on any particular religious group. She has, instead, poignantly reminded us that abusers can be anyone.

Newbery Prize-winning author Gary Paulsen has written a challenging historical novel with boy appeal.

The Rifle (Harcourt Brace, 105 pages, ages 10-14, $22) will shake the complacent among us out of our socks as Paulsen takes issue with the cliche: "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

In The Rifle, an expertly made "sweetshooter" passes from owner to owner, down through generations of Americans.

No one is aware of its potential danger. Because of its old-fashioned design, it is loaded in such a way that a sudden shock or proximity to heat could set it off at any time.

The Rifle introduces young readers to a variety of gun owners - including a soldier, militarist and antique collector.

It broaches the question of gun control only indirectly, but the book carries an impact far beyond any I have encountered. Thoroughly engrossing.

Ellen's Secret by Jean Booker (Scholastic, ages 9-13, 157 pages, $4.95) is an imaginative novel about a young English girl trapped in a bomb shelter with a German soldier.

It introduces questions of loyalty, combining human factors with larger issues of war-time behavior.

Booker keeps the story fast-paced and peppered with realistic dialogue. Wailing sirens, food shortages, injuries and uncertainty add suspense and realism to this very readable book. Arlene Perly Rae's review of children's books appears every other Saturday.

At 5:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting. Came across the following blog which discusses
some of these issues:

At 7:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So aside from the fact that you're a hypocrite b/c you advocate transparency from behind an nom de plume, you also seem incapable of following the gist of an essay. Shalit's point was (once you get past the outraged squawking of mirvis and co.) that these authors' tickets (especially Englander) are mostly their claim to representing an insiders' perspective - a perspective most of them lack. Englander, for example, drew ultra-orthodox characters entirely one-dimensional precisely b/c he's never actually met one (his bullshit interviews where he claims a rigid upbringing notwithstanding). Shalit's point was that these authors trade on an authenticity they dont possess - kind of like Edward Said's claiming to have been a refugee from Palestine.
And of course, you're on the wrong (yet somehow self-righteous) side of this debate - the side that scandalously and irrelevantly makes reference to Shalit's being a hozer bitshuva - the shaarei tshuva has a lot to say about someone who needlessly reminds a sinner of their past sins, as the talmud has QUITE a bit to say about a needless moser. I'm personally hoping the in the end, you're exposed as the shameless hypocrite you are. Till then, we have to suffer the nausea of enduring your perpetually outraged and infantile voice.

At 8:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

new york magazine about the wjc. check it out.

At 8:21 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>So aside from the fact that
>you're a hypocrite b/c you
>advocate transparency from
>behind an nom de plume,

1) Read the rest of the tagline "...within our institutions and leadership". I am neither.

2) You attack me while using the nom de plume "Anonymous"?

>you also seem incapable of
>following the gist of an essay.

Her points in her own words:
1) Authors who have renounced Orthodox Judaism -- or those who were never really exposed to it to begin with -- have often portrayed deeply observant Jews in an unflattering or ridiculous light.
2) Englander's sketches were fictional, but did most people realize this?
(The book is in the fiction section.)

>Shalit's point was (once you get
>past the outraged squawking of
>mirvis and co.) that these
>authors' tickets (especially
>Englander) are mostly their
>claim to representing an
>insiders' perspective - a
>perspective most of them lack.

That seems more your and Shalit's claim. These people are writing fiction. All are familiar with the Orthodox world to varying degrees. All are competent to write fiction with characters from that world.

>Englander, for example, drew
>ultra-orthodox characters
>entirely one-dimensional
>precisely b/c he's never
>actually met one (his bullshit
>interviews where he claims a
>rigid upbringing

It's funny as the characters/situations Shalit attacks actually occur:

1. fistfight that breaks out in synagogue over who will read from the Torah;

- I have family who were present at such synagogue fistfights (not over Torah reading but over similar type of things)

2. a sect whose members fast three days instead of one and drink a dozen glasses of wine at the Passover seders instead of four;

- There's a sect of Shabbtai Tzvi followers that has an even more bizarre "ritual" before Peasach called the "festival of the lamb" where the turn off the lights and have group sex.

- The Lev Tahor cult has a "right of first night" where new brides spend the night with the movement's leader the night before their wedding.

3. a man whose rabbi sends him to a prostitute when his wife won't sleep with him

- Ever heard of the Pilgeshs in Boro Park?

>Shalit's point was that these
>authors trade on an authenticity
>they dont possess - kind of like
>Edward Said's claiming to have
>been a refugee from Palestine.

Completely different. Said factually lied. These authors simply claim to have sufficient knowledge of Orthodox life (which is not monolithic) that they are able to construct and write about FICTIONAL characters with some tie to this world in FICTIONAL situations.

Dude, the Thorn Birds was a fictional story about a fictional priest in fictional situations. So are all these books.

>And of course, you're on the
>wrong (yet somehow self-
>righteous) side of this debate -

Dude, I've pointed out a situation with a similar book reviewer using similar attacks as Shalit who we can show is 100% wrong (see references above to Rabbis Baruch Lanner and Ephraim Bryks, two Orthodox rabbis who sexually molest children, rabbis Heiss claims doesn't exist). How am I wrong here?

>the side that scandalously and
>irrelevantly makes reference to
>Shalit's being a hozer bitshuva -

I made no such arguments and I agree to a point that such arguments are unnecessary, unless as Shalit has done she has directly questioned others connections and knowledge of the Orthodox word. Something she has no more right to do than any other Orthodox jew and those authors have every right to defend themselves and point out Shalit's ignorance. Shalit referred to them as "Authors who have renounced Orthodox Judaism --or those who were never really exposed to it to begin with". That's pure mozi shem rah in some cases, pure lashon harah in other cases. Regardless a pure violation of shmirat halashon and a public chillul Hashem as such.

>the shaarei tshuva has a lot to
>say about someone who needlessly
>reminds a sinner of their past

Shmirat Halashon has much to say about defaming the Orthodoxy of people like Tova Miris.

>as the talmud has QUITE a
>bit to say about a needless

And who is the moser here and how?

>I'm personally hoping the
>in the end, you're exposed as
>the shameless hypocrite you are.

Thanks for the pure mozi shem rah tirade against me.

At least I have a basis in Halacha for what I write:

Originally published by the RCA Roundtable, Nissan 5752
The Mishnah, Avot 4:4, reminds us that sequestering a hillul Hashem will always be unsuccessful:
"Whoever desecrates the name of Heaven in private will ultimately be punished in public, whether the desecration was committed unintentionally or intentionally."
Hence, a conspiracy to conceal information about abuse will ultimately be made public, creating an even greater hillul Hashem. The greater severity of the hillul Hashem in concealing the information can be further supported by the Talmud, Yoma 86b, which maintains that "one should expose hypocrites to prevent the desecration of the Name. (Hilkhot De'ot 6-8) Rashi explains that the reason for this disclosure is that people, thinking that this person is righteous, may learn from his behavior. Rambam is of the opinion that after unsuccessful attempts to correct the matter privately, public remonstration and broadcasting of the outrage is required. There is no concern about the hillul Hashem of exposing the offense.

What's your Halachic basis for what you write?

>Till then, we have to suffer
>the nausea of enduring your
>perpetually outraged and
>infantile voice.


At 10:09 AM, Blogger yeshivaguy said...

You are arguing that because "bad people exist in our world," it's okay to portray our world as being generally populated by bad, hypocritical people (which is what Shalit claims Mirvis et al. are doing). It doesn't follow.

At 10:45 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>You are arguing that
>because "bad people exist in our
>world," it's okay to portray our
>world as being generally
>populated by bad, hypocritical
>people (which is what Shalit
>claims Mirvis et al. are doing).

Not at all what I claim and I don't believe that is what any of these authors have done.

What you are basically saying is that I can't write a fictional book about a fictional situation where bad people do bad things because somehow I'm potraying the
tht whole group "... as being generally populated by bad, hypocritical people".

That's garbage. You're saying I couldn't write a fictional book based on Rabbi Baruch Lanner or a priest like Paul Shanley as somehow I'm doing something bad by potraying Jews or Christians in a negative light.

Wake up all religious and cultural denominations and groups have "...bad, hypocritical people."

Have you read the Torah? There are "...bad, hypocritical people" in it too. It potrays the failing and sins of our most prominant Orthodox jewish historical characters. So what? We're susposed to learn lessons from those failings.

>It doesn't follow.

I can't even follow your logic.

At 10:54 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

My point is:

1) Primrose Path is a book about sexual child molestation by an Orthodox rabbi.
2) This book has been banned/criticized by people in the Orthodox community. The author paid a professional price for writing this book (not allowed to speak at several institutions, removed from Jewish book fairs).
3) The book reflects actual events in the Orthodox community that do occur.
4) Wendy Shalit, Toby Katz and others are doing the same sort of thing as Ian Heiss has done to author Carol Matas. All three and their supporters are wrong in attacking fictional works with fictional characters and situations as "Orthodox-bashing" by the authors.

At 11:09 AM, Blogger yeshivaguy said...

"Not at all what I claim and I don't believe that is what any of these authors have done."

Shalit doesn't say that these events never occur. She argues that these authors portray such events as normative Orthodoxy.

You argue: "They want to pretend that [Jewish communities] are filled with only men and women leading Torah true lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like the rest of the world, we have our rashas and we have hypocrites. Bad people exist in our world."

But Shalit never said that. So either you misunderstood her and are attacking her on the basis of your lack of comprehension, or you feel that it's okay to tar the entire community with one brush because of a few bad apples.

At 11:25 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>Shalit doesn't say that these
>events never occur. She argues
>that these authors portray such
>events as normative Orthodoxy.

Which is not what they are doing anymore than the author of The Thorn Birds is portraying fictional events in his book as normative of the religious group potrayed.

>But Shalit never said that. So
>either you misunderstood her and
>are attacking her on the basis
>of your lack of comprehension,

I understand her completely. I use Ian Heiss's book review to underscore what precisely is going on here.

>or you feel that it's okay to
>tar the entire community with
>one brush because of a few bad

You're making the same arguments as Shalit. I critize a hand full of people and suddenly you see it as an attack on Orthodox Judaism. Nonsense.

At 11:29 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Here's Wendy's articles so readers can judge for themselves:

The Observant Reader
By Wendy Shalit
30 January 2005
New York Times

JONATHAN ROSEN'S novel ''Joy Comes in the Morning'' features a beatific Upper East Side Reform rabbi named Deborah whose days are spent reassuring insecure converts, studying the Talmud and cuddling deformed newborns whose parents have rejected them. This paragon is, we are told, like a ''plant . . . nourishing herself directly from the source.'' But if Deborah is a plant, she's certainly not a clinging vine. When she propositions a man named Lev, it's with a sexy whisper: ''I'm a rabbi, not a nun.''

In contrast, Deborah's Orthodox ex, Reuben, is a Venus' flytrap. Although he wasn't supposed to touch her, he had no qualms about sleeping with Deborah, a slip she's sure was ''only one of the 613 commandments he had violated, but perhaps the one he most easily discounted.'' Curiously, Reuben showed ''more anxiety about the state of her kitchen'' than he did about spending the night -- next morning, he went through the dishes to make sure she had separate sets for milk and meat.

You might think Reuben is just a guy with a problem, but the problem may also be the author's. In the course of the novel, Rosen dismisses modern Orthodox men as ''macho sissies'' and depicts ''pencil-necked'' Orthodox boys ''poring over giant books instead of looking out the window at the natural world.'' Rosen's yeshiva students ''give in to the simplicity of rules rather than the negotiated truce that Deborah seemed to have achieved.'' Even an elderly lady attracts his withering eye: ''Like many Orthodox women of a certain age, she had the look of an aging drag queen.''

Authors who have renounced Orthodox Judaism -- or those who were never really exposed to it to begin with -- have often portrayed deeply observant Jews in an unflattering or ridiculous light. Admittedly, some of this has produced first-rate literature or, at the least, great entertainment, but it has left many people thinking traditional Jews actually live like Tevye in the musical ''Fiddler on the Roof'' or, at the opposite extreme, like the violent, vicious rabbi in Henry Roth's novel ''Call It Sleep.'' Not long ago, I did too.

At 21, I was on the outside looking in, on my first trip to Israel with a friend who was, like me, a Reform Jew. One day, we wandered into a religious neighborhood in Jerusalem, and suddenly there were black hats and side curls everywhere. My friend pointed out a group of men wearing odd fur hats. ''Those,'' he explained, ''are the really mean ones.'' I never questioned our snap judgment of these people until, a few years later, I returned to study at an all-girls seminary and was surprised to discover that my teachers, whom I adored, were men and women from this same community.

The women were a particular revelation. Instead of the oppressed drudges I'd expected, they turned out to be strong and energetic, raising large families and passing on beloved Jewish traditions, quite often in addition to holding down outside jobs. Not all of them had been born into this world: some were newly religious women, former Broadway dancers or scholars with advanced degrees who had now dedicated themselves to performing good deeds. After spending more time in homes like theirs, in Israel and later in America, I came to have a very different view of the haredi, known to outsiders as the ultra-Orthodox.

Some of my Jewish friends have intermarried with people of other faiths; others have gone back to their traditional roots. Because I did the latter, I'm fascinated by the ways different Jewish communities understand and misunderstand one another. As a writer, I'm especially fascinated by how this happens in print. And it seems I'm not the only one. Although some Jewish outsiders, like Allegra Goodman, have written sympathetically of the haredi, other writers have purported to explain the ultra-Orthodox from an insider's perspective. But are these authors really insiders? As I changed from outsider to insider, my perspective changed too.

Consider, for example, Nathan Englander, a talented writer whose collection of stories, ''For the Relief of Unbearable Urges,'' brimmed with revelations of hypocrisy and self-inflicted misery: a fistfight that breaks out in synagogue over who will read from the Torah; a sect whose members fast three days instead of one and drink a dozen glasses of wine at the Passover seders instead of four; a man whose rabbi sends him to a prostitute when his wife won't sleep with him. Of course, the Orthodox don't actually brawl over who reads the Torah, no rabbi is allowed to write a dispensation for a man to see a prostitute, and even extremely pious Jews can't invent their own traditions for fast days or seders. Englander's sketches were fictional, but did most people realize this?

Apparently not. The world at large took him to be a ''former yeshiva boy'' who had renounced his old life. Englander didn't help matters by referring to the ''anti-intellectual'' and ''fire-and-brimstone'' aspects of his ''shtetl mentality substandard education'' -- a strange way of describing the Long Island community where he grew up, which prides itself on its tolerance and dedication to learning, both secular and religious. Englander is about as much a product of the shtetl as John Kerry. He actually attended the coeducational Hebrew Academy of Nassau County and then the State University of New York, Binghamton. It was one of his supposedly substandard teachers who encouraged him to write in the first place.

Englander is one of a number of outsider insiders. In 1978, Tova Reich's novel ''Mara'' depicted an Orthodox rabbi who doubles as a shady nursing-home owner, married to an overweight dietitian so obsessed with food that she gorges herself with five-course meals, even on the fast day of Yom Kippur. The Hasidic hero of her 1988 novel, ''Master of the Return'' (praised by Publishers Weekly for its ''devastating accuracy'') abandons his semi-paralyzed pregnant wife in her wheelchair in order to spit on immodestly clad female strangers; at home, he helps his 2-year-old son get ''high on the One Above'' by giving him marijuana. Reich's 1995 novel, ''The Jewish War,'' told of a band of zealots whose leader takes three wives and encourages his followers to kill themselves. Reich herself prefers not to comment on the level of observance she keeps today, while Englander for his part publicly boasts about eating pork.

Ostensibly about ultra-Orthodox Jews, this kind of ''insider'' fiction actually reveals the authors' estrangement from the traditional Orthodox community, and sometimes from Judaism itself. Unlike Bernard Malamud, Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, assimilated Jews who have written profoundly about the alienation that accompanies that way of life, the outsider insiders write about a community they may never have been part of.

One of the most popular of these is Tova Mirvis. In her first novel, ''The Ladies Auxiliary,'' the Orthodox women of Memphis appear in an unsettlingly harsh light. One of Mirvis's favorite themes is the oddball ba'al teshuvah (literally, ''master of repentance''), a deeply observant Jew who did not grow up as one. Such a type can be seen in ''The Ladies Auxiliary'': Jocelyn, who after years of keeping kosher still regularly indulges in the shrimp salad she hides in her freezer.

In Mirvis's more recent novel, ''The Outside World,'' we meet Shayna, a mother of five girls living in an ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn community. Shayna supposedly chose a more spiritual life as a young adult, yet now she spends most of her time reading bridal magazines. Another character, Bryan, is a 19-year-old who returns home from Israel as a deeply religious radical, renamed Baruch. Yet at his engagement party, he's suddenly starring in a Harlequin romance: out on the porch, Baruch embraces his fiancee and she leans ''in close, their bodies gently pressing against each other.'' It's bad enough that a yeshiva student would embrace a woman not related or married to him, but to do so in public is even worse. Yet Baruch's younger sister isn't surprised: ''They who pretended to be so holy in public were just like everyone else in private. It confirmed what she had suspected: that it was all pretense.''

It certainly seems that way. Shayna's supposedly observant husband, Herschel, ignores his job as a kosher supervisor for the Orthodox Coalition while collecting a salary, without experiencing a moment's guilt. Meanwhile, Shayna has a television in her bedroom, ''its presence an unacceptable connection to the outside world. It had long ago been smuggled into the house in an air-conditioner box to hide it from the neighbors, all of whom had done the same thing.'' All of whom?

There will always be people who fail to live up to their ideals, and it would be pointless to pretend the strictly observant don't have failings. But before there can be hypocrisy, there must be real idealism; in fiction that lacks idealistic characters, even the hypocrite's place can't be properly understood. Like other outsider insiders, Mirvis homes in on hypocrisy, but in the process she undermines the logic of her plot. The novel's jacket copy announces that ''The Outside World'' is meant to explain ''the retreat into traditionalism that has become a worldwide phenomenon among young people,'' but the uninformed reader might wonder why any young person would want to be part of such a contemptible community.

On her Web site, Mirvis says she ''did very little research'' for her books because ''I grew up with all these rules and customs and rituals.'' People who grow up with some traditional customs may imagine themselves experts, but until they've logged real time among the haredi they may know as little as most secular writers. Come to think of it, they may know less, because a secular writer might do more on-the-spot research.

What is the market for this fiction? Does it simply satisfy our desire, as one of Mirvis's reviewers put it, to indulge in ''eavesdropping on a closed world''? Or is there a deeper urge: do some readers want to believe the ultra-Orthodox are crooked and hypocritical, and thus lacking any competing claim to the truth? Perhaps, on the other hand, readers are genuinely interested in traditional Judaism but don't know where to look for more nuanced portraits of this world.

Thankfully for this last group, another sort of fiction has recently appeared, written by some of the newly religious Jews that Mirvis, Englander and others describe but don't quite understand. In real life, thousands of people each year enter the religious fold, and the ones who are writers are bringing with them the literary training of the more secular life they left behind. This makes them ideally suited to act as interpreters between the two worlds.

Consider, for example, Risa Miller, whose ''Welcome to Heavenly Heights'' is a sharply focused fictional portrait of a group of religious American Jews in a settlement on Israel's West Bank. Miller doesn't idealize her characters: they have the same worries and petty jealousies as the rest of us. But she also presents them as people who aspire to transcend their flaws. A ba'al teshuvah since her college days at Goucher, Miller may well have been the first woman to accept the PEN Discovery Award in a sheitel, the wig traditionally worn by observant married women.

Ruchama King is another talented insiders' insider. King is also haredi, though she grew up less observant, and her novel, ''Seven Blessings,'' while ostensibly about matchmaking, is really about the revolution in women's learning among ultra-Orthodox Jews. Like Miller, King doesn't shy away from the problems that affect her world, but she also captures the subtlety and magic of its traditions. In particular, she convincingly describes the sublimated excitement that characterizes ultra-Orthodox dating as tiny gestures take on heightened meaning.

The promising young poet Eve Grubin, who was raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and went to Smith College, has recently committed herself to Orthodox Judaism. Her first collection, ''What Happened,'' which explores her faith, will appear this fall.

For now, harshly satirical views of the haredi may still be too common, and novels and stories by sympathetic outsiders like Allegra Goodman too rare. But the emergence of these newly religious novelists is a refreshing development. In their work, age-old customs are being presented in a way that reminds us of the deep satisfactions they can provide, even, or especially, in the face of the uncertainties of modern life. Who knows, they may even succeed in converting some of those outsider insiders.

Photos: Risa Miller. (Photograph by Nancy Crampton); Tova Mirvis. (Photograph by Marion Ettlinger)

Drawing (Drawing by Boris Kulikov)

Wendy Shalit is the author of ''A Return to Modesty.'' She is at work on a second book, ''The Rebellion of the Good Girl.''


Must Orthodox Fiction Be So Fictional?
Posted 2/16/2005
By Wendy Shalit
Editor’s Note: The following piece appeared earlier this week at JWR editor-in-chief Binyamin Jolkovsky and Ms. Shalit both felt the article would be of special interest to readers of The Jewish Press.

Last month, The New York Times Book Review published an essay in which Ms. Shalit took issue with the negative portrayal of Judaism`s most fervently Orthodox in contemporary fiction. It didn`t take long before the literary world was abuzz with attacks against her. Here, she responds to her critics.
* * * * * * *

My January 30 New York Times essay on fictional representation of Orthodox Judaism seems to have touched a nerve. I wanted to spark discussion, but I`ve been surprised that some have reacted against what they suspect I am thinking, as opposed to what I actually wrote.

Some have deduced that I feel "people don`t have the right to their own

experiences," or that I`m a "Soviet" who secretly advocates "lowering our artistic standards in order to accommodate a better message." One writer accused me of covertly thinking he didn`t "stand at Sinai"; another likened me to "the mullahs of Tehran" who want to ban books.

Since I do not actually aspire to be a mullah, I feel the need to clarify.

All the authors I discussed are great writers, and I`m sure they are good people too. Nevertheless, they are simply not from the fervently-Orthodox community that is featured so negatively in their novels. Unfortunately, the media (and many readers) seem to feel that these writers are representing the traditional Jewish community – one "grants us the illicit pleasure of eavesdropping on a closed world," and another describes wacky newly religious types with

"devastating accuracy" – when by their own admission the authors do not identify with these worlds.

In quoting the authors` public statements about themselves, such as Nathan Englander`s explanation that he`s disillusioned with his Modern Orthodoxy or Tova Mirvis`s considering herself "liberal, feminist, open Orthodox," I am not critiquing their personal choices. I am examining why sometimes their haredi characters lack realism. The fact that these authors do not come from the specific subgroup they often write about would not be an insurmountable

obstacle, so long as they didn`t rely on negative stereotypes. Unfortunately, sometimes they do. The traditional Orthodox characters in their novels tend to be hypocrites.

Why is the best writing advice to "write what you know"? Why did Joyce write with maps of Dublin on his desk, when he was born and raised there? Because the fact is, authenticity in fiction does matter.

Everyone knows this intuitively, so why are certain literary types so upset by my essay? I think I`ve run up against a shibboleth. It`s simply taken for granted in the literary world that if you can come up with a sufficiently odd cast of Orthodox characters, you`re on your way to a great novel. And I`m challenging that formula. I`m saying: maybe this is not sufficient. Cynthia

Ozick has said that "fiction has license to do anything it pleases," and indeed it does. But is that any guarantee that the fiction will be good?

Don`t get me wrong: I think all these novelists are talented writers. But I think that they would be even better if they didn`t rely so much on their characters` hypocrisy to fuel their plots.

I`m not advocating any sort of litmus test for Jewish fiction. I object to these novels on purely literary grounds: I find much of the contemporary fiction dealing with Orthodox Jews to be too predictable. Whenever an "ultra-Orthodox" character comes on the scene, I already know he`s gonna be a bad guy. I have the same problem with officially "kosher" novels: before picking them up, I already know all the characters will be sugar and spice. That`s just as tedious. Even

religious people aren`t all good – or bad. Sometimes they can surprise us.

At the same time, we have relied for too long on people disaffected with the Orthodox world to produce an Orthodox literature that verges on caricature. Their characters, ostensibly spiritually motivated, never show anything resembling an inner life or concern for others. For me it`s hard to get inside such flat characters, and I always had this problem – even before I became

interested in Judaism. Sometimes there is not even much of a setting in these novels, because a steady parade of weird religious Jews is seen to be sufficient.

I don`t think it is. I think these books would be better if the authors would allow for people who were also trying to live by their ideals – not just those who are gossips, mentally unstable, or drug addicts. To me the most enduring fiction includes both good and bad characters, and of course everything in between.

In "As You Like It, " there is a wonderful banished Duke who is a real saint. There are also characters who are corrupt or cynical, and then there are your basic strugglers and yearners. We needed that noble Duke to understand what the cynics were against. The Duke allows us to empathize with and enjoy the melancholic comment, "All the world`s a stage." Or consider The Brothers Karamazov with the deeply good priest, without whom the hypocrites and even the strugglers and yearners would seem two-dimensional.

For whatever reason, many writers today like to create immoral haredi and newly-religious characters. The truth is, I don`t know why. Perhaps because they are not from these worlds, they fail to appreciate the idealism that`s there. Or perhaps it`s because, as Ms. Mirvis has admitted, nowadays "there is a great deal of discomfort with religiosity, and I have to admit, I feel it myself as well."

My claim that newly-religious writers are revolutionizing Jewish fiction is not based on their level of religious observance, nor any "message" in their books. Rather, it is rooted in their ability to navigate the misrepresented Orthodox world as insiders – i.e., those who do not carry "discomfort with religiosity"– while bringing an “outside” literary sensibility. Never before have we had a novelist like Risa Miller, who is the winner of a PEN award and also a disciple of the Bostoner Rebbe. For the first time, we have books that capture the complexity of the Orthodox world, and do it well.

Do authors outside the haredi world have the right to create literature about that world? Absolutely. Must we agree that such literature is all good? I`m not so sure. If anything reeks of "Soviets" or "mullahs," it is the position that one must approve of certain literature just because the group it derides is outside the protective walls of political correctness.

Tova Reich`s 1995 story “The Lost Girl” (published originally in Harper`s) pitted a girl who was lost on a field trip against a haredi school that was essentially indifferent to her. "Look," their principal tells a reporter, "We went into the woods with 300 girls and came out with 299...on a final exam that would give you a score of about 99.7 out of 100 – a sure A, maybe even an A plus."

Now, this is really funny, but why? Mainly because any time a girl is lost in the real Orthodox world, an efficient network mobilizes a large army of searchers with flashlights and gear. Just one year before Reich`s story, in fact, a 14-year-old Brooklyn girl disappeared in a Connecticut state park on a school outing, and the local search folks were bowled over by the busloads of yeshiva students from different states who dropped everything to find this girl.

To be sure, fiction is not sociology, and sometimes a negative slant can enliven a story. But when all your Orthodox characters are cold and dysfunctional, and unlike anything this group understands itself to be, then I think one must ask what else might be going on. Ironically, I feel my colleagues underestimate the importance of their own books, as if to say: "Oh, never mind our little stories, they have no impact anyway."

But literature matters. 18th-century French literature was a reflection of, and shaped what became, modern society`s dominant notions of the social contract. How is the treatment of Orthodox Jews in fiction affecting our society and particularly, the rest of the world`s perception of the Jews? I don`t pretend to know the answer to this, but I feel we should be permitted to ask the question.

Let`s turn the tables. Suppose there is a new genre in American Jewish literature, in which Reform Jews are vilified regularly. There is the temple`s secretary who kills one of her Hadassah sisters in order to get the latest Judith Lieber bag, and a gay Reform rabbi who seduces younger male congregants. There are idealistic college coeds who want to escape Reform life, but are

daunted by the prospect of learning Hebrew, so they are trapped and pose for Playboy instead.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that there is such a genre. And suppose further that these novels are a bit short on character development, that they are primarily driven by page after page of weirdo Reform characters, and mouth agape, one must turn the pages in order to satisfy one`s curiosity: what will this bad Reform bunch do next? The authors, who are not Reform

themselves, are celebrated in the non-Jewish world and their Reform-bashing literature is translated into multiple languages.

How would we feel about such novels? My guess is that they would not be so popular, and the fact that we have toasted such literature about Orthodox Jews for so long might – just might – tell us something about our prejudices.

If you agree or disagree, and want to share your thoughts, I`d very much welcome

hearing from you. Please contact me via the link in the bio below.

Wendy Shalit is the author of “A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue.” She can be contacted at

At 11:49 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Some other takes on the controversy:


Attack on Writers Verges on Ridiculous
by Ruth Andrew Ellenson

This past week, the New York Times Book Review ran a lengthy essay by writer Wendy Shalit titled “The Observant Reader.” In it,

Shalit harshly criticized books she deemed to be unfriendly to Orthodox Judaism. Even worse than the books, she asserted, were some of their writers, including such literary luminaries as Tova Mirvis (“The Outside World”) and Nathan Englander (“For the Relief of Unbearable Urges”).

Shalit’s chief complaint against these writers is that they are frauds.

“Authors who have renounced Orthodox Judaism,” she wrote, “or those who were never really exposed to it to begin with — have often portrayed deeply observant Jews in an unflattering or ridiculous light.”

If these writers were actually observant, Shalit seems to reason, they would never depict the world of the religious as they do. Needless to say, Shalit’s essay has sparked a controversy in the Jewish literary world.

The author of a nonfiction book, “A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue” (Free Press, 2000) and a ba’alat teshuvah, Shalit was raised as a Reform Jew and entered the ultra-Orthodox world only after spending time in Israel as an adult. Her criticism reflects this. It reads as the musings of someone who, though the analogy may be strange, has found Jesus and become more Catholic than the pope. For Shalit, there is one correct way to write about Judaism and infinite ways to transgress. For her, anyone who has left the fold is unworthy to write about it.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have not been, nor ever will be, part of the ultra-Orthodox world. But as a writer and a Jew, I feel strongly that Shalit’s statements are dangerous. Should we lower our standards on having rich, multifaceted literature in order for Jewish books to function as a public relations vehicle? The Jewish community should laud, not condemn, the grappling of writers who chronicle the nuances and workings of Jewish life in all of its varieties.

Debating the religious credentials of Englander and Mirvis — both of whom were raised in Orthodox communities — is a fruitless argument. It could go on forever and never be proved or disproved to someone with an agenda. What does matter, and is shocking, is that Shalit, a writer herself, believes you can and should set standards on what constitutes “appropriate” writing about an ethnic community. Instead of admiring the intricacies of Orthodox life that Englander’s imagination reveals, Shalit can only comment that Englander’s work is invalid because he “publicly boasts about eating pork.”

Since when is literature concerned with propagating the status quo? Great writing reveals a rich inner life fraught with complexity and difficult situations, and allows readers a greater understanding of themselves and the world they inhabit. The more unexamined a person or community is, the more it needs a mirror to be held up to it. Jewish writing is no exception to this rule.

A topic that Shalit might have legitimately explored is the creation and marketing of literary personas for Jewish writers. The media does seem to be awfully fond of writers who seemingly coalesce out of some mythic shtetl and are dropped onto a bookshelf (an image that perhaps fulfills some deep post-Holocaust longing). Instead, Shalit spends her time making personal attacks.

In any case, I would hope that Shalit could find within her piety the strength to believe that Judaism is strong enough to hold up to whatever depictions of complexity come its way. I, for one, have faith that it can.

Ruth Andrew Ellenson is a journalist and the editor of the forthcoming anthology, “The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt” (August 2005, Dutton).


February 16, 2005
Wendy Shalit and her critics
Filed by Toby Katz @ 8:41 pm under General Jewish World
Two weeks ago, Wendy Shalit had a much-discussed article in the Sunday NY Times Book Review, decrying the way Orthodox Jews are routinely pilloried in modern Jewish-American fiction. One of the writers she mentioned, Tova Mirvis, responded in the Forward, with an article that was critical and condescending towards Shalit. Shalit’s reply to Mirvis and to her other critics can be read in the Jewish World Review.

Full disclosure: I am both a friend and a fan of Wendy Shalit’s. I loved her book, A Return to Modesty, and I knew when I read it that she would be religious some day.

I wrote a letter to the NY Times to tell them how pleased I was that they ran Shalit’s article, and I also wrote a letter to the Forward to argue with Mirvis. The NY Times did not print my letter, the Forward did, but not online. Here are both letters.

1) My letter to the NY Times (which was not published):

January 31, 2005

There is a set of American novelists who disdain religion, and a rarefied subset of Jewish-American novelists whose disdain is reserved for one particular religion: their own.

Wendy Shalit ("The Observant Reader,” Jan 30) perfectly captures the tone of hostility and outlandish caricature that marks this sub-genre.

American Jews have long had a love-hate relationship with their own faith. They know that if their great-grandparents had not clung to it ferociously, there would be no Jews today. But gratitude is mixed with guilt and exasperation. How long do we have to keep this thing going? Enough already! Can we slip into something more comfortable?

The easy way to be rid of the guilt and the sense of obligation is to “discover” that the whole thing is just a crock anyway and no one really believes in it.

But beneath this layer of disillusionment is a more perduring layer of “illusionment"– an idealized picture of what a Torah-based society should be.

It is refreshing to read an essay like Shalit’s, which acknowledges forthrightly the prejudices underlying so many “Jewish” novels. I don’t recognize my friends and family in them. The adulterers, drunkards, and hypocrites who populate this fiction do not populate my Orthodox neighborhood. We have our human foibles, but that’s what we are: human.

What novelist Tova Mirvis wrote–"[T]hey who pretend to be so holy are just like everyone else…it was all pretense"–does not ring true. We do not pretend to be holy. We aspire to be holy. Sometimes we fail; falling and getting up again is not hypocrisy.

Why are we portrayed so negatively, so often? I don’t know the whole answer, but part of it is, as Shalit puts it so gracefully, “Before there can be hypocrisy, there must be real idealism.”

2) My letter to The Forward (which was published):

To the Editor:

Tova Mirvis didn’t like what Wendy Shalit said about her in the NY Times, but in her article of Feb 4, “Judging a Book By Its Head Covering,” she totally misrepresents what Shalit actually said. For this reason Mirvis’ article only compounds the failings that Shalit wrote about. Far from refuting them, she inadvertently confirms them.

Mirvis accuses Shalit of “discounting and de-legitimizing any individual experience other than her own.” If Shalit had complained about a single novel, Mirvis might have a point. What Shalit actually said is that modern American Jewish fiction routinely misrepresents Orthodoxy.

Many readers do take these novels seriously and mistakenly think that they are accurate in their portrayal of Orthodox life. Not one but many of these novelists do give the impression that they are insiders and are portraying the Orthodox community as it really is.

Most readers do not understand that the drumbeat of negativity is only a product of the authors’ imagination. Most readers don’t realize that the slurs of a hundred different individual imaginations are only a coincidence. They think, when they’ve read a dozen such novels, that Orthodox Jews really are that way.

Mirvis writes, “Shalit espouses an approach to literature in which the message matters most of all.” This is untrue. Shalit never said anything of the sort.

What she said was that she is tired of seeing Orthodox Jews routinely portrayed in the worst possible light by writers who claim to be dishing out the real inside scoop. People do form their impression of what goes on in Orthodox societies from these novels.

It is quite disingenuous of Mirvis to write, as she does, “At stake here is the question of who owns the imaginative rights to a way of life. …even if all of them have the exact same experience as Shalit, might not fiction still seek to imagine a different scenario?”

I’d like to see Mirvis put a disclaimer on the cover of every one of her books, something like, “This book is a fictional representation of Orthodox life and is totally a product of my imagination. Any resemblance to actual Orthodoxy is coincidental and entirely unintended.”

But she knows very well that such a disclaimer would greatly diminish her readers’ interest in her books. They think the dirt she dishes is real, and that’s what they find titillating. They don’t understand that it has no basis in reality. That was Shalit’s only point, and it is what Mirvis refuses to address.


Meet The De-Frockers
Gary Rosenblatt - Editor and Publisher

I started out intending to write about the recent flap, set off by an essay in The New York Times Book Review, over how Orthodox Jews are depicted in fiction. But then the other night, in the interest of further cultural research, I went to see “Meet The Fockers,” the crude comedy that has become a box-office wonder, celebrating the differences between liberal and conservative cultures, uptight macho men and open, sensitive Mr. Moms, and mostly, cold WASPs and warm Jews.

Ah, what I wouldn’t do for you, dear reader, suffering through the increasingly inane hijinks highlighted by a dog being flushed down the toilet by a cat, the protagonists being arrested after enduring an attack from a sadistic highway patrolman’s stun gun and a baby uttering a mild obscenity as his first word(s).

Should I have expected sophisticated comedy from a film whose title epitomizes the level of humor here?

In any event, let me get a few things off my chest about the movie and then come back to the weightier literary issue, since they both deal with how Jews are portrayed in our culture, and how we feel about that.

The “Fockers” plot hinges on the first meeting between the Ben Stiller character’s aging-hippy, earthy and very Jewish parents, played by Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand, and Stiller’s gentile fiancée’s tightly wound, former CIA operative father, played by Robert DeNiro, who is prone to injecting his daughter’s dates with truth serum. Blythe Danner plays DeNiro’s wife, but her character is as pleasant, bland and secondary as that of their daughter, the soon-to-be bride.

Naturally, the family get-together is a disaster, mostly because the parents have such different views about child rearing, self-revelation and morality. Only the DeNiro character is upset to learn that his daughter is already pregnant, and he is seen as a hopeless prude.

I couldn’t helping laughing at times, especially the scenes where Hoffman and Streisand are front and center, but I also couldn’t help feeling saddened at the trivialization of Jewish values on screen, most notably by Streisand muttering little Yiddishisms, and by an interfaith marriage, performed by a clergyman wearing both a yarmulke and a priest’s white collar, as the celebratory culmination of the film.

This trifling of Jewish substance is nothing new, of course, but we’ve grown so accepting about how Jews are portrayed in contemporary culture — in film, on television and in literature — that we don’t even recognize, or care about, the insult, especially when it’s brought on us by Jewish writers, directors and producers.

When Bernie loved Bridget on TV in the early ‘70s there were sermons and protests, which led, after only one season, to the cancellation of the popular sitcom about a Jewish guy married to an Irish Catholic lass. But we’re so far past being upset now, it seems like ancient history.

I don’t want to belabor the lessons of entertainment as frothy as “Meet The Fockers,” but the film is being seen by millions of people, and just because the comedy is low doesn’t mean the stakes aren’t high.

Which brings us to writer Wendy Shalit’s complaint, in an essay entitled “An Observant Reader” (New York Times Book Review, Jan. 30), that “authors who have renounced Orthodox Judaism — or those who were never really exposed to it to begin with — have often portrayed deeply observant Jews in an unflattering or ridiculous light.”

Not surprisingly, by throwing down the gauntlet about insiders and outsiders, who has the right to depict observant characters, and how they should be portrayed, Shalit set off a debate among the fiction writers she criticized, and many others.

I give credit to Shalit for exploring the topic. Five years ago she wrote a non-fiction book calling for a return to modesty, and she again shows her willingness to challenge strongly held norms. But her implication that writers have an obligation to describe Orthodox life in positive terms blurs the distinctions between fiction and sociology, and sounds more motivated by public relations than probing the creative process.

No wonder Tova Mirvis, the author of two popular novels about Orthodox life, was upset with Shalit’s suggestion that her writing gives credence to beliefs that “the ultra-Orthodox are crooked and hypocritical.” And Mirvis, a life-long observant Jew, took issue as well with historian and sociologist Jerome Chanes’ comment, in a Jewish Week article (“The Novel As ‘Tzitzit Check,’” Feb. 4), that some of the writers Shalit criticizes “are not as conversant with Jewish experiences as they represent themselves to be.”

Having been described falsely as the “cheeseburger-eating editor” of The Jewish Week in the pages of a major Orthodox weekly, I know what it feels like to be marginalized, based on religious observance (or alleged lack thereof) rather than substantive argument.

Part of the problem, I suspect, is that Shalit, in her own religious development, went from being a largely uninvolved Reform Jew to a fervently Orthodox baalat teshuvah, skipping a big chunk of modern and central Orthodox life along the way, which makes her — to use her terms — an outsider even when she thinks she’s an insider.

What strikes me, whether exploring Hollywood films or contemporary fiction, is that we will always be self-conscious about how we are portrayed to society at large, regardless of who’s doing the portraying. More than four decades ago, Philip Roth became the Bad Boy of Jewish American Fiction for describing the shallowness of suburban Jewish life. Only with his most recent novel, “The Plot Against America,” a powerful look at how anti-Semitism could take hold even in America, has he, all these years later, found a bit of favor among those who were less focused on his literary reputation and awards than his often critical take of Jewish families and culture.

So there’s always hope in redemption. And what theme could resonate more strongly with Jews than that?


At 12:00 PM, Blogger yeshivaguy said...

"You're making the same arguments as Shalit. I critize a hand full of people and suddenly you see it as an attack on Orthodox Judaism."

I don't think you bothered to read what I wrote. Either that or you've got a problem with reading comprehension.

At 12:06 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

If anyone doubts my interpretation of Wendy Shalit intentions, look at the city she lives in and see how those involved in promoting Jewish literature/other authors have treated (both actively and through their silence) author Carol Matas at book fairs as a result of her book Primrose Path.

Ask yourselves why.

At 12:09 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>I don't think you bothered to
>read what I wrote. Either that
>or you've got a problem with
>reading comprehension.

I have and I don't. Your words are clear.

>or you feel that it's okay to
>tar the entire community with
>one brush because of a few bad

At 1:25 PM, Blogger SholomBare said...

Let me say this, not that it matters very much but this is best thing that can happen to Wendy & Tova. Maybe now their books will be read by those outside of the frum world. They are great writers and deserve more (money that is). I was sitting near a guy and his wife at a shul function who in a game of Jewish Geography mentioned that he was raised in Memphis. Having read both of Tovas' books and mentioned her name and he replied that she used to babysit for them and that "The Ladies Auxilary" was a bit to accurate for the oilem in Memphis. BTW I could put either book down, till I was done of course

At 1:40 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>this is best thing that can
>happen to Wendy & Tova. Maybe
>now their books will be read by
>those outside of the frum world.

I guess this is one reader's justification for mozi shem rah and lashon harah in knocking other authors.

At 1:53 PM, Blogger yeshivaguy said...

"If anyone doubts my interpretation of Wendy Shalit intentions, look at the city she lives in and see how those involved in promoting Jewish literature/other authors have treated (both actively and through their silence) author Carol Matas at book fairs as a result of her book Primrose Path.
Ask yourselves why."

My gosh! It's an obvious conspiracy. How could we all have missed this?

JWB, you've done it again!

At 1:54 PM, Blogger yeshivaguy said...

"Maybe now their books will be read by those outside of the frum world."

Shalit has written only one book. It was aimed at and read primarily by a secular audience.

At 2:03 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>My gosh! It's an obvious
>conspiracy. How could we all
>have missed this?

It's an attitude/a trend.

It's what enables child molesters like Rabbis Baruch Lanner and Ephraim Bryks to thrive in the Orthodox community for decades.

At 2:18 PM, Blogger yeshivaguy said...

I see. Shalit is responsible for Lanner and Bryks. Of course! It all fits together.

At 2:31 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

No. But her attitude is a dangerous arrogant one and part of the larger problem which makes our community more vulnerable to issues we hide under the carpet.

Unless YeshivaGuy has a better explanation how these child molesters thrived for so long in our Orthodox Jewish community? I'd love to hear his thoughts, if he has any.

It also appears to me you haven't bothered reading most of this thread.

At 2:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JWB, there is something deeply disturbing and warped about your obsessive behavior.
Just do you have time to do nothing but sit at your computer digging up dirt and hurling bizarre accusations? Do you not work for a living?

At 3:05 PM, Blogger yeshivaguy said...

"Unless YeshivaGuy has a better explanation how these child molesters thrived for so long in our Orthodox Jewish community?"

What better explanation can there be? It's all Wendy Shalit's fault. It's so obvious!

At 3:27 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

To summarize:
Anonymous attacks me personally.
Yeshivaguy doesn't post anything intelligent.

At 3:34 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>JWB, there is something deeply
>disturbing and warped about your
>obsessive behavior.

No. You're projecting.

>Just do you have
>time to do nothing but sit at
>your computer

Wrong. You're projecting.

>digging up dirt

Information. This involves dealing with contacts and getting information. Accurate and interesting information. Not "dirt" at all.

>and hurling bizarre accusations?

Not bizarre at all. You're projecting.

>Do you not work for a living?

Of course I do. Thanks for your concern.

>What better explanation can
>there be? It's all Wendy
>Shalit's fault. It's so obvious!

Try actually reading the thread. Her (and others like her) attitude is part of a larger more complicated problem.

At 3:41 PM, Blogger yeshivaguy said...

"Her (and others like her) attitude is part of a larger more complicated problem."

To a conspiracy theorist, everything looks like a conspiracy.

At 3:42 PM, Blogger yeshivaguy said...

"Yeshivaguy doesn't post anything intelligent."

That's because I'm agreeing with everything you said.

At 4:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On 2/2205 in the Kent County Rhode Island Courthouse an "orthodox" clergy (who taught at a conservative temple) will be brought in for a violation of his probation for the 2nd time since he received a 10 year suspended sentence for diddling bar mitzvah boys a few years ago. He told them he was "giving instruction in religious practices in order to be a man". see run "rosenfeld", also see the awareness center website, the providence journal, and rick cross's site. A new story should run in wed's providence journal following the hearing

At 4:03 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

I don't believe in conspiracies. They require too many intellectual shortcuts.

At 4:17 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>Stanley Rosenfeld

I heard his criminal file became active in January. Will be posting more as soon as I get documentaion. Feel free to post anything about this in a comment thread.

At 4:43 PM, Blogger yeshivaguy said...

"I don't believe in conspiracies. They require too many intellectual shortcuts."

But you wrote this:

"If anyone doubts my interpretation of Wendy Shalit intentions, look at the city she lives in and see how those involved in promoting Jewish literature/other authors have treated (both actively and through their silence) author Carol Matas at book fairs as a result of her book Primrose Path.
Ask yourselves why."

See, Wendy lives in the same city in which someone else involved in promoting books ignored Carol Matas, and did so (obviously!) because of her book Primrose Path, which discusses a rabbi who's a pedophile. That's obviously Wendy's fault, see, and it's because she supports the community effort (what do you mean, what effort?) to cover up for sexual offenders. It all fits, with nary an intellectual shortcut.

At 4:53 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

As usual you've got it wrong.

>See, Wendy lives in the same
>city in which someone else
>involved in promoting books
>ignored Carol Matas, and did so
>(obviously!) because of her book
>Primrose Path, which discusses a
>rabbi who's a pedophile. That's
>obviously Wendy's fault, see,
>and it's because she supports
>the community effort (what do
>you mean, what effort?) to cover
>up for sexual offenders. It all
>fits, with nary an intellectual

No, it's just an attitude that is prevalent among some involved with Jewish literature and particularly in Shalit's current Orthodox community.

At 5:14 PM, Blogger yeshivaguy said...

"it's just an attitude that is prevalent among some involved with Jewish literature and particularly in Shalit's current Orthodox community."

Those involved in promoting Jewish literature in Toronto are members of Shalit's current Orthodox community? That would come as news to both parties, I'll bet.

At 5:21 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Shalit lives in Toronto, so as usual I think you've missed reading most of the thread.

I've yet to see you post anything interesting.

Keep it up.

At 5:34 PM, Blogger yeshivaguy said...

Yes, I know she lives in Toronto, but what I asked was:

Those involved in promoting Jewish literature in Toronto are members of Shalit's current Orthodox community? I doubt they're even Orthodox, let alone of the strand to which she belongs.

At 5:59 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Do you have a point? Some relevent information? Anything interesting? Please post.

At 6:12 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Feel free yeshivaguy to call and ask them how many Orthodox Jews are associated with them.

Jewish Book Fair, Toronto, Info: 636-1880 ext. 368.

At 6:40 PM, Blogger yeshivaguy said...

You're kinda slow, but I'll make the point one more time. It is that all this kerfluffle in which you mix together Shalit's opinion of Jewish fiction with supposed conspiracies to protect sexual offenders and ignore those who expose them is nutty.

At 6:47 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Not even close to what I wrote.

At 7:07 PM, Blogger yeshivaguy said...

Actually, it's precisely what you wrote, but I'll leave it to other readers to decide for themselves.

At 8:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another reader here. Jewish Whistleblower IS nutty. All of Yeshivaguy's points are logical and coherent, while all of JW's points are just plain wacky.
Most people gave up trying to knock sense into JW long ago because it's obviously a futile battle. Better to sit back and laugh at the endless obsessiveness, mean-spiritedness and lack of common sense by someone who's obviously traumatized and disturbed. It's a sad but ultimately entertaining show, kind of like stopping to look at a bad accident.

At 8:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another reader here. Jewish Whistleblower IS nutty. All of Yeshivaguy's points are logical and coherent, while all of JW's points are just plain wacky.
Most people gave up trying to knock sense into JW long ago because it's obviously a futile battle. Better to sit back and laugh at the endless obsessiveness, mean-spiritedness and lack of common sense by someone who's clearly traumatized and disturbed (and makes a great pair with equally disturbed porn guy Luke Ford). It's a sad but ultimately entertaining show, kind of like stopping to look at a bad accident.

At 8:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most people gave up trying to knock sense into JW long ago because it's obviously a futile battle. Better to sit back and laugh at the endless obsessiveness,--------do you mean close attention to detail? more writers should utilize this.

mean-spiritedness--------actually, he/she displays a good deal of restraint when expressing outrage over what's going on.

and lack of common sense--------his/her writings are concise and concrete; however you are correct in that it does take an uncommon sense to even take on and tackle these issues, which so many would prefer to be kept covered up.

by someone who's clearly traumatized and disturbed (and makes a great pair with equally disturbed porn guy Luke Ford). It's a sad but ultimately entertaining show, kind of like stopping to look at a bad accident.---------pot calling kettle black, Yoran, and time to come up with a new set of insults. you wore these out last fall on Protocols.

At 3:39 AM, Blogger Rowan Berkeley said...

Just a couple of comments based in political realpolitik land:
(1) the liberal establishment has a long-term interest in presenting traditional religious communities as, not just incidentally, but inherently, depraved and hypocritical. This has been going on since the sixteenth or seventeenth century of the common era. It goes in waves, though, as other interests bandwagon upon it for other reasons, as in the catholic-priest-pedophilia exposures of the last decade or so in the USA.
(2) On the other hand, spokespeople for faith communities will get away with whatever they think they can get away with, in the way of accusing their accusers of being "haters" (an extremely powerful counter-accusation in a largely liberal world). If in addition they can impute to their accusers racial motives (i.e. anti-semitism or "self-hatred" as the case may be) then they have an even stronger offensive under way. However, one can always point out that ad hominem arguments do not address the substance of the original accusations - the fact that some accuser spends his time pursuing debaucheries of his own (if indeed he does) has no direct bearing on the substance of his accusations, unless it can be proved (not just alleged) that he is fabricating them (the fact that he may choose to make them public out of a spirit of revenge in itself does not prove fabrication).


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