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From the ardently religious young woman who longs for the life of a male scholar to the young rebel who visits a strip club, smokes pot, and agonizes over her loss of faith to the proud Lubavitcher with a desire for a high-powered career, Stephanie Wellen Levine provides a rare glimpse into the inner worlds and daily lives of these Hasidic girls.
Lubavitcher Hasidim are famous for their efforts to inspire secular Jews to become more observant and for their messianic fervor. Strict followers of Orthodox Judaism, they maintain sharp gender-role distinctions.
Levine spent a year living in the Lubavitch community of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, participating in the rhythms of Hasidic girlhood. Drawing on many intimate hours among Hasidim and over 30 in-depth interviews, Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakers offers rich portraits of individual Hasidic young women and how they deal with the conflicts between the regimented society in which they live and the pull of mainstream American life.
Perhaps counterintuitively for those who envision meek, religious girls confined within very structured roles, Levine finds that on the whole, these young Hasidic women seem more confident and have a greater sense of self than many of their mainstream peers. Levine explores why this might be the case, and what we can learn from their example for girls' positive development more generally. Along the way, she provides a fascinating portrayal of day-to-day life in the Lubavitch community.
This superbly crafted book offers intimate stories from Hasidic teenagers' lives, providing an intriguing twist to a universal theme: the struggle to grow up and define who we are within the context of culture, family, and life-driving beliefs.
|Introduction: What I Sought, What I Found||1|
|1||The Community: A Cultural and Psychological Tour||27|
|3||Esther (Estie) Gutman: Wild Times and Holy Designs||73|
|4||Rochel Lehrer: Evolving, Not Rebelling||87|
|5||Nechama Dina (Dini) Rockoff: Chutzpah and Holiness||107|
|6||Chaya Jacobson: Strip Clubs and Soul-Searching||124|
|7||Gittel Kassin: Medicine and Marriage||139|
|8||Malka (Malkie) Belfer: Miniskirts and the Messiah||158|
|9||Leah Ratner: Mystic and Maverick||175|
|10||Into the Future: Adulthood and Insights from the Hasidim||191|
|About the Author||255|
Posted December 12, 2003
MYSTICS, MAVERICKS,AND MERRYMAKERS is an incredible read. Who would have thought that Hasidic girls would be so diverse, or that one writer could capture each one of these teenagers¿ spirits with such depth? I¿m still thinking about the young women: the charismatic but hard to control kid with passionate faith, the brilliant nonconformist who flirts with suicide, the intense nerd who is so religious her peers have trouble understanding her, and so many others. This book is a masterpiece of creative empathy¿it¿s incredible how well the author communes with each girl¿s hopes and struggles. Levine¿s writing is exquisite. I still have lovely phrases of hers etched in my mind. I can¿t remember when I last read a book that taught me so much in such beautiful language. The conclusion¿s ideas about how readers could learn from the Hasidic community as they try to negotiate their own lives are fascinating¿this book really has wide relevance beyond Hasidic borders. Levine¿s analysis at the end of what it all means will blow you away. Levine is a wonderful storyteller; I got engrossed in these girls¿ lives. It was incredible to see how different they were from most Americans, with their strict laws and intriguing rituals, and yet how well I could relate to their struggles, thoughts, and triumphs. When I say this book is fabulous, I mean it as a sincere and honest critic. I can¿t recommend Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakers highly enough.
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