Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Deborah Feldman's "Exodus"

Deborah Feldman was born and raised in the Hasidic community of Satmar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

She is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots (2012) and Exodus (2014), a memoir of post-religious alienation and identity.

Feldman applied the “Page 99 Test” to Exodus and reported the following:
On page 99, a cafe owner in Stockholm asks me "Are you Jewish?" which is certainly the question that sums up the entire book, that is "Am I still Jewish, and if so in what way, exactly?"

On page 99, what is happening to me is I'm spending some time in Europe and Scandinavia researching the journey my grandmother was on before she joined the Satmar sect in 1950, and everywhere I go I end up being asked this question, Am I Jewish?, because of my appearance. I learn that in Europe, a Jew is an abstract concept, or at least an exotic one. And I am left to wonder if it is my nose that makes me Jewish, and whether or not I actually have a choice in the matter anyway. What I learn in Exodus is that I can't be un-Jewed, no matter how much of my past I abandon, and no matter how many Jews themselves reject me. And it's a question of becoming comfortable with that, I suppose.
Visit Deborah Feldman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue