Op Ed: An Unorthodox View Goebbels Would Salivate Over


rabbi-issamar-ginzbergBy Rabbi Issamar Ginzberg

Who would have guessed that Anti-Semitism could lurk in the allegedly autobiographical words of a young Jewish woman? But they have, in the memoir of Deborah Feldman and the stories she tells about growing up Satmar.

I don’t think that Feldman meant to create this monster, yet the intentions, for good or bad, cannot stop the destruction this creation is causing. Many in our community say we should let it slide, to ignore it because it will go away in a few weeks and is not worth giving a platform to. I vehemently disagree. I think if we don’t address this lie we are no better than Ms. Feldman because we allow a lie to spread.

If we allow a New York Times bestseller filled with half-truths, untruths and outright lies to be the uncontested representation of the truth of our lifestyle and a butchery of Halacha, we are doing ourselves a disservice of the highest proportion. The wicked Joseph Goebbels, The Nazi minister of propaganda, used to repeat Hitler’s “Big Lie,” which paraphrased over time simply says, “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.”

While we ignore Uncensored, and encourage those in our community to ignore it, and say, “Why don’t you let it slide into oblivion?” the big lie is repeated and repeated and repeated. Yes. Obviously even negative PR plays into the hands of such a book, because any controversy is good for book sales. But by not contesting the truth and speaking out, a larger evil grows-that of the “Big Lie.”

As of today “Unorthodox” is a New York Times best seller, and I’m not surprised. It’s a book about us, about religious Jews, with our Yarmulkes and traditional dress, our religiously protective and seemingly mysterious lifestyle. We do seem somewhat mysterious to the general population. Because they don’t know the truth, they depend on whatever crumbs of information comes their way. Many of those reading this book already think we are all extremely wealthy. They whisper all kinds of rumors about how we conduct our personal lives, what we believe, how we live-all based on the stories of a young girl who admits she hated, refused and resented everything about her faith, her people and her community. To look for her to deliver a fair and balanced perspective of Orthodox Judaism is to expect an atheist to describe Christianity.

This is not like “kosher yoshke” or another book that we might not like but which doesn’t directly impact you and I. This is a direct attack on who we are, on the Torah, and on all that we hold dear.

I do not doubt that Ms. Feldman grew up in a tremendously difficult environment. I do not contest the fact that her decisions and her perceptions in life are hers to make. We must all live with the consequences of our decisions and now it is time for her to understand how her actions have affected all Jews.

I am not attacking Ms. Feldman. I am championing truth. Look around and see how you and your family’s beautiful and kosher lifestyle are being put into the average American’s consciousness in the most degrading way. If left unchecked, that image of you will change the way practically every non-Jew you come across will perceive you. Is that what you want?

I don’t know how I ended up being the person to write this; I’m no great scholar. But someone has to step up to the plate-to take a stand. This is not the time to be reticent.

It was during the lifetime of many of us, or our parents that the first sparks of hatred against Judaism flickered in the darkness-fanned by perceptions, rumors and gossip that the Jews were a super evil and backward cult, both in Europe and in the United States. The coals of the fires of Anti-Semitism have been banked since WWII, but they have never been extinguished. Those who fanned the flames of hatred against the Jews half a century ago, can quickly fan the flames again, intentionally or not.

There are enough well written pieces and reviews about the book and how its author wrote a compelling work of fiction that we should be worried. Uncensored gives a platform to those who envision orthodox Jews with the same paintbrush that allowed the perception of Jews as evil and subhuman “untermentchen”. Last time this happened, Hitler herded into the camps and the ovens in Germany and Poland. I am not over reacting.

All mighty oaks grow from small acorns. A liberal media, and a world of readers hungry for criticism of orthodox Jews are watering the acorn this young woman has planted. The well-written and positive reviews of this book are fertilizing an idea, a perception, a fear and a hatred of Jews among nations who do not know us.

This is WHY we need to not bury our heads in the sand and wait for this to just go away. We need to come out and forcefully say, “This is not us at all.” It would be even better if Simon and Schuster sees the hullabaloo and call her bluff.  If publishers could see that this book is her fictionalized anthology of every camp story she ever heard, along with some salt and pepper added for taste and shock value, perhaps they could see that she is destroying their credibility. The public trusts publishing houses to print the truth as truth and fiction as fiction.

If you and I don’t respond by saying (pick yours) “I’m not Satmar, I’m not Chassidic. I’m not Charedi. I’m not Jewish, this doesn’t talk about ME!” then let me assure you, the only mark you are making is a mark in the sand that will get washed away the next time the tide comes in.

Anti-Semitism is on the rise. The economy is bad. When people don’t have money to spread around they are forced to face the reality of their situation. They create realities for themselves based on the lies of others and of their own fears.

This book has been prepared for publication for a while. Like popcorn, these types of stories and books used to pop once in awhile, and then be forgotten about and become silent. In today’s political and economic climate, the popping is not going away.

The sounds of Anti-Semitic stories are being heard more often. The outside world is interested in these stories, and not in a positive way, but in a way they can use to justify hatred, discrimination and attacks upon our faith. With the rise of blogs in which many unhappy (or happy but bored) individuals can share their thoughts, most bloggers understand that unless they post something unusual and attention grabbing, like Ms. Feldman, their aspirations of fame will remain unmet.

They therefore blog, making sure to take a grain of truth (if that) and fabricate an entire story out of it. They then say, with a total straight face, that their fabrication is true, whether it is or not.

When these blogs do take off, the blogger is under increasing pressure to create even more content with even greater shock value. It is the shock value that keeps the readers reading, the media reporting and the comment cravings satisfied. It’s how the “Big Lie” gets spread. Say it often enough, say it in enough places, have people who are seen as credible and responsible say it on enough blogs, or on the news and have it go uncontested and pretty soon, it becomes truth to those who don’t seek the truth.

I for one, want to be seen and respected for my choices in life. How about you?

Rabbi Issamar Ginzberg is an award winning entrepreneur, business adviser, and public speaker. Often quoted in the news for his business expertise, Issamar advises businesses across the world on marketing and business strategy. A scion of multiple Chassidic dynasties and descending from a long line of rabbis, Rabbi Ginzberg straddles the fence of being a member of the insulated Chassidic world and being a public face of a Chassid in the business world. A frequent speaker, Rabbi Issamar has presented at Google, ITA, Kishor, Ohr Somayach, and other locations around the world to audiences of all stripes. He has been featured in Entrepreneur, Fox Business, CNBC, Israel’s Channel One, Mishpacha Magazine, and hundreds of other media publications- all while studying mornings in a Yeshiva and helping to run a Chassidic  family. He can be reached at Issamar@issamar.com or via his website at http://www.issamar.com


  1. “The wicked Joseph Goebbels, The Nazi minister of propaganda, used to repeat Hitler’s “Big Lie,” which paraphrased over time simply says, “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.””

    Godwin’s law. Discussion over.

  2. While I believe the existence of a Kosher club Fed or other clearly illegal behavior may do more fuel hate against Jews. Ms. Feldman’s book cannot be ignored either. Ms. Feldman’s book serves as a basis to delegitimize religion generally and Judaism specifically. It is disturbing that no one in the general community has questioned her veracity as it seems she is acting more out of anger than in search of truth and fulfillment. It only goes to show how desperately the secular society wishes to undermine religion and assert there is no real piety without perversion or holiness without hypocrisy.
    What they told before field trips in elementary school is true be on your best behavior everyone is watching to see how Jews behave.

  3. One week ago today Matzav reported that Rav Moshe Wolfson, shlit”a, spoke of the fact that we are living in the “momentous times” of chevlei Moshiach — an eis tzarah — when, tragically, too many Yidden are busy with “narishkeiten” instead of responding to the alarm. How should we respond to the alarm? According to Rav Wolfson, by preparing ourselves TODAY for the final Geula.

    While the thrust of the Rav’s comments was about the crisis in Iran, he did mention that throughout the world “Yidden will be thrown into turmoil. Hashem will then say: ‘Do not fear, the time for your Geulah has come… efsher takeh, we must prepare for the Geulah.”

    Of course, the Geulah is synonymous with leaving galus and returning to Eretz Yisrael. So…if EVERYTHING that happens is a part of Hashem’s plan, then Ms. Feldman’s screed against Yidden — throwing us deeper into turmoil by fanning the flames of anti-Semitism here in America — may very well be a part of Hashem’s message that, indeed, it is time to leave these increasingly inhospitable shores and return home to our Eretz HaKodesh.

  4. For once someone expressing what it should be said!
    There are lots of internal enemies of Judaism that is not new.

    My worry is where are the eternal voice of Yaakov!

    We are a people with 4000 years of experience in dealing with this world… why are we afraid to speak up?
    All Falsehood dies as soon as Judaism steps in!
    speak up Jewish people!








  6. Is there a way we can all e-mail Simon and Schuster and let them know what we think? If anyone has any info, please post. I agree with the author of this article and would love to contact the publisher with my feelings of disgust.

  7. Said perfectly. Kudos to Rabbi Ginzberg. The most dangerous factor here, as Rabbi Ginzberg so accurately points out, is that nasty lies become comfortable truths very quickly. Think about all our kids who will jump up and down after reading Ms. Feldman’s book, and say: “You see! I told you this stuff goes on all the time!”

  8. The meaningful way, to stop anti-semitism, is to hope to the Reboinu Shel Oilum, never to instigate any hatred into the Umos, against us.

    We must show HKB”H, that we will start teaching ourselves and our children, to care for, and have sincere compassion to any person Yid or Non-Yid, old and young.
    We will be mispallel and worry about any Human Being Yid or Non-Yid.

  9. Thank you for speaking out!
    Her story is a tragedy and her book is so obviously written with bitterness and personal pain- which is why it can appeal to so many people out there. It really makes ALL orthodox look backwards and is very demeaning.
    There is tremendous beauty with ALL we do as Orthodox Jews and we have to (more than ever) live a life of Kiddush Hashem. Our actions can speak louder than her words!

  10. This book will be a slow seller as even the antisemites really do not want to know what is what in Judaism. The fact is that probably a lot of lonely people will buy it up and in reality, the facts are that if there is any truth in what she wrote, we must find a way to fix the troubles within our communities. If that is not the case, her book will single itself out as obscure and eventually be considered by the scholars as asinine and uneducated.
    So either way, give it this: Hashem has let this book be published and it will be considered a farce if all is untrue. Remember the guy who wrote that memoir on drug abuse on Oprah? That book is a crime today.

  11. I hope that we are living in better times then what the Author feels however I agree 100% this book was able to be ignored at first but NOT NOW

  12. Issamar,
    While I hear your point, I clearly see why we must pass this whole topic under the rug.
    Upon reading your article, I spent the past half hour researching this woman. She is a pure liberal and a feminist. No frum person should read or hear the things she says (even if it weren’t full of lies or lashon hara) and there’s no way to effectively combat her without doing so.

  13. Great article as to why we need to present The Truth.
    Now where is The Truth to contest all the part truths, untruths and lies that were presented in the book?
    While I had heard of this book, I think I’ll now go out & buy it!

  14. Excellent, our biggest problem is our PR which is non-existent.At the last big symposium with the Spinker Rebbe and attorney Ben Brafman, one of Me Brafman main points, was our PR or the lack of it. We have to show the world how beautiful a religious life style is. Check out You Tube Oprah Winfry went to visit a Chasidic family, worth watching.

  15. Hey Beethoven’s Friend, this “slow seller” of a book is #49 (out of 12 million books) on Amazon, and #2 in Biographies and Memoirs,

  16. The book is so full of lies and distortions that it is not worthwhile trying to discuss it with her. She would enjoy the PR that any attack on her book would generate. She is all about self promotion

  17. #23 BeMechilas Kvodo watching Oprah will not change pubic sentiment . Although it will make people think that we blow shofar for kick & play mitzvah match all day. For tzenius reasons we cannot make a full court press We can only be mechazek ourselves & daven that the lies & filth that we have be exposed to do not become part of our moral fiber.
    We have to teach our children & love them . We don`t have to teach the world.

  18. If this stupid woman meant no harm, why write a book demeaning Jewish/chassidish religious life, in her own warped view, where thousands or more will read it? Somewhere, it seems she lost her soul, otherwise, she would know that slander is an ugly word and ugly deed. Of course, the NYTimes and other wonderful Jew hating media outlets delight in exposing anything that would be detrimental to Torah and Jews. Kudos to Rabbi Ginzberg for exposing the truth!

  19. while i agree with the sentiment of this post, I really dont see the connection to Goebbels. why o why must we bring up the nazi analogy to anything we don’t like. Can we please just agree from now on to only refer to nazis/ holocaust when we are in fact talking about the nazis or the holocaust?

  20. For every negative story they come up with we can come up with thousands positive ones.

    I’m a talmid from Satmar and know of their infinite chasodim.

  21. Comment to 25 Aryeh,
    Think of it this way, if someone is interested in reading a book like this and they continue to have some questions and interests, it will serve the jewish community good in that there will be more people interested in our ways and our lifestyle. Just a thought.
    As I mentioned above. so too was that James Frey book a national best seller before it was declared a fraud. The aftermath I believe is that is it not a best seller any longer. And it was involved in lawsuits as well as a disgracement by being dropped by his literary agent.
    The jewish community if they may might have a lawsuit agaisn’t the writer of this book perhaps and that is a consideration.
    If there is a truthful account, and it is disturbing, we must ask if we are doing things that are being accurately depicted in these pages. I am not one to plan to read her or study to learn what the ‘disease’ is that she suggests, but truly when I see some of the fanaticism in the ultra jewish communities, and see people like the Naturei Karta as well as Beit Shemesh on the news, it is blatently clear that there are infractions of even Jewish Law in some of our “hands off- not a ‘unorthodox’ ” community.
    Let us realize that Hashem works in many ways.
    In reality there are many books that threaten the jewish way of life.
    I would suggest to you that the New Testament is a bigger concern to young jewish souls than one that may suggest that they make it in the general community by ascertaining their own world and community.

  22. This book is written by a woman with a small capacity to demonstrate good will and customs for any human interaction. I read the sample of the book from kindle. I was quickly aggravated by her account of her father and the respect she did not show in introducing a very sensitive subject of his mental health. I was also surprised she was so egregiously arrogant to make constant references to her family’s prosperity in terms of a very superficial sleazy way of life.
    I was again sleazed out when I read her account of the way that the “waiter made eye contact” with her upon singing her happy birthday and felt that this degraded the soul to read such a breif wanton way of regarding human interaction.

    I could of course, if there is so much hype read further and provide more detailed insight if anyone may find this interesting. I will likely blog some of this information in the future.

  23. I am so far markedly unimpressed with her way of expression and her own noticable poverty for realism and social reality. I am thinking that this book is likely a very poor version of a smut, it is anti-orthodox smut.