Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An anecdote on the road to Decline

Schmarya posted this story about Chassidic Jews run amok at Craig's List. The writer is obviously secular, and claims that the men are "not happy with their marriages," obviously not understanding about the shidduch process. First, the article.

CBS: Secret Lives Of Hasidic Jews
Hasidic swingers have finally…
…made it out of Craig's List and onto the television screen.

Not Happy With Their Marriages, Some Hasidic Men And Women Engage In Extramarital Affairs Via The Internet

CBS 2 HD Goes Deep Inside A Rigid And Sheltered World Few See

On the Internet there are postings in chat rooms and on craigslist. One posting advertises a husband and wife, who describe themselves as "frum" or observant. They claim to be from Flatbush and want another Orthodox Jewish woman to join them for sex.

"I know of swingers in the ultra orthodox community, which shocked me to hear it … just the way it would shock anybody else," said "Yossi" of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Yossi said he knows adultery is taking place because he said he had affairs with several Hasidic women.

YOSSI:

The 36-year-old was raised strictly Hasidic and was in his teens when a bride was chosen for him.

"I met my wife for just very brief period and then months later we got married and we hadn't seen each other. I never felt committed to her in any way," Yossi said.

He was not physically attracted to my wife, "But given the culture I was raised in I did not think it an appropriate response to say I don't want this marriage arrangement because I do not like the way she looks. I did not think that would be an acceptable thing to say."

He said he only had a vague idea what sex was until his wedding night.

"I didn't know what sex was until the day I got married. There is someone who teaches you the specifics. They teach you the basic function of sex, the nuts and bolts, what goes where," Yossi said.

As the years went on Yossi said he felt trapped with a woman he did not love, with five children and a job he hated. He went on the Internet, looking for answers and for people who felt as alone as he did.

"There are a lot of places on the Internet where people meet up … in discussion forums where people have common interests. You get to know another person and sometimes it evolves into a sexual relationship," Yossi said.

He said he found unhappily married Hasidic women willing to have sex with him.

"It was with people I met online. Women in the Hasidic community that I met online and I had a number of fairly serious relationships ... while married."

He said things spiraled out of control when he fell in love, for the first time in his life, with a married woman whom he continues to have an affair with. He divorced his wife, which he said left him a ruined man in the eyes of his family and community.

"It is devastating to her, to our entire extended family and it was especially devastating because people know I've become non-religious. I've left the lifestyle," Yossi said.

He hoped the married woman he loved would leave her husband and the Hasidic world but she did not. Yossi regularly visits his children, who remain in the Hasidic world. He calls their lives "pure" and wants them to stay there and be raised just the way he was.

"It is the only life they know and I don't know that they could handle any other life," Yossi said.

LEAH:

Leah was a bride at 17. It was an arranged marriage that, at the time, she did not question. Her Hasidic community was so religious and rigid she did not dare ask to wear a wig over her bald head instead of a tichel, or headscarf. Refusing her chosen mate was not an option. She said her wedding night was miserable.

"I ended up with someone I had no idea who he was and I end up in bed with him," Leah said.

She had two children in the first two years of the marriage. She was unhappy and felt she couldn't talk to anyone. She sneaked out of the house and found computers hooked up to the Internet in coffee houses. In secret she reached out to others online, hungry for information. Later, that hunger included the desire for a satisfying sexual experience with someone other than her husband.

"Getting attention from other people was just for me an escape. I really didn't know what love was," Leah said.

While in her 20s she decided she could no longer live what she called "a lie" and she divorced her husband. She said her family is angry and she is in a legal fight with her husband for custody of their children. She abandoned the Hasidic style of dress, but continues to wear conservative, modest looking clothes. The transition to life in the secular world remains difficult.

"I had no idea what it was to even write a check, " she said.

REACTION:

Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a professor at Yeshiva University, told CBS 2 HD: "You're dealing with a real oddity, a rarity." But he added, "I believe (cheating) is more of a problem than it has been."

Access to the Internet is a factor, as is what he calls the "autonomy of modern life." While many in the Hasidic world deny this problem exists, Tendler and others said facing it could help the community solve the psychological fallout that can go hand in hand with arranged marriages, the separation of boys and girls and the influences of an outside world that threaten unwanted changes.

"This is where the community is particularly guilty," Tendler said. "They do not take care of psychiatric problems. They hide from them because it will impact on the ability of the other children to find mates."

Tendler said the reaction of Hasidim to temptations and threats from the outside is to clamp down more.

"It has been for the last 20 years a clearly discernible trend of further isolating from the outside world," Tendler said. "Opportunities for young people to meet each other have become very restrictive. How does a boy meet a girl? How does anyone learn how to communicate with a female?"


As Schmarya pointed out, Moshe Tendler is hardly the right person for CBS to ask, considering all the dysfunctional marriages and yes, even molesters in his family. But that's beside the point.

The point is the that the shidduch process has been warped into a complete and utter failure by the Chereidi. And it's not just the Ravs - it's the parents of the young people and their schools and the young people themselves who have done this, not realizing the indoctrination they have received is completely worthless.

First and foremost, it is impossible to get to know someone under the artificial constraints imposed today. In ages past, young people married friends they had grown up with and played with and went to school with in their community. They were allowed to mix and mingle at simchas and community events and yom tovim. They had regular courtships. They fell in love.

Now, the Chereidi need to artificially control everything, mechanize everything, and tabulate everything has made an unnatural mess out of the shidduch process. Instead of letting young people get to know each other and develop natural relationships, young people are supposed to fill out a checklist of "traits" they think they want their mate to have, and this checklist is supposed to be matched to a person of the opposite gender with a similar checklist by the matchmaker, who shuffles a series of strangers in front of them to be picked over like cattle.

In theory this might have worked better, but in reality the stuff on the checklists has NOTHING whatsoever to do with making a happy marriage. Young people, guided by their parents, schools and Ravs, ask whether the prospect's family eats cholent each and every shabbat even if everyone's sick of it, they look for what kind of tablecloth the prospect's mother puts on the Shabbat table, what kind of hair covering the in-laws expect, and how much money the families make. They listen for all the right catch-phrases and propaganda and that's what they hear - they never hear a prospect's real thoughts on anything.

What they need to ask are the things they CAN'T ask. Do they ask what sort of books the other likes to read? No, because "real frum people" don't read any books except about Torah - officially. What type of art and music does the prospect like? Oops - can't ask that, either. What political views does the prospect have? Whatever the Rav says, right? What types of board games or cards do they like to play? What? - they don't study Torah 24/7? How clean do they expect the house to be and who is going to clean it if she's working? The cleaning fairy, of course - no, silly, we have to have a maid (regardless of whether we can afford it?). What genres of food do they love to eat? Movies - oops, can't ask. Internet - nope, can't ask that, either. TV - forget it. "Real frum people" aren't allowed to have TVs. What hobbies or interests does the prospect have? None outside of Torah, supposedly. All of these things are essential to know about a prospective mate, amoung a myriad of other equally essential things - but in the shidduch process that exists, a young person will never know until it's way too late that they have nothing in common, because they're told to ask about scarves and tableclothes and what school they went to instead of asking about WHO THEY ARE DEEP DOWN. Frum Yidden don't have a "deep down," supposedly. They supposedly just live to learn Torah and procreate.

All of this is unrealistic in the extreme. Young people are told to look for an unreal person, a caricature of Frum Yidden that does not exist in real life. In real life, people have interests other than Torah. In real life, sex isn't always about having a baby. And also in real life, issues are going to come up that the shidduch process actually misdirects young people into not taking seriously, or worse, steers young people away from heading off future problems at the pass.

Does the man intend to step up to the plate and support his family - if so, he's not much of a marriage prospect in most Chereidi circles. A convert or child of a convert? Nope - we'd rather inbreed more drooling idiots, hyperactive hellions, and mentally and physically handicapped children than dilute the family's "pure" bloodline. And also in real life, a couple with no secular education and no chance of market-rate employment cannot afford to have 8 or 10 kids, either. And finally, just what is their philosophy on child-rearing? Who knows - who cares, they're your bashert. That kind of stuff doesn't matter - or does it?

Feeling guilt about dumping defenseless babies to be raised in herds by strangers instead of at home with their mother? - better shut up in that community, people don't want to hear it, since the men don't intend to work and the women will have to be sold into slavery to some goy [Heaven forbid!] or some other "frum yidden" who won't pay her market wages, if she gets paid on time at all. Or, will she marry a person with a secular education that can lead to market-rate employment? Good heavens, no! Such a person is contaminated with ideas from the outside world, didn't you know - never mind that knowing how the outside world of economics and history and politics really is and really works may be the only thing between your future children and starvation. "Real men" only learn Torah.

Alternately, will she insist on being an equal partner in the marriage and household decisions, bill paying, and future planning? (Unlike that poor girl above who didn't even know how to write a check.) Not in that community - "real women" need to sit down, shut up and have more babies. "Men" take care of business.

These communities use social terrorism to enforce their unworkable and unrealistic ideals of marriage, employment, children and daily life on these poor young couples, and they go into marriage thinking everything will just somehow work itself out, the same way they think money will fall from the sky. It never had a chance of working.

And to make matters worse, the more the Ravs try and "Ban" everything from the outside world and the more the Ravs tell the young people how "decadent" and "sex-crazed" everyone supposedly is in "outside society," the more they feel they're missing out on something and think they want it. The reality is that secular men walk by a woman dressed in shorts or a short-sleeved shirt and don't think twice about it. Only Chereidi men get all excited seeing a woman's elbows or ankles, because they've been told women who wear normal secular clothing are advertising for sex and sex-crazed and will sleep with anything that moves. This lie simply reinforces for Chereidi men that their wives must be the most ugly, boring women on the planet, since all the secular women act like porn-stars - the Ravs said so, so it must be true, right? In fact, even frum women are unclean and want sex all the time, say the Ravs - a girl who even wears a denim skirt or lets her hair peep out is advertising for sex, they say. So it is surely a terrible disappointment to the Chereidi men to find their wives aren't secretly trained to act like porn-stars in bed, and never had any interest in being one to start with. Their own wife must just be a dud, right?

I feel sorry for the people in this article. They were sold a bill of goods, and it never had a chance of meeting their expectations, because their expectations were not realistic from the outset. Their real selves and their real, normal needs to express themselves are bottled up inside and they either live an empty life of misery trying to hide it or they end up like the people in this article, sneaking out to find people they actually have something in common with and actually like and love, causing a scandal and ending up shunned and persecuted (if not beat to a pulp) in the process.

All of this was avoidable. Shidduch isn't a mathematical process. It isn't a mechanical process. It cannot be reduced to checkmarks on a list. In order to find a good marriage partner you have to actually get to know someone - and the only way people in the frum community can do that is to go outside the bounds. The process inside the bounds simply doesn't allow it.

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