Jews! Nudity! Brooklyn! Manhattan! New York Magazine’s latest cover story has it all.

As is the case, I’d imagine, for most secular Jews, my relationship to Ultra-Orthodox Jews is conflicted. On the one hand, I realize that if they start getting attacked on the streets, this means anti-Semitism, and is bad news not just for them, but for those like myself. On the other hand, getting an arranged marriage at 17, dressing for the Polish winter in the New York summer, and the many rules interfering with such questions as gentiles looking at wine; men and women shaking hands; and taking the elevator on Saturday (unless it stops on every floor) strike me as, well, horrible. (Depending on which part of the faith we’re talking about, the fact that I’m pro-Israel further distances me from many in these communities, who believe that Israel should not have been established.)

Unlike some others, I feel comfortable disapproving of their lifestyle while respecting the fact that they no doubt disapprove even more vigorously of mine. And it’s great that we can all, for the most part, live in peace in this country. But the point is, whatever solidarity I feel with Hasids and others of this ilk comes from a sense that we share ancestry and enemies. That’s the extent to which I can relate. While the sight of the Ultra-Orthodox gives some less- or non-Jews a feeling of guilt, a sense that look, these people are the real deal, I feel nothing of the kind. For a sense of why, have a look at this movie. A willingness to stand out in public (admirable) and oppress in private (less so) does not make any particular group of Jews the ‘authentic’ ones.

That said, what on earth was New York Magazine doing, putting a topless shot of an ex-Hasidic woman’s 4-year-old daughter, sitting with her (clothed) mother, on the cover? Yes, yes, provocative, I get it, but why put the child in more danger than she’d be in otherwise? This is America, for god’s sake, not Europe. We are not so cavalier about nudity in these parts. I doubt if the average ‘of course I breast-feed in public’ Park Slope mom would agree to having her daughter photographed in this way, on the cover of a major magazine, even if the magazine’s proceeds benefitted local farms, green tote bags, and Obama. In other words, the cover is bad taste defined.

As for Mark Jacobson’s article itself, the conflict of authenticities between the old-time liberal New York Jewish great-grandparents and the hippie-gone-Hasid grandmother is quite interesting. If only the piece didn’t begin with a reference to the above-mentioned child “sitting, princesslike, in the child’s seat,” soon to be followed by a mention that certain Hasids “only came to Wal-Mart for the big sales.” Princesses, sales, princesses, sales… something is starting to click. This story, is it by any chance about Jews?

Cross posted from What Would Phoebe Do?

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  • Seems like New York’s layout/design people saved the day for modesty in their deployment of the cover story title.

    This makes for a nice diptych with the New Yorker’s now-infamous Barack cover. Suitable for framing! Though I must say, those of us who are neither Jewish nor part Kenyan feel a bit left out.

  • excellent, excellent post; both your commentary and the collection of links. bravo and thank you.

  • Bizarre article. I don’t think I’ve ever seen “G-d” and “f**k” on the same page before.

    I feel sorry for the child and her mother. At the same time, if she wants to get her daughter back, she’s going to have to do better than hanging around with ex-Satmarers on acid. I hope she can get it together. Needless to say, her upbringing didn’t exactly prepare her for life in the goyische velt.

    It’s a sad thing when showing a 4-year old girl without a shirt on can be considered scandalous nudity. Are we all pervs now?

    Not exactly a wise thing to do, considering her position, but I’m not sure it’s necessarily in bad taste.

  • Quote: “I get it, but why put the child in more danger than she’d be in otherwise? This is America, for god’s sake, not Europe. We are not so cavalier about nudity in these parts.”

    Cavalier implies reckless. Try comparing the teenage pregnancy rates, teenage abortion rates, age when becoming sexually active or just about any other indicator for the USA with those “cavalier” European countries. Then ask yourself which is really the best policy, prudery or honesty about the body.

  • I was referring to the America that is, not the one that perhaps should be. That’s the one in which a non-infant child appeared in a way clearly intended to offend.

  • Having lived through this and continuing to live through it, my heart breaks for this girl. Thank GOD she has her grandparents and siblings to help her with her motherFUCKing husband and FUCKing mother. (That was language was for you Ephriam).
    She has absolutely NO chance of getting full custody of her daughter. She will have to live under the oppression of a joint custody arrangement and the HELL her ex will put her through for every minute she wants to spend with her child. I wish I could tell her to enjoy the time she spends with her daughter and not to do anything to jeopardize it, and; and to use the time they are not together to become successful. I spend too much of the time I am not with my children crying for them, missing them and worrying about them .

    The money THE COMMUNITY will put up in legal fees to make her look like a serial killer is endless. The influence they will use to sway the Judge and Court Appointed psychologist is limitless. She has NO chance of a fair hearing. I am NOT going to say that the money THE COMMUNITY has to destroy this girl comes from welfare fraud because that would constitute self-hating, anti-semitic sentiment which I truly trying to give up before next Tisha B’Av.

    For all you Orthos: the toddler will NOT become Schizophrenic from having seen her Mother break Shabbat or wear jeans. Schizophrenia is a biological disease of the brain.

    Religious fanaticism that causes one to believe a mother should be separated from her baby is caused by cult indoctrination, which is a less treatable psychological disorder than schizophrenia.

  • How can Hasids be considered the real deal. The Hasidic movement wasn’t founded until the 18th century, so that’s fairly recent. Just because they’re more conservative doesn’t mean they’re more authentic.