Swinging Hasidim

Dan Gambiera writes:

People have sex. They don’t always do it the way that social mores dictate. It’s been that way forever. The only thing you can do is make choices you can live with.

One of the big culprits here is the increasing rigidity of marriage customs in 21st Century Haredi enclaves. In small town or village life young people meet and interact. It’s absolutely inevitable. When they do they’re prone to make their own choices. They won’t always make good ones, but that as they say is life.

It’s only in the modern disconnected urban world that you can even have practical separation of the sexes. It only really started in Af-frickin’-ghanistan with the destruction of the country after the Soviet invasion. It’s much more of a problem in the oil-rich Arab states that can afford to keep women economically dependent and absorb the costs of separation.

What you have here is a combination several things.

The first is neurosis. When you can not control the world around you the neurotic response is to obsessively clamp down on what you think you can. In this case, the outside world is frightening and alien. So the community exerts an extreme degree of influence on marriage. Step out of line, wear a red blouse, talk to boys if you are a girl, report crimes to the police, fail to eat cholent or allow the tiniest smidgen of doubt as to the date of your mother’s ritual ablutions and or choose a mate based on our own standards, and you will lose all societally-sanctioned breeding rights. By any objective standard it’s absolutely insane.

We have elaborate mechanisms for determining the suitability of sex and breeding partners from the ability to determine complex immunologic profiles by smell (true fact, that) to visually determining from photographs whether a man likes babies (also verified) or a woman’s basic capacity to survive pregnancy. The frum ghetto system of mate selection does away with all of these.

When your mate is forced upon you, Tevya’s Daughters notwithstanding you get marriage without love. Yes, there may be all sorts of other deep attachment, especially over time. The passion that supports those later deep bonds? The deck is stacked against it if you eliminate that initial attraction.

The ineluctable corollary is nicely stated by Benjamin Franklin:

Where there is marriage without love, there will be love without marriage

The increasingly strict standards designed to isolate the community from the real world and perpetuate its customs will erode those stated standards. When people can not live happily under a set of customs they will violate them. When they violate these customs privately they may redouble their efforts to appear to comply so as not to suffer community sanctions. The beards will get longer. The hats will get blacker. The butcher will have to sell only Hyper Mega Glatt Kosher brisket. But they will abandon them in their hearts.

The presence of alternatives causes even more problems. If the whole world were frum there would be nowhere to go. You would have to comply or die. But there is an alternative – secular society. The destruction of Reform, Conservative and increasingly Modern Orthodox as alternatives to ultra-Orthodox hegemony makes the choice between compliance and complete abandonment of Jewish identity very stark.

This is why Haredi taboos concerning education and access to information are so important to the community. A secular education allows a person to understand the real world. More than that, it makes it possible to survive economically. A Haredi education stresses the minutia of dogma and every more elaborate taboos – laws which can not be questioned, authorities who are beyond reproach. Obedience, albeit a trained and intelligent obedience, is the key to status, control of resources, acceptance and survival.

Even access to independent information is dangerous. If a person sees that people who do not follow his tribal peculiarities lead happy fulfilling lives he is apt to stop thinking of outsiders as the Hated Other and adopt those customs which seem best to him. This, not pornography, is the real reason most of the Haredi reject modern information technology.

Comply or die. Make alternatives quite literally unthinkable. Obedience is valued above everything. Outsiders aren’t even human the same way as members of the tribe. Strict control is exercised over the most basic needs such as food and sex.

In the end it’s like bailing the sea with a sieve. It’s already failing. The question is will it take Judaism down with it or will we have a new reformist movement that will not be hijacked by refugees romanticizing a Talibanesque past that never was.

Children are not capable of giving consent. A pedophilic sexual relationship is not even close to being between equals. The child will almost certainly take serious damage and doesn’t even fully understand what is happening and what it means. Sexual activity carries the risk of pregnancy and serious diseases. The child/victim is not capable of making a rational adult choice about these things.

It’s even worse with animals. A child will grow up to be a competent adult some day unless, G-d forbid, there’s some sort of brain irregularity. The animal never will. It is a dumb beast not endowed with reason.

But let’s get back to the molesters for a moment, shall we? You’ve been enraged at Shmarya for bringing up rabbinical sexual abuse. But you’re quick to condemn Sarah for tolerating consensual sexual relations between adult men. You’re certainly against pedophilia. No doubt about it. And I’ll defend you tooth and nail against anyone who says you support baby-rapers.

Why the disconnect? I’ll tell you.

It comes back to authority. If rabbis and teachers have illicit sexual relations with children or teenagers that’s bad. But exposing them and punishing them for their crimes undermines the authority of people you respect. The urge to protect children is at odds with the even stronger urge to protect the community which gives you your identity. Shaming them reflects on good people like yourself. It makes you angry. So you lash out at the messenger.

To someone like Shamarya or Sarah or me that makes the sin much worse. The diddling rabbis compound the crime of pedophile rape with the abuse of authority.

You see disobedience to authority and damage to the reputation of the community as the greatest sins. I reserve that for harm done to innocents, particularly when those entrusted with power exploit it to facilitate crimes against the powerless.

There are homosexual Hassidim. That’s just the way they are. All the praying and trips to the mikveh in the world won’t change them no matter how much they want it. Marriage is the preferred state in Judaism, and certain male sex acts are completely taboo. They will not be happy trying to live with their essential natures and the rules. Many will look for happiness on the down low. If they do, better they protect themselves and their spouses. What’s worse, a guy sucking dick or a guy sucking dick, dying of a horrible disease and giving it to his wife and their unborn child?

ED WRITES: I am reminded of the joke about a randy woman who approaches a hasidic man in hotel lobby. She tells him that "I have always wanted to have sex with a hasidic man. I want to run my hands through your peyot. I want to twirl you gartel and roll around in your beckishe. Please come up to my room with me." The hasidic man looks at her and in a Brooklyn-Yiddish infelcetd accent says "and vat’s in it for me?"


One can guess that had Karaitism become the dominant normative faith, we’d have blogs complaining about the strictures they enforce. No matter what system is set up outside of the individual’s decision, there will be resistance, this is the old heteronomy vs autonomy battle going back to Kant. Yochanan is already there, nostalgic for "old school" practice, so even if the current conservative practice became the norm there would be complaints on various issues.
The same holds true about sexual practice, the range of human desires is so vast that no matter where you draw the line, there will be those beyond the pale. But lines must be drawn for society to function, or we’d have lots of Bundys and Dahmers, and I think all functioning societies accept this. However, historically often the lines drawn are too tight, leading to reaction, as has happened in many societies (cf the victorian era and its aftermath). Often there is a responsive re-drawing of certain lines, which is what is happening today, which then provokes resistance from those who are more comfortable with the previous policies. The sad part is when the same people policing the restrictive lines are the most blatant violators of these rules, and that is clearly the case in many of the more colorful stories, from Spitzer and Lanner and Sobel, etc on to various participants on tznious patrols who get their own S&M fulfillment through harrassing so-called wayward women (and good old Dr. Freud was on the mark in this regard).

To some degree are not the specifically religious violators and the frum world in agreement? The frum say that these things are assur because Hashem said so, and those on the fringes say, if its only about Hashem’s word, well, we think Hashem thought otherwise or doesn’t care so much, and we are "OK". The only response from the frum world would be, like Archie’s, to threaten punishment in the next world. That is clearly inadequate to control certain offenders who have desires but are "learned", and have in their own mind made deals with Gd or figure perhaps Gd is so busy with Nazis, etc, that he won’t bother with a rebbi abusing talmidim, etc, or that caning teen girls is really for their own good, etc, or at the very least, we’ll deal with it in the next world but have fun now (this is a well known reaction to Hindu concepts of punishment through reincarnation- let that guy in the next rebirth deal with it, I’m having fun now…) These cases are where Law and other forms of conscience must step in, and "thank Gd" for this blog and those like it where a voice can be given to those who have suffered.

That being said, I think the chassidic "swinger" issue as presented is just too funny (having grown up around Boro Park, and not being able to even visualize it), and the movie titles submitted here are too funny (no one for Nights of Vaise Zocken?). The Jewish way was always to be able to laugh at these kinds of things. May Yochanan write many more songs!

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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