Marilyn Wennig, 36, uniquely combines the two estranged worlds of an ultra-Orthodox lifestyle with secular Israeli film and literature.
A day after Marilyn Wennig was interviewed on Channel 2’s late night news show about the Oscars, she asked her parents how they liked the show. “You’ve put on a lot of weight,” they told her.
In our interview she explains how in the secular world and the family in which she was raised in particular, appearance is a very important and competitive matter. This diverts attention from what is important, from the interior, says the lecturer and researcher of movies, screenwriter, poet, activist and film critic who became religious some 15 years ago.
The mother of seven is a member of the Belzer Hasidic sect. For Wennig, covering one’s head and dressing modestly is a kind of rebellion. Discovering religion is also a feminist step.
Wennig, 36, bursts a lot of myths in our interview. In fact the preconceptions collapse even before you meet her, just by reading her latest poetry collection, “So What Do We Have Here.”
In the poem called “Purity,” she writes: “Do Haredi women touch themselves/ By mistake, with excitement, without noticing.”
A poem about sex is not exactly what you would expect from an ultra-Orthodox Israeli mother. But Marilyn Wennig doesn’t do the expected.
She was born in Australia to Israeli parents, and the family returned to Israel when she was three. As a child she wrote for childrens’ newspapers, appeared on children’s television shows and went to the Experimental High School in Jerusalem. She did her military service with the IDF magazine Bamahane.
Her husband Erez Hever was her first boyfriend. They separated and then reconciled at 21, got married and became religious. But whereas Hever is a full fledged yeshiva student, Wennig lives between worlds. In her Jerusalem home she is a Belzer Hasid, her children learn in Yiddish at Hasidic schools. In Tel Aviv she meets with film industry people and moves in an entirely different world.
“Every day I go to Berlin,” she laughs.