New Square, By Skverer Chasidim

1542 Words Feb 26th, 2016 7 Pages
New Square, populated primarily by Skverer Chasidim, is located in Rockland County, New York. The town was founded in the mid-1950s by Rebbe Yakov Yosef Twerski and modeled after the Ukranian shtetl Skvyra. The naming of the town “New Square” was a typist’s error. Like other Chasidic communities in New York, the Skverer village was created by Holocaust survivors’ determination to preserve a Jewish way of life coupled with a need to not perish, perhaps at all cost. In the case of New Square, the cost is near-fanaticism.
The practices of Hasidic sects vary significantly, from the Satmar sect in Williamsburg to the Lubavitcher sect in Crown Heights spanning to Vizhnitz in Monsey, and even throughout households, the Skverer sect in New Square
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Deen’s memoir, however, does grant me that access. It is the book’s ticket to mass appeal as well as the seat of his disquiet in its writing.
Deen has written about his experiences over the years, as a blogger, as a contributor to Tablet, and as founder and editor of the website Unpious. Though he writes because he has a story to tell, Deen’s work, especially in his memoir, is clearly crafted to benefit others dealing with a wavering faith. He’s involved with Footsteps, an organization that supports those leaving ultra-Orthodox life, and he dedicates a couple of his final pages to a reading list of books on religious faith, a disclaimer that his book isn’t an “argument against Orthodoxy,” and a note that his narrative had to bluntly externalize an “internal process of inquiry and examination.”

It is a fascinating trinity of problems: describing a secret world while attempting to protect it, uncovering personal secrets while guarding those of others, and exposing the fault in a discipline while exposing the need for discipline. How strange is Deen’s story in comparison to that of the imagined ordinary reader?

All Who Go Do Not Return opens with Deen’s dismissal from New Square and then begins again with the story of his adulthood. Born to liberal parents who are baalei teshuvah, those who adopt (“return” to) Orthodox life, in Brooklyn, Deen chooses a Skverer yeshiva because he hears that the entrance exams aren’t exceptionally rigorous.

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