When I read Curious Jew’s excerpts from Hush, by Eishes Chayil, I immediately disliked the book. It seemed to portray ultra-orthodox society at its worst with no explanation or redeeming qualities.
But I mentioned it to Little Sheep, who bought it and lent it to me, which was how I found myself crying on the F train. Thank goodness for indifferent New Yorkers.
So I recant my opinion. If such can be said about excerpts: they were taken out of context. If everyone who took issue with the orthodox community wrote with the gentle, self-conscious irony of this author, the world would be a better place (and the Yated would not be worth reading). The book is a beautiful combination of humor and pathos. You will not be able to put it down. You will not be able to dislike it. My kudos to the author, wherever she is.
Hush is not about sexual abuse in the ultra-orthodox community. If you’re looking for horrifying rape scenes or even the word “sex,” don’t look here. Rather, it’s about the wall of delicate silence that we build around the issue. A wall built of good intentions — of modesty and of aversion to scandal — but which punishes the victim and protects the perpetrator. Hush begs us to fight this wall. Its existence creates more harm than its absence would.
Punishment is a deterrent to crime. Right now, there is almost no punishment for molestation in our community. Perpetrators are not afraid, because they know they are protected by the wall of silence.
Yes, this matter is best dealt with quietly. However, when the choice is between dealing with it not-so-quietly, or quietly not dealing with it, all too often the latter path is chosen. Which is why, perhaps, it’s time we stood up for the right path.
That said, I am not a big fan of indiscriminate publicization. That is why a novel is such a good format. It is a discrete volume, easily passed along, easily hidden, and easily discussed at gatherings where it’s appropriate.
If it’s available to the right audience.
The book was published at a secular imprint. It is currently only selling in non-Jewish book stores. This is the wrong location. Wrong but ironically inevitable, because of the very wall of silence portrayed in the book.
I want to buy this book. But I want to buy it from the place where it should be selling. Not from Barnes & Noble. From Eichlers.
However, Judaica stores will reinforce the wall of silence because they are afraid of public opinion. They’re not going to stand up to the apparent public will unless they know that there’s enough of an apposing public will.
If you agree with me, help bring this book to its proper audience. It’s not hard. You probably have a phone within arm’s reach. Take three minutes of your time to call your local Judaica store and ask them one simple question: “Do you carry Hush?”
To make it easier for you, I’ve listed stores and their phone numbers below. There are children suffering behind a wall. Please take the time to help them out.
Oh, and read it. You won’t regret it.
Eichlers of Flatbush: (718) 258-7643
Zundel Berman’s of Flatbush: (718) 258-1955
Tiferes Stam (Flatbush): (800) 458-6724
Eichlers of Borough Park: (800) 342-4537
Flohr’s: (718) 854-0865
Zundel Berman’s of Boro Park: (718) 871-5316
Other (New York):
Eichler’s of Manhattan: (212) 719-1918
Meyer Eichler bookstore in Crown Heights: (718) 756-6060
Zundel Berman’s of the Five Towns: (516) 569-4577
Tuvya’s (Monsey): (845) 426-0824
Zundel Berman’s of Passaic: (973) 471-1765
Zundel Berman’s of Lakewood: (732) 367-6000
Shabsi’s Judaica Center: (410) 358-2200
Pern’s Hebrew Book & Gift Shop: (410) 653-2450