Off Topic: Hush

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.

Flatbush:

Eichlers of Flatbush:  (718) 258-7643

Zundel Berman’s of Flatbush: (718) 258-1955

Tiferes Stam (Flatbush): (800) 458-6724

Borough Park:

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

Monsey:

Tuvya’s (Monsey):  (845) 426-0824

Passaic:

Zundel Berman’s of Passaic: (973) 471-1765

Lakewood:

Zundel Berman’s of Lakewood: (732) 367-6000

Baltimore:

Shabsi’s Judaica Center: (410) 358-2200
Pern’s Hebrew Book & Gift Shop: (410) 653-2450

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22 thoughts on “Off Topic: Hush

  1. And to prevent anyone from criticizing my spelling “discrete volume”: I did not mean “discreet” as in “quiet” and “volume” as in “tome.” I meant “discrete” as “individual entity” and “volume” as “item that takes up space.” Meaning, not an article in a newspaper (which is neither discrete or discreet).

  2. Quite honestly I doubt that you will find this in a Jewish bookstore anytime soon. Jewish printers and Jewish bookstores refused Rabbi Eidensohn halakhic source book on the issue, which had haskamot. So I really doubt that they are going to carry a novel. As much as I agree that this issue has to come out of the shadows, it is not going to do so discretely.
    Good evidence of this is the criticism that the Noviminsker Rav took for saying that it needed to come out of the shadows.
    There is also the recent Kol Koreh published against the daughters of Rabbi Gershon Kranczer for going to the police.

  3. To to above, that’s not true… There is currently a book in my local book store, more of an informative book, about abuse in the Jewish community, with rather detailed and graphic stories. You can check it out here… http://www.ktav.com/product_info.php?products_id=2356
    I was rather surprised to see the book there, but it means people are starting to see a need for knowing that this isn’t a once in ten year thing… or however you want to explain it.
    And this book store I saw it out isn’t a “Traditional” one where you might think the Orthodox community won’t see it. Nope, this is the same book store I go for all my Artscroll, Feldheim and Yeshiva Boys Choir….
    But regardless, the more exposure, the better…

  4. maybe add that when the bookstore says they don’t have it, ask to speak to the ones in charge of stock – the book clerk won’t really care whether they have it or not…

  5. I think you’re fooling yourself. Eichler’s made a big deal about Small Miracles. They pulled them off their shelves. People write letters to Family First or Binah about articles they printed, which are kiddie stories compared to this. I just don’t see it happening.

  6. Although you may not have misused the word “discrete,” I did notice a discreet word-usage mistake. I believe you meant to use the word “opposing” and not the word “apposing,” which means “Verb: Place (something) in proximity to or juxtaposition with something else.” I’m sorry. I just couldn’t help myself, what with my name and all. Carry on.

  7. It wasn’t Jewish enough, apparently.

    Re Small Miracles: yes, I recall some of the miracles happened to people who weren’t Jewish. It’s so unbelievable that we now have to pretend that 6 billion people don’t even exist.

  8. just fyi, eichlers, atleast the one in flatbush carries books like these but not on the shelf. i remember my shock when a friend of mine who was working there at the time showed me where they have the Naomi Ragen books. they carry these books but you have to ask them for it. they also had a few conservative minded books (as in the movement) and shady kabballah books that they dont want anyone to know they are carrying. im sure they carry hush if they carried ragens books.

  9. What Erachet said. Initial calls suggest that they are not very aware of its existence – or pretending they aren’t.

  10. Here are some more numbers, for anyone making calls:

    Judaica Plus (Five Towns)
    516-295-4343

    Long Island Judaica (West Hempstead)
    516-564-9670

    J. Levine Co. (Manhattan)
    212-695-6888

    West Side Judaica (Manhattan)
    212-583-2422

    Judaica Plaza (Lakewood)
    866-5-JUDAICA
    732-942-6512

  11. I bought Hush as an ebook all the way over here in Israel- on Chana’s recommendation- and loved it.

    But can I play devil’s advocate for a second?

    Hush not only reveals an important problem in the way certain Jewish communities handle the situation of sexual abuse- but it also happens to – let’s use the word bash- many of the other viewpoints of certain Jewish sects. For example, when the Litvish are made fun of for wanting all their kids in learning and that they shouldn’t even pick up a dish to clean it- that’s the wife’s job so they could learn Torah, or when the Chassidish are made fun of by saying only those with hats go to heaven….

    It may be because of that that Hush may never get into bookstores- not because of the sexual abuse storyline, but because the author also used the book as a satirical look on all the problems within the Jewish communities at large. Some may get extraordinarily offended by some of the ideas presented in there, while some may laud it.

    Anyone else feel like I did?

  12. Offended? It’s true, isn’t it? I’ve heard the dishes line, although I believe it was said about garbage. Why – does it make you squirm?

  13. I just got Hush from the NYC public library. I thought it was excellent that it addressed the silence and “brush it under the rug” mentality of the Orthodox community. I hope it makes an impact.

  14. Zundel Berman’s in Lakwood doesn’t have it. Judaica Plaza is more likely, but the 732 number is a fax line and I can’t dial alphabetically on my mobile phone.

    So it’ll have to be Amazon…

  15. @nmf on December 30 – if it’s any help, I (a Christian) came away from Hush with a huge admiration for the community as a whole. In places like those you mentioned, I took the gentle fun-poking as just that – as an adult looking back on some of her childhood misunderstandings (like thinking Hashem couldn’t see her in the shower). It did not in any way diminish my respect for her, her beliefs, or her family, it just made them more ‘real’.

  16. I’m finishing the book and i wanted to share some thoughts about it. It took me quite a long time to read it not just because I was reading other books but because I couldn’t handle too much of a boro park community sarcasm. It’s amazing that even for me – 23 year old ortodox jew from Europe, living in Flatbush for 2 years and 2 years off 13th avenue in boro park – this sarcasm felt very heavy. The book present chassidim and litvish jews in certain way that I can agree with because I’m one of them and I live/lived in that particular communities. Coming from Europe gave me totally different approach towards non-jews, other types of ortodox jews, marriage, education and so much more. I noticed that little girls stare at me when I walk by (either coz my skirt isn’t long enough or coz my wig has strait bangs – which is too modern, or because i’m wearing oxford shoes, or maybe because i’m holding anatomy and physiology book in my hand?) and to some extend I feel uncomfortable or annoyed with it, but I’ve actually didn’t think that this sweet little 9 year old girls think about me that low… It’s sad because they will grow up and be exactly or even worst than their mothers… And it just cuts my heart how superficial and uneducated this ortodox generation in America is… My family came from Europe and they gave me jewish values, ideas, thoughts and traditions which added together give me ortodox background. This being my strong foundation ‘protects’ me from any kind of unwanted or inappropriate information. The same time, I have close friends that are not jewish, I study in college, I read and watch movies that I think help me develop and be more intellectually independent person. Still, I consider my self orthodox and I pray to God, and I fulfill all commandments. Of course besides green stockings, heavy yiddish accent when speaking english, wearing pearls everyday and plenty of more….

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