Sisterhood Blog

Fomer Gur Hasid: 'A Hole in the Sheet' Saved My Life

By Elana Sztokman

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Sara Einfeld says that “A hole in the sheet” saved her life.

The 25-year-old former Gur Hasid and mother of two from Ashdod said in an interview in last weekend’s Yediot Aharonot that she was choking in her life, “a carbon copy of masses of other ultra-Orthodox women, all about kids, cooking, husbands, and meeting friends to talk about kids, cooking and husbands.”

Then she discovered the Internet and began blogging anonymously at “Hor Basadin,” literally “A Hole in the Sheet.” That, she says, “was when redemption came.”

In the past two years much has changed for Einfeld, the article reveals.

She ran away from home, got divorced, earned driving licenses for auto and motorcycle, started a job as a messenger, got a few tattoos, was disowned by her parents, and became something of a virtual guru for other ultra-Orthodox women.

Her blog grapples with issues around Orthodox women’s restricted lives, including depression, frustration, confusion, and forms of rebellion. “Ultra-orthodox women always want to please,” Einfeld writes. “First their parents, then their husbands, but mostly God. But really, they don’t really know what they want from their miserable lives.”

Einfeld’s rebellion began while a Bais Yakov high school student when she dared to wear thinner socks than usual and read non-Jewish books. At 18, she came home one day and her mother told her she found a match for her. Einfeld spoke to the boy for two hours, “and the next time we met was under the huppah.”

Over the next four years, Einhorn did what she was expected: had two babies, and lived the hasidic life, but battled depression. To cope, she began to blog in early 2007, and discovered many women felt the same way. A year later — faced with the harrowing prospect of a third pregnancy at the age of 23 — she decided that she could no longer live a double life and, taking her two children, ran away.

Einfeld is now not at all religious — “I drive on Shabbat, and eat on Yom Kippur, but I cook a Friday night meal and light candles,” she reports — and her blog attracts throngs of readers. While some attack and others to “return” her, many express a sad yearning, commiseration, and immense gratitude for the forum.

Last weekend’s public “coming out” in Yediot, which included a provocative photo of her upper back with nothing between her skin and the camera other than a shoulder tiger tattoo, a nose ring, and her snood, caused a huge stir in Israel.

Hasidic writer Eliezer Hayoun calls it “The Sara Einfeld Carnival” and claims that she is really on her way “back” to being a Hasid. Tali Farkash, a religious writer at Ynet, wrote, decries “the nasty habit of confronting the past by turning all haredim into miserable people in a closet,” which “has become a bit pathetic.” Though Farkash concedes that, “contrary to what the many haredim who read the article will say about Sarah, every word there is true.”

I’m sure there are many happy Haredi women out there, whatever happiness means. But the debate over whether Orthodox women are “happy” always reminds me of the “Happy Slave” from Plato’s “Lysis,” — the idea that even in oppression some people seem to be okay does not take away from the fact of their oppression.

Einfeld concludes her blog with a heart-wrenching poem written by one of her readers (translation here from Hebrew, as throughout this post, is mine).

I still cry when I remember
Me
A young women who tried to explain to a yeshiva scholar
Who sat across from her
Next to the dark wooden table in the living room.

Who made charts and asked, So what’s bothering you?
And wrote down:

That we don’t pass objects from hand to hand
That you don’t call me by name
That we have intercourse according to predetermined times because that ruins everything.

And then I was embarrassed
To tell him that I want
Him to hug me tight, to give me a little kiss on the lips and say,
I love you.

And when I tried to tell him, I felt dirty.

And how I cried one day so hard until I banged my head against the wall over and over again
Harder and harder.

And he
Closed the steel door quietly
And in fast steps with his hands folded behind him and his face locked to the ground

He went to the Shteibel
Learned Gemara, or an hour of halakha.

And I wanted to die, I wanted to die, I wanted to die.

Because our sages (or rather, his sages) also said, “O hevruta o mituta,”
Either in a pair, or death

Einfeld responds to this poem: “There are women in this country who have never flown on the wings of love … Everybody thirsts for love.”



Comments
Jackie Bitensky Sat. Oct 17, 2009

"no words" leave a space for thinking....

Rina Booker Sun. Oct 18, 2009

A beautiful article, thank you. And thanks to Sara Einfeld for finding the strength to save herself and her children from the snowball effect of a dysfunctional life. She has enhanced the Jewish community by placing health and truth where a charade would have been. How lucky we are today, to have the internet.

gary hess Mon. Oct 19, 2009

why was Ben Packer's comment removed once again. it wasn't vulgar or disrespectful at all. He was just pointing out that its wrong to exploit someone's admitted mental health issues in order to bash religious Jews. what's so crazy about that? I guess if you think about it, taking down someone's post because you don't agree with it isn't nearly as bad as exploiting this obviously troubled person!

Michoel Mon. Oct 19, 2009

the clear implication is that this woman is somehow heroic, posing with her back completely exposed and throwing off the restrictive, opressive life. But she married a young man who was presumably dedicated to her, with an assumption of shared goals, bore two children with him, and then walked out. Why is that not evil?

Jeff Eyges Tue. Oct 20, 2009

"Why is that not evil? "

She was forced into that marriage by her family. Why is that not evil?

Motic Tue. Oct 20, 2009

'She was forced into that marriage by her family.' Jeff -- it doesn't work that way. In Haredi circles we follow that halacha which says no marriage can take place unless both parties freely enter into it. You can be introduced to dozens of people before you meet the right one, your 'bashert' to quote another Forward article. A Haredi girl does not marry against her will and have children with a husband she doesn't want. She clearly had different ideas of 'love' and seems to have been unhappy about Taharas Mishpacha. She didn't find him demonstrative enough, but that doesn't only happen in Haredi circles. Perhaps as a couple they needed help, but instead she ran away. How do you think he felt losing his children because his wife couldn't seem to communicate her feelings?

Joseph Tue. Oct 20, 2009

This article sadly assumes quite a lot. If Gerrer Chasidus didn't suit her, secularism isn't the only alternative ! There are Hirschian communities where strictly Orthodox women have professional careers and manage to balance work and family. To run away from her Hasidic husband -- whom she was not forced to marry -- and to take away their two children, is hardly something to be proud of. How much did she seek professional help for her and her husband ? The 'hole in the sheet' is a Victorian Christian image, so why make it cound Jewish?

Michoel Tue. Oct 20, 2009

"She was forced into that marriage by her family. Why is that not evil?"

1. I don't see where she was "forced". 2. Why should being forced entitle her to ruin her husband's life and take THEIR children away from the life that he married assuming they would have. In his eyes, she is destroying their children. And furthermore, when decent people divorce, even if one wants to take a very different path from that which they started together, they don't necessarily need to completely undermine the other. Who told her to do a provocative pose for a magazine? What effect is that going to have on the values that he rightfully wants to inculcate in them? 3. Orthodox life is not secular life. I "force" my kids to go to school every morning. Many secular parents force their kids to go to college. They don't call it that but the practical effect of social and parental pressures are no less (in some cases) then the pressures to marry via shidduchim. The same is true of many other aspects of life. The Orthodox have have different (and yes, more) things they force on their children.

Jeff Eyges Tue. Oct 20, 2009

Of course she was forced. The pressure to obey and confrom in your communities is staggering.

"How do you think he felt losing his children because his wife couldn't seem to communicate her feelings?"

How on earth could she have communicated those feelings? Your young people are brought up in environments in which a dozen children per family is commonplace. Genders are segregated from an early age and children grow up inadequately socialized. No real intimacy between parent and child is possible in an environment so overcrowded. Young people, suffering from arrested development, are pressured into marriage in their late teens to repeat the cycle. It's a safe bet she wouldn't have known how to articulate her feelings - or that the young man would have known how to respond if she had.

I don't know why I'm bothering responding to you. You'll simply deny everything I've said. In any case, your world is collapsing - succumbing to pressure from without, and deteriorating from within. It won't last more than two generations at most, and good riddance.

Sara Tue. Oct 20, 2009

Michoel

I am deeply disturbed by the way you reacted to Sara Einfeld's pain and suffering. As if she was not really "forced". As if she should have been expected to dedicate every ounce of her physical and emotional well being to a man she met once for two hours. As if everything she went through is somehow her fault, a reflection on her rather than on those who socialized her and educated her.

The real problem with the haredi culture is in the way you responded to this article. The need to defend societal practices that are clearly causing people enormous pain is effectively inhibiting and stifling empathy. That, to me, is the core of the issue. A loveless, compassion-less, empathy-less life. That's what this whole way of life creates. Follow the rules and don't feel too much.

Sara

Michoel Tue. Oct 20, 2009

Sara, You have a point and I thank you for helping me see it. She is a suffering person who is trying to do the best thing for herself and her kids. However, the article doesn't need to make a hero of her either.

I am not part of charedi culture. I am American orthodox Jew with a college education (I even use the web!). Perhaps we should try to understand each other and find a middle way. Look at the comment of Jeff "good riddance". Young people... arrested development... the average charedi (and there are many exceptions) who is 25 and the father of 3 kids, is a great deal more mature and responsible then the many Jewish singles waiting until their 30 to get married. Their wonderful non-arrested development has led to huge rate of divorce and non-marriage.

Motic Tue. Oct 20, 2009

Jeff. You're right ! I do disagree with what you say. I'm quite at home in both worlds. I spent six years full time in Johns Hopkins university [ BA and MA] and a few years in Ner Israel Yeshivah. I married into the family of the Noam Elimelech and have spent many years living and working within London's Haredi world. Parents do have time for their children and sons and daughters are not segregated within the family -- only in school. At present about 50% of Jewish births in the UK are Haredi, and of the UK's 97 Jewish schools about 96 are Orthodox, and most of those are Haredi -- either Hirschian, Litvish or Hasidic. Many Haredi schools top the league tables in national exams. Your image of Haredim is distorted. Best regards.

Danny Wed. Oct 21, 2009

I have read this article several times and one thing struck me. There is no suggestion that her husband was addicted to tobacco, alcohol, drugs, the internet or other women. There is no suggestion that he was dishonest or ever did anything illegal. No suggestion he in any way abused her or their children. He just wasn't romantic and didn't express his love they way she wanted. There are plenty of marriage professionals within Haredi circles. How many did she consult? How hard did she try to save her marriage. For a Gerrer Hassidena there are plenty of alternative lifestyles less extreme than eating on Yom Kippur and desecrating Shabbos. For those who think Haredi girls are 'forced' into marrying the first boy they meet, ask any Shadchan.

Bauberg Tsipporah Wed. Oct 21, 2009

The commenting women support and the men condemn - no surprise here,

BUT - isn't there a man, one man, who could understand and support and advocate? One man. That's all I ask for.

Akiva Wed. Oct 21, 2009

Tsipporah. On an emotional level, of course men can understand, but men tend to live on a less emotional level, and see there were other options that might have been better for their children, their own parents and themselves. Do children want one day to wake up and discover their father is gone from their lives? Do grandparents want to find one day their grandchildren are living in a different world and they may have minimal contact if any in the near future -- until the grandchildren are old enough to make their own decisions. Men want to be 'problem solvers' and view this situation in terms of assessing alternative solutions. On the emotional level women assume men understand things without being told very bluntly. Men, however, are less able to read signals or read minds. This is not a Chassidish problem, or a Jewish problem; it's a male problem !

Michoel Wed. Oct 21, 2009

Tsipporah, Ask yourself if there are any women that can feel the father's pain. What has he done wrong?

Pearlist Mon. Nov 2, 2009

The entire religion is lunatic, predicated purely upon the veracity of a primitive book filled with inconsistencies and fantastical nonsense. Basing your entire way of life on something unprovable and most likely false is like building a skyscraper on a foundation of quicksand. Look around you! Since science has been free of the oppressive reign of the church, we have developed and progressed so much. Imagine if the dark ages never happened, how advanced we would be. Throw off your shackles of ignorance! Be truly free!

PS I was raised in an Orthodox Lubavitch family. I was forced much of my life to conform to Judaism, and i rebelled. Like any other theistic religion it is wrong, and it is make believe.

frida Tue. Nov 3, 2009

my heart goes out for Sara Einfeld and im sure it was very hard for her dealing with her depression.But mostly i pity her for feeling that the only way out is to take the cowardly step to leave her religious lifestyle and blame all her problems on that.in every society in order to fit in you have to conform to certain social rules religious people are not the only ones with rules. i just wonder if she's happy now living her life in the "free" world

mc-- Sun. Nov 8, 2009

Well I can really understand her disatisfaction and opression but why leave everything the jewish religion is a beautiful thing but extremes are not, we have beautiful holidays and a beautiful day of rest. Why rebel against everything? Moderation is the key.

dennis thurman Sun. Dec 20, 2009

what a sad waste of a soul and not to mention her children just another selfish human who wants everything for herself but never thinks about the bigger picture, family and above all g-d,i guess she just wanted what america sells sex,drugs and rockin roll well for me i dont want any of that garbage of sin

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