In my writing, I very purposefully label my ultra-Orthodox non-Hasidic community of origin the “Yeshivish” community or sect, although I know it is a strange label for some, like Ezra Glinter, who in a footnote to his thoughtful and thorough essay “Ex-Hasidic Writers Go Off the Path and Onto the Page,” questions my use of the term, calling it “irritating.”
“Vincent” he says “…trades in cliché, since it is easier to slot her community into the Hasidic sect-based model familiar to readers of other ex-Orthodox memoirs than it is to deal with the vagaries of denominational hair-splitting.”
There are plenty of ultra-Orthodox non-Hasidic people who don’t fit under the Yeshivish umbrella, but a significant percentage does. And while there are many sub-sects within the Yeshivish community (as the joke goes — two Jews, three opinions), the Yeshivish community is at least as homogenous as the Hasidic community, which manages to stretch wide enough to encompass sub-groups as divergent as Satmar and Lubavitch, Belz and Breslov. One might even say that the Yeshivish community is as homogenous as a single Hasidic sect like the deeply fractured Satmar Hasidim.
Racheli Ibenboim chats with writer Tuvia Tenenbom./Photo by Isi Tenenbaum
For those who haven’t read much of the work of Tuvia Tenenbom, his most recent column has understandably raised some eyebrows and not a few tempers. Asking a Haredi politician, or any public figure, about her personal life (and her wedding night) would seem to be, at best, an indelicate journalistic approach to gaining wisdom about the practices of her community.
This particular column has led to an unusual outpouring of displeasure directed at the traditionally (and perhaps unfortunately) uncontroversial arts and culture section here at the Forward. And as the editor of this section (albeit one on vacation in Chicago this week) I take the concerns of our readers seriously.
My own relationship with Tenenbom is about one year old. I encountered him first as the author of “I Sleep in Hitler’s Room,” a rollicking travelogue about anti-Semitism in Germany, which also raised eyebrows and tempers while becoming an unlikely bestseller in Germany. When I learned that Tenenbom was planning a sequel, this one set in Israel, I was eager to have him on board as an occasional contributor, filing his impressionistic reports about the individuals, controversies and circumstances he encountered.
Iconic comic book artist and writer Joe Kubert spent most of his life drawing brawny super heroes, lionhearted jungle men and rampaging dinosaurs. But at age 75, Kubert began a journey back to his roots that led him to illustrate Warsaw Ghetto fighters, Holocaust survivors, and ethical mini-lessons for the Chabad-Lubavitch hasidic movement. Kubert, who passed away August 12 in New Jersey at age 85, left behind an enormous fan base in the comic book world as well as a growing audience of admirers in the Jewish community.
“I’ve known and interviewed many older comic book artists, and I usually find that their abilities diminish after a certain age,” noted comics historian and publisher Craig Yoe. “But the amazing thing about Joe was that in his 70s and 80s he was at the top of his game, still constantly and passionately drawing new comics and graphic novels of the highest caliber.”
Kubert’s most recent phase was his immersion in his Jewish roots. While keeping up a heavy schedule of comic book illustration he began making time for a number of Jewish projects. He helped design “Cartoonists Against the Holocaust” for the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, a traveling exhibit of 1940s political cartoons from American newspapers about the Jews in Nazi Europe, and served as a judge in a student cartooning contest. For the Lubavitch magazine “Moshiach Times” he drew a series of two-page adventures with moral lessons called “The Adventures of Yaakov and Isaac.” He also wrote and illustrated “Jew Gangster,” a graphic novel about the Jewish underworld figures of yesteryear.