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Immersion into the world of the ultra-orthodox,
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This review is from: The Marrying of Chani Kaufman (Kindle Edition)
The two opening chapters, set in November 2008, show ultra-orthodox Judaism in some of its most inhibiting manifestations: in the first, Chani Kaufman and Baruch Levy, aged 20 and 19, are about to be married. They have scarcely known each other; neither of them had as much as touched the other; each is ignorant and terrified of what lay ahead of them on their wedding night. In the second chapter, Rivka, the 44 year old wife of Rabbi Chaim Zilberman, has a miscarriage and Chaim is lamed while he tries to decide between the two Laws, one forbidding contact with a woman who is bleeding, another saying that the saving of life is imperative; and when the ambulance arrives, he is distressed that her hair is uncovered.
And more inhibitions continue for much of the rest of the book as it darts backwards (and then forwards again) for the events leading up to the wedding and the miscarriage. Yes, most of the characters in the book experience spiritual rewards in the rituals - and in fact, whereas Chani and Baruch had been born into ultra-orthodoxy, the Rabbi and his wife had not: aged 23 and 18 respectively, they had been drawn to it and had voluntarily embraced it back in the early 1980s. But now, a quarter of a century on, the Rebbetzin found the orthodoxy stifling and formalistic; her husband had become harsh and intolerant; and "the drug of spiritual bliss had worn off and she had little appetite for the next fix".
What is the author's attitude towards all this? There is humour in many of her descriptions: sometimes it is indulgent; sometimes compassionate; quite often mocking, especially in her portrayal of Baruch's wealthy and snobbish mother (one of the delights of the book is how the spirited young Chani stands up to her), and of the ghastly Mrs Gelbmann, the professional shadchan (match-maker). And at times Eve Harris seems really angry, when she describes how lives have been blighted. So some orthodox readers will be hostile, while secular readers who have not known anything about this life-style may be intrigued and possibly repelled by it.
The book is full of atmosphere and very well written.