Color in a Colorless World 2.0
The original post can be found here.
I am Hasidic woman. I am also a writer, whose target audience is not the Hasidic community. While those two worlds may sound like polar opposites, they stem from the same. I have never thought of the passion that I have for the written word as something separate from my close and personal connection to my faith. I have a passion for life, it is a love and zest for the world that I live in. And, while I consider myself cultured, well educated and open minded, my religion comes first. It always has, and it always will. There was never a time in my life where I felt that what I love doing subtracted from who I am, because they are one in the same. Who I am is not separate from what I do with my life. I am, first and foremost, a child of G-d, a follower of the Rebbe and a proud member of the Hasidic community. The power that holds me down to my roots is the same power I feel that pushes me to continue doing what I love. And what I love has never taken me away from who I am. If anything, it has brought me closer.
My family began the process of becoming “Ba’al Teshuva” when I was about two years old. Both my parents were born and raised in Israel, however their affiliation and relationships with Orthodox Judaism were very different. My mother, raised by Safardi immigrants from Turkey, was raised semi- Orthodox. She grew up keeping Shabbat and basic Kosher, and adhered to Jewish law to the strictest level that her parents knew of. Meanwhile, my father, born to Holocaust survivors from Romania, was raised in a household that had anger towards religion. While they respected their Orthodox neighbors and kept certain traditions alive in their household, Orthodoxy was not something that they smiled upon. So, you can imagine my grandmother’s surprise when my father began sporting a long beard, and wearing the garb of an Hassidic man. My mother began her return to G-d when I was two; my father began his own journey when I was fifteen. We began to keep Shabbat and kosher at home very slowly, and by the age of twelve, our home was a fully flipped. There was never pressure to pick a lifestyle when we were growing up. My parents respected each other. My mother wished to keep Shabbat and cover her hair, and my father wished to use Saturdays to go to the movies. They never forced each other to commit to anything, and the same rule applied to us. How could my mother pressure my siblings and I to dress modestly and keep Shabbat when our father didn’t? It seemed backwards to them to impose things on us. Eventually, my father found his way back, and today, our entire family is religious.
When I began promoting my first novel, Shattered Illusions, I was met with excitement and a bit of disbelief as well. Though many have embarked on the road of bridging the gap between the secular and Orthodox world, they felt that because I was young and single that it was inappropriate. People didn’t trust that I could find a balance. To me, finding the balance was all about writing to benefit both worlds. I was tired of searching aimlessly for books that could feed my imagination, without the vulgarity that most secular literature tend to include. I knew that the two worlds could go hand and hand from the right angle, but such a thing had rarely been attempted before. Finding the balance meant writing books that were interesting enough for the secular community and appropriate for the Orthodox community as well. It was all about taking the best parts of both worlds and fusing them together. Since the novel has been published, I have discussed this topic with a wide array of people, all who were very pleased to finally find a bridge between the divide. I have had book signings and events both within the Hasidic community and out; I have spoken to several people who have read the novel, many who said they would never know that the novel was written by a twenty-one year old Hasidic Jew. This is where my passion lies, in the middle of the bridge.
Being a Hasidic woman does not equal living a black and white life. All forms of creativity begin, in a sense, in black and white. The background of an artists canvas may be black or white, but that doesn’t mean that the artist himself expresses himself solely in those colors. Utilizing your talents to bring more light into the world is what being a Hasid is all about; turning the darkness into light, in every and all ways possible. That is what I do in my day to day life, as a writer, as a woman, as a human. I strive to bring more light to the world in the way that I know to be best. Being a Hasidic woman in my eyes, means bridging the gap, finding a middle, incorporating what I know to be true about Torah, into the world around me, wherever I go.