The “Hidden Heretics” Who Remain Part of the Orthodox World

In Hidden Heretics, Ayala Fader explores the lives of ultra-Orthodox American Jews who have lost faith but choose not to leave their communities, instead leading double lives. Thanks to the Internet, not only have these “double-lifers” found each other, but Fader was able to find and interview them. Michal Leibowitz writes in her review:

In [the book’s many vignettes], we hear from Blimi and Moishy, double-life lovers who carry on a years-long affair, at one point even conspiring to spend [the same] weekend at a kosher hotel with their families so they can steal a few minutes alone. We learn the story of Avi, a double-life father who keeps his secrets from his wife and four daughters but includes his nine-year-old son in his private world.

It is as though Fader began . . . with the question, why do people stay if they don’t believe? But upon finding that answer too simple (family, fear), she changed it to, how do they bear it? Unfortunately, her explanation here falters. [The book’s] later chapters are full of fascinating glimpses of double lives, but they jump so frequently from subject to subject, from theme to theme (even the Internet drops out), and remain so often on the surface that they sometimes feel more voyeuristic than scholarly. Fader accepts without question, for example, Blimi’s blithe rationalization that her extramarital affair is just “a lie, and liars are not as bad as hypocrites in my book.” Hypocrisy, on her account, would be if she told her children to pray when she did not herself.

Nevertheless, there is one area in which Fader’s inquiry excels: her discussion of how double lifers navigate the tensions inherent to raising children with values they have privately rejected.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: American Jewry, Heresy, Internet, Ultra-Orthodox


Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict