Woman's memoir lifts lid on New York Chasidic life

By Jennifer Lipman, February 8, 2012

A woman who has renounced her Chasidic background is set to send shockwaves around New York's strictly Orthodox community after writing a tell-all memoir about her upbringing.

Deborah Feldman turned her back on life in Brooklyn's Satmar community two years ago, after being pushed into an arranged marriage at 17 years old and becoming a mother at the age of 20.

The 25-year-old's autobiography, "Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots" is heavily critical of her community. In it, she relates how she spent just half an hour with her future husband before they were married.

Ms Feldman's book explains that she was almost totally unaware of the facts of life as a teenager and that she rebelled by hiding secular books by Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott under her bed.

Most troublingly, she recounts being sexually assaulted by a cousin when she was 12 and of being forced to keep quiet about it.

She escaped her old life after signing up to college classes and moving in with a friend and is now bringing up her son as a single parent. Her old community has disowned her and she claims she has been sent hate-mail.

"It wasn't an easy decision for me," she told the New York Post. But she said she couldn't live her old life simply to avoid causing her family pain. "Now, I am a pariah," she said.

Ms Feldman said she believed the Satmar community was no different to Muslim extremists. "How is this any better? This is just another example of extreme fundamentalism."

Last updated: 10:37am, February 8 2012