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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

New Novel "I Am Forbidden" Published

A new ex-Satmar woman's novel was released today with raving reviews. Amazon's book description:
Sweeping from the Central European countryside just before World War II to Paris to contemporary Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I Am Forbiddenbrings to life four generations of one Satmar family. 
Opening in 1939 Transylvania, five-year-old Josef witnesses the murder of his family by the Romanian Iron Guard and is rescued by a Gentile maid to be raised as her own son. Five years later, Josef rescues a young girl, Mila, after her parents are killed while running to meet the Rebbe they hoped would save them. Josef helps Mila reach Zalman Stern, a leader in the Satmar community, in whose home Mila is raised as a sister to Zalman’s daughter, Atara. As the two girls mature, Mila’s faith intensifies, while her beloved sister Atara discovers a world of books and learning that she cannot ignore. With the rise of communism in central Europe, the family moves to Paris, to the Marais, where Zalman tries to raise his children apart from the city in which they live.
When the two girls come of age, Mila marries within the faith, while Atara continues to question fundamentalist doctrine. The different choices the two sisters makes force them apart until a dangerous secret threatens to banish them from the only community they’ve ever known.
A beautifully crafted, emotionally gripping story of what happens when unwavering love, unyielding law, and centuries of tradition collide, I Am Forbidden announces the arrival of an extraordinarily gifted new voice and opens a startling window on a world long closed to most of us, until now.
From the review in the Huffington Post (by Ilana Teitelbaum, how ironic!):
Religious tradition has the power to enrich one's life -- or to destroy it. That is the message at the core of I Am Forbidden, a novel that sheds light on some of the most destructive -- and least discussed -- tenets of ultra-Othodox Judaism, in the cloistered world of the Satmar Hasidic community. In this multi-generational saga spanning pre- and post-World War II Transylvania, Paris, England and Brooklyn's Williamsburg, Anouk Markovits explores the double-edged potential of religious conviction in the lives of two women who choose paths that are diametrically opposed -- until tragedy brings them together again.
When Mila Heller's parents are shot by Nazi soldiers, she is adopted by the rabbi of their Transylvanian village and becomes a sister to Atara Stern. As the daughters of a revered community leader, the girls enjoy a status akin to princesses, yet Atara chafes at the restrictions of her Satmar upbringing. In contrast, Mila looks forward to achieving the one goal that she believes she was born to achieve: marriage and children in a home built on the foundations of ultra-Orthodox tradition. But, in a twist of irony, it is that same tradition that will threaten to destroy Mila's dreams of happiness. 
To Markovits's credit, I Am Forbidden does not read like a contemptuous, unidimensional exposé of ultra-Orthodox Jewish life. With poetic grace, she succeeds at depicting the culture from the inside out, conveying the way in which a life of limitation and law can provide a bulwark of meaning. Those outside a religion tend to see it as a collection of petty rules; Markovits -- who was raised in the Satmar community -- demonstrates that to those within, these laws are written on "a scroll of fire," imbued with incredible power to save and destroy. Compounding this power is the proximity of Mila and Atara's story to the Holocaust, which gives the characters even more cause to see the world as a Manichean play of righteousness and evil, dark and light.
Markovits best captures this theme in her tender depiction of Mila's marriage to Josef, the love of her life. Living within the codified parameters of "forbidden" and "permitted," the alternating flows of blood and ritual immersion, Mila and Josef embody a love story that is real and deep. By avoiding the easy cliché of the cold arranged marriage, Markovits intensifies the emotional heft of the story -- and forces the reader to be moved by the characters' fates.
On the writer's website, it says the following about the writer:
Anouk Markovits grew up in France, in an ultra-orthodox Satmar home. She attended a religious seminary in England instead of high school. After she left home at the age of nineteen to avoid an arranged marriage, she attended Columbia University's School of General Studies. She has a Master of Architecture from Harvard and a PhD in Romance Studies from Cornell. She has worked as an architect and as a set designer on major films, including The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Her first novel, Pur Coton, was written in French (Gallimard). I Am Forbidden is her English-language debut.


  1. Until she gets a review on Stormfront, like Deborah Feldman did, I'm not reading it.


    And just by the way, who ever heard of a Satmar community in France??

  2. Are you telling me you read Deborah's memoir? :P

    1. Of course. She and I hang out at White Nationalist meetings.

  3. You might be surprised. There is actually a movie about an Orthodox Jews who joins a neo-Nazi party.


    Plenty of "Jewish skeptics" would fit in very well at some white nationalist meetings.

    But anyway, I still don't know about this Anouk lady. Where are there ultra-orthodox Satmar homes in France? Or is this a little fib?

  4. Skeptical Yid tried to post this one but somehow it didn't work, so I am posting it on his behalf:

    UK: he's always trolling. You know that.

    You're dealing with a man whose behavior is execrable by Orthodox standards.

    He has encouraged women to remove internet filters in order to entice their husbands to surf for porn to determine if they are a closet "Orthoprax." By doing so he is violating the psak of numerous g'dolim who have mandated internet filters. Additionally, he is coaxing women to lead men into sin. This is an egregious violation of halacha d'oreisa.

    His very notion of outing and expelling Orthoprax is apikorsis. The overwhelming body of halacha declares that doubt is acceptable so long as one continues to practice mitzvot.

    He visits atheist and OTD blogs as well as Christian sites (and apparently Nazi sites). This clearly violates rabbinic prohibitions against using the internet for any purpose other than email or business.

    He goes out of his way to insult and demean other Jews (many OTD are still identifying as Jewish) rather than trying to mekarev them .He fails to offer an example of derech eretz and midos. One can reasonably argue that his actions are a chillul hashem and serve to drive conflicted Jews even further from Judaism.

    He has published confidential information about the relatives and former spouses of those he's found particularly irksome on the 'net. This clearly violates issurim against causing distress and anguish to innocent parties.

    He has rejected observations concerning his blatant contempt for rabbinic decrees regarding proper internet usage. By doing so, he places himself (in his own mind) above the gedolim and poskim who've set standards for his community. This is blatant and obvious apikorsis.

    Ironic, isn't it ? The self anointed JP could be argued to be a base defiler of daas torah and halacha.

  5. You criticizing me for allegedly violating Internet bans is like Bernie Madoff yelling at someone for using the office photocopy machine for personal stuff. Very amusing. ROTFLMAO. What's next, you're going tell me I have use cholov Yisroel?

    And I demand immediate access to the Off The Derech Facebook group. I smack those conflicted Jews with some demeaning insults. Scumbag.

  6. No, next I'm going to mail relevant posts from your site as well as your posts on other blogs to ALL the significant Rebbeim in Monsey and Wesley Hills. Deal with it you miserable mechutziff.

  7. Immediate access to the Facebook group? LOL! I doubt you would stick to the rules :P

  8. "next I'm going to mail relevant posts from your site as well as your posts on other blogs"

    You're the one who is ashamed of yourself, not me. I'm proud of what I'm doing.

    "I doubt you would stick to the rules :P"

    I am sure everyone there will agree on the importance of freedom of speech and will more than welcome the opportunity to hear different viewpoints.

  9. Perhaps the FB group is for like-minded people and not interested in views that differ from their own.

    1. It is a group where people can exchange experiences and support each other. OJ people can be total asses, even in many OJ people's eyes and people need to help each other out and be there for each other. Unconditional 'love' instead of the cold shoulder they get from frummies.

      So no debates or anything, just a safe group for OTD by OTD.

    2. A support group for addicts safely in denial. Wonderful.

    3. Addicts have different support groups, but of course in your warped world view all people that don't believe in your precious crap must be addicted to something.

  10. Apostates from Orthodox Judaism carry a great deal of guilt, because they are guilty, and therefore are extremely sensitive to criticism. It drives them crazy. They have no good answers and they know it.

    1. Or perhaps because their environment pumped all this guilt into them since they were born.

      "They have no good answers and they know it."

      Ehm...perhaps you are just not reading all blog posts careful enough?

  11. What those Facebook heretics and sinners need is little tough love. I'm ready to administer it.

  12. You're such a troll. Btw, nice post!

  13. Actually I'm just one man with the guts to tell the truth come what may.