What would you do if you questioned your religious faith, but revealing that would cause you to lose your family and the only way of life you had ever known? Dr. Ayala Fader
explores this question in Hidden Heretics: Jewish Doubt in a Digital Age
––her new book with Princeton University Press (2020). She tells the fascinating, often heart-wrenching stories of married ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and women in twenty-first-century New York who lead “double lives” in order to protect those they love. While they no longer believe that God gave the Torah to Jews at Mount Sinai, these hidden heretics continue to live in their families and religious communities, even as they surreptitiously break Jewish commandments and explore forbidden secular worlds in person and online. The internet, which some ultra-Orthodox rabbis call more threatening than the Holocaust, offers new possibilities for the age-old problem of religious uncertainty. Fader shows how digital media has become a lightning rod for contemporary struggles over authority and truth.
Drawing on five years of fieldwork with those living double lives and the rabbis, life coaches, and religious therapists who minister to, advise, and sometimes excommunicate them, Fader delves into universal quandaries of faith and skepticism, the ways digital media can change us, and family frictions that arise when a person radically transforms who they are and what they believe.
Dr. Ayala Fader is professor of anthropology at Fordham University investigating contemporary North American Jewish identities and languages in urban centers. She is the author of another book from Princeton University Press: Mitzvah Girls: Bringing Up the Next Generation of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn
Carrie Lynn Evans is a PhD student at Université Laval in Quebec City.