In Answer To The Press….

January 13, 2008

I could never have imagined that there would be so many different comments to my book. They have ranged from calling me Rebbetzin and saying my book is so holy it will surely bring Messiah, to calling my memoir ‘soft porn.’ Many have congratulated me on my honesty and written me letters telling me how they identify and how I have given them strength in their own lives. Others condemn me for letting the cat out of the bag, sensationalizing Judaism, being narcissistic and only after making money.

First of all, I would like to say that I wrote my memoir with love and respect for my parents, for my family and for the Torah. I sympathize with Anglo Jewry who knew my parents and heard of my mother’s unfortuate death in the press, even though I believe anyone really close to her would not have been surprised by this. My memoir is an honest look at the ultra-orthodox world, at Anglo Jewry and the real problelms that exist in many families. Exposing the truth can sometimes be painful. I am well aware that I have pushed many uncomfortable buttons – but in the final analysis of the variety of reactions I have received, my conclusion is that positive poeple see the positive, the moving story, the love of Torah and the importance of sharing the depths of my self-destruction in order to help others. Negative people easily catch onto details and blow them out of proportion in order to feed their own fears of facing the truth head on.

I have a wonderful relationship with my children. They have witnessed the changes that I have undergone. They are proud of me that I don’t indulge in any self-destructive behaviour anymore. When they are older and will read the book, I have no doubt that their feelings will only be strengthened after realizing the extent of the demons I had to battle with.

Parents only want wholeness for their children. I believe if my parents were looking down from heaven, they would be delighted that after 45 years of struggle, I have found myself and my path. To those who consider I have betrayed my family, you are mistaken. I have left them a legacy of truth and honesty. I have shown them the way to strength and overcoming diffiuclties, traits that will surely help them far more in their own lives than sweeping inconvenient truths under the carpet.


6 Responses to “In Answer To The Press….”

  1. Eti said

    Dear Riva,

    As I have learned recently, telling the truth is the highest importance. I was able to do it in the form of a CD, describing the terrible disillusionment that comes from my ultra-orthodox upbringing, especially my time in seminary, and it helped free me. Your story serves as an inspiration to seek the G-dly in all things and to bring light into the world, a Tikkun, as you said. I hope you continue to grow and share your triumphs with the world. Thank you for shedding light on some of the most personal aspects of Judaism and allowing me to feel less alone.

    Tzku l’mitzvot

    – Eti

  2. Reva said

    And thank you Eti for writing and for being sensitive enough to see what the book is really about. I appreciate that.
    blessing to you,

  3. Leon said

    Shalom Reva,

    I read your book and I have a different perspective then the other comments that I have seen. I am an orthodox jew that lives in New york. I am married and a father of 2 beautiful boys and we are very happy. I know that one can have a wonderful satisfying marriage as an orthodix jew. Unfortunately you were married to a person who has a misguided view of Judaism, marriage and sexuality, and the people who guided you at that time did no justice to you either. Some of the restrictions that you wrote about are simply not true. There is no restriction for a man to see his wife’s body. I am just surprised that you did not seek counseling during your marriage, but instead chose to internalize your problems and deal with them on your own.
    Had you gone for counseling there may have been a happier ending.

    I also think that in a way you are not judging the Rabbi’s ban on your book favorably either. You know very well that it is in appropriate for religious Jews (especially for teenagers) to read about sex. Also, the way you depict orthodox Judaism is seen as unfair. I understand your personal story and it is an unfortunate one, but that is not the image that the entire world needs to get about Jews.

  4. sara said

    Hi Reva
    I identified with many of the aspects of your story except that I never did drugs or lots of sex, but did in the end have to escape from a very difficult chassidic background and I did marry out – very happily as it turned out in the end and very successfully.
    I did live in London as a student, with a Jewish marriage counsellor for a while so the commentator above is probably right although maybe your husband could not have dealt with talking about intimacy with another person. I also wonder just how many Yeshiva bocherim are actually gay…I have been told by a few people that its not uncommon to escape that part of your sexuality by trying to become frum and getting married!

    I had a very frum friend who had a wonderful sex life with her husband – but they were both brought up frum and that made a difference I think. He took no notice of lights on or off or what he could and couldn;t see.

    The only – and it is the only – qualms I had when reading your account was how it might affect your children? I have my own book to write, and my own demons to grapple with, and I don’t want to write anything that would hurt either my birth family or my children – my late husband’s family are all dead now, and my new husband – also not Jewish – is keen for me to write. I am still pondering… father was a monster in many ways but I do not wish to punish my siblings for that.

    Take care.

  5. michelle said

    Hi Reva

    Today I finished reading your book.

    My background is very different from yours – ultra-secular, a mother who converted (orthodox)which meant I grew up with Xmas and not Channuka etc, not wanted or loved by my parents. Yet there is a small thread of commonality.

    A rebel by nature, a free spirit by birth, orthodox practicing by choice, a similar age, desiring a combination of the secular, esoteric and religious worlds. There are many parts of your story I can empathise with, other parts made me feel anger at you.

    Exposed to bnei Akiva at the age of 9 was the beginning of my religious education. being shipped off to a non-jewish boarding school aged 13 gave me the opportunity to do what I had wanted to such as becoming shomert shabbat. ‘Modern orthodox’ has been my choice, but still I explored elements of some of the more extreme forms of Judaism.

    Like you, I have made bad choices in partners, also always craving and seeking love and acceptance for the person who I am and not the person others want me to be – the love my parents and grandparents always denied me. Like you, I rebelled from an early age – stopped smoking at 15 and stopped drinking at 16, starting going to clubs at 12 and did so until I made aliya nearly 3 years ago (would love to still go but in Israel it seems that no one over 25 goes). Unlike you I have never done drugs as I was always concerned I would like this cop-out too much to give it up.

    When your mother came to Israel, you took her for therapy and saw a positive effect of this on her. You talk freely about your mother’s manic highs and lows and your forays into various extreeme lifestyles. Yet, from your book, you yourself have not considered therapy. When your mother came to Israel, you took her for therapy and saw a positive effect of this on her. Have you ever gone for therapy?

    After the 5th chapter, I started wondering where you are now.Whether you have been able to find a balance in your life and lifestyle. I see the last posting was in 2008. is this blog still active? What have you been doing with yourself since 2008? As Rodriques said ‘I wonder’.

  6. dina said

    HI Reva,

    I am unsure if this blog is still active, if you will see this. But in response to the criticism:

    I appreciate that your book was about your own personal struggles and life experience and overall you were quite fair to Orthodoxy and it was quite clear that most of the craziness was simply your experience and not that of all Orthodox Jews.

    But I have to agree with Leon that as an ultra-orthodox married Jewish woman myself – I have to say that there were things that you portrayed in the book that were incorrect. It may be that it was true to what you were taught – but a lot of the things you wrote about sexual relations in an orthodox Jewish marriage are incorrect.

    It is true, that to achieve the ultimate holiness in your relations with your husband – it is best to be as modest as possible (modesty is holiness). but it is something to aim for. Not everyone is expected to be so holy all the time! Our sexual instincts are very well recognised by Torah and we are supposed to enjoy them and explore them but within the confines of our marriage!

    However, all that other stuff is actually NOT forbidden. I know you were fair in writing that Torah teaches that a woman must be satisfied etc. etc. and that your experience was because YOUR particular spouse chose to take things to an absolute unrequired extreme., and had his own issues…..but still, I think it would have been fair to clarify that this was the dogma of the few extreme people you had fallen in with – not true Torah Ultra-Orthodoxy.

    Especially when you referred to the ‘hole in the sheet thing.’ Maybe you are aware, but your readers certainly werent, that it is actually FORBIDDEN to have relations with a separation like that!!! Not to say that there arent loonies that have interepreted the law in their own crazy way – but the Halacha – Jewish law-CLEARLY stipulates that a couple should be skin to skin- flesh to flesh as one body!

    I am sorry that your experience with Ultra-Orthodoxy was so unfulfilling and traumatic for you. I wonder if you feel that had you found a different stream of Orthodoxy you may have found true fulfillment, satisfaction and connection to G-d?

    I also wonder: It seems that your main reason for leaving Orthodoxy was your horrible marriage? Whilst I completely understand how that can happen – I wonder if you can explain why you chose to give up on the basics of the Torah because of your marriage? Why didnt you simply leave your marriage, seek a better way to keep Torah and Mitzvos without giving most of it up? (that is on the assumption that you have, since thats what I interpreted from the book, but perhaps I am wrong and you could clarify what your level of observance and your connection to Torah is now?)

    I trully am sorry for your hardships and I hope that you have managed to find the ‘middle-road’ and fulfillment in your life you so sincerely desired!

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