July 21, 2003


PUTTING DOWN THE REBEL: One of my favorite blogs in recent months has been that of the Hasidic Rebel, a gentleman who lives in one of Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox communities and reports daily on the goings-on of a world that very few outsiders ever get a chance to glimpse. And while the Rebel (who has never revealed his real name) is often critical of the community and its leaders for being racist, exclusionary, and corrupt, he's made it perfectly clear all along that there are many things he loves about Hasidic life, and that's what keeps him in the fold. He's been compared to clandestine Baghdad blogger Salam Pax, though a more apt comparison may be to Andrew Sullivan, who refuses to renounce his Catholicism, his conservatism, or his homosexuality, despite the multiple contradictions inherent in his status.
It was only a matter of time before the Rebel was profiled in a mainstream publication, and profiled he was, by William O'Shea in last week's Village Voice. O'Shea deserves credit for bringing this story to the forefront, but not much credit at all in the way he did it: in true Voice style, the reporter came into the piece with an agenda, and let facts be damned.
O'Shea's story makes it look as though the Hasidic Rebel blog were merely a laundry list of the evils of Hasidism, and that the Rebel is a "prisoner" in the community much the same way that Salam Pax was in Saddam's Iraq. While the Rebel is often critical of the more repressive tendencies of his community, he's clear that there is much he loves about being there, and that's the reason he hasn't left- a fact that isn't even touched on in the Voice piece. Did O'Shea read the blog at all, other than to pull two or three inflamatory quotes?
(Full disclosure: the Rebel writes "William O'Shea, among a handful of other writers for various publications, requested the interview for the Village Voice. His was the first request and the only one I gave." I was one of those other writers, but O'Shea apparently beat me to the punch).

Posted by Stephen Silver at July 21, 2003 03:58 AM
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