A Glimpse Inside the Hidden World of Hasidic Women

Source: The New York Times

Orthodox Jewish women and men live in tightly defined, and separate, spheres. The photographer Sharon Pulwer was given a rare invitation to enter the private world of Brooklyn’s most Orthodox Jewish women.

By Sarah Maslin Nir

Photographs by Sharon Pulwer

At an Orthodox Jewish wedding in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the girls dance in the women-only section.

Sharon Pulwer was lost in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, shortly after moving here from Israel to study photography, when she came across the black hats and modest clothes of religious Jews in New York City. A secular Jew, she was momentarily taken aback. “I was very surprised that there was this very vivid part of Jewish life here that I was not aware about.”

Ms. Pulwer, now 24, had stumbled upon members of Chabad-Lubavitch, Orthodox Jews who follow the teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the group’s charismatic rabbi, who died in 1994. As she learned more, Ms. Pulwer became intrigued by the community’s adherence to biblical precepts that strictly delimit the roles of men and women. For a man, the highest calling is a life of scholarly study of religious text; for a woman, it is devotion to the faith, the family and the home.

“I am a Jewish woman myself, and I had the same questions about femininity and Judaism, and a woman’s place in a Jewish world,” Ms. Pulwer said. Eager to learn, she approached a group outside 770 Eastern Parkway, unaware it was the world headquarters of the movement, and was surprised to find herself welcomed in as an observer.

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