Non­fic­tion

Uncov­ered: How I Left Hasidic Life and Final­ly Came Home

  • Review
By – May 18, 2015

Sev­er­al mem­oirs detail­ing des­per­ate escapes from Hasidic life have been pub­lished in the last year: Shulem Deen’s page-turn­er depicts his expe­ri­ences as an irrev­er­ent Skver Hasid; Leah Vincent’s words jump off the page as she recounts her down­ward spi­ral fol­low­ing her evic­tion from the yeshiv­ish com­mu­ni­ty; Deb­o­rah Feld­man describes her iso­lat­ed life, and her grow­ing doubts, as a Sat­mar Hasid. But Leah Lax’s mem­oir Uncov­ered: How I left Hasidic Life and Final­ly Came Home has man­aged to stand out from the crowd with some major dif­fer­ences. To begin with, her Hasidic asso­ci­a­tion was with Chabad Lubav­itch. Sec­ond­ly, Lax has lived her entire life in Texas, while her col­leagues mem­oirs have focused most­ly on the New York area. Third­ly, Lax was not raised reli­gious. This is one of her ongo­ing strug­gles through­out the book: in Lax’s mind, the peo­ple who were raised with reli­gion are the haves and her life is one big have-not.

Lax begins her tale with her wed­ding day. From the start, she intro­duces an ongo­ing issue: the clash­ing of her old life as Lisa with her non-obser­vant fam­i­ly, with her new life as Leah with her groom, Levi, and the rab­bi that they devout­ly fol­low. Leah is con­vinced that her sole goal in life is to mar­ry and have chil­dren and to spend her life as a pas­sion­ate, Lubav­itch woman. The only prob­lem is that her true pas­sion is else­where. Beneath her hair cov­er­ing, her long skirts and tights, Leah desires to be with Ana, her child­hood friend and unac­knowl­edged love interest.

As a duti­ful wife should, Lax hides this sin­ful desire and remains in a love­less, almost mechan­i­cal, mar­riage, hop­ing to find mean­ing in her exis­tence. As she strug­gles through her family’s men­tal ill­ness­es and her husband’s cold demeanor, she fights against moth­er­hood. Even­tu­al­ly, her lone­li­ness changes her mind, but as much as her chil­dren become a source of com­fort, they also become a heavy load she must bear alone. Her monot­o­nous life requires car­ing for their every need but nev­er for her own. She starts to slow­ly real­ize that she is no longer a believ­er and that she feels increas­ing­ly trapped: in her mar­riage, in her reli­gion, even in her own skin. She must find a way out.

Lax’s writ­ing impress­es with the vivid descrip­tions of her deep­est emo­tions. In one scene, she is in labor and her hus­band decides to stop at the bak­ery he works at before they go to the hos­pi­tal. He believes it is his reli­gious oblig­a­tion to turn the oven on so that the chal­lahs can be deemed baked by a Jew.” Not one to argue with reli­gious oblig­a­tion, Leah patient­ly waits in the car. As her body begins to rebel she has a bleak thought: Endure. But every day I endure: lone­li­ness and embar­rass­ing erot­ic dreams that wake me in the night, a mut­ed cel­lo song, muf­fled mem­o­ries like muf­fled voic­es try­ing to push me off my stub­born path for God. What should be dif­fer­ent now?” What can be different?

Lax final­ly learns that she has the pow­er to change her des­tiny, regard­less of who it may hurt along the way. Her life devot­ed to God, her hus­band, and her chil­dren is final­ly her own. It takes many years for her to come to this real­iza­tion, but when she does rec­og­nize that her life doesn’t have to be so spir­it­less, sud­den­ly she can soar.

Libi is a first-time mom liv­ing in New Jer­sey. She works in fundrais­ing and events at Yeshi­va Uni­ver­si­ty and is pur­su­ing a master’s degree in Marketing.

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