An Abusive System

An interview with trailblazing Israeli feminist Elana Sztokman about her journey away from Orthodoxy.

Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman was once an Orthodox religious Jew. Growing up in Brooklyn, she attended the Yeshiva of Flatbush, where she received an education that schooled her in the requirements and practices of Orthodox women. As a 23-year-old mother, she moved to Israel where she received advanced degrees in sociology, gender studies, and education. She went on to write scholarly books examining the role of gender in Judaism. Two of her books, The Men’s Section: Orthodox Jewish Men in an Egalitarian World (2011) and Educating in the Divine Image: Gender Issues in Orthodox Jewish Day Schools (2013) were awarded the National Jewish Book Award. She also worked for various causes focusing on issues concerning Jewish women; she helped found Mavoi Satum, which advises women whose husbands refuse them a divorce (in Hebrew, “agunot”), and served as the executive director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance.

But even as she engaged in these works, Sztokman found Orthodox Judaism’s conception of women problematic. As she tried to define and analyze this dynamic through her academic research, she gradually came to realize that she needed to revisit her own personal relationship to Judaism through the lens of her community, the family she was raised in, and her own experiences as an Orthodox woman. As she writes in her new collection of essays, Conversations with My Body: Essays on My Life as a Jewish Woman: “I have spent much of my adult professional life writing about this subject as an observer. I’ve studied and documented the socialization of Orthodox women and girls with the skills, training, and perspective of sociology researcher and academic. I’ve interviewed literally hundreds of women and girls about their experiences and ideas, as well as a few dozen men. In other words, I have been writing about others while avoiding writing about myself, but I think that really all my work has been about this, an attempt to find a way to explain what I have felt and experienced myself as a product of this culture.”

Conversations with My Body, the result of Sztokman’s need to rethink what she once took on willingly, examines the demands that Orthodox Judaism makes on the female body and psyche. She approaches the subject not from the point of view of what Halacha says women must do, but from the perspectives, feelings, and experiences of the women who must actually fulfill its requirements. The writing here is unsentimental, angry, and deeply personal. It expresses a deep disappointment with the establishment that imposes what she sees as abusive practices on women, and with her own family for insisting that she accept these practices without question.

In chapters relating to issues such as ‘Modesty’ (“Modesty has become a code word for women’s and girls’ body cover, which is used as a marker for the virtuousness of the men around them.”), ‘Voice’ (“Let’s parse this out for a minute: I want to know which men, sitting in a memorial service for the Lamed Heh, are going to be getting an erection because women are singing. I would like to know who educated those men to be able to ignore all serious content and turn everything into sex. Frankly, I think these men should all be kicked out of the army. I mean, how are they supposed to fight a war if they can’t keep it in their pants for a five-minute mournful choir performance?”) and ‘Mikveh’ – the Ritual Bath (“No matter how many ways religious leaders – men and women – try to explain the mikveh practice or reclaim it in a zillion new-age ways, there is something sickeningly off about the whole thing. The idea that, for the sake of one’s marriage, or for the sake of one’s ‘purity’ … or for the sake of being ‘Jewish,’ a woman has to stand naked for inspection and then dunk in this water while being watched and being called ‘kasher’ – is a complete and utter violation of one’s body.”), Sztokman offers a jarring take on practices that are routinely demanded of Orthodox women.

I sat down with her for a frank conversation about her frank new book in a coffee shop overlooking a park in her hometown of Modi’in.

Janice Weizman: I want to start with a question whose answer is probably quite complex, but also key to this book. Thinking about your journey, what was it that enabled you, as an Orthodox Jew, to question the very society that you were a part of?

Elana Sztokman: What makes people rebel or question the cultures that they come from? That’s a big question, and I don’t have a clear cut answer. I do have two theories about it. One theory has to do with the system not working for you. The system wasn’t working for me, in the sense that I was hurting. My family was not loving and supportive. That, in an ironic way, made me question a lot of things, and though it took me twenty years to fully leave it, it was easier for me to take a step back.

People for whom the system works are much less likely to question it. So, for example, women who gain things that they want most—community, friends, purpose, structure—are less likely to question or unravel it. There are other things women gain from this—status, attention, or other emotional rewards. A woman who through whatever work she does, looks and acts the way she is supposed to, is super thin, has lots of kids and a perfect house or whatever, or a woman who has respect because she is the wife of an important rabbi whose house is a sort of hub, well she’s very rewarded for playing the game. Another example of women who make the system work well for them is women who wear wigs— the sheitel enables women to be rewarded in both worlds. They get to be both modest and beautiful. A woman who does that successfully, a woman for whom the system works, is much less likely to take a step back or to leave it.

The other theory has to do with something a little more universal. It has to do with a type of courage. The decision to question openly, to challenge openly. You can see this in the human condition everywhere; who are the ones who question and who are the ones who don’t. At the end of the day it’s a matter of personal choice. Do you make the choice to listen to a particular moral voice, to be honest with what you’re seeing and experiencing? Or do you fall back on what you’ve been told and follow the herd? It’s a choice to do the hard thing. And it is hard. It’s very, very hard to be the one questioning everything your society tells you. But it is a choice.

JW: It’s interesting that you relate it to honesty—Am I going to look at the truth of my situation, or am I going to close my eyes and turn away?

ES: Yes, it’s very much about honesty. It’s as though there is this consensus among women to not say the truth, to hold it back. It’s like the poet Muriel Rukeyser, who wrote “What would happen if women told the truth about our lives?” I think that there is a conspiracy of silence among women. We don’t tell the truth.

JW: It was possible to see that it in action in the Me Too movement. All of a sudden, there were millions of women saying “Me too.”

ES: Exactly. Where were they until now? But women have good reasons to hold back their truth. Women get punished for telling the truth.

JW: Given that you began your career as a sociologist and researcher, can you talk about what led you to turn to personal essay and memoir?

Es: Part of the feminist struggle is to be recognized for your authority and knowledge. For most of human history a man didn’t need to share his personal story in order to be recognized as an authority. He could say “I’m a sociologist,” and people would say “Okay, yes professor, what do you have to say”—even if he had no idea what he was talking about. And I wanted that. I wanted to speak as an authority. I had spent 13 years in graduate school, in a foreign language, in a foreign country, while raising kids, and I wanted to be acknowledged as an authority. I didn’t want to wear my heart on my sleeve in order to be able to say that I know what I’m talking about. I wrote books, and my books won important awards, and I did have a certain amount of acknowledgement. But we’re living in a very “confessional” world at the moment; people don’t really believe you anymore unless you say that you have firsthand experience. So I felt that I needed to show my real credentials—that I had lived this.

Also, personally speaking, there was a price to not sharing these things. I had internalized a lot of shame. You mentioned the Me Too movement. One of the things that came out of that was the effect of living with shame. I would ask myself, What here is my fault? What should I be embarrassed about? What things about my body should I feel shame about? That I left the community? That I don’t know where I belong? That I’m cut off from my family of origin? Coming out and talking about it was a way to release all that shame.

JW: In a piece published last winter in Lilith, you write about watching the confirmation hearings of [US] Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett and thinking, “I know so many women like her. In fact, I could have been her myself.” Could you unpack that moment?

ES: Well, it’s the women gatekeepers—women who chose to protect the patriarchy, and be spokespeople for it. Women who tell other women: Cover up! Be servile! This is God’s will. My mother, for example, groomed me to be that. Every time I questioned anything about the patriarchy I was being groomed into, she took it as a personal rejection of her entire world view. Regarding Amy Coney Barrett—the system works for her. She’s a perfect example. She’s gotten a lot of rewards for playing the game. Look—she became a Supreme Court justice. She was promoted to be a judge three years earlier, because she could be counted on to spout out whatever the men in her community were saying. Look how much she was rewarded for that! She is never in her life going to back down from that. She probably doesn’t buy into the idea that anything holds women back. The truth is that it that reminds me of a lot of the women in my family.

JW: In what way?

ES: In that they’re women who repeat the lines men tell them without bothering to question themselves.

JW: What does that say about the way that some women fail to support ideas that can improve women’s lives?

ES: Yes, that is one of my biggest criticisms of Orthodox Feminism. I see it all the time. Women who’ll do anything to get the approval of a male rabbi, including throwing other women under the bus. Women who shut up other women, because they want to secure approval from a particular male rabbi. Orthodox feminists need the man more than they need the women. The problem is that if an Orthodox woman wants to achieve something in her community, other women are powerless to help her. One man with the title “rabbi” is more powerful than all the women put together. For example, if a woman says, I have a petition signed by a thousand women calling for a solution for the aguna problem [“chained women”; women denied the right to divorce their husband], that doesn’t do anything. But if she can get one rabbi to say, yes, we’ve got to do something about the aguna problem, she’s got it made. So she doesn’t care about those other thousand women.

I saw this while working in one of these organizations. They held a conference to deal with the aguna issue, and the whole thing was made up of rabbis speaking, even rabbis who didn’t particularly support it. So there were rabbis at the conference who had done less than nothing for the issue, who had stood in the way of helping agunot—they were given a platform, while none of the aguna activists were. I was in an administrative role and I said to the organizer, “You have all of these amazing women who have dedicated their entire careers to helping women out of divorce. Why aren’t you giving them a voice?” She replied that she didn’t want to offend the rabbis. I saw it again and again, and it was one of the key things that pushed me out of orthodoxy. This conference was in 2013, and I remember how at the end the aguna activists were just devastated.

JW: Given what you’ve just said, what were they expecting?

ES: To be heard. To be heard as authorities on an issue they’ve dedicated their life to. I mean imagine, you’re a professional lawyer, you’re running a political organization, and you’re not even allowed to speak because you might offend the rabbi, who himself is awful to agunot.

JW: Returning to your remark about how you could have been a woman who functions as a “gatekeeper.” What kind of person were you?

ES: When I first moved to Israel in 1993, I was a young mother with a 4-month-old baby. I covered my hair and wore long skirts, and was starting a Masters in Jewish Education. I was planning on spending my life teaching people how beautiful Judaism is, and I would go around preaching how amazing the Jewish people are, that we’re the chosen ones, that Halacha and Torah are beautiful. I was bent on dedicating my life to Israel and Jewish education. I had totally drunk the Kool-Aid. All of it.

JW: Were you the type of person who might have said to another woman that she isn’t dressed modestly enough?

ES: I don’t know if I would have said anything aloud, but in my mind I definitely policed other women’s bodies. I would walk down the street and think, why is she wearing short shorts? Doesn’t she have any respect for herself? It took me a long time to stop doing, that, and the process entailed a conscious decision within myself.

JW: One of the things that makes this book unique is your honest examination not only of the effects of Orthodoxy, but also of the larger culture, on women’s sexuality. You write, “I feel like my sexuality and body ownership were stolen from me by my religion, my family of origin, my teachers, my rabbis, western culture, a zillion dietitians, and even my yoga teacher. I have spent the past 10-15 years trying to get it back, to own my own sexual feelings and sensuality.” Can you elaborate a little on this point?

ES: I listed about ten different traumas there. One was from my father. Every Shabbat, as my sisters and I would serve the meal he would look our waists and chins and comment about our thinness and attractiveness. And it was never “You look great.” It was always “You could lose a few pounds.” I was 14 years old, beautiful and perfect, being inspected by my father and told that I needed to lose weight to please him.

Then there was my mother, whose role was to make us good for my father, by his standards. My mother would also comment on everyone’s bodies. She would compare our bodies—my sisters and I—and we would have long, snarky discussions at the Shabbat table and in the Loehmann’s [now-defunct retail chain] dressing room about other women’s bodies. Constantly.

Nowhere in my orbit was there someone telling me that I’m okay, that my body is fine, that I have choices, that I could wear what I like and decide for myself, or even that there is a diversity of women’s bodies, and that a double chin is okay. It took me 20 years to get rid of those voices in my head. If at all. I mean, I’m not sure they’re gone entirely.

Besides that, there was Western culture, doing a whole set of other things—sexualizing girls, rape jokes, that ’80s humor. Like in the movie Grease, for example there’s a line in a song [“Summer Nights”] that goes “Tell me more, tell me more/Did she put up a fight?” Well if she put a fight that’s called rape. But we didn’t take it as problematic. We sang the song for years. The whole Brett Cavanaugh episode brought that back. If you combine these things with the concept of Tznius [modesty], then where does that leave you?

And then you get to marriage and the idea of Nida, the rules regarding abstaining from sex during menstruation. Your whole life you’ve been told to cover up, protect your sexuality, not to be sexually active. You realize in 12th grade that the only thing that’s actually okay for you is to get married. That’s the only time you can actually have sex, but then you have to go to the mikveh. And that’s a whole other colossal opus of messages. You’re getting naked in front of a woman who’s going to watch you dip. You have to check yourself—you have to stick your finger into your vagina twice a day for seven days—that’s how you know if you’re clean enough for your husband to have sex with you.

He, of course, doesn’t have to do anything. A husband can come to bed with zero effort or preparation, without anyone looking at him or expecting anything from him, without having to monitor his own body, without an entire halachic system and community owning him and his sexuality. He doesn’t even have to shower if he doesn’t feel like it. While the women spends seven days doing all of this OCD-inducing scrubbing, checking, plucking. How can anyone think that this is normal or healthy?

You ask where I was in all of this. Well, for years I was an advocate for it. I read all the books talking about how this is so beautiful, about how a couple needs two weeks apart, etc. etc. I tried to uphold these practices for many years. It took a lot of honesty with myself to admit how much I hated all of it. It was a very gradual letting go, because the language of mikveh is so much about how if you don’t go to the mikveh then your children will have deformities.

JW: But you didn’t believe that…

ES: How was I supposed to know?

JW: Well, do you see a lot of secular people with deformed children?

ES: You know, it takes a lot of independent thinking to be able to question everything. If someone scares with your worst fears, and uses God language—if they say it comes straight from God, that this is the holiest thing, the ultimate sign, without this your family is impure, that’s a heavy threat.

The hating of the mikveh is a very secret society among religious women. I have spoken to Orthodox feminists who despise it. One woman, an academic, calls it a secret rebellion. Women rebel secretly and don’t tell. I’ve interviewed a lot of women over the years, and I know that some of them are breaking ranks here. The mikveh is a very secret thing. Very private and secret. I didn’t know anything about it until 12th grade.

JW: You grew up in the 1980s in New York, and there was a lot of feminist discourse in the air. Were you aware of it?

ES: Not at all. My father considered feminists to be weird man-haters, and we just went along with him—his opinion was the only one that mattered. My parents made a concerted effort to make sure that we thought that feminism was hostile. Whenever my father talked about career women, he would say that they were sad, pathetic, lonely.

JW: One of the most troubling and, perhaps, the most provocative claim you make in the book, is that Orthodoxy abuses women. You write: “The culture of Orthodox Judaism systematically and routinely abuses women and girls in a myriad of painful ways. Women who grow up and live for decades in a system that continually justifies their silencing and exclusion as the word of God are forced to make all kinds of internal adjustments to function normally. They may not describe themselves as abused. They may even take offense at this characterization. But the fact is that these are practices of abuse.” Do you still stand behind that idea, or has your thinking about that changed in any way?

ES: I totally stand by it. Even thought I know a lot of women disagree with me, and say, “I’m not abused. Don’t speak for me.” So okay, lots of women who are being abused don’t see it as abuse, and don’t want to characterize themselves that way. But just because you say, I’m happy, I’m not a victim just like Plato’s happy slave—that doesn’t mean that the practice itself isn’t abusive. Take the mikveh, what we just spoke about, for example. You’re forcing women to do this shaming, humiliating body routine, with all of this God language and threats of having deformed babies.

Also, it’s like sexual slavery. The night of the mikveh is the night you’re going to have sex. It’s mandated sexual activity not based on your desires or needs, but based on artificially imposed proscriptions. Women’s sexual desire does not exist anywhere in the practice. It’s sex as a performed duty, with a lot of self-policing involved.

Or take something more mundane—the mehitza [partition separating men from women in formal gatherings]. What kind of internal adjustments does a woman have to make in order to walk into a room where she’s not allowed to speak, even though all the men are allowed to speak? She’s not allowed to participate, and she doesn’t even count. Whether you’re there or not, no one will notice. Men are counted, but it’s like the women don’t even exist. You can have a room full of women doing a women’s prayer service, and they are forbidden to say kaddish, or other holy prayers. It’s this idea that women are not real people. That is abuse. Women have to make all kinds of internal adjustments in order to deal with that.

JW: What do you mean by “internal adjustments?”

ES: You have to rationalize it. You say, I don’t need this, I don’t really want it. I wouldn’t want to go to minyan three times a day. I’m so glad my husband does it instead of me. I really like my private space. Or you take on ideas about gender difference—that women have softer brains or are naturally inclined to reject public activity. All kinds of rationalizations that keep you bound up.

Even if some of these things were true, they don’t change the fact that the enforcing of this practice is cruel. There’s no other way to describe it. Women who seek roles that go against these ideas about our “natural” proclivity to avoid being public participants in society are cast as wrong or strange or outsiders or “provocateurs” or women who don’t know our place. Those are hard things to fight against. It’s hard to take on that whole system, that entire set of hurtful ideas. So many women internalize this language, treat these hurtful ideas as some kind of truth in order to confront the reality that they are enabling cruelty and abuse. It’s a mind game.

JW: So, when you say that Orthodox Judaism abuses women, do feel that in a certain sense, every Orthodox woman is a victim of abuse?

ES: I would stay away from the word “victim.” Being a victim is something that people have to decide for themselves. But every single Orthodox woman who is participating in this is participating in a system that is cruel to women. Period. And even if it doesn’t hurt her in any way, and she herself doesn’t feel hurt, she’s still participating in that system. The more a woman says, “I’m fine, why are you complaining,” the more she’s complicit. Those are the Amy Coney Barretts.

JW: That’s a surprising notion. Orthodox Jews claim that they are inherently moral, and that they don’t want to intentionally hurt anyone, but you’re claiming that it’s actually a culture of hurting some people.

ES: The more I hear people, especially Orthodox men, describe Orthodoxy as morally superior, the more fully I know that what I’m saying is true. Because that whole stance, of saying “we’re better than everyone” also means that you can’t hear criticism, and that’s part of the problem. It’s the macho, male, ego stance. And it drives a lot of our culture. And it’s not just orthodoxy. It’s Israel and its Zionism, and it’s Netanyahu, and it’s Bennett. Every time Israel gets criticized then it’s “they’re all anti-Semites.”

JW: This book is in many ways an invitation for Orthodox women to enter into a dialogue with Orthodoxy. What sort of responses have you gotten from that community so far?

ES: Orthodox women come in a lot of varieties. There are many women with whom I’m in conversation and who are very appreciative of my writing. Then there are women who are angry at me, and there are women who reject me. I get it. It’s very confronting. Many say, “What are you talking about? You don’t represent me. I’m fine.” My mother would be the first person to tell you that I don’t know what I’m talking about. She tells people I’m mentally unwell and need help. So there’s that.

Nevertheless, I feel there’s been a lot of change in the past ten years. There’s been a shift. I think social media has given women some outlets for community and conversation. There are a lot of lurkers, reading things that they feel that can’t be said out loud.

I’ve been blogging since 2008, and writing since 1998. I write about gender and one of the things I pay attention to is counting women in spaces. How many women are on the dais, for example. Or how many women are in a table of contents in a book. In 2007, I was working as a consultant for a Jewish educational organization, and one day they asked me to look at a new book on Jewish education. I opened it, and there were 12 chapters, each one written by a man. So I said, weren’t there any women you could have asked to contribute a chapter? They replied that there were no women of a high enough caliber. And there I was, in their office, with three degrees in education. So I would blog about that kind of thing, and I’ve been noticing that over the past few years this sort of conversation is happening much more frequently. There is definitely a broader awareness of the problem.

JW: At the close of the book, you write that “What has been missing throughout the history of Orthodox feminism is attention to the inner lives of Orthodox women. That is, I think that the next vital step in the movement for Orthodox feminism must focus on the healing that Orthodox women desperately need.” What types of healing do you have in mind? Do you believe that there are those in the Orthodox community who will take up your call?

ES: You asked me why I moved from writing academically to writing personally. Writing personally is part of a healing process. It’s a way of saying, it’s not just offensive that women don’t count in a minyan; it hurts. It’s an emotional, spiritual, visceral attack that has an impact on my psyche. Healing means, first of all, talking about it. Saying that this isn’t some academic response. Whenever you talk to a male rabbi about the status of women in Judaism, it’s always an academic discussion for them. A male rabbi will say, this is what Halacha says here, and this is what it says here. But when we talk about it it’s not academic and it’s not abstract. It’s about our lives, it’s about our bodies, our lived experience. Like the experience of walking into a women’s section [of a synagogue]—what is the real impact of experiencing that over your whole life, and accepting that that’s the only place I can be? Accepting that I’m not allowed to sing and I’m not allowed to speak and I’m not allowed to participate.

There are lots of different ways to heal. But it can’t happen unless the entire community is engaged in that, unless some men come out and say, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for being a voice of this hurtful culture. I’m sorry for the things I made women do in the name of Halacha.

JW: Do you believe that there are those in the Orthodox Feminist community that will take up your call to focus on healing?

ES: Not yet. I don’t think the movement is there yet. But I don’t know for sure. In my experience, the Orthodox Feminist movement is much more focused on changing the rules, changing practices. It is not a movement that has begun talking about the traumatic impact on women that comes from living within this cultural system. That is not a conversation that is yet taking place in any real way.

JW: Looking at it from this moment in time, can you envision an Orthodoxy that you would rejoin?

ES: No. I don’t see myself ever rejoining Orthodoxy. I feel like Orthodoxy was invented for the purpose of maintaining a particular social hierarchy. The whole purpose of it is to keep people in their place, to keep them obedient, so that they stay.

JW: Would you say that was always true of traditional Judaism? Or do you think that the way Orthodox Judaism is practiced today is a perversion of how it was practiced in the past?

ES: Oh, I think that today there are a lot of perversions of the way Judaism is practiced today.

JW: Many Jews would say that Orthodoxy is a direct continuation of the Judaism of our great-grandparents.

ES: What I think is that there is no such thing as “the way Judaism always was.” It was different in every generation, in every country, in every community.

JW: Well, there were a lot of common denominators. One of them being that women could not lead a community.

ES: But even that—there were certain communities where every once in a while there was a female leader. Chasidic women became rebbes. There’s a book called The Maiden of Ludmir [by the scholar Nathaniel Deutsch], about a woman who became a rebbe in her community, and at the back of the book there is a list of communities where there were women rabbis over the years. So it’s not true that there were never women leaders. It’s also not true that history is a linear progression. History goes up and down, back and forth, and the idea that Orthodoxy is preserving something that always was is just a lie. There is no such thing as “the way Judaism always was.” 15th century Jews played tennis in Italy— something which, when I was growing up, would have been completely forbidden.

JW: When you look at it from that perspective, it really does look like a patriarchal system that keeps women in their place, with men just making up the rules according to what works for them.

ES: Yes. Absolutely.

JW: In the book, you write about how growing up in a strongly patriarchal family environment shaped you as a person. If you could go back in time and speak to yourself as a girl growing up in your home, what would you tell her?

ES: Your father is wrong. It’s okay to disagree with him. And it’s okay to listen to yourself. Just listen to yourself. And also, you are beautiful exactly as you are. You don’t have to change for anyone, and you don’t have to serve anyone. And you’re allowed to follow your heart. Follow your heart. That’s an exercise I’ve been doing a lot lately. My father’s voice is still in my head sometimes. I’m much better at telling other women to trust themselves and listen to themselves than I am at listening to myself.

JW: Israel was originally conceived as a country that is both Jewish and democratic, but there are now factions in the Knesset who would throw out the “democratic” part of the equation. In your opinion, is Orthodox Judaism capable of existing under the umbrella of democratic principles?

ES: Judaism is capable of existing in every political situation, because for most of Jewish history Judaism did not have political power. The state of Israel is the first time in 2000 years where there is even a possibility that Orthodoxy could determine political reality. For most of our history, Jews have existed alongside whatever political system was in place. So if the current political system is democratic, Judaism ought to be able to work with it. Plus, we have a lot of democratic principles in the Torah. We have the idea of compassion, freeing slaves—it says to treat slaves with compassion, to treat the stranger with compassion, to treat animals with compassion. We have those moral messages, so there’s no reason why we can’t look at democratic principles which are basically saying to treat all human beings as human beings, and say, yes, that’s Torah. All human beings are created in the divine image, so we can get behind that.

The truth is that Judaism isn’t one thing. We have a mixed history. Alongside the 36 times it says to be kind to strangers, you have, say, kill the Amalekites. Or stone homosexuals. Over its 3000-year evolution, you can find everything. There are factions in the Knesset that are anti-gay, and they use Torah to back that up. But the pro-compassion factions say gay people are human beings.

Judaism is so vast at this point. We have so many possibilities of how to interpret it. Sometimes I think that it’s impossible to talk about Judaism as one thing anymore. Maybe it never was. These days I’m not looking to Judaism for moral guidance. I’m not interested in what the Torah has to tell me about how to live my life. I’m over interpretations of Torah. I’m over listing to some guy, who, just because he has a rabbi title says, the Torah is teaching you “this.” Most of the time, whatever comes after “this” is whatever he wants it to be. And it may have very little with what the Torah has to say.

JW: Is the book going to be coming out in Hebrew?

ES: Maybe one day.

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