Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Woman who wanted to be Haredi

 Seen in Bnei Brak (near Tel Aviv)

Photo: Miriam Woelke

Today I cannot even tell where exactly I met this woman. A single mother, maybe in her early fourties. The mother of a little daughter who, one day, walked into a Jerusalem coffee shop and sat down in order to enjoy her cup of coffee. A Haredi at her age was sitting at the table next to her's and somehow they ended up talking.

When a member of the haredi society hears about such an incident, the usual reaction is: "Well, the guy is not really religious". "He may be a pervert or just nuts". "Definitely something wrong with him". 

When the woman told me her story, I explained that, under normal circumstances, no haredi man would start talking to a strange woman sitting in a coffee shop. If there was anything strange about the guy ?

The woman said NO, nothing strange and he turned out to be an honest man. Apparently interested in her and even prepared to marry her and accept the daughter. However, there was only one condition: She, the secular woman, had to become haredi. Not right away like today eating at a non - kosher Mac Donald's and tomorrow joining the Mea Shearim women's club. He had asked her for a gradual change. Slowly, slowly, Teshuva, modest clothes, skirts, long sleeves, etc. 

I asked her whether she would be aware of what that means. She wasn't, as she didn't know the haredi side of life. 

"Are you willing to do it?" I asked.

"Yes", she replied and I saw her eyes shining with all kinds of excitements. No doubt, she was in love. 

I have never seen her again but hope that it worked out.


  1. I'm confused as to why that's strange.
    Are men and women not supposed to be friends?

    As for the situation, the man's "baby steps" approach towards conversion reminds me of the film "What About Bob?"

  2. B"H

    In many haredi circles, there is nothing like a friendship between different sexes. Women can be friends among each other and men among each other. But not mixed.

    A real friendship, relationship and companionship can only exist in a marriage. Otherwise there would also be too much jealousy when a woman goes out with her male friend.

  3. Then how to people get to know potential mates?

    Would one just look at another assuming, "I will marry them!" ?? I'm aware of match-making businesses, but they sound questionable at best.

    I've always felt that anyone who is married, of course ideally, should have married the most compatible and closest opposite as possible. Love is important, but so is compatibility. I was in a relationship once with someone who wanted to get married in a shul (or G-d forbid a church), but she didn't believe in G-d or rather she believed in Buddhism. Needless to say, that relationship didn't last. And I believe it was because of issues like that, even though I cared a lot. I wouldn't have married anyone under those circumstances.

  4. B"H

    Potential matches either meet through matchmakers, parents of close friends and relatives. Religious matches are very different from others and haredi matches; especially those in very strict and closed chassidic groups where the first meeting between the potential bride and groom are taking place in the living room of the parents.

    I will give some detailes descriptions in the next articles I write.:-)

  5. Kinda sounds like he was trying to see if she was 'easy'.
    Who knows though...

  6. B"H

    I don't know about him but she was quite excited. A working colleague reading this text asked me whether the woman was simply in love with the guy and accepted being religious due to him. I don't think so. She looked like she really saw something in haredi Judaism even if it wouldn't work out with this man.