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Obscured American: Noam the Straying Hasid
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Brooklyn, 2016

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Last year in Leipzig, Germany, I met a young woman who had just returned from Chicago, where her family lived in tony Lincoln Park. She had also studied at WilliamsCollege in Massachusetts, where tuition alone was near $50,000. Germany was too white, she complained, and she was ashamed of the anti-immigrant attitude shown by many of her countrymen. For Christmas, she went to Palm Springs, California. Though only in her mid-twenties, she had traveled to dozens of countries.

The young woman loved American multiculturalism, and it’s easy to see why. For those above a certain income level, diversity simply means variety, as in choosing between Mexican and Filipino for breakfast, Haitian, Cuban and Panamanian for lunch, then Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi and Afghan for dinner. One can decide between a Colombian and a Tibetan nanny, and as for paid penetration, why not a Ukrainian one week, then a Thai the next? If one’s an employer, there are billions of reasons to underpay, so that’s nice too. Just keep those borders open.

Below deck, in the windowless compartments, the dynamics aren’t quite the same. Though one can also sample a huevos rancheros or a Jamaican beef patty, one may not be able to afford it if one can’t compete for a job against more desperate immigrants. Those who don’t make their living as a busboy, dishwasher, line cook, hotel custodian, housepainter, drywaller or gardener, etc., will smirk at this scenario. The unemployed may also be foreign-born, since relentless immigration hurts whomever is already here. In WashingtonState, Thai farm workers have been brought in to replace Mexicans.

With lives of the working poor constantly threatened and disrupted by immigration, social turmoil is inevitable, for the masses can’t keep making and eating less, and moving into ever worse dwellings, if not onto a sidewalk. The backlash against immigration in all multicultural societies is no last gasp convulsion from the past, but a portent of the future. With nationalism and tribalism resurgent, we’re living through the last days of multiculturalism.

None of this tectonic shift is evident in chichi enclaves like the Upper East Side, where I had a reading recently at the Asia Society, or in Boerum Hill, where I also did my shtick. In that rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood, the average listed price for a house is only $3,328,983. Let me see if I have some spare change.

Among those at the second event, there was a rather unusual young man, for it’s not every day you find a Hasidic Jew at a celebration of a Tokyo-based literary journal. During the informal chatter afterwards, I got to meet 24-year-old Noam.

By bringing different modes of living and thinking into starker contrast, multiculturalism allows each man to reflect on his own upbringing, so that he can forge, step by step, an existence that’s more suitable to his soul. From a diverse buffet, he may choose anything from tai chi, to Sufism, to chemsex. Stepping outside the strictures of Hasidism just six months ago, Noam is at the beginning of this process.

Wearing a beige jacket and dark brown slacks, Noam was clean shaven, and his speech was deliberate and concise, even after he had had a few beers mixed with wine. Thoroughly contained, Noam never got agitated nor laughed, though his face sometimes seemed bemused. Our conversation started at the bookstore, continued at a restaurant, and ended on the street, just before I went underground to head back to the Lower East Side. I never saw Noam again.

I like what you said about civilizational decline. In the Talmud, it talks about this relentless decline, from generation to generation. Mankind has been in decline for 4,000 years.

My father is dead. I live at home with my mother and three siblings. I have an older brother and an older sister who have moved out.

I stopped formal schooling at 13, and I’m just now trying to get the equivalent of a high school diploma. I’d like to go to college. I’ll probably take out a loan. I don’t know what I want to study.

At the yeshiva, we spoke Yiddish. I can also read and write Hebrew.

I feel embarrassed, because so many other people my age have done so much.

I haven’t been anywhere. I spent six months in Israel, but only in an Orthodox community. There are modern places in Israel, like Tel Aviv, but I wasn’t there. Where I was, there was garbage in the middle of the street. Being used to American standards, I didn’t feel comfortable.

I also spent a few weeks in Los Angeles, but, again, I was only among other Orthodox Jews.

I have never even been to New Jersey.

Sometimes I think of myself as a poet. I’d like to publish at least one poem. I need to express what I’ve gone through.

My heroes are Biblical, like King David. I’m inspired by them. Don’t laugh, but I’d like to be great like them.

I cannot have a conversation with my sister-in-law, not because I don’t like her, but because it’s not allowed.

Even in the home, only certain colors are allowed for decoration. Everything is so bland. Even the cooking. Take the matzo ball, for example.

I understand that’s how it was in the ancient world, but I’m uncomfortable with the injunction to annihilate all of your enemy, every single man, woman and child.

The Talmud does teach you to respect all living beings, and even inanimate things. At a normal meal, bread is always eaten first, but on the Shabbat, wine is drunk before you break bread, and that’s why the bread must be covered by a piece of cloth, to not offend it.

ORDER IT NOW

In the Talmud, there’s a story about a rabbi who crawled beneath a bed, just so he could learn how his teacher had sex, and there’s another rabbi who hid in the outhouse, just so he could observe how his teacher wiped himself. There is a correct way to do everything.

I’m watching television to learn about the world, because you can’t get everything from books. I’m watching sit-coms and commercials. The Twilight Zone is a show from the 60’s. I notice the eyes of the people in them are more focused. They don’t dart around like what you see today. People could still focus then.

You’re right, many people can no longer hear you. They purposely ignore or distort what you just said.

People who walk around with earphones might as well have a middle finger taped to their forehead. They’re basically saying, “I don’t want to be here among you!”

Of course, we’re all tribal. We have different belief systems.

In Capitalism, we no longer see people as people. It’s always, What can I get out of this person?

I don’t understand why women put up with pornography. It’s so insulting. Men shouldn’t put up with it, either. It’s so degrading to all of humanity.

No, I haven’t read Kafka or Bashevis Singer. I will look them up. I have never heard of Simone Weil.

I like the New Yorker because it’s so well-written.

I come to all the readings at this bookstore. I don’t know anything about these writers. I don’t even know your name.

Can you drink wine after beer? I’ve never done it.

Of course, this wine is good. It belongs to another universe! I’ve only had Passover wine.

Just coming to the reading tonight was an act of rebellion, because it’s Passover, and I was supposed to be at the synagogue. You have all these rich people come in, and they’re just mumbling the prayers. There’s nothing spiritual about it.

My grandma criticized how I was dressed. She said why aren’t you wearing the black coat and the hat? She had a fall two months ago, but I haven’t visited her. Maybe you’re right. Maybe I’m retaliating against her.

I like what you said about the Muslim making Jewish sandwiches for black people. Food brings us together. You know where you can get great food? The corner bodega!

I’d love to have my own space, but I must get a job first. I’ve only had one job in my life. I worked retail. I dealt with other people. I handled it. It wasn’t easy.

You talked about the broken people, those who have no time or mental space to work through their problems, but I’m even more broken than they are. I have no peace.

Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, Postcards from the End of America.

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Hassidim, Immigration, Obscured American 
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  1. Can the post-modern society create tribes of the mind to replace the old tribes bound by blood and tradition? The one-world, multi-cultural Progressive types think so. Mr. Dinh, despite the apparent success of Brooklyn, suggests not. I would love to hear more from him on this topic.

    Noam says we’re in a 4000-yr decline. Perhaps he thinks we’ve been falling from God for 4000 years. Towards what are we falling?

  2. 5371 says:

    I hope this young man succeeds in escaping from the Talmudic swamp in which he was born.

  3. Marcus says:

    What’s Haitian cuisine, mud pies?

  4. martino says:

    po or noam, i am sad for him. What a destrucction made by a religion. Religion is stupid, destroy de minds and life of many people, when it is extremist: catolic, jew, islam, protestant…All are isnane.And for multiculturalism, the sole name says that it is: a melting pote impossible. Social engineers would go to live to Africa forever. Thank you linh for your post. Apologies for my bad english.

    • Replies: @crossbow sniper
  5. Rehmat says:

    “I like what you said about civilizational decline. In the Talmud, it talks about this relentless decline, from generation to generation. Mankind has been in decline for 4,000 years.”

    That’s a dumb lie, but I wouldn’t blame the authors of Talmud which they wrote over a century after the crucification of Christ – basically to demonize Christ, his mother and entire non-Jewish majority.

    But then there is no shortage of liars among the tribe. For example, in March 2015, Benjamin Netanyahu while addressing the American Knesset in Washington DC invoked Persians’ hatred toward country’s Jewish community over 2500 years ago.

    “Tomorrow night, on the Jewish holiday of Purim, we’ll read the Book of Esther. We’ll read of a powerful Persian viceroy named Haman, who plotted to destroy the Jewish people some 2,500 years ago. But a courageous Jewish woman, Queen Esther, exposed the plot and gave for the Jewish people the right to defend themselves against their enemies. The plot was foiled. Our people were saved,” Netanyahu said.

    However, as an abnoxious Zionist liar, Netanyahu skipped the part from his Holy Book of Esther that describes how Queen Esther with the help of Mordechai’s (her father, uncle, boyfriend or whatever!) armed Jewish terrorists murdered 75,000 Persian civilians in cold-blood.

    “Today the Jewish people face another attempt by yet another Persian potentate to destroy us. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei spews the oldest hatred, the oldest hatred of anti-Semitism with the newest technology. He tweets that Israel must be annihilated,” Netanyahu added.

    https://rehmat1.com/2015/03/06/netanyahu-and-queen-esther-of-persia/

    • Replies: @Sherman
    , @Che Guava
  6. Kyle a says:

    ever notice how the Amish and the Hasidic folks got a really ripe smell about them?

  7. Durruti says:

    Nice writing.

    I grew up in Brooklyn – near Ave U & Nostrand. Fished off the piers at Sheepshead Bay, or under the bridges past Plum Beach.

    Never paid for subway rides – easy to climb a fence & walk onto the platform of the above ground stations. As a child, the fares were .05 cents.

    Saw Brooklyn Dodgers play (grandfather took me) tickets 50 cents. Ebbets Field. Near Brooklyn Botanical Gardens & Prospect Park.

    Bicycled from Brooklyn to Queens, & by ferry to Manhattan, & Staten Island.

    As child, 3 remaining farms were broken up in South Brooklyn.

    Helped father build Harpsichords, Spinets, & Clavichords in Greenwich Village.

    Grandchildren have not seen Brooklyn, never heard of Jimmy Breslin, or Norman Mailer.
    Or Duke Snider, or Sandy Koufax.

    I remember the Brooklyn that was, and will never be again.

    You can’t go back.

    Retarded/ er retired History prof. Published history, write, hang with local writers & artists, Anarchists, Poets. I dabble. Ghosts and Dreams and Children

    York Sunday News 9-2-2007, Y-3

  8. Sherman says:
    @Rehmat

    Hey Homer

    Netanyahu is correct. The Jews – and Israel – outlast their enemies.

    They outlasted the ancient Persians. They’ll outlast the mullahs who have hijacked modern Iran.

    They’ll even outlast you and your goat.

    Sherm

  9. Che Guava says:
    @Rehmat

    Rehmat,

    Where are you from and where are you?

    Feel free to avoid the latter part of the question if an answer is uncomfortable for you, I am not state security, am pleased that Mr. Unz and writers of articles on this forum generally give you free rein. Your comments tend to be half bullshit and half relevant, as an average, the ratios depend on the topic.

    I see many commenters assuming that you originate in, or are in Pakistan, but I don’t get that impression.

    The one here has little connection with Mr. Dinh’s tale of meetimg a Hassid who wants a more normal life, and is more than a little frightened by that.

    You are correct on the event claimed to have happened, although your claim of numbers is dubious, but exaggeration of numbers of victims and slaughtered is widely assumed to be habitual, AFAIK, no ancient Persian source corroborates the claim of a major imcident at the time.

    I have forgotten much of the O.T. and only have an N.T. at hand, but wasn’t Esther supposed to have been only the favoured concubine of the Persian emperor?

    Not the Queen.

    • Replies: @Karl
    , @dahoit
  10. “I have never even been to New Jersey.”

    He is not missing much, though all the livery drivers go there to get cheaper gas.

    • Replies: @Joe Hill
  11. gruff says:

    Noam is right about Americans not listening to each other, and about their eyes darting around, not focussing. There is turmoil in the hearts of Americans.

  12. Art says:

    I understand that’s how it was in the ancient world, but I’m uncomfortable with the injunction to annihilate all of your enemy, every single man, woman and child.

    Everyone should read that ten times.

    Only then will they begin to comprehend the Jew.

    Only then will we begin to understand the paranoid schizophrenia that dominates the Jew mind.

    This preoccupation with death permeates all of Jew culture – religious and non-religious.

    p.s. The Jew justifies this obsession with death because he is taught from birth that his fellow humans want to kill him.

    p.s. It is all very sick.

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
  13. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Art

    Hi Art,

    I think Noam was referring to this:

    Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.

    Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

    –Samuel 15:2-3 King James Version

    • Replies: @Randy
    , @Art
    , @crossbow sniper
  14. Karl says:
    @Che Guava

    >> I see many commenters assuming that you originate in, or are in Pakistan

    Rehmat is a clan name in Sindh

  15. dahoit says:
    @Che Guava

    I’ll give Noam credit for trying at least.Many of his points were on target.
    I especially liked the head phones comment,but what’s even worse is the cell phone isolation.If you ask someone a question,they look at you like an alien.Talk about non connectivity,sheesh.
    Rehmat,lighten up a little.I know its hard, Zionists can be very malignant,but this guy at least shares common humanity.

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  16. Randy says:
    @Linh Dinh

    Sure that kind of nonsense is also in the Bible. It’s an unfair jab at Christians though I think. We have a secular life in addition to the spiritual. The Hasidim allow only religious media and I think the original comment you replied to is very insightful. They’re extremist.

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
  17. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Randy

    Hi Randy,

    I don’t see how a young man’s leeriness towards a Biblical injunction to massacre indiscriminately can lead to a rant about “the paranoid schizophrenia that dominates the jew mind.” Noam is the lucid one here.

    Linh

    • Agree: Talha
    • Replies: @Randy
    , @Art
  18. Randy says:
    @Linh Dinh

    I don’t know dude, to live apart from the rest of society strikes me as paranoid. Or at least unfriendly. And fairly certain you’ll find similar kill-them-all passages in the Torah or Pentateuch.

    I love these pieces though, keep them coming. I’ll buy the book once you put it out too! Even though I’ve read them all.

  19. Art says:
    @Linh Dinh

    I think Noam was referring to this:

    Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.

    Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

    Why would Noam think that the quote has relevance today?

    Did he say that because he is hearing like words today from the current Jewish culture?

  20. Art says:
    @Linh Dinh

    I don’t see how a young man’s leeriness towards a Biblical injunction to massacre indiscriminately can lead to a rant about “the paranoid schizophrenia that dominates the jew mind.” Noam is the lucid one here.

    First I agree that Noam is seeking sanity – God speed to him.

    If one wants an educated view of Jew culture – one must acknowledge their preoccupation with death – theirs and their enemies.

    Hiding it does no good.

  21. @martino

    @ martino = multiculti is a useful excuse for poor English. Even when written, to promote ideas to English readers on line. Multiculti is multi insulti. Apologies not accepted. 4,000 year decline stops! HERE! Unstick the middle finger, pull out the ear plugs. Don’t be lazy.

    Dictionary / Thesaurus / Encyclopedia = on line = USE THEM!

    • Replies: @martino
  22. @Linh Dinh

    “Perception is 9/10ths of the law”, does not apply when using a PC with a choice of browsers at fingertips. Or does it? Self deception is easier than facing facts.
    @ Esther = can’t remember? Use the search box; or is that like too much work?
    @ OT / Torah = this is NOT Talmud, NOT Mishnah, NOT Gemara. These last three are the works that the Jew was brainwashed with. He will never escape Talmud: Yeshiva use mind-games on young Jews designed to have them return, if ever they become ‘wondering who?’
    Ghetto and Shtetl = places where Jews know for sure that they belong. Created by Jews for Jews to hide in because, their Talmud instructs them to cheat and rob the Goyim at every opportunity. MK ULTRA / Monarch / et al = All Jew run. Netanjewhoo would love them.
    @Talmud = on line. Check out “Kol-Nidre” prayer, Goy, you dumb animal for sacrifice.

  23. martino says:
    @crossbow sniper

    para tirador ballesta: No aceptas mis excusas. Bien soy español y no domino el inglés, aunque puedo leerlo..No me gusta la multiculti. Sacar los taponesdel oido, perezoso, dedo medio… Creo que no has entendido nada de lo que hedicho y mi ingles no es tan malo. El declive continúa. Estamos siendo sustituidos por gente de más baja calidad…hasta la destrucción…Traducelo aal ingles con traslator, asi no me canso ni me insultas por mi pobre inglés

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
  24. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @martino

    Hola Martino,

    Estoy continuamente sorprendido y consternado por el comportamiento grosero de algunos de estos comentaristas. Tal es el declive de la cultura americana.

    En todo caso, estoy agradecido de que usted aprecia mis artículos.

    He visitado de Barcelona una vez. Espero poder volver pronto!

    Linh

  25. Che Guava says:
    @dahoit

    I also liked the headphones comnment, even if I only go into a shop while listening, I will always be respectful tn the shop assistant and remove the headphones at the counter.

    Likewise, if at the counter when receiving a call, I will say ‘Excuse me’ to the assistant, and tell the caller to wait or call back.

    I only really listen to music on the move if I am in a restaurant where I like the food but hate the music (many places push the sleazy crap that is supposed to be current ‘soul’ or ‘R&B’, it makes me feel sick, but I still remove the headphones if the waiter or waitress is nearby, on entry, and leaving, to say thanks) and eating by myself, otherwise on long train trips where the scenery is boring and I’ve seen it too many times before (along the tentacles of the conurbation), or if it seems to suit the surroundings. Otherwise, I just prefer to hear the sounds around.

    Noam is newly seeking liberation, I would guess that he will notice that hand-held telephone habits are far worse than headphone-insulated ignorance.

  26. Joe Hill says:
    @The Alarmist

    May I suggest a trip to the Delaware Water Gap? The New Jersey Turnpike is not the entire state…

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