PERSONAL: Female. Education: Doctoral candidate at City University of New York.
Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2005.
Contributor to Chronicle of Higher Education and Los Angeles Jewish Journal.
SIDELIGHTS: For many scholars, a first book is an expansion of their doctoral dissertation, but not so with Hella Winston. While still pursuing her doctorate in sociology, she authored Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels. Winston's subject is the deeply conservative and insular Hasidim, an orthodox sect of Judaism. More specifically, she focuses on the renegades and apostates who cannot or will not conform, often facing ostracism from their community and bringing shame on their families. Their reasons for leaving range from sexual or physical abuse to a desire for more personal and intellectual freedom. Others have simply lost faith in the religious teachings. The results of leaving the sect have been varied, some reveling in their newfound freedom while others face disappointment or discover that life "outside" their faith is considerably less glamorous than they had supposed. Winston herself is a secular Jew, with little personal experience with Hasidism, and some reviewers felt that her conclusions are somewhat shallow. Library Journal reviewer David B. Levy, for instance, concluded that "the implications of her findings are limited, and her book lacks penetrating analysis." A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the results "starter sociology, facile ethnography." Other reviewers were more impressed, including Booklist reviewer George Cohen, who found the volume "an important work of scholarship and an absorbing account of these Hasidic Jews."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 2005, George Cohen, review of Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels, p. 32.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2005, review of Unchosen, p. 966.
Library Journal, September 15, 2005, David B. Levy, review of Unchosen, p. 70.
Newsday, November 20, 2005, review of Unchosen.
New York Post, November 25, 2005, review of Unchosen.
Philadelphia Inquirer, November 10, 2005, review of Unchosen.
Ethnobase Web site, http://webdb.lse.ac.uk/ethnobase/ (November 23, 2005), profile of Hella Winston.