Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakers: An Intimate Journey among Hasidic Girls

Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakers: An Intimate Journey among Hasidic Girls

Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakers: An Intimate Journey among Hasidic Girls

Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakers: An Intimate Journey among Hasidic Girls


"Lively tales of girls who long for the lives of male scholars, and rebels who visit strip clubs, smoke pot, and dream of high-powered careers."- Books to Watch out For"Stephanie Levine's book is full of surprises."- Midstream"A fascinating read for anyone interested in youth culture." - Youth Today

"In an era seemingly plagued with sex, anorexia and depression among our nation's girls, a page from Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakersis a refreshing peek into the possibilities for growth, strength and self."- The Jewish New Weekly of Northern California"At all times, Levine's genuine respect for the community shines through. The book is eminently readable and undoubtedly fascinating."- Jewish Chronicle "A vivid portrayal of the Lubavitcher community." - Library Journal

"[Levine's] empathy is palpable in each one of the profiles. Levine has a natural, artful style and writes with a lively and keen vision." - Moment magazine

"Her findings are fascinating." - Jewish Telegraph

"Levine treats all her subjects with respect. At the core, this is a popularly written academic study." - KLIATT

"Levine vividly portrays these girls, their hopes and their struggles, as well as her own feelings towards Orthodoxy and the Lubavitch way of life." - JOFA Book Corner

"Levine's portraits provide a cross-section of the very human faces of these ultra-religious girls." - New Jersey Times

"Stephanie Wellen Levine's suggestions are obviously heartfelt and perhaps turns charming and scandalous." - The Jerusalem Report

"Levine takes readers into an unfamiliar world of girls who were raised in the Lubavitcher sect of Hasidim in Crown Heights, Brooklyn...One intriguing paradox she explores is how these girls created distinct personalities while living in a very closed society." - Choice

"Levine does a splendid job of presenting how the girls cope, and paints vivid pictures of Shabbat around their family tables." - The Jerusalem Post Literary Quarterly

"Stephanie Wellen Levine has written an intriguing and joyous account of the lives of young adult Hasidic women." - Jewish Book World

"Eminently readable." - Jewish Journal Book Review

"Levine steps back and lets the girls speak for themselves; their voices, layered with determination, yearning, confusion and wonder, emerge clearly." - Na'amat Woman Book Reviews

"This absorbing ethnography acts as one subculture's corrective to Reviving Ophelia,in that it offers a refreshing portrait of adolescent girls who are far from insecure."- Publishers Weekly(starred review) From the ardently religious young woman who longs for the life of a male scholar to the young rebel who visits a strip club, smokes pot, and agonizes over her loss of faith to the proud Lubavitcher with a desire for a high-powered career, Stephanie Wellen Levine provides a rare glimpse into the inner worlds and daily lives of these Hasidic girls. Lubavitcher Hasidim are famous for their efforts to inspire secular Jews to become more observant and for their messianic fervor. Strict followers of Orthodox Judaism, they maintain sharp gender-role distinctions. Levine spent a year living in the Lubavitch community of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, participating in the rhythms of Hasidic girlhood. Drawi


As a graduate student in American studies at Harvard, Stephanie Levine spent a year living as a participant observer in the Lubavitcher Hasidic community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Drawn to a world infused with spirituality, she was impelled by the question, Do adolescent girls raised in a strict religious orthodoxy have what could be called a “free voice”? Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakers provides a resounding answer to this question, dispelling stereotypes of meek and blindly submissive girls and bringing a hidden and seemingly cloistered world to life. We hear the distinct voices of pious girls, errant girls, and goodtime girls who wear high-topped sneakers under their long skirts, finding individuality within lives driven by stark expectations and bound by an iron framework. But as the focus on girls highlights the tension within Hasidism between mysticism and the dictates of a patriarchal order, the inquiry opens into a series of powerful insights into the human psyche and the interplay between psychology and culture.

I remember a conversation with Stephanie at the time when she was completing her research. She had drawn fresh and engaging portraits of the girls she interviewed, rendering their inner lives and daily worlds in vivid detail. With a writer’s eye and ear, she captured the spiritedness that impressed her, depicting a liveliness and freedom of expression commonly associated with younger girls. I asked her how she accounted for the evidence of strong personal voice, given what would seem on the face of it a most unlikely setting, and I found her answer riveting. She spoke of the convergence of the method she used in her research—the Listening Guide that directed her attention to inner voices—and the Lubavitch philosophy that emphasizes the importance of cultivating an inner voice, the voice of the individual soul or psyche.

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