Academic journal article Shofar

Kol Isha: Malka Zipora's Lekhaim as the Voice of the Hasidic Woman in Quebec

Academic journal article Shofar

Kol Isha: Malka Zipora's Lekhaim as the Voice of the Hasidic Woman in Quebec

Article excerpt

Et toi, madame, tu connais Israël? (And you, madame, you know Israel?)

Madame, madame, toi tu . . . toi tu parles Yiddish et tu connais Shabbes? (Madame, Madame, you .. . you speak Yiddish and you know Shabbos?)

Madame! ... Tu connais ça? ... Le vrai nom c'est draïdle. C'est pour Hanoukka. Toi, tu fêtes Hanoukka? (Madame! You know this? The real name it is dreidel. It's for Hannukah. You, you celebrate Hanukkah?)

-Myriam Beaudoin, Hadassa

If the Hasidic characters in francophone Québécois writer Myriam Beaudoin's 2006 novel, Hadassa, are curious about what a non-Jewish person in Quebec does, thinks, and knows, the same sentiment could be said to exist tenfold in reverse, both within the book and outside of it. Beaudoin's French-language book about, according to the back cover, "un monde à part, enveloppé de mystère et d'interdits, mais séduisant et rassurant" (a world apart, shrouded in mystery and taboos, but seductive and reassuring)1 was nominated, in 2007, for the Prix des libraires du Québec, and won, the same year, both the Prix littéraire des collégiens2 and the Prix littéraire France-Québec. In 2011, another francophone writer in Quebec named Abla Farhoud also took on the subject of local Hasids with her book entitled Le Sourire de la PetiteJuive (The Jewish Girl's Smile).3 And in 2014, the Québécois filmmaker Maxime Giroux directed Félix et Meira, a film about a married Hasidic mother and poor Québécois man, star-crossed lovers of Montreal's Mile End, that won "Best Canadian Film" at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. By virtue of their chosen subject, these books and film appear to follow in the success of the story collection Lekhaim!: Chroniques de la vie hassidique à Montréal (later published in English as Rather Laugh than Cry), which was written by a Hasidic woman in Quebec and preceded Hadassa by a few months. Yet in many ways, Beaudoin, Farhoud, and Giroux's tales more closely resemble the often-sensationalistic narratives of "Off the Derech" writers. Beaudoin's story includes a romance between a gentile and a Hasidic woman, Farhoud's highlights the growing internal struggle of a Hasidic girl who feels confined by her religious identity, and Giroux mixes the two scandalizing ingredients to produce his stirring drama.

The author of Lekhaim, on the other hand, writes her stories about and within the Hasidic community. The stories of the Hasids she presents are the stuff of everyday, made interesting not through sensationalism but through humor and pathos. Despite the quotidian subj ect matter, the book was met with much success in francophone Quebec. "Dans son livre Lekhaim!Malka Zipora dresse le portrait de la communauté juive hassidique ultra-orthodoxe de Montréal et fait tomber les barrières culturelles (In the book Lekhaim! Malka Zipora portrays the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish community in Montreal and breaks down cultural barriers)," exalted one French review (Yarmush). There is little doubt that Lekhaim's success stemmed, in part, from the audience's desire for an "authentic" Hasidic voice-in particular that of a woman, as a fear of secular Quebec, which was highlighted during the province's "Reasonable Accommodation" debates, was that women in minority groups such as the Hasids were being oppressed and silenced.5 Through the book, francophone Québécois could find away to connect to the "bizarre" neighbors described in the media as "like 'bogeymen,'" with a "mentality that's separate" (Côté, A1; Heinrich, "Laurentians"). Indeed, the stories in Lekhaim read as "relatable ones," as though to say: "you wonder who we are, and I will tell you. In many ways, we are like you. If we knew each other, we would probably get along."

The writer, whose real name is known to many residents in Outremont, the Montreal borough in which she resides, calls herself Malka Zipora for her book, though she refers to herself throughout the book, more significantly, only as "a Hasidic mom," making herself a representative of her community. …

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