Everything He Wanted To Know About Sex Among the Orthodox

Interview With Haredi Politician Gets a Bit Awkward

Let The Rebbe Call Her Rebel: Former Jewish Home party candidate Racheli Ibenboim sits down for a chat with Tuvia Tenenbom.
Isi Tenenbom
Let The Rebbe Call Her Rebel: Former Jewish Home party candidate Racheli Ibenboim sits down for a chat with Tuvia Tenenbom.

By Tuvia Tenenbom

Published February 16, 2014, issue of February 21, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

She ponders what she had said, pauses a bit, and then asks: “Okay? Have we finished this chapter?”

“Not really,” I say. “What happens the day after?”

“Like a show on stage. It takes time to adjust. So many changes. But at the end you make peace with it, with your new life.”

“What about love? When do you start loving each other?”

“I see that you want to know things that —”

“You are a special woman, and that’s why I don’t let go of this topic.”

“Special woman?” she asks. “I will answer your question. When I got engaged, I went back home and I started writing a journal. I wrote: ‘Today I was given a gift, a gift that is fully wrapped and I don’t know what it is. Worse yet, I don’t know what I would like the gift under the wraps to be.’ This is what I wrote and this paper accompanied me for the seven months of our engagement period. I also wrote what I expect of him, how I wanted our marriage to be, that I wanted him to be the best friend I ever had. I wrote about my fears, my doubts. Everything. When we got married there was a big distance between us, as you would expect of two people who never really talked to each other, but two weeks after our marriage the ice between us melted because of my journal. I made him sit next to the computer and I made him read my journal. He, a hasidic man who at that time had communicated only with men, read a document written by a woman. Women dig deeper, unlike men, and this was his first time to face such a thing. For him it was like — bomb! — a real slap on the face. It forced our relationship in a totally different direction, and because of that we started to talk, and together understand the meaning of our marriage, what we would like to become, what we are. When I started writing that journal I didn’t know what I would do with it, I didn’t think in these terms, I just wrote for myself, but it ended up shaping our life together, forming our relationship in a way that would not be possible otherwise. This is my story, my life story. I don’t know what happens to other people, other girls.”

“Racheli,” I blurt out. “You are a rebel!”

“No, I’m not. I am just different. I challenge my society, but I’m not a rebel. I love the world of Hasidism. Many things in it. There’s much magic and beauty in the world that I came from. My society is the ‘real’ Judaism, keeping values that did not change for untold number of years. My society signifies truth, a truth that doesn’t change with the years or with the moods.”

“You ran for office and later dropped out of the race. You were threatened. What were the threats?”

“That my children would have to leave their school and that we would have to leave the neighborhood, that my husband would lose his job. All kinds of threats.”

“By whom?”

“People of authority.”

“The rebbe (leader of the community) as well?”

“This I will not answer,” she says. “Enough.”

Tuvia Tenenbom is the author of the Der Spiegel bestseller “I Sleep in Hitler’s Room.” His follow-up, “Alone Among Jews,” will be set in Israel where he filed this report.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.