Research Programs: Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Period of Performance

9/1/2007 - 8/31/2008

Funding Totals

$40,000.00 (approved)
$40,000.00 (awarded)

Gender, Language, and Religion: Socialization in a Hasidic Community in New York

FAIN: FB-53006-07

Ayala Fader
Fordham University College at Lincoln Center (New York, NY 10023)

How do Hasidic Jews in New York, part of the unexpected rise of fundamentalist movements globally, raise their children within strict religious boundaries in a city whose freedoms seem designed to destroy them? The proposed book focuses on how Hasidic women socialize their children, by and through language, to make a moral critique of “secular” society. Gender, language (Yiddish English) and the body are key to boundary building. With the world increasingly polarized by religious divides, my book contributes to humanistic conversations about social processes in religious communities and the responsibilities of scholars who write about them.

Associated Products

Mitzvah Girls: Bringing Up the Next Generation of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn (Book)
Title: Mitzvah Girls: Bringing Up the Next Generation of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn
Author: Fader, Ayala
Editor: Fred Appel
Abstract: Mitzvah Girls is the first book about bringing up Hasidic Jewish girls in North America, providing an in-depth look into a closed community. Ayala Fader examines language, gender, and the body from infancy to adulthood, showing how Hasidic girls in Brooklyn become women responsible for rearing the next generation of nonliberal Jewish believers. To uncover how girls learn the practices of Hasidic Judaism, Fader looks beyond the synagogue to everyday talk in the context of homes, classrooms, and city streets. Hasidic women complicate stereotypes of nonliberal religious women by collapsing distinctions between the religious and the secular. In this innovative book, Fader demonstrates that contemporary Hasidic femininity requires women and girls to engage with the secular world around them, protecting Hasidic men and boys who study the Torah. Even as Hasidic religious observance has become more stringent, Hasidic girls have unexpectedly become more fluent in secular modernity. They are fluent Yiddish speakers but switch to English as they grow older; they are increasingly modest but also fashionable; they read fiction and play games like those of mainstream American children but theirs have Orthodox Jewish messages; and they attend private Hasidic schools that freely adapt from North American public and parochial models. Investigating how Hasidic women and girls conceptualize the religious, the secular, and the modern, Mitzvah Girls offers exciting new insights into cultural production and change in nonliberal religious communities.
Year: 2009
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: WorldCat entry
Publisher: Princeton: Princeton University Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 9780691139173
Copy sent to NEH?: Yes


National Jewish Book Award in Women's Studies
Date: 12/2/2009
Organization: National Jewish Book Award

New York City Book Award
Date: 3/4/2010
Organization: New York Society Library