Culture Unorthodox: a thrilling story of rebellion and freedom from New York to Berlin

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Feeding the poor and needy is an act that draws us closer to Allah. We earn His forgiveness, mercies and blessings through this act of charity.

“Anyone who looks after and works for a widow and a poor person is like a warrior fighting for Allah?s cause, or like a person who fasts during the day and prays all night. (Bukhari)

Esty, a 19-year-old Hasidic Jew, has escaped from the constrictions of married life and her ultra-conservative community in Williamsburg and fled to Berlin. There she befriends some music students. This being modern, hip Berlin, the students are worldly, diverse and nonchalantly progressive.


They invite her on a trip to a lake in Wannsee. Once there, they strip off unselfconsciously and jump into the water.

Esty, though, stands tentatively on the shore before taking off a jumper and stepping out of flesh-coloured stockings. She walks, still almost fully clothed, into the lake – and then she takes off her wig, revealing her shaved head. The wig is a sheitel, worn by Orthodox Jewish women after marriage. She chucks the wig into the water and floats on her back. It’s a scene reminiscent of a Christian baptism, but instead of joining a flock she is leaving one. A liberation of sorts has taken place.

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