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About Robert Eisenberg


Boychiks in the Hood: Travels in the Hasidic Underground
Copyright © 1996
by Robert Eisenberg
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Boychiks in the Hood is your passport to the Hasidic "underworld" — a destination far different from popular expectations. When Robert Eisenberg, a secular Jew from Omaha, Nebraska, decided to investigate his family's distant Satmar connections, he unknowingly embarked on a journey that would carry him around the world and into the hearts and lives of the Hasidim. Armed with a loving curiosity and the Yiddish his grandmother taught him as a child, Eisenberg found himself intimately drawn into the sometimes nutty, often inspiring, lives of these most traditional of Jews. Join Eisenberg as he hangs out with an ex-Deadhead in Antwerp, makes a pilgrimage to the grave of the revered Rebbe Nachman in the Ukraine, munches mini-bagels with Roller-blading kosher butchers in Minnesota, talks about sex with a karate champion turned rabbi in Israel, and more.

A personal odyssey led the author to various Hasidic communities in order to understand what ideology is making these groups successfully withstand the forces of the larger society. From Williamsburg, Brooklyn, St. Paul, Minnesota, to Antwerp, Belgium to the Ukraine, Eisenberg singled out individuals and spoke to them in Yiddish. He was able to gather some unique material and allows the reader a more intimate view of their society. — Jewish Book World

[This is a] rich collection of anecdotes, religious history and thumbnail portraits. ... In the opening pages, {Mr. Eisenberg} characterizes his book as 'a cross between a travelogue and a cohesive introduction to Hasidism today,' but in truth it succeeds far better as a travelogue than as a cohesive anything, largely because of its picaresque and somewhat scattershot structure. Whether he is in Ukraine on a Rosh ha-Shanah pilgrimage to the 184-year-old grave of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, or visiting a Lubavitcher settlement in Israel ... he evokes the energy and intensity of Orthodox Jewish communities beautifully. He is excellent, too, at conveying the zealousness of some newly Orthodox. ... His analysis of the appeal of the religious life to many of the disaffected young, however, seems a bit thin. — New York Times Book Review

Eisenberg clears up many misconceptions about Hasidic belief, such as the mistaken notion that all Hasidim are anti-Zionist, and although clearly respectful of Hasidic religious viewpoints, he writes so lightheartedly that, while it is hard to believe a fine book on Talmudic scholars could be so much fun, fun it is. — Booklist

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