When Goldy Guttman heard from Jew in the City founder, Allison Josephs, that most non-Jewish people have never met a religious Jew, she reached out to share her story as a Satmar Hasidic woman.
Growing up in Boro Park in a Satmar home, Guttman practiced Hasidic customs and attended Hasidic schools. While the media views her community as a monolithic group, she recognizes that this misconception of uniformity is baseless. “Even within the microcosm that is the Hasidic Boro Park community, there are so many nuances that you have no idea of until you’re actually in that world.”
The media’s ignorance of Hasidism extends beyond sect differentiation, and often portrays the Hasidic world as misogynistic and uneducated. As a successful marketer with a master’s in education, Guttman defies these stereotypes. Growing up as the daughter of an immigrant, she and her siblings were encouraged to utilize educational resources. It was important to her mother for her children to be well-read and articulate. In imparting this value on education, Guttman’s mother raised a family of “bookworms,” as Guttman put it. Her sister is now a Speech Language Pathologist and her brother works in business. Guttman and her family members interact with the professional world, disproving the media depiction of an insular Hasidic community.
It’s not just the Guttman family that is availing themselves to artistic outlets and educational initiatives. She shares that many Hasidic families take advantage of recreational programs, such as swimming, piano, and painting classes. While some of the Hasidic girls’ schools discourage overly-exertive activity because of modesty issues, there’s still an opportunity for girls to channel their athletic drive within the parameters of modesty, with ball games and simcha (celebratory) dancing.
Similarly, there are programs catered to the Hasidic community that afford an educational experience without sacrificing Hasidic values. For example, Guttman shares that some programs work around Shabbos and the Jewish holiday schedule, ensuring classes won’t interfere with that time. Even from those who don’t wish to pursue higher education, many of them are entrepreneurial and successfully launch business ventures. Guttman feels that this shouldn’t be overlooked.
Guttman also rejects the notion that Hasidic women are shunned and disrespected. It’s quite the opposite, she says. Women are considered the crown jewel of the home and are appreciated for their role in sustaining Jewish life. “It’s because of them that Jewish people are still here.”
While she is proud of how the Hasidic community is less restricted than the media understands it to be, she admits that there still are limitations. “I choose this life, and I choose to be this way. [But I do] have a job, I’m out there in the world, and I have friends. I have a full and vibrant life within the parameters of [Hasidism].”
By dressing according to her community standards, Guttman stands out amongst secular crowds. One summer a few years ago, when she was in Venice for Shabbos, she felt the stares as she and her husband walked along the city streets. Her husband was wearing his Shtreimel and she was outfitted in modest dress wear, covering the parts of her body that are typically exposed in the summer heat. People began taking pictures of Guttman and her husband, but that didn’t bother her. “I felt so proud. I felt royal. Yes, this is who we are, we are Hashem’s people. This is how my family chooses to dress and I’m proud to do it.”