Artifacts of Orthodox Jewish Childhoods

Personal and Critical Essays

by Dainy Bernstein, PhD, editor

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About this book

The books, music, toys and experiences we grow up with shape who we become as adults. All those things are a reflection of how a society regards and raises its children.

The culture of mainstream American childhood is vastly different than the culture of Orthodox Jewish childhood – which is itself a rich and varied landscape of texts, music, toys, and more, with nuanced shadings from one sect of Orthodox Judaism to the next.

Dr. Dainy Bernstein has collected a treasury of essays examining the artifacts of Orthodox Jewish childhood and how they influence a child’s developing view of the wider world – and their inner world. Walk the path of Orthodox Jewish Childhood: frum female heroes in Ultra-Orthodox Jewish fiction, the cultural considerations of making children’s toys, a visual guide to modesty, the power and pathos of parodies, cartoons with an ethical message, the courageous creativity of camp songs, and personal accounts of invisibility, heresy, and imagination. No two essays are alike, yet they all carry common threads that weave together the amazing tapestry that is Orthodox Jewish childhood.

Table of Contents

Introduction – Dainy Bernstein

Part I: Studying the Artifacts of Orthodox Childhoods

  • A Childhood Siddur around 1990 – Hillel Broder
  • The Anachronisms of Hasidic Yiddish Biblical Coloring Books – Frieda Vizel
  • From Honey Cakes to Upsherin Cookies: Jewish Mothers at the Beginning of Jewish Boyhood Wendy Love Anderson
  • A Passover Haggadah with a Refreshing Appreciation of Violence – Yoel Finkelman
  • Devora Doresh and the Case of the Frum Girl Detective: Female Heroes in Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Children’s Fiction – Meria Levinson
  • Cultural Ambivalence Praxis in Haredi Jewish Industrial Toy Design – Shlomi Eiger
  • Diagramming Modesty – Goldie Gross and Yehudis Keller
  • The Shomer Negiah Song: A Touchy Subject – Talia Weisberg

Part II: The Songs and Music of Orthodox Childhoods

  • Parody and Pathos: The Art of Country Yossi – Elli Fischer
  • Passing on the Journey – Hannah Lebovits
  • The Music of the Marvelous Middos Machine – Lonna Gordon
  • Chanukah Songs, 1990s and 2020s – Miriam Moster
  • Pesach with Rebbe Alter – Miriam Bernstein
  • Lubavitch Summer Camp Songs – Schneur Zalman Newfield
  • Singing Our Sadness at Sleepaway Camp – Jessica Russak-Hoffman

Part III: Orthodox Childhoods: Personal Essays

  • “This Is the Greatest Show”: Bais Yaakov Production and My Orthodox Girlhood – Leslie Ginsparg Klein
  • Singing in the House of Jacob – Sarah Snider
  • A Zine called The Heresy: Angst and Apikorsus in a Modern Orthodox Day School – Sara Feldman, Abby Glogower, Sarah Gray
  • My Shul, My Place – Miriam L.
  • My Yechi Yarmulka – Chanan Maister
  • The Golem, Goyim, and the Hasidic Imagination – Shneur Zalman Newfield
  • Torah Shebe’al Peh – Devora Steinmetz
  • Ephemeral Memories of Childhood Ephemera – Shamma Boyarin

Advance Praise

“Artifacts of Orthodox Childhoods is an important intervention into childhood studies and Jewish studies. Through a fascinating collection of essays on material culture, Bernstein and the contributors show us the diversity of childhoods and the diversity of Jewish Orthodoxies. Highly recommended!” 

—Ayala Fader, Professor of Anthropology, Fordham University, author of Mitzvah Girls: Bringing Up the Next Generation of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn and Hidden Heretics: Jewish Doubt in the Digital Age