Lax, Leah. “Uncovered: How I Left Hasidic Life and Finally Came Home”, She Writes Press, 2015.
Of late, there have been many memoirs written by Jews who have left the religiosity of Orthodox Judaism. Obviously the authors of these have something to say. Interesting enough is that the majority of these are written by women. There must be an interest in this type of book because they are selling and people are reading them. One of the newer titles is Leah Lax’s “Uncovered”. In it she tells hr story which begins when she was a young teen who left her secular Jewish home to become a Hasidic Jew and it ends with her becoming a forty something-year-old woman who knows that to find the personal freedom that she seeks is to leave the religious world. We read of her arranged marriage, her former fundamentalist faith, being a mother and a member of the Hasidic community. She looks inside herself to consider her creative, sexual, and spiritual longings and discovers that they have been simmering beneath the surface as she lived the life of a truly religious woman. Even with all of the other memoirs out there, this is the first that tells about a gay woman who spent years in the Hasidic sect. This is also the story of a woman finding the place where she knows she really belongs.
Even though her story is very personal, I am sure that it is a story that many will recognize. Everywhere in the world there are women who are forced to cover their bodies by patriarchal religions that actually control the wombs of their females. Lax was one of those but she had the courage to break away and the honesty to tell her story. It is not a pretty story but it told tenderly. It is a story of damage and struggling and it is the story of some helpful people. Above all else, it is the story of a person trying to live an authentic life.
The prose is pristine and it touches the heart to read about a woman who had to deal with shame and live a life of rules that kept her bound and could not be changed. It is also an inspiring story about just how hard it can be for a person to become who he/she really thinks they are. Lax’s voice as a Jewish woman and as a lesbian is the voice of one who must be silenced—after all, we all know there are no such things as religious Jewish lesbians and we also know that religious Jewish women do not have the right to speak about themselves. (I see this almost daily in Boston—a beautiful young girl with a terrible wig on her head and five children who walks steps behind her husband and who does not speak unto spoken to—when a child cries, the husband looks at his wife as if to say, “quiet the child”. What I do not see are exchanges of love in their eyes. It is as if she is there to serve and not disturb him).
We read of how Lax moved from loneliness through what promised to be a new family and a new community and then ultimately into a pure appreciation of the world away from the world that made her suppress her needs.
Lax had been the perfect Hasidic woman. She taught young believers and spoke at conferences while at the same that she raised her seven children. As she aged, however, she felt less sure of her place in both her life and her religion. She found the courage to take control of her life and then becoming true to herself. We see that the Judaism of the Hasidic sect is an old religion being practiced in a modern age where most of it is outdated. Leah Lax brought it up to date in her life and we can only wish the best for her and admire hoer courage to do what she felt she had to do. I just wish that others would do the same. I say that as an observant Jew who loves his religion and who has found a way to reconcile sexuality with faith.