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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

November 05, 1995|ERIKA TAYLOR

BOYCHIKS IN THE HOOD: Travels in the Hasidic Underground. by Robert Eisenberg (HarperCollins: $20; 237 pp.) There are a quarter of a million Hasidic Jews in North America, and their numbers increase by 5% annually. If that growth rate remains constant, the Hasidic population will double every 15 years. Conversely, many secular Jews marry Gentiles, and their children are often raised outside Judaism. According to Robert Eisenberg, author of "Boychiks in the Hood," this scenario is possible: "It is the year 2075, and the only Jews left in the United States, aside from a few old-timers, are Hasidim and other Orthodox."

Part historical guide, part travelogue and part anecdotal bird's-eye view, Eisenberg describes his experiences with various Hasidic sects from Los Angeles to Poland. While his writing is insightful and often very funny, there remains a distance that perhaps cannot be bridged. Ultimately, "Boychiks in the Hood" fails to provide a visceral sense of Hasidic Judaism. We are never quite transported there. Is it possible to depict a culture as alien as the Ultra-Orthodox in a way that allows secular readers to truly experience them? Judging from "Boychiks in the Hood," the answer is no.

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