Jewish Values: Hush

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Number of Pages: 
343 p.
In this powerful novel for teens, based on true events and written under a pseudonym, Gittel and Devory have been best friends for all of their ten years. They live in Borough Park and both of their families are Yushive Chassidim (a fictitious sect). A time comes when Devory begins to behave strangely and desperately doesn’t want to sleep at home. When Gittel sleeps over at Devory’s one night, she sees Devory’s fifteen-year-old brother, a yeshiva student, come into the room and “push Devory under the blanket.” Just before Passover, Devory arrives at Gittel’s house, goes into the bathroom, and hangs herself with a jump rope. No one will acknowledge the abuse, instead claiming that Devory was mentally unstable. When Gittel graduates from high school, she goes to the police, but is afraid to make a report, fearing for her family’s reputation and status. At eighteen, Gittel marries Yankel, a union arranged by a matchmaker. When Gittel learns she is pregnant, she wants to name the baby after Devory, but her family is appalled. The crisis sends Yankel to the rabbi, and Gittel to Devory’s grave, where she prays and apologizes. She writes a letter to Devory about the communal responsibility for her death and goes to Devory’s uncle, a newspaper editor, to demand he write an article about sexual abuse. Instead he publishes the letter, which gets hundreds of responses. With this behind them, Gittel and Yankel can move forward with their baby daughter, Devory. The story and the writing bring light to the nuances of these issues with insight and sensitivity. It is well-written in terms of the development of the main character, the sense of place of the Chassidic community, and the ending, which brings closure without being unrealistically happy or trite.
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