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“There was a man in Williamsburg whose wife found him to be cheating,” Joseph tells me. “I won’t let myself get caught.” Joseph keeps a kosher home, sends his children to a yeshiva, or religious school, and studies the Talmud, one of the holiest texts in Judaism. ” At sixteen, he hid with a group of friends around a small television set in a windowless basement room to watch his first movie—a forbidden activity.“People hang flyers on telephone poles and in store windows saying the man’s name, and telling him to go away.” He speaks in broken English about reading forbidden websites and sneaking off to movie theaters and bars. He also listens to Eminem, flirts with women and watches action movies. Today in his late twenties, Joseph is still in hiding.He might be pressed to leave his neighborhood and never return.There is rarely redemption for a rebellious Hasidic Jew; Joseph believes that the likely punishment would be banishment.He freely gives passing girls a once over, looking back as they walk past him. I told him that I was surprised to see a Hasidic man wandering in this part of town, and I wanted to learn more about him.“I can walk for miles,” Joseph tells me, in his thick Yiddish accent. I was a graduate student at the time and he agreed to be my subject, under certain conditions: We could never be seen together, we could only speak sporadically, and if we passed on the street, he would ignore me and I must ignore him.
Sometimes people stare at this young Hasid wandering at night, but he doesn’t seem to mind. I was curious about this Hasidic guy—dressed in a black suit, modest but elegant, with his below a black-rimmed hat.
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He walks past the kosher grocery stores on Lee and Division Streets and reaches Broadway.
He examines the passing buildings with the eyes of a man who works in real estate—which he does.