A beloved contemporary classic, Holy Days is a personal account of New York's Hasidic community, its beliefs, its mysteries, and its encounter with secularism in the present age.
Combining a historical understanding of the Hasidic movement with a journalist's discerning eye, Harris captures in rich detail the day-to-day life of this traditional and often misunderstood community. Harris chronicles the personal transformation she experienced as she grew closer to the largely hidden men and women of the Hasidic world.
Hasidism, the Jewish revivalist movement begun in 18th century Poland, encourages prayer, mysticism, singing and sanctification of daily life. The Lubavitchers, the largest of some 40 Hasidic sects, today live mostly in Brooklyn's Crown Heights. There Harris befriended a Lubavitcher couple and penetrated a sect known for its strict adherence to Old World customs, its deep suspicion of outsiders and secretiveness. To some, the Lubavitchers seem frozen in the past; to Harris, a sympathetic observer, they "live in a kind of perpetual Biblical present'' by linking everyday events in their personal lives to a spiritual heritage that is very much alive. Appropriately, Harris shifts back and forth in time, from the Crown Heights household where she was for years a regular visitor, to the exploits of Israel ben Eliezer, founder of Hasidism, and other Eastern European wise men who were inspired by kabbalistic teachings. This work of cultural anthropology helps readers to understand the Lubavitchers while gaining respect for their carefully guarded traditions. First serial to the New Yorker; Jewish Book Club main selection. November