On Divi­sion: A Novel

By – September 9, 2019

Goldie Goldbloom’s nov­el, On Divi­sion, fea­tures a won­der­ful­ly com­plex exam­ple of what it means to be an Ortho­dox Jew in mod­ern times. Gold­bloom is a Cha­sidic-Lub­bav­itch woman who is also an activist for LGBTQ Cha­sidic youth. The bur­den of this iden­ti­ty is per­fect­ly encap­su­lat­ed by her pro­tag­o­nist, Suri, whose iden­ti­ty is called into ques­tion sev­er­al times through­out the nov­el. Through art­ful sto­ry­telling, the read­er is able to feel every bit of the anx­ious suf­fer­ing Suri endures with­in the tight-knit and secre­tive Cha­sidic com­mu­ni­ty. The tra­di­tions they fol­low are based on the Torah, but the set­ting is medieval East­ern Euro­pean, as most of the com­mu­ni­ty still adhere to the dress code and cus­toms of the mid­dle ages.

Gold­bloom makes Suri’s char­ac­ter unre­lat­able, with her bizarre social and reli­gious cus­toms, yet so relat­able at the same time. Her first con­cern, upon dis­cov­er­ing that she is preg­nant, is that of her social sta­tus with­in the com­mu­ni­ty. Suri already men­tioned that she was embar­rassed by the man her grand­daugh­ter chose to mar­ry. He trimmed his pay­ot and wouldn’t wear the tra­di­tion­al Cha­sidic garb, which lessens his val­ue as a spouse. Now that Suri is not only preg­nant but also about to become a great grand­moth­er, her embar­rass­ment would know no bounds and her family’s mar­i­tal sta­tus would be cursed.

Suri’s atti­tudes towards her preg­nan­cy high­light the strong dis­con­nect between what the Cha­sidic lifestyle per­mits and the views of mod­ern soci­ety. Suri shud­ders at the idea of abor­tion and knows it’s not an option since her com­mu­ni­ty would nev­er con­sid­er or allow it. Her involve­ment in work­ing in the neigh­bor­hood clin­ic becomes her cop­ing mech­a­nism, where she helps oth­er anx­ious and preg­nant Jew­ish women and begins to learn the plea­sures of being employed.

We can’t help but admire Suri’s self-reflec­tion and growth as she grad­u­al­ly drifts away from her com­mu­ni­ty. While she begins to indulge in thoughts of a dif­fer­ent life, she remains loy­al to her reli­gious beliefs and tra­di­tions. It’s easy to iden­ti­fy with the feel­ing of safe­ty and com­fort in tra­di­tion, how­ev­er, when that sta­bil­i­ty is met with a glimpse into an entire­ly dif­fer­ent life, we lose grip on that com­fort. As much as you feel utter frus­tra­tion with the deci­sions Suri makes through­out the book, you can­not help but feel sym­pa­thy for a human sim­ply strug­gling to cope with their long-held beliefs.

Suri’s char­ac­ter offers deep, engag­ing insight into the life and faith of a per­son not nor­mal­ly known. On Divi­sion auda­cious­ly com­mu­ni­cates to those unfa­mil­iar with the Cha­sidic com­mu­ni­ty how they are not as dif­fer­ent as they may seem.

Corey Fried­man is a Mod­ern-Ortho­dox stu­dent from Wood­mere, NY with a bach­e­lor’s degree in Juda­ic Stud­ies. He is cur­rent­ly study­ing at Bing­ham­ton Uni­ver­si­ty as a grad­u­ate stu­dent, obtain­ing his MBA.