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By and large, these Hasidim study in religious schools, speak Yiddish as their first language, dress according to a strict code, and enter arranged marriages when they are between the ages of seventeen and twenty.They are forbidden to listen to the radio, watch television, listen to non-Jewish music, or expose themselves to the ideas and people of secular society.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.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.

Joseph is outside, walking a familiar route, his hands thrust in his pockets and a mysterious smile playing at his lips.“You realize that we are taking a risk just by exchanging words with you.” drape the mirrors with fabric and mourn his name.His children may never again know him, his wife may divorce him, and his parents may not return his phone calls.“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.

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The life he returns to—his family, Hasidim—is a good one, he says, as long as he doesn’t think too hard about what’s outside of it. He attends prayer two to three times a day, but goes for walks every chance he gets. After leaving the interview, Joseph takes me to a bar he frequents on the north side of Williamsburg; less than a mile from his house, it’s in many ways another world—one filled with seemingly carefree youth, sex, drugs and rock-and-roll, as they say.

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