I’m a Hasidic Jewish Woman Living in Vermont and this Is My Life

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If you’ve ever seen a Hasidic Jewish person on TV shows, movies, or in popular documentaries, then take that portrayal and throw it away.

I’m a Hasidic Jewish woman living and working in Vermont. Some may say I’m ultra-orthodox, but that’s a meaningless label the media has projected onto observant Jews who look a certain way.

Hollywood and the media have not portrayed us nicely or accurately. In the media, things are exaggerated for dramatic effect and this tends to magnify stereotypes. In fact, I would say the media is a huge reason anti-semitism still strongly exists today. 

Let me give you a real insight into the life of a Hasidic Jewish woman (please keep in mind we are all different and this story is only my own).  

You would never know about my religion unless you knew what to look for. I wear ordinary clothes, though I always don a skirt or dress, long sleeves, and a crew neck top. 

I am a practicing physical therapist with a doctorate degree. 

I own my own business. 

Listen to too many podcasts to count. 

I go on runs with friends, shop local, hike, go to local events, and strike up conversations with just about everyone about just about anything. 

And I would never miss a good game night with friends.

Hasidic Jewish Women taking a selfie on Lake Champlain

Meanwhile, I eat only Kosher food, don’t work on the Sabbath (Shabbat, the seventh day of the week, Saturday), pray daily, have a growing family where the number of kids I want is only limited to what G-d will bless me with, wear a wig to cover my hair, don’t touch any man other than my father and husband (this is my own restriction and has nothing to do with what my respecting husband wants from me, though it’s Torah law and it’s expected a Hasidic Jew won’t touch the opposite gender; so similarly my husband also has equal restrictions), keep laws of family purity (also known as taharas hamishpacha), don’t own a television, and my kids’ average screen time is 0 hours. 

I didn’t grow up this way. While growing up in Texas, I practiced my Judaism by going to Hebrew school and to Temple every once in a while when I was forced to go. How I got to be a Hasidic Jew is a whole other story. Suffice it to say, I chose this way of life out of love, respect, and admiration and have never once regretted it or felt minimized since choosing it almost 15 years ago. 

But now I am here, in Vermont, where I can count the Hasidic families living in this whole state on two hands. 

So here is the question EVERYONE asks me- what am I doing here? How did this Hasidic Jewish woman end up in Vermont? 

In short, my husband and I were invited to be emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, to open a Chabad House in Middlebury

I ordinarily tell people my husband and I have a “Jewish Center” in Middlebury to make things simple. But what is a Chabad House? A Chabad House is a place where a Jewish person can come to and be seen “beyond the knowledge of a person, beyond their outward behavior, into the depths of their heart, to find there the divine spark and reveal it with unconditional love… A Chabad House will generally host classes, lectures, and workshops on Jewish topics; religious services; Shabbat meals; and special events as needed in that community.” Beyond the events and constant hosting, our Chabad House is truly here for each and every Jewish soul. 

Author of this post with her family in front of a Menorah and a Happy Chanukah sign from Chabad Lubavitch of Middlebury

Our days are mainly filled with developing relationships, being there for someone to talk to, feeding a hungry or sick belly, and giving a college student a warm home to come to when they need a break from their life at school. We strive to be a “home away from home” in a judgment-free zone. 

That’s what brings me to Middlebury, VT. And the fact is, I enjoy it. I prefer it over big city living where most Jewish communities are. 

Baby on a bridge in Middlebury

While I do sincerely miss being in a larger orthodox community and wish my kids could grow up in a “community” (we are a VERY, VERY community-oriented religion), I enjoy the environment and way of life Vermont has to offer. I love my kids running around freely with no shoes on, going to my garden while I’m cooking to grab veggies or herbs, getting eggs from our chickens, going on hikes and runs through the beautiful landscape, being able to ski locally, farm-hopping for local items, going to local bookstores, knowing each one of our neighbors, and seeing someone I know on most of my outings. 

Hasidic Rabbi with his kids feeding their chickens
Kids running up the driveway while the little brother is pulling his older sister's hand
Children facing away from camera sitting in doorway together

My day-to-day life as a Hasidic Jewish woman doesn’t look much different than yours. 

My mornings are spent finding the strength to get out of bed to work out after all 3 kids traveled to my bed from their own beds at various times of the night, feeding them a million breakfasts, convincing them to get dressed, running around the house and playing games with their glorious morning energy, and rushing them out of the door for school.

Afternoons, I am either working for the Chabad, meeting college students or community members, treating patients, or at home with my baby. In the evening, it is wind-down (or wind-up and crash) time, dinner, and bedtime (and y’all… I have just discovered the miracle of Melatonin!) When our kids are finally sleeping, I typically do more work, read, have a Torah study session with a partner, online shop, catch up on my Shutterfly albums, or spend quality time together with my husband if he doesn’t fall asleep while helping put our kids to sleep. 

Hasidic Jewish woman laughing on the swing with her baby
Hasidic Jewish woman pushing a double stroller with a bike on top of the stroller while carrying a 4 year old on her back

When it comes to food, keeping Kosher has to do with whether or not a specific food is permissible to eat by the Torah. All raw plants, trees, herbs, vegetables, and fruit are kosher (to remain kosher they must be cooked in a kitchen that strictly abides by all the laws of kosher). The only things that get tricky are meat, seafood, dairy, and other byproducts of animals such as gelatin.

The meat has to be from a kosher animal and killed in a kosher way by someone specifically trained. A kosher animal must chew its own cud and have split hooves, otherwise, it is not kosher. Fish must have fins and scales, otherwise, the fish or sea creature is not kosher. Dairy products also need to be from a kosher animal and the milking process needs to be supervised. Any byproduct of an animal needs to be from a kosher animal that has been killed and processed in a kosher way. That’s a quick summary. No blessing of the food by a rabbi is involved, only supervision as needed. Supervision is used when necessary (such as in factories for processed foods) to ensure the kosher standards of a product are upheld by the kosher certifying agency. 

Hasidic Jewish woman happily holding a lamb

So what do I eat? I personally love all things vegan and love to try cuisines from different cultures. My kids are almost carnivores. And my husband enjoys all kinds of food (as long as it’s kosher). Baking is a hobby, not a chore. 

As you can see, I’m pretty relatable. However, the difference in my life as a Hasidic Jewish woman is in the small things. 

How we thank G-d for our lives and our ability to connect to Him and perform his commandments immediately upon awakening. 

Ritually washing our hands. 

Giving at least a coin to charity (Tzedakah) at least once daily and encouraging our kids to do the same.

Saying morning (and afternoon and evening) prayers. 

Saying a blessing before and after every single thing we eat and drink. 

Always having respect for G-d in mind when we get dressed and put a bite of food in our mouths (dressing modestly and keeping Kosher). 

Knowing with every action we do there is an Eye that sees and Ear that hears. So we try to always act kindly and respectfully while following the 613 commandments (we can actually only do 369 commandments today without the existence of The Holy Temple in Jerusalem) with good and meaningful intentions.

The continuous education and stories we tell our children about our past, present, and future (our home life is significantly built on the foundation of educating our kids).

Learning and speaking about Torah and G-d every chance we can.

Preparing for the Sabbath to arrive all day on Friday by cooking and attempting to clean my home (my husband is super helpful with this, as I still need to work on my time management….). We often have guests Friday dinner and Saturday lunch for the Sabbath meals, which are 5 courses for dinner and 4 courses for lunch, and I make it a mission of mine to have every person who walks into our Chabad house leave full of delicious and healthy food (I sometimes cheat the healthiness with my desserts). 

Dedicating our Sabbath (sundown on Friday to nightfall on Saturday) to G-d and putting all materialism aside while spending precious time with our family and community. Although there are many restrictions for this day, they are liberating.

Lighting Shabbat Candles

I know y’all may be wondering about my relationship with my husband and if being a woman makes me inferior or subservient.

Hasidic married couple on a bench in front of holiday lights

In Judaism it is taught that marriage is between 3 “people”: G-d, the husband, and the wife. 

In Judaism, a home is compared to The Holy Temple, the holiest place on earth. Being such a holy place, it needs to be full of G-d, love, happiness, and peace. A woman is considered the foundation of the home, of the holiest place to be. A man recognizes and respects this role.

Furthermore, it is taught that women are spiritually superior to men. This concept is very clear to men and they appreciate it, accept it, and speak about it often in a respectful manner towards women. 

My husband and I are fortunate to have a beautiful and meaningful relationship with a foundation of good and shared values. I’m not saying we are perfect. What I’m saying is that we have a strong foundation, and because of that, all issues that may arise can be mutually resolved because we respect each other and our marriage.

Couple in wedding attire

My husband is my partner in every way. The different roles and responsibilities we have are based on Jewish customs and laws, as well as playing towards our own individual strengths.


We share responsibilities within our home and raising our children. Of course we each have our own roles and responsibilities, as any marriage would, but one responsibility is not more important than the other. Our roles, combined with Jewish customs and laws, are all necessary to make a cohesive home, marriage, and educational experience for our children. Our shared commitment to each other and to G-d makes our marriage continually blossom, even after the not-so-easy moments within our 7 years of marriage (and counting!).

Hasidic Jewish woman being silly with her husband

Overall, as a Hasidic Jewish woman living in Vermont, sometimes I feel a bit out of place. But then that feeling goes away and I’m back to feeling comfortable again. Thanks to you, Vermont. You have been a very accepting place for me and my family. I think the biggest judgment I have had comes from myself (that’s relatable, right?!) 

So as a Hasidic Jew, am I different from most people in Vermont? Yes. But aren’t we all different? We are all put in this world for a reason and have our own, unique G-dly mission. No puzzle piece is the same. And we are all pieces of a much larger puzzle which we can’t see from this angle way down here. So rather than judge our differences, let’s celebrate them. And spread love, happiness, and light. 

Please feel free to comment with any questions. Those who know me can attest to the fact I am pretty open and honest and usually disclose more than asked. 

  • For more information on what a Chabad House is and does, visit this wonderful and informative website.
  • Curious what a Chabad House is like? I have colleagues internationally who all welcome everyone with open arms. Find one here. 
  • If you want to see a well-portrayed docu-series with some inside scoop of Hasidic life, check out Peter Santenello’s series.  
  • Oprah Winfrey also has some good interviews with Hasidic families on YouTube
  • There was also a “My Orthodox Life” movement on social media in response to the Netflix show, “My Un-orthodox Life.” Search #MyOrthodoxLife to see many Hasidic Jewish women give their own authentic reflections about the religion and lifestyle.

(Please keep in mind, there are many, many DOZENS of Hasidic communities and sects, and my experience only represents two or three; so this is by NO MEANS an exhaustive or extensive look into Hasidic Judaism).

 

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25 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Davida and thanks for sharing your story! I am not Jewish but had the good fortune to grow up around many in Pittsburgh (both Hasidic and non) and am glad to see you here in Vermont!

    I do have a question – you mentioned not touching people of the opposite sex outside your family. Does that impact your profession in physical therapy? How do you manage situations that may arise in which a hands-on adjustment would occur (if it would!). Thank you!

    • Hi Emily, thank you! I have family in Pittsburgh, small world! It’s nice to hear you enjoyed growing up there 🙂

      In regards to your question- I currently only work with women (I specialize in pregnant and postpartum women). However, in the past I have also worked with men. Since it is a medical profession, it is permitted. However, I was always careful not to touch them in a way other than beneficially for manual therapy or exercise correction. I’m much happier having clearer boundaries now 🙂

  2. Great article !
    Thanks for sharing your story.
    So positive and upbeat. Not at all like the “Un-Orthodox ” program, which is negative towards a religious
    Lifestyle.
    Peter Sentenello’s documentary was truthful, worth viewing. Another well intentioned young man made a short documentary on one of Brooklyn’s Hasidic Communities.
    He was respectful and awed by the people. Couldnt resist giggling at his pronunciation of Challah….CHHhaaaala bread. He learned, and enjoyed it.
    Thanks again for your article. Glad you enjoy Vermont !

    • Thank you! I’m so happy you enjoyed reading it! I’m glad there is another positive “youtuber” about the Brooklyn Hasidic community 🙂 lol CHHaaaala. That always makes me giggle 🙂

  3. Perfectly said! Thank you for your bullet points at the end of the article. We began to follow and support Peter Santenello’s after I found his series on Hasadic Jews. I was absolutely mortified after watching part of an episode of “My un-orthodox life” and now it makes perfect sense why I’m seeing so much more content on Orthodox Life on U-Tube! I hadn’t realized it was in answer to all the misinformation she relates to the audience. Be well and may Hashem bless you in all your endeavors!
    Hadassah Kaufman

    • Thank you for your support! I’m glad you enjoyed reading it and all it entailed :). And I’m glad some things were clarified for you; that’s always a nice feeling. Amen, thank you for your bracho! Those who bless should be blessed!

  4. Love this SO much – especially as a fellow frum Jew living in Vermont! Our family also misses the ‘community’ aspect (and eating out!), but it’s just so beautiful here, and I’m grateful every day to not be in a city! B”H you should be blessed to assist many others in teshuva!

    • I’m so happy you enjoyed this post! Thank you for your kind words and support 🙂

      It took me a quick minute to figure out who you were (I didn’t recognize your Hebrew name), but I got it!! What a small Jewish world it is here :). It’s not easy, especially where you are, but y’all are rocking it; so yasher koach to you! Keep it up!

  5. Davida! I love your article. You are amazing, strong, smart and loving. Watching you in action in your home? Impressive! You and your husband had a wonderful choreography of getting ready for Shabbat dinner and juggling your guests and adorable children.
    Your home is filled with energy and love!

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