Hasidic Wedding Crashers

February 8, 2011 | By

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If you could pick anyone to go undercover in the insular world of Hasidic Jews, it probably wouldn’t be a staff writer from Vice Magazine. Vice is notorious for publishing edgy and racy articles–a guide to seducing Muslims, a review of third-world drug culture in which the reporter samples the goods.

But, when Vice photographer Patrick O’Dell attends a Hasidic wedding, he’s surprisingly able to avoid offense (mostly). His photo essay is informative, engaging, and funny.

O’Dell’s commentary fills in the parts that his photographs don’t. On the extensive preliminaries: “A small number of people were listening to the prayers…they were chatting on cell phones in Yiddish.” On the ceremony itself: “The groom got under the tent and started chanting and rocking back and forth. He was kinda freaking out and crying.”

Looking at these photographs feels a bit voyeuristic. The young groom seems nervous. The even-younger bride is pensive. The photographs detail each step of the wedding as it happens, from the veiling to the meditations under the huppah, to the “massive chunks” of fish served at the wedding meal. The unexpected moments–a Hasid rolling a joint under the table; a musician jamming on a basic Casio keyboard–create a humorous, accessible, and yet mystical portrait of this fascinating culture.

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