Blog Talk: An Interview with Heshy Fried, Author of Frum Satire

Frum Satire was created by Heshy Fried in 2006.  Since then, the blog’s popularity has exploded, with an ever-widening readership and hundreds of comments.  The blog, which discusses Jews and the differences between us in a humorous light, has garnered a wide variety of responses, from admiration and appreciation to anger and outrage.  In this interview with The Beacon, the author talks about the blog’s beginnings, his take on humor, and how he deals with some of the negative feedback he has received.  

Can you give us a background on why you decided to start Frum Satire, what your initial goals were, and how those might have shifted over the years?

I honestly started it because I was bored at work. I was starting to write down some of my thoughts on being a frum single guy who didn’t like all the social judgments within the shidduch world and someone told me about blogging. Prior to starting my own, I had never known that blogs even existed. Initially I just wanted to write about my aggravation at being judged for wearing a blue shirt to shul on Shabbos and not wanting to be forced to pay for girls on dates. Of course it was all a goal to find a woman and maybe meet some cool people.

The goals changed when I realized thousands of folks were turning to my blog for a variety of things. It’s almost like a form of kiruv for all those disenfranchised Jews out there who are mad at the Jewish establishment. They can say hey, there’s this guy that admits to all these wrongdoings and is also angry at the community, yet he remains religious, maybe I can do it too. I think my overall goal is to create understanding and dialogue between multiple Jewish communities that seldom speak to one another.

Some of your blog posts border on what many Orthodox Jews would consider offensive.  What are your own personal boundaries in what you write about?  Where do you draw the line?

I try to stay away from personal things. If you go back over the years I rarely spoke about my family or personal life. I never brought up girlfriends, parental issues or friends much. I also tend to shy away from personal attacks, it’s not worth it to make fun of people who may be innocent of the crimes they’ve supposedly done. Even when I do make fun of folks convicted of crimes, I try to keep away from the serious stuff. I also tend to stay away from Holocaust humor because based on my experience, the frum community isn’t ready for that yet. I stay very far away from Israeli and domestic politics in general, though I do find that blaming the gays for everything bad that happens in the world is kind of funny.  There is no line… it’s one big gray area.

How do you balance your blog with your own personal life and image?  

My wife thought I was a big jerk (based on reading my blog for years) prior to meeting me for the second time. I don’t give very much of myself away on my blog. The blog is often filled with things that I myself don’t agree with, but that doesn’t seem to stop people from attacking me when they don’t get the joke. Still, it’s actually pretty easy to keep from letting commentors get to me, but that’s only because I have thick skin. People who tend to lodge personal attacks on me or my family don’t really know anything about me.

On a similar note, how do you reconcile humor, which often takes a nothing is sacred approach, with religiosity and its focus on the sacred?

I wonder if this question is one of the reasons as to why there is a dearth of frum comedians or humor writers. I seldom make fun of the actual religion, I love the religion. I just make fun of the idiotic things we do in the name of Judaism. I take what we think on a daily basis and put it into words. I’m of the opinion that humor doesn’t make something less sacred. For some, it creates that nervous laughter that comes with realizing how stupid we sound at some points.

What has been some of the backlash you’ve experienced?  Any particular stories about particularly offended readers?

Definitely some rejection from the ladies of frummer backgrounds who googled me and didn’t want to have anything to do with me, which is fine, because I probably wouldn’t have gotten any. I had one guy who from some group of folks against Anti-Semitism got all his constituents to write emails demanding an apology for a post I wrote about Sephardim (I wrote about why I don’t write about Sephardim). I got a cease and desist letter from some lady’s lawyer whose picture I posted with a description of her Hot Chani attributes. In all honesty, I don’t get such angry emails or phone calls. I’ve gotten various emails over the years from popular Rabbis asking me to remove certain things, but usually because it wasn’t good for business.

What advice would you give to other writers and bloggers?

Blogging is a tough sport. Most bloggers start a blog because they read other blogs and it looks easy, but to put out even 3 or 4 posts a week is hard work. I used to write twice a day at my peak, but writing for myself is more important than trying to keep up 80-100k people a month. Getting caught up in how many views, comments or likes one gets is definitely not the way to go. Consistent quality is probably most important, like don’t put out crap.