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The author travelled to and from his home in Iowa City and Postville, acquainting himself with the local native Iowan and Hasidic populations. Initially, Bloom sought out the Postville Hasidim in his quest to connect to his Jewish heritage in a largely Christian area, and to understand how the community adapted to life in small-town Iowa while surrounded by an insular, homogeneous and occasionally anti-Semitic culture. The Hasidim, who are involved in Jewish education and outreach initially accepted Bloom because of his Jewish heritage. (whom they viewed as a "wayward Jew" due to his secularism) to their brand of Orthodox Judaism. Upon deciding that the Hasidim offered little enlightenment on either issue (as their sole concern was his religious awakening), Bloom's mission quickly changes from a personal quest to a journalistic exploration.
Bloom describes the arrival of the Hasidim in Postville. In 1987, Rabbi Aaron Rubashkin purchased an unused meat-rendering plant and turned it into a state-of-the-art facility for producing Glatt kosher meat. A group of a few hundred Hasidim joined him to help manage and operate the facility, which grew to employ 900. The town's population of around 1,300 had a mixed relationship with the Hasidim.
Throughout the book, Bloom describes the power struggles between the two groups, culminating in a ballot referendum held by the town calling for annexation of the land where the plant was located, which permitted the town to gain the ability to tax and regulate the plant. According to the jacket, the book tries to the answer whether "the Iowans [were] prejudiced, or were the Lubavitchers simply unbearable?"
Bloom chooses sides in the culture clash. In the book, Bloom voices his opinions on the vote (he supports annexation) and his condemnation of the Hasidic community (whose behavior towards the local native Iowans he frequently describes as "despicable", and whose beliefs he characterizes as "racist"). At one point in the book, Bloom compares Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the international rebbe (religious leader) of the sect who died in 1994, to Louis Farrakhan, asserting that their messages of separatism are nearly identical.
In the Afterword of the updated edition of the book, Bloom describes the receiving in the aftermath of the book's publication frequent accusations of airing the Jews' "dirty laundry," and betraying his brethren.
Many Jews were troubled by Bloom's views, claiming that he painted a picture that was not reflective of the reality.[who?] Other readers were impressed with Bloom's approach.[who?] Like other Jews who have taken on controversial or taboo issues regarding Jewish culture, Bloom became a lightning rod, accused of disloyalty and slander toward the Jewish people. The book became an important, if not unbiased, reference point in the wider perception of Orthodox Jewry in the United States. The book became especially well-read among liberal Jewish circles in the early 2000s. Many readers of American Jewish backgrounds found the book in tune with their sentiments toward the "Ultra-Orthodox," reflective of the uneasy and occasionally antagonistic relationship between the modern and Haredi Jewish communities today.
The book led many American Jews to rethink their assumptions about Kosher meat. A movement toward Kosher Organic and free range meat was fueled by allegations of slaughterhouse conditions at Agriprocessors reminiscent of The Jungle. By 2008, leaders within Conservative Judaism had called for an advisory against eating meat products from Agriprocessors, due to continuing allegations of mistreatment of workers. Also in 2008, the Postville Agriprocessors plant was raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in what would be the largest such raid in American history. Hundreds of undocumented workers were arrested. In 2004 and again in 2008, the Postville Agriprocessors facility was shown to use slaughter methods that were inhumane and contrary to kosher law.,
The book was published by Harcourt in 2000 and was named a Best Book of the year by MSNBC, The Chicago Sun-Times, the Rocky Mountain News, The Chicago Tribune, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. And was also made into a documentary.