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August 09, 2011

Leaving The Ultra-Orthodox World

Haredi Men Talking Sam Katz was born into a hasidic community in Brooklyn. When he was a teenager, his parents divorced — an unheard of event in the community. Katz soon found himself questioning his faith and starting a journey into the secular world.

 

Please click the gray bar to listen. The segment is short. I didn't time it, but I'd say it's about 2 minutes long:

 

Venturing Beyond The Ultra-Orthodox World 8-8-11 NPR

 

[Hat Tip: Matt from Manhattan.]

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Shmarya - you are a bored jerk off - common, you can write how long it is?

Length of audio: 6 minutes (almost) exactly. That's probably the size of the time slots they allow for these types of pieces.

Favourite quote: "The more Katz read the more he wanted to read".

oh c'mon..leaving the orthodox world DOES NOT mean stopping to be a jew. a jew is a jew is a jew.
today is tish a bav. a sad day. our temple was destroyed. i felt a sad and deep regret....while having my morning coffee.
i AM jewish...i DO NOT have to be orthodox.
what is the big deal here???
i may be wrong but if more orthodox people had the chance to change their lives...not easy.at.all....they would jump at the chance.
again, they are STILL jewish.

Ruthie, you are absolutely correct! You and the vast majority of Jews are Jewish, regardless of what a minority of our people with hearts full of Sinat Chinam (baseless hatred) say.

I am fasting, but that makes me no better than you. Your feeling of regret certainly shows that you consider yourself part of the Jewish nation. "And those who mourn over the destruction of Jerusalem will merit seeing her rebuilt."

(And even those who feel no regret, are no less Jewish than you or me. They just see things from a different point of view.)

Hey YOCHANAN ----

I have a recommendation for a new song, from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story.

WHEN YOUR A JEW
YOUR A JEW ALL THE WAY

I heard the piece last night - a little before the fast started. It made me wonder if NPR had timed the piece to coincide with Tish B'Av or if it was just some coincidence. Either way, it was compelling to hear the struggle of those who are seeking a different path to find themselves and dealing with the world outside of their "shtetl".

If that's NPRs intro...it's not very heartening. They call, what in the general world is acknowledged as a symptom and statistic (parents divorce, child begins questioning everything, etc), into some quest...I will listen to this, but the headline is a turn-off. What if it'd been drug addiction instead of parents divorcing? Would they still use the Baby Boomer loshon of quests, journeys, etc (in the pop-therapeutic paradigm they do; but that's part of how they turned Judaism into a 613 Step Program - all due respect to 12 Steppers)? Sure something can end up being a "journey", but so often it's someone...well, living their life. Life is life - not a journey, not a path, not a 'test', life is life. is there some metaphor that can actually equate to it with any dignity? Hungers made me snippy.

Something to consider on Tisha B'Av is that this Jewish person was nearly stopped from learning about the world by the anti-Jewish forces by which he was surrounded. Fortunately, he superceded this darkness and will, hopefully, be able to perform the mitzvah of teaching (or facilitating thereof) his children to earn a living.

yosef ben matitya no problem with this?

dr. dave
i wish you and everyone who is fasting today an easy fast

Considering the number of Ultra-Orthodox in New York I was a little surprised to hear that only a handful are leaving the fold or is it that only a handful are struggling to leave.

Why do all the cowards who leave the fold need an excuse (they all have one)? Why can't they simply say that this is their choice and is no one's concern? I think most of you know why... Please don't respond with your usual venomous rhetoric. Rather, look deeper down and you might draw the same sad conclusion I did. I understand it must be difficult since you must comfort yourself by justifying your way of life.

Let me state what my beliefs are: Work for an honest living, be compassionate towards other beings and be ethical in trade. What part of our religion denies that? I see no grounds for dumping my current way of life.

wow he is very courageous i admire his whole attitude i wish him tottal success a real smart person this samuel

Considering the number of Ultra-Orthodox in New York I was a little surprised to hear that only a handful are leaving the fold or is it that only a handful are struggling to leave.

Posted by: Leah | August 09, 2011 at 09:32 AM

Your trolling here is about to end.

Now process this very well, or you'll be the latest haredi troll to be banned.

Leaving most hasidic groups means losing your family and friends – and even your children.

Hasidim generally do not have secular education past the 8th grade, and that education was extremely poor.

They have no way to survive outside their communities.

It takes tremendous courage to leave.

Now, one more example of your trolling and you're banned.

And don't try to claim you didn't know or didn't understand.

Stupidity is not a virtue or an excuse.

Got that?

Why do all the cowards who leave the fold need an excuse (they all have one)?

You're the coward, 'Yeshiel.'

You stay even though you know about so much BS, crime, and abuse, the corruption of your rabbis, and the persecution of th eweak in your society by the powerful.

You're the coward.

And as so many of us have pointed out previously, you're also a buffoon with a big insulting mouth and zero empathy for anyone who makes your beloved fantasy land look bad.

So on Tisha B'av, 'Yechiel' the arrogant obnoxious fighter for all things haredi, attacks people who have done nothing wrong. He calls them "cowards."

You are an unmitigated ass.

Wow! what news for NPR (National Palestine Radio)the famous anti-semetic station, they found a new 'shagetz' in the jewish community behaveing like 98% of the jews in the world!

For Mordecai, with apologies to Leonard Bernstein:

When you're a Yid,
You're a Yid all the way
From your first Tisha Bav
To your last words,"oy vey."

When you're a Yid,
If a fit hits the Rav,
You've chaverim around,
You've got help from above!

You're never alone,
You're sometimes disaffected!
You're home when you roam:
When tchulent is expected,
You're "Kaopected!"

Then you are set
With a capital Yod,
Which you'll never forget
Till they cart you like wood.
When you're a Yid,
You stay a Yid!

After the destruction of WWII, it seems that leaders arouse who wanted to rebuild a way of life that did not exist among most religious European Jews. A survivor told me that she grew up without parents and did not know what to do.

European and American Orthodox Jews until recently learned secular subjects, read library books, and attended non-Jewish universities. They worked with non-Jews, and many attended public schools. Those Jews seemed to be much happier. They served HaShem with love, not fear like today.

Today many UO do not know the difference between a geder (fence) and the halacha (law). Therefore, the followers do not understand that there is a difference between eating pork and not wearing a yarmulke, or for a woman not wearing stockings.

They are taught to observe all or nothing. All according to their leaders' interpretation. All over the world Jews observe mitzvos and live a secular life too.

Does Sam Katz know that there are secular Jews who do not eat pork or shell fish? They consider abstention a part of their identity.

If the Torah's teachings are right, why do today's leaders insist on making more gederim, enforced longer hours of learning, and prohibit Jewish religious concerts? Do the leaders have so little faith in their education that they think that if males and females mingle, they won't observe boundaries with their relationship? How many married couples met at Bnei Akiva or NSCY? How many big Rabbis went to mixed schools? Why do they think this generation is worse than any others?

The UO should begin to realize that the Jews who observe mitzvos from love will bring the rebuilding of the Temple. The UO who observe mitzvos from fear of transgressions will only perpetuate the causeless hatred that brought the Destruction.

Posted by: Bas Melech | August 09, 2011 at 10:01 AM

Very, very well-said, Bas Melech. Bravo!

Leah and others who don't understand,

Did you ever see the movie Mendle? You should. The movie is not for children. If you do watch it, watch the commentary after the movie.

You should also know that many former members of the frum community live on the fringe. They will tell you about the hypocrisy of the UO who lead double lives that their wives don't know about. They lie about weekend business trips on which they lead a disgustingly immoral life on Shabbos.

FFB's, why do you expect the transition from not frum to observant to be so easy? BTs leave family and friends. I know BTs in their 50s whose childhood friends deserted them.

Now his former community will use him as an example of what happens to your kids when you get divorced. Thus encouraging incompatible couples to continue to live on in misery together.

His problem is that by eating pork he's throwing away his Jewish identity. Why? You can be Jewish and not Hasidic. Any shul in the world would accept him with open arms.

I heard the piece last night - a little before the fast started. It made me wonder if NPR had timed the piece to coincide with Tish B'Av or if it was just some coincidence.

I had the same thought as I was listening to NPR yesterday. It's sad that when folks leave hasidism, they go to the extreme opposite of atheism. Why is there such an extreme move? Why not adopt modern Orthodoxy?

I left, yet came from a stable family, and we had money too. Yes I am much happier now.

Visiting: a small percentage do become MO. I have a friend who was Bobov, went totally secular, then returned to observance as Modern Orthodox.

B"H

Shmarya

Would you agree with me that if this kid grew up in CH he would have been much more accepted than the more insular community he grew up in?

Chabad is very open and accepting but also very frum.

Hundreds of Chabad kids from Crown Heights are no longer frum.

Chabad has many of the same problems the other groups have, and it also has many unique ones – including a leadership that does nothing but fight among themselves.

If you were intellectually honest you'd admit this. But you are not and you therefore won't.

@ Thank you Shmarya, for stating clearly the 'rewards' for leaving-particularly women who left because of husbands, rabonnim who paskened children had to remain w husbands because it was 'in the interest of the Jewish child' and for exposing the stinking attitudes of calling those who could not bear the torment, not that they/we/I were cowards, some of us did not have your balls or thick skins or ability to look the other way, we wanted normal chassidisha/Jewish/Orthodox lives and got every form of lying, welfare, coverups, domestic abuse and sexual molestation of our children. All of you reading, know-if not personally, you know someone who went through this, that is how pervasive it is...and yet we are told to remain in good standing, to not be shunned or excommunicated, we must first ask permission, bring our stories to community rabbis to decide if they warrant secular intervention. We have reached this point, in our generation explicitely because we did just that-keep things under the rug, keep the dirty laundry inside our community and the result is mental illness, depression, children tossing off frumkeit as a joke because they see no protection against abuse at home or at yeshivah. Stop playing with words and yourselves and realise as some of us have, that we can pound our chest daily but if we leave sin to flourish by ignoring it, we are as guilty for every life that continues to suffer.

"I had the same thought as I was listening to NPR yesterday. It's sad that when folks leave hasidism, they go to the extreme opposite of atheism. Why is there such an extreme move? Why not adopt modern Orthodoxy?"

I can't speak to MO so much - I would hope more could find something meaningful in masorti and Reform and Recon. But lets face it, this isnt 1915. Our communities are made up of people with advanved secular educations, very americanized (or occasionally Israeli) in social mores, and usually composed of families, or at least singles with good relations with their parents. Someone alone with no family and minimal connection to family, who is uneducated, and culturally alien as most OTD haredim are, simply does not find modern synagogue welcoming, nor do their religious and social offerings appeal to their search, for the most part. I hope someday we will address how reach out to the OTD - at this point in time, Masorti J, at least has too much else on its plate. As haredi numbers grown, and assuming Masorti numbers in the USA continue to shrink, appealing to the OTD will become a more important thing to consider.

My DD believe the social environment in Israel would be more welcoming. Stories of moving radically between different types of Jewish experience are par for the course there, the "secular" are at least more familiar with Judaism, and young people alone are not so rare, since some olim come alone.

note well - our advanced secular educations dont mean we dont make typos :)

It's the losing children I don't understand. No matter how many rabbis say otherwise the law in this country is that you're still the child's parent. You have parental rights which you don't give up just because some doddering fanatic with herring on his breath wants to punish you.

visiting the sick-ill tell you why they go to the opposite extreeme, someone told me if you have a piece of paper bent to one side you have to bend it all the way to the other side to really straighten it out do you see my anylagy?

Shmarya:
On tisha b'av I call a spade, a spade; COWARDS.
And yes, precisely; I know all the BS, corruption and a slew of more things than you can mention in one post... Let it also be known that the system failed me too. Yet, I feel not the urge to leave for I am not a coward. I stay and try to be a role model to my coreligionists. Running from it will not benefit me in any way other than quelling feelings of revenge.
Charedism does not limit or block my entry to any trade or educational opportunities.
What you and your ilk say about haredim troubles me but does not warrant my departure.
I say it loudly and say it proudly: "I am a Haredi!"

Signed
'Yechiel' aka bufoon

The main reason I left was because I was told that sex is forbidden on Tisha B'Av. That's a deal breaker for me. Sorry.

So on Tisha B'av, 'Yechiel' the arrogant obnoxious fighter for all things haredi, attacks people who have done nothing wrong. He calls them "cowards."

You are an unmitigated ass.

Posted by: Shmarya | August 09, 2011 at 09:48 AM

You state they had done nothing wrong; maybe. However, a coward is defined by his cowardly behavior as is 'an unmitigated ass'.

May the Mikdash be rebuilt hastily in our days and the wolf shall copopulate with the dawgies...

Typical of NPR that it all sounds good, works towards their agenda, but in the end remains entirely superficial. They don't really delve into Sam Katz's reason for leaving, as if the Museum's evolution exhibit is reason enough. That and Salinger et al. The choice is so binary for people, and that is the pity, because throwing out all the good in Yiddishkeit for the (very real) pleasures of secular "Kultur" usually leaves people emptier than the emptiness they felt as unfulfilled Yidden before. If you really want the blog to stimulate people to find truth, find themselves, isn't it important to point out that it's NOT all or nothing? All the junk going on in certain segments of the frum world does not negate the beauty that is also there - just obfuscates it. NPR, for all its sophistication, still can only handle sound bites, while the truth is more nuanced.

I'm not sure why he has to eat chazah, my dad went through the holocaust and never ate chazah

RL
Very eloquently said.
Many people are shortsighted.... Some, I assume, are just feckless individuals.

To the new 'Rochel' (with the hyperlinked screen-name): could you perhaps append a suffix to your name? Otherwise it will be hard to tell us apart. Thank you.

Yochanan

Thanks, it really made me laugh

Until I was much older I never knew you could pray to G-d in your own words without a siddur. I never was taught that there was a personal meaning embedded in the Books of the Prophets. I never comprehended how the stories could be applied to our lives -- to make us better people, less judgmental, kinder, more spiritual.

Jewish education to me was a technical affair as reading instructions on how to assemble a model airplane. I do not suspect that I am unique in these perceptions.

Many biblical concepts are revolutionary, they upset the established order, they ask us to be genuine people and think for ourselves, to question.

It was for this reason that the Catholic Church hid away bibles. Even Martin Luther (a monk) happened upon a bible only by chance. If there is one singular accomplishment of Protestantism it is this: it put the bible in the hands of the common man and told him he can talk to G-d directly.

I suspect the Jewish ultra-orthodox education similarly seeks to blunt these revolutionary concepts by losing itself in the obsidian recesses of abstruse Talmudic study -- hence the splitting of hairs over minutiae at the expense of true understanding. I have wondered if the Rabbis were not unlike the Catholic hierarchy seeking to keep us in line and unquestioning.

That is why I now read the Tanach myself. I see that JEREMIAH told us that G-D wants us to be happy in our exile and to have faith in him and that HE will not abandon us.

>Typical of NPR that it all sounds good, works towards their agenda, but in the end remains entirely superficial.

My opinion, with all due respect, is that NPR is not typically superficial. This piece was superficial, but because the subject matter is difficult for the typical NPR reporter to understand.

Mordecai: Nicely said, and I'm glad you enjoyed my parody.

My opinion, with all due respect, is that NPR is not typically superficial. This piece was superficial, but because the subject matter is difficult for the typical NPR reporter to understand.

Posted by: Yoel Mechanic | August 09, 2011 at 06:40 PM

As do some FM readers. Short term BTs also don't quite get it. Unless one is part and parcel of a community he won't have the insight on inner happenings. Elementary, Watson.

yecheil- youre a mindless moron of course you dont have a clue go learn youre nonsensical bible fool of fools that you are.

yecheil- youre a mindless moron

hey, i need to remind you that name calling is against the explicitly stated rules; clearly stated on the front page of this blog. And these rules are taken seriously. well, just a public service announcement

As do some FM readers. Short term BTs also don't quite get it. Unless one is part and parcel of a community he won't have the insight on inner happenings. Elementary, Watson.

Posted by: 'Yechiel' | August 09, 2011 at 07:42 PM
---------------------------------------

One must also point out that those who are "part and parcel" or at least think they are part and parcel are often mono-cultural and do a very poor job of explaining. One really should be bi-cultural as a pre-requisite to doing this sort of explaining, as well as being a good writer. Now, a short term BT might not cut it, but a longer term BT actually might be bi, and therefore could have a chance at this.

The spiritual journey of many people is very interesting. Life can take many twists and turns. What everyone will witness over the coming years is a breakdown in the petty delineations between the sects. The myopic, tribal based groupthink that dominates in some places is being replaced by a more expansive yet inclusive paradigm.
I love the stories of the spiritual journeys of Moses, Joseph, David, the Vilna Gaon, Gandhi, Paine, Huxley and Bertha Pappenheim.

It is sort of related to this, but a great movie about groupthink, public image, a sense of mission, shifts in belief and orientation is the very little known 1994 Philip Davis movie "I.D.". A truly remarkable film.

This phenomenon was covered in more depth by Joshua Halberstam of CUNY last week. See http://www.jewishideasdaily.com/content/module/2011/8/2/main-feature/1/lives-of-the-ex-haredim.

Ok 'yechiel' u really really don't get it. As someone who left the community (and I think I spk for a lot of ppl here) you have no idea how hard it is. You can call us fools, betrayers, heretics, or whatever. But do NOT call us cowards! It takes more courage than you will ever have (im assuming here, cuz u really don't seem to get it) to leave the communityno matter what reason you have for leaving

Aliza
So says aristotle:
To run away from trouble is a form of cowardice and, while it is true that the suicide braves death, he does it not for some noble object but to escape some ill.

He also stated:
Suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bears great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but through greatness of mind.
Give this idea some thought; it may help you get by.

and yet, it doesn't have to be like this

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