“The young people who gathered Sunday at Jerusalem’s Shamgar Funeral Home were unfortunately no strangers to the place. Only Thursday they had been there for the funeral of M., a friend who had committed suicide, and now they were there for A., who had also taken her own life.…"
Recent Suicides Among Ex-Haredim In Israel Shock, Trouble Friends, Professionals Alike
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
“The young people who gathered Sunday at Jerusalem’s Shamgar Funeral Home were unfortunately no strangers to the place. Only Thursday they had been there for the funeral of M., a friend who had committed suicide, and now they were there for A., who had also taken her own life.
Both of the dead had been in their 20s and grown up religious, but had chosen to leave the observant way of life. According to those working with Haredi young people who decide to leave their communities, seven such young adults have committed suicide over the past 18 months.…”
So begins a new Ha’aretz report on suicide among ex-haredim.
Unfortunately, the report does not delve into why so many ex-haredim kill themselves – although the report does mention that many had been disowned by their families – or if that number is greater statistically than current haredim or for all Israelis. (It does appear to be an exceedingly high number, but the sample size is also exceedingly small, which skews he numbers’ meaning.)
The reality is that change is almost always hard. Change that involves losing all or most of your friends and family is even harder. To wake up one morning and suddenly have no one to talk to, no one to confide in, no one who cares about you can be devastating – and that is in part why haredim often shun their children who stray religiously. The fear of what might happen keeps some from leaving and the actual loneliness of leaving causes others to return.
Some of these people were probably depressed before they left and some were probably victims of child sex abuse and/or neglect, as well.
The story notes that Hillel (not the same group as the North American campus organization), the organization that helps haredim who leave (similar to what Footsteps does in America), is underfunded. Bt what it does not mention is that, in Israel, nonprofits like Hillel fill the roles that government really should be filling, and the government – in part due to haredi pressure – barely funds Hillel. So ex-haredim are hurt because haredi politicians and rabbis don’t want their transition to secular life to be successful. And some of those ex-haredim die as a result.
Many people leave haredi communities and do not suffer from extreme depression or other mental illness in the process or afterward. But some do.
Hillel says it has 450 currently registered members, with 20 more people each month asking for help to leave the haredi community leave the haredi community. Three of the seven ex-haredim who killed themselves were reportedly Hillel members.
Hillel’s director Yair Hass says his goal now is to stop these suicides from becoming a wave. (The most recent suicide appears to have been part of a suicide pact between friends.)
The government’s goal should be to immediately on an emergency basis grant the funding to help make that goal a reality.