Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Why Are You So Angry?

I've been writing this piece in my head for years, but Deb Tambor's untimely death forced it out of me. I was friendly with her, but not very close, and others have written about her and her story far better than I ever could, so while I'm writing with Deb in mind, this is about the bigger picture.

Why are you OTDs/Shkutzim/Bums/Oisvurfs/etc. so angry?

I'm confronted with that question fairly often, and each time I have to resist the urge to get defensive: "Why do you assume I’m angry? Just because I disagree with your lifestyle? I left to live life the way I choose and the way I think is right, does that automatically equal me being angry?"

Going OTD (for lack of a better term) sucks. It's the by far the hardest and most painful thing I've ever done in my life. Nobody chooses to be shunned, dump their friends, family, and support system, throw away their entire way of life, and everything that is familiar to them because it's fun. The decision to leave is not made lightly. We leave because we don't have a choice. We leave because the pain of staying is greater than the pain of leaving. We leave when staying is no longer an option. When someone leaves "overnight," they've in fact been mulling over leaving for years. They've been weighing the pros and cons, trying to decide if it's worth the pain and suffering they are about to put themselves through, trying to decide if they want to take this giant leap, not knowing whether or where they'll land safely. I didn't leave because I was angry, I left because I had no other choice.

But lately I’ve been thinking… We do have a lot to be legitimately angry about.

I could be angry that I got good grades all through school, but I can't write my own name in cursive, I can't do basic arithmetic, I wasn't taught science, history (besides what we learned from sforim), geography, biology, and the many other subjects most people take for granted. I could be angry that when I finally did start college, I was about ten years (academic and otherwise) behind the average kid there. I could be angry that my 11 year old surpassed my math level years ago.

I could be angry about my peers, who were born and raised in the US, but speak English as if they were from Budapest. I could be angry about those kids who get thrown out of their parents' homes because they wear jeans, lo uleiniu. I could be angry about those parents who are not allowed to see their kids, because these parents are not frum enough.

I could be angry that women are treated like second-class citizens, that girls are sexualized to the point where three-year-olds' faces are pixilated. I could be angry that gay people in the Frum community are forced to lie about who they are, or come out and be ostracized and treated like dirt.
I could be angry that men can choose not to give a Get, and the woman has no other choice but to wait in limbo till he has mercy on her. I could be angry that we get married off so young, that before we have a chance to think for ourselves, we have three or four kids, a house, a mountain of bills, countless other entanglements, and no real choice but to stay.

I could be angry about the countless number of kids who are physically or sexually abused, assaulted, molested, or raped, and instead of it being addressed, it’s brushed aside. "Meh, I survived it, so can you." I could be angry that instead of condemning the molesters, rabbis condemn those who report it. I could be angry that the Chareidi community has the courts and police in their back pockets. I could be angry that they're more concerned about what the neighbors will think than what is the right thing to do.

I could be angry that they're so obsessed with bein odom lamakom (mitzvos between man and god) that they've forgotten about bein odom lachavairo (mitzvos between man and his fellow).

I could be angry that when someone chooses to leave Frumkeit, they're instantly branded as “crazy," “a sex-crazed," “a loser," or all of the above.

I could be angry that we were brought up in a community that is full of intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia. I could be angry that the pain involved in leaving drives many to depression, which causes many to struggle with drug and alcohol abuse. I could be angry that we were raised to think of sex as bad and dirty, and many of us struggle to overcome that programming. I could be angry that our entire upbringing was focused on negativity and guilt. What not to do, what not to eat, what not to say, where not to look. I could be angry that our identity is built on fear rather than love, on condemnation of others rather than celebration of their differences, or the constant need to denigrate others in order to justify our lifestyle.

I could be angry at the rampant hypocrisy, the blatant anti-intellectualism, the self-righteousness, the constant sliding to the right, or the complete lack of class or dignity of many in the Chareidi community.

I could be angry for the countless people who still look Chareidi on the outside, but on the inside they are someone else entirely. They call themselves "Orthoprax," or "Reverse Marranos," and most resign themselves to a life of quiet pain, knowing they will never be able to live the life they prefer.

I could be angry that the Modern Orthodox Jewish community, and the Conservative, Reform, and secular Jewish communities -  which make up the majority of all the Jews in the world - not only don't understand, but choose to ignore the problems and look the other way. They talk a good game about "Tikkun Olam," but ignore the mess in their own backyard. Their own cousins and neighbors are crying out for assistance, but they're so afraid of being called "self-hating Jews" or being accused of anti-Semitism that they'd rather cower in fear of the radical elements of their religion. When a Muslim carries out an act of terrorism, we are quick to condemn all Muslims if the moderate ones don't come out against those acts; why should Jews be held to a different standard? If the 90% of Jews who aren't Chareidi sit by silently, shouldn't they be held responsible as well?

Does every Chareidi Jew fall into these sweeping generalities? Of course not. I get along wonderfully with my family and many old friends. But far too many do, and many more do not speak up loudly against it.

I didn't leave because I was angry; I wasn't angry when I left, I became angry later. I'm Ari Mandel; I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this any more.


Gil said...

"Going OTD (for lack of a better term"

how about "going your own way"?

OTD is an elitist, exclusive, self-righteous label...when people use it they perpetuate the lie that there is only one Path and if you're not on it, you're wrong.

Anonymous said...

"I didn't leave because I was angry, I left because I had no other choice."

I don't judge people who choose to go off the derech, but this attitude of "having no choice" and being victimized into your decision really does not help your cause. Why is it that I have some friends who have been to hell and back in the Frum community, (I'm talking abuse, molestation, suicidal and depressed parents, the works) who emerge 20 years later as happy, well-adjusted, and yes, FRUM, adults while other friends haven't gone through anything half as dramatic and still decide they've had enough? It's precisely BECAUSE we all have choices that some choose to leave it all claiming they've had enough while others manage to carve their own path, forgive, heal and focus on their own relationship with Hashem. I once asked a close friend of mine (who basically raised herself, having grown up with parents who divorced when she was young and a mother who was mentally unstable and in and out of homes all of her middle and high school years) how she managed to stay frum all those years despite going through foster homes, abuse and years of negativity. She states, whenever she felt that the outside negativity and lack of acceptance were making her feel angry with orthodoxy she would tell herself "I am on an island with just me and G-d. My yiddishkeit isn't about anyone else and cannot be affected by what anyone thinks of me. The only thing that matters of me right now is what G-d thinks of me and what the torah expects me to do."
Again, I don't blame, judge, or "OTDs," I just get disappointed when I come across any human being who is not living up to his full potential because of an emotional failure to own up to his own actions and consequences.

Anonymous said...

what is it you'd like us modern orthodox jews to do? we're just about as isolated and estranged from the chareidi community as your average non-jew. unfortunately, it's not going to come from us, it's going to have to come from within the very tightly knit chareidi system.

Sara H. said...


It is lovely that some people go to hell and back and stay within the frum world. Clearly it is a good place for them.

You are not in a position to know what would constitute "living up to full potential" for people other than yourself. Do you really think that every time a person feels compelled to do something to the point where there seems to be no other viable options, that they are playing the victim?

I left. I had no choice. I had no choice because it would be immoral to teach my daughters that they are inferior to men. It would be immoral to lie to them with apologetics, confusing them and leaving them ith a sad idea of their potential.

I had no choice because (then) I believed that the world is a gift from God not to be wasted. And every day I gave up all sorts of little gifts the world has to offer, like camping for a weekend, or going for a run on hot afternoon, or letting my voice be heard by a man, I was wasting this wonderful gift of being alive.

I had no choice because it is immoral to judge people based on color on ancestry or sexual/gender orientation, and I could not participate in that. I had no choice because the most important person in anyone's world is and must be, him or herself, but frumkeit demanded that I be the least important person in my life, defering to the wants and needs of parents, siblings, the man who sexually harrassed me for two years, and any and every frum man I passed in the street. I had no choice because I could not get the phrase "Choose life!" out of my head. It's pretty well-accepted that free will can be somewhat constrained, by both positive and negative factors. After all, after moshiach, the light of Divine love and inspiration will be so great that it would be virtually impossible to choose to sin, right? I had no choice because at some point, quite against my point, or at several points, before, during, and after having left, it was so unbearably brightly clear that leaving, no matter how agonizingly painful not only to me, but to my family, which hurt more, was the only choice I could make, that it was so compelling, so good, so right, that there was no other choice.

When we say we had no choice, do you really think we are so weak-minded as to choose a lesser path because the better choice is just too hard? Please. I figured out all kinds of ways to handle the pain being a frum, virtually unmarriagable perpetual "girl" forced to work through depression and PTSD on my own. I tried so hard to survive as a marginalized frum "girl" that I have several scars from self-injuring, because eventually being frum hurt so much I needed a less painful distraction, like cutting myself with razor blades. No, I didn't give up easy on frumkeit, and I didn't walk out because I was too weak-minded to work through the pain and stay frum and "forgive, heal, and focus."

I walked out because I had no choice. Because eventually, I had a moment of clarity. And another and another. And at some point, it became so brightly and starkly and unnervingly clear that the most right and righteous and good thing to do was to accept all the pain that would result, and leave, and have a life. I had no choice because reality slapped me in the face a few times and woke up. And then I realized I had no choice.

PS: I'm not particularly angry, and I'm not particularly OTD right now either, at least in externalities, but I appreciate the people who are angry. Someone needs to be. I don't have time for it, I don't have the temperment for it. But it's righteous anger and it is something I'm very glad is being voiced all over the place.

aj said...

Well written, well thought.
I empathize with Sara H. In order for one to leave the 'community' one must sever a limb as it were. God demands a sacrifice even for the chance at freedom, just for the attempt alone; there is no promise of success. It is always in times of trouble that the phantom pain of the missing limb hurts most. I don't know how people do it. I've been trying to leave for years, living with one foot in both worlds, and its been very difficult. Leaving means one is alone in the world in all ways, and it requires one to start from scratch, teaching oneself to get by in the world, emotionally, economically, and socially. It requires years of work and must be like an obsession, like a second full time job that you work all the time. Never mind living a normal, happy life. That's for lucky people. For most of the OTD community destiny has made survival the only concern.

Rachmuna Litzlon said...

Gil - I'm not necessarily endorsing the term, which is why I added the disclaimer. It just happens to be the most-used title for "people like me", so I'm using it.

Rachmuna Litzlon said...

Anonymous - You should read the rest of my blog (it's not that long), I don't believe in god, so your arguments for Hashem don't sway me. As for whom I blame for leaving, I ceased to believe, which them made my life unbearable. I enjoyed Yiddishkeit as long as I believed in it, but once I didn't - it was like a jail. I don't blame any one person, I blame the system, a system that is ancient and impossible to quantify. And as for what I do or don't do with my life besides complain, I lead a very happy fulfilling life, I write as a hobby.

Rachmuna Litzlon said...

Anonymous - what would you say if that excuse were coming from a Muslim, with regard to a Muslim terrorist attack? You need to be jumping up and down, screaming at the top of your lungs, and letting the world know that you do not condone those crazy cousins of yours. Don't go to their shuls, don't send your kids to their schools, don't use their hechsher, and do not validate them in any way.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but while I understand that there are many things you find lacking in Haredi society, I think your condemnation of non-Haredi Jews for not taking a stand is just bizarre. In every society there are some bad things and hopefully some good as well. Many Haredim, as you admit are happy and feel they are living a fulfilled life. Others are bearing the brunt of the ills of that society. On the other hand, the secular/liberal Jewish/ or even MO world also has positive as well as negative elements. People aren't getting married or are waiting until they are so old that child bearing, for those who want, may be curtailed. In the MO world, pressure for education, career, children, costs of life are driving many to be miserable. Is it fair to raise a daughter in a society which makes here feel like garbage for not having a body like a Barbie doll? How many girls are raped, molested, commit suicide because of the horrors modern society puts them through -- body image issues, naked bodies everywhere, rampant substance abuse etc (ever been to college campus?). No one has a monopoly on the good. And no one has a monopoly on the bad.

The comparison to terrorists is obscene. Terrorists aim to maim and kill others in society.

Society at large can attack, and I think should address, the fact that Haredim don't seem to give back to society or aid in building a democratic and fair world -- especially in Israel. But is it more abusive to limit a child's exposure to math and hence stymie his ability to get a lucrative job or to pressure him to excel in an incredibly competitive society, take on huge college loan debt, and promote that he/she engage in dangerous sexual practices (again look at any residential college campus and you'll know what I mean)?

I know people who have committed suicide from many walks of life and for many reasons. What happened to this person was horrible, but I can point out many other horrors.

There has to be a healthy medium; however, everyone has to find what is right for him. I don't like much of what I see, and have just read, about Haredi society (and obviously abuse has to be protested) but I don't think it is incumbent on others to complain on your behalf because your cursive sucks.

Anonymous said...

as someone who grew up secular-traditional, and was a self-hating jew for most of my life, i had to come to yiddishkeit to find myself and who i really was.
so i sympathise with the need to be your 'real self' and be who you really are.
i find it sad that there seem to be a lot of people who are obeying the 'dress code' but not really living the life, but aren't able to have the courage of their convictions to leave everything they know and follow what their heart/soul needs.
end even worse some of these people are perpetuating the situation with their own children, giving them the sort of limited education/perspective on the world that they themselves received and wished they didn't. that is a real tragedy.
i also don't understand the whole 'my way or the highway' approach of these ultra-frum sects, but while it may have worked in the past, the internet is blasting these communities open, and however much the rabbis try to stop it it's like king canute and the tide.
i believe that these communities have a circle the waggons approach and are obviously very insecure, because if they really believed that their super-frumkeit was right they wouldn't be so threatened by someone wanting to experiment a little bit with the dress code, by say wearing a coloured shirt (say grey or blue not even pink!).. their OTT reaction helps drive the person even further away..
good luck on your path
blessings to you

Anonymous said...

the secret about MO is that they DO support and condone charedi Judaism. it is viewed as a more authentic path. when their kids flip out in yeshiva and come home with a black hat, it is celebrated. they are labeled "more frum".....thus the more authentic....



Anonymous said...

It works both ways.
You could be angry that your 11-year surpasses you in math.
As a BT, I could be angry that my children now Hebrew better than me and can learn mishna and gemara in a way I probably never can. I could be angry that growing up I was denied Shabbos and fed pig.

Rachmuna Litzlon said...

Anonymous at 4:21 AM - I don't think the comparison to terrorism is so farfetched, and therefor I have to ask, would you accept those same excuses from a Muslim person with regard to a Muslim terror attack?

AdinaK-M. said...

I don't call it "OTD" - I call it "living."

Life is a journey, a never-ending learning experience, and I am happy to have "lived" and "learned" enough to choose a life that suits me and my family.

I have no expectation for my children to "turn out like me." I abandoned that notion long ago. Because as much as our children are extensions of ourselves, they are unique individuals as well. I hope to raise my children in an environment where they can choose the path they want for themselves. And a spiritual/religious path is indeed a choice. If my child is respectful, motivated, socially aware, and emotionally healthy I will consider my parenting a success.

And Sarah Laughed said...

I'm somewhere in between Conservative and MO. And trust me, I would love to help. But my hands are tied. What can I do, other than donate to Footsteps? I do not think that just telling the world about these things will help; I think it will make the frum community even more defensive. Even worse, it will hurt the credibility of anyone within the frum community who is trying to change things (if there are such people).

Rachmuna Litzlon said...

Sarah - does wonderful work, but I do think that awareness and the spotlight makes a difference. The more people become aware of the truth, the less they will be able to get away with it.

And Sarah Laughed said...

How will awareness change things? Frum communities won't just stop doing something because non-frum Jews or non-Jews don't like it. I'm not necessarily arguing; I want to hear your proposed plan.

Anonymous said...

(My name is Michelle. I have selected Anon as I dont have any of the other options) Gil: I disagee with your comment that the term OTD is elitist etc. It is as descriptive as ultra-orthodox, or Haredi or Satmar or Ger or secular. I think it is quite apt - to their native world they are wrong and thus on the wrong path in life.

Anonymous said...

(Michelle again) Anonymous: When people have their backs against the wall with extreme pressure they do have no choice. Why do they have no choice? The alternative is they will die where they are. That is they are committing suicide. From the story of Yitzhak we are taught that God most definitely not want us to sacrifice our life physically. So , yes people who are suffocating in their current life, have no option but to change their life and remove what I is that is making them suffocate.

You ask “Why is it that I have some friends who have been to hell and back in the Frum community who emerge 20 years later as happy, well-adjusted, and yes, FRUM, adults while other friends haven't gone through anything half as dramatic and still decide they've had enough?” It is like asking why can some people drink 1 glass of alcohol and stop, whereas others become alcoholics. What is good for 1 person may be poison for another. It is precisely this that the ultra communities do not accept/understand.
There are the rare situations where the family does not ostracize the child who can not live within these confines. In these cases, the child is still able to have a relationship with his family and live according to his truth. Sadly, there are not enough parents who can accept that their child is not an extension of themselves but is an individual in their own right. Chaim Potok wrote about this in his book the Chosen.

Everyone has their own personal strengths and limitations. What they are able to cope with and what they are not able to cope with. Hashem created each one of us to be unique. That means while we all share some similarities. We also have many differences.

Anonymous, your choice is much like the OTD people, you can choose to be like the people you live with, or you can choose to be your unique self. Yes, in all worlds, secular, Christian MO there are pressures of one sort or another. Again, this is where your personal choice comes to play. In a secular family, if a child becomes Shomrei Shabbis or kosher, some parents make their lives so difficult the child is forced to leave, and yes the parents reject their child. Also works for datim – if a child is brought up MO and then starts to move into the Ultra world there can be major conflicts, occasionally resulting in a split from the family. You can choose to teach your children that designer labels, being a Barbie doll are not values that you hold by. You can choose to teach your children what to value and what not to value, you can choose to teach them to value themselves and that it is ok to not be like everyone else. What is the difference between Ultra parents forcing their children to dress the way they do, and peer pressure forcing someone to conform to that dress ‘code’? The same thing. Your choice is whether you teach your children that is good to be themselves.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ari & Sara

Ari, I read your posting a few times because on 1st reading the 1st couple of paragraphs sound like me when I decided to get divorced. I had to re-read it to hear your voice and not mine.

I come from a country where we neither have ultra-extreme Orthodox, nor do we have much conflict between the various sects of Jews. My 1st exposure to Jews discriminating against another Jew, and the vilness that sometimes goes with this, was when I made aliya. My 1st exposure to kids OTD came from my son - he used to volunteer at a soup kitchen in Israel, and later became more involved with that organisation and eventually did some fundraising for them. They were wanting to build a place of safety for these kids and give them some tools and profession to survive in the world.

I come from a world where we have 1 hechsher (for Ashkenazi and Sephardi), 1 Beth Din. Even in this world there are corruptions and ‘naughty’ rabbis. Mostly the ‘naughty’ rabbis get punished, not their victims – most of the time.

I am MO/Bnei Akiva by my choice. My 3 sons have each found their own levels and each one accepts and loves the other. That is my background. It is from this perspective that I see life and write below.

It is terrible that you had to 'divorce' yourself in order to survive. There are a 1001 ways of being dati, each person has to find their own place. What is good for one, can kill another one. We are all different. We were created to be different.

I see how you feel you had no choice, you did not have a choice to stay.

Ari,Sara, and others in your position have gone your own way (as Gil suggests). This does not mean you are not worthy of being loved for who you are. God does not expect people to sacrifice themselves (example of Yitzchak).
I fully understand why you are angry. Some of what goes on in the closed world of Ultra-Orthodox is despicable! If they were reported to the police etc they would be arrested and the cell key thrown away. While these people may con themselves that this is all holy, done in the name of Hashem etc is holy crap! It is chilul hashem! Yes, this must be addressed and stopped. How, I am not sure. Name & shame? I don’t know. I am just an average Joe Shmo with no clout anywhere, but I do believe that 1 person can make a difference.
How can any of the less Haredi/Orthodox sects help you? I am not too sure. We are as vilified as the OTD within these communities. The ultra communities listen to us no more than your parents did to you.

I do not understand how the American govt allows kids to finish school without having any basic secular education. On the other hand, I know of secular kids who finish high school and are illiterate.
I do believe that 1 person can make a difference, even if they only manage to make a difference to 1 person. Each person counts.

What we (ie those outside of the haredi worlds) can do, is invite you to our homes, give you a place to restart your life, a place of safety when you 1st leave the world you were born into. We can also help you make the transition into the Big Wide World that you were separated from. Again, as I am do not live in America, I would not know who or where to start with this. All it takes is 1 individual to open themself and their home to 1 OTD person. Perhaps Anonymous can make suggestions here.
How do you think we can help you? How would you have liked to been helped before/during/at the time you left the ultra world? How can an individual help?

I hope what I am saying makes sense. I am so tired, it is 2 am now. Ari, reading what you wrote, opened my eyes a bit more to the situation of people who move out of this strangle hold, so much so that I strongly felt that had to (my choice?) say my piece before I could end my day.

I hope I have not offended anyone with my thoughts, it is not my intention.


Rachmuna Litzlon said...

Sara - they would like you to think that, but in fact it's not true. The only reason they are budging at all on child molestation, is because of media attention, and pressure from more liberal denominations. They claim not to care what anyone thinks of them, but it's not true at all.

Anonymous said...

(Michelle again) I very much support 'opening the can of worms', making the abuses well known, and the names of the perpetrators too.

The more is becomes public knowledge, and there is increased public awareness, the fewer places these men can hide.

Taking the publicity too much out of the Jewish community may make more problems than it solves.

Within Jewish communities, I say uncover the truth.

Rachmuna Litzlon said...

Michelle - I wear the title "OTD" with pride. I'm reclaiming what you guys see as a negative term, and wearing it as a badge of honor.

ALIsa Rauner said...

Shame so many people accept the title OTD. Fact is we are on the correct path that God intended. So many people who leave the "faith" so to speak who are prolific seem to express we don't believe in a higher power. These groups are as self righteous and equally as radical as Hassidim in attempt of forcing the "Atheist" belief system there is no God in the same manner in which they have been raised. Radical behavior is a sign you really haven't let go. Secure happy people don't need reassurance and proof there is no God .Needing followers is sign they have a following since the community that they claim to have left behind never accepted them. Like a broken child they open up OTD groups and spread anger and angst. The first OTD group on Facebook was open by JB who did nothing but spread angst and use the page as an outlet during his meth trips. What a turn off these people are. And i dont want them representing me. There the reason why they so angry. WHy not see life is as it should be. Let go of the past you really wanted no part of. When you embrace the miracle that you got out when so many others are clueless to the cult in which they live in you have a different perspective . You don't need to explain why you left. Explaining a concept to people who don't get it is a waste of time and the power of mind control within a cult. There groups of people who do not confuse Organized religion with spirtulity. Nor do we confuse living tradition as way of serving God. Being a good person and viewing everyone in that light until given another reason is my saving grace. FYI comment like "The only thing that matters of me right now is what G-d thinks of me and what the torah expects me to do." Well, I think God wants you to think with your damn mind and stop being such blind follower and wasting your life on the promises of a life hereafter which is a gamble your sure to lose!

Dave said...

Very solid gripes (apart from the "racism" charge). But, I don't understand why one's level of observance (or belief in God) has any connection to the community at large. One ought to follow whichever path one feels is correct (be it keeping Shabbos, going to Temple on the High Holidays, or atheism) regardless of how obnoxious the fellow travelers are.

For instance: I keep Shabbos, kosher, and other "high yield" stuff. But I don't wear a kippa in med school. Why should I? It's an weakly-substantiated custom.

I see many problems with Jews today: worshiping Talmudic Judaism while forgetting the biblical core, a strange obsession with Israel, an embarrassing classlessness, etc. But damned if I'm going to let a bunch of jerks dissuade me from doing the things I think are right.

cipher said...

@ksil: the secret about MO is that they DO support and condone charedi Judaism. it is viewed as a more authentic path. when their kids flip out in yeshiva and come home with a black hat, it is celebrated. they are labeled "more frum".....thus the more authentic....

I agree completely.

Anonymous MO person - Orthodoxy is a completely different creature today than it was fifty years ago. The Haredim have spent the past half-century commandeering all of Orthodoxy by playing upon the insecurity experienced by many (probably most) Modern Orthodox concerning what they see as their "compromise" with Modernity.

There really is no more Modern Orthodoxy, apart from those few on the leftmost fringe. The Haredim killed it, and the Modern Orthodox helped them to dig the grave.

Rachmuna Litzlon said...

Michelle - I don't believe in god, so I see no reason to be any form of religious.
As for what sort of publicity is good, I think it's all good, and it's all important. The New York Times creates pressure that Satmar or others can't ignore.

Rachmuna Litzlon said...

ALIsa Rauner - Again, I don't believe in god, so all this talk about the right way to serve or worship him means nothing to me. As for what we call ourselves or groups we belong to, it's like any other group in the world. We have certain things in common, which we find meaningful or enjoyable to discuss. You mentioned one group, run by someone who is marginalized by his own peers, for the very reasons you mentioned, there are plenty of other groups that are nothing like that one.
And you assume we talk about atheism, or discuss the intricacies of religion and belief in order to "validate" our thought process, but you couldn't be more wrong. Some of us actually enjoy the intellectual exercise, we like to think, we like to challenge each other, it's what led me to where I am today.

Rachmuna Litzlon said...

Dave - I agree, and as I said, I wasn't agree when I left, the only reason I left was because I ceased believing in god. I only came to resent the things I listed later on.

Dave said...

Out of curiosity, into which community were you born? Chassidic? If so, my sympathies. ;)

Rachmuna Litzlon said...

Dave - Yes, I was born and raised chassidic. Feel free to go back and read my story here, it's not that long.

Anonymous said...

I think you are angry-
OR else you would not have an entire blog dedicated to your past life.

Also, are you aware of Lubavitch?
Most of us grew up in cities all over the US.
Personally I grew up in Seattle and most of my friends were non observant,
I moved back here after i had a few children-and raised all my children Lubav
seriously at this point as we are older, many of ,y friends envy my Uber religious lifestyle!

IN addition, My non Jewish friends
Even come over For Shabbos!

Oh and all those bad stuff that go on in the frum world, go on in the the
secular world, as well -and worse.

cipher said...

seriously at this point as we are older, many of ,y friends envy my Uber religious lifestyle!

Why do the frum always think everyone else envies them? I am familiar with your lifestyle, and I can assure you I want no part of it.

Oh and all those bad stuff that go on in the frum world, go on in the the secular world, as well -and worse.

That's right. Secular people ostracize and take children away from people who no longer wish to be secular. Oh, wait...

Dave said...


I think you are angry-
OR else you would not have an entire blog dedicated to your past life."

I'm inclined to agree. I know that, if I stopped believing in God/being Jewish, I would hop into my car, drive to rural Montana, and never look back. There's no sense in living in the past - follow your dreams, RL.

Rachmuna Litzlon said...

"I think you are angry-
OR else you would not have an entire blog dedicated to your past life."
That's debatable, but why bother? I just wrote a whole piece talking about the fact that I'm angry.

Yes, I'm very aware of Chabad, and no, I have zero interest in your lifestyle. I don't believe in god, and I like living in the 21st century, no watered-down version of the cult I grew up in will satisfy me. I'm very happy living as a 100% goy.

And those things happen in the rest of the world? Really? Like kids not getting an education? Like people being shunned for not living the same lifestyle as their parents? Please.

Rachmuna Litzlon said...

"I'm inclined to agree. I know that, if I stopped believing in God/being Jewish, I would hop into my car, drive to rural Montana, and never look back. There's no sense in living in the past - follow your dreams, RL."
Uh, I am following my dreams. I served in the US army, I'm in a top school, I have a wonderful life, I do what I want and love, and part of that includes talking and writing abut the world I left.

Rachmuna Litzlon said...

Cipher - it never ceases to amaze me how Frum people think the world revolves around them. 99% of the planet has never seen or heard of you clowns, and are living perfectly happy fulfilling lives, you guys don't have a monopoly on joi de vive.

cipher said...

Cipher - it never ceases to amaze me how Frum people think the world revolves around them.

I know; it's amazing. We see it when Haredi rabbis in Israel insist the rest of the world will be appalled by how the Israeli government is treating them. One of them claimed recently he was going to complain to (I think it was) the American ambassador about Haredi youth being drafted.

It's an utterly narcissistic subculture.

zach said...

You're not OTD, you're ODD.

On a Different Derech.

Miriam said...

I've only just come across this post. I've been debating about the OTD label. When I left, my partner bought me a mug that said 'off the derech... on my way'. I've thought OTD could be saying On The Derech. Perhaps I would prefer to call it On My Derech, because I think that every person who leaves the charedi world is doing it in order to find their real selves. And this is what I believe the purpose of life actually is (and what Torah is really about - the divine essence of Torah, that is, and not the one that emerged through humans that is by definition not perfect).

I find that many OTDs grapple with, or feel they have to define themselves in terms of, belief in the existence of God. I don't worry too much about it because for me it's about finding the best way to live my life. And that's a lifelong journey, which is one of growth. It seems to be a win-win. If God exists then that must be what God wants, because the Real Self is the soul. And I believe God is far more open-minded and accepting than people!

Anonymous said...

A vast majority of chareidi jews live their life driven by pure fear of hell, and if they have any issues they decide to say hashem will fix it instead of actually dealing with the issue properly. I used to be an orthodox jew, i now have no interest in having anything to do with anyone religious, beacause they are self righteous, beacuse they are judgemental, narrowminded individuals. Ive been driven far enough that on an intellectual level dont see how there is a god, which in my opinion is a much harder belief to live with.

Chava Ashkenazi said...

Hi Ari,

I came across your blog through the "Times of Israel" story on your "unusual" way of fundraising for the Chai Lifeline Marathon (Kol HaKavod to you for doing that, by the way!). I just wanted to say that, there are modern Orthodox people that care about Chassidim that have left their communities and need support. Perhaps Footsteps needs to have more publicity, or send speakers to Shabbatons, etc., because I honestly think that not many people are aware of the issue.

I actually converted (my rabbi is Chabad, although I consider myself modern Orthodox/daati leumi), so I know what it is like to go through a life-transforming change. In addition to my many friends who are observant, I do have friends who are OTD, many of whom I watched go through the painful process of leaving the lives they were born into.

I think I also heard about Footsteps through the book "Unchosen", and I contacted Malkie to see what I could do to help. I ended up tutoring a brilliant young man who had left his community in Canada (you can probably guess who I am talking about). I tutored him in English, which he definitely spoke as a foreigner. I also watched him shed his Chassidic garb and transform. The tutoring with me was just the beginning. Shortly after I converted I moved to Israel, and this young man was able to get his GED, attend and graduate university. I am so proud of him!

I guess my real point is that, Jews do care about people in your situation ... I just think a) the issue needs more public recognition, and b) they don't know how exactly they can help, i.e. through organizations such as Footsteps.

I wish Footsteps (and of course you!) much continued success. I hope that they can continue to build a name for themselves, to recruit volunteers and donors, etc.

Wishing you all the best and please, don't feel alone ... people care about and support you and others like you! :)

Joe Hochheiser said...

Anger is a waisted emotion. Love and positivity are the way out of negativity- not anger. There are negatives out there and the hand that were were dealt is not always easy, but positive mindset conquers all. Stop blaming others and start loving and living life. Teach love through action. Treat others how you want to be treated and not how they treat you. There is not only "one way" to live our lives, and there is no "right way" or "wrong way". One person believes that this earth came into existence through a big bag; the other may believe in an invisible man in the sky; both just as crazy. Love thy neighbor not because they love you but because you believe in love and not hate.

sophomorecritic said...

Hi, I'm a journalist doing stories on people who've gone Off the Derech. Please contact me at I'd really love to be able to share your tragic experiences with the world.

Anonymous said...

Why would you even ask her how she managed to stay Frum??