Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Organization for chasidic dropouts

Some of these ex-chassidim became so secular they started on shabbos- carrying in Boro Park!

JTA:

...Footsteps, a 2-year-old Manhattan-based nonprofit group that helps dropouts from the haredi world transition into secular society.
No one knows how many American Jews have left the fervently Orthodox fold, although most are believed to have come from the New York area. There are no statistics, and, until Footsteps was created, no organization to help them learn how to make it on the outside.
While the organized Jewish world doesn't usually think of Chasidic dropouts as "Jews in need," outsiders can't begin to imagine how frightening and complicated the everyday world can seem to a person who only knows the carefully controlled cocoon of Satmar, Skver or Bobov.
Particularly for a young person, whose departure can be hasty and unplanned, the road out of the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg or Crown Heights is fraught with confusion and loneliness -- and sometimes drug abuse.
"People who have decided to make this transition don't have a place to go," says Hella Winston, the author of "Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels."..

...late February he met the founding director of Footsteps, 24-year-old Malkie Schwartz, an ex-Lubavitcher.
She introduced him to the few dozen other ex-Chasidim in her organization, and he enrolled in the GED class.

Winston recently heard from a young man who spent six months sleeping in New York City parks and subways after he left his Chasidic community.
"He had nowhere to go," Winston says. "America is a very individualistic society, and for people leaving a community it's important to have one to move into. Otherwise they run the risk of becoming lost."
Samuel Heilman, a professor of sociology and Jewish studies at the City University of New York, agrees.
"Missing their families" is a major problem, says Heilman, the author of "Defenders of the Faith: Inside Ultra-Orthodox Jewry." "For most people in the haredi world, the single biggest part of their lives, and the part that outsiders are often envious of, is connection to family and community."...
A support system like Footsteps didn't exist when Schwartz left Crown Heights five years ago.
She was 19, and knew she would be expected to marry soon. That's often the point at which young Chasidim who are unsure about their faith or their lifestyle make the move to leave, Winston writes, before their decision will impact their future families.
"I felt I couldn't make this decision for myself and for the large number of kids that would follow," Schwartz says. "I wanted an education."
She moved out, enrolled in Hunter College with financial aid and got her bachelor's degree.
But it was tough to go it alone. In December 2003, she organized a meeting for what she hoped would become a support group for former Chasidim. Twenty people showed up, and Footsteps was born.
Schwartz runs everything out of her apartment. GED classes, support groups, art and writing therapy groups, and discussions on health, sex and relationships are held at ad-hoc spaces around the city. Once a month there are sessions on life skills.
Footsteps has received grants from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, the Alan B. Slivka Foundation, the Jewish Foundation for the Education of Women and an anonymous donor, and in early December was accepted into Bikkurim, a program that provides office space and technical support for Jewish start-ups in New York City.
More than 200 former Chasidim have passed through Footsteps; about 40 are currently active, mostly young Jews in their 20s. One thing Schwartz would like to offer is a halfway house, a temporary safe space for those just leaving their communities...



posted by Yeshiva Orthodoxy
at 1:32 PM

17 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of these ex-chassidim became so secular they started on shabbos- carrying in Boro Park!

They are somech on the eruv, it is more than half of boro park.

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Host,

This unfortunatly is not funny. If you have a number for this organization, please post it as I may be interested in offering to host or find homes for some of these lost souls!! AFILU CHEREV CHADOH MUNACHAS AL TZAVOROI AL YISYAESH ATZMO MIN HARACHAMIM. (We might yet make a save in the very deep outfield)

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would post the number to the organization, but I do not want to give them anymore publicity than they already get.
All you need is a few disgruntled kids to read this and then start calling.
BTW, one thing that is interesting is that in their links, they post the very anti frum organization Hillel in israel. Those are the types of people they associate with.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

GED classes, support groups, art and writing therapy groups, and discussions on health, sex and relationships are held at ad-hoc spaces around the city.

you didn't censore this like you did rbas in the kever artilce?

3:14 PM  
Blogger ratchtaphol said...

oh! write well..

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Simple Chossid said...

I do not know why you titled your post, “Organization for chasidic dropouts,” rather than “Organization for chasidic and yeshivish dropouts." If you see Footsteps site you will note its intended for “People from the ultra-orthodox and Chasidic communities.” For some reason, when this book Unchosen came out, I detected a certain amount of glee from Yeshivish people at the fact that Chassidim go off. It implied to them that Chassidim aren't as frum as they pretend to be. However, unfortunately there are many from Yeshivish families who go off as well.

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Heshy said...

My advice is not to give groups like this publicity.If someone drops out let him go to a Chabad center,or Aish Hatorah office. By helping turned off Jews become more secular thats not right. THERE ARE PLENTY OF rABBIS WHO WOULD HELP AND COMMUNICATE WITH THESE LOST SOULS.If they need to communicate call Agudath Israel or Hineini.

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It appears that many of these people do not have theological problems with yidishkeit, but rather cannot deal with the strictures of chasidish/yeshivish life.

However, there are very large communities out there where it's OK to participate fully in American culture, wear practically anything, etc. And observance of every little detail, davening 3 times a day, etc. is not mandatory.

Though most of the readers of this blog would classify those communities as traditional at best, nonetheless they are still shomer (most of laws of) shabbos, keep kosher, etc. And most of the time send their children to jewish schools, and certainly don't intermarry.

The place to call is most definitely not Agudah, Chabad, or Aish Hatorah where the rabbis all have beards and dress in black. Someone needs to start a competing organization which provides most of the services that this footsteps does, but helps people integrate with the M.O. world.

5:23 PM  
Anonymous rabbi yisroel fishman, Mirrer Yeshiva said...

I find it unbelievable that everyone here is of the same hypnotic mindset: "Let's save these poor souls".

You know what- some people want to have nothing more to do with the religion- and yes, its a mitzva to help them get an education.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous PbP said...

Check out this article, by the author of the new book on Chassidic rebels

http://www.jewishjournal.com/home/preview.php?id=15020

(thanks to mentalblog.com)

5:51 PM  
Anonymous SephardiLady said...

From what I've been told and from what I've seen, those that leave the Charedi ranks, do not seek a PhD in Engineering, but rather get involved in very unsavory activities, from drinking to drugs to promiscuity.

It seems to me that we should be providing all of our young people with the wherewithall and the skills to lead a productive and dignified life. While it may not hurt a great talmid chacham that he does not have the skills and know-how to take a job and provide income for himself and his family, along with the dignity that comes from doing so, it does hurt many other people.

I'm glad there is an organization that is helping provide these people with the skills that they need. I'm just sorry that this organization isn't a Shomer Shabbat one.

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If anyone has a contact number for this organisation, would gladly offer jobs to some of these people.

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They're not a secret organization. Their website is here and it has all the standard contact info.

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And BTW, 99% of the work they do is GED calsses and education. They're not anti-frum. They're hardly even about yiddishkeit, they're more like a free GED class factory with some support groups.

9:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To simple chosid: It is true - many Litvishe leave frumkeit, and many MO young people leave - but the chasidishe - having the least exposure to general society - are the most in need of help in making the adjustment. I think "sephardilady" is correct: the ikar is not chasidishe or litvishe - it is also not levush -it is shmiras torah u'mitzvos: if there were a frum / shomer shabbos organization that could help such people who - for whatever reason - felt they could not live within the strictures of chasidishe or "right wing" society - many of these individuals could be kept observant ie. shomrei mitzvos.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Tzvi W. said...

I know I'm a little late to this party, but I felt a need to post my thoughts - whether read by others or not.

The facts are mentioned in the article. The question is: Who is Malke Schwartz? What does she want?

After minimal googling, it became quite apparent, that young Malke Schwartz was either neglected by her parents, abused by her teachers or ridiculed by her friends. I'm sure Malka grew up trying her hardest to fit in and be a good Lubavitcher chassidishe tochter - but never got the basic love, validation, respect and acceptance that is lacking in so many frum jewish homes.

Who knows? Maybe it was because there were so many siblings, or maybe her Mother was never taught how to emote towards her children, or maybe her Father was rigid and unyiedling when it came to anything that was not the Crown Heights norm.

Regardless, Malka felt trapped, unable to pursue her "true" fulfillment - she "left" the community and enrolled in college.

Now lets stop and reflect for a minute. How is going to college or getting an education "leaving" a community? There are many, many practicing Orthodox Jews - within thier community - who go to college, get an education and chew bubble gum, if they so choose.

Malka, however, felt that going to college was - "leaving her community". Why was that? Well, simply put, Malka made a mistake.

Sure, she was betrayed by her parents, friends and community by their creating an environment of disapproval for anything secular. Sure, she her educators were unable to understand that their classroom approach of "this is how it is and everything else is to be despised" would bos Makla into a corner and make her feel helpless.

But in the end, it is Malka's mistake.

Her inability to differentiate between her inability to be comfortable in Lubavitch - which should have drove her away from Lubavitch, and her everyday struggle with Yiddishkeit - the inclination to be human without restraint.

Malka does not want to be commited to G-d becuase - in her eyes, G-d betrayed her and made life impossible. Like a rat in an insolvable maze.

But it is solvable. If you allow yourself to accept that your only "must" in life is taxes and 613 mitzvos. Thats it.

No need to follow the crowd in Crwon heights as they demand - just follow G-d.

But, alas she cannot see this. She is so hurt, so destroyed, that she has begun to seek revenge. Cloaked in the veil of compassion for those who might go through her own experiences, she will introduce them to Burger King - to teach them how to get rid of that blasted conscience. Just do it, you'll see, after a while, that little voice goes away. And then! Freedom!

But there is no freedom there. Just enslavement to another culture. Whichever comes along. (She's stuck now in the Manhattany Artsy Liberal culture).

No, you should not confront her. No you should not burn down her Bikkurim offices. No you should not kidnap her and take her to the cemetary at night to scare her away.

What you SHOULD do, is give your child an extra hug. Spend a few more minutes with them in the evening. Invite that kid who's parents got divorced, over for a meal - or just ask him how she's doing. Understand that everyone is unique. A unique set of desires, goals, gifts and tendencies.

There is room for everyone in Yiddishkeit. Frum yiddishkeit. But if it's kick-boxing he wants to do, and no matter what you've dobe to discourage it, it's kick-boxing he wants - find a way to incorparate it, because if you don't, he has to choose between yiddishkeot and his passion. He just may choose his passion. And feel guilty for life.

Yes, there are frum people who struggle with same-sex attraction - how do you incorparate that into Yiddishkeit? I don't know everything. But homosexuality has been around a long time - and I'm positive that are leaders can be consulted. They may not give you the answers you want, but true leaders will embrace all people with warmth and compassion - regardless of thier actions.

True leaders are rare.

So don't blame Footsteps on Malka Schwartz. Don't try to change her. Just recognize why it happened. Take the lesson.

let it change you.

5:27 AM  
Anonymous Tzvi W. said...

I know I'm a little late to this party, but I felt a need to post my thoughts - whether read by others or not.

The facts are mentioned in the article. The question is: Who is Malke Schwartz? What does she want?

After minimal googling, it became quite apparent, that young Malke Schwartz was either neglected by her parents, abused by her teachers or ridiculed by her friends. I'm sure Malka grew up trying her hardest to fit in and be a good Lubavitcher chassidishe tochter - but never got the basic love, validation, respect and acceptance that is lacking in so many frum jewish homes.

Who knows? Maybe it was because there were so many siblings, or maybe her Mother was never taught how to emote towards her children, or maybe her Father was rigid and unyiedling when it came to anything that was not the Crown Heights norm.

Regardless, Malka felt trapped, unable to pursue her "true" fulfillment - she "left" the community and enrolled in college.

Now lets stop and reflect for a minute. How is going to college or getting an education "leaving" a community? There are many, many practicing Orthodox Jews - within thier community - who go to college, get an education and chew bubble gum, if they so choose.

Malka, however, felt that going to college was - "leaving her community". Why was that? Well, simply put, Malka made a mistake.

Sure, she was betrayed by her parents, friends and community by their creating an environment of disapproval for anything secular. Sure, she her educators were unable to understand that their classroom approach of "this is how it is and everything else is to be despised" would bos Makla into a corner and make her feel helpless.

But in the end, it is Malka's mistake.

Her inability to differentiate between her inability to be comfortable in Lubavitch - which should have drove her away from Lubavitch, and her everyday struggle with Yiddishkeit - the inclination to be human without restraint.

Malka does not want to be commited to G-d becuase - in her eyes, G-d betrayed her and made life impossible. Like a rat in an insolvable maze.

But it is solvable. If you allow yourself to accept that your only "must" in life is taxes and 613 mitzvos. Thats it.

No need to follow the crowd in Crwon heights as they demand - just follow G-d.

But, alas she cannot see this. She is so hurt, so destroyed, that she has begun to seek revenge. Cloaked in the veil of compassion for those who might go through her own experiences, she will introduce them to Burger King - to teach them how to get rid of that blasted conscience. Just do it, you'll see, after a while, that little voice goes away. And then! Freedom!

But there is no freedom there. Just enslavement to another culture. Whichever comes along. (She's stuck now in the Manhattany Artsy Liberal culture).

No, you should not confront her. No you should not burn down her Bikkurim offices. No you should not kidnap her and take her to the cemetary at night to scare her away.

What you SHOULD do, is give your child an extra hug. Spend a few more minutes with them in the evening. Invite that kid who's parents got divorced, over for a meal - or just ask him how she's doing. Understand that everyone is unique. A unique set of desires, goals, gifts and tendencies.

There is room for everyone in Yiddishkeit. Frum yiddishkeit. But if it's kick-boxing he wants to do, and no matter what you've dobe to discourage it, it's kick-boxing he wants - find a way to incorparate it, because if you don't, he has to choose between yiddishkeot and his passion. He just may choose his passion. And feel guilty for life.

Yes, there are frum people who struggle with same-sex attraction - how do you incorparate that into Yiddishkeit? I don't know everything. But homosexuality has been around a long time - and I'm positive that are leaders can be consulted. They may not give you the answers you want, but true leaders will embrace all people with warmth and compassion - regardless of thier actions.

True leaders are rare.

So don't blame Footsteps on Malka Schwartz. Don't try to change her. Just recognize why it happened. Take the lesson.

let it change you.

5:28 AM  

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