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Breaking From Hasidism, Online

Exploring the Internet led me to knowledge, questions, and, ultimately, leaving the Hasidism I’d grown up with

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(Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photo Shutterstock.)
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In my Hasidic community, people knew me as the young newlywed, mother of one, daughter of so-and-so, and married to such-and-such, with a scarf over my head and an apartment in the new development. But on the Internet, I was anonymous. I was anyone. I was everyone. I was a mystery, and I was hidden. I was whoever I wanted to be, and I could say whatever I wanted to say without fear.

I didn’t intend to create this dual identity. I hadn’t been prepared for what could happen to Hasidic life in the Internet age, because no one knew. My husband purchased a laptop with Internet access for some business ventures, and when I used it I chanced upon some blogs by fellow Hasidim and soon after created my own. It was an impulsive act. The topics of conversation online were enthralling and broke every taboo. It broke the prohibition of men and women conversing and shmoozing, it broke the barriers that divide those who left from those who are in the community. It gave anyone a space to be heretical and outrageous without the social repercussions that usually come with it: ostracization, having your children expelled from the Hasidic schools or even worse, your parents sitting shiva over you.

The social environment online was diverse and gritty, and I was there anonymously. I could finally say things, express my opinions and confusion and use my own voice, which had been trained to be silent. No one knew or would ever know that indeed I was so-and-so’s daughter, the pious-looking woman who swayed to and fro in prayer like everyone else in synagogue. Under the guise of an authorial pseudonym, I commented, posted, and debated. Not for many months after I began blogging did I realized that my little literary adventures on the Internet—on those dawns while the challah was rising and my Hasidic family was still fast asleep—were life-changing acts.

The contrast of my Internet and Hasidic identities was dramatic. By day, I shopped with my friends in the busy shopping center where we looked for the finest ingredients for our gourmet cooking while we talked in Yiddish about our babies’ eating habits and our husbands’ eating preferences, both of which we were expected to please. By night, or by dawn, or sometimes even all night, I sat with the laptop and wrote. With time, I wrote less and read more. Then I read even less and began thinking more—much more.

I was not raised to think. I knew what I needed to know: about tznius and that modesty is, or should be, my most important preoccupation. I knew that striving to have seven or 10 or a dozen children and being a good and pious homemaker is the pinnacle of achievement for a woman, the thing I was brought into this world to accomplish. Secular education was frowned upon. More than frowned upon: Being educated, oifgeklert, was a shame, a blight on the family. There was the very bare minimum of secular education, of course: reading and writing and elementary math. But even that was an afterthought. Fear of God, being a good girl, and growing up a pious Hasidic woman was the meat and potatoes of our education.

On the Internet, I cared about so many topics, yet knew that I still knew so little. The world, the physical boundaries, the world of ideas, the world of dangerous questions and of even more dangerous answers seemed big, wide, and endless. It was a world of things I never imagined and never even dared to try and imagine.

I got to know some people on the Internet. A rabbi from Brooklyn, father of six children, emailed me that he read my questions about the prohibition on birth control and that he would be glad to show me the rabbinic sources on the matter and that a lot of what I was taught in my Hasidic girl’s school might be not be true. A woman, Modern Orthodox, responded to my description of the Hasidic ritual of shaving the head by asking, “Why in the world do you do it?”

Because you have to, I said.

“Because we have to!” my husband said, stunned and frightened, when I later asked why I needed to do these things. But by then his answer wasn’t enough for me. I had new answers that I learned online in conversation, there in the cloud, inside the boundaries of my 10-x-12-inch screen, where there were pseudonyms and no walls.

Eventually my thoughts began to come fast, new and sharp and revelatory. Every day when I woke up the world looked somehow different, a tad tilted, the effects of the change in rotation, from the sun around the earth to earth around the sun. I lay in bed lost in thought, the paradigm shift making me woozy. I thought about evolution and rabbis and choice. I thought about my parents my husband and my son and how devastated my family would be. I thought about myself and my possibilities, for the first time in my life.

In the community individuality was impossible. Not that thinking is necessarily proscribed. But striving for anything not explicitly prescribed by the community is just … weird. Why would someone want to do anything else? Where, indeed, would they get these foreign ideas from? Being an artist or a scientist or a lawyer or a doctor or a garbage collector was unthinkable. These career options were for those other people, those living on the outside, just on the periphery of our awareness. Those poor souls not lucky enough to know what the bashefer truly wanted of us. For those of us growing up on the inside it was impossible to imagine even wanting to be any of those things, or even wanting anything at all. Wanting was irrelevant. You were going to be what you were taught to be, and that was that.

What I read online shocked me, but it also clung to me. It wasn’t right that I should keep having children, that I should never go to college, that I should decide who my son should marry upon his 18th birthday. “Because we have to” suddenly rang hollow, because what we have to do is live our 70 years of life with a few messy mistakes and the lessons learned and in the process figure out who we are and who we want to be.

My deviances grew larger, and the tolerance for my deviance from family and community grew smaller. When I boarded the bus and got a copper birth-control device at Planned Parenthood, the pit in my stomach told me that this is the beginning of the end, that I was growing out of the community. One early morning, while the laptop lay on the floor between our beds, my husband packed his tzitzit, his black hats, his long coats, and the white socks, and left me for good. My heart ached with terror and longing but I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t run after him and stop him because I had logged into the world of knowledge, and I knew my innocence, like my marriage, was gone forever.

I left the community with my son, taking our computer along. We left for the world outside, for the world I had glimpsed through my computer screen. Now in a different world, I am not the daughter of so-and-so with the headscarf anymore, but I continue to don the cloak of anonymity in order to visit, and comment upon, the worlds of my past and my future that merge and coalesce on the Internet. I cling to the hope that if I take off the veil slowly, and very gently, my family will be able to see me and come to terms with who I am.

I watch the numbers of venues and voices from the Hasidic community online grow, as more Hasidim leave the community and many, many more acquire web-enabled handheld devices. Online I find a smorgasbord of debaters on literary sites and blogs, Twitter and Facebook groups and Yiddish journals, where bigotry mixes with tolerance, misogyny mixes with feminism, and debates take the tone for which Jews are notorious.

We often discuss the future of Hasidism in the Internet age, at a time when you need only a few dollars to get a touch-screen phone, when the walls Hasidism erected in the past century can no longer keep the world out. The Internet can’t be banned, like other mediums of secular influence, despite attempts by rabbis to do so. It has become a necessary part of life and of earning a living.

With the Internet, certain Hasidic communities will have to find a better way to educate their youth than through enforced ignorance. A belief system that is so easily refuted and based on so much misinformation cannot withstand Wikipedia and Google. Times are changing for a community that has been fighting time. In the age of the Internet, the Hasidism that I grew up in, and married in, and had children in, now belongs to the past.

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spostol says:

But how do we proceed from here? Do we destroy the moral good of Hasidism? Can’t we all live together?

The internet entices some to leave and it entices others to come; the Hasidic equivalent of Wikipedia is!

    chayar says:

    @Michael Setzer

    Absolutely. I had such a narrow (and negative) view of “Orthodox” and “Hasidic” Judaism and Jews which the internet, in part, helped dispel, not only with chabad, but with,, and numerous other sites. As I began to explore Jewish, and specifically the mystic, Hasidic teachings and met “religious” Jews of all kinds, I began to realize that my knee-jerk stereotypes were nothing more than bigotry (which I would be ashamed to have about any other people). I had long prided myself on being open-minded and into “diversity” but I realize I was close-minded and into skin-deep diversity, not diversity of thought and belief.

    Also, a general comment about Wikipedia: It is not unreasonable to make the Wikipedia comparison, though yes, chabad probably is able to maintain a more focused control on publishing a certain range of viewpoints, after all, they are much smaller. And why shouldn’t they? So does Tablet, The New York Times, The Nation, National Review, The Economist, and so on. Wikipedia itself reflects the bias of its editors, like any and all publications. There is simply no such thing as an objective opinion. I used to believe that a secular, liberal outlook was “plain vanilla,” and that spiritual-religious belief imposes a biased p.o.v. on what would otherwise be a tabula rasa. I’ve come to realize that secularism, in all its manifestations is packed with powerful beliefs and biases and even is self-anointed and self-appointed to decide what’s right for others.If we admit that each “ism” provides a framework from which we perch in order to view the world and make judgments (and live our lives), however mistaken we might believe those who differ from us may be, and we are able to see that many of our brothers and sisters have come to believe (with no less sincerity than we ourselves have and no matter how we disagree with them) that they are doing the right thing, then we are half-way to achdus (togetherness) and peace on earth. The Hasidic mystics speak of a spark of holiness in each of us and we have to look for that spark of holiness, even in those who differ from us.

    cipher says:

    the Hasidic equivalent of Wikipedia is!

    Hardly. It’s just another propaganda site.

      chayar says:

      Definition of Propaganda: Education you disagree with.

        cipher says:

        Uh huh. Tell you what – when the Rebbe comes back from the dead, reveals himself as Moshiach and tells his followers, “You misunderstood me; I never said you had to eschew secular knowledge” – then you ‘ll get to use “education” in reference to Chabad.

        Oh, and by the way – everything Aish has told you about science in general and evolution in particular is absolute, unmitigated bullshit.

          chayar says:

          The reason why Jews have always been among the most literate people wherever they have lived is because we insisted that Jews are literate in Jewish law and education is certainly education, certainly The Lubavitcher Rebbe had a degree in engineering from the Sorbonne. I hardly think he told his followers to “eschew secular studies.” People in Chabad have many types of under grad and grad degrees (both those born into religious families, and those not.) Certainly, secular education is not forbidden, though many Hasidic Jews find a Torah education supplies them with what they need to make a living and live their lives fully.
          Aish never told me anything about science, so not sure what you are referring to, but, as I’m sure you know, a great way to shut down a conversation is by making derogatory, snarky statements that allow for no discussion or exchange of ideas. In effect, you’ve made a slick type of ad hominem attack, and are essentially telling your brothers and sisters who do find that Judaism and Jewish teachings are exciting, valuable, and help them live meaningful lives, “you’re stupid,” and “everything you know is garbage.” It is a sad tactic.

          cipher says:

          1. The Rebbe did not have a degree from the Sorbonne. That is something Lubavitchers are led to believe and subsequently tell the people to whom they are trying to “be mekarev”. At best, he attended classes there for a time, and there is a body of evidence suggesting even that is untrue, that he actually attended another school nearby.

          2. The Rebbe forbade the majority of his followers to pursue higher education. This is a documentable fact, although it’s something they keep from the frei yidden they are trying to attract. He allowed them to go to college occasionally, and only if one needed a degree for purposes of “parnassa”. Most Lubavitchers with degrees are BT’s who entered Chabad after college. The vast majority are either strongly discouraged from attending college, or are forbidden outright to do so.

          3. I said nothing about Judaism. My criticism is of predatory kiruv organizations like Chabad, Aish and Ohr Someyach who feed their potential recruits truckloads of nonsense that are in many cases antithetical to traditional Judaism. Haredism is like Christian fundamentalism; they want you to believe it represents Judaism, whereas in reality it is a reaction to modernity that’s little more than a century old. They feed off of people’s romantic fantasies of a fictionalized, romanticized past, and people buy into it because they want to believe it’s all true.

          chayar says:

          1. Why would so many lie? For what end?
 If as you say, the Lubavitcher rebbe generally forbade people to go to school than why say he had a degree? To the best of my understanding, Judaism is pretty clear on this topic: have give and take with secular wisdom, but not in areas that are atheistic such as non-Jewish philosophy.
          2. Also, I was thinking of a woman I know, an real old-time Chabadnick, with a PhD in psychology, definitely not a balas teshuvah. I also know one pursuing her degree in education (she’s currently an artist) and another who has a Masters in English and is a teacher.Sure, many BTs are more likely to have degrees, but these women were all born into Chabad. (I don’t know tons of Lubavitchers, so my sample is actually quite small, most of the ones I know are in fact degreed). By the way, a college degree is not the mark of a kind person or even an intelligent person. I have no doubt you and I could agree just as many unintelligent people who are unkind and intolerant are as likely to have college degrees as not. 3. Why are kiruv organizations predatory? In what way are they predators? In which way, specifically, are Haredim like Christian fundamentalists? (They don’t read the Bible aka Torah literally, for starters. So they feed into the Torah’s “romantic fantasies of a fictionalized past?” I’m sorry, I do not believe the Torah is fiction. If I did, I would have absolutely no reason whatsoever to remain a Jew and neither would any other Jew. Why be Jewish if the Torah isn’t true? (I include the Oral Torah and commentaries here, otherwise we’d be kairites.)

          I am a Jew by choice raised in christian fundamentalism. My first exposure to Judaism was through Chabad, and they were they only Jews I knew for a few years. I must say that, altho there are some obvious differences, the similarities between haredim and christian fundamentalists are many and striking. They are more similar than you can imagine, and may not know unless you are very exposed to both, as I was.

    She is not talking about Chabad…if you read closely she is talking about shaving their heads which the Satmars do NOT Chabad

This article should receive wide distribution not only among
those who remain in and those who have left the Hasidic community but also
those like me that are not and never have been Hasidic. The author, F. Vizel, presents her story in a
manner that enlightens those like myself that too often look from outside upon
the Hasidim with ill-informed biases.
The author writes with obvious emotion but absent the anger or what seem
at times exaggerated descriptions of Community mores and practices that often
appear in similar stories of those who once were Hasidic. Her description of life within the Community is
at times matter-of–fact while at other moments one senses a bit of grieving
that it isn’t or refuses to be different.
Her transformation, not only from Hasidic to former Hasidic but even
more from a sheltered and restricted woman to a person with an obviously healthy
sense of self, is inspiring and best summed up in her own words, “I thought
about myself and my possibilities, for the first time in my life.” I was left after reading her article not with
a sense of despair for the Community but rather with a sense of hope. If the Hasidic Community, despite whatever
its intentions, is able to produce a person, a woman, as thoughtful,
enlightened and expressive as F. Vizel, then perhaps there is reason to hope
that the Community will also experience some transformation.

I hope this is only one of many more articles from F.Vizel!

mgbmdmph says:

Overall, I agree with Mr. Selzer with the
caveat that every official Chabad Internet publication is carefully reviewed to
vouchsafe its integrity and consistency. Moreover, Chabad has pioneered in
the use of information technology to help bring Jews closer to Torah.

To answer spostol’s questions:

1) We would have to become apostate to
undermine the moral good of Hasidism because Hasidism derives its moral good
from learning to live according to HaShem’s 613 mitzvoth.

Some (all?)
Hasids “talk the talk” but are still learning how to “walk the walk”. Such is
the nature of the human condition.

All Jews
are valuable to HaShem. So far as we know, He does not discriminate against
Jews who are unaffiliated, Reconstructionist, Reformed, Conservative, Modern Orthodox
or Hasidic.

4) Yes, we can all live together, just not
in the same kitchen.

Mark Gary Blumenthal, MD, MPH

Knoxville, TN

Years ago I heard the story about a young bride who making a Ham for a holiday for her husband and chopped off the ends of the Ham. The husband asked why and the newlywed bride said, “My mother always did it.” He said, “Let’s ask her why.” Talking with the mother she didn’t know why either. Upon asking the grandmother why she said, “Because the Ham was always bigger than my pot, so I had to cut the ends off to fit it in.” It’s OK to challenge ideas (flat earth, ulcers, blood letting), but in the end, find the good that can be shared so we elevate each other.

gwhepner says:


When she logged on the internet,
the frum balabuste

discovered a world that had always
been hidden.

Her husband found out and no
longer would trust her:

that’s life in Lake Woebegone
now for the Yidden.

As Bob said before there was
internet: “Times

are a-changin.” Before other
Yidden had changed, Dylan did,

when a frum balabuste on Facebook

it’s harder than ever to be a frum

The problem is spreading as fast
as a virus:

not even a virus will stop this

or deus ex machina, a frum

restoring the temples called homes
with master.

mildmannered says:

Powerful essay. Thank you.

And isn’t it amazing that the article would work equally well if ‘Hasidic’ women were substituted for ‘Amish’ women or (prairie-dress polygamist) ‘Mormon’ women or ‘Muslim’ women.

    Raizel says:

    I’m pretty sure had this article been with any such women, it would have included a lot more about the indoctrination of antisemitism. But women, independence, and the thirst for knowledge is the same in any corner of the globe, so despite the demeaning nature of your comment, yes, the idea and the difficulties of venturing out of the norms of any closed-off community are similar.

Eli Willner says:

To paraphrase a Rabbinic dictum, “People are led down the path they choose for themselves”. Don’t give yourself airs, Vizel. Religiously observant societies have always had dregs with dull minds and sharp taivos that fell off the deep end. And they’ve always had similar rationalizations. Ho hum.

    gemel says:

    Please do not jump to conclusions or judgements. Instead of criticizing as “dull minds” and “sharp taivos”, maybe it is important to look at the ways that the Chassidishe and Yeshivishe worlds do not make place for those who do not exactly fit into the narrow, common mold.

    The community norm might fit most people in the community, but for those whom it does not work, if there were more alternatives regarding certain matters while still following the Derech Torah there could be good results. Kiruv efforts can work if they address the needs of those who do not exactly fit; certainly Gedolim such as Reb Moshe Feinstein zt’l, Rav Avrohom Pam zt’l, the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt’l, the Bobover Rebbe zt’l and others have made efforts in these directions. Unfortunately, as the article shows, and unfortunately your comment also shows, the vast bulk of the Chassidishe and Yeshivishe world did not and do not.

      Eli Willner says:

      Kiruv efforts are appropriate one-on-one in a private setting. A response to an online article is a different matter entirely. Once someone proudly parades their deviance for all to see red lines have been crossed. They are encouraging others to do the same. So no pulling punches in
      response. A spade is in fact a spade.

        kweansmom says:

        Did you read the article, or did you just read the title and then decide the writer is “dull minded” and “deviant? She writes intelligently, and tells of her intellectual, not materialistic yearnings. In your dismissive response to her article, you make no effort to address her most sympathetic points, and just hurl insults her way. Do you think you are impressing the uncommitted of the rightness of your views, or that your approach will help to keep the wavering “on the Derech”?

          Eli Willner says:

          I read it. I know what she wants her readers to believe. But I also know that those who’ve traveled that road, starting from where she started and ending where she, by her own admission, ended, typically have had other things going on that are distinctly not intellect-related. It would be informative to hear what her ex-husband or even parents would add to the story. But we won’t, since she chooses, not surprisingly, to remain anonymous.

          Dear Eli,
          Yes it would be informative to hear from her ex-husband or her parents. But perhaps she had to leave because they were as opinionated and narrow-minded as you are, and if so then she is fully justified. And I noticed that it was her husband who left her.

          S. Chaisen says:

          Mr. Willner you are VERY defensive! People living inside a cult (as you are) don’t realize it. When people living so blindly in their faith are challenged they get defensive and angry and mean which is what we are seeing here from you. The only difference between you and Tom Cruise with his Scientology is that he actually chose to enter the cult. You were born into it and are too repressed to think any other way than you do and it is a shame you cannot be open to what others say. You are revealing yourself with your immature and angry posts

          Eli Willner says:

          By the way, “deviant” is the word the author herself uses to describe her departure from the fold. Did *you* read the article?

        gemel says:

        Eli Willner, you are adding your anger. Where in Sefer Darchai Noam does Rav Pam zt’l talk about “punches”? Where does the Chofetz Chaim zt’l say this?

        Now that Tisha B’av is coming, remember that the destruction of the Temple is attributed to such behavior as regards Kamtza and Bar Kamtza.

          Eli Willner says:

          Would you like some source texts for the proper way to deal with a shone u’pairush who is machti es horabim? If so then contact me offline. Or do a little research on your own before criticizing.

          Funny how this halacha whose goal is to keep people in the fold actually has the opposite effect, making a chilul hashem, since you simply seem like a boar. Perhaps that says something about the ‘divinity’ of halacha.

    Just Me says:

    Don’t give yourself airs, Willner. Flaunting your intolerance for anyone that deviates from your narrow dogma, claiming that they crossed a “red line” while all they did was think for themselves, only gives further insight into the world you think you are defending. And you engage in ad hominem attacks – name calling, calling the author “dregs” and “dull minded” and “falling off the deep end” – is that all you can come up with? Ho hum. You clearly demonstrate one of the problems the author faced in her life – the ostracizing of anyone different, anyone who dares to think for themselves or question the communal beliefs. The attacks on an individual who dares to doubt the elite “bearded wonders” (aka rabbis) who declare that THEY, and ONLY they, had and have the knowledge of God’s true will for all Jews. Is this how the community which practices “Torah True Judaism” treats those who deviate from it’s dogma? Unfortunately, yes, it is. Your exclusionary brand of Judaism does not appeal to all Jews, Willner. There is a Rabbnic dictum, something you might recognize from the Talmud, the Mishnah says: “Al tadin es chaveircha ad shetagiya lemkomo” – Don’t judge your neighbor until you are in his place.

      Eli Willner says:

      I fully expected additional dregs to rise to the surface after my post. Welcome!

“A belief system that is so easily refuted and based on so much misinformation cannot withstand Wikipedia and Google.” Love that line!

This article must have been heavily edited. The author could not have left the Chasidic world that many years ago, so she could not possibly write with this type of language.

Great article. Thank you for sharing your story.

rocky2345 says:

So now you why 40,000 Hasidic Jews got together at Citifield in May to complain about the Internet. It is a threat to their way of life. Of course, by the time Hasdic Jews reach 18 or so and are ready for their arranged marriages, many (most?) have very little secular education and are in no position to leave the community. “No Child Left Behind” does not apply to Hasidic Jews. In New York State, the Department of Education does not have oversight of the secular curriculum taught in religious schools. Google Chaim Levin and read about his experiences growing up in the Crown Heights Hasidic community.

Quigly says:

“I was not raised to think.”

That is so surprising! The Jewish tradition places a heavy emphasis not only on youngsters’ academic achievement but also on inculcating in them a lifelong love of scholarship.

One of the benefits of being raised as a Jew, being raised to think, is the resultant relative scarcity of Internet addiction and divorce that is unfortunately rampant in the general population.

And with that, I’m going to bed!

    You are taught analytical skill and some critial thinking in the context of the Talmud, but under no circumstances should you question the validity or infallibility of God or the Torah. Yes, religious Jews have a tradition of RELIGIOUS education and literacy, but only to that extent. If there is something you do not quite understand about a certain mitzvah, you are still obligated to adhere to it. You cannot stop doing it until you find a satisfactory explanation, which imo would be the most natural thing to do. So let’s not kid ourselves with this myth.

      Richard Rabinowitz says:

      See, there’s the difference between frum Judaism and frei Judaism (Orthodox/Hasidic/Litvak on the first hand and Reform/Reconstructionist on the other hand, with “Conservative” Judaism occupying an uncomfortable middle). At least frei Jews engage in constructive criticism of the Tanakh. Sneer at it as “cafeteria” religion if you want to, but frei Jews do educate in the secular world and don’t mind it, and, if mitzvot are mitzvot, they ought to have reason and logic behind them. If there is no reason behind a mitzvah, then it is not really a mitzvah and has been tossed into the Tanakh willy-nilly by redactors.

Oudtshoorn says:

Wow. I am more impressed than I can say. You are a brave young woman, and somehow I just feel proud of you. Congratulations. What someone else has written in these responses is true: This could apply equally well to Muslim women, and I wish all of those whom I see every day, with covered heads and faces, and ten children, could read this.

You are remarkable, obviously very articulate, and can now be and do anything you wish!

Just Me says:

F. Vizel – this is an excellent article. Very well done. Yasher koach – good for you – for writing it, and publishing it.

Oh come on Ms. Vizel. Do you really think our tradition is so shallow that Wikipedia poses it a threat it can’t handle. Some of the most brilliant minds in history lived their lives within the confines of halacha and they didnt experience your brand of claustrophobia. It saddens me that instead of quenching your thirst with the deep springs of Torah you’ve opted for the red bull and vodka offered online. Frankly, I don’t know how one can live on this planet without faith and a connection to G-d,the Bashefer should have been capitalized. Our religion is what enabled us to walk out of the concentration camps. You are throwing out the baby with the bathwater. You’ll regret these choices one day.

    Susan Siegfried says:

    Perhaps if she had been given “permission” to drink fully from the well of Torah, her departure would not have happened.

    By refusing half the population the right to study and learn, Hassidische communities are denying their populations some truly brilliant insights just because HaShem has made the thinker a woman. Do you not recall Miriam, Deborah, or Hulda? Their gender did not seem to be an issue then. Why is it one now?

    I don’t think Ha’Shem discriminates against Jews who practice Judaism. I do, however, think Ha’Shem takes a long, careful look at those who practice sinat chinam and chilul Ha’Shem under the guise of piety.

    Todd Schiff says:

    can’t make comment work…

    How condensating and small minded of you. And nice job throwing some Jewish guilt in there.

Argaman says:

Kol ha-Kavod on your entrance into the world of thinking for yourself!

David Garvey says:

I am wondering, should I conclude that because I met a
convert or bt and they have stories of the worthlessness of the secular world
that it is absolutely so? Or should I just infer that this his/her particular
story, perceptions and emotions but may not be reality? The same question goes
to Ms. Vizel can I really take your story, emotions and conclusions on face
value or is there a dimension of individuality to it?

Having known the author, her siblings, parents and husband
for many years and having lived in KJ particularly for most of my life, I can
just confirm that this particular article is not exact with the facts, perceptions
or emotions. I am not interested in
telling the story of Ms. Vizel because she is just looking to find her 10 minutes
of fame and I will let her have it. But,
readers don’t all get worked up on this basis.
I assume we can get soon another memoir, like Deborah Feldman, I just
hope that her Ms Vizel’s lapses of memory or creative imagination shouldn’t be
as vulgar and defamatory all in with the defense that “it is just a memoir.” I love the custom of my community to never
respond even in the face of the most outrageous allegations because nobody is
even going to give us the benefit of the doubt so don’t bother. The irony is that Ms. Vizel’s father was once
a spokesman for the community and we have learned since then that it is better
not to have any spokesperson and that is why you will always find that ” a
call to …. was not returned at time of

The world is full of people who would like to portray a
certain persona but once independent investigators start looking into it we
find that it is all a facade. A recent
example is President Obama. He wrote his
memoirs which just recently called into question major aspects of his books by independent
biographers. The same goes for every
other memoir. Ms. Vizel is no exception.

As for me, as a person who loves statistics, I look at it
simply as this bell curve. There is the
majority who will stay put and then there the outliers at both ends of the
curve who will leave our community. Some will go to Helbrans others will leave religion
altogether it is just a matter of living in a society. The same is true in
reverse of secular people becoming religious.
Every person has their own reason for leaving but almost never strictly intellectual. They almost all reverse engineer that it was intellectual
but my personal observations and having met so many people in this situation, once
you look under the surface you find so many reason and intellectualism is
probably the last thing. To me the only
question is the shape of the bell. In my
unscientific measurements I can safely report that our bell curve is a lot
better than any other community and in particular the modern Orthodox. So we can sleep soundly.

As to the issue of the internet, I was very skeptical over
the recent war on the internet. However,
I can report that I was wrong and I couldn’t believe what a success it turned
out to be. I can safely bet that we will
be around for another century.

    Mr. Garvey: What qualifies you to attest to someone else’s emotions? Did you reside inside Ms.Vizel’s heart and confirm that she didn’t feel as she desccribes? Did you look through the world with her eyes; can you know how she actually perceived her world? Is there some reason that you have a need to try to discredit Ms. Vizel and the obviously many other people that share her experience? Ms. Vizel is merely telling her story as she experienced it, she is not telling anyone’s else’s story. I do not experience that she is attempting to slander, hurt or attack, but rather is raising the subject of poor and limited education and its consequence in her life. I think we all might learn if we can listen without judgment to the experiences of others. By the way, many people have read her blog and her cartoons and can attest to her evolution.

    You think the Chasidic community is not as oppressive and limiting as is described in this article? Then, perhaps rather than attempting to discredit the author, you might respond on a point by point basis instead?

    Richard Rabinowitz says:

    Yes, you will likely be around for a while. The Mormons are still around, after all. So will the Internet, and dissenters will, of course, leave Hasidism, which is probably a wise solution for all concerned. The people who stay will strengthen their own culture, while the leavers will be free to start or strengthen cultures themselves. This is good for Hasidism, agnosticism, Modern Orthodoxy, Reform Judaism, Conservative Judaism, atheism, and Unitarian Universalism, as frum Judaism grows and sheds dissenters, allowing frei Judaism to pick up new adherents.

shosh hirsh says:

I hope that the author, now that she is so-called free to live her life style, will not turn her back on her Jewish religion and continues to learn and grow in Jewish-Torah knowledge and observance as a complete Jewish person.

G Bern says:

I am a religious jew who grew up in a secular world. I can tell that you came from a very close minded community. However, that doesnt mean that yiddishkeit doesnt hold anything for you. The problem is that you have hit a roadblock that has caused you to question your faith. Nevertheless, that doesnt mean that what you grew up doing holds no value, and is useless. The span of judaism is vast, and to throw it all a way is a shame. I found myself falling away (amidst my non-jewish public school friends), but then i discovered what my religion meant to me. Now (amidst my non-jewish secular college friends) i seek more and more religious tradition. I am sorry that your encounter did not allow you to feel fulfilled, but i implore you to break away from your parents G-d, your husbands G-d, your community’s G-d, and find YOUR G-d. the one that means something to you. and i pray dearly for you and your son that it is still Hashem, kadosh baruch hoo. The internet holds a lot of stuff, but you must be discerning to recognize right from wrong. its a lot to take in, but hold on to faith and values. Sei Gesund.

MarieHolley says:

Well, it’s a start. I just hope she’ll actually pick up a Bible and read it, because compared to poop, even an onion smells good.

This article has no real meaning, aside from the fact that the writer’s parents did not instill proper values and understandings as to why we are religious to begin with, Here is an article that I’m in the middle of writing that is going out to every school and all over the Frum world. You guys may learn something. Have patience because it’s long, but well worth the time, and effort. You have my permission to reprint and edit how you see fit, but do not go off the subject at hand, Mrs. C Glick

Climbing Mt Everest

(Life, for many different people, could
be and should be an adventure, no matter where you start. Whether you’re lucky
enough to be blessed into an understanding, structured and stable home, or G-d
forbid, the opposite. Each person is born with their own personal voyage to
retreat to, and it is their responsibility to get there, guided, and not
PUSHED. cbg)

is a amazing Torahdikeh way to look at climbing a Mountain, especially Mt
Everest, because it’s not only the largest mountain in the world, it is the
most difficult, and there are so many things that one has to learn, from the
people in their lives, before even attempting such a climb. Just as in life,
one needs to have guidance and proper training to “climb” their own personal

As I stand here at the on the cliffs of Mount Everest, with the world right
in front of me, surrounded by clouds that block parts of my view, and a chilled wind blowing on my face, I try
and think back to the beginning of this long journey that has finally brought
me to this amazing point. I have not yet had the opportunity to reach the top
of the summit, and breathe the thin air that separates the mountain top from
the ground, down below. The trip, as you are aware of, came with much
difficulty, and I am sad to say, there were many people, who started the long
traitorous journey with me, who did not make it so far, but for whom I have
such high hopes. If only they could see the beautiful breathtaking views from
where I stand, and understand the excitement that is running through my veins,
as I get closer to the top of the summit. What an amazing beginning it was reaching the
base camp, the first of many hopeful accomplishments.

As is it known, I cannot take credit for my
destination on the Mountain alone, and am truly grateful for the Brochos that
have come my way in regard to the amount of help that followed me, guided me
and continued to, not only encourage me, but educate me throughout my journey.
The Sherpas are nothing more than miracle workers, paving the way for a safe
trip, over rock, ice, and in some unfortunate cases, reminding me and others that
it’s not always a smart move to climb too fast, and warned us over and over
again that it doesn’t pay to continue any higher unless you have the strength,
physically and mentally.

It’s amazing how many people come all prepared with
the right tools, like what to wear, what rope to use, and even more crucial,
how to tie the knots, and anchor yourself to the mountain. The most important
part is the structure of the anchors, and how deep they are put in, because if
the slightest slip happens, or a wind comes and pushes you, you can fall. The
list to climb is endless, and if you are missing any “instruments”, it can be a
matter of life or death. From the smallest things, such as what shoes to wear
to having the correct amount of oxygen, it is crucial that they are not only in
your backpack, but more importantly, taught how and what each individual item
is for. You’re instructed months, if not years, in advance how to start
training your body for the “beating” it can and will take, as the climbing
becomes more strenuous.

with all journeys, instructors and their teams are there to make sure that YOUR
safety comes first, and are honest with you, right from the start. If there is
the slightest chance that either your demeanor, mentally and physically, has
been compromised in any way, they are the ones who decide if you start,
continue, or even when only a small climb away from reaching the top, can say, that’s
it and have you turn around and go back down. You listen, if you’re smart, and
need the brains to realize that they are the voice of reason, they see things
that you can’t, from their angles, such as weather, and oncoming problems that
can arise from up high. Even the smallest hint that your mind is not straight,
because it is pertinent that your brain, because of the lack of oxygen, stays
sharp and your instructor/s will give you a series of tests, via radio, to make
sure you are still “in there”. This is
the only way to give you the assurance that your journey is going well and it
is not far from your destination, your goal and your dream, of climbing the
highest mountain.

as with many situations, there is never a sure fire guarantee that even with
all of the proper training, planning and guidance, that you will make it to the
top. Stuff happens, and life is never predictable, and no matter how cautious
you are, there are situations that one can not plan. Such as weather, which is
extremely important and can set one back for days, or broken bones from
slipping on the ice, and frostbite, which may or may not send you packing up
and heading back down to the main base camp. There are actually people, who for
whatever reason, get stuck and even find themselves with a life threatening
situation. They are forced to evaluate the circumstances and decide whether
you, as an individuals, are ready and ABLE to continue. At the same time, and it’s not a rare thing,
you find someone from a different team that is in danger, and has life
threatening injuries, and needs to be tended to. You and your team need to
carefully evaluate the entire situation, whether or not it’s worth the risk to
help save him/her. In some unfortunate situations, because of the dangers of
losing your own life, or just because you can see that the person is going to
die anyway, no matter what you do, you inform the ones down below that it’s
hopeless. There are other times that you come across people who will do
everything in their power to save a person who is in terrible trouble, and even
though it means that they themselves will not reach the top, at that moment in
time, will turn around and help them down the mountain to safety.

can we truly bring perspective to the climbing of the highest mountains , The
Absenter’s creations, to how we, as Yidden are living our lives today,
surrounded with Talmudei Chachmim,
Principals, Melamdim, Teachers, and especially parents, who are being
“directed” by the Torah, and being guided by our Mentors in life? HOW can we
become, as expected, one nation, yet again? What happens if a person, who has
reached HIS/HER point on the mountain and decides that he/she cannot keep up
with the rest of the team, be it from lack of strength or lack of
determination? If his/her load (from the backpack) is too much to handle, do
you just go on without them, or do you say to yourself, “this person needs
personal guidance, inspiration, or even needs to be evaluated, to see if maybe
there is a more serious problem”. At the same time, we must instill in our
children, from the start, “anchors”, and a structured way of understanding. If
you explain properly, why we live the way we do, and the difference between
Halacha and Tradition, and continue to instill beliefs with a love for them,
instead of forcing them , it can make a difference between an anchor being
pushed into the mountain with just a small push, or with a team effort.

who was born with the strength to endure all that is required of them, in this
world, is so much different than the person that had to struggle to get to
their own spiritual destination, and they both need to be guided on their own
levels. For those schools, communities and homes, that think that if a person
can’t hold up to THEIR decision to better THEMSELVES, they don’t deserve to be
part of their “world”, it is no different than someone who is trying to climb
the Mountain high and higher, against his will and then one day is told that HE
MUST continue no matter if he is secure or not. Eventually he will fall off the
mountain, and may even be lost forever. There is nothing wrong with someone who
is different, even if he is born with the strength and into a life where they
have the proper tools already but decide that he/she wants to follow a
different path. That person should be encouraged, warmly, without coercion, to
follow along the path which had been laid out for them. Unlike the ones who had
to acquire the tools and learn how to use them, either by themselves, or from
learning with a guide. Usually, the person that has to struggle the most to get
to a certain point in their life, appreciates the journey and the destination a
whole lot more than the ones who born into it. Making a vow, to continue
further up the “ladder of life” should not be a communal decision, nor can it
be a general decision, it MUST be an individual decision. Although, as time goes on, and society
changes, there needs to be people, such as Talmudei Chachmim, to look at the
whole picture and step up to the “podium”, to INSTRUCT the guiders in a way
that can help their communities “adhere to the voices of change.” When there is
a global problem that needs to be dealt with, a person can’t just stand at the
top of a mountain, with a microphone, and say to everyone, CHANGE, because
there is a problem! It needs to be addressed in a way that each person feels it
as their own obligation, as a Yid, to continue climbing. If a group of people
are on the mountain, and the guide, who understands all of them, because he struggled , as well, along with
his team, to get to where they are, then he, himself, is able to say to all of
them, that it’s time to go higher, and I will help you get there. He will not
judge nor force and demand that everyone go at the same pace, if they are not
ready for it. But, at the same time, it is very important for everyone in the
entire group to continue as a team, so a compassionate team leader will help
the ones who are not as strong, by instructing him, and holding his/her hand,
if needed, to continue. The ones, who are stronger, will be told that it’s time
to go higher and the leader just needs to show them where to go.

When Moshe Rabeinu went
around, by the footsteps of Har Sinai, counting the Yidden, he did so because
he was instructed to by The Aibeshter (Bamidbar) obviously, the counting had
nothing to do with the Aibeshter’s need to know how many Jews there were.
Without the census The Aibeshter always knows exactly how many Jews there are.
The counting was for our sake. The counting was to teach us that we are
individually valued and cherished.
Simply put, The Aibeshter counted the Yidden because He loved them. It
is analogous to a stamp or coin collector lovingly pouring over his collection
viewing and appreciating every theme, texture, shape, and color. Likewise, The
Aibeshter cherishes every one of His children and continuously counts them
showing His love for the individual Jew and the
collective whole of the nation.

So again, how
can we be judged as one person, when The Aibeshter looks at each of us as
individuals? Though Klal Yisroel, as a whole, is always expected to keep up
with the ever changing times, it needs to be done in such a manner that the
person does not fool his inner being into thinking that it’s now time for a
complete change. Today, many of us see, unfortunately, a judging society,
trying to MOLD people, instead of guiding them. If someone is part of a group,
they are expected to BE that group, live exactly like that group and if they
can’t live up to the majority of the group, it’s time for them to leave
altogether. The same thing is with families, who are, at most, expecting that
their children follow in their precise footsteps, for which they have laid out
for them. In most case, (percentage wise), children do and obviously have,
followed in their parents and grandparents footsteps. But unfortunately, there
have been, and more so today’s days, exceptions to the RULE. Like the tools one
brings with them on the journey to climb Mt Everest, a child especially, needs
to know HOW to use the tools, what they mean to them, and when they are needed
to be used. There MUST BE compassion, understanding, and most importantly,
ACCEPTANCE, for the individual person your child, student, or even friend has
become. “You are first a Jew and that has many levels to it, then you are a
Frum Jew, and we are all aware that there are many many levels to being Frum”.
Again, if someone is lucky, so to speak, to be born into a family where their
parents are Talmidei Chachamim, or lucky enough to be bentched with amazing
families, for them, as individuals, it shouldn’t be expected that it’s always
paved with golden roads. A person makes their surroundings, and the
surroundings can make a person. It’s all how you look at it. The reason one
cannot judge those whose footsteps they have yet to walk in, is simple….they
have never lived or felt their experiences, and struggled through life’s many
encounters. So the only JUDGES, in this world, and during this time, can be the
Aibeshter, and the guidance MUST come from people who are aware of the persons
needs, physical and spiritual, (that’s why it’s so important to have Mashpiam,
to guide them properly, on their own levels, slowly, if it has to be). For
those who were, so to speak, “programmed” into being G-d fearing Jews, and
appreciate what it truly means to be Frum, and understands, completely, WHY we
do the things we do, as Frum people, then you should be delighted, and recognize
the value of what you have, and never take it for granted.

It doesn’t take a
rocket scientist to see what is going in the world today, and how difficult it
has become to “hold on” to the quality of life that so many people need and are
looking for, to instill into their children. We, as educated Principals,
Teachers, Parents and friends, need to be able to see the inner qualities of a
person, not just the outer(though how a person looks on the outside usually
portrays WHO they are on the inside, but not the ones who have a Taiveh for
dressing that way, or for those who were brought up differently) Today more and
more attention is being focused on the things that they see, outside, and so
rules are enforced. As time goes on, and
technology continues to invade our lives, in the positive and in the negative,
we are constantly seeing more and more people fall prey to the ever growing “free
fallers” who find solace in occupying their time with things that are not
exactly considered constructive behavior. But did anyone ever ask themselves
why this is happening in the first place? Why would someone, who has everything
going for them, in regard to how his/her life has been planned out for them,
just all of a sudden fall? There are many people who have the same
opportunities and yet have the common sense to stay away from things that will
harm them and corrupt their lives, and instead make it their business to turn
something that can potentially be hazardous to their “health”, into something
enlightening. Because they, in my own opinion, have been taught with a strong
foundation, and understanding as to WHY we live the way we do. We need not think
about how someone else is serving The Aibeshter, just how we are and our
children are. If you teach from the ground up, with the right techniques, and
the perception as to what makes him/her different that the rest of the world,
you CAN end up with a person who, on their own, will have a beautiful
relationship with Hashem. Someone who is
not learned in every part of Torah, is no less connected with the Aibeshter
than someone who really is not capable of learning.

The Baal Shem Tov
was once shown from heaven that a certain simple man called Moshe the Shepherd
served G‑d, blessed be He, better than he did. He longed to meet this shepherd,
so he ordered his horses harnessed to his coach, and traveled, with a few of
his disciples, to the place where he was told the shepherd lived.

They stopped in a
field at the foot of a hill, and saw, on the hillside above them, a shepherd
who was blowing his horn to call his flock. After the sheep gathered to him, he
led them to a nearby trough to water them. While they were drinking, he looked
up to heaven and began to call out loudly, “Master of the world, you are so
great! You created heaven and earth, and everything else! I’m a simple man; I’m
ignorant and unlearned, and I don’t know how to serve You or praise You. I was
orphaned as a child and raised among gentiles, so I never learned any Torah.
But I can blow on my shepherd’s horn like a shofar, with all my
strength, and call out, ‘The L-rd is G‑d!’” After blowing with all his might on
the horn, he collapsed to the ground, without an ounce of energy, and lay there
motionless until his strength returned.

Then he got up
and said, “Master of the world, I’m just a simple shepherd; I don’t know any
Torah, and I don’t know how to pray. What can I do for You? The only thing I
know is to sing shepherds’ songs!” He then began to sing loudly and fervently
with all his strength until, again, he fell to the earth, exhausted, without an
ounce of energy.

After recovering,
he got up again and began to call out, “Master of the world! What is it worth
that I blew on my horn and sang songs for You, when You’re so great? What more
can I do to serve You?” He paused for a moment and said, “There’s something
else I know how to do, and I’ll do it for Your honor and glory!” He then stood
on his head and began to wave his feet wildly in the air. Then he did
somersaults one after the other, until he collapsed on the ground, exhausted.
The Baal Shem Tov and his disciples watched all this from a distance, in

The shepherd lay
there silently until his strength returned. Again, he began to speak and said,
“Master of the world, I’ve done what I can, but I know it’s not enough! What
more can I do to serve You?” After pausing to reflect, he said, “Yesterday, the
nobleman who owns the flock made a feast for his servants, and when it ended,
he gave each of us a silver coin. I’m giving that coin to You as a gift, O G‑d,
because You created everything and You feed all Your creatures, including me,
Moshe the little shepherd!” Saying this, he threw the coin upward.

At that moment,
the Baal Shem Tov saw a hand reach out from heaven to receive the coin. He said
to his disciples, “This shepherd has taught me how to fulfill the verse: ‘You
shall love the L‑rd your G‑d with all your heart, with all your soul and with
all your might.’

In the words
of a great scholar, The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Reb Menachem Mendel Schneerson ZT”L,[T]he
attitude of Lubavitch is quite the opposite [of
not accepting a fellow Jew] and one of the basic Principles of Lubavitch is the
emphasis on Ahavas Yisroel [loving your fellow Jew], which, as the Old Rabbi [Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, first Chabad
Rebbe] declared, is a “vessel” for Ahavas Hashem [the love of G‑d], and that “love your fellow Jew as yourself”
means literally, as yourself… This attitude of Lubavitch extends to all
Jews without distinction…You surely know that generally speaking, there is no
perfection in this world. Therefore, everything as well as every individual has
room for improvement, as our sages expressed it “all things of holiness should
be on the upgrade.” There are no exceptions from this rule, for even the
greatest Tzaddik [righteous individual]
must not be content with his present status but must seek to advance further
and higher. The Rebbe continues by explaining that thinking about the ways in
which one needs to grow should not be discouraging. We need to know that G‑d
gives every single person the ability to fulfill all that is required of that
person: At the same time, every commandment of the Torah is also a delegation of power and [the] ability to fulfill it,
even for the individual who has not yet attained the rank of Tzaddik. For
the Torah does not expect of an individual more
than he can accomplish and that which he is commanded to do, he can surely
accomplish. It is important to bear in mind the above, because it is one of the
tried strategies of the Yetzer [person’s inclination] to attempt to discourage
the Jew from fulfilling his obligations by suggesting that it is impossible to
fulfill all the Torah and Mitzvoth
[commandments], or that it is a waste of effort and so on. The Rebbe wrote, “It
is not my purpose just to preach. However, when I am asked for help or advice,
I must state the facts clearly.”The Rebbe explained that fulfilling G‑d’s
commandments is not about doing something for the benefit of G‑d; rather
fulfilling the commandments is actually for one’s own benefit: For these laws,
as all the other laws of the Torah, were given not for the benefit of the Creator, but for the
benefit of the observer, and for his good health, both physically and
spiritually. They are meant for the good and happy life of man, not only in
after life, but simply also in this life. The Baal Shem
Tov, “G‑d desires the heart. Any mitzvah a
person may do, whether great or small, simple or difficult, is judged by how it
is performed. A mitzvah done for G‑d’s sake, with great joy and purity of
heart, is very precious to the Creator. G‑d cries out to the angels, ‘Look at
the mitzvah my son/daughter has done!

I would like to end off by making it my business to beg people to work on
themselves instead of looking at what other people are doing, unless they are a
part of your lives. If your work on the inner part of a person, it will show on
the outside. There are too many people that look at someone who dresses
immodestly, and says to themselves, or worse, says to their friends, “look how
he/she dresses, I wouldn’t go next to him/her with a 10 foot pole, what a
nebach he/she has become”. That is worse than how the other person is dresses,
because not only are you speaking Lashon Harah, you are judging them. We, as
educated Principals, Teachers, Parents and friends, need to be able to see the
inner qualities of a person, not just the outer(though how a person looks on
the outside usually portrays WHO they are on the inside, but not the ones who
have a Taiveh for dressing that way, or for those who were brought up
differently) Today more and more attention is being focused on the things that
they see, outside, and so rules are enforced If your intentions are to
help them, then do something about it, you may find out what is really going
on, and that’s only if you know that this person has “gone off”. But what if
that person is climbing up the ladder? Klal Yisroel is not being destroyed
because of the ever changing times; it’s being destroyed because there is no
foundation, and a huge lack of Love for a fellow JEW!

we all be Zoche to see the coming of
Moshiach, speedily in OUR days, and may The Aibeshter see His people coming
together as one nation, understanding and compassionate, because, everything
the The Aibeshter does is for a reason. We cannot question it, but we can
accept it and OUR own missions to change ourselves. May the Aibeshter have
Nachas from His children, and Rochmunis on His Nation, who are in need of a
Refuah from this Golus, that has lasted way too long.

    See my response above

    Richard Rabinowitz says:

    I am unsure whether to thumb your comment up or down, as you celebrated differences and a love for your fellow human, but were overly wordy and long in doing so, and maybe the frum Yiddishe accent came on a bit strong for me. So I’ll just leave it be.

    elki elkieeann says:

    In response to Chana, or Rebbitzen Glick,

    Although I had my issues becoming frum and I have always been a free spirit, free thinker and rebel of organized religion, I have a lot to be thankful and grateful for all the people in the religious communities who supported me in times of trouble. Where else do you have people in the world to catch your back and be there for you when all else fails? It’s the ‘religious” and even the Chassidic communities, who rush out to volunteer–take bikur cholim and Chaverim for example which is all about helping people who are both religious or not religious, and helping people regardless of whether they are even Jewish or not. No judgements, no questions. Of course there are faults. I find many many more faults in the outside secular world! Let’s focus on the positive side, of our beautiful people who show great levels of “Ahavat Chinum”…Love for no reason, and just to help another. Whenever we have issues with anyone, whether it is with our families, friends, jobs, communities and even with religions, it is only for the purpose of our own personal growth. Rebbitzin, I loved the way you ended off explaining that people need to look into themselves before “judging’ others. Amazing incite. Nothing is perfect in this world—that includes the almighty internet that proclaims both it’s wisdoms and it’s trash. Our society is just F—ked –and I do not curse, but that is the only way I can describe the messed up society we live in now a days. I can not blame people for being confused. There is hardly anything pure anymore. Not only regarding religion, even the food and air we breath. People lack proper down time, due to the stresses of the economy as we work over time to earn in a month what we used to earn in a couple of weeks. There is no ‘balance’ and I am surprised that people can think straight at all or even know their left hand from their right anymore. I may not be very religious, but I am a very ‘spiritual’ Jew who goes to the beat of her own drum. I even have some religious children, who I am shocked that stayed religious in spite of the crazy life we went through. I try to focus on my own journey, just like the author of this article is doing. This is the path she was lead to and which she chose and now she is going through her own growth. If people are getting angry, and reactive from the words of this author, then let’s look into ourselves to see why we may be reacting this way. This may just be the ‘eyeopener’ we all need. I rarely ever answer a blog, yet for some reason, this one popped up as a link as I was working on something. I learned a lot from these responses, not about others–but about myself. Thank you all for sharing your deep incites. Elki

      chanchme says:

      Thank you for your kind words. May we all aspire to be the best that we, as individuals can be. G-d help the ones who just want to live free lives and accomplish nothing!

        elki elkieeann says:

        My pleasure….Amen, and that’s really all we can be, the best that we can be as individuals. Very well see, the best for one person, would be different from the best of another….that is why we can not judge. Each individual comes from a different place. We do not really know exactly where the other person is coming from, unless we are actually in his or her shoes. Problems seem to creep in when ‘agendas’ get in the way. How many people help other people to really help them, and how many people really care and love another person? Food for thought…. Maybe doing the mitzva is the agenda?

herbcaen says:

Then I read even less and began thinking more—much more…. I realized that a laptop could substitute for my husband. I didnt have to cook or have sex with him. It was so liberating. My only worry was how would my own story compete with the daily stories posted on The Forward and The Tablet of how people left Orthodox Judaism. I had to so something more, somethink shocking like Sarah Silvermans indecent proposal. So I took a direct flight to Tehran and asked for a personal audience with Ayatollah Khamenei… see next weeks episode

I very much enjoyed this and thank you for it. I converted to Modern Othodoxy (totally sincerely), made aliyah (and was lied to by NBN and the Jewish Agency) and am now totally comfortable with leaving Israel and Judaism. I will never be an atheist, nor a Christian. I’m a big fan of the ‘man upstairs’ but that doesn’t mean I have to follow any religion. I am me – I think, I write, and I vote.
As to science and Aish – they have a bait and switch routine. 20 years ago they provided a little science, now they provide even less and relentlessly present their own theology. While they might do some great work I’ve seen too much of the underside of that world. Ditto Chabad.
To Chayar and Chana Glick – an ‘education degree’ does not make one educated. These degrees are despised by real Ph.D.s (like myself). And the fact is that while education is important all this rubbish about teaching, schools, etc., etc., is just that – rubbish. A very high percent of the population, Jews and non-Jews, would be better off (and so would the world) if they left school in their early to mid-teens. It is just warehousing and has nothing to do with education. There are a few fields where all those years of study are worth it, but to think that a degree is the answer, or that higher education is necessary for success and wealth is nonsense. The lofty status ‘educators’ attribute to themselves in the Jewish world smacks of arrogance and is frankly quite odious.
Some people need to put someone else in control of their life. That’s fine for them. But alas, too often religions (e.g. all of Orthodoxy) decide that they should pretty much control everything in one’s life. Good for the author for realizing that she is an adult and learning to think and act as one.

    elki elkieeann says:

    I just read your response, and similar to you I am a person who goes to the beat of her own drum. I connected and am aligned to many of the issues you stated. I also had my set backs with the ‘black hat’ world and had experiences which could easily fill the pages of a best seller, yet I choose not to go there. I am not very fond of ‘organized’ religion either, and many of the people in that world would not welcome me. I am not a conformist, never was, never will be yet I am drawn to the spirit….and I know that our people are all special even with their issues. It’s just a ‘sickness’ of our generation. I forgive those who hurt me and move on to where I want to be. I am not from a religious family, and what keeps me grounded is that I carefully contemplate on what brought me to G-d in the first place. No matter what our experiences — deep inside we know the truth. I feel sorry for those confused flock of sheep who just follow without thinking for themselves and how religion rationalizes their behaviors…This is not the way anyone should be, Jew or non-Jew. If the orthodox or modern orthodox world does not work for you, it’s great that you recognize it and steer yourself to where you need to be. We are all the drivers of our own ship. I do not know enough about the author to know fully about where she is coming from, I only have my own experiences to relate to. I can say that it is a good thing for people to step up and start taking control of their own lives, like the author appears to be doing. It’s best to do this with a mindset free of blame. When all things pass, it is only to G-d that we must answer to. Not to people. G-d knows what each individual goes through. It’s too bad that many judgmental people want to play the role of G-d. I know many people who have helped my children in their Bn’ai Akiva type school and they are quite educated and modern orthodox. These people got it right…open minded, include the girls just as much as the boys. I Wish other ‘orthodox’ schools would learn from them. Try (if you can) to avoid the trap of ‘reacting’ to these uneducated people that you are referencing to. It’s not worth the energy. They should not be given the power to take us away from values and spirituality that we originally strived for before we were ‘tainted’ by the environment.

One very important point for everyone who have been taken in by this article, as well as Deborah Feldman’s; out of at least 1.7 million Orthodox Jews in the entire world, only a handful are bitter about the frum way of life, and only, maybe a couple of hundred, over the years, have been in the news for abuse and other illegal activities. That’s and amazing calculation, because people seem to think that ALL Frum Jews think that they are perfect and that ALL Frum Jews force religion on their families. That is so far from the truth, and the ones who have been hurt by the system seem to WANT it to be that way, to be right, and to be heard. But, in reality, it’s a beautiful way of life, and in every religion there are fanatics, and abusers and criminals, and being a religious person does not make you an Angel! Stop blaming a small group of people for all of your anger and animosity, and putting down the entire Frum community. That’s why people can’t stand Deborah Feldman, she generalized and bashed the Frum community, as a whole, instead of just telling a story about the specific people in her life who were strange and corrupt. If it was so bad, then there would be hundreds of thousands leaving every year instead of a mere few hundred. Even the few hundred a year that leave, never really leave in their hearts, they just run away from their situations and eventually turn around and go right back, but live by their terms, which is how it should be to begin with.

As a Jew, I would like to ask all of you to think for a moment:
Why would the Rabbis tell you, to study only the Torah and not much else?
Why is a woman’s job to bear as many kids as possible and feed the husband and not much else?
Why are the Rabbis angry when you ask so many questions that they cannot answer?
Mrs. Visel, you are only half way there. The next step is to internalize, that religion is man-made and built as a method of control over humans. Think of the amount of control these Rabbis have over their congregation and had over you.
I would like to thank the author for her courage and hope that more orthodox women take a stand for their rights.

I would like to thank the author for her courage and hope that more orthodox women take a stand for their rights and keep asking questions. Asking is not a crime.
As a Jew, I would like to ask all of you to think for a moment:
Why would the Rabbis tell you, to study only the Torah and not much else?
Why is a woman’s job to bear as many kids as possible and feed the husband and not much else?
Why are the Rabbis angry when you ask so many questions that they cannot answer?
Mrs. Visel, you are only half way there. The next step is to internalize, that religion is man-made and built as a method of control over humans. Think of the amount of control these Rabbis have over their congregation and had over you.

It is unfortunate that some of my comments are removed, as this site seems closed to non-religious ideas, especially given the beautiful story by Miss Visel.
I wonder if the author knows of this censorship. Close minded is an understatement.

Thanks a lot! I will include some information from your article and it will help with my essay writing .

Sara says:

When did tabletmag become Another classic story about a girl with whatever personal issues unrelated to Yiddishkeit, blames the internet and the vast world of knowledge therein for her going off. This is getting a little old news…

Daniel Yagolkowski says:

I fully agree with this lady. We, jews, have been grown on the basis of discussion. Even the Talmud encourages us to do it and recognizes our free will Why, then should women be considered mere bay,making and cooking machines? Kabbalah says that women are at a higher level of spirituality than men. Why, then, should they be forbid to study and go to the world? That is why Haredi in Israel are angry: the State is going to devoid them from their tax exemption and subsidies to attend ieshivot. If we accept that women can wear a uniform and die for us, why some of us cannot accept that that same weoman, once battle is over, is perfectly entitled to do what her fellow male soldiers do, like studyng, working and enjoying life and having children when she feels is prepared to, not when usage dictates’ Good for you, Lady X!

Daniel Yagolkowski says:

Bravo, Lady X, you are a human being and fully entitled to the rights, wrongs, duties and mistakes tha condition entitle you to! If you can wear a uniform and die for the rest of us, why can’t you, once battle is over, have the same rights your feloow male soldiers have, like studying, working and having children whenever you feel are prepared to have them?

Very nice write-up. I definitely love this website. Thanks!


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Breaking From Hasidism, Online

Exploring the Internet led me to knowledge, questions, and, ultimately, leaving the Hasidism I’d grown up with

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