Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Better Know a Kofer - Natalie

Continuing our series of interviews with people who left the religious community, I am pleased to now present our next participant, Natalie. Natalie is a former Lubavitcher who grew up in Crown Heights. Over the years she gradually stopped believing in the tenets of Judaism, but continued to remain part of the community, even marrying a religious person. After a few years of marriage, her husband eventually came around to her way of seeing things, and they decided to openly stop being religious. They now live with their children in a well known Jewish metropolis where they go about their business and live life the way they please. Here is Natalie's story.

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Can you describe the religious environment that you came from?

I grew up in Crown Heights, in a large Lubavitch family. My parents were baalei teshuvah and very strict about everything. Despite their deep religious beliefs, I grew up in a house that regularly received the New York Times, which I read voraciously. So, while I was being raised and being schooled in a strict environment, I was constantly exposed to different schools of thought, the arts, and culture in general via the Times. However, when I got married I left the strict Lubavitch community and moved into a more modern-orthodox style of Judaism that my husband was raised with.

Is there any incident, idea, or experience that you can relate which captures the religious tone of your home?

My parents equated the big things with the small. Eating before Kiddush was a big one; I may as well have been eating treif. I can't recall a specific punishment for such a transgression, just the disappointment it would have evoked in my mother. Another thing that was a big deal to them that bothered me intensely was tznius, wearing tights in particular. Even though most of the girls in our neighborhood were free to wear socks, albeit kneesocks, we had to wear tights. Walking out without them would have been like walking out without a shirt. To this day I don't feel comfortable in tights, they feel very restrictive to me.

Can you highlight something you encountered growing up that made you question your upbringing?

I can't think of one specific incident that made me question, but I will never forget the first thing I learned that made sense to me. Learning Pirkei Avos when I was young, we came across a mishna, that said something to the effect of, "You show God how much you love him by the way you love his creatures." It was a big moment for me, and I remember looking around the classroom wondering why this wasn't a big deal to everyone else. It struck me then that there really wasn't a lot of love for all of God's creatures in my environment, and I wondered why, if these people loved God so much, they couldn't love every one of his creations? (Remember, this was in Crown Heights where "goyim" and "shvartzes" were very much looked down upon, and weren't they God's creatures too?) The contrast between what I was being taught, what made sense to me, and what was actually being practiced made a huge impression on me at that age. I must have been 7 or 8 at the time.

Was the impetus for your transition primarily intellectual, emotional, social, cultural, or some other factor?

For me it was all of those things. I never found a way to reconcile the way I was taught that God cares about everything little things we do, and God wants us to do x but not y, with common sense. I couldn't reconcile the scientific evidence of the age of the world with the story of the world I was taught in school. I didn't really know enough about Torah, being a girl and going to girl's yeshivas, but what I did know just didn't jive with what I knew about the world. Emotionally and socially, I could see the way children from certain families, either with money or yichus were treated differently by the schools. They could get away with almost anything with no consequence and it was blatant. I also saw the way the community was willing to give anything and everything, from scholarships to support and understanding, to those who they were trying to be mekarev (make frum), but they would not offer the same to those who they had already made frum or were born that way. When the whole Moshiach craze started I didn't think it would get far because it seemed insane to me, and I felt very removed and distant from the community when it did take hold and the Rebbe did nothing to stop it (before he died obviously.) I did not identify emotionally, intellectually, or culturally with the community I was raised in and never felt comfortable in my own skin within that community.

Can you highlight one of the very first ways you crossed the halachic line?

They were little things, like turning on and off lights on shabbos and not waiting between eating milk and meat. I didn't feel any specific way about them outside of the momentary quickening of fear at the thought of being caught. I felt no guilt, I felt no elation - it just felt normal to me since I saw no reason NOT to do those things.

You mentioned that when you got married you joined your husband in practicing a more modern orthodox style of Judaism, but it sounds like you had already stopped believing things at that point. Was he aware of this?

Yes. My husband was fully aware of my religious beliefs at the time. I literally told him, "You are marrying an apikores." He thought I didn't mean it! We laugh about it now.

So, at what age did you come to this realization that you no longer believed in it? And why did you decide to remain in the community if you no longer believed?

There was no age or moment that I stopped believing, it's more that I don't ever remember believing. I always felt disconnected from Orthodoxy, almost as if I was learning about the life of other people, not myself. However, before I was married, I was living an outwardly frum lifestyle because that's how my family and friends were, and I felt comfortable in that lifestyle. There was no real drive to step out of that world because I was not rejected by my family or friends and it was just easy and familiar. In general I was always a good girl and did my own thing without a rebellious flair. I never gave them a reason to be worried about me, I got good grades, didn't drink or do drugs, etc. so there was never any really dramatic confrontation or discussion about my religious beliefs.

However, as I've grown older I've felt the drive and the need to live a life more consistent with my beliefs (or lack of them). In addition, as a parent, living authentically is important because I can't bear to pass something I have no belief in on to my children. Now that I am responsible for other lives I can't just go with the flow like I did when I got married at a younger and more naive time of life.

How did you family react to your leaving? What is your relationship like with them now?

I was not the first one in my family to go "off the derech" so it was not a huge surprise. I did get married young, and married a guy from a modern orthodox background. My parents were not thrilled, and they still treat him in an inferior manner sometimes (as compared to my brothers-in-law who are Lubavitch.) I have to give my parents credit though, when I told them I wanted to marry him they did not object. In fact, my father said, "If you love him, and he will take care of you, of course you should marry him." My parents moved out of Crown Heights when I was a teenager and I imagine they blamed my going off on that. I did not leave frumkeit completely at that point, so I think my parents were just happy I was getting married and marrying a Jewish guy. Modern Orthodox wasn't as bad as not being frum at all, so they dealt with it. At this point, a bunch of years down the road, and with my husband having joined me in my religious leanings (or lack of them,) things are a little different. Some of my family knows that I am not shomer shabbos, which is the worst thing they can imagine, and they have handled it very well. Some have questioned me, but ultimately have accepted it and me. The family I am not very close to, my parents included, may not know at all. I won't lie to them if they ask me about it but I let them assume whatever makes them feel comfortable. I didn't leave in a spectacular or rebellious manner, so they don't have much wiggle room to argue with me about it, and if they choose to cut me off they will lose out on not only myself, but my children too.

What connection do you currently have to Jewish identity, religion, or culture?

We live in a predominantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, so our physical connection is fairly strong. We keep a kosher home so that family can feel comfortable eating here or dropping their children off to play. My children are still in a modern orthodox yeshiva, but this is their last year there. I do have a strong connection to and feeling for Jewish culture. Jewish art, ideas, song, etc. I don't believe in it as a divine religion, but I enjoy celebrating and living the culture of my nation and I have no intention to stop. I don't observe and celebrate everything, but the ideas and holidays that have value or meaning to me are celebrated with my own twist. For example, shabbos. While I am not observing a day of rest because I think God said I should, I recognize the value of spending one day a week relaxing and reconnecting with my husband and children without the stresses of work, errands, and other demands on our time. So I spend the day with my family. We usually spend it at home hanging out, maybe watching a movie, playing board and card games, occasionally going on a fun outing together - whatever strikes our fancy.

What is something from your religious past that you miss in your life now?

The only thing I miss is the sense of community. There is something to be said for the way the different Jewish communities band together and help each other out in times of need.

Are there any behaviors or perspectives from your past religious life that are still dominant in your life now?

Yes and no. Growing up I was taught to be a decent, honest, moral person and I remain that way. I don't attribute that to my past religious life specifically, but more to the way my parents raised me. A perspective that does stick with me is the idea that we are here to make the world a better place. If I am here I may as well do my best to leave the world a better place, regardless of whether I believe that I was put here by a god or not.

How do you currently view the religious community you came from?

I have an amount of pride and fondness for the community I was raised in. I am proud of the good things they do in this world, and they do a lot. Of course, from an outside perspective I also have some pity and sadness for them. I can clearly see how narrow their views are and the mistakes they've made and continue to make. The feelings for my old community are complicated, but I don't have much anger or hostility toward them. I can't claim to view them objectively, but I think they're human just like the rest of us - they try to do good but make some mistakes just like every other community out there.

Do you still believe in some form of God or in some version of Judaism?

Judaism as a nation and a culture? Absolutely. As a religion? No. I don't believe in God. I think he is a nice fairy tale for grown-ups, but I don't begrudge those who have that belief. I wouldn't declare myself a complete atheist because really how could I know for sure, so I guess I'd categorize myself as agnostic.

What are some of the drawbacks of your decision to leave? Do you regret it at all? Is there any guilt?

One of the biggest drawbacks is trying to figure out the parenting thing without religion. It's very easy to raise kids when you have a set of rules to teach and raise them by. It's more difficult when you have to figure out how to teach them to go about their lives in this world without the comfortable certainty that religion brings. I don't regret leaving it, I am comfortable, happy, and guilt free. I've always wondered why I don't feel guilt about leaving religion when so many people do. I'm not a guilt free person in general. I feel guilt when I hurt someone in some way or go against my moral values, so the guilt mechanism is there and working. I guess I don't feel it about religion because I believe so deeply that it's just not true.

Aside from the challenge of parenting, I also sometimes have a hard time being open with my family about what I do or feel about religion because I worry that they won't want their children to hang out with me or my children. Family is very important to me and I don't like to risk alienating them. I don't lie when asked directly; I am just not as outspoken as I am about other things (and trust me, I am pretty damn outspoken about most things!)

What helped you get through the more challenging periods of your transition?

The support of my husband and friends. My husband was, for a long time, a believer, or at least tried to be frum in the way he was taught, but he always supported my right to live as I wanted. He never asked me to keep religious observances that I was uncomfortable with and was never judgmental about my lack of belief. I am lucky to have a strong, stable marital relationship and equally strong relationships with friends that are both religious and not religious who all support and love me regardless of my religious beliefs, or lack of them. I include those family members that I am close with and really know me well in this "friends" category. The absolute certainty that I would not be happy living a religious lifestyle has also helped me get through difficult times. I tried being happy in that lifestyle on more than one occasion but it never stuck and the certainty that what I am doing is right for me definitely helps.

Can you name something significant which you are currently doing in your life, which would have been difficult, if not impossible, in your former life?

Nothing very interesting comes to mind. Just the freedom that comes with not living with a very narrow, prescribed set of rules. There is nothing in particular in my life that I could not have done in my former life. I am married, have children, have my own business, travel - I could do all of that in a religious lifestyle, albeit not as freely.

What surprised you most about the world outside ultra-orthodoxy?

I was surprised to find out that everyone is prejudiced and judgmental about some other group they deem inferior to them. It is not a specifically Jewish thing to judge and condemn that which we don't understand or that doesn't jive with our beliefs. Everyone has some one they think they are better than.

What is one misconception or stereotype about ex-frum people that you'd like to correct?

Oh boy, there are so many! One is that ex-frum people have left because they are too lazy to live a religious lifestyle, or just want an "easier" life. Like I told my sister in law once, "If you think I left because I want to wear short sleeves, you're crazy!" A non-frum lifestyle might be easier in some practical ways but more challenging in others. I think the frum lifestyle is a very comfortable one because there is little to no guesswork. You do this now, that at that time, and a third thing at another time. It's all laid out for you, even down to which shoelace to tie first, and there is a very strong support system built in.

Another thing that bothers me is the idea that all ex-frum people have left because they've been traumatized in some way. Of course we've been traumatized - hasn't everyone? I don't know a single person who has not faced some challenge and trauma in their life (aren't there researchers who believe that birth is traumatic?) Most ex-frum people I know have had no more trauma than any of the people I know who have remained frum. Sure there are some of us that are more damaged than others and have faced tougher times, but being OTD is not necessarily an indication of severe trauma in someone's childhood or life.

Are there any stereotypes about general society that you found to be true?

No, people "out here" are just as different and varied as those in the frum world. There are good guys, bad guys, and in between guys - just like in the frum world and every world.

Are there any societal and/or cultural experiences which have significantly shaped your worldview?

I think seeing so much injustice and hypocrisy in the community growing up has made me very sensitive to injustice and hypocrisy everywhere. One of the experiences outside of the frum world which has shaped my worldview is the experience of different people and their cultures. Experiencing the music, food, and getting to know people of different types and cultures has made me realize that we are all the same even if we are different "flavors". Of course having grown up reading about different places and cultures had me suspecting that already but actually experiencing and spending time with people from all walks of life has made me very tolerant and open to different people and ideas.

What's the best thing about not being frum?

This may seem like something silly and small, but being able to go out for the day and not worry about food makes my life SO much simpler. It's the small things ;o)

What's the best thing that you recall about being frum?

The very strong sense of community.

If you could change one thing about the community you left, what would it be?

Only one thing? I would make them less judgmental of their own. They are very tolerant of those who were not raised frum but less so of their own who have questions or cannot live the way they do. I also think that the concept that education in a secular environment (i.e. college) is bad needs to change. I know my life would be different and easier had I been encouraged to pursue a higher education instead of disparaged and discouraged for wanting to do so.

Do you think there's anything that the frum world could have done to keep you "on the derech"?

This is a tough question to answer because it's like imagining an alternate universe. I suppose that if they had somehow made the observances really meaningful instead of onerous, or if they had somehow managed to convince me that there was a god and that this is what he wants from us, I would still be there.

Are there any parting words you'd like to tell the frum world?

I would like the frum world to know that we are normal, average people just like them, who simply believe differently. We are not disturbed or dysfunctional (any more so than any other group of people.) We want the same things they and all people want, the freedom to pursue our lives as we see fit, the freedom from judgment, and the acceptance and love of our families and communities.

55 comments:

laura said...

Hedyot, I'm leery of posting a comment before I've read the piece in its entirety, but I can't resist. It seems you've finally found a fabulous interviewee. From what I've read so far, Natalie is smart, well-adjusted, and as *normal* as anyone can hope to be. What's gonna happen to XGH's booming business?

Acher said...

Hedyot,

I see you tinkered with the questions a bit, making them more detailed, which should present the interview in a clearer light.

Laura,

XGH will probably not be able to rip this one apart, there is nothing to claw on. You're right about it. But XGH and some others want to see someone who went through a lot of intellectual turmoil and angst. Basically people are waiting for someone with whom they can identify. In addition, if we have a story of a person leaving mostly on intellectual grounds, we can have a basically shut case showing that people go OTD often because of the ridiculousness of orthodoxy, not because of being unable to control themselves.

frum single female said...

very interesting interview. i like the fact that natalie realized that every group has their prejudices, not just frum people. i think that this is something that people dont realize when they romanticise secular society.
i also agree that being frum doesnt make one more of a "normal person" than being secular. in fact if you ask me elitist attitudes are what veer people otd to begin with.
it is also nice to hear an interview of someone otd who has a normal attitude toward her family and wants and practises mutual respect.

The Hedyot said...

> if we have a story of a person leaving mostly on intellectual grounds, we can have a basically shut case showing that people go OTD often because of the ridiculousness of orthodoxy...

Firstly, the point of these interviews is not to show the ridiculousness of Orthodoxy. That's what XGH is for. :) Secondly, I happen to believe that most people don't actually leave primarily because of the ridiculousness of Orthodoxy, so I don't think that there are going to be too many interviews that demonstrate that.

(That's not to say that Orthodoxy isn't totally ridiculous (from a rational perspective. It does have social benefits.), just that its absurdity is not what gets people to leave.)

Anyway, Gaius's basis for leaving was entirely intellectually motivated, and IIRC, you weren't very satisfied with his story.

Off the Derech said...

Absolutely brilliant.

laura said...

Acher, you're never going to be able to show that "people go OTD often because of the ridiculousness of orthodoxy," because most people (at this point in time) who struggle intellectually and come to the conclusion that OJ isn't based on a factual premise--or, to quote you, is ridiculous-- still decide to outwardly remain within the fold. Which means Hedyot won't interview them. And which also means you and I can not know that these people don't believe in what they're outwardly practicing. The fact is that most people who go OTD do so not because they struggled intellectually with theological inconsistencies.

BlueFace said...

I can relate to Natalie, although I think, based on what I'm reading, that perhaps they would've been better off just cutting corners here and there and faking it. IMHO, as their kids get older life will get more and more complex. And I don't think public school in any metro area is a good idea.

In any case, life works in strange ways. My cousins in Nebraska were all heading for assimilation when they just snapped out of it and started swinging the other way. yesterday, they notified us that they're all making aliyah next year (and are becoming more observant each day).

Baal Habos said...

> " because most people (at this point in time) who struggle intellectually and come to the conclusion that OJ isn't based on a factual premise--or, to quote you, is ridiculous-- still decide to outwardly remain within the fold

Precisely! (I don't know about most, but certainly many). I actually have a post planned about that, but I'm on break now.

Off the Derech said...

Laura: >The fact is that most people who go OTD do so not because they struggled intellectually with theological inconsistencies.

That is absurd.

Shaylot said...

Great interviewee. Really normalizes the (her?) experience and provides a balance for the more "extreme" reasons for "leaving". Interesting stuff. Thanks.

Acher said...

>Secondly, I happen to believe that most people don't actually leave primarily because of the ridiculousness of Orthodoxy, so I don't think that there are going to be too many interviews that demonstrate that.

True, but we only need a few to showcase the fact that there are people who can't be portrayed as leaving for lack of self control. As far as I'm concerned, I understand that most people don't act on an intellectual basis, be they Frum, Jewish or whatever. And that doesn't minimize their struggles, or make their reasons for leaving unjustified. But those that leave primarily for intellectual reasons can break the misconception better. And you don't need many, just a few will do.

>Anyway, Gaius's basis for leaving was entirely intellectually motivated, and IIRC, you weren't very satisfied with his story.

Well obviously. An atheist at 13! Because of the theory of evolution? Didn't ask anyone!
It didn't sound like a good effort on his part, at least from the interview anyway.

The Hedyot said...

> ...we only need a few to showcase the fact that there are people who can't be portrayed as leaving for lack of self control.

False dichotomy. Just because it's not intellectual doesn't mean that it's because they lacked self control.

But anyway, I really don't want this to be about demolishing Orthodoxy, which sounds a bit like what you're hoping will happen. That's not at all what I'm trying to accomplish here.

Acher said...

>Just because it's not intellectual doesn't mean that it's because they lacked self control.

I think I made myself clear that I don't think so. But for those that have a prejudice in thinking that way, an intellectual-based decision is much harder to portray that way.

As for what you want to do with this series, the floor is all yours. It's just that some were hoping for something a bit different than what you have in mind.

mo said...

"albeit kneesocks, we had to wear tights. Walking out without them would have been like walking out without a shirt."

Sounds cool, but I thought Crown Heights \ Lubavitch girls dress very well and sexy? even more so there are those that say that Lubavitch girls dress more stylish then not frum girls?.

JewishRebel said...

I can only commend Da'as Hedyot for the wonderful interview.

Now what I would also be interested in are people that are / were 'stuck in the system', like me. We need some inspiration and encouragement!

Freethinking Upstart said...

Now *that* was a nice interview.

Hedyot,

Thanks for fixing up those questions ;-)

Natalie,

Thanks for sharing.

laura said...

Mo, Lubavitch girls dressing amazingly is a fairly new phenomenon. I don't know Natalie's age, but if she's over 30, chances are she wasn't part of this wave.

laura said...

Acher, suppose Hedyot finds twenty people who left for intellectual reasons (not people who come across as boring and unbelievable ala Gaius). What then? Are you going to print out the interviews, whip them out any time someone tells you most OTDers leave because of no self control, and shove the interviews in their faces? Suppose you do. You seriously believe that will accomplish anything? Study human nature, Acher. Very few people are *really* interested in truth. Most simply parrot words, beliefs, ideas, theories, etc., that they've read or heard. Changing their minds requires too much effort, as does actually *thinking*.

The Hedyot said...

Acher, I might have something for you down the line. It's not going to be a regular interview, but it will address the issue of leaving from a very detailed intellectual perspective.

Alex said...

Natalie has pointed to hypocrisy she witnessed as a main reason she left her community. I hope she understands that hypocrisy is a function of dishonesty, not a function of weakness. Was the lack of ahavas habrios she witnessed a function of dishonesty or of weakness?

To the question, “What is one misconception or stereotype about ex-frum people that you'd like to correct?” I noticed that a particular answer was missing. This missing answer is: “they think we leave because we focused on some problems in the community, both socially and hashgafically, and we then misframed the problem.” I would suspect that, instead of (or in addition to) the reasons of “seeking ease” or “trauma,” many ex-frum people can indeed be rightly accused of misinterpreting the problems they had encountered, and using that as a pretext. Of course, this would be only /one/ of several ingredients in their decision-making, but it’s not an insignificant ingredient. And of course, this is true of /anyone/ making a change in their lives.

alex said...

On the one hand, Natalie answers the question:

Q.What is one misconception or stereotype about ex-frum people that you'd like to correct?
A. Oh boy, there are so many! One is that ex-frum people have left because they are too lazy to live a religious lifestyle, or just want an "easier" life.

and then she answers the question:

Q. What's the best thing about not being frum?
A. This may seem like something silly and small, but being able to go out for the day and not worry about food makes my life SO much simpler.

Now, this is not /necessarily/ a contradiction, but if it were me giving these answers, I think I would want to honestly re-evaluate my motives.

The Hedyot said...

> if it were me giving these answers, I think I would want to honestly re-evaluate my motives.


Right. Because any time an ex-frum person appreciates something benficial in their life, it must be that that's the reason why they left. To gain that benefit!

Similarly, if someone who switches yeshivas likes the food in his new place better than the old one, thats probably why he switched yeshivas.

Natalie said...

Thank you Hedyot for interviewing me, I enjoyed the process. Life is busy, it's not often that I take the time to sit and contemplate the reasons behind what I do, where I have come from compared to where I am now, etc.

Mo, Laura is correct, when I was a child Lubavitch women were not quite the hotties they are now. It was the beginning of the turn to the tznius standards of today, but there were plenty of holdouts who insisted on the old standards (like my parents.)

Alex, as far as the seeming contradiction in my response about the misconception the frum world has about those who are OTD, perhaps I should have inserted the word "solely" into my first sentence. If it said "One is that ex-frum people have left SOLELY because they are too lazy to live a religious lifestyle.." that would clarify what I meant. There are benefits to every lifestyle, the food issue is one that I appreciate, but not the reason behind the lifestyle change (as Hedyot pointed out in his yeshiva analogy.)

Joshua said...

I agree with Laura in point 1. This is the first of the posts where the individual comes across as managing to be functional and well-adjusted after they left Orthodoxy.

The Hedyot said...

> This is the first of the posts where the individual comes across as managing to be functional and well-adjusted after they left Orthodoxy.

This is such an absurd point I have to take issue with it. I understand that people find it problematic that Sarah converted to Catholicism, but how is her life now not well-adjusted? She has a stable marriage, good job, part of a community, raising a family, etc.

Same with Gaius. You can take issue with his basis for leaving, but there is no basis to say that he is not well-adjusted and living a healthy, productive life.

Joshua said...

My wording probably wasn't the best. Let me try to state things differently in a way that would possibly come across better: To someone who is frum Natalie is likely the first person who seems to have both left for arguably sensible reasons and who has a functional, well-adjusted life now.

In the case of Sarah, many Orthodox Jews are going to see someone converting to Christianity as weird (especially Catholicism given the history of Catholic interaction with Jews in the middle ages) and not functional. Moreover, Sarah's history of mental illness doesn't make her come across as a stable individual. I myself have a history of mental illness so I sympathize with her in that regard, but I don't think I'd be a great poster child for being well-adjusted. While I see her talking about her history of mental illness as both courageous and honest, many frum readers are likely to simply read it as defensiveness about the real reasons she left.

Gaius came across mainly as someone who simply hadn't thought things through very much about why he left. His attitude about evolution is particularly revealing. He became an atheist because he thought that it was implied by atheism but he became convinced that evolution was true because it was believed by a Catholic priest? Furthermore, from a frum perspective he isn't doing well; he can't get a date, he can't get married. Especially to charedim he's one of the first things possible: an older unmarried individual.

I also get the impression that Natalie is a better writer than the other two but that's a separate issue.

The Hedyot said...

> he can't get a date, he can't get married.

You obviously didn't read his post carefully. He never said that.

Joshua said...

It is a stronger description than what he said but it is more or less what frumies reading this are going to take away from it.

The Hedyot said...

Let the frummies think what they want. Even if god himself told them they were making a mistake, they wouldn't care.

The Hedyot said...

And it isn't 'a stronger description' of what he said. It is factually incorrect.

Joshua said...

Possibly true, but then what is the point of doing these posts? If the point is to make it clear to frumies that people can become full out kofers and still be nice, normal people then we should care about how they will react. In that regard, it seems clear that Natalie does the best job of the three in showing a sane, well-functioning kofer that can't be easily dismissed or mocked.

It may be that I'm phrasing things in too negative a fashion. It isn't that there's something wrong with the other two but that Natalie as described comes across as closer to an ideal representative.

The Hedyot said...

> Possibly true, but then what is the point of doing these posts?There are plenty of people who are appreciating these posts that are not frummies.

Joshua said...

Well, yes (I for example am appreciating them) but from your initial introduction to this series you did say "...a typical chareidi person really has no basis on which to question the commonly accepted claims he hears all around him...For this very reason, because chareidi people currently have no way of overcoming the stereotypes to which they are subjected, I’ve decided to launch a new initiative. I’m excited to announce the start of a new series on this blog, called, “Better Know a Kofer”*."

It seemed to me like part of the point was to break down charedi stereotypes about people go OTD.

alex said...

Hedyot, you wrote (and Natalie concurred): "Right. Because any time an ex-frum person appreciates something benficial in their life, it must be that that's the reason why they left. To gain that benefit!"

If you had read my two posts more carefully, you would've seen that I anticipated your response.

The Hedyot said...

> It seemed to me like part of the point was to break down charedi stereotypes about people go OTD.

You're right. That is one of the goals (but not the main one). But the person who I am aiming these things for is not the narrow minded idiot that's only going to see his own preconceptions reinforced. I'm not looking to change anyone's mind who staunchly believes what he does. It's intended more for the people who are simply unaware and misinformed about how things really are for people who leave.

The people who firmly believe that there is nothing positive to say about this journey are not of any concern to me. They will always seek to delegitimize anything an OTD person has to say, regardless of how articulate or convincing it is.

Natalie said...

Blueface, I am genuinely curious about your comment. Can you expand on why you think we would be better off cutting some corners here and there and faking it? Why would someone want to "fake it" through their life if they are not forced to? Isn't there value in living an authentic life even if it is not the one my parents chose for me?

alex said...

I think daashedyot had a great insight in an earlier post, titled "when to leave frumkeit." And I think it applies well to Natalie He wrote:

"irrespective of the possibly mistaken impression the person has, the fact remains that this is the reality to them! They may be wrong, but they think they're right, and since they believe that Judaism is falling short somehow, they have a right to act based on what they perceive to be true.)"

All I would do is add "... and yet, others have a right to try to convince this person that his or her impressions/perceptions are mistaken." Hopefully it's done with tact.

The Hedyot said...

> and yet, others have a right to try to convince this person that his or her impressions/perceptions are mistaken.

Really? Do you think that Christian Missionaries have a right to convince you of their position? Does the doctor who lives next door to you have a right to tell you what your treatment should be?

Where do you get the idea that others have a right to convince anyone else of anything?

Cady said...

I love Natalie's insight that loving all of God's creature doesn't extend to Crown Heights where "goyim" and "shvartzes" were very much looked down upon.

As a child of a jewish mother and a black father, I know enough to stay away from people who were raised that cloistered. They hate me for my skin color even as they tell me they love me for being a jew. The actions speak so much louder than the words and it betrays just how ignorant they are, in spite of all their innate intelligence.

Brrrrr..... fundamentalists are blind in every religion.

The Hedyot said...

OTD -
I'm sorry, but I'm not interested in having my comment threads clogged up with your angry rants. If you can't contribute to the discussion in a productive way, please refrain from commenting.
Thank you.

Off the Derech said...

Then I don't think I'm ever commenting again.

alex said...

"Where do you get the idea that others have a right to convince anyone else of anything?"

Haven't been blogging long, have you?

The Hedyot said...

LOL. Very true.

(Although I have been blogging for almost 5 years.)

alex said...

Thank you for taking that snarky response of mine so well. I was fearing the worst when I hastily hit the "Publish" button.

Baal Habos said...

Alex,
>>A. This may seem like something silly and small, but being able to go out for the day and not worry about food makes my life SO much simpler.

>Now, this is not /necessarily/ a contradiction, but if it were me giving these answers, I think I would want to honestly re-evaluate my motives.

Why, what makes her motives suspect? Must she remain Orthoprax to satisfy your suspicion of motive?

gillian said...

Off the Derech said...
Then I don't think I'm ever commenting again.

Hallelujah!

alex said...

To BaalHabos: Natalie wasn't asked, "what is a good thing about not being frum?" Rather she was asked, "what is the best thing about not being frum?"
Since her answer was about ease of living, I felt that that might've (just /might've/) been /a/ (did I ever say /the/?) motivating factor in her change (despite her seeming dismissal of this possibility). Your question about remaining orthoprax -- I'm not khapping.

Joshua said...

>But the person who I am aiming these things for is not the narrow minded idiot that's only going to see his own preconceptions reinforced. I'm not looking to change anyone's mind who staunchly believes what he does. It's intended more for the people who are simply unaware and misinformed about how things really are for people who leave.That makes a lot of sense. Consider my point more or less withdrawn in that regard.

>Where do you get the idea that others have a right to convince anyone else of anything?
Basic free speech right. I have a right to not listen or to walk away but everyone has a right to convince others. Moreover, we do better if people are trying to do so. Critical analysis, both external and internal is an excellent method of arriving closer to the truth. The chabadnik, the Christian missionary and the strident atheist have the same right to argue their positions.

Baal Habos said...

Alex,
>Since her answer was about ease of living,

What would you consider a more suitable response?

alex said...

Good question, but wrong dibbur hamaskil. You should've asked, using the correct dibbur hamaskil, "What would you consider a more suitable response than "One is that ex-frum people have left because they are too lazy to live a religious lifestyle, or just want an "easier" life."

First, I'd remove the words "too lazy." That just charicaturizes her challengers. Also, I'd add the word "often" before the word "left." That makes the challenge more fair.

Natalie said...

Alex, perhaps I should have asked you to write my answers for me so that they were more "fair" ;)

Elisha said...

If you like Apikorsut and bucking the authorarian religious power establishment, check out the new "I Hate Rav Bina" Blog at http://ihateravbina.blogspot.com. He is the Rosh Yeshiva at a yeshiva in Old City of Jerusalem where I studied, and I could not have had a worse educational/spiritual experience largely due to him and his influence. I've got plenty of material, so check the blog regularly.

The purpose of the blog is 1) to act as a forum for people who had terrible religious experiences in the year in Israel between high school and college; and 2) to caution kids going to Israel about the dangers of oversubscribing to religious authority.

If you went to Hakotel/Netiv Aryeh and you have similar feelings, feel free to email me at elisha.moshe@gmail.com and I'd be happy to consider adding you as a co-blogger/guest blogger.

alex said...

I've had some teachers I really didn't like, but I never created a "IHateThisParticularTeacher" blog because of it.

Elisha said...

Alex: he is truly one of a kind. This is also the first time I've ever done anything like this. Hopefully, I'll have time to post fuller details later on the blog. I actually went to Yeshiva years ago and mulled over doing something like this for a long time, and after considerable thought I came to the conclusion that it was worth writing about. He's a true horror. Teachers normally control a minuscule amount of your life: one course, maybe a few courses, maybe a doctoral dissertation max. But even the more involved ones don't breach the boundary between your life as their student and the rest of your life. Bina does exactly this. It's a given at his yeshiva that he is watching everything every student does-- and judging them for it. Normal teachers recognize that there is your life inside the classroom, which they oversee, and life outside the classroom, which is totally beyond their control. There is no life outside the classroom in his Yeshiva, because your teacher thinks that he is God. And God/Rav Bina is omniscient/omnipotent/lo yanum v'lo yishan=doesn't take any breaks. Most of my interactions with him, and this is not atypical, would consist of him criticizing me for x or y. Other teachers I have had have used their time with their students to teach them; he uses his time to convince his students that he watches their every move and that they are sinners. It was not only a humiliating and degrading experience; it was also a total waste of an educational experience. When I think back to what I learned that year, I realize that it was not only vapid, but it destroyed the complex/interesting foundation of things that I'd learned in high school and crippled me for a while in college. It was basic disrespect for anything outside the four walls of the yeshiva, and Rav Bina's haughty self-superiority about it, that leaves those who actually listen to what he's saying epistemologically confused when they reach the outside world. More on all this later.

alex said...

"More on all this later."
I suggest you reconsider your willingness to broadcast your feelings about this man.
A simple, "I had some bad experiences at that yeshiva" would be so much better, and offer people to write you. And if anyone asks, THEN tell the guy. That way, you can minimize the gossip.

Brought to you by a caring fellow who admires the Chafetz Chaim.