Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Better Know A Kofer - Adrienne

I'm pleased to now present another Kofer interview, for your reading enjoyment. Today's participant goes by the name Adrienne, and for those of you who complained that my prior posts were too long, you'll be happy to know that Adrienne is a master of succinctness. Let's dive right in.

Adrienne, can you start off by telling us about the religious environment that you came from?

My community was modern orthodox-Sephardi. You don't see many Sephard kids going of the derech, because the majority of us are really, really modern. I think OTD is a mainly Ashkenaz phenomenon.

Whats was something you encountered growing up that made you question your upbringing?

My mom got very sick, she has multiple illnesses, despite all this, she became more religious, she got more friends who were absurdly religious. I lost faith, thinking why should I worship one who keeps such bad stuff happening? Also, I was never accepted to a yeshiva high school due to my ADHD and mental illness. What the hell ever happened to us helping each other?

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

Definitely emotional. I was tired of having stuff shoved down my throat. I called this "Because I said so Judaism".

How old were you at this time?

When I was a kid, I did not know what OTD was, but some form always looked good to me. I would say 14.

If there was a period, or moment, for you, when it all suddenly fell apart, how did it feel when you realized that it all wasn't true?

It did not exactly fall apart, it just gradually happened. I felt like I had been lied to, and the community togetherness was false. I found that if your family did not have the right last name or a ton of cash, you were nothing. This is especially true in the Sephardic community - The Peoples Republic of Midwood.

Can you highlight one of the very first ways you crossed the halachic line and how you felt about it?

I started sneaking around as a 9th grader, I would go for non kosher food in far, far away neighborhoods. At first I felt like I was weak, but I stopped caring.

Did you ever admit this to anyone? How long was it that you lived this double life?

No I didn't. For a long time, I did not tell my family but I finally came out to my family about being Reform 3 weeks ago. My mom took it well, but she says she can't accept it, but she loves me anyway.

Do you currently have any connection to Jewish identity, religion, or culture?

I chose to go Reform. Ever notice that the Frum community claims Reform folks are not even Jewish? I met people who are far less hypocritical here. I would say I am more spiritual now that I left. It feels good. I, being bisexual, my husband and I joined the gay synagogue...what an open, warm service.

Is there anything from your religious past that you miss in your life now?

Being open with my family.

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

Loyalty and charity. I truly give, and not to crazy people who bug you at your door. We don't have those here. I give a few dollars to worthy causes, I volunteer when I do not have the cash. Not to see my name in lights, like so many people in the old community did.

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

With both fondness and hostility. There were many good parts on the surface, but way too much ugly underneath.

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

Yes, I like to think there is someone. God, Allah, goddess, whatever you call them, there may be several "someones". I don't know. As I said, I am Reform, but I like to throw in some Wicca and some Buddhism and see what sticks. Perhaps I am "universally religious".

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

Not being closer to my family; having to lie. But I don't regret it. Who regrets freedom?

Are there any particular struggles or challenges that you find especially difficult in the transition?

I still feel a little evil when I "break" a law.

What are some things that helped you get through those difficult times?

My husband. I love him so much. I did marry him early on to get away from them though. My mom had us under her thumb. My older siblings still live there in some odd limbo.

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

I could never have been a frum Drag King.

You're a Drag King now? Can you tell me a little bit about what that's like? How did you get into that?

Yes I am. It is fun to be someone else for a while, so much fun to be onstage. I have a ton of LGBTQ friends, I saw one show and I was hooked.

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

That they were not a bunch of anti-Semites or sex-possessed heathens.

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

Trust me, we are not all about the sex/drugs/rock n roll/cheeseburgers, even though those sure are tasty. We are not addicts, we are not weak.

How does your life now compare to when you were frum?

When I was frum, everything that looked like fun was "Not For Us". Now I do all sorts of "Not For Us" things - march in the Pride parade, see burlesque, roller derby, enjoy as many holidays as possible.

Can you give an example of something that has completely changed in your way of thinking since you left?

That it is not a sin or a sickness to live an alternate lifestyle.

What's the best thing about not being frum?


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

Hypocrisy. We only do good if it makes us look good.

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

I seriously do not know. Maybe there needs to be some sort of Rumspringa like the Amish have. The vast majority of Amish who do that tend to return. Taste the freedom, but know you can return.

Thank you very much Adrienne.

Photo credit: flickr user Emuishere Peliculas

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JewishRebel said...

Thanks DH! Keep them coming, it is a very inspiring series.

stewie griffin said...

Oh yeah. A drag king. Totally inspiring.

Holy Hyrax said...

>Trust me, we are not all about the sex/drugs/rock n roll/cheeseburgers, even though those sure are tasty. We are not addicts, we are not weak.

And if it was? So what? Wasn't the whole point of the post: Freedom and doing what you want to do? Burlesque? Drag Kings? Gay Pride Parades? The irongy being you are doing exactly what you frum people say you would and it sounds like you are being apologetic about it.

Also, I am curious as to the hypocrisy you mentioned?

Shpitz said...

After XGH had a day with this series, I was wondering how you're going to manage to portray a more favorable view of OTDs without sticking to the 'Torah True version of the successful OTD', namely a standard like the frum "Normal" of traditional family, education and religion (albeit with an allowance of hostility to orthodoxy). For many of us, even open minded or skeptic, anyone OTD that doesn't replicate frum values in a less dogmatic form garners a knee-jerk repulsion. Kudos to you for defying these standards and putting self expression and freedom as the OTD nachas criteria.

The Hedyot said...

>Burlesque? Drag Kings? Gay Pride Parades? The irony being you are doing exactly what you frum people say you would...

HH -

While it's true that all those things are associated with sexuality, they don't imply one bit about anyone being a sexual degenerate, depraved or promiscuous.

Holy Hyrax said...

I didn't make that insinuation speaking about Adrienne—even though many of those activities have a lot of promiscuity in it(and 'depraved' is ultimatly subjective)— but that the frum view is about toevot. It doesn't have to be perverted to be a toevah. Sounds like from the post that she got sick of others telling her what to do and what is right or wrong. I guess my question is more philisophically: What IS wrong with goign after those things if one values freedom?

M said...

We do have a sort of Rumspringa -- the beauty of Judaism is that there ARE many ways to be Jewish (reform, reconstructionist, in no way affiliated). Too bad the orthodox Jewish community doesn't show those options as credible and non heretical ways of life. Good for you for moving on and discovering them on your own. And I think it's lovely that you found a synagogue you feel comfortable in (now if only I could find that...!)

Holy Hyrax said...

>We do have a sort of Rumspringa -- the beauty of Judaism is that there ARE many ways to be Jewish (reform, reconstructionist, in no way affiliated). Too bad the orthodox Jewish community doesn't show those options as credible and non heretical ways of life.

Well that would not make much sense would it? Should people that promote the values of the Dec. of Independence and Constitution find the values of communism credible? The values/beliefs one wishes to promote become credit-less if you think those that are antithetical to what you hold, are acceptable.

The Hedyot said...

> What IS wrong with goign after those things if one values freedom?

Valuing freedom doesn't mean that all other values disappear. Just because someone values freedom doesn't mean they don't value family, commitment, morality, and a healthy lifestyle.

The frum world's stereotyping is always that if someone leaves frumkeit then they become indiscriminately immoral. I suppose if you think that being gay or having premarital sex or being a drag king is immoral then yes, people that pursue that have proven the frum stereotype right.

Holy Hyrax said...

Well Hedyot, obviously, you are right. Certainly going OTD does not mean you become immoral. It's just intersting to read a story that oddly sounds a bit stereotypical. Of course, people leave Judaism for any number of reasons.

Shpitz said...

What IS wrong with going after those things if one values freedom?

To answer your philosophical question from a pragmatic perspective: Well, what is wrong with instant gratification and unrestrained indulgences? Do you really need a divine prohibition in order to see what is wrong? Do you need an ancient guide to judge for you quality of pleasure from quantity of pleasure? Being all about sex and cheesbergers is, quite simply Hyrax, not good. Really no fun. If say, you eat cheeseburgers day and night, it will make you very sick. You'll know what's wrong. (And God will have spoken through punishment, of course, if you prefer divine interpretation ;)

Hyrax, freedom is the right to make choices, including the right to practice restraint. It does not mean lawlessness. Think of freedom as bechirah.

What this series is demonstrating is that not everyone off the derech is self destructive or tumbling through life on impulses.

The Hedyot said...

> Certainly going OTD does not mean you become immoral. It's just intersting to read a story that oddly sounds a bit stereotypical.

How is it stereotypical? Here are some of the stereotypes that the frum world spouts about those of us who leave:

* We are deeply unhappy and unfulfilled.
* We have no morals.
* All we do with our lives is eat cheeseburgers, have sex, and do drugs.
* The main reason we left is because we wanted to have sex.
* We intensely despise religious Jews and Judaism.
* The whole purpose of our lives is just to make money.

None of those seem to apply to Adrienne. What stereotypes do you think apply?

Freethinking Upstart said...

Juicy one!

Tell us more about your sexual freedom. I know it's a personal subject, but I think this is something that many people that choose to leave OJ have difficulties with.

Someone that is so non-traditional in their sexuality could help to broaden horizons, though not without some fuss, to be sure. But I'd LOVE to hear more nonetheless, if you're up for the challenge that is ;)

Holy Hyrax said...


I thought I answered you earlier. The concept is going after what Judaism considers toevah. Thats it. You don't have to be miserable and a crack addict to go after your toevot. From my experience, your examples are a bit extreme. Do you really believe some UOJ thinks ALL you do is have sex, drugs 24/7??


Of course I agree with you (at least, most of what you wrote) :)

rumwhat? said...

I think the amish rumspringa is largely overrated...

In the past, the Amish had to do civil service in hospitals away from their community. BAck then, many of them left for good.

Now, they are kept in their confined surroundings, with special schools, which makes leaving much more difficult, and they stay...

The Hedyot said...

> You don't have to be miserable and a crack addict to go after your toevot.

HH, I can't figure out what you're talking about here. Do you mean ta'avot (desires), or toevah (abomination)?

I've never heard about people "going after their toevot", but I have heard about them going after ta'avot.

Yellow 6 said...

Hi all,
Adrianne's husband here. HH, something I'd like to get off my chest. My wife is her own person, but what she does, she's always done with an understanding of the fact she is married. For the record? I am a Reform Jew who served in the US Army. I have a low tolerance for BS and I tend to be very forward. So, I am going to say it: I saw the two-faced stuff in spades..such as the "vocal and sometimes physical objection" to my marrying my wife. When we were told we couldn't have children due to a variety of factors, and told Adrianne's mother, she had to "consult her rabbi" on whether or not she could accept it as her grandchild. Sorry, but I had to call and have it out with her.

As for finding values antithetical or not....I'm sorry, this is the way WE live our lives together as man and wife..HH, like it or lump it.

laura said...

Interesting variety of interviewees, Hedyot. Very refreshing.

Yellow 6 said...

Slight correction to the above post..we're in the early stages of adoption proceedings.

Holy Hyrax said...

Sorry Hedyot

I meant ta'avot


I am assuming your BS comment was responding to my question of what hypocrisy she saw?

>As for finding values antithetical or not....I'm sorry, this is the way WE live our lives together as man and wife..HH, like it or lump it.

Go back and re-read my comment. It had nothing to do with you or your wife. It would be akin to me asking Recon. Judaism to accept a mehitza and them finding THAT credible.

Holy Hyrax said...


Out of curiousity, do you mind sharing what you told her?

Vashty said...

Thank you, Da'as Hedyot and Adrienne, for the interview.

As for long or short, I enjoy both, but I would prefer that the long interviews be published at once (rather than in two parts).

There are few things in this world as sexy as drag kings. I say this as a person who rarely uses the word "sexy," and who has no good reason for commenting on this portion of the interview... Except to suggest that the freedom which comes with Adrienne's OTDness allows for a kind of creative expression that most people would not think to do. In other words, the act of rethinking which accompanies the departure from Orthodoxy often results in unconventional (and, in this case sexy) outcomes. These outcomes tend to have been well-thought-out and not at all impulsive.

The Hedyot said...

Hyrax, just because people pursue their desires when they leave doesn't mean that it was the basis for their leaving in the first place. The frum stereotype in this regard is that people leave simply because they are weak and self-indulgent, and just want a chance to pursue their desires.

As I heard it, Adrienne's story reveals much more than someone who left merely because of a petulant desire to have some fun.

Holy Hyrax said...

Right. And from what I am getting from the post she left for reasons that she was simple sick of others telling her what to do. I said this much earlier on. Her desire for freedom was first. That ultimately got her where she is now. She did leave for her own desires. What ever those desires ultimately became, are secondary.

The Hedyot said...

> Her desire for freedom was first.

I don't know how you can be so sure as to what was first. She also talked about hypocrisy, a breakdown of faith, and being treated rather badly by the frum community. In any case, I don't consider wanting to be free from a repressive environment an example of being shallowly self-indulgent, which is how the "taiva" stereotype is spun.

The various stereotypes are always meant to paint a picture that will delegitimize the person's decision. To portray the choice as irrational, impulsive, selfish, immoral, and ultimately so detrimental to the person that they will eventually regret it.

If you can see how she is fulfilling that image, that's fine. I don't. Maybe we're both seeing what we want to see.

Holy Hyrax said...

I think we are seeing the same thing. No need to elaborate any further. I was just speculating on whether a taava is necassarily wrong if one values freedom. The answer would be, it depends how far you take it.

chaya said...

I'd really love to hear more about the drag king thing. What exactly does a drag king do? Is it for a performance or parties, or do you just feel like dressing up like a man around the house some days? What motivates someone to do that? (I'm asking in all curiosity, not to be judgmental, I honestly don't get why people would want to do that.)

Shpitz said...

Chaya, see this link:


If you read Emily Yoffe's Dear Prudence column in Slate and had read her curious experiment as a Drag King, it would probably be easier to read this post with an open mind. At least for me. I also tend to have a Stewie Griffin reaction to things I've only heard rumors about but never saw up close.

Adrienne said...

Great, Yellow...that thing about adoption will out me. But I still love you anyway. By the way being a King has a lot to do with performance, when we take to the stage we do skits or we lip synch to songs, and yeah I have gone to parties in drag.

Holy Hyrax, now that my dear has let the cat out of the bag, We pretty much told my mom that with all the meds I need to take to stay this stable, it is simply not smart for us to get pregnant. I broke it to my mom that since we are probably going through the state, it may be a child of another race. My father was immediately accepting, my mom had had a fit and said that she needs to ask her rabbi.

And also, I did not leave for just the freedom, though looking at my interview now, it looks that way. I never said i was eloquent. We will just agree to disagree.