Why I went Off-the-Derech

by NS

My journey from an extremely religious ben Torah to an atheist was long and painful. Over a few years, I transformed from being someone who loved nothing more than connecting with the Torah to facing the realization that I had devoted my life to a lie.

My questions started innocently enough, subtle incoherencies in the Rambam and the Ramchal, but the deeper I dove looking for answers, the more questions seemed to surround me. Problems with Chazal, historical inconsistencies in Tanach, the impossibility of the Mabul, for two years I became cripplingly obsessed with trying to resolve the questions that haunted me.

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An Interview with Formerly Frum Izzy Posen

‘Why I had to leave my ultra-Orthodox life’

Izzy Posen describes what life is like inside one of the UK’s most secluded religious communities.

This is How Difficult Leaving is

Around 2000 Jewish ultraorthodox people live in Zurich. They have to obey many prohibitions and commandments. They marry early and are not allowed to watch TV or surf the Internet.

Rebecca Wyss, reporter SonntagsBlick
Published on: 01.04.2019, 10:00

Anyone who wants to leave the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Zurich has a difficult road ahead of them. A small group of formerly religious talk about their departure – and are now helping others.


Sam Friedman (36) was a prayer leader (chazan) in the ultraorthodox Jewish community in Zurich.

Sam Friedman, 36, has left the Jewish Orthodox community. He belongs to a small group of alumni who founded the platform to help others.

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Melissa’s Story

Melissa is 37 years old and lives in Ottawa, Ontario with two cats 🙂

Hi Melissa, thanks for agreeing to do an interview. What can you tell us about your religious background?

Melissa and her boyfriend

Hi, thanks for having me! I grew up as an evangelical Christian, and was with the Baptist Church from birth until I was about 18 or so. Around the time I moved out on my own for the first time I started to question what I was raised to believe, and realized that Christianity wasn’t for me. I did some reading and researching, and I remembered taking a religion course in high school that really interested me, specifically the unit we did on Judaism. I didn’t know at the time that my parents were on their own journey, and eventually the three of us ended up deciding to convert to Judaism together.

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Rachel’s Story

Rachel (pseudonym) is in her forties, and is an attorney-in-law. She lives on the east coast with her two sons.

Hi Rachel, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. Please tell us something about your family’s religious background and why you know Russian 🙂

We came here when I was relatively young from the former Soviet Union. My parents were not religious but they soon became enamored with the local Chabad, which tried to involve them in every way possible. Several years after we arrived, our home was kosher, and I was attending a Chabad elementary school, and lighting shabbos candles. After high school, I moved to Crown Heights for seminary and employment, as well as college. Although college was frowned upon, I received a bracha from the rebbe at the time to go to college, which allowed me to remain accepted – relatively- in the Chabad community while also enhancing my secular education. Looking back now I see how these unique circumstances shaped my life and freedoms.

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Letter to Our Family and Friends

by Philo and Judy Judaeus

letter-to-our-family-and-friends

How Miriam Fled the Sect

Victim born into ultra-orthodox Jewish community tells how she fled

Miriam Kliers, 46, was effectively brainwashed by ultra-orthodox Hasidic rabbis She was forced to run away from her husband, Shlomo, after he refused divorce Miriam had an arranged marriage with the unemployed student from Israel She was the chief bread-winner but when she ran away she lost everything From the outside at least, it’s an ordinary Victorian family home, part of an unassuming network of residential streets in a North London suburb.

Miriam’s Story and Fraud in the Stamford Hill Community

BBC Radio 4 – File on 4, The Unorthodox Life of Miriam

The shocking story of one woman’s attempt to escape an Orthodox Jewish community.

How Rabbi Tauber Betrayed My Trust

By the time I was ten years old I knew this life wasn’t for me. No, I was not molested. I was not beaten or abused in any way. I was the middle child in a large Orthodox family and I always felt loved and cared for. My parents are honest and kind, good people.

But there was something in this life filled with rules and limits that I couldn’t understand, something that tugged at my heart and told me that my path would be different. And all this before any Jew would disappoint and disgust me and lead my intellectual self running toward the place my heart had been taking me to.

I was fourteen at the time. I was hanging out with whomever I wanted. I was eating whatever I wanted. But I was in an Orthodox school and environment and my friends were, as well. I wasn’t doing drugs. I wasn’t staying out late with a bad crowd and partying. I was living the life I knew was right for me. Read more

Akiva’s Story

Akiva Weingarten was born in New York in 1984, the oldest of a family of 11 children. At 18, he moved to Israel where he lived for 10 years. Akiva got his first Smicha (rabbinical ordination) from a Chassidish Yeshiva in Monsey, NY at the age of 17 and was ordained again 8 years later by a Litvish Bet Din in Bnei Brak, Israel. At the age of 26, he received his third ordination from Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, founder of the Jewish Renewal movement. Today, Akiva is a rabbinical student at the Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam, Germany and studying to be ordained as a Reform Rabbi.

Hi Akiva! How would you describe your family background from a religious point of view?

I would say that my family is the most typical Chassidishe family, no BT background, 100% Ashkenazi. I learned in Satmar, my father and grandfather are both Dayanim (religious judges), my mother is a teacher and speaker, all my brother-in-laws went or still go to Kollel, as does my wider family. Read more