The internet and the streets simply must open up the world to Charedim

Here is a fascinating story of the grandson of the Satmar Rebbe who joined the Israeli army. Yes, it’s true, that there is no family that is immune from a child taking a different direction. This is a fact of life.

I don’t like the word blame in the context. I prefer to think that the concept where ‘one size fits all’ and clueless teachers and/or parents cause much of this reality. חנוך על פי דרכו teach according to their acuities, is something harder to achieve in a “my way or the highway” approach.

You should read the article HERE [hat time CMW]

Another article, of interest, describes what appears to be a growing phenomenon is from the Huffington Post, and reproduced here [Hat tip Krakower]

I Escaped Hasidic Judaism and Went From Living on the Streets to Being a Hollywood Actor

In June 2008, exactly three years after I got married, I decided to get a divorce. I didn’t fall out of love with my wife. In fact, I never fell in love with her in the first place. I simply no longer wanted to have the life I had with her and everyone surrounding her.

My wife was a Hasidic Jew, and when I married her, so was I. But that was no longer the case. I was a 22-year-old man with a long beard and side curls (payes) and all the other markings of a Hasid, but I was an atheist. An atheist surrounded by Orthodox Hasidic Jews. Surrounded by their certainty, their food, their self-righteousness and their minivans.

I hated all of it, so I left and entered a world full of uncertainty and a broad spectrum of ideas about right and wrong.

I had no idea what I was going to do. I had no education beyond Jewish Talmudic studies. I had no friends outside of the Hasidic world beyond a few I met at Footsteps, an organization that supports Orthodox Jews attempting to escape. I had no marketable skill beyond being able to charm your pants off. I had never been on a date. I had never heard of The Beatles. And I thought, “May the Force be with you” meant “May God be with you.”

“For most of my life, I believed that all non-Jews hate us and want to kill us.”

After leaving the Hasidic world, I spent seven years in various stages of decay. I slept in a tent in Bushwick for several months, lived in a rented Volkswagen Jetta for as long as my credit card limit allowed and crashed with friends. I starved in the harsh street of New York City. When I used my last subway fare to make my way to my sister’s (one of eleven siblings) house for leftovers from Shabbat meals, she wouldn’t let me in the house because I was wearing jeans.

When I went on dates, I had nothing in common with the women. I knew nothing about their culture, and they knew nothing about mine. I thought all shiksas were prostitutes, and they thought all Hasidim were landlords and diamond dealers.

Let me answer some revealing questions about Hasidic Judaism. Does it withhold a broad education from their children in order to keep the children narrow-minded and uneducated? Yes. Does it vilify the outside world in order to keep its members from joining it? Definitely. Does it have a fear and/or doomsday element to it? Of course. Is there ex-communication for those who dare to leave? Oh yeah.

I still have not received anything past a 5th grade education. In fact, since I never attended a regular school, I don’t actually know what a 5th grade education is — I just picked a grade that seemed right. I don’t know what algebra is; I know I can Google it but I wasn’t made to care enough to do so.

“After leaving the Hasidic world, I spent seven years in various stages of decay.”

For most of my life, I believed that all non-Jews hate us and want to kill us. I believed that all goyim are murderers, rapists, degenerates and dirty second-class citizens. Of course, they/we aren’t but I was taught that in order to make the secular lifestyle less appealing. I was told horrible things would happen to me in this world and the “next world” if I leave. I was told I would end up a criminal or drug addict. Many members of my family refuse to speak to me to this day.

I have had to transition both out of Hasidism and transition into mainstream culture. I have had to find a replacement for the void left by the lack of community and warmth. I had to replace my family, my friends and my moral compass. It was hard leaving everything behind but it was even harder to find something to replace it all with.

Thankfully, as an actor, my professional community is very friendly and inclusive (albeit competitive). I’ve replaced my biological family with actors and Footsteps members. I have managed to date, to have my heart broken, to have broken some hearts and to grow because of all of it.

I get asked all the time: “Are you happy now?” The answer is an unequivocal, “Yes!” I have friends who love me for who I am, for who I was and for who I am trying to become.

“I had to replace my family, my friends and my moral compass.”

Career-wise, it seems I have sought the path of most resistance, deciding to work in a field full of multi-talented human specimens with high cheekbones and jaguar physiques. I’m five foot seven inches, unathletic and have a heavy Yiddish accent. And yet, I’ve been getting work. My latest film, “Felix and Meira,” just beat David Cronenberg at the Toronto International Film Festival for “Best Canadian Feature Film,” and I won “Best Actor” at the Torino Film Festival. Next, I will appear in a recurring role in the upcoming season of “Transparent” on Amazon Prime.

But those achievements pale in comparison to the responses I get from people within the Hasidic community who have snuck out to go see the film. They have been yearning to break away but have been told that if they do, they will end up in jail or in rehab, and they believed it. But now, they can counter that with success stories like mine and those of others like me.

The Hasidic community isn’t what it used to be even five years ago. With the Internet, every person has access to every flavor of every forbidden fruit his or her heart desires, including my story. It won’t be long before the Empire falls. It might not fall completely, but it certainly will be forced to adapt to the 21st century.

The Empire won’t go down easy. The Empire will strike back. For evidence, watch the comments section below.

Follow Luzer Twersky on Twitter:

In my opinion unless subtle changes are introduced into Charedi education this will become more prevalent. It is nigh on impossible to live in a Cocoon these days. I know of schools that redact every book with pen or gluing pages together. The effect is that the students are more certain to find the original text and be exposed. I’m not sure that approach works. Kids are far more connected than they ever were.

Indeed, there has been a new (undesirable) ban now on whatsapp [Hat tip BA]. I surmise this is because the kosher filters cannot filter such messages. whatsapp is wonderful, it keeps families closer and informed, especially when they are spread around the world. Anything can be used for bad or for good. That is the central tenet in my understanding.

The latest chumra for Shidduchim

[Hat tip to my ex-room mate at Kerem B’Yavneh]

There will be other developments, no doubt, which include an opaque perspex divider when these seats become part of the norm in parks and gardens. There will also be super bus terminals built around this design in certain neighbourhoods, where the Yetzer Hora is too powerful. I’d insert a smiley in this post, except that it might be misplaced.

The Shidduch Bench (c)

Mad Chumros for Purim

Saw this one over at Daas Torah. It’s not a Purim joke. Some crazies have suggested cleaning out ears before hearing the Megila so that you “catch every word”. Perhaps they will advertise cut-rate GPs or Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeons, who will syringe the embedded wax for those who are Machmir for the opinion of the Chazon Ish.

I'm afraid this is real
Technique approved by Badatz Shochtim

What’s next? The Hungarian decreeing that one should only listen to the Megilla this way, because חדש אסור מן התורה and מנהג אבותינו בידינו?

and our conservative types suggesting that it can be done remotely via a live podcast

But wait, there is more. I’m going to suggest to these wise litvaks (is that an oxymoron?) that immediately after the megilla they replenish their wax supply so that חס ושלום no distant לשון הרע find its way into the canals. The Poskim have ruled that the following product may be used without a hechsher

Not Kosher Certified

For two reasons:

  1. It’s not ראוי לאכילת כלב
  2. It’s נותן טעם לפגם

However, if there is a חשש that the לשון הרע is fresh, and not בן יומו, it is best to be Machmir.

On Erev Pesach, one should be מבער the wax or sell it to a Ben Noach. Those who want to be מחמיר should either

  1. Use a dropper, and insert a רביעית of kerosine into the ear canal (be careful not to do this near a flame), or
  2. to be safe, insert (micro-organism free) boiling water, that is יד סולדת according to all opinions into the ear canal.

Some entrepreneurial Avreichim are working with the company to develop a Kitniyos free, Glatt (gelatine free) Vegan alternative with a Hechsher for Pesach from a number of reputable Authorities.

Anachnu Machmirim B’nei Machmirim?

In respect of the title: apologies to Mordechai Ben David and the Dairy Company.

The Rosh Yeshiva of my alma mater published a thoughtful piece on stringencies חומרות in this week’s Shabbat beShabbato from Machon Zomet

As Shabbat Approaches Unnecessary Stringencies

Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg, Rosh Yeshiva, Kerem B’Yavne

“To distinguish between the ritually impure and the pure” [Vayikra 11:47]. The Natziv writes, “Separating between the impure and the pure is a positive mitzva. Thus, if there are any doubts that can be analyzed in order to decide whether to permit something or prohibit it, the Beit Din is obligated by a positive mitzva to clarify the matter. Just as it is wrong to be lenient in a case where it is proper to be stringent… so it is forbidden to be stringent in a case where it is possible to be lenient.” [Haamek Davar].

Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, the sage of moral teaching in our generation, wrote an entire chapter about this subject in his book “Alei Shur.” He writes that “frumkeit” (exaggerated stringency) is an egotistical urge which is not related at all to surrender to a higher power and that it does not lead to a closer approach to the Holy One, Blessed be He. This is because it is clear that the holy Shechina will not be revealed through selfishness, and anybody who bases his or her service of G-d on “frumkeit” is acting selfish. And even if he piles on himself many stringent actions — he will not become a pious person, and he will never reach a level of doing things for the sake of heaven.

The subject of stringency appears in the Talmud. For example, “Mar Ukva said: With respect to the following matter I can be compared to vinegar that was made from wine. When my father ate cheese he would not eat meat for the next twenty-four hours, while I do not eat meat during the same meal but I will eat it in the next meal.” [Chulin 105a]. The conclusion is that a person who is not at as high a level as his father was should not be as stringent as his father was.

This issue is discussed in “Pitchei Teshuva” where the author quotes from a book named “Solet LeMincha,” that one who wants to be stringent and take on a prohibition that was not accepted by the Amora’im, the rabbis of the Talmud, such as ignoring something prohibited if it is less than one-sixtieth of the total amount of food, is “like an apostate, and his loss outweighs any possible reward for this action” [Yoreh Dei’ah 116:10].

In “Chiku Mamtakim,” a book published in memory of Rabbi S.Z. Auerbach, a story is told of a student who asked if he was allowed to use a material for a succah that was permitted by the rabbis of Jerusalem but which was not approved by the Chazon Ish. Rabbi Auerbach replied that it is permitted, and he added: How can you be stringent? You are only a young student, you are not allowed to be stringent using your parents’ money, and you should also not cause extra expenses for your wife by being especially stringent. Rabbi Auerbach taught his students that if they wanted to be stringent they must first study the matter in depth. And they should be stringent only if they reached a conclusion that it was a halachic necessity, but they should never simply imitate somebody else. He said that the GRA was surprised to be considered to be pious. It is true that a pious man burns his fingernails after they are cut (Nidda 17a), but not everybody who burns his fingernails (as the GRA did) is necessarily pious.

Rabbi Amital said that a student once asked him why he was not stringent in a certain matter about which the Mishna Berura writes that a G-d-fearing person should be careful. Rabbi Amital replied that it is indeed written that a G-d-fearing man should be stringent in this matter, but that it is not written that stringency will lead to a greater fear of G-d.

In a letter to the ultra-religious Badatz organization in Jerusalem, Rabbi A.Y. Kook wrote, “It is important to note how careful we must be when we try to be stringent in matters for which we can be lenient according to the law, so that we will not incur a greater loss than what we gain.”

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