Skip to comments.Young Jews walk out on religious life
Posted on 03/04/2007 8:59:00 AM PST by US admirer
As a member of the Jewish ultra-Orthodox community, David wore a long black coat and a black hat covering his Jewish skullcap.
He spent 10 hours a day studying the Torah, the Jewish holy book, and the Talmud, rabbinical discussions on Jewish law, ethics and customs.
David says that he used to want to be a rabbi - but that was then.
Now, David, 24, wears blue jeans and loose-fitting T-shirts. He no longer believes in religion, saying that he is completely secular.
He is currently at university and hopes to become an engineer.
David - who does not want use his full name - is one of hundreds of young Israelis who leave their ultra-orthodox communities to join the secular world, according to Daat Emet, an organisation that works on the issue.
People who leave the ultra-orthodox community are considered unbelievers who have lost their way in life. The community is very closed and senior religious officials rarely comment on this phenomenon.
For many who do choose to leave, the journey is one mired with difficulties and full of pain.
I see the ultra-orthodox as fundamentalists... and now I'm leading an enlightened life David
But it also symbolises the division between Israel's ultra-religious communities and its secular population.
The ultra-orthodox community represents about 8% of the population. Its members adhere to strict interpretation of Jewish law and are shut off from mainstream society.
David grew up as the second eldest in a family of eight in an ultra-Orthodox community located in Jerusalem.
His education was exclusively religious studies from the age of 13 onwards. He was bright, but had only a basic knowledge of maths and other subjects.
"It was like a wall blocking us from the rest of the world," he says.
But one evening he attended a lecture that questioned the beliefs of the ultra-Orthodox community.
"I wanted to prove that they were wrong," says David, explaining why he attended the lecture.
"I was angry that they would say such things. But I left that night thinking they might be right."
For the next four months, he wrestled with his beliefs - particularly with Talmudic law.
He asked his rabbis a series of questions about biology and the natural world but they went unanswered.
From this point on, his whole faith started quickly unravelling.
David then decided to perform Israeli military service. The ultra-Orthodox community are exempt from this service.
"It was a hard step," he says. "But I knew that I couldn't continue living in the community when I didn't believe in the religion. I would be cheating myself."
When David's mother saw a letter from the army she instantly knew that her son had lost his faith.
His family moved quickly to ostracise him.
"My mother told me that I had to leave the family because I would be a bad influence on my brothers and sisters," he says, recalling the incident five years ago.
His father has not spoken to him since that day. And David has only sporadic contact with his mother and his siblings.
He joined the army and served the obligatory three years.
But during leave, he had nowhere to go. An organisation which supports young people leaving religious communities provided David with a surrogate family.
It was difficult. "I left the community without any tools to start my new life," he says.
But David appears happy with his new life and says he has no regrets.
"I see the ultra-Orthodox as fundamentalists," he says. "And now I'm leading an enlightened life."
"His family moved quickly to ostracise him. 'My mother told me that I had to leave the family because I would be a bad influence on my brothers and sisters,' he says, recalling the incident five years ago. His father has not spoken to him since that day. And David has only sporadic contact with his mother and his siblings. "
How dare you judge the beliefs of religious people. I respect both parties. The Son, for living his path, and the parents for living theirs. Everyone makes choices.
This always happens.
These communities tend to recruit from secular Jews who feel spiritual longings. But there's no guarantee their children won't feel secular longings.
Change of few pieces and names in this story and it sounds like the Maya Keyes/Alan Keyes family!
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus
That's true. I've had an experience. A very painful one in my family. We're Jewish. As long as I can remember, my parents told us that if we marry out of the religion that's it. There was a time that it was drummed into our head that if you marry out of the religion, you're fulfilling Hitler's wish. I learned that at the age of 8 in Hebrew school. AND WE WEREN'T EVEN RELIGIOUS. My mother was brought up orthodox, my Dad was brought up nothing. But he had a very strong sense of Zionism, which came to him later on in life.
ANYWAY, my brother announced one day he was going to get married, and she wasn't Jewish. This was in like 1970. He was the oldest...my parents didn't got to the wedding and they didn't speak for years, My brother was the favorite child (and I have no problem saying that, because he was quite remarkable). It was devestating on the entire family. My other Brother and I were allowed to make our own choices and we went to the wedding and kept in touch with my Brother.
Years went by, but my parents finally did reconnect with my brother and his family. This was a good thing, because my beloved brother passed away from lung cancer at the age of 42.
Policies of absolute intollerance never come to any good.
There is a debate going on in Israel over "what to do" about the fact that ultraorthadox youths generally don't serve in the IDF. The ultraorthadox percentage of Israel's population is 8% and rising. Israeli Arabs participate in the IDF at a much lower rate than non-Arab Israelis, for obvious reasons. This leaves the IDF with something of a manpower crunch - it may eventually be wise for ultraorthadox leaders to revisit their stand on military service.
Personally I don't like ultra-orthodox anything.
IMO it's a mistake to force youth to dress in the orthodox getups of any religion.
The family needs to be free to react as their religious beliefs mandate. However, they would also do well to recognise that this is a common phenomenon. Young adults often go through a phase of rejecting the beliefs with which they've been raised. Your best hope is in trusting that, as they mature, they will eventually see the truths you taught them when they were younger, and will return to them of their own volition, making the faith of their fathers their own.
Yes, it is harsh, but it is how these people survive. If there were not these internal barriers, the whole culture would melt away in 2-3 generations. That is what is happening to Jews in America. What many bigots don't realize is that anti-semitism guarantees that Judiasm will get stronger--while lack of it weakens ties to ones religion.
Well it might also be beneficial if their schools taught academic subjects like math and physics and other sciences in addtion to the Talmud. A modern military needs people who have taken science courses.
Egads! What a story!
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