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!
People's religious convictions are unexplainable. A few years after my brother died I asked my Mother if she felt bad about the years she lost being estranged from my brother. She said no.
What always surprises people is my utter inability to condemn my parents for doing what they did. If you grow up in a home where principles and convictions are strong, it's not surprising...and it's even admirable.
And since we were brought up in a home where convictions were strong, it was understandable that my brother did what he did as well. You make your choices...ahd then you live with the consequences.
Ironically, my other brother and I married out of the religion years later and it just didn't matter anymore to my parents. I'm not quite sure what it all meant, but there were no villians...
"Is the army really the place for a Yeshiva boy? My son himself investigated the various options available in the army and decided to join Nahal Haredi. Here, he felt he could remain in a religious environment and still be a combat soldier. Our son is a sniper in his unit and that certainly gives rise to concern, but we are now totally at ease when it comes to the spiritual aspects of his life."
- Mr. Fuchs
"I see the Nahal Haredi soldiers as first class in the Israeli army... They contribute a lot to the Israeli army, to the security of the army, to the Haredi community, and to themselves by serving in the army and feeling like part of the Israeli society."
- Colonel Hilik Sofer, Former Jordan Valley Brigade Commander
"The soldiers of Netzach Yehuda are quality. They are excellent fighters."
- Brigadier General, Udi Shani Former Division Commander
Interesting how their moral and religious ideals, worth abandoning their son for, were fleeting. They squandered years of a loving relationship with their own flesh and blood for a belief system that was drilled into them by zealots, only apparently to realize late that the beliefs were not in fact as obligatory as the Talmud/rabbis preached. Kinda makes one wonder about the wisdom and truth of their beliefs in the first place wouldn't you say?.
Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction. - Blaise Pascal
At least two-thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity: idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religous or political ideas. - Aldous Huxley
Some good quotes.
I respected my parents stand as I respected my brothers stand. They both went where their beliefs took them.
"Notice how these loving religious people treated their son..."
Boo Hoo. He made his choice and I doubt he was surprised by the consequences. Why are you? Owning our tough choices is not about casting blame, and is seldom rewarded with only good things.
I'm in Tucson. Man, is Bullhead ever hot. We were driving through there one August and the pavement gave me a hot foot through the bottom of my car.
Like others on this thread, I think you've got the wrong read or at least fail to take into account the competing religious convictions and their sources in Jewish law and tradition.
I can also tell you, as an Orthodox Jew (black hat, etc.), that the case of David in the story is no longer typical. Because the Orthodox world has been confronted with the difficulties of raising children in an increasingly tempting and corrosive culture, there has been a sharp rise in young people "going off the path". Orthodox communities and organizations around the world have been organizing more effectively in the last 10 to 15 years and teaching parents to deal more lovingly with kids who go down this road, accepting them as they are, and always keeping the door open to return when the time is right. The message is clear that the child knows that the parents and teachers can't accept the behavior, but they should never give up on the person.
I have seen this approach in action and its amazing. A lot of kids come back within a short time. Some may adopt some changes in their lifestyle, but they hold on to the core religious practices and values. Some take a long time, but also don't become nearly as hostile to their given tradition because of the sense of acceptance.
Now the family in the story is atypical by today's standards. They are really reacting in an "old fashioned" way. The total rejection is for two reasons, IMHO. One, they are afraid that the heretical behavior of David will affect his siblings. In large Orthodox families, which may be 10 or 12 or more kids, the idea is they have to practice this tough love in the hopes that they will shield the other kids from a similar fate. This is a very real problem, especially if it is a much admired older sibling. Two, they hope that their ostracism will literally "shock" David back to the fold. In the old days, this might have worked, because David would literally have no where else to go. But in the Modern world, he can simply assimilate into the secular culture.
In sum, I think its unfair to criticize them as "unloving religious people". Rather, they are religious people who love all their children and believe that keeping them religious is the greatest act of love. Perhaps there are some things they could or should do to at least keep the door open to David, because it seems that the total rejection has driven him away even more.
It's beyond hot...it's opressive. It's nice for eight months, but that other four months...man. The problem is my husband loves it here. We're on the Colorado River, so there are only two options in the summer....air conditioning and the river. Can't even go in the swimming pool because it's too hot!
"A friend of mine from the early 70s, an Irish Catholic guy, married a Jewish woman from the Midwest and they had three children (baptized Catholics) and 30 + years together."
Given what Roman Catholics have done to the Jewish people, you are really surprised by this? Had I been that woman's father, I would have thought of her as if she had never existed.
So you blame every Catholic for anything that any Catholic has ever done to any Jew?
there are Haredi units already within the IDF..
Ultraorthodox brigades have recently been created and have begun to see service. Quite successfully.
Definitely worth a look-see, if it's a subject that interests you.
Whoah, whoah, whoah.
Now there has certainly been historical bad blood between Jews and Catholics. But, the Catholic Church has done a lot of good for the Jewish people, as well.
Look at who sheltered a lot of Jews during the Holocaust. Look at what the last two popes have done and said. And there are many more example.
As a Jew, I look upon committed Catholics as brothers and sisters in the faith. Maybe their faith is somewhat different than mine, but we hold many (most even?) of the same values, and worship the same G-d.
All "US admirer" does is post anti-haredi/orthodox posts.
He or she is just a basic anti-semite, soft-sell version.
I have ceased communicating with him or responding to his posts or threads.
(And I say this as a person who left an Orthodox community.)
"Ultraorthodox brigades have recently been created and have begun to see service. Quite successfully."
Includig one my nephew is in --- dentist's son from Athens, Texas.
Tells me shooting terrorsits is a lot easier than shooting white tail deer; they're slower and not nearly as smart.
(He's mobile artillery, really. But he does range in on them. Really cool picture of him in his "tank" (really not a tank, but for our purposes it is), helmet off, gun in mid-fire flasgh, facing Lebanon, "Texas AT&M" stiched on his kippa. I couldn't have been prouder.)
There is a difference between respect for others right to have a position you cannot reconcile YOURSELF to and total ostracism of your own family members because of those differences.
There is no indication from the story that "David" sought to change the views of his parents or preach to them to come to his view. He seems to have respected their right to continue the orthodox view he left. They should have done the same for him. Nothing was advanced or changed by that ostracism, other than many years of hurt feelings.
I have a Jehovah's Witness sister. She could not be further from everyone else in the family on religious matters. We (all her seven siblings and our families) continue to have good relations with her. I am glad we do.
Congratulations. That's great news.
One of my goals for this summer is to learn how to hunt.
If truly new to the hunt, I would start off as a bird hunter --- quail or dove because:
1. Easy to clean (deer are awful, and, if observant Jew, you pretty much have to go do it yourself to get it butchered correctly);
2. Don't have to get up too early or get wet like you do with ducks; and
3. You use a shotgun with light load & pellets, so if you make a mistake, it's generally not fatal.
4. it's social/team hunting, so someone can talk you through it.
Good advice. I think I'll take it.
It surely was painful to all involved.
What you've written is wisdom for all parents, of all convictions and beliefs.
"What you've written is wisdom for all parents, of all convictions and beliefs."
"What you've written is wisdom for all parents, of all convictions and beliefs."
Thank you so much for your kind words.
I cannot take credit. What I wrote is not my own wisdom, but wisdom of others or lessons gained through hard experience. To some extent, it is my own story, too. I went away from my strong Jewish background when I was in my late teens for about 10 years, during which time I jumped in to the secular "culture" with both feet. There was some pretty strong disapproval from some family members, but nothing like total rejection. More than anything, though, that brought me back was the unconditional love of one of my brothers. It is still amazing to me, that knowing full well that in his heart he could not possibly approve of what I was doing, he never showed it for a moment in all that time. To me, he is a great man, a hero and a most wonderful brother. And it is his wisdom that I speak of, not mine.
Hey, by the way, I just noticed. Happy 5th FReeper birthday.
I actually started lurking her during the 2000 Florida Election fiasco. The humor here at that time, both written and graphic, was absolutely the best. In those years, there were 80,000 hits a day to FR; I think it's dropped.
But it is a wonderful, mostly mature thinking and posting community.
I'm glad I joined up.