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Tales of an Ex-Hasidic Jew
First Things ^ | May 21, 2012 | Katherine Infantine

Posted on 05/21/2013 2:36:55 PM PDT by NYer

Footsteps is a Jewish organization that helps Hasidic Jews wishing to leave their ultra-orthodox community become integrated members of secular society and work through the profound difficulties of leaving behind their past and, in most cases, being disowned by their families.

PBS and A Journey Through NYC Religions report the varying responses of current members of the Hasidic community and individuals who have chosen a new way of life.

Sol Feuerwerker is glad he left.

I think that’s what surprises most people, you know, most outsiders, is that how can something this insular be happening right here in the middle of New York City. You know, as I’ve moved farther away from it, it kind of shocks me too actually.

There’s this whole, like belief or narrative in the community that if you, if you try to break away or change you will fail and you won’t be happy and you’ll just end up on drugs.

“Their structured lifestyle,” says Lucky Severson of Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, “seems to work for the majority. But, for some, the lack of choices is too rigid . . . Hasidic groups remain some of the most insular religious sects in the U.S.”

Of course, many outsiders view the Catholic and Protestant churches, and even not-so-orthodox religious communities as “insular.” Any group that asks certain loyalties of its members and sets itself apart from the rest of the world is in some way “insular.” By this definition every sovereign country is “insular.” And the idea that a member who leaves “will fail” and “won’t be happy” holds much truth. The kind of suffering caused by such a break is no small matter.

As Samuel Heilman, a Jewish scholar at Queens College, notes,

They have everything that makes up a culture: social norms, language, a career pattern in life. Even the ones who leave say that there are aspects of their lives that they left behind that they miss. To go to a Hasidic gathering and to sing the songs and to dance in the circle and to be enfolded into the community, and to hear your voice in a chorus of other voices. This is a tremendously exciting experience . . .

The organization was founded “not to proselytize but to provide counsel and support to those who want to explore life outside the confines of the world in which they were raised.” One need not think ill of hasidic Judaism to see the value of such a service for those who find it necessary to leave.

Footsteps says that it has assisted “over 700 altogether so far, a majority are young men.” Yet compare this trickle with a 60 percent increase in Hasidic membership overall in the U.S. and Canada and it begins to seem that the majority are quite content in their confines.



TOPICS: Catholic; Judaism; Mainline Protestant; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: hasidic

1 posted on 05/21/2013 2:36:55 PM PDT by NYer
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To: NYer

How about “Tales of an ex-Athiest”?


2 posted on 05/21/2013 2:44:05 PM PDT by Nachum (The Obama "List" at www.nachumlist.com)
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To: NYer

Interesting phenomena. Very insular communities such as the Hassidim and Amish do provide individuals with a sense of belonging, community and a very comfortable but extremely narrow niche. However the story of civilization and progress is also the story of detribalization. Individuals must detach themselves from the mundane regularity and comfort of the group and develop new ideas and things. Some do fail miserably and are lost. But those that succeed enhance us all.


3 posted on 05/21/2013 2:54:12 PM PDT by allendale
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To: allendale

“Individuals must detach themselves from the mundane regularity and comfort of the group and develop new ideas and things. “ I would only add that just because an idea is different or new does not make it correct. I think the problem with the insular community is that it has the potential to develop into a cult situation. If one is free to leave (without being ostracized and cut off) and choses to do so, then they should be wished well. I look at Islam and note that they kill those who leave. To declare someone a nonperson because they leave is cruel in the extreme.

God gave us brains for a reason.


4 posted on 05/21/2013 3:16:10 PM PDT by Nifster
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To: NYer

I visited a small Messianic Jewish temple. Many of the ethnically Jewish folks there still dress in the Hasidic manner, especially the women, who stay covered up, including their hair. They observe the holy days of both religions (Passover and Easter, etc), and read from the New Testament after passing the Torah around the congregation and reading from the Hebrew bible. The rabbi dresses traditionally and wears a yarmulke and sidecurls. They give thanks for their Messiah Jeshua (Jesus) having already come!


5 posted on 05/21/2013 3:36:54 PM PDT by Albion Wilde ("There can be no dialogue with the prince of this world." -- Francis)
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To: Nachum

Or how about “Tales of an Ex-Mohammedan”?


6 posted on 05/21/2013 4:41:55 PM PDT by Bigg Red (Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved! -Ps80)
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To: Albion Wilde

I attened a Messianic temple when I lived in Albuquerque. And I’m not even Jewish. I was welcomed as a “grafted branch”.


7 posted on 05/21/2013 4:45:03 PM PDT by Fred Hayek (The Democratic Party is now the operational arm of the CPUSA)
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To: Fred Hayek
I attened a Messianic temple when I lived in Albuquerque. And I’m not even Jewish. I was welcomed as a “grafted branch”.

Me either. It was a most warm experience, including the socializing and potluck lunch afterward. Liturgically, I liked the wholeness of the Bible start to finish. No disrespect, but it seemed more like what Jesus would have wanted than, say, a megachurch with a slick preacher in a sharkskin suit.

8 posted on 05/21/2013 7:42:20 PM PDT by Albion Wilde ("There can be no dialogue with the prince of this world." -- Francis)
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To: Albion Wilde

A lot, if not most of “Messianic Jews” are NOT Jews. They are gentiles. That is a cult designed to ensnare uneducated Jewish souls. They put enough Jewish-LIKE stuff in their “services” to fool the unschooled, but they basically make it up as they go along. It is a complete travesty that these charlatans even touch a sefer Torah or utter any Jewish prayers. Their prayerbook is called by the Jewish designation, a siddur, but the resemblance to authenticity ends there. There are numerous references to JC in it and to the New Testament, both of which are completely not a part of authentic Judaism. The “rabbi” to which you refer is a complete fake without authentic Jewish ordination and any “Jewish” clothing they wear is simply part of the entrapment costume. It doesn’t take more than a few phrases to completely blow them out of the water as the fakes that they are. So basically, they are a cult with the express design of convincing Jews who were not fortunate enough to have a Jewish education that theirs is authentic Judaism. Kind of like trying to sell Naugahyde as leather. I make no apologies for tellin’ it like it is. I’ve seen these Messyantics in action and they are truly detestable. Anyone who thinks that deliberate misleading of uneducated Jews for the purpose of conversion is a good idea, go pound sand.


9 posted on 05/21/2013 9:03:32 PM PDT by EinNYC
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To: EinNYC
The Messianic Jewish rabbi I met was born a Jew, and came to believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah predicted in the Hebrew Bible.

The people I met at that synagogue were at least 70% ethnic Jews, based on my observations having grown up many decades ago in a Protestant family in a 50% Jewish community, where half my school friends and neighbors acquainted me from kindergarten onward with their customs and beliefs. The "second language" in our neighborhood was Yiddish.

You have objected to the presence of gentiles at that synagogue, which is a logical contradiction, since the purpose of the Messianic strain of Judaism is to maintain Jewish traditions while also accept the teachings of Jesus, a Jew who in earthly life was called "Rabbi" by his contemporaries. Jesus taught that gentiles should be included in the salvation he said he came to offer specifically to the Jewish people. Some Jews believed then that he is the Messiah; today's Jews are descended from those who did not. This is not a judgment, but simply a matter of fact -- all the earliest believers in Jesus' teachings were ethnically Jewish.

One of the most important "gists" of those teachings is that grace or salvation does NOT depend on genetic tribe or ethnic customs, and not even upon laws, or the following of laws as a means of achieving salvation, but on surrender to God and a willingness to hear God's direction in one's life and follow those promptings. Christianity is not an ethnicity; although in my opinion, many of the divisions between various sects of Christianity have more to do with the cultures in which they originated than with definitive knowledge of the Mind of God (i.e.; Catholicism originated in ancient Rome, Lutheranism in Germany, Methodism in England, Presbyterianism in Scotland, etc.). This important teaching was one of the drivers of equality before the law that undergirded the creation of U.S. Constitutional jurisprudence, and also drove the Abolition and Civil Rights movements here and in England that worked against slavery and Jim Crow.

Although it may feel uncomfortable to you that some Jews have committed to Jesus as Messiah (Hebrew = Messiah; Greek = Christ), yet wish to retain many of their ethnic and cultural traditions from Judaism that do not interfere with their belief that the Messiah did come 2013 years ago, I would not necessarily characterize those believers as uneducated without proof. We are all familiar with today's untruthful meme that conservatives are conservative because they are not smart, or not as smart as Democrats wish to believe themselves to be. Actual research indicates otherwise. Also, in my experience, most people who claim adherence in most religions have not studied their own scriptures thoroughly (indeed, it can be the work of a lifetime), much less those of other religions.

Many who come to believe in Christ do so by way of a transcendent experience that cannot be characterized as solely intellectual. Study may come afterwards. That is what happened to me, who was born and raised in a so-called Christian family, but did not experience a whole-hearted belief until later in life.

Wishing you well along your journey.

10 posted on 05/22/2013 12:02:32 PM PDT by Albion Wilde ("There can be no dialogue with the prince of this world." -- Francis)
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To: Albion Wilde
Basically,the gist of your convoluted post is that you think you know something about Judaism because you had Jewish friends. If they were attending your (public)school, they were not observant Jews. And therefore they were almost certainly not well educated in Jewish law and tradition. So your supposed knowledge about Judaism is from highly questionable sources from the get-go.

Once you introduce the teachings of JC into the mix, bingo! It's no longer Judaism. It's something that has some Jewish elements mixed in, but it would not pass any smell test that it's Judaism of any ilk. You cannot believe and worship JC and still say you are following Jewish practices. The 2 are incompatible.

Sorry guy. I'm glad that you enjoy JC as part of your life, but you are very much speaking from the position of looking in from the outside.

11 posted on 05/23/2013 10:19:26 AM PDT by EinNYC
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To: NYer

I just moved away from NY. These folks are interesting indeed.


12 posted on 05/23/2013 10:32:11 AM PDT by Gamecock ("Ultimately, Jesus died to save us from the wrath of God." ¬óR.C. Sproul)
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To: EinNYC
you had Jewish friends. If they were attending your (public)school, they were not observant Jews.

They were not Orthodox; they were Conservative. There is much argument among Jews whether this form of Judaism "qualifies." I leave that to the principals in the dispute to sort out.


You cannot believe and worship JC and still say you are following Jewish practices. The 2 are incompatible.

I believe you are missing the point. Messianic Jews are not trying to practice Judaism per se. They are practicing a form of Christianity. Religion is a group of beliefs, wrapped in a cultural environment. Many Messianic Jews are more culturally comfortable in their format than in a, say, Southern Baptist environment. And as my earlier post observed, their worship format may well be closer to the original practices (of Jews in the Holy Land who believed Jesus is the Messiah predicted by their prophets) than the practices Americans experience in Protestant or Catholic environments.

That said, I do believe that if an observant Conservative or Reform Jew were to attend a Catholic mass, they would be surprised at the many concordances, just as many Christians feel familiar when they attend Jewish services on behalf of family members or friends. Evangelical Christians acknowledge their religious roots in Judaism; right or wrong, this is one of the drivers of American political support for Israel.


Sorry guy. I'm glad that you enjoy JC as part of your life, but you are very much speaking from the position of looking in from the outside.

I'm a shicksa. And okay with where I am religiously -- also appreciative of the rich friendships and windows into the variety of worship formats honoring the G-d of Abraham that have been open to me as an American.

Again, blessings on your journey.

13 posted on 05/23/2013 11:42:26 AM PDT by Albion Wilde ("There can be no dialogue with the prince of this world." -- Francis)
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To: MarineMom613

Bookmark for later


14 posted on 05/23/2013 12:15:44 PM PDT by MarineMom613 (RIP Sandra Sue, my fur baby 12/31/1999 ~ 7/2/2010 - See you on the other side!)
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To: EinNYC
Basically,the gist of your convoluted post is that you think you know something about Judaism because you had Jewish friends. If they were attending your (public)school, they were not observant Jews. And therefore they were almost certainly not well educated in Jewish law and tradition. So your supposed knowledge about Judaism is from highly questionable sources from the get-go. Once you introduce the teachings of JC into the mix, bingo! It's no longer Judaism. It's something that has some Jewish elements mixed in, but it would not pass any smell test that it's Judaism of any ilk. You cannot believe and worship JC and still say you are following Jewish practices. The 2 are incompatible. Sorry guy. I'm glad that you enjoy JC as part of your life, but you are very much speaking from the position of looking in from the outside.

Would you please elaborate .... elucidate why, where, and when exactly Jesus Christ was rejected... was in at the garden party?????????

15 posted on 05/23/2013 12:24:32 PM PDT by Just mythoughts
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To: NYer
Why are First Things and a Freeper supporting (or at least publicizing) such an organization?
16 posted on 05/23/2013 1:36:00 PM PDT by Zionist Conspirator (Ki-hagoy vehamamlakhah 'asher lo'-ya`avdukh yove'du; vehagoyim charov yecheravu!)
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To: EinNYC
Re your post 9:

'AMEN!!!

17 posted on 05/23/2013 1:37:37 PM PDT by Zionist Conspirator (Ki-hagoy vehamamlakhah 'asher lo'-ya`avdukh yove'du; vehagoyim charov yecheravu!)
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To: Albion Wilde
The Messianic Jewish rabbi I met was born a Jew, and came to believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah predicted in the Hebrew Bible.

Then he's an idiot.

18 posted on 05/23/2013 1:38:56 PM PDT by Zionist Conspirator (Ki-hagoy vehamamlakhah 'asher lo'-ya`avdukh yove'du; vehagoyim charov yecheravu!)
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To: Just mythoughts
Would you please elaborate .... elucidate why, where, and when exactly Jesus Christ was rejected... was in at the garden party?????????

He wasn't so much "rejected" as never accepted in the first place. The Torah was given and the Torah is the Ultimate Revelation. Nothing any prophet says may contradict it in any way and any "prophet" who prophecies it ceasing and being replaced (or "fulfilled" as christians dishonestly put it) is false.

Why don't you accept Joseph Smith?

19 posted on 05/23/2013 1:41:52 PM PDT by Zionist Conspirator (Ki-hagoy vehamamlakhah 'asher lo'-ya`avdukh yove'du; vehagoyim charov yecheravu!)
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To: Zionist Conspirator
Then he's an idiot.

I'll be sure to pass along your kind remark.

20 posted on 05/24/2013 12:29:28 AM PDT by Albion Wilde ("There can be no dialogue with the prince of this world." -- Francis)
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To: Zionist Conspirator

An idiot who has committed the grave sin of idolatry.


21 posted on 05/24/2013 8:15:16 AM PDT by POWERSBOOTHEFAN (Causing trouble since 1976)
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To: EinNYC

How is it that some Jews can be completely secularized and other Jews have no problem with them calling themselves Jewish, yet when some Jews accept Christ as the Messiah their Jewishness is called into question?


22 posted on 05/24/2013 9:23:54 PM PDT by TradicalRC (Conservatism is primarily a Christian movement.)
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To: TradicalRC

Because belief in JC is totally, utterly, 100% incompatible with Jewish beliefs.


23 posted on 05/25/2013 11:16:40 PM PDT by EinNYC
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To: Zionist Conspirator

He was not rejected by all, that much is a certainty. There were more than a few "Jews" as it were (as they were?) who did accept him, even among the Sanhedrin.

Then there were the Pharisees who truly did hate him, and all his followers with the hottest of hatreds.

One of them, a young Pharisee of Pharisees named Saul, most likely would have "kept up the good work" of eradicating the followers (killing them, actually) had he not had a supernatural encounter on the road to Damascus.

What is the Torah (and here may I assume you mean Tanakh ---or do you intend books of the law only?) but record of the law which was given (along with some setting, some lead-up from Adam to Abram, and from there to the deliverance of the Hebrews from bondage in Egypt), additional accounting of these chosen one's interaction with God, with Him speaking through prophets to them, along with a few other inspired writings such as Psalms & Proverbs?

I can tell you what it isn't. It is not the additional commentaries which developed alongside Torah.

24 posted on 05/26/2013 7:35:36 AM PDT by BlueDragon (licensed to kill...gophers.)
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Comment #25 Removed by Moderator

To: EinNYC

Interesting how the man that many called rabbi who often quoted the Tanuch is “100% incompatible with Jewish beliefs” yet many Jews who support sodomy don’t seem to bring down that kind of thunder.


26 posted on 05/26/2013 1:01:33 PM PDT by TradicalRC (Conservatism is primarily a Christian movement.)
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To: TradicalRC

Doesn’t matter. A non-Jew could get hold of a copy of the TANACH and read it. Still not a Jew. I could get hold of a copy of a medical book and hold forth on heart surgery. Doesn’t make me a doctor. A genuine Jew, born of a Jewish mother, who does not observe Jewish law is nevertheless regarded as fully Jewish and we pray for the day that they come to the conclusion that they SHOULD be observing the laws.


27 posted on 05/26/2013 10:00:44 PM PDT by EinNYC
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Comment #28 Removed by Moderator

To: EinNYC

A genuine Jew, born of a Jewish mother? Why is it in the Torah that lineage is traced through the paternal side but modern Jews trace it through the maternal side?


29 posted on 05/27/2013 10:10:38 AM PDT by TradicalRC (Conservatism is primarily a Christian movement.)
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To: TradicalRC

My friend, you are sorely confused. According to Jewish law—from the get-go—the “Jewishness” of a child was determined by the mother being Jewish. There were such things as rape by non-Jews of Jewish women. The only way to be sure of the authentic Jewish lineage was to determine it through the mother.


30 posted on 05/27/2013 6:58:57 PM PDT by EinNYC
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To: EinNYC

In Genesis chapter 10 for example the lineage of Noah’s sons and their sons after them; all male.


31 posted on 05/28/2013 4:32:47 PM PDT by TradicalRC (Conservatism is primarily a Christian movement.)
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