August 14, 2016 4:50 pm at 4:50 pm #1166064
You know, zahava’s dad..
I’ve followed your posts for years… I agreed with some, I disagreed with others, but you’ve always remained respectful, something that many in the coffee room have shown an inability to do.
I respect you greatly for that. I now have more respect for you. You’ve made my point in a cleaner way than I ever could have. I’ve been told that I’m well versed in the art of diplomacy, but you’re the master. Thank you for that, it’s lovely to see. Zahava (whomever she may be, may she be long lived and healthy) is a lucky young woman. I’m only sorry my father doesn’t have as much pride in his own children.
Thank you.August 14, 2016 8:40 pm at 8:40 pm #1166065
Thank you very much
Funny thing is , if you actually knew me I am a loose cannon in real life. Diplomacy isnt my thingAugust 14, 2016 9:20 pm at 9:20 pm #1166066
just adding that zdads comment started off with the claim that the Torah is the proper road map. Taking several paths and giving validity to others paths applies within the Torah roadmap.August 14, 2016 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm #1166067
I think that many of these individuals have been deeply hurt by the system, so to speak. Shidduchim, abusive rebbeim, insensitive rabbis (who probably shouldn’t be rabbis), inadequate education, divorce, unloving parents, etc. all take a deep and heavy toll on many people. The problem is that they conflate the essence of Torah with the institutions/societal factors that burn them. If I had chosen to conflate the religion with the institutions/personalities involved, I wouldn’t be frum. Maybe if I were born and raised in these institutions, I’d be more jaded. As a newcomer to Lubavitch (raised nominally MO), I maybe have rose-colored lenses.August 14, 2016 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm #1166068
dovrosenbaum – i was hurt TOO much by the system unfortunately.August 15, 2016 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm #1166069
I am using this thread as an opportunity to expose the dangers of Footsteps, as well as my heartfelt wish that someone develops a proper alternative. I actually lose sleep over this. Due to significant personal limitations, I can not personally realize my dream of creating such a place. But I certainly would be willing to give of myself to support such a place in any way that I could.
First of all, regardless of their claim to NOT encourage abandonment of Torah, there is a particular unspoken message at Footsteps. True, there is no pressure for a member to change. Many members come clandestinely, and there is a very strong code of confidentiality. Nobody is ridiculed for holding on to the clothing of their community, or to any particular minhag. Acceptance is a given.
However, a Member who has the “courage” to leave the community, or try treif for the first time, or completely shave off their payos, or leave tznius behind, is provided with a great support system and cheering squad – literally. They are considered to have “overcome” their inhibitions, and their fear of judgement. There is no need for indoctrination. It’s built in socially. I know this from friends who have unfortunately turned to Footsteps to meet their needs.
There is currently a tremendous need for a place where originally frum young (mostly already adult) Jewish people are able to speak out their frustrations, to a listening and sympathetic non-judgemental ear, and have their personal experiences validated. There is a need to find that they are not alone and that others are also unhappy in the “system”. They are in the process of finding themselves; often for the first time experiencing their individuality, which is the birthright of every human being. This is not heresy! – no Yid has the same road to travel as the next, despite the aim for a common destination of closeness to Hashem. They have the need, to assess the situation they are coming from, and sort out that which is integral to their identity from that which seemed either arbitrary, or downright controlling or hurtful. In a place where experiences are validated, without fuel being added to the fire, acceptance of reality can become a platform from which to rebuild, rather than further destroy.
The sad part, is that because there is currently no place for these people to safely explore their thoughts, feelings and emotions, they are highly likely to make use of the acceptance that Footsteps offers. And those who started Footsteps, as well as their more popular and well known members, are not shy about declaring the value they have found in a Torah free, or G-d free life. Freedom from the burden of mindless, meaningless rituals is very attractive. The yetzer hora is still alive and well in the world.
There is a genuine need for members of certain communities to catch up on skills that will help them get a job, and function in the “outside” world. This includes compensating for education that was minimal in the school they attended, and or almost non-existent by mid-high school. It also includes coaching in how to behave in the world: How to acclimate from a very insular situation, to one in which the rules and the norms are unclear. Their experiences, besides being insular may also include a range of abuse from mild to serious, which leaves them without a barometer of what is considered normative behavior, speech, and body language. This is in relation to all members of society at large, Jewish, non-Jewish or anywhere in between. It goes without saying that they must learn basic propriety – and boundaries – with members of the opposite gender in a professional environment, or even in a social one.
It is truly painful to me that I could not refer the 2 people I am referring to, to a better place. They were no longer “at risk”. They had already heard speeches from all the successful kiruv rabbonim, all the answers to the questions they posed. For whatever reasons, their pains, and feeling of being “trapped” by rules and a controlling system, were not successfully addressed, and they wanted nothing further to do with anyone who clearly wanted to change them, and show them they were wrong.
By the time they are seeking a place like Footsteps, such individuals do not believe that there are satisfactory answers, or validating approaches in a Torah life. In my experience, that includes a Modern Orthodox Torah life. I do believe they need a lot of what Footsteps is providing. But they DON’T go there with a need to be metamei their neshama with unkosher food. That isn’t what they are seeking at that point. They are also not primed to be seeking out every physical pleasure that exists – yet. There is no need to introduce hedonistic pleasures, when there is so much to offer that is not against halacha.
Those of us who are blessed with a comfort level in Torah observance, function with the help of emunah and/or bitachon. We are lucky enough to know that after all the confusion is cleared up, at the end there is Emes. We know there is an objective Truth of why we were created (within our limited understanding), Who created us, and Where he wants us to direct our energies (Torah, Avodah, Gemilus Chasodim); each in his or her own way. At the end of our sojourn here, we know we are going to be returning our neshamos back to their Source, and what we have done on this world to enhance our neshamos, is all we will take with us. We get distracted, but deep inside we know.
If you can not relate to what I just wrote, I strongly recommend that you seek out a non-judgemental Rav, kiruv professional, or mentor. Those of us who have been blessed with circumstances that fostered these beliefs, whether from the safety of a warm family home, or later in life by searching, and finding an environment which nurtured our beliefs, certainly still have challenges and doubts that crop up in our lives. The difference is that we believe that the problem lies somewhat within ourselves, certainly not within the Torah. And so although we struggle, we are grounded by the belief that eventually we will have satisfaction and understanding. We know that challenges will bring us to the Truth that we already believe. If we are smart, we are not threatened by another person’s struggle to find their place in a Torah guided system. Hashem is not at risk, and neither is His Torah. We have challenges that we are meant to overcome, and we are taught that we have the internal resources that we need – if we make the effort to access them, sometimes with assistance. At the very least we can be motivated by the concept of eternal reward, the likes of which we know will be better than we can fathom in this world.
But those who run that organization do NOT have an underlying belief in Torah. Some are publicly avowed atheists. They mock the places they came from, sometimes in a very subtle way – perhaps due to contradictory messages they received. As leaders and mentors, they share the experiences they have discovered, that were once impermissible. In that cynical environment, there is very less chance that the self-exploration that some people justifiably need to do will lead back to the quest for Truth they start out with. Objective Truth is another word for Torah! Just as they were lacking “permission to be independent thinking people” they are now lacking “permission to believe”!
We sorely need a place for the affected teens, or even more so, post-teen young adults, to get the technical life skills they need, be validated and supported for their individuality, and be accepted with patience as they struggle to find a comfortable way to house their own “pintele Yid”. Because they all still have one. If you have seen videos of impromptu kumsitzes, where young people with tattoos, body piercings, provocative clothing, and a generally “rebellious” demeanor, sit together and sing the zemiros from their shabbos table of origin – than you know what I mean. Much of their search is necessary and inevitable. But many would eventually find Torah living again, if the support people around them would be people with conviction that the answers to a satisfying life are found in a life that brings us closer to Hashem. At this juncture, they will not tolerate being lectured to, or disapproved of in any way. They are not receptive to “answers” to the questions that they seem to be asking, so hashkafa classes are not indicated. But their pintele yid is in fact starving. And when they are ready, they will come forward again with a mind that is open to the possibility that they all but threw out the baby with the bathwater. Unless of course, they are surrounded by more “experienced” formerly frum successful people, who just by their presentation alone convey the message that happiness and success are found when yiddishkeit is left behind.
If we manage to provide a place for their current needs, without trying to manipulate or change them, we can give them a safe place, where the food happens to be kosher. We can listen to their twisted understanding of Yiddishkeit as an oppressive, cold religion, without the need to put them in their place, but rather with a listening ear to how they came to those conclusions. Certain latitude is probably indicated in terms of interaction between male and female members or they will not come. Boundaries and rules of conduct, will surprisingly be respected, if the atmosphere is not oppressive. Opportunities for acceptable self-expression, and celebration of accomplishments is part and parcel of such a support environment. Instead of hearing repetitive disappointment from family members who hoped for a different son, daughter, sister or brother, there should be events to give credit to these young people for anything of value that they have accomplished and ought to feel proud about.
It is what will NOT be provided that also matters:
There will NOT be a group event, led by a lawyer, to help them set up a legal plan to ensure that when they die, their religious relatives will NOT be able to give them a proper, halachic, Jewish burial. Yes, such a group workshop was offered free of charge to members one fine evening in the recent past, R”L. I know this because my friend attended, not knowing what the planned topic was. But the encouraging part is, that although this group was listed on the members’ calendar, only one person showed up! Because the neshama isn’t dead. The mere offering of such a group event says so much about the unspoken agenda at Footsteps. I have no doubt that there are other “open minded” workshops with goals that by definition are a rejection of some of our most hallowed mesora.
We must find a way.August 15, 2016 2:07 pm at 2:07 pm #1166070
Thinking out loud – thank you for your shpiel.August 15, 2016 2:31 pm at 2:31 pm #1166071
Thinking Out Loud: That was beautifully worded! It is wonderful that you are so concerned for our brothers and sisters. I hope you find a way to accomplish your goals.August 15, 2016 2:42 pm at 2:42 pm #1166072
Thinking out loud – maybe ncsy could be good for otders? make them come back on?August 15, 2016 4:01 pm at 4:01 pm #1166073
Sparkly and Thinking out Loud..
two things. I worked in kiruv for many years. That in of itself should tell you something. One thing that I learned in high school, which I believed but never believed… was that when you sweep the floor, the floor gets cleaned up, but no matter how good the broom is, it will get dirty. and two, NCSY is great for teenagers. What about those of us in the ADULT population? Like thirties, forties and up?August 15, 2016 5:41 pm at 5:41 pm #1166075
Also, I don’t think that an NCSY -type of program is what Thinking Out Loud is talking about at all. I think he is talking about something that does not involve Kiruv – for people who couldn’t handle kiruv and would be going to Footsteps. I think he is talking about a kind of Frum alternative to Footsteps (although that sounds funny if Footsteps is really as bad as everyone is describing it!). I think the point is that the kind of people who are turning to Footsteps should be able to find what they are looking for in the Frum world so they won’t feel a need to turn to Footsteps.
I’m not saying that I agree (I don’t disagree either, just not sure if I know enough to have an opinion, so I don’t want this taken as a haskama) but I think that is what he/she meant. Am I correct, Thinking out loud?August 15, 2016 6:02 pm at 6:02 pm #1166076
There is an alternative to footsteps, its called project makom
They have some money, but I guess like everything else, not enough and people arent running to help themAugust 15, 2016 8:25 pm at 8:25 pm #1166077
There are some very good posts here, I might add one outlook.Rabbi Wallerstein has a beautiful shuir to listen to On Torah Anytime. It is called Victim or Victor. Definitely worth listening too! CHAZAQ!!!August 15, 2016 8:29 pm at 8:29 pm #1166078
zahavasdad – what is project makom?August 15, 2016 8:34 pm at 8:34 pm #1166079
Thank you Thinking Out Loud. I was growing frustrated reading some posts that were portraying Footsteps as a benign organization helping lost souls, when my experience has been otherwise. They are even more aggressive when they can “rescue” children from a life of “oppressive” Judaism. They will hire top divorce lawyers to help the now not frum parent gain custody, rent an apartment etc. all the while indoctrinating the confused/angry parent and children against the frum society. What you are suggesting sounds like an excellent idea. There is a need for a “neutral” organization that can can be a safety net for these adults, but not feed them anti-orthodox diatribe. I am not at all familiar with project Makom so I can’t comment on them.August 15, 2016 8:55 pm at 8:55 pm #1166080
I will repeat this again about project Makom
There is a frum Woman who has a website called Jew in the City, Its makes slick videos helping give a kiddish hashem to Judaism, She also takes questions from all sorts of people.
It seems alot of former Charedim follow and troll her as well and she takes it well. Once she asked if someone hates being a chassic so much, why go all the way to secular , why not jut become a modern orhtodox. One ex-satmar woman wrote back that she actually tried that, but that she had trouble adjusting to the MO community and just went totally secular.
Alison Josephs (The woman who runs it) decided there was a space there for an organization for people who did not want to be Chassidic anymore but wanted to remain relgious. She got some seed money and has run some Shabbatons. I dont know where things are going nowAugust 15, 2016 8:58 pm at 8:58 pm #1166081
From the Project Makom Website
Welcome to Project Makom, an initiative to help former and questioning Charedi Jews find their place in Orthodox Judaism.
While we believe that there are numerous valid paths within Orthodox Judaism, not all observant Jews are born into a community which fits them. There are many Modern Orthodox Jews who choose to move to the right, but many Charedi Jews who want to transition to a more Centrist or Modern Orthodox community face hurdles that prevent them from doing so (whether cultural, educational, or simply feeling unwelcomed). Some of these people end up leaving religious life altogether.
Makom will offer one on one mentoring so that participants can meet a new friend in a community to which they previously had no access; classes to discuss questions and variances in Jewish hashkafa and law; meetings to share experiences; mediation between families and individuals; tutoring services; Shabbatonim with discussion groups and classes, and more.
History of Project Makom
Allison asked the readers of Jew in the City to let us know if they were willing to help solve this need. In only a few days, well over a hundred people from all over the world reached out to us, offering to invite people in this situation for Shabbos, help them get their kids into schools, and welcome them into their communities.
We found our co-directors, Mindy Schaper (Director of Programming) and Gavriella Lerner (Director of Education) and began gathering a database of the mentors who had offered their help. Soon afterwards, we had our first event, a shabbaton in Airmont, NY, which was a big success and laid the groundwork for more events.August 15, 2016 9:04 pm at 9:04 pm #1166082
Dont ask me anything else about it, I dont know , according, The website seems not to have been updated and mentions a Shabbaton last March.August 15, 2016 9:17 pm at 9:17 pm #1166084
I’m not a representative of Project Makom, but I have some affiliation with it and know several people involved. This will probably sound like an infomercial- I have no stake, financial or otherwise, in the organization, and am simply totally impressed with it in general.
It is quite small, and still in the funding stages (they are very urgently trying to fund their therapist, if anyone wants to donate- she’s available on a hotline for members), but they’re already making a big difference. The origin story is as zdad described it. It’s basically structured with members who are seeking a different kind of community than that in which they grew up and volunteers who are in a good place religiously, usually in the MO world, who volunteer to help out. They have some events oriented at Modern Orthodoxy, but others include informational programs about getting your GED, career counseling, etc. One of their most successful components right now is the personal element. They host shabbatonim and yamim tovim in various communities (such as Memphis and the Five Towns) with speakers across the spectrum and host families, which both serve to introduce families to new communities and approaches to avodas Hashem and give the several teens and twenties in the group who are cut off from or not in a good place with their families and communities warm places to be where they are accepted as they are. They will assign mentor-mentee relationships between people who can give guidance hashkafically and in a real-world sense and those who are in need. They have barbeques and Chanukah parties and create a warm and welcoming atmosphere to people who sorely need it and who hadn’t thought that such a thing was available in a frum community.
This is run entirely by frum people. A huge goal is to make sure that people participating see a beauty in Judaism that they may not have really seen in their home communities. Religion and halacha are paramount- but there is no judgment. Project Makom doesn’t seek anyone out or proselytize; those who hear about it as they look for a derech which will be better for them- including some people who were on their way OTD and subsequently turned 180 degrees- make their way over and are welcomed.
(Caveat- the organization is MO, and that is the hashkafa of which they are proponents. However, even if you don’t want to become MO, there is still a lot of amazing benefit that can come from Makom, as it offers services nobody else does that I’m aware of.)
I don’t think there’s any other organization like it, and it’s very badly needed. It’s still in the developmental stages, and it’s hard to say exactly where it will go next, but right now it’s doing amazing work.August 15, 2016 9:42 pm at 9:42 pm #1166085
PuHleese and ZDad,
I hear your comments, however,
a) Whether or not the Torah is the true guide is an objective question that is to be explored independently, that’s something that is beyond the contours of this forum but can and is done all the time. In fact according to many (i.e Chovos HaLevovos) it’s to be encouraged.
If an exploration of the origins of the Torah lead one to the conclusion that it is Divine in Nature, then any true path in life must be predicated upon it.
b) The Torah to the best of my Knowledge (which is admittedly limited) is the only “religious” “guidebook that does not enjoins someone to realize that even it’s greatest leaders can fail and fail and fail.
1) It is the Torah itself that records the failings of Korach the 3rd greatest person in Judaism.
2) It is the Torah itself that spends more time recording the relatively few failings of the Dor Deah our “greatest generetaion” then it’s triumphs. So we can learn how to live ourselves in the present rather then simply celebrate how others lived in the past.
3) It is the Torah itself that records the failings of Zimri one of the 12 leaders of the Jewish nation, the failurs of Shaul, Dovid, Shlomo, Achitofel, and Doeg.
4) It is the Torah itself that warns us “al tamin batzmecha ad yom mosech” one can never ever believe in themselves.
5) It is the Torah itself that warns not only can big people fail but “Kol Hagodol Michaveiroh Yitzroh Gudol Heimenoh” Anyone bigger then their friend has even greater Yetzer Horah.
The Torah Shebksav and Shel Bal Peh makes clear again and again and again we are alive in a war that exists literally to the death and big people can and do fail, and some do it precisely because of their greatness.
Saying some people who were big failed does not cast doubt on the Torah, rather it verifies it’s very premise.
That big people need boundaries just as little people do.
That Gedarim and Siyugim are needed not for show but for very real protection, appoint made all over Shas.
And if we do not understand that, then we have allowed ourselves to be infected by the very foreign thinking that only the weak fail and that man who is by necessity composed of two parts one the “guf” and the other the “neshomah” can in fact become immortal, beyond the limitation, temptations, and failings of human frailty.
That is the very essence of foreign Hashkofa.August 15, 2016 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm #1166086
Wolfish, I too went to Ohel Moshe, but a lot earlier,when Rabbi Leon Machlis was still alive ( in the 1950’s ) and the yeshiva had nearly 500 studentsAugust 16, 2016 1:59 am at 1:59 am #1166087
@ Sparkly: I haven’t a clue if your comment is genuine or sarcastic.
@ PuhLease: Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake. I have absolutely no idea what your comment meant in terms of the broom getting dirty.
@lilmod ulilamed, yes you are correct. NCSY is not what I meant at all. (Unless of course NCSY goes into a “right wing” school, and seeks out all the pre-adolescents who are not being inspired or are secretly harboring pain, and…. well I guess we can stop here, for too many reasons to count already!)August 16, 2016 6:41 am at 6:41 am #1166088
Regarding Project Makom, I did come across their website sometime in the past. I think at the time they had not had any events yet. I was very excited about this project. I imagined it might be something that might help my own young friends. (These are two unrelated young people for whom I was presented an opportunity to enter their lives, each under particular circumstances). I may have even sneaked in a link as an “item of interest” in a social email to one of them.
I believed, and still do believe that the Modern Orthodox option can help many people who were raised chassidish or yeshivish, but for whatever reason, felt stifled or trapped by the intensity of yiddishkeit as it was presented to them. Project Makom, in addition to the support services they offer, appears to be a wonderful resource for those individuals, as they are exposed to religious practice in a way that does not trigger their defense mechanisms, and allows them to experience fulfillment and meaning that is inherent in Torah living. That is the way we were all meant to experience it in the first place, but for these individuals, something backfired.
A Torah centered life, which follows halacha, and allows for some of the things that were not accepted in their communities of origin may be very attractive. Too many people have no idea that there is a concept of “machlokes haposkim”, which explains why there are different derachim, and hashkafos still within the framework of halacha. In addition, they have somehow grown up unable to appreciate the difference between an emotionally meaningful family minhag and Issurei Kareis! Once they are ready to discard the former because of the strings attached, they often go straight toward the latter: they don’t know the difference. Education and information about basic halacha, chumra, hiddur, and minhag is key to their remaining Shomrei Shabbos and Kashrus, instead of tossing it all out together.
But I mentioned in my previous post, that, to quote myself,
By the time they are seeking a place like Footsteps, such individuals do not believe that there are satisfactory answers, or validating approaches in a Torah life. In my experience, that includes a Modern Orthodox Torah life.August 16, 2016 9:20 am at 9:20 am #1166090
What I meant by that is, that Project Makom will only be able to attract those who are still consciously trying to find a way to be “frum”. It addresses individuals who are challenging and questioning their way of life, usually because it is extremely unpleasant for them.
There is a different type of situation, where the young man or woman does not care any more, or never did care about keeping the Torah. They are emotionally burned out, and no amount of intellectual understanding or reasoning provides a respite from their misery. They don’t know what they believe, nor do they care. They just want to be FREE. FREE of all rules that have been used to control them, and repeatedly prevented them from any form of self-determination. For those individuals, it is not necessarily the severity of the rules, but the very idea that someone else’s rules can prevent their happiness. And so Modern Orthodoxy does not interest them. It still has rules. It still requires submission to a halachic decisor (the Rabbi). They have become convinced that rules are arbitrarily created by people who want to control others. These individuals still need a place to figure themselves out. They need to be able to talk about ANYTHING without being judged, in order to understand themselves, and accept themselves as they are now. For the time being, any suggestion of organized religion or belief systems will elicit intense emotions, including fierce anger. I do not think exposure to other practicing Orthodox families is indicated at that stage.August 16, 2016 11:46 am at 11:46 am #1166091
If someone finds Yiddishkeit miserable and wants to be Free Free of rules, there really isnt a whole lot you can do about it.
However many of the people only find things that really arent halachas, but rather Hashgafas or certain other things objectionable that can be worked around. If for example a woman hates shaving her head , or wants to drive or a man hates wearing chassidic garb and wants to wear western style clothing, but otherwise would remain religious, we need to let those people do those things and let them loosen up a bit. Sometimes the fight over the Levush leads to worse outcomes. Would you rather someone equate levush with yiddishkeite and they hate the levush that they give it all up or would you rather they dress western style but otherwise remain religious.
I want to answer the question about “Failing” some of the so called “Failures” are not failures, just failures according to some . If for example there is a bocher who hates learning, cannot really sit in the beis medrash, but wants to be an artist and seems good at it, Its considered a failure to be an artist as opposed to a Illui. One can certainly be a frum artist. Non-Conformism is considered a failure in certain circles, but in general society they try to use the talents of non-conformists for positive things (Most artists are non-conformists)August 16, 2016 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm #1166092
I may have insuated on the roadmap post, that while there might be several routes, all are valid. However you MUST stay on a valid road. You cannot go off road. After I posted some might have thought that I was validating certain ideologies life reform, however those ideologies are not on the map and require one to go off-road to get there.
Also some people really are hopeless. There are people with “alternative lifestyles” that probably will never come back. There was a man from a well known chassidic family who decided one day he was a woman. I dont see such people coming back and its probably a waste of time trying to do soAugust 16, 2016 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm #1166094
TOL: Yes, most of the people involved in Project Makom consciously want to stay frum. There have been people who were on the fence who stayed because of PM, but you’re probably right that someone completely turned off of religion as a concept might not find it helpful. If they still were open to discussing it, though, I am sure they have volunteers who could help with that.
What they’re really trying to do is to prevent people from feeling that because they’re no longer as RW as they grew up, that doesn’t mean they can’t be religious anymore.August 17, 2016 12:24 am at 12:24 am #1166095
TOL- I think that PuhLease meant the same thing as the person who said that NCSY is like the Parah Aduma – it’s metaheir the temaim and metamei the tehorim. In other words, they do great work bringing not-Frum people close to Yiddishkeit (and in some cases perhaps in inspiring jaded Frum kids) but some Frum kids end up less Frum as a result.
In her case, it sounds like she specifically meant the people who work for NCSY – that they become less Frum. The broom represents the people working for NCSY -they are making the floor clean (helping others become Frum) but they get dirty in the process.
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