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They Say “Awareness” is The Cure

ywe They say “Awareness” is the cure, but is it always? Are there not people out there who ignore these warning signs?

You know what else they say? They say that today there is more Yiddishkeit than ever before. But what they don’t say is that, today, there are more people going Off The Derech than ever before. OTD (as they call it)is so fast growing and so big already that even OTD have different sects; there is the half OTD semi OTD and full OTD,

Used to be that when we walked down the street and saw a guy with tattoos and body-piercing we would look away and be afraid that the “GOY” would hurt us. We may have even mumbled something in Yiddish to our friend walking with us: “hey look at this goy”. Today “this goy” speaks a perfect Yiddish, today this goy is someone that went to the same yeshiva as you. Or in many cases, even more ultra yeshivas.

What is bothersome to me is that we are busy doing kiruv to bring Jews to Yiddishkeit; but how busy are we in bringing our own back? Where are the organizations for the people that were frum but are now OUT OF TOUCH. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking any kiruv organization! Just the opposite. I support them and applaud them for their work, but can I get a partner in this war against the “devil” who is grabbing our innocent children and tearing them away from amongst us?!?

Why are we using up all our resources to build new roads while ignoring the roads we are traveling on that are “crack”ed – “broke”n with “pot” holes everywhere.

This past Rosh Hashana I saw, firsthand, the best society has produced, beautiful souls, gorgeous neshomos – but their covers are black and torn, their outside is covered with tattoos and body-piercing. The only thing that keeps them connected is the warm Yiddish they speak and the love for a good piece of kugel. I found that the solution to this epidemic is not to be judgmental of people and if someone is not in the same league that you are, you should still give them support and love, in the hopes that they will come back.

The truth is that all of us, even the greatest among us who go on vacation for the summer know that it is only temporary and at some point it will be time to go home. And we go home.

And all of us get a certain great feeling, a feeling of being missed when we go on a short vacation and we come home to a big welcome home sign on the front door; can we all put a big welcome home sign for these men & women (they’re not kids, they’re adults) and make them feel wanted and missed, in the hopes that it will warm them and they will return?

So they say “Awareness” is the cure, but that’s not always the case. We are all aware what’s going on out there but is that stopping the devil from entering our homes? Is awareness helping us cure this epidemic that has quietly infiltrated our community?

Now that you know what is going on out here, will you help me do something about it?



NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.


(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)

15 Responses

  1. Is their real empirical evidence of OTD being a growing factor. Are their Jewish schools closing down for want of students? Are kosher restaurants feeling obliged to become seven-day a week Jewish style to stay in business?

    A century ago, “OTD” was the norm. Few Shomer Shabbos parents expected their children to be Shomer Shabbos. The Shailohs and Tseuvahs of the time were typically about “My son doesn’t keep kosher and is married to a shiksa – can I even drink the water in his house”.

    Remember that if you have six children, and four stay frum, the community is doubling every generation (as opposed to our long lost secular cousins whose natural increase rate has been negative for some time).

    Of course we should worry about OTD kids, not to mention Baalei Tseuvah. But we shouldn’t feel there is an existential crisis.

  2. Mr. Anon, those frei Jews are also are own. It can be some people have OTD kids because of such attitudes — there are some other Jews and there are our own. There is din and there is Dayan.

  3. I question the claim that more people are going OTD than ever before. What’s its basis? Does “ever before” include the period in Europe between the two world wars, for example? This sounds like the kind of statistic that is made up, rather than looked up, frankly.

  4. Dear Anon,

    The point of your article is well taken. However i would like to stress one point. This “devil” you speak of that is causing our children to go off is not any far fetched spiritual damager. Unfortunately this devil is quite close to home. The devil is our yeshiva and parenting systems. In as much as their are some excellent yeshivos and many excellent parents, there are many yeshivos and a few parents who unfortunately forgot what Shlomo hamelech said about chanoch linaar al pi darco. Rather it is more important for yeshivos to maintain their mitzuyonim one way fits all approach and for parents to raise their child into the predetermined mold than to help a child reach his or her unique potential in a way best for the child. To me its is not a tremendous novelty that so many of our children go off when the rebbeim in a yeshiva are as cold to them as snow, intent on only saying the shuir and leaving than becoming the friend to his talmidim that they so desperately need.

  5. To the naysayers, I ask you to open your minds a bit. The OTD problem is real, epidemic, and accelerating at an alarming pace. For the statistic minded, sorry – no empirical data. But let’s examine. The sheer number of yeshivaless kids is beyond anyone’s belief. The units of the numbers for the northeast regions are estimated at a several thousand. The fingers pointing to blame are many, and all are based on hard facts. This reality is excruciatingly painful. Denying it will not make these precious, lonely neshamos disappear.

    Yeshivos once yelled about “dysfunctional families” in their quest to deflect responsibility. It is now recognized as a grave error. Individual menahalim still deny, and many will refuse admissions as well as expel without even shedding a tear or expending an effort to think of the pain of rejection. Plenty of guilt here. Parents are apt to interfere with the admission of other talmidim into their children’s class, as if that is their right. Some use financial leverage unjustly. Communities also look askance at the child who struggles, and many avoid the parents, leaving them to grieve alone without support.

    Why does our community support the efforts to extract neshamos from public schools (which needs to be done) at the expense of those who are already here who are discarded like garbage?

    Has our yeshiva system that focuses on full time learning and advanced levels of learning (metzuyanim) justified the trashing of the tiere neshamos who deserve to have Torah in their lives?

    To those who daven for these struggling children – do you include them in the brocho of רפאנו or in the brocho of הרוצה בתשובה? Both are applicable. But it is a pure fabrication to consider these kids bad. They are sick and suffering, and they need the welcoming and loving by the entire community.

    Our gedolim have spoken many times about this, and their words have not impressed the leaders of our yeshivos and schools. Nor have parents abandoned the foolish preoccupations with trivia.

    This thread can last a long time, and generate some great debate. When will any of this discussion result in someone reaching out to embrace a single one of these precious neshamos? Maybe that can be something each of us can undertake as a zechus this year. Bring Hashem a present – the return of one of His lost neshamos.

  6. This was written beautifully! How touching!

    Two thoughts on what has to change immediately:

    1- That secretive organization with offices in NYC where many OTD gather and are offered advice on how to guiltlessly leave Orthodoxy, featuring speakers who equate Orthodoxy with Cults, has to have some worldly Orthodox people who speak well involved, in order to get any finacial help from any Jewish organization where monies come from Orthodox pockets.

    2- When frum schools have to permanently expel a frum student, they have to make sure to do it with respect, good wishes and sensivity, NOT with name calling, mockery, anger and disgust, as is often the case. This is of grave importance to leading a frum individual to never want to be frum again.

  7. Having been very involved in someone’s child go totally OTD, I personally saw a situation where there was no REAL reason, everybody tried to accommodate this kid, everybody tried to leave the door open, he went to years of therapy, he was taken into schools, and they gave him tutors to help him, he was given money to go to the college of his choice, everybody agonized and tried to find the ‘right’ friend, that one ‘right’ individual for him to speak to, and he just really did not want to be frum. He wanted to hurt everyone, could not absorb any ‘good’ done to him because he felt the good was only done to keep him frum and not to accept him as he was, until they finally didn’t accept him as he was, and he stayed status quo OTD. Everybody feels terrible about it, but there was just an end of the road, where it is really challenging to maintain a relationship, when he is doing what we don’t want the next generation of kids to be exposed to and all efforts to keep the ‘path’ open and warm, have been abused and frozen out. So, I don’t think you can judge people for not being aware, and/or helpful. I think you need to acknowledge that it is a terrible challenge to this generation, and while you can make it clear that the OTD child is always welcome to return and still loved, it is very very complicated to keep his ‘lehachis’ lifestyle within the warm welcoming walls of your home, and never judge the parents as having ’caused’ or ‘perpetuated’ it, by their lack of action. Believe me, they have expended monumental efforts towards the child, and their hearts were broken repeatedly.

  8. seeallsides,

    “Believe me, they have expended monumental efforts towards the child, and their hearts were broken repeatedly”.

    I can say with a good measure of confidence that the parents’ pain and heartbreak was compounded by those who dont have OTD children looking down at them and feeling that there was bad parenting or unique family issues involved.

    Our community’s level of pressure to have cookie cutter frum kids is unhealthy for all. Some refuse to believe and some refuse to keep Mitzvos as we would like them to.

  9. Seeallsides, you are failing to see all sides.

    “he just didn’t want to be frum. He wanted to hurt everyone.”

    So, did he want to hurt “everyone” or did he just not want to be frum. Because those are not even remotely the same thing.

    And them, he doubted the sincerity of people’s efforts to be helpful and kind, because he was convinced they were not interested in him, only his Frumkeit.

    And when he totally abandoned Frumkeit, all the helpful kindnesses ended and he was rejected.

    Sooo…he was correct, then?

    There will a lot less pain about children going OCD when the frum world notices that not everything is all about them, and that unconditional love that is conditional on x degree of Frumkeit is not unconditional.

    It’s kind of the opposite of unconditional. You can tell, what with that condition and all.

    Perhaps he just didn’t want to be frum and became willing to hurt people who made their hurt the automatic consequence of him making his own choices in life.

    But as long as you equate not wanting to frum with wanting to hurt people, you are not even close to seeing all side. Or any side that isn’t yours.

  10. If someone intermarries, his family is supposed to sit shiva for him. Clearly there are times we reject someone when they abandon Torah Judaism.

  11. PS: I’m not frum. But I conform to many rules and standards of the frum community, keep a kosher kitchen, and observe shabbos. In my frum neighborhood, when in public, I observe shabbos and tznius in accordance with yeshivish-frum standards. My children go to Modern Orthodox day school.

    I did none of this until ten years after I’d left.

    I transitioned back to doing those things when I was accepted as I was, welcomed into my family’s homes, and treated kindly and with respect my rabbonim and others in the frum community.

    If a child receives TRULY unconditional love and acceptance, he or she may become a whole more willing to make sacrifices and compromises in order to bring joy to those who offer that love. Or not. But here’s the tricky part: love them anyway. And show it. And work on it.

    And if you are convinced that a person like me is a hypocrit and a faker, for being publicly frum, submitting to rules in which they don’t see divine inspiration, for choosing their own path, then there is no hope for you.

    Conditional love isn’t. An inability to accept a gift because it’s not the gift
    one wanted is indicative of a whole lot of pervasive characters flaws.

    If you want to keep your children frum, accept them as they are. You will probably not convince them to be frum. But you might convince them
    to sent their children to you for shabbos. Or participate in a pesach Seder. Or provide other opportunities for you to show them and their children how much love is in the frum community and in your frum family.

    You can’t do Kiruv by telling someone all about the good things in Frumkeit when they already know all the good and all the bad (and all the totally pointless). You have to actually do, or at least try continually to do the work of changing yourself into a community/family that actually is loving and accepting.

  12. UJM, I’m curious what the halachic basis is for your claim that a family should sit shiva for an intermarried child.

    I’m also curious how much effort you’ve put into finding kullos pertaining to that “Halacha” or if you’ve explored heterim that could pertain to that situation.

    Why on earth would anyone look for a hard and fast boundary line for rejecting so thoroughly a person they love, and not turn over heaven and earth searching for a way to soften that boundary?

    Oh. Right. Conditional love, which is all about the condition and has nothing to do with love.

  13. Haliczes: It is cited as Halacha in various Sh”Ut. I seek neither any kulos nor chumros. Simple Halacha L’Maaisa. I’m not looking for any boundary. I am simply following the Halacha.

  14. chalilavchas:

    Let’s name that evil, missionary organization that presses frum people to abandon shmiras mitzvos. Footsteps holds meetings in non-kosher establishments and on Shabbos. They are blatantly lying when they claim to offer a system to stop those who are falling from leaving Yiddishkeit altogether. We are just in davening this Yom Kippur that this group be banished from any connection with frum Yidden.

    Expulsion is sometimes needed, as not every talmid is able to succeed in a given yeshiva. But it MUST be done by moving the talmid elsewhere, not rejecting. Rejection is one of the most common themes discovered in an OTD kid. Moving is becoming more prevalent than frank, outright throwing out, but it is sadly still the exception to the rule. The Chazon Ish ZT”L described this as דיני נפשות. There is no one alive today that qualifies to overrule the Chazon Ish.

    #7 described a tragic, but rare situation. The overwhelming majority of kids who struggle can be helped with the proper embrace. That is the kiruv that can be done by many. It is criminal to look down at the struggling kid, and adding extra rejections to the earlier ones is virtual murder. The families are often not at fault (sometimes they are), and deserve the sympathy and empathy of any other suffering Yid. Many keep their stories hidden, and avoid exposing this source of shame to their communities. Why do we decry the plight of the sick, those dealing with infertility, the persecuted, etc., and yet we ignore the precious neshamos of the OTD children and their families in pain? Shouldn’t we be welcoming and receptive, implementing the very midos we ask from HKB”H to show us?

    In front of HKB”H on Yom Kippur, we all appear alike, regardless of our dress, our standards of shmiras mitzvos, our affiliations, or the nuances of nusach and minhag of our families and communities. We begin on an even footing. Then comes our individual Yom Hadin. The OTD teen with Nike sneakers that bear logos of sports teams are as valuable as those with conservative looking slippers. And the OTD kids turn, in their own way, to the Heavenly Father, otherwise known as אבינו מלכנו, and they beg him for His help. There is nothing that compares to the child crying from the distance for his Father’s attention. That is as beautiful as the most melodious nusach of tefilo.

    When will we recognize the need to embrace these kids instead of casting them away like damaged goods?

  15. To The little I know says:

    Beautifully put!

    Its a real challenge.

    The reason the OTD individuals go to Footsteps is because theyre accepted there UNCONDITIONALLY. Ideally if we would have a frum organization to offer career guidance and counseling and we’d improve these individuals who want to become somewhat less frum’s self esteem, it would be great! But the frum Oilem would see such an organization as Treife and say its bringing more people’s frumkeit down by accepting and building up those who want to become more modern. So they instead go to totally not frum Footsteps for lack of any other options.

    Its the frum community’s fault. Were paving the way to Footsteps! Either you want to be frum by “accepted” standards, or go to Footsteps, who needs you…the frum community is not offering them a middle ground.

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