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INFORMATION FOR PEOPLE CONSIDERING LEAVING THE HAREDI WORLD
The haredi world closes itself off to influence from the outside world, in order to preserve its unique lifestyle.
In the haredi world there are clearly-defined, rigid rules about everything to do with belief and the particulars of day-to-day life.
In return for this, the haredi world offers warm and encompassing community life, and support during times of crisis. Many find deep emotional and spiritual satisfaction in this world.
But in this world there is no place for people who ask questions and search for a personal and distinct way of life for themselves. Sometimes, leaving the haredi world is the only possibility for them to find freedom of religion and opinion. This is a difficult and fateful step, both for the “yotze” and for his family. Sometimes, it becomes necessary for the yotze to break relations with his family when it refuses to respect his decision.
Yotzim emphasize that they can’t continue to lead a false life. They say that despite the heavy price they pay, they have chosen a way of life that feels right to them.
Hillel offers a sympathetic hearing, via its “Open Call Line”, to people who are conflicted about leaving the haredi world. It is important to emphasize that it doesn’t try to influence their decision in any way.
When yotzim try to fit in to the everyday modern world, they are confronted with enormous difficulties. Most male haredi are schooled only in religious subjects. Their math skills are, at the most, at elementary-school level, and they have no experience of other subjects which are basic to survival in the modern world – such as English, literature, science, languages, history, civics, etc.
Young female haredi do receive some basic practical education so that they can contribute to the family’s support while their husband studies in yeshiva, but they too aren’t prepared for the demands of the outside, liberal world. They haven’t been exposed to various cultural experiences such as movies, theater, secular newspapers, secular literature, or even the internet.
Since yotzim lack the necessary education to find profitable and interesting employment in the open world, yotzim have to take low-paying jobs while at the same time studying to complete their education in order to obtain the “bagrut” (high-school matriculation) certificate. At the point in life when their non-haredi contemporaries have already received their “bagrut” certificates, and have perhaps even finished their army service, “yotzim” find themselves at the very beginning of their way in life, and this can be extremely disheartening.
Yotzim also need to adjust to new and strange social norms in order to acquire friends and build a social life. The outside world doesn’t meet them with warmth and understanding, and they don’t receive the social support they were used to when they were growing up. Loneliness and distress build up. In addition to these emotional difficulties, they feel guilt about the suffering they have caused their families and the damage they have caused their siblings regarding potential marriage prospects. To survive under such conditions requires courage and perseverance.
Footsteps - Information, support and activities for former ultra-Orthodox in North America
Footsteps is the only organization in North America assisting people on this journey. Based in New York, Footsteps provides a range of services, including social and emotional support, educational and vocational guidance, workshops and social activities, and access to resources. Thanks to Footsteps, former ultra-Orthodox Jews have a safe, supportive, and flourishing community to turn to as they work to define their own identities, build new connections, and lead productive lives on their own terms.
Mavar-מעבר - Support for former and questioning Ultra-Orthodox in the UK
A confidential, safe space to begin the process of connecting with the modern world and building a life on your own terms.
Mavar supports people who have grown up in the ultra-orthodox Jewish community and now feel unable to live authentically within that world. Founded on the belief that everyone has the right to choose their own path in life, in keeping with their identity, beliefs and needs, Mavar offers bespoke support that is fully professional, non-coercive and confidential. Empowered by a personal mentor, and supported by specialists across a range of educational, vocational, therapeutic, legal and other fields, individuals can begin to fulfil personal goals and gain ‘agency’ in their lives.
GuesherEU - We help Jewish individuals living in the UK or elsewhere in the EU who have left or wish to explore living beyond the confines of their present Ultra-Orthodox community.
GesherEU aims to provide a safe space to those seeking to enter mainstream society beyond the insular ultra-religious communities in which they were raised. People from the ultra-orthodox and Chasidic communities who choose to enter mainstream society, currently do so as new immigrants in every sense. GesherEU works to provide a new supportive community, to those who choose to make this difficult transition. We support those who find themselves in the family court system and help individuals experience new activities and make new friends.
Forward - Forward is a new org. providing social and educational services to people dealing with the consequences of leaving their ultra-Orthodox communities in Canada.
OTD Manual - Going Off the Derech: A free handbook that anyone can edit. Articles in English, Videos in Yiddish
The OTD Manual is a free and not-for-profit collaborative project meant as a public service. In this manual, you can find words of wisdom, guidance, and loving support by those who have left the orthodox, ultra-orthodox, and Chassidic lifestyle. They call us the “OTD” Off The Derech (off the beaten path) people.
We’ve been there and done that. Now we want to help you!