The Wonders of Leaving Observance
An alert reader caught it on Friday, but in case you didn’t get to see it, it was featured on the JPost all weekend: a celebration of the “former haredim who broke out of their dogmatic, strict confines, on pain of excommunication, poverty and loneliness, to live in a world in which they can choose how to live.” This is the story of the “Hillel” organization, and its efforts to support those leaving observance.
Although not documented in this article, I remember the organization’s roots as the Irgun L’Chozrim l’Sheylah [organization for returnees to questioning], a play on chozrim beTeshuvah [returnees to observance]. When it was founded it was featured in the Jerusalem Report, along with its sponsors — the Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism. A bochur then studying in the Mirrer Yeshiva Jerusalem noticed that without exception, all of the young prospective members were a little too young: they were minors, and the Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism was “aiding” runaway teens by keeping them away from their parents rather than helping effect a reconciliation. Given the unanimous opinion of psychologists that reconciliation is best in anything but an abusive relationship, it must be that the Humanists consider observance inherently abusive. Either that, or, the bochur penned in a letter to the editor, “that which is secular isn’t necessarily humanist.”
Although the organization has apparently matured, along with those that it aids, my opinion is unchanged. This latest from the Post is a classic “puff piece,” and given the topic, it is difficult to see the lack of balance as anything but offensive. In five pages one will search in vain for so much as a challenging question, much less the opinion of a detractor — and in this case, that means page after page of unrefuted slanders of Torah observance and observant life.
Assorted “facts” are conjured from thin air, such as “most haredi defectors are immediately ejected from their homes once they appear at the family doorstep without peyot (sidelocks) or, in the case of women, without a modest skirt.” Yaron Yadan, who, we are told, “fears that haredi influence and growth is undermining the state’s democratic character,” has created an organization to “try to teach the haredi public that they live by an unethical, mistaken and inequitable system.” Just in case you imagined he’s a mentally stable individual with a good grip on reality, he throws in this gem: “we try to explain to [the charedim] that the secular world is more beautiful — it is filled with creativity, ethics and spirituality.” Creativity, maybe. But modern, secular Israel is known for many things, and ethics and spirituality don’t even make the list.
Yadan is a tragic individual. He claims to have studied in yeshiva for years, and this may well be true. He then spent three years guiding his wife and seven children away from observance — before divorcing his wife, abandoning his seven kids, and marrying another. [To be sure, he is not the only father of seven to, unfortunately, undergo a divorce. But it is indeed pathetic for him to first get his wife to change her entire life to follow his, and then to divorce her. Either that, or she realized she’d been sold a false dream and showed him the door.]
But such tragic figures are not in short supply. One member after the other fits the model of “S.”, who “doesn’t describe the process of leaving as the result of an intellectual journey or sudden revelation. He simply never felt like he fitted in.” Others are teen runaways — the young man who described a slow, intellectual process is the exception rather than the norm. Contrast this with the countless stories of Ba’alei Teshuvah (those who adopted observance) who were attending top universities or enjoying successful careers before taking a spiritual detour.
We’re even treated to the words of a Modern Orthodox pundit, purporting to know what the charedim are doing wrong. If you guessed it was Samuel Heilman, though, you’d be wrong — in this case, it’s Faranak Margolese, whose book Off the Derech is a major contribution to the discussion of teens at risk and the phenomenon of young men and women leaving the world of observance. A major contribution, yes, but hardly the last word, and hardly as dispassionate and academic as she attempted to be.
The article notes that “most Hillel members abandon any belief in G-d or religious observance — at least in the early stages of rebellion.” This is indeed characteristic of those who leave — they often soften their opposition, and return to belief and/or practice later on. But Margolese claims that this aspect of the rebellion could be avoided or minimized. “A fair number of those in the haredi world who go off,” she says, “might have stayed at least somewhat observant if other communities or observant options were considered legitimate to their own world.” In other words, part of the problem is that the chassidim don’t take a more positive approach towards Modern Orthodoxy.
After all her research, did Margolese fail to note that the Modern Orthodox community is hardly immune to this phenomenon? Although a “rebel” from a more right-wing community might be more visible and have a greater painful impact, there is no data (not even in the 400+ pages of Off the Derech) supporting the idea that such communities have a greater population of teens at risk. In fact, anecdotally it would appear that just the opposite is true.
Much as the adherents of this modern “Hillel” might try to hide it, though, the truth will out. “S.” inadvertently tells the reader where ethics can be found. “Hessed [charity],” he says, “is an integral part of haredi life, and many charity organizations provide food and services for needy haredim. You don’t have that for people who become secular. Secular people live their lives. As a yotzeh [one who leaves], you’re on your own. It’s like you’re thrown to the winds.” Although not a few returnees to Jewish observance have been cut off by family members (despite the great emphasis on honoring parents, observant or not) and experienced poverty, the Torah community simply isn’t as lonely a place.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s not merely support that the yotzim find they are lacking. The original founder of the Irgun L’Chozrim L’Sheylah is no longer involved, even though he got and gave support for those leaving observance. He turned back the way he had come, and became a Chozer BeTeshuvah. Today he is once again an observant Jew.
“Given the unanimous opinion of psychologists that reconciliation is best in anything but an abusive relationship, it must be that the Humanists consider observance inherently abusive.”
I don’t envy anyone going through an identity crisis, whether because of social or faith-based issues. As chazal say, “ein simcha k’hatoras hasefikos”, there is no joy like the resolution of doubt(BTW, can anyone cite the daf for this?).
There is a parallel phenomenon in America, which I recently blogged about on Mishmar.blogspot/com. In a similar vein, I remember listening to an interview of Hela Winston on a Jewish radio show discussing this(note, I haven’t read her book, but I have seen a number of reviews, and I am aware that people have questioned its fairness).
A former Satmar woman called up the radio show, and was explaining her situation. The radio host, himself modern-Orthodox, tried to convince her to at least be modern-Orthodox, but she didn’t want that either(the Satmar person herself advises others against leaving Chasidic life, and favored reconciliation). I think that the only thing one can do in such situations is to keep the lines of communication open.
I agree completely with Yaakov Menken. This organization exploits unhappy people and aids them in throwing out the baby with the bathwater. If only we could find a path to bring all Israeli Jews together, so that the secular would see the good in the religious and the religious would not feel endangered by the secular. Maybe as on Pesach all four sons can sit together at the seder. I wonder what would happen if every dati family found a chiloni family to invite to their seder. Could it happen?
1. there is probably little data on either side ie more haredi or more MO ‘defectors’. there are doubtless few if any haredi defectors to an MO lifestyle— since they are told that such a derech is totally treyf— thus if they go off the derech, it will be whole hog, no pun intended.
2. i believe there are doubtless more going in via the tshuva movement, vs those going out— though the methodology of demographers would deny that. i hope the new BT’s know the constraints they will increasingly be held to— especially the increasing hardline strains of judaism that allow for only One Derech— their teacher’s; the decreasing acceptable income pursuits; the decreasing roles allowed for women, etc
3. at least the quoted author has studied the individuals, and not denied the problem. may the haredi community be zoche to use her data wisely…
Do you feel that people who choose to pursue a lifestyle without frumkeit should be thrown to the wolves, unprepared for the world, with no education, no place to live, no job skills, and no understanding of how the real world operates?
The purpose of the organization is not to make anyone not frum, but to help those who have already made that decision get on their feet and get their lives moving in a productive direction. What would you prefer, that they be abandoned and left to their own devices, and possibly fall into a bad crowd, so that you can triumphantly welcome them with open arms when they come crawling back from ruining their lives?
‘The purpose of the organization is not to make anyone not frum,’
Hedyot, do you have any evidence that this is the case?
Certainly the Modern Orthodox community is not immune to the teen-at-risk issue. The distinction, I believe, is that the Modern Orthodox community does not as greatly reinforce a negative self-image on those that choose to engage in non-normative behavior. A haredi who breaks even the most inconsequential of customs is labeled a problem and ostrasized, while a Modern Orthodox youth engaging in the same behavior is not made to feel as if they are not frum. The haredi approach keeps the level of committment of the committed high, but can have very negative psychological ramifications for those that don’t fit the profile. There is an increased chance of those haredim leaving religion to also get involved in self-destructive behavior. I think there is a place for an organization that takes these folks and says, “OK, you’re not frum. But you can and should still be a functioning member of society. Let us help you.”
Rabbi Yaakov Menken: One member after the other fits the model of “S.”, who “doesn’t describe the process of leaving as the result of an intellectual journey or sudden revelation. He simply never felt like he fitted in.”
Ori: The basic fact here is that there are young adults raised in charedi society who don’t fit in. This is not a criticism of charedi society, no society can fulfill the needs of all people – but it does mean that when those kids grow up they have to have a different support system.
Is the alternative to Hillel those young adults staying Charedi, finding their place, and leading happy, fulfilled lives in the Charedi world? Is it that they’ll stay outwardly Charedim and feel hollow inside? Is it that they’ll throw out morality along with religion and ruin their lives?
It’s possible that an alternative Hillel based on the minimum levels of Halacha (without the emphasis on Talmud Torah, or other Chumrot that are part of Charedi life but not part of Dati Leumi life) would work better. But until somebody sets that up, a Chiloni support system is better than nothing.
“In fact, anecdotally…”
Just about sums up the thought process of this post, as well as many others seen here.
Is it astonishing anymore that reportage in today’s press is highly slanted?
The source for “ein simcha k’hataros hasefeikos” is the Metzudos David on Mishlei 15:30. I was looking into it recently, and this is the only source my husband or his rosh yeshiva could find.
G, if you have the statistics about Off the Derech in various Jewish camps, please share them with us. If you don’t, and won’t take the time to find them, that OK – but you have to accept that other people who discuss issues might not take the time to dig the statistics up either.
That was not the issue of the post, or the Jpost article, or the hillel organization.
hillel wants to encourage people to leave religion, they might train them on the side
Jpost has this ridiculous notion of Chareidim, obviously caused by their closed environment and their refusal to go out in the world.
R’ Menkin was pointing out the unethical and absurd attitudes of the organization, and jpost’s over the top and unthinking support for them
Your point is legitimate, but not related.
Let me know where you disagree:
1) Some people don’t fit into the Haredi life, whether it be for theological reasons or not.
2) Such people are often ill-equipped to make it by themselves in the outside world.
3) Such people deserve help.
You make some accusations against Hillel and I don’t know if they are true or not. However, the lack of options for Haredi youth as well as their poor secular educations are a disgrace. You don’t seem to acknowledge that anywhere in your post. Similarly, your argument that Modern Orthodox also has those who leave (like me) does not imply that Haredim, given the choice, might not choose modern Orthodoxy over secularism.
I wonder if it occurred to you to compare Hillel to various Kiruv organizations and see if your criticisms of Hillel apply to them equally. I’ve certainly seen Kiruv organizations manipulate children away from their parents and tell them that all their problems would be solved if they became religious. Do you think Hillel is similar but in the opposite direction, or is there a more qualitative difference?
“i hope the new BT’s know the constraints they will increasingly be held to—- especially the increasing hardline strains of judaism that allow for only One Derech—- their teacher’s; the decreasing acceptable income pursuits; the decreasing roles allowed for women, etc”
It is virtually impossible for me to imagine it being any other way. Speaking as one who is just in the process of learning to be BT, and learning about what it means to be Torah observant, at every turn the prospective BT is by definition examining aspects of life, teachings and lifestyle that are radically different than those he or she is used to. While I am sure there are some rare individuals who wake up one morning, decide to become BT, and find some Torah observant community to admit them, such instantaneous escapism must be extraordinarily rare, if for no other reason than that a Charedi community would be foolish to invite in as a full member someone who does not understand the Halacha and Hashkafa of that community, who has not already demonstrated a commitment to that sort of life. Moreover, I suspect most BTs are intelligent and introspective individuals who are not going to make such a radical life change on a whim. It takes time, considerable time, and those I have met who are involved in outreach and education to prospective BTs insist upon those individuals going through a fairly lengthy process of education and self-examination. As my rabbi said to me fairly recently, “If I demanded that you immediately try to observe all 613 Mitzvos, you’d implode!”
In contrast, most Charedim who for whatever reason decide at a relatively young age (even at a relatively older age, I would guess) to leave the Charedi world must undergo a radical form of culture shock. They are leaving a highly insular world, and thrusting themselves into a world that is utterly foreign, which provides little or no support of any kind, material or otherwise. They cannot possibly understand the implications of their decisions, for they have no reference point whatsoever, no idea at all how one makes his way in such a world.
While I share the concern people here are expressing with respect to Hillel, there doesn’t seem to be any other organization out there providing a network of support for these new, young, largely naive emigrees to the secular world. It would seem to me this is a terrific opportunity for some MO organization to develop an outreach and support network that would at least preserve some modicum of observance, and faith, for these kids — most of whom, I strongly suspect, would be delighted to find a way to live in a more secular world without entirelly abandoning what it means to believe in Hashem and to live Jewishly.
I agree with Ori Pomerantz. The best response to the perversely named Hillel organisation is the development of halachically-run support newtorks for young people who feel they can’t make it in the Charedi world. I know of at least once such organisation in north-west London that provides vocational training and psycholigical, spiritual and material support – in a non-judgmental environment – for youngsters who drop out of the ‘ultra-Orthodox’ communities. Some of them are really damaged – self-inflicted and otherwise – but they get constructive help from caring, frum Jews that will allow them to make their own way in the world (get a job etc) without having to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Yaakov Menken #1: “Assorted “facts” are conjured from thin air”
Yaakov Menken #2: “But it is indeed pathetic for him to first get his wife to change her entire life to follow his, and then to divorce her. Either that, or she realized she’d been sold a false dream and showed him the door.”
>> ‘The purpose of the organization is not to make anyone not frum,’
> Hedyot, do you have any evidence that this is the case?
Yes. I have personal experience with them, which admittedly was not extensive, but from what I saw, it was like I described. I actually am closely involved in the parallel organization here in NY and regarding them I can unequivocally say that they are not at all about making people not frum, or about breaking up families, or about getting people involved in unsavory behaviors, or any other such activities, despite the same disinformation which is spread about them.
> …hillel wants to encourage people to leave religion…
Do you have any support for this claim? It is contrary to my experience. Not that you’d trust them, but their web site explicitly says the opposite.
“I think there is a place for an organization that takes these folks and says, “OK, you’re not frum. But you can and should still be a functioning member of society. Let us help you.””
You mean well, I know, but I’ve got to disagree, and strongly so.
A MO-affiliated organization saying it’s OK to not be frum? Sounds like the worst idea ever to me. We’ve got enough problems with people pretending to care about halacha but not really caring hijacking the MO movement – the last thing we need is to haul in people who EXPLICITLY don’t care.
I sympathize with these folks to some extent, but there are plenty of secular organizations that can handle job training and education, and do a fine job of it. Giving tacit approval of a non-halachic lifestyle is not the road MO needs to go down.
WHY DO HAREIDI CHILDREN RUN AWAY FROM THEIR RELIGION?
The short answer is: Because they are unhappy there.
Why are they unhappy? Because they are not getting what they need to develop normally.
“Al Pi Darko”—an individual approach to each child– is a fundamental rule of Chinuch. When a child feels that his parents and/or his teachers are treating him like a statistic, rather than an individual, he feels trapped, and he wants to escape.
Rav Meir Shapiro (founder of the elite Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin in Poland and founder of Daf HaYomi), ZT”L, founded a trade school/Yeshiva for boys who were not academically inclined. This was done under the direction of his Rebbe, Reb Yisroel of Chortkov, ZT”L,. Unfortunately, this initiative was cut short by the World War.
Today, we look down at vocational education, and any boy who cannot handle the all-day book learning of the yeshiva is cast aside and labeled a failure, unable to find a decent Shidduch.
If we don’t move aggressively to find a way to integrate our vocationally-oriented boys into our community, we shall continue to stand by helplessly as thousands of our fine young men drown, one-by-one, in the oceans of immorality and decadence that surround us on every side in this age of atheism, Beikvesa DemiSheCha.
It was very clear from someone I once met who had gone through Hillel, that they do their very best to convince the youngsters (he was 16 at the time) that Judaism is “shtuyot”, R”L.
For those who may not know, one of the founders of Hillel was a chozer b’shayla, who later was chozer betshuva and became a strong force in Israeli Kiruv. When I met aforementioned youngster, he told me with a smile that that was the one question the Hillel folk never had an answer to: “But what happened to S.H.? How come he was chozer betshuva?” The question always made them squirm 🙂
If Faranak Margolese speculated that chareidi youth and their parents often don’t see Modern Orthodoxy as legitimate, then I think she has a valid point. My personal, casual observation is that, often, it’s “all or nothing” for some kids. They may not even see Yeshivish-lite as an option. And so, if they want to pursue a secular career or participate in the artistic, entertainment or intellectual milieu of secular society, they feel as if they need to also discard their upbringing. This might also hold true in varying degrees for those who feel uncomfortable about their distinctive garb, payos, or even those who want to eat OU foods instead of Chassidish hashgacha. There is a middle ground, and they were not raised to believe that it is valid. Tragic, really. Instead if criticizing Hillel, we should be offering attractive alternatives to them.
What that organization should do is, instead of encouraging the person’s decision to stop observance, they should help them experience it in a way they’ll enjoy besides helping them get job skills and other things. Otherwise, they go to the Other extreme where only their physical needs are met while the neshama gets malnurished.
“The source for “ein simcha k’hataros hasefeikos” is the Metzudos David on Mishlei 15:30. I was looking into it recently, and this is the only source my husband or his rosh yeshiva could find”
In Mail-Jewish (Volume 28 Number 100, Jul 9, 1999) someone quotes the Metzudos Dovid you mention. However, the writers of a few online English Torah articles quote it as “the Talmud”; that’s why I thought it might be a gemera as well. There are also these sources given in the Mail Jewish list: “The Treasury of Jewish Quotations, edited by Joseph L. Baron, 1985, p.93 #216.4 brings: “No greater joy than resolve a doubt.”Source: J. Hurowitz, Tzel HaMaalot, 1764, p. 31. See Issreles, Responsa, #5.”
“hillel wants to encourage people to leave religion”
Not our HILLEL 🙂
Someone left the following comment on my blog about “Chulent”, which I think is one of two groups in America which cater to those on the way out, or to those who have left the Orthodox community:
“As a chulent attendee, I can attest to the fact that both of these and many more variables exist and contribute to the chulent gathering; the theological debates are often intense and on a very high level, the non-conforming creative personalities shine and are cherished, and there is a freedom to just enjoy, laugh, and have fun for a little while without constant pressure. For some, the love for some aspects of Yiddishkeit and the deep rejection of others and the pain that struggle can cause is palpable. The support, friendships and nonjudgemental atmosphere are a gift to many of us.”
As Hillel and Ari point out, above, wouldn’t it be great if we could be more accomaodating of non-conformity, and if there was a way that creative needs could be satisfied in a positive manner–not only for those in “special” or “at risk” yeshivos, but even for those who are in mainstream yeshivos.
Rabbis Yaakov Horowitz and Eli Titelbaum, both experienced mechanchim, put forth in Hamishpocha Magazine creative, but perhaps non-conventional ideas to introduce into the Yeshiva system(the former, innovative methods for teaching Gemera skills to help those who need them, and the latter, music and gym activities). Some readers criticized the suggestion, for fear of diluting Yeshiva standards. Yet, in girls schools there are alternatives to academic activities, and in this aspect, boys needs are no different than girls. Even a masmid can benefit from activities which develop other aspects of his personality, even during the zeman. I know of a few prominent rabbonim who have interests outside limud Hatorah, such as playing an instrument, and they probably developed it in their youth.
And let us not forget another example of non-conformity, mentioned in Vintage Wein: R. Chaim Ozer Grodzinski in his youth, was kicked out of his cheder class on a certain day. Also, in this past week’s Hamishpocha, it is related that a young R. Chaim Kanievsky climbed every pole in sight on his Bnei Brak block, and the Chazon Ish said, “let him be, he’s a child”(true, there are other stories where the more serious chinuch side of the Chazon Ish’s family are emphasized). People develop at different rates, and in some ways, people need to “climb poles” even in their adult years.
‘It was very clear from someone I once met who had gone through Hillel, that they do their very best to convince the youngsters (he was 16 at the time) that Judaism is “shtuyot”, R”L.’
Hedyot, well here we have evidence for a different experience than yours.
At what point does help rendered become an incentive?
Let’s say there is an organization that sees drug addicts in all sorts of trouble with the law, living in squalor, etc. If the organization then provided a complete financial and medical safety net for the addicts, removing any downside (as seen by the addicts) to their addiction, could that be expected to encourage any others who are wavering about taking drugs to now get addicted?
Is identification with Olam Hazeh and its secular attractions, to the exclusion of attachment to HaShem, different from this in kind?
WASR, “Off The Derech” profiles both those who leave the MO and Charedi worlds. The common denominators of poor parenting, schools and teachers unable or unwilling to deal with hashkafic issues and the ever increasing need to comply with communal dictates or conformity, exist in botn communities. One can argue that while the root causes are the same, going “Off The Derech” manifests itself in different ways in different communities. Therefore, IMO, it can be argued that since the article only focused on those who leave the Charedi world, a comparison with MO drop outs would be as equally inappropriate as the quote re secularity and spirituality.
There appears to be a “blame the victim” subtext among some posters here, as well as in some other threads (the Israel bus incident for one).
One can ask how prevalent these disturbing trends truly are, or whether the media are hopelessly biased, or the alleged agendas of organizations who try to assist those in need.
At the same time, we shouldn’t use that as an excuse to dismiss the acute pain and needs of these individuals (however many or few that there are) that are not being addressed by the status quo.
“Yes. I have personal experience with them, which admittedly was not extensive, but from what I saw, it was like I described. I actually am closely involved in the parallel organization here in NY and regarding them I can unequivocally say that they are not at all about making people not frum, or about breaking up families, or about getting people involved in unsavory behaviors, or any other such activities, despite the same disinformation which is spread about them.”
But The Hedyot, you must acknowledge that the roots of this organization is the anti-religious bias of its founders, one who has since returned to observance and kiruv, and that surely informs its activities, at least subtlely. Further, I would assume that, unfortunately, many of those abandoning their Orthodox lifestyles are going headfirst into a life of hedonism, including indulgence in sex, drugs, and other activities these individuals believe is what the secular world has to offer and which they were being denied as Orthodox Jews. If so, would this organization try to encourage these individuals to avoid such a lifestyle and inform them that a “secular” lifestyle does not have to mean a licentious lifestyle and invokes “self-control”, or does the organization just stand by and allow the “Yoitzim” to indulge while receiving job tranining and a safety net. Looking at the comments before, it seems Bob touched on this. What do you have to say?
Reb Yid said, “There appears to be a “blame the victim” subtext…”
The blame I see here is aimed at a class of victimizers (crusaders for secularization) and their facilitators, and at conditions (e.g., community intolerance of any individuality) that can contribute to a bad personal decision (secularization).
Here is an example of two wonderful servants of HaShaem in Breslov/Eretz Yisroel, who would not be accepted in some other venues.
Rabbi Lazer Brody was born in Washington, D.C. in 1949. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the University of Maryland in 1970, he moved to Israel and joined the Israel Defense Forces regular army, and served in one of the elite special-forces units. He is a decorated combat veteran of two wars and dozens of counter-insurgence and anti-terrorist missions on both sides of Israel’s borders.
After surviving a near-suicidal mission to Beirut during the Israel-Lebanon conflict of 1982, Brody could no longer ignore the hand of G-d in his life. He became a baal-tshuva and left his mountaintop farm to study Torah in Jerusalem.
Nine years of intensive Talmudic, ethics, and legal studies, led to his rabbinical ordination in 1992. He devoted another two years of postgraduate study to personal and family counseling, and subsequently spent two years as rabbi and spiritual rehabilitation director of a major Israeli prison. There, he created a highly successful program of spiritual rehabilitation for prisoners based on Tshuva.
In 1996, Brody moved to Ashdod and became the understudy of the famed Melitzer Rebbe, a contemporary giant in rabbinical law and personal counseling. Two years later, Rav Shalom Arush opened a branch of his renowned of the “Chut Shel Chessed – Breslev” Yeshiva in the port city of Ashdod, and appointed Brody as the “Rosh Kollel”, or Dean of the rabbinical program.
Today, Lazer Brody dedicates his time to Jewish Outreach, and particularly to spreading the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev around the globe.
Yosef Karduner is the pride of Breslev. Not only is he a giant of giants (for Breslev boasts some of Jewish music’s greatest musicians), but he’s a true chassid. I don’t think that there’s anywhere else on earth where one can find such top-of-the-charts talent together with humility, kedusha, and wisdom. It takes a Rebbe Nachman of Breslev to raise a Yosef Karduner.
There ios a place for everyone in the Hareidi community, if only you try hard enough.
> …would this organization try to encourage these individuals to avoid such a lifestyle and inform them that a “secular” lifestyle does not have to mean a licentious lifestyle and invokes “self-control”…?
Unlike the frum world, these organizations do not have a party line that they expect their participants to follow, and therefore do not deliberately tell them what to do or what not to do. That being said, the organization that I am associated with is very clear that it’s mission is to help people develop a healthy lifestyle, which is obviously not one steeped in promiscuity, drugs, and other unsavory activities. Towards that end, they provide many valuable and important services, such as emotional support, educational resources, social services, vocational advice, housing assistance, etc.
Additionally, your own stated assumption that “many of those abandoning their Orthodox lifestyles are going headfirst into a life of hedonism” is not the typical scenario at all, in my experience. That’s a common and convenient stereotype that the frum world often believes, which helps portray those who leave as low-lifes and deviants. No doubt, there are those who get involved in that, but judging from the countless people I’ve known who have done this, that’s the exception, not the rule. Any person who’s looking for it knows they can have drugs and sex while still staying frum. If someone is leaving frumkeit it’s not just because of taivos.
Lastly, not that I believe the intention of a founder many years ago informs the activities of the group today (although that’s also a commonly heard motif as to why chareidim are against the State of Israel) or that such were actually his intentions, but the group that I am associated with has no anti-religious agenda whatsoever. It’s sole purpose always has been and still is to help people pursue the life they feel is right for them (within certain limits. They probably wouldn’t help someone who waned to do something they felt was unhealthy). In fact, there are actually people who are associated with the organization who have even become somewhat frum again. There is no anti-religious agenda here at all.
In any case, all this is besides the point (at least my point). The main question that needs to be answered is: Would you all prefer that the people these groups cater to be abandoned, and left to enter the real world on their own, likely making some pretty damaging choices while they find their way, and unnecessarily struggling due to the handicaps of their upbringing? Because that’s likely what would happen if not for these organizations. Despite everyone’s claims that “ideally, there should be a group that does so-and-so…” there are no other groups that these people can turn to to give them what they want in an environment they would be comfortable in.
It is still hard to know which posts are likely to spark intense discussions. This one, for example, has produced much more than I expected, and thanks to all of you. Some assorted responses…
While easterner shares Faranak Margolese’ feeling that charedim think MO is ‘treyf’, my experience is otherwise. Within every circle there are those who are more or less hard-line than others. One woman I know attended a ‘chardal’ school in Israel for a year (the acronym means Charedi-Zionist), and told me that she was offended when the teachers would talk about how the ‘other’ charedim believe their’s is the only true way, and almost in the same paragraph would go on to say that their own path is the uniquely correct one. You get this on all sides, and I very much doubt that it has any bearing here at all.
Easterner also implies that someone out there is ‘denying the problem’ of teens at risk. Margolese, on the other hand, begins her book by describing the multiple issues of the Agudah’s Jewish Observer devoted to the topic, and I know the OU and Young Israel have addressed it as well. Who is denying the problem?
Regarding Hedyot’s question, as I mentioned I’ve been familiar with the organization since its early days, when it was opening lines of communications with teens contemplating running away, and offering support services. As Bob wrote in comment 29, at some point this offer becomes an incentive.
JA argues that a Kiruv organization such as a yeshiva or seminary might provide the same services in the other direction. These, however, carry with them high expectations of the prospective student. I don’t think there’s any parallel that says “here, you can do whatever you want, and we’ll help you out if you simply adopt a charedi lifestyle.”
G seems nonplussed that this is a blog for opinion pieces. I said it “would appear” that more Modern Orthodox youth turn secular than charedi youth, and I stand by that (I don’t think there *are* any statistics for this yet, Ori). Cross-Currents presents informed opinion, and attempts to present it as informed opinion. The Jerusalem Post presents uninformed opinion (“most haredi defectors are immediately ejected from their homes”) as established fact, so I don’t think we suffer by comparison!
Ultimately, I disagree strongly with “the Hedyot” regarding whether Hillel is serving a positive function. Given its past history and continuing “referrals” to people like Yaron Yadan, the claim that the organization merely aims to “help those who have already made that decision” cannot be sustained. Its agenda is no less obvious than that of a Chabad Mitzva-mobile.
The answer, I think, has been stated several times already: frum organizations offering non-judgemental support. Several already exist, and I do not think we can say that they don’t exist in Israel.
They just aren’t likely to get glowing coverage in the Jerusalem Report, the Jerusalem Post, and other secular outlets.
WADR, I suspect that statistics in this area will never be forthcoming from one of the best sources-the educational world. I would tend to doubt that any yeshiva, regardless of its hashkafa, either keeps data on how many of its students are Shomrei Torah Umitzvos or whether any have gone off the derech. The notion that there are either more MO than Charedi individuals or vice versa who have gone off the derech is IMO a classic example of either an urban myth or thanking HaShem that I have don’t have someone else’s machalah, as opposed to hoping that the disease dissipates.
> …frum organizations offering non-judgemental support.
But don’t you see, most of these people want nothing to do with frum organizations! They won’t go to an organization that has a moniker of frum, regardless of how supposed non-judgmental it is. Frumkeit and all that is associated with it is something they want to get away from; it’s a source of pain, of rejection, of countless negative emotions. The frum world had it’s chance (usually, countless chances) with these people and blew it.
Additionally, I wonder, if it’s really non-judgmental, then what’s the practical difference in what they do and what these organizations do? (If you agree that there is no anti-religious agenda. Obviously, if there’s an agenda, it’s qualitatively different.)
…at some point this offer becomes an incentive.
True, but that applies to everything in life, even frum life. The same argument could be made that there shouldn’t be any tolerance of anything but the strictest standards of halacha, because at some point acceptance of that becomes incentive to be that (and no doubt, this is part of the logic that many people subscribe to in their opposition to anything less than those highest standards). For instance, many feel that having a yeshiva that caters to those not so into learning, can become an incentive to some not to go into learning. Obviously, there are those who still buy into this, but the vast majority of the frum world has woken up to the futility of this approach.
Bob said: “The blame I see here is aimed at a class of victimizers (crusaders for secularization) and their facilitators”.
With all due respect, the individuals have already been victimized by their social and religious upbringing. That is the ikar here.
It may well be that particular “assistance” organizations are in reality “anti-religious”, but to categorize all such assistance organizations in this light is, in fact, “throwing out the baby with the bath water”.
There is also an implicit and dangerous assumption your post makes that all such individuals could be “saved” and brought back into the religious fold if not for the alleged evil and meddling influences of all such organizations that lie outside the Haredi environs.
Here, in Ramat Beit Shemesh, there is a frum organization (endorsed by the charedi rabbonim of the city) that works with kids at risk. A lot of them (possibly most) exhibit behaviors such as alcohol, drugs, etc. Which is not surprising if we are talking about rebellious teenagers. This organization works with them on the principle that before these kids can be “frum”, they have to become normal functioning human beings. If for that they need a job, for example, they would help as much as they can with that. Are they non-judgemental? Depends on what you mean by that.
If you mean that anything you do is ok, than no. If you mean that despite their decidedly unreligious behavior, the kids get a sense (a true sense, not acting) that they are cared about and that there is good in them, than yes. Either way, the kids, even the ones who are on the surface bitterly hostile to frumkeit in general and charedim in particular, do come and are involved. Why? Again, because they sense the deep empathy and caring and ahavas israel of the people running this organization and working with them.
“There is a place for everyone in the Hareidi community, if only you try hard enough.”
Mention should be made of a gadol, who for many years had an interest in the New York Yankees(the Mets did not exist then). We see from this that people don’t change overnight. If this is true even after learning in the Alter Mir, then it is certainly true for today’s educational institutions. There is also a story of the Chafetz Chaim arranging violin lessons for an orphaned secular boy, who was a relative, and was staying with him in Radin(Vintage Wein). These stories need to be stressed, IMO, to counteract any excessive conformity.
“If you mean that anything you do is ok, than no.”
I agree with Eliyahu and Bob. I don’t think that one can have an organization under frum auspices that is purely “non-judgmental” in the sense that it abets, even passively or indirectly, a flight from observance. Perhaps there is a halachic question regarding l’fnei iveir, but there certainly seems to be a hashkafic question involved in being purely non-judgmental. I imagine frum psychologists have similar questions to deal with.
However, from their standpoint, these organizations feel that they are minding their own business, and not actively missionizing charedim, unlike the case of one organization in Israel. The organizations will therefore continue to attract people, as well as the interest of the media(there was an op-ed in the New York Times a year ago by Hella Winston about a Pesach Seder made by one such American group). Therefore, I think that the frum world can only indirectly stop this phenomenon by observing what needs the groups are fulfilling, and then trying to satisfy those needs for as many people as possible within the context of Orthodoxy.
In a different situation, I know two acquaintances from yeshivah who “went of the derech”, but I was never close enough with either that I think I currently have any influence with them. After I met the first at a simcha, he commented that I was “looking down at him”, although I don’t how I gave that impression. So I tried to learn from that, and when I met the second on the subway, a former chassidishe bachur now without a yarmulka, I didn’t blink an eyelash–mach zich nisht vissadig, as the expression goes– and tried to at least have a normal conversation for the duration of the ride. Obviously, the organizations for “kids at risk” do not have the luxury of doing this.
I’ll add that Hillel(perhaps its American counterpart as well) is not neutral either, as Rabbi Menken says. Otherwise, why not invite the best of the kiruv or frum psychological profession to present alternative ideas on different issues, assuming that there could be mutual agreement on how to structure such presentation to the satisfaction of both sides. I think that if the organization is run by people who left Orthodoxy, then they already have a philosophical and emotional leaning in that direction.
But I think that they deserve some credit for advising people not to leave, if they don’t think it is feasible, even if that is not a “lishmah” decision. Regarding Chulent(which sounds like its more observant than Hillel and its American version), someone wrote me that they tolerate Satmar views on the State of Israel; that’s certainly more tolerant than even some observant people.
“You get this on all sides, and I very much doubt that it has any bearing here at all.”
That’s a bit of a non-sequitor. I doubt many MO dropouts would be eager to adopt a charedi lifestyle if it was offered as a viable alternative. It seems logical, though, that the charedi dropout who may have stayed frum in a more open environment exists.
This really doesn’t directly address kids that want little or nothing to do with Orthodoxy, but it’s worth noting that there are some post-high school programs that blend vocational training, such as construction skills, together with traditional bais medrash Torah study. The Lancaster, Pennsylvania yeshiva (apparently endorsed by E. Shmuel Kamenetsky), is but one example. How refreshing and creative — the recognition that we have different talents, interests and attention spans. Dare I invoke Yissocher and Zevulun, working for the same goals, but with different approaches? Of course, we’re talking about a seemingly more extreme challenge on this thread, but I thought that I would offer this up as an example of the kind of creativity and caring that the community needs to demonstrate.
> Otherwise, why not invite the best of the kiruv or frum psychological profession to present alternative ideas on different issues…
I hate to say it, but this statement reveals such a fundamental disconnect with the reality of the situation we’re talking about that it just further proves to me the gap that frum people have about understanding those who leave.
> I think that if the organization is run by people who left Orthodoxy, then they already have a philosophical and emotional leaning in that direction.
I think everyone would agree that the people involved in these organizations (and I speak for myself to) definitely have some sort of leaning towards the non-religious side of the equation. But that doesn’t mean they bring that bias to the table when dealing with such people. Having a bias does not mean having an agenda. Every frum person also has a bias. Does that mean every frum person has an agenda when they befriend a troubled or rebellious teen?
Additionally, the perspective that people here seem to be having is of a kind of mirror image of the frum worlds perspective. They think that just like the frum world wants people to be frum,, the non-frum world wants them to be not frum. That isn’t the case. Non-frum people don’t want everyone to be like them. They just want people to have the freedom to choose a path that they’re happy with. Most non-religious and ex-religious people that I know of, are perfectly content to let frum people remain that way, if they think that the person is truly happy living that lifestlye. (There are some notable exceptions who see the frum lifestyle as inherently damaging and are therefore strongly opposed to it, but they are definitely not the majority, in my experience.)
I’d just like to add that I truly appreciate that the commenters here (or is it the moderators?) have managed to keep this discussion quite civil (for the most part). My past experiences with this topic have usually not gone as productively.
> I think that the frum world can only indirectly stop this phenomenon by observing what needs the groups are fulfilling, and then trying to satisfy those needs for as many people as possible within the context of Orthodoxy.
I couldn’t have said it better. However, what you propose is an impossible goal. Orthodox society – as it is defined for so many of these people – can not provide them with what they need. Whether because of halachically or societally, it can not meet the needs of many of it’s constituents. Probably with some minor adjustments it can meet the needs of some of those who are leaving, and with more drastic changes, it can probably meet even more, but even in it’s most perfect mold, not everyone fits into the Orthodox world. It’s that simple. And I say that about the most ideal scenario. In today’s Orthodox world, which is so far from any imaginable ideal, it’s totally implausible to think that any form of what it currently is could meet the needs of all of its members.
> Regarding Chulent (which sounds like its more observant than Hillel and its American version), someone wrote me that they tolerate Satmar views on the State of Israel.
You are a bit misinformed. “Chulent” is not an organization. It’s just a bunch of people getting together on Thursday nights to enjoy each others company. To say “they tolerate” anything , or that “they are more observant” is absurd. There is no “they”. The guy who arranges it (who himself is religious) just wants everyone to feel welcome to come and enjoy themselves as long as they aren’t causing any problems. To that end, there is food (at the minimum a wheelbarrow sized crock pot of parve chulent), alcohol, games, music, shmoozing (philosophical discussion, political discussion, religious debate, and every other kind of topic discussed), smoking (of numerous varieties), dancing (yes, it’s mixed), guys and girls meeting up, and all sorts of fun stuff. All this in an environment where you can find religious people, non-religious people, old, young, male, female, jewish, non-jewish, arab, israeli, chasid, modern, single, married, ex-religious, BT, closet skeptics, Neturei Karta, irreligious people seeking religion, religious people on their way out, artists, bloggers, writers, dancers, lawyers, teachers, scientists, programmers, musicians, journalists, rabbis, (the occasional homeless), and anyone else who can stomach the smoke filled, stuffy (and at times freezing cold) room of the Millinery Synagogue. Chulent might be what’s served, but as anyone who’s been there on a good night knows, it describes much more than just the food.
It seems to me that Eretz Yisroel is way ahead of the reast of the Jewish world in accomodating non-conforming chilren and adults.–“Aveero D’Eretz Yisroel machkim.”
Your obervation about priorities seems right to me–First, you have to a mentsch; then you can become a Yid!
“ Otherwise, why not invite the best of the kiruv or frum psychological profession to present alternative ideas on different issues…”
“I hate to say it, but this statement reveals such a fundamental disconnect with the reality of the situation we’re talking about that it just further proves to me the gap that frum people have about understanding those who leave.”
You only quoted part of my sentence, above(see below, for the rest). I realize that some on the way out are probably not interested in a mussar schmooze, nor I assume, in attending a kiruv seminar. The people the organizations like Hillel cater to are peope who are either hurt, unsatisfied or “turned off”, actively looking for alternatives to Orthodox behavior and philosophy, and simultaneously needing support in different ways(see also quote in my comment #26, above, “the support, friendships and nonjudgemental atmosphere are a gift to many of us”).
I wrote, “assuming that there could be mutual agreement on how to structure such presentation to the satisfaction of both sides.” I was thinking as an analogy, in terms of what the secular press does, when it allows a religious columnist to write. The columns stimulate thought, but do not represent the editorial view; obviously, secular Jews as well have an interest in hearing a religious perspective on some issues.
Other examples of interest are the secular Jewish writers who recognize the role that the frum world played and continues to plays in preserving the future of Judaism; Ben Gurion was impressed with the Chazon Ish’s wisdom; Professor Samuel Atlas(Hebrew Union College) had an ongoing correspondence with Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg; for a few years in the 1950’s, a group from a Reform Temple used to show up Simchas Torah(on their own intiative) to Torah Vodaas in Willamsburg to witness the proceedings, and they were taken under the wings by one of the administrators.
Those thinking of leaving Orthodoxy could also benefit from hearing a religious point of view, even if they debate and refute it. What the exact appropriate topics or structure for such interactions are, I don’t know, but it’s an idea. As you wrote “having a bias does not mean having an agenda” (as far as biases of frum people, I agree that there can be, but that’s a different topic), so the organization should realize that the need to move away from Orthodoxy should not preclude having some type of positive interaction with those who are observant, if some creative type of forum could indeed be arranged.
“Most non-religious and ex-religious people that I know of, are perfectly content to let frum people remain that way, if they think that the person is truly happy living that lifestlye.”
I agree with this(as well as with the part about the “notable exceptions”, which I also am aware of).
“I’d just like to add that I truly appreciate that the commenters here (or is it the moderators?) have managed to keep this discussion quite civil (for the most part).”
I think that there is no reason why discussions on many other contentious issues should also not take place in this manner.
While the moderators reserve the right to edit and reject comments, in this discussion I don’t think that’s happened yet (spelling or punctuation, perhaps).
The existence of moderation may be enough to be mazhir es hazehirim, to remind people who know how to keep a dialog civil in any case. But for the most part, the level of the dialog is a credit to the commenters themselves.
> …so the organization should realize that the need to move away from Orthodoxy should not preclude having some type of positive interaction with those who are observant…
It’s peculiar that you put the onus of this realization on those who have left. Overwhelmingly, for almost everyone I’ve encountered, it’s those in the frum world that have made the person want to disassociate not just from Orthodox Judaism, but particularly, Orthodox Jews. It isn’t the people who’ve left who need to be reminded that not being frum doesn’t mean not having anything to do with religiosity. It’s the frum world, with its very clear and loud criticisms of such people, and how they are negative influences which must be stayed away from, etc. that needs to adjust its perspective in this area. Do you think we’ve just forgotten all that you taught us all those years in yeshiva about how terrible we are and how much you don’t want to have anything to do with us (unless of course, we are interested in coming back)?
Not only that, but aside from the general policies of the community, the frum world also needs to stop treating them and relating to them in ways which are simply uncomfortable, and would make anyone want to get as far away as possible. Whether it’s through palpable and unmistakable negativity, such as criticism, scorn or just plain old suspicious glances; or whether thorugh condescending attitudes, like pity or the insistence on some participation in a frum or kiruvy activity, it’s the actions of the frum world that makes those leaving want to keep a healthy distance from even relatively harmless social interactions.
Practically speaking, I actually understand that this is quite difficult for the frum world to do, if they want to still maintain their strong belief that leaving frumkeit is wrong and should be strongly discouraged. Obviously, you can’t have it both ways. If one wants to strongly campaign against X, they will, in all likelihood, turn off those who are interested in X from associating with them. If they want to keep a positive relationship with these people, they either have to stop campaigning against X or tone it down to the point that the message is not one that disenfranchises those people. Obviously that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. But you can’t have it both ways. To me, this is just one more example of how the frum world says one thing about the issue, but their actions clearly speak another.
It’s true that many who leave with overwhelmingly negative experiences and views of the frum world might be better suited to temper their feelings with a more nuanced view of their former community, but it’s not the job of this organization to do that. And it’s absurd to suggest that an institution created to help those who feel a need to get away from something nudge its participants right back towards that something they want to get away from (even if only towards an attitude adjustment), however gently or non-threateningly it may be done.
Furthermore, the simple truth is that many who leave still maintain active discussions and relationships with select people in the frum world (besides their family); those few (and seemingly rare) frum individuals who are able to put aside all judgmentalism and relate to them just as the people they are. But then again, it’s probably not these people who ever contributed to them wanting to leave in the first place.
“the level of the dialog is a credit to the commenters themselves.”
– this is a busha
“It’s true that many who leave with overwhelmingly negative experiences and views of the frum world might be better suited to temper their feelings with a more nuanced view of their former community, but it’s not the job of this organization to do that…Furthermore, the simple truth is that many who leave still maintain active discussions and relationships with select people in the frum world (besides their family); those few (and seemingly rare) frum individuals who are able to put aside all judgmentalism and relate to them just as the people they are.”
I assume, based on the statement from Yaron Yadan in the Jerusalem Post article, that the support organizations don’t encourage someone to leave, if they think that it will make their life more difficult in the end. In one exceptional case, a Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz secretary referred an American college student volunteer to a yeshiva because she felt he would be happier being religious, and her judgment turned out to be correct. I hope Hillel and others would do the same in such situations.
Nevertheless, for them to arrange on a regular basis interactions with Frum people might indeed be beyond their mission statements. Maybe something can be arranged outside the organizations, by people on both sides who are interested in such interactions occurring. As you say, the onus is not only on those who have left. Perhaps this idea should be considered by some of the “few (and seemingly rare) frum individuals”.
See this article for a recent example, when both sides benefited from interactions in terms of mutual understanding.
You are also one of the commenters! What don’t you like about the dialogues?
“it’s the actions of the frum world that makes those leaving want to keep a healthy distance from even relatively harmless social interactions.”
I’m not sure why we in the frum world think that those who have betrayed Torah keeping far away from us is a bad thing.
We don’t want “harmless social interactions” with those who have left. We want them to come back. If they’re not interested in them, then we don’t want any “interaction” with them.
“Practically speaking, I actually understand that this is quite difficult for the frum world to do.”
It’s not difficult, it’s impossible. We’d have to stop being Torah Jews to do that. To view someone who has turned his back on the Torah, as “just another person” is impossible.
“To me, this is just one more example of how the frum world says one thing about the issue, but their actions clearly speak another.”
On the contrary our position is very consistent. Those who leave have committed an act of catastrophic consequences. Some of them have done it in circumstances more or less beyond their control. With them teshuvah is still possible and we have to maintain a relationship with them that will enable teshuvah (which doesn’t mean that we’ll invite them to give a presentation on what they do on Shabbos in our yeshivos).
Those who have left willingly and in circumstances where it was a clearly conscious decision are in effect, reshayim (I have a former friend who did that). So we can mourn their decisions and hope that they’ll come back but in the meantime we shouldn’t have anything to do with them. Hedyot and those who left Yiddishkeit willingly also can’t have it both ways. You can’t do what you want and expect your former world to accept it, support it condone it and help you do it better. When you leave there’s a price to pay and it should be paid. Think of the following analogy. Everyone in the secular world would agree that someone who turns to a career of crime cannot then be accepted as a normal member of society. He can be rehabilitated or at least worked with to attempt rehabilitation but society will never accept his as he is. And it will do its best to separate itself from such an individual and make sure that he doesn’t influence others to follow in his ways.
Any organization that promotes the welfare of those who become criminals while accepting their lifestyle (think of the Mafia) will also be looked at as something cancerous to society.
You’ll ask me, how does one know who left willingly (b’Mezid) and who did it under the force of circumstances (b’shogeg). Good question. For an answer I refer you to the famous Chazon Ish regarding the status of non-religious Jews as tinokos shenishba.
There is probably a cultural difference between the Israeli and American organizations here. I would expect that the American organizations would be non-judgmental on questions of religion, but such an attitude would be odd in an Israeli group. Based on what I have read about Hillel (I did not read this particular article in Jpost) it seems that they are specifically interested in encouraging teenagers to leave religion. Jpost definitely comes across as rooting for this.
I agree with the hedyot that it is ridiculous to expect a secular organization to try to help people with their problems in the religious world. That is not what they are there for. The only complaint we can have against them is that they actively encourage people to leave religion, and they do not only help those who have already left. (Again, depending on what exactly they do). Hillel and Jpost also seem to have an infantile pleasure in their prowess at convincing troubled teenagers to join them and they see this as a triumph for secularism. (Again, thats how Jpost sounds.) It is fair to point out their immaturity, though I am not sure why we care.
“You are also one of the commenters! What don’t you like about the dialogues?”
I just meant it’s a busha that the dialog is so respectable as to elicit a compliment 🙂
> On the contrary our position is very consistent.
No, I don’t believe it is and here’s why: You yourself say, ”We want them to come back. If they’re not interested in them, then we don’t want any “interaction” with them.”
Yet, above, in the comments prior, everyone is clamoring for some sort of way of reaching out to those who have left, even when it’s clear that they are not interested in coming back. That the community should try to relate to them with no agenda whatsoever.
So which is it?
On the one hand, there are people like you who say that the frum world should have nothing to do with people who have left willingly and purposefully.
But on the other hand, there are people who say that there should be some sort of organization under frum auspices, which will meet the needs of such people, even when they aren’t interested in being frum, just so that there still be a relationship between the two groups. And what about all those who feel that regardless of the presence of an official organization, there’s value to just maintaining any kesher whatsoever? Is that only because if they lose all contact, getting them back is even less likely, or is it because they genuinely care about the people regardless of how frum they may or may not be?
You call them “reshaim” and say that the community “shouldn’t have anything to do with them”, yet others say that the community needs to relate to them with no agenda whatsoever, just genuine appreciation and compassion. Again, which is it?
Now, I understand that the frum world – even just the chareidi one – does not always speak with one voice, and in fact, different people have expressed these varying views. But I’d like to suggest that these two views are not quite coming from different people. The community itself often does say both of these ideas, simultaneously, as paradoxical as that may seem. They just don’t realize that the two ideas contradict each other. This is the inconsistency that I speak of.
And getting back to the original point I was making, according to someone like you, who feels that the community should have nothing to do with these people, what do you prefer happen to them? That they just make their way on their own, with no marketable skills, barely a high school education, no understanding of the social mores of the world they’re entering, (and very possibly an unhealthy appetite for all sorts of illicit activities), and try to just fumble along, likely doing plenty of stupid things, hurting themselves, and possibly screwing up really badly, all in the hope that they damage themselves badly enough that they’ll regret their decision and come crawling back to the frum world, crying their hearts out about the terrible decision they made?
> It’s not difficult, it’s impossible.
I recognize your difficulty, and I understand your position. I just wish that the rest of the frum world would start realizing this impossibility and acknowledge it openly.
Since someone mentioned the Chulent, I’ll point out that the NY Times just printed an article about it here. Make sure to view the slideshow.
“You call them “reshaim” and say that the community “shouldn’t have anything to do with them”, yet others say that the community needs to relate to them with no agenda whatsoever, just genuine appreciation and compassion. Again, which is it?”
Once again it depends on the person. The approach is consistent but it varies with circumstances. I will illustrate with 6 examples of my acquaintances who have gone off the derech to one degree or another. In 5 cases a relationship should be maintained. In the 6th it should not. I choose these illustrations because each one covers a different aspect.
The first two cases involve people who as children were sent to public school and a semi-religious school (in another case) by their parents. One kid lasted 2 years (as shomer shabbos) in public school while the other one lasted 3 years in the semi-religious school. Neither one feels any “anger” at the frum world. On the contrary they have the highest respect for it, just feel it’s not for them. Certainly, we must maintain a relationship with these individuals because to a large extent what happened to them was product of the other people’s wrong decisions and not their fault. What they do can be termed a “shogeg.”
The third case invovlves a kid who came from a charedi-lite (black hat+college) family and was sent to a very yeshivish school in Lakewood. The resulting conflict between the school and the parents lead to the child rebelling against both. In this case as well, the behavior is to a large degree a product of bad chinuch which was compounded by the fact that this kid wasn’t exposed to the loving side of Yiddishkeit (again due to the mismatch of the family and the school system). With someone like this a relationship must be maintained as the person never really had a good chance to see the beauty of Torah. Again, such a person is not a rasha, simply misguided.
The fourth case (I actually know 3 people who went through a more or less similar process) involves children who were raised in Modern Orthodox families where respect for Torah was minimal and there was very little understanding of Yiddishkeit or feeling in the performance of mitsvos. The children, once grown up dropped the Orthodox part and stuck to the Modern part that they grew up with (now they could watch TV on shabbos too). Again, to a large extent, did they ever have a chance to see what Torah is all about? So with them a relationship must be maintained and in fact in my experience in many cases people who go through this process come back to Torah and this time live it on a much higher level than they did before.
The fifth case concerns a yeshiva bochur from a charedi family who was more interested in beer and girls than in Gemara. He was a good kid, but just not with the frum program. Nonetheless from my personal interaction with him, you could see that whatever his problems with Yiddishkeit they weren’t a product of philosophical reflection. Someone like him must be kept in touch with as there’s hope (in Satmar’s Rav’s words) that as taavos grow weaker with age and people get more mature, he will put himself together. There was good in him and our job is to reach it.
The last case was of a top yeshiva bochur who left Torah and Yiddishkeit (eventually he married a non-Jewish girl). He didn’t come from a troubled home, didn’t go to bars and was exposed to the best teachers of Torah. Whatever the reason he decided to go off, he is a rasha. No contact with him should be kept up. He should be left to his own devices to navigate through the secular world he chose (which he did quite capably).
As you see the numbers in the examples I give are skewed. That’s because, IMHO and AFAIK, most people who go off the derech in charedi world are either baalei taavah (people who have prohibited desires) or nebachs (people who come from broken homes, misfits and those who were broken by bad or mistaken chinuch). In the MO world it is usually those who came from families that were pretty weak in Torah to begin with.
“And getting back to the original point I was making, according to someone like you, who feels that the community should have nothing to do with these people, what do you prefer happen to them? That they just make their way on their own, with no marketable skills, barely a high school education, no understanding of the social mores of the world they’re entering, (and very possibly an unhealthy appetite for all sorts of illicit activities)”
Once again if someone is a dysfunctional human being he won’t be a very good Torah Jew anyway. So then we have to help this person become a functioning member of society. For those who are functional but don’t want anything to do with Yiddishkeit–well, the Torah commands us to help and give tzedakah even to reshaim. However, I don’t think it’s our job to assist them in reaching an upper-middle class lifestyle. It’s our job to make sure they don’t starve and beg in the streets. But help them go from $10/hr job in Kmart to law school is not .
“all in the hope that they damage themselves badly enough that they’ll regret their decision and come crawling back to the frum world, crying their hearts out about the terrible decision they made?”
You see this is where you go terribly wrong. People have to come back to God, not to the “frum world.” And there’s no such thing as coming back to God with your head held up high. Read Rabbeinu Yonah’s Shaarei Teshuva, chelek aleph.
I have an allergic reaction to the label “kids-at-risk,” I thought I’d share why.
Unfortunately it is true that there are young people in frum communities who are at risk of self-destructive behaviours like drugs etc. However, in some of these posts it is clear that, in some respects, people who leave the charedi world and kids-at-risk are lumped into the same category. I completely understand the logic behind this. A person who embraces a more secular lifestyle is, in the mind of many in the haredi world, being self-destructive. The distinction is only that with drugs the body is being hurt and in a more secular way of life a soul is being hurt. This, in my opinion, is where the issue lies.
Often times, people who leave the haredi world, are ADULTS making thoughtful choices. They may not be the choices that the typical individual (if there are typical individuals) in the haredi world would make, but they are choices nonetheless. People who are confident about their decisions are delighted to take responsibility for their choices and do not deserve to be told that they were “seduced into living a particular lifestyle.” Aside from the likelihood that it is not true that individuals are being “seduced” into leaving by temptations and/or organizations, because of the loaded meaning of this label–it is innacurate to say that they are “at-risk.” This label has become one way in which people who leave are lumped into a pitied group of people who lack the ability to make sound choices, as well as personal strength and courage. Like drug addicts they are assumed to have been roped into living a non-frum life becuase it is assumed that someone who could make sound choices would NEVER choose a more secular life. (I happen to also think that to say that people are “roped” into drugs is a simplification of the issue). This shows a clear lack of respect for those who leave as their humanity is dismissed and they have become slaves to their surroundings–somehow they have been FORCED to leave–poor them. For this reason alone, efforts by the frum communities to assist people who are leaving would not suffice. For someone who is going through a theological struggle, plopping them in front of a low paying and unsatsifying job, like the majority of those that people are currently trained for through many of the vocational programs that currently exist, will not “fix them.” Providing them with validation, that they are not lunatics who fell from Mars, who are ruled by temptation and are not capable of making sound decisions, might actually do them some good. The frum world, as it exists right now and as is reflected in this series of posts, is not capable of providing such a service. The reason for this is simple, validating people who leave, would need to come along with a declaration that being frum is a CHOICE and being not frum is an equivalent and alternative CHOICE; this contradicts the fundamental premise of haredi Judaism, namely that living according to halacha is the only legitimate, meaningful and moral way of living.
I’m certain that people are going to read this post and will respond as follows: are you saying that the haredi world should endorse UNHEALTHY choices simply because they are choices. My answer is: NO. If people in the frum community feel so strongly that choices that are being made by those people who are leaving are so horrific, then do not shirk from that position. Just realize that that this position automatically distances those who have questioned whether leading a torah observant life is the only way to lead a legitimate, meaningful and moral life. In fact, they may even feel as though it would be a foolish choice to remain among people who are so at ease dismissing the legitimacy of their life choices. What I am saying is, that it is not necessarilly anything in the outside world that is seducing people into living a secular life, it is actually very likely that the attitude towards alternative choices that is in fact one reason why someone who wants to lead a more secular life may choose to leave.
To end, I just want to think about the alternative to recognizing the legitimacy of leaving. The denial of this legitimacy would imply that the frum lifestyle is meant for EVERYONE including those for whom, in their dellusioned state of mind (sarcastic), think that a more secular lifestyle would be more fulfilling. It would also imply that people who live under this dellusion should robotically continue leading a frum life. (The fact is that questioning will not disappear). On that point, where is the outcry regarding kids-at-risk of becoming a robot? Is that not as frightening?! I want to give credit to all those people who have been bending over backwards trying to figure out ways in which to make being frum more meaningful for their children and students as I appreciate the value of meaning rather than simple route. However, the fact is that if people felt the same fear that I feel regarding the possibility that kids will remain at risk of being robots, they would be less reluctant to recognize that some people need to leave and that there are some for whom it is impossible to make a frum life more meaningful. These are people that have decided that they do not find meaning in it and have probably invested tremendous amounts of effort into trying to make it work. However, the focus has been turned instead to the kids who are at risk of making choices that result in their leaving the haredi world. Yet, as I mentioned before, it would be frightening to have a growing number of kids-at risk of being robots and walking around leading a frum life because they are sure that frum life is meant for everyone and hoping that ONE DAY they will see the light and understand why leading a frum life is meant for them. Am I wrong?
Does Yaron Yadan directly feed the Antisemitic sites that quote him?
“and walking around leading a frum life because they are sure that frum life is meant for everyone and hoping that ONE DAY they will see the light and understand why leading a frum life is meant for them. Am I wrong?”
Yes you are. Your fundamental premise–“that the frum lifestyle is meant for EVERYONE including those for whom, in their delusioned state of mind (sarcastic), think that a more secular lifestyle would be more fulfilling”–is wrong. While whatever you refer to as “frum lifestyle (New Square? Flatbush? Lakewood? Teaneck?)” is not for everyone, Torah and mitsvos is. There’s plenty of room to find oneself (try Beit El and Breslov for a Torah life very different from the ones above) A secular life is by definition deficient and not for anyone. And I think everyone who deals with people (whatever you call them) who have theological issues, problems, whatever, understands that the only way you will get back on the “derech” is by appreciating it and not being a robot. Truth is that one who leads a life of Torah as a “robot” is not leading a true Torah life, no matter whether the outside world or the person himself recognizes.
> While whatever you refer to as “frum lifestyle”…is not for everyone, Torah and mitsvos is.
I think this is just semantics. I believe the commenter would just as well phrase the question that way and still make the point he was intending.
> The last case was of a top yeshiva bochur who left Torah and Yiddishkeit (eventually he married a non-Jewish girl). He didn’t come from a troubled home, didn’t go to bars and was exposed to the best teachers of Torah. Whatever the reason he decided to go off, he is a rasha.
Wow. So the person who is the most rational, the most informed, the least impulsive of your scenarios (well, at least according to you. I would suggest we don’t really know what’s ever really motivating a person. But at least in your depiction, he is the most rational), that person must be cut off entirely. That is the worst of all. The person who, according to you, experienced and understood what Torah living truly means more than any of these other people, and chose to act on principle and what he felt was right, this person must be renounced more than anyone.
A person who acts upon weakness (or ignorance) is worth saving, but one who acts out of conviction is considered a wicked, evil person, a rasha.
Does that make any sense to you?
The last case was of a top yeshiva bochur who left Torah and Yiddishkeit (eventually he married a non-Jewish girl). He didn’t come from a troubled home, didn’t go to bars and was exposed to the best teachers of Torah. Whatever the reason he decided to go off, he is a rasha.
Does not being a rasha require evil intent? If a person honestly believes, as I do, that G-d does not exist, or that He did not write or inspire the Torah, how can he be evil for following what he believes to be true? If he really was at Sinai, as the Orthodox claim, he does not remember it. He lives in a universe that does not appear to be consistent with the pshat of Breishis and in a world where the holocaust led many people to doubt G-d’s existence.
Isn’t the Jewish people’s requirement to follow mitzvot supposed to be based on an agreement between us and G-d? If we don’t believe that agreement ever happened, despite a good-faith effort to find out if the Torah is true, how are we different from one raised by non-Jews or mentally incompetent to understand a contract? It seems to me a rasha is one who knows what is right but does wrong regardless.
Those of us who left for intellectual reasons, if we are wrong, are more like the simple son (although we think ourselves wise) than the rasha.
Be careful your judgement of us as reshaim does not stem from your own fear or anger rather than your understanding of Hashem and Torah.
Hedyot, your thinking is that of a Western secular person. From a secular point of view one who lives according to the courage of his convictions is worthy of praise. But according to the Torah acting on one’s convictions does not make an action inherently good if those convictions are completely against the Torah. On the contrary, it makes it much worse.
Truth is, even a secular person could understand this position to a degree. By way of illustration consider the 9/11 hijackers. They certainly were acting according to their convictions and were willing to sacrifice their lives for it. Does that make their actions noble? One who is mechallel shabbos is also destroying a world, albeit in a spiritual sense.
I will give you another analogy to consider. Who would you feel is (morally) worse? A Moslem suicide bomber who grew up somewhere in Jihadistan, or a middle-class American kid who decides that blowing people up is the way to go? Clearly, we will hold the second one as more morally culpable as he had the opportunity to make the right choice and threw it away.
JewishAtheist, the halachah clearly says that one who denies the validity of the Torah is an apikores. It’s clearly not referring to people who are mentally incompetent or don’t know any better.
Now you claim that you have made “good-faith effort to find out if the Torah is true” and you still came to the wrong conclusion. I don’t know you so I can’t evaluate your efforts. Perhaps they were in good faith and you are (in your own words) “mentally incompetent” when it comes to Torah’s truth. I did know my ex-friend pretty well though and I’m pretty sure of his mental competence to see the truth.
> …according to the Torah acting on one’s convictions does not make an action inherently good if those convictions are completely against the Torah. On the contrary, it makes it much worse.
Aryeh, I believe your theory flies in the face of logic. The best a person can do is only what they think is right. Isn’t that why you follow the Torah? Because you think it’s the right thing to do?
I can hear the objection already: “No, we follow the Torah because God commands us to!” But the truth is, no one knows that with a certainty, and the only real reason that such a claim has any substance (if at all) is because the person has concluded, based on whatever factors are significant to them, that it’s reasonable to follow that line of belief. In other words: They’re doing it because they think it’s the right thing to do!” (There is actually an alternative motivation for a persons choices – emotions. But we’re not talking about that here. This scenario is about people who are acting on their convictions.)
So I don’t see what you’d expect from someone who really doesn’t believe that following Torah is the right thing to do. Do you want him to go against what he believes to be proper? Based on what? Your (or some famous rabbi’s) say so?
And as for your analogy to terrorists, I believe that the argument can be thrown right back at you. If you believe you should live your life by whatever some Divine Law has convinced you to do, without thinking the issue through according to any personal sense of moral conscience, then can you blame suicide bombers and hijackers for their actions?
“Those of us who left for intellectual reasons, if we are wrong, are more like the simple son (although we think ourselves wise) than the rasha.”
Precisely because I can relate to another’s intellectual mindset, is why I don’t judge them; al tadin es chaveircha ad sh’tagea l’mkomo. We should learn(l’havdil) from the statement which is common in other parts of society of “there but for the grace of God go I”.
The Chazon Ish says, “…in our current situation, we are obligated to bring the non-observant back to the light of religion — with acts of love and affection to the best of our ability”. The Chazon Ish was talking about a specific halacha and specific type of people, and I don’t know how to apply this in each specific instance regarding each person’s status for each halacha, but we do see from his words what the general approach is today.
The “Nazir” was a former yeshiva bachur who learned in Radin, Volozhin and Slabodka, who became non-observant and was studying in the University of Basel. He first began to do teshuva when he heard Rav Kook saying Shiur Hashirim, when the latter was in Switzerland(Vintage Wein). There is also the story of a Radin yeshiva bachur who was mechalel Shabbos, and the Chafetz Chaim took his hand, and started crying, and this affected him for his entire life. We see what the approach of gedolim was even for yeshiva bachurim who learned in yeshivos which were far better than any of ours. See link below.
> The Chazon Ish says, “…in our current situation, we are obligated to bring the non-observant back to the light of religion—with acts of love and affection to the best of our ability”.
What a beautiful notion – accepting someone with love even if they violate the laws and reject the values of your society. I wonder, why does this love only have to come after the person leaves the society? Why can’t frum people love and accept the person just the same when they are still a part of the society and violating the laws then?
I know the expected answer – what sort of message would it send if we didn’t send a clear and unequivocal message over wrongful acts? Like Aryeh said above, “There’s a price to be paid” when violating the rules of the community.
So does this make any sense? Love should only be expressed after the people are rejected? And seriously, how effective do you think that “message of love” will really be? Do you really think you have any credibility at that point that anyone would trust your expressions of love? I mean, would you trust someone who is calling out to you with love when just a short while ago he was telling everyone how terrible you were? Does that sound sincere to you?
One more aspect of the inconsistency I see.
Now you claim that you have made “good-faith effort to find out if the Torah is true” and you still came to the wrong conclusion.
Is it your claim that it’s impossible to make a good-faith effort to find out the truth and come up with the wrong answer without being obviously mentally incompetent? Frankly, people who leave out of conviction are much more likely to have made a good-faith effort than those who stay, since their decision often costs so much. I had to upset my parents, leave my community, and find a whole new way to live. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly. Go read some of the frum skeptic blogs. There are plenty of intelligent people who want desperately to believe but are unable to because of either lack of evidence for things they think they have to believe (like the exodus) or because of evidence for things they think they can’t believe (like evolution or the documentary hypothesis.)
Your sure knowledge that people are rashaim for leaving out of conviction betrays an arrogance that, if Hashem does exist, He probably wouldn’t be proud of.
This has gotten very far from the original discussion over here but anyway….
“Is it your claim that it’s impossible to make a good-faith effort to find out the truth and come up with the wrong answer without being obviously mentally incompetent?”
On the contrary that was your claim, not mine, namely that you are an “Ones” due to the way you understand the world.
Here’s where I disagree (now of course this is based on the Mesorah, so you won’t accept this argument, but again, I’m only trying to show you how what we believe is self-consistent).
God gives everyone the chance to come to the right conclusion. At the end of the day we all have a yetser hara and a yetser hatov and the yetser hatov should guide us to what’s right despite whatever we have been taught or not taught. Whoever doesn’t come to the right result is because he hasn’t tried enough/listened to his yetser hara too much. The most common yetser hara today is that of taava/arayos. But the yetser hara of apikorsus/gaavah that was common 100 years ago pops up now and then. If we come to the wrong conclusions it is because we have been influenced (subconsciously perhaps) and have chosen to listen to our yetser hara. That’s the Torah’s position (in the halachah of an idol-worshiper there’s no exception made for someone who claims that he believes based on his intellectual inquiry that there’s a multiplicity of divinities) and it makes you liable for your actions. So basically, by definition a good-faith effort would bring you to the right conclusions. You may (l’fi daat’cho) disagree with that, but don’t blame me for being arrogant.
As the Chofetz Chaim used to say: “for believers there are no questions, for apikorsim there are no answers.” There’s a middle ground too for people who have questions and find answers. All baalei teshuva followed this path, most of them not any less intelligent then the “frum skeptics.”
“Love should only be expressed after the people are rejected? And seriously, how effective do you think that “message of love” will really be? Do you really think you have any credibility at that point that anyone would trust your expressions of love? I mean, would you trust someone who is calling out to you with love when just a short while ago he was telling everyone how terrible you were? Does that sound sincere to you?”
Consider the following analogy. A son does something that upsets his father (starts smoking and getting bad grades, for example). The father takes away the son’s car and tells his other children that they should never learn from the son’s actions. The son (if not at that point then in the future, at the very latest when he himself will have children) will realize that the father’s actions are motivated by the love for his son. And a (normal) child might resent his parent’s punishment but he will still know that he is loved by the parent.
So too here. We reject the behavior, we will never condone and accept it but the rejection is motivated by love. For example in the case of ex-yeshiva bochur I do not hope/wish for his untimely demise under the wheels of a truck or anything like that. I really want him (and tell him that) to come back to what he could have been and become a rosh yeshiva.
Now you will say that there are people who never felt any of this etc. etc. Again, no society is perfect or will be perfect until Moshiach comes, and neither are the people. But the message of the “left hand pushing away (the behavior) and the right hand bringing close (the person)” is real.
“I mean, would you trust someone who is calling out to you with love when just a short while ago he was telling everyone how terrible you were?… One more aspect of the inconsistency I see”
The ideal is balance, not inconsistency. There is a balance in caring for the person, but objecting to the behavior; you can’t expect any community or society to be purely tolerant. I agree that it’s not always easy for people to make this distinction.
In one theoretical case, Tanya (Likutie Amorim 32) differentiates between the true person and the act, similar to the gemera in Berachos 10a with Beruriah:
“And both the love and the hatred are truthful emotions in this case, [since] the hatred is on account of the evil within them, while the love is on account of the good hidden in them, which is the divine spark within them that animates their divine soul. For this spark of Godliness is present even in the most wicked of one’s fellow Jews; it is merely hidden.”
As far as the “hatred” part, we today generally do not treat people as “wicked”, as I quoted from the Chazon Ish; Tanya writes earlier as well that “one must attract with strong cords of love”, quoting Hillel, “ be one of the disciples of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving creatures and drawing them near to the Torah”.
Significantly as well, the obligation for rebuke, is only if done in a way that the person is able to realize that one means the rebuke for their benefit(not, “how terrible you were”), as in the Rambam in the sixth chapter of Hilchos Deios. R. Yaakov Kaminetsky understands the Rambam to mean that one first needs to establish a relationship with someone before criticizing them.
The concept of “love the sinner hate the sin” is widely associated with Christianity as well. It is a policy that is applied when a community is afraid to face the fact that they are actually NOT TOLERATING a group of people who are their own. Instead, they somehow separate the actions from the human being hoping that this distinction will protect them from having to take responsibility for the fact that they are harboring hatred toward their fellow human beings. I, and I presume most people, would prefer to be judged based on my actions and decisions rather than the unproven characteristics of my soul. I would like to think that I have earned someone’s respect because of my abilities and choices like being able to discipline myself and learn, my concern for my neighbors etc. These all boil down to choices that a person makes. I do not want to be told that someone is having me over for dinner because they realize that I have a soul–just like they do. That is not a compliment, in my eyes, that would make me wonder why my neighbor did not invite anotehr one of the trillion people in the world with a soul and I would feel disrespected. It is impossible to be able to say that one respects a group of people while disrespecting their actions. This is the mixed messages/treatment someone who leaves currently gets. They are “loved” but constantly being reminded that nearly every decision they make is wrong. Is that respect?
“The concept of “love the sinner hate the sin” is widely associated with Christianity as well.”
The concept is indeed attributed to St. Augustine, and more recently to Mohandas Gandhi. This does not detract from the fact that it is authentic Judaism, and is mentioned in the Talmud. If we need to disown that which Christianity embraces, then will have to jettison other Jewish concepts as well.
“It is a policy that is applied when a community is afraid to face the fact that they are actually NOT TOLERATING a group of people who are their own”
I disagree. The policy is an outgrowth of the concept of ahavas yisrael, Jewish love, which in turn is based on the fact that all of our souls have a common root, as explained by the Tanya.
The paragraph I quoted before is part of a previous discussion where the Tanya is discussing in general the nature of the Jewish soul, Jewish unity, and brotherly love. Only later in Chapter 32, is the theoretical issue of hating someone mentioned; this is obvious to anyone who reads that chapter and other parts of the book(you can find it online on chabad.org). As I stated in my previous comment, we rarely have an obligation today to “ hate“ non-observant people, and my reference to “hatred” was from a theoretical source.
“I do not want to be told that someone is having me over for dinner because they realize that I have a soul—just like they do”
People should relate normally to another person, and not focus on their souls. I was merely providing a profound basis for the concept of Jewish unity. You are welcome to explain Jewish unity on a cultural or on some other basis, but the idea I mentioned is certainly authentically Jewish.
“It is impossible to be able to say that one respects a group of people while disrespecting their actions. “
It is no different than respecting a rebellious teenager. To pick a different concept, would you say “tough love” is not love, because one disapproves of someone’s actions? I am trying to find a means of reconciling acceptance of a non-conformer within traditional Jewish sources. The only other alternative, is to say that the Torah makes no judgments on one’s actions, or to reinterpret the Torah in accordance with non-Orthodox interpretations(eg, to accept as a neutrual value homosexual behavior). I agree that there are challenges in being non-judgmental, and as above, we should relate to people normally, not as souls.
Let us assume for a minute that someone did make an honest intellectual inquiry, and did not arrive at the one absolute truth. This can easily happen to anyone less philosophically sophisticated than Aristotle. If they then decide to be Jewish anyway (why? who knows? i guess they would be Jewish to make their mommy happy.) then they are acting against what they believe. Would you call this belief?
I would call it complete hypocrisy. So accepting your premise this guy is trapped. If he follows his beliefs he burns. If he acts against them he still burns.
Or consider this angle. You come up to heaven (after 120) and God asks you why you did X. You answer that its a mitzva. He says not at all, actually its an aveira. You are kind of stuck at that point.
But lets say you answer, “I did my best. I learned the halachos, spoke to my rabbis, etc. and this is the conclusion I got to”. And God answers you, “Look, doing your best is not important – getting it right is. You failed, and you go to hell.”
Now, there is a problem with this, because you did do your best. Thats called an Ones at worst, and a mitzva at best (in my humble opinion). You should not burn for that. But then they pull up this blog, and see that you argued its not legitimate to your best.
If you are not supposed to due your best, then what should you do?
Now you will answer that anyone who does not come to the right answer did not do their best. But how should they know that? You are essentially asking them to take from the one who knows (that you in this case). But doesn’t the one who knows have to demonstrate that he really does know. And that would only be by explaining how he knows – i.e. philosophical proof. So we are back to the problem that if you cannot defend it philosophically then you cannot demand that anyone accepts it.
You say that for believers there are no questions. This is an immature and dishonest position. If someone believes they are bothered by a legitimate question you cannot just dismiss them as a baal taaveh without giving even minimum respect to their problem. (and if they do leave you tell them “but your supposed to think honestly about it!” – but you have otherwise rejected their right and ability to think honestly.)
There are many believer who have questions and find answers – are they also baale taaveh for having a question in the first place? you will say that they are. now lets say they still believe, but not quite the same that they were taught. are they now apikorsim? they must be if the question that brought them there was illegitimate.
And consider someone who never has any quesions. So why is he Jewish? Because thats what he was taught? In what significant way is he different than the other seven billion people who just do what they were taught without thinking about it