‘Hasidic Rebel’ Shulem Deen on Leaving Orthodoxy and Losing His Children, By Julie Wiener

‘Hasidic Rebel’ Shulem Deen on Leaving Orthodoxy and Losing His Children, By Julie Wiener

April 8, 2015 – Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)

Footsteps is featured in a Q&A with Shulem Deen and JTA

JTA: I know you’re on the board of Footsteps, a nonprofit that helps people leaving the haredi Orthodox community to make the transition to the secular world. Is there an increase in the number of people choosing to leave?

Deen: Footsteps represents anywhere from 10-25 percent of the people who leave, and the number of new people who come each year is rising steadily. The fact that many of us are writing and publishing, this gives those who leave somewhat more prominence, and people within the Hasidic community are not oblivious to this, especially people who are thinking of leaving. We have people in medical school, getting master’s degrees, a nice number of lawyers. It’s becoming a community that has people doing things in the world, and that serve as something of an example that defies the old stereotype of the OTD [an acronym for a term that means “off the path”] person who’s lost, dysfunctional, has no home, no friends, gets involved in drugs and takes up with a bad crowd.

Read the full article here.

Life After Conservative Faith: The Defectors Who Leave Ultra-Orthodox Communities, By Farah Halime

March 27, 2015 – The Guardian

Shulem Deen swipes through photos of his eldest daughter’s wedding with a look of pride on his face. He points to a modestly-dressed bride sitting stiffly next to her husband. “I know how nervous they felt,” he says.

Deen is only guessing; he wasn’t invited to his daughter’s wedding. These are not official photos – they were taken clandestinely by people he asked to infiltrate the ceremony.

Deen, 40, left the cloistered ultra-Orthodox Jewish enclave of New Square, a village in Rockland County, New York, seven years ago. He is one of a minority that has stepped off the derech, the devout and religious path.

Like others who have turned their back on the Hasidic way of life, Deen has lost contact with his five children and has been ostracized from the community for being a heretic. At the same time, he has found it difficult to assimilate to non-Hasidic culture and worries he comes across as strange to New Yorkers.

Read the full article here.