News & Views

Faigy Roth’s Journey To Independence | Kadia Goba

February 12, 2019 – Bklyner

Faigy Roth never felt at home growing up in a conservative ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

“I just didn’t fit in,” she said. “I knew I didn’t want the community life—I didn’t know much more. But then when [I turned] 18 or 19—when they wanted to marry me off—that’s when I realized it’s now or I’m screwed.”

Read the full article here.

Footsteps & Helping Parents Leave Ultra-Orthodox Judaism | iHeartRadio

February 10, 2019 – iHeartRadio


Recently, iHeart Radio interviewed Tsivia Finman, Interim Executive Director, about the uphill battle Footsteps members face in family court. As Tsivia says, the community galvanizes around the people who stay, leaving the person who wants out — even if it’s the primary caretaker — to fend for themselves.

Listen to the full interview above or here.

They Were Sexually Abused Long Ago as Children. Now They Can Sue in N.Y. | Vivian Wang

January 28, 2019 – The New York Times

For more than a decade, victims of childhood sexual abuse in New York have asked lawmakers here for the chance to seek justice — only to be blocked by powerful interests including insurance companies, private schools and leaders from the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish communities.

But in November, Democrats won control of the Senate. And on Monday, both the Senate and Assembly overwhelmingly approved the Child Victims Act, ending a bitter, protracted battle with some of the most powerful groups in the state. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has promised to sign the bill into law.

Under the new law, prosecutors could bring criminal charges until a victim turned 28 [extending the period from age 23] and victims could sue until age 55. The bill would also create a one-year “look-back window,” during which old claims that had already passed the statute of limitations could be revived.

Read the full article here.

Inside the hidden world of Britain’s Hasidic ultra-Orthodox Jews | Trystan Young and Alice Porter

January 14, 2019 – BBC News


Would you be able to leave everything you have ever known behind in order to follow your dreams?

That was the choice Izzy Posen, a Hasidic ultra-Orthodox Jew faced when he decided to leave his isolated religious community.

He told BBC World Service how his life has been transformed since breaking free.

Video produced by Trystan Young and Alice Porter.

Watch the video here.

Do Children Get a Subpar Education in Yeshivas? New York Says It Will Finally Find Out | Eliza Shapiro

December 3, 2018 – The New York Times

In parts of New York City, there are students who can barely read and write in English and have not been taught that dinosaurs once roamed Earth or that the Civil War occurred.

That is the claim made by a group of graduates from ultra-Orthodox Jewish private schools called yeshivas, and they say that startling situation has been commonplace for decades.

Over three years ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration opened an investigation into a lack of secular education at yeshivas that serve about 57,000 students in the city, but the probe essentially stalled almost as soon as it began. The reason, advocates say, is the city’s politicians, including the mayor, are fearful of angering the Orthodox Jewish community that represents a crucial voting bloc in major elections.

“There’s no time to waste,” said Naftuli Moster, the founder of Young Advocates for Fair Education, which pushes for more secular instruction in yeshivas. “New York City has already been dragging its feet for three years.”

Read the full article here.

Finding a New Path | Jennifer Richler

November 16, 2018 – Tablet

Leaving the ultra-Orthodox community is nothing new in Israel. Everyone, secular or religious, knows someone who used to be on, but is now “off the derech.” But the phenomenon hasn’t been well studied. Most of what we know comes from individual stories of people making the difficult transition from the insular Haredi world to mainstream Israeli society.

Now there is data to flesh out these stories, in the form of a report commissioned by the Israeli nonprofit Out For Change. The report provides a picture of ex-Haredim in unprecedented detail, estimating how many people leave Haredi communities each year, and describing who they are and why they leave. It also discusses new programs to serve the needs of ex-Haredim, many of them partnerships between nonprofits and the Israeli government. Still, it argues that much more must done to support ex-Haredim in the ways they deserve.

Read the full article here.

New York’s Yeshiva Students Deserve Better | The Editorial Board

August 23, 2018 – The New York Times

In 2015, concerned parents, teachers and former students filed a complaint to New York City’s Department of Education charging that 39 ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools in the city failed to give children a basic education, violating state law that requires instruction to be “substantially equivalent” to that in public schools.

Three years later, virtually nothing has been done to hold the schools to legal standards, as politicians have ducked their responsibility rather than challenge leaders of one of the city’s most powerful voting blocs. In a city with low turnout in primary elections, candidates often covet the support of Orthodox communities, which tend to vote based on the guidance of religious leaders.

Read the full article here.

Former Satmar Hasidic Jew now tours world to expose sect’s dark underbelly | Ori Golan

July 17, 2018 – The Times of Israel

On his Instagram page, there is a photo of Ari Hershkowitz wearing a virtual reality headset. It pretty much sums up his story: an escape from one world to another.

Hershkowitz met with The Times of Israel outside the Sydney Jewish Museum, a few days after he presented at Yom Limmud in Sydney. It is a wintry day Down Under and he is wearing black jeans and a red T-shirt. He doesn’t like to wear long sleeved shirts, he later says — it reminds him of his previous life. His American drawl makes it hard to imagine that for most of his life he could not speak English.

Read the full article here.

For Those Trying To Leave Ultra-Orthodox Communities, Courts Can Play Major Role | Robin Young

June 13, 2018 – WBUR

Chavie Weisberger grew up in an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community in Monsey, New York, where she raised her three children after her 2008 divorce. But as she began questioning her faith and her sexuality, her neighbors told the religious authorities there that she was allowing secular behavior in her home.

Her estranged husband sued for custody and won, in a secular Brooklyn court — it upheld a religious court document she signed at the time of her divorce. Weisberger didn’t realize that in it she’d agreed to raise her children Hasidic.

Ultimately, another court overturned that decision and restored full custody to Weisberger.

Here & Now‘s Robin Young talks with Weisberger (@iamchavie) about the issues faced by Hasidic men and women who leave the community, and is also joined by Lani Santo (@notinabox_ls), executive director of Footsteps, a social services organization that provides social and financial services for those transitioning to a secular lifestyle.

Listen to full interview below or here.