An Outcasted Hasid Finds the Courage to Live By Her Own Beliefs, Stylelikeu

An Outcasted Hasid Finds the Courage to Live By Her Own Beliefs, Stylelikeu

August 15, 2016 – What’s Underneath | Stylelikeu

“Of course, I’m a worthy human being. I don’t have to do anything to deserve it. I exist and, therefore, I’m good enough.”

Growing up a “perfect” straight-A student in her Lubavitch (a branch of Hasidism) community, Deena Chanowitz had to basically conceal every part of her body (from her ankles to her elbows) least a man catch a glimpse of her bare skin and be lead to “sin.” As Deena tells it, “There is so much fear of inappropriate sexuality that it breeds all kinds of other forms of sexuality.”

Watch the video here.

Ex-Orthodox Feel Pushed From Their Communities — But Still Cherish Being Jewish, By Ari Feldman

June 23, 2016 – Forward

Mark Trencher, the director of Nishma Research, noted that there was an inverse relationship between level of observance while still a part of Orthodox Judaism and level of observance after leaving.

The study was a joint effort with Footsteps, an organization that helps facilitate the transition out of Modern and ultra-Orthodox communities for those wishing to leave. It may be difficult to leave Orthodox Judaism, or simply leave a specific community, if an individual does not know people outside the community, does not have the material means to leave, or does not have sufficient English skills to live on their own.

“The only surprising thing to us was how many people filled it out in a week and a half,” says Lani Santo, the executive director of Footsteps. “It’s great to have quantitative data on things that we as an organization have known qualitatively for some time.”

Read the full article here. Review the full survey results here.

Child-sex abuse victim rallies Orthodox Jews to pressure politicians for Child Victims Act passage, By Michael O’Keeffe

June 1, 2016 – New York Daily News

“Ken Thompson should be on the front line supporting this bill,” Levin said of the Brooklyn district attorney, who was elected to the post in part because he promised to be tougher on sex abuse in the Orthodox community than his predecessor, Charles Hynes. “He should be telling the Republicans in Albany, ‘We can’t do our job without this bill.’”

Levin’s inspiring survivor story and uncompromising activism are drawing attention. The Jewish Week community newspaper named him one of its “36 Under 36” last week, and he will be honored this week by Footsteps, an organization that provides support to those who wish to leave the Orthodox community.

Read the full article here.

36 Under 36 2016, The Jewish Week

May 23, 2016 – The Jewish Week

A Voice For Transgender Chasidic Jews

When Abby Stein began her transition from male to female at the age of 23, she could have chosen to stay under the radar. Instead, she came out on her blog, and when reporters started calling she responded, because she wanted to let other chasidic transgender Jews know they are not alone.

“I wanted to be a voice,” she said. “If someone would have told me then that there were other people like me, it just would have been so helpful.”

Read the full article here.

Standing Up For LGBTQ Rights

From the time Chaim Levin was 6, a cousin six years his senior sexually abused him. The violent assaults continued weekly until he was 10 — in his father’s shul, their houses and their Catskill bungalows. At 14 he told his rabbi, who advised his parents to preserve family unity by “pretending nothing happened” — a “systematic cover-up,” he says, “that still haunts me.”

But it didn’t silence him. Levin, who came out at 15 to a friend and endured homophobic yeshivas here and in Israel, eventually found a way to be a strong voice and champion for LGBTQ Orthodox Jews.

Read the full article here.

From Conversion Therapy to a Rainbow Yarmulke; Death, Sex & Money

May 11, 2016 – Death, Sex & Money 

“Chaim and Benjy grew up in Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn, but they didn’t meet until they signed up for a therapy program then called JONAH, or Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality. Chaim was 18, and Benjy was 20. Both were attracted to men, and they sought out the program hoping to become straight.”

Listen to the podcast here.

Child Abuse Allegations Plague The Hasidic Community, By Elijah Wolfson

March 3, 2016 – Newsweek

Somehow, in the midst of this Caribbean decadence, a very different community also thrived. Just a few blocks from the scantily dressed beachgoers and the drug lords in Armani silk were men in ill-fitting black suits and heavy beards, and women in thick wigs and long woolen skirts all year long, even as the wet heat of the Atlantic swept across the peninsula. The ranks of Miami’s ultra-Orthodox Jews, Hasidim, were swelling. They were insular and defiantly anti-secular, clinging to traditions that may have protected their community in a medieval world but in modern America would lead to tragic consequences for many of their youngest, most vulnerable members.

Read the full article here.