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Frequently Asked Questions

Still have questions? Please contact [email protected] or (877) STEPS-55 (877-783-7755) for more information about our services, or to join as a member.

צו ליינען די אינפארמאציע אין אידיש דרוקט דא

 

What does it mean to be a Footsteps member?

Being a Footsteps member means that you will get access to all of the services and resources that we offer including: individual mental health support and peer support groups, educational counseling and scholarships, career counseling, access to a community of skilled volunteers, social events, and more. However, there is no one way to be a member at Footsteps. Footsteps members choose from our services like a menu. Some people take part in peer support groups while others receive educational scholarships, and some do both. Some members look forward to attending social events while others prefer to meet one on one with connections they’ve met along their way. 

To learn more about what Footsteps can offer you, you can contact us by calling (877)STEPS-55 (877-783-7755) or by email at [email protected]. This initial conversation does not require you to officially join, or to do anything. Footsteps membership is free. 

What are Footsteps members like? Will I fit in?

People come to Footsteps at different moments in their journey. Many join as they are leaving, or thinking about leaving the frum world, while others have left years ago. Footsteppers come from both the Hasidic and yeshivish communities and from both Ashkenaz, Sephardic, and Mizrahi backgrounds. Footsteppers have a diverse set of passions and hobbies and find connections with each other through these shared interests and experiences.

As an organization, we aspire to create a safe space for new connections. The age range of our members vary, though all of our members are 18 and older. We have a dedicated peer support group for members over 40, as well as dedicated activities for children of members. Otherwise all of our events are welcoming to members of all ages.

Are all Footsteps members completely secular?

Footsteps members are all over the religious spectrum. Some members disconnect from their religious practices and customs completely, while others find new ways to observe Jewish traditions that feel meaningful to them, or connect more culturally to Judaism. Many leave it all behind and opt for a fully secular life. At Footsteps, we support all members to do whatever it is that feels right for them – regardless if they practice or not.

What does it look like to become a member if I am interested?

What if I just want to learn more?

Generally people are curious about Footsteps and what Footsteps can do for them. Many people call us to learn more about what Footsteps offers and after a conversation decide to become a member. Others talk to our staff, learn more, and decide not to join. Some people can call a few times before deciding their next steps. You are in control of every step. Check out our calendar for upcoming events that are open to non-members.

A conversation with our staff does not mean you automatically agree to join or commit to anything. In the initial conversation we will share the kinds of things that we offer at Footsteps, and you can ask any questions if you would like. We have a very strict confidentiality and privacy policy. Everything you say will be kept private. 

Do I have to pay to participate?

If you do decide you want to move forward with membership, there is no cost at all. The vast majority of what Footsteps offers is free of charge.

What will happen if I do decide to leave my community?

Do you have examples of other people who have left and are successful?

We know it can feel super overwhelming to have thought your life was going to go one way, with a clear direction, to then suddenly have essentially a wide open road where everything feels so new. 

Or maybe you are just trying to change some things about your life and not others – Footsteps is here to support you no matter what you decide to do next. Our peer support groups and social events are a great way to meet others who have gone through or are going through similar experiences to get support if you are interested. 

The key here is YOU. It is you who is responsible for making the choices about how you want to live. We have a number of stories from members with different experiences that you are welcome to read, but ultimately every person’s story, every person’s journey, looks different.  

Am I still eligible even if I left my community a long time ago?

Yes! Footsteps serves everyone over 18-years-old no matter when they left their communities. 

Do you serve people under 18?

If you are younger than 18, you can be in touch with us, but you cannot join Footsteps. You can also check out The Door, a youth organization that serves people 24 and younger.

?אתה מדבר יידיש

אמנם אין לנו כרגע צוות מסור שיכול לתרגם ליידיש ,או לעברי, צו ליינען די אינפארמאציע אין אידיש דרוקט דא

I’m not ready to join. Do you have other links or resources?

Absolutely. You can take a look at what we offer here if you’re still curious to learn more but not ready to talk to our staff, or check out these resources to find other avenues of support while you’re considering your next steps.

What if I’m not in the New York metro area?

Many of Footsteps programs and offerings are available nationwide – including our scholarships, any virtual programming, or access to our career and educational counseling. For mental health support, those outside of New York are welcome to join our virtual peer support and drop-in groups.

Do you only serve people from Jewish ultra-Orthodox communities?

While we primarily work with people coming from Jewish ultra-Orthodox communities, those coming from other insular religious communities are welcome to join Interfaithless, a peer support group available for those navigating life outside of their communities of origin.

Does Footsteps help with housing?

Footsteps unfortunately does not have access to housing for Footsteps members, though we can support you with resources and guidance as you navigate the process, as well as offer an informal network of other members who can potentially also be available to share their experiences or helpful information. 

Myths + Facts

Myth 1: Footsteps is trying to make people not religious. 

Fact 1: Footsteps believes in personal agency and choice. We do not approach individuals to join Footsteps, but we are available for support to those who reach out to us. At our events we have non-kosher food as well as kosher food for those who choose it. While many Footsteps members are no longer observant, we do have members who still practice some traditions, or who have reimagined rituals in a new way. Many of our members are grappling with what religion means to them, and are figuring it out as they go along. 

Myth 2: To be a Footsteps member you have to follow a lot of rules and do certain things to be a part of it. 

Fact 2: At Footsteps it is up to members to decide how they want to participate. Footsteps has a menu of various offerings, including but not limited to mental health one-on-one counseling and peer support groups, educational and vocational scholarships, social events, legal support, and it is up to each person to decide what they want to partake in. At Footsteps, we follow your lead and you can choose what next step makes the most sense for you.

Myth 3: In order to join Footsteps I have to know for sure that I want to leave my community, and I have to be ready to do it.

Fact 3: At Footsteps, we know how difficult it could be to even have the thought of leaving the community you were raised in – to have a feeling that something isn’t right, or isn’t sitting well. Footsteps offers a safe, confidential environment to discuss your situation and the potential consequences you may face — whether you decide to stay in the community or to leave. You do not have to leave your community in order to join Footsteps. We can offer a listening ear to any struggles you might be experiencing, and support you as you figure out for yourself what is best for you. Our team provides support and resources while our members can offer you insights into the transition process from their own journeys.

 

Myth 4: Calling Footsteps automatically makes me a member.

Fact 4: The initial phone call you make is exactly that – just a phone call, a short conversation where you can share what you’re experiencing and we can talk about what support we offer might be helpful to you. Our staff members will listen and provide support and any answers to your questions. The experience of calling Footsteps is a collaborative one. Our staff follows your lead, and if you’re not interested in becoming a member, that’s okay. You can take the time you need and reach out again if anything changes.

 

Myth 5: All Footsteps members are anti-Judaism.

Fact 5: Footsteps members have different relationships with religion. Some have foregone it all together and are interested in living fully secular lives, some members are figuring out how to comfortably integrate Jewish practices into their lives in a new way, while others still observe some aspects. Everyone has the permission to explore what works best for themselves in their lives. Some people are looking to process their experiences, while others are more interested in moving forward without thinking too much about it.

 

Member Programs

Footsteps offers a wide range of support services to people at all stages of their transition out of the ultra-Orthodox community. Footsteps has a menu of options that participants can choose from, depending on what they’re interested in. Learn more about Footsteps’ programming below:

Clinical Support

The transition from ultra-Orthodox life to secular society can be daunting. Our one-on-one counseling services offer personalized support, while our peer support programs give members the chance to learn about the larger world and make supportive connections.

Education

Footsteps members can meet with our staff to discuss educational scholarships, connect with volunteers, education coaches and peer study buddies, and obtain resources to navigate educational settings.

Career Services

Footsteps helps members secure gainful employment by providing personalized career coaching, referring them as viable candidates for available work opportunities, connecting them to career mentors, and providing them with financial support if they are participating in unpaid internships or vocational training.

Family Justice Initiative

Navigating the legal system while transitioning out of the ultra-Orthodox community can be overwhelming. We help families through processes of divorce, custody, and more, including: access to legal representation, individual counseling for emotional impacts of divorce and custody proceedings, and peer support groups.

Community Engagement

Footsteps offers many different opportunities to connect with fellow travelers, including: holiday and milestone celebrations, social events, cultural experiences, as well as funding to host your own.

Communications + Field Building

Footsteps provides opportunities for members to participate in our online communications, storytelling workshops, educational webinars, and events and conferences related to the experience of leaving insular religious communities. We also train clinical and organizational partners in cultural competency.

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