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A Community of Exes — Hasids, That Is, By Frimet Goldberger

December 12, 2013 – The Jewish Daily Forward

I am a Footsteps member and supporter. I am also an observant Jew.

To the critics of Footsteps, a not-for-profit organization that helps those seeking to leave their ultra-religious communities, this statement may seem like an oxymoron. Until about a year ago, I too believed that one could not remain Orthodox and be a Footsteps member at the same time — that one could not eat a plate of chulent at the Shabbos meal, completely unplugged from the world, and engage in an intelligent existentialist debate.

Read the full article here.

Critically Examining the Hasidic Community, By Adam Sacks

November 24, 2013 – Beyond the Pale, WBAI

A three segment radio show around a single theme: critically examining the Hasidic Community of New York. Featuring three broad angles: a. history and religious practices, b. sex abuse scandals and relationship to civic authorities, c. educational deprivation the struggle to leave the community.

With Rachel Berger of Footsteps, we considered the challenges and isolation facing those who leave the community, not to mention the utter lack of college ready scholastic skills. The show closes with the moving personal story of Yossi Schwartz who became a truck driver after leaving the community and still bemoans his elementary reading level in English.

Listen to the show here.

Providing a Path to a Secular Life

By Melanie Grayce West, January 13, 2012 – The Wall Street Journal

For some within insular ultra-religious environments, there is no clear or easy path to life in the secular world. Providing that support system, and sometimes a path, to hundreds of ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic people is the work of New York-based nonprofit Footsteps.

Read the complete article here. (Requires subscription.)

Young Ultra-Orthodox Jews Struggle Against Tradition

By Ari Shapiro, August 8, 2011- NPR’s All Things Considered

New York City receives immigrants from all over the world, including New York City itself.  A handful of young ultra-Orthodox Jews are struggling to leave their neighborhoods in Brooklyn to take up less religious or even nonreligious lifestyles in other parts of the city. They often hide their desire for a different life. When they do or say something, their families and communities might turn on them. Sometimes they’re told they’ll never make it if they leave.

One young man fought to leave behind the only world he knew.

Read the complete article here. (Includes Podcast.)

Ex-Haredi Artists Grapple With Their Pasts

By Shulem Deen, April 27, 2011 – The Jewish Daily Forward

A photo of a woman wrapped in phylacteries might not seem very bold after Leonard Nimoy’s “Shekhina” project. But to many of the artists at the opening of a new art exhibit called “All in the Eye,” a photograph of a woman adorned with tallit and tefillin, eye to the camera with a slight smile, represents the height of sacrilege.

Read the complete article here.

The Departed

By Orli Santo, August 17, 2010 – Translated from Yediot Achronot

Children laughing, a baby’s muffled cry, the peaceful sounds of a Saturday afternoon drift through the open window. This is New York—one of the liveliest, most turbulent cities in the world—but here, within the boundaries of the eruv string—the thin line separating indoors from outdoors, the community from the world—Crown Heights lay deep in its sacred Sabbath slumber.

Malkie Schwartz didn’t join her family in the synagogue today. She stayed home, saying she wasn’t feeling well, and for the last hour she’s been staring intently at the phone, incapable of lifting the receiver. She knows that once she dials, intentionally desecrating the Sabbath for the first time in her life, it’ll be a step from which there will be no return: one that will separate her from her religion and her family, severing her past from the possible course of her future.

Read the complete article here.