Photo: Miriam Woelke
Regarding the book of Satmar runaway Deborah Feldman (Williamsburgh): According to my experience in Israel, the majority of haredi runaways in Israel has its own individual problems. It may sound prejudiced but plenty of haredi runaways are either gay, started taking drugs, have mental problems or simply don’t want to keep Mitzvot. Only a minority leaves because they are ready to keep Mitzvot but are suffering from personal pressure.
There is some truth in it when haredi Rabbis keep on warning their communities not to exaggerate the use of the Internet. Getting too much involved with the outside world. Especially young Haredim are curious and love to know what is going on in the outside world. Sneaking into Internet Cafes and chatting with secular girls. Many haredi community members, male as well as female, are getting carried away by the “free” outside world without realizing what they give up. Does anyone really think that the outside world understands your problems you had in the haredi society ? The outside world wants to hear stories, gossip and sensation but, as no one knows haredi society from the inside, no one wil have a clue of what you are talking about. They listen to gossip, yes, but when it comes to the point that you expect understanding and support, you are going find yourself being left alone.
The main reason why Haredim decide leaving their communities and either become Orthodox “light” or secular is that those people neither want to be religious nor keep Mitzvot. What they want is their personal freedom without any obligations. I have seen this when I spoke to Gur runaway Sarah Einfeld. When she left the Gerrer community in Ashdod a few years ago, hundreds of people asked in forums why Sarah didn’t switch to Chabad or became national religious. When I met her, I got the answer. There is a certain point how much she lets religion into her life. For instance, she is praying “Shema Israel” with her children before they go to sleep. On the other hand, she is not willing to dress modestly, keep kosher or Shabbat. What Sarah Einfeld wants is her own life without anyone telling her what to do.
When I left haredi society it was a lot different because I wasn’t born into it. First I thought about writing something and busting the entire society but after thinking for a while I came to the conclusion that not everything is bad. There are many great people in haredi society and I have learnt a lot. As in every society, there are good and bad things going on but one cannot only refer to the negative side. I learnt keeping away from situations making me upset and pulling me down but rather concentrate and associate with the positive side of haredi life. However, by describing haredi lifestyle in a more positive way, an author won’t make too much money. People want to read about scandals and gossip and less about the pleasure of keeping Shabbat or a happy haredi marriage.