Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Personal and Communal Journey: Education, Columbia University, and Family

It was a chilly winter evening at the beginning of the Spring 2015 semester, after class, when I took the Columbia University Intercampus Shuttle from the Morningside Heights Campus, to the Columbia Medical Center in Washington Heights. At that point the driver of the 4:20 shuttle already knew me by name, as I was taking that shuttle on a weekly and sometimes bi-weekly basis. My maternal grandfather, may his memory be a blessing, was hospitalized for months at CUMC, up to his passing just two months after that. Over the 7 months that he was there, he wasn’t alone even for a single second, should it be a weekday or weekend, an ordinary day or a holiday, in rain or in snow. Between his 16 kids (kids and in-laws), and tens of grandkids and great-grandkids, the family took turns being with Zaidy. My mother was there about twice week, and every few weekends, and whenever I could I would take the 20-minute shuttle to the medical center to spend time with my beloved Mommy and Zaidy. After all, I was the only one in the family to live in Manhattan, and the only one in the entire extended family [1] to be part of the very university that became an integral part of our family life for months.
My (old) Columbia ID
That day I arrived at the Milstein Medical Building at the same time as my mom got out of the car that drove her from Brooklyn. The security at CUMC is adequately tight, and every time my mother came to visit, doesn’t matter how many times a week, she had to go through the security check-in. That meant walking up to the Visitors Counter, show a government ID, say whom she is visiting, and do a quick bag-check - she was no doubt used to it at that point. As always my mom was happy to see me; no matter what, her love - unconditional at the time - to the kid she saw as her oldest son was strong. We walked in through the revolving door, and out of instinct my mom approached the security desk. As she was pulling out her non-driver's license, [2] I pulled out my Columbia ID - which always gave me access to the medical center, no questions asked. Seeing my ID, the security guard asked me on my mom: “Is she with you?” and when I said yes, he just let us both go up without having to check in.
For my mom, this was the first time she faced firsthand what she knew for the last year, but never wanted to face it: her kid - myself, is part of the very same prestigious institution the family chose to take care of their crown - my grandfather. Mom’s first response, turning to the guard, was “Yup, my kid is just a showoff.” but as we entered the elevator to go up to the ICU on the sixth floor, my mother turns to me and said: “I see, you are doing something useful you’re your life.”
She said that in a tone of mourning rather than pride of her daughter's accomplishment. It is quite possible that she was the first mother to visit Columbia Medical Center because she believed in the effectiveness of the Columbia machine, and at the same time be upset, sad, and ashamed that her kid is part of that very same institution.
          I was only a young teenager when my cousin, [3] the now award winning actor, Luzer Twersky, left the Hasidic community. Luzer was the first person in my entire extended family [4] to commit one of the harshest sins possible in my family; going Off the derech - leaving the community. At the time our family went out of its way to demonize him and degrade him. I remember being told the worst things possible about him. From claims that he is mentally ill to claims that he is a criminal. The reasons why he left ranged from being insane to just a sinner who likes sex. We were told that it is certain he will end up a drug addict, in prison, or dead. Compassion to a family member that is going through a hard transition? none at all. At that point I pretty much believed it, while I was secretly watching his path hoping that maybe one day I will be able to follow in his footsteps. The possibility that in a few years he will have earned a few film awards, and have a fairly successful acting career, just didn’t cross my mind.
          Luzer wasn’t the only one that was demonized in that way. Every time someone left, the families and the whole community establishment rushed to explain it in any way possible - besides the possibility that they were looking for a better life outside the confines of one of America’s most isolated communities. We were told that everyone who leaves ends up either mentally ill, a criminal, or dead. As with Luzer, the community would get creative in creating a story of why they left, always negative, and usually along the lines of mental illness or desire to be sinful and lustful. Without question, up to about ten years ago, without any support groups or social media, that was what most of us believed. In addition, they were sadly right more times than not. Without a solid education or baseline knowledge of how to live as a civilized human being in the outside world, topped with family rejection leading to financial breakdown, very few people were actually successful after leaving. I don’t think anyone took statistics of these leaving prior to 2003, but from what we know, a lot of them sadly ended up in bad places physically, mentally, and/or emotionally.
          In 2012, when I was beginning my own journey out of the community, everyone in my life rallied around to convince me of my upcoming colossal failure. A lot of people were called in - so to speak - to ‘save’ my soul, and try to prevent me from moving forward. From my father who has a lot of experience working with “teens at risk,” [5] my paternal grandfather with whom I had a very personal relationship as my spiritual mentor, to my great-aunt, Rebbetzin Feige Twerski, a world renown kiruv speaker. The underlying message I got from all of them was that one thing is clear: there is simply no way I will ever succeed in life outside of the community. However, the biggest reason why that didn’t work in 2012 as well as it worked with others in 1992, was that I have seen success stories. Thanks to organizations such as Footsteps and Hillel, social media such as the Facebook group Off the Derech, and online projects such as It Gets Besser, I knew that success is possible. To my family and community however, my success, and the success of my fellow journeyers leaving the community, was seen as a threat of itself.
          From the first moment I started planning to leave the enclave I grew up in, I knew that one of the most important steps towards success would be education. Here once again everyone was enlisted to convince me that I will never succeed in academia. As a matter of opinion, I believe that they knew that education is actually the path to success, and wanted to do everything possible to ensure that doesn’t happen. I clearly remember a moment when I was studying for my GED in my father’s study at home, [6] and he came in and said, “I know you, and I can promise you, you will never succeed in college.”  In the end, as a direct result of these messages I started pushing myself to prove them wrong, and to work hard to get somewhere in life. I will admit that part of the reason I applied to NYU and Columbia was because even my parents recognized that these are top schools. Knowing that pushed me - at least a bit - to work hard on my SAT's, admissions essay, and so on.
My Columbia acceptance lette
I will never forget the look of shock, dismal, and disappointment on my father's face when I showed him my Columbia acceptance letter. Throughout the next year - while they were still talking to me - they constantly hated it when I mentioned being at Columbia, studying with leading professors, and later on making political connections. They didn't know how to deal with it, and even more how to convince the rest of my family that I am NOT successful.
To that extent, I have to admit, my mother saying “I see, you are doing something useful with your life,” while sincere, was a challenge not just to herself, but to the entire community’s basic belief system. However, I am proud to say, and to be just one of the living examples, that everything is possible. No matter what our communities and families are tell us, we can be successful. Nothing is off limits, not even the Ivy League, or the third best school in the United States of America.

This post was inspired by an inquiry by my dear friend Shulem Deen, regarding what we (the OTD community) were told growing up about what happens to these who leave.

[1] For context, just my grandfather’s father’s kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, and great-great-grandkids, make up about a hundreds of college age people. I almost certain that I am the first of them to go to college.
[2] Non-driver’s license is the most commonly used form of ID in communities were driving for women (and sometimes even man as is the case with my family) is considered taboo, and pretty much unacceptable.
[3] Luzer is my second cousin on my father’s side, and later first cousin through my ex wife. Just like in royal families, the royal Hasidic families – namely descendants of Hasidic rabbis, marry each other all the time, so there is a lot overlap in family trees. Even in my own marriage, my great-grandmother, and my ex’s grandmother were first cousins.
[4] The family of my paternal great-great-grandfather, Rabbi Eluzer Twersky - Luzer’s namesake.
[5] Teens at risk didn’t usually refer to drugs, or at risk of joining the neighborhood gang. Usually it meant boys that have smartphones god forbid, talk the girls, or just don’t want to study 10 hours a day at religious schhol.
[6] As depicted in this video: https://youtu.be/xnoT1Y-sHXI?t=40s, produced by the It Gets Besser Project.  


  1. There is only one entity who will accurately judge your success. And that will be your Father in heaven. And you will have to wait awhile to get your answer.
    How sad that you think success is measured by graduating from an elite school or winning awards or being well known or famous. What shallow thinking.
    At the end of time, your success will be measured by your connection to HKBH, which sadly doesn't bode well for you.
    I hope Hashem brings healing to your impoverished soul...because you may be well in body, but in great need of spiritual healing.
    We can fool the world with awards, positions, status...and anything in-between...and we can drag the world into believing us, we can actually convince ourselves that we have reached tbe pinnacle of success...alas only to have been horrifically deceived!
    You and your cronies are swimming in the glory of your newfound " success"...
    And if after 120 (if your soul has not been reawakened to the falsehood of your convictions)..you stand before your maker, and stand you will.....please send us a signal fron On High as to what position exactly you hold in the heavenly spheres....
    Wake up my dear child...you are playing with fire.
    And you are not eligible for insurance lest you pay your premiums!

    1. Didn't your mother ever teach you - "if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything"?????? Or maybe this is also part of the great educational gap of frum jews?

      Abby - keep it up! My admiration of you keeps on growing!

      Someone still living in the frum community

    2. Comment deleted by site Mod.
      Re: wrong pronouns

    3. Hello.bh..Just want to say it is unbeliveabel to read your story.it sounds so amish.but i will wish you the best on your journey in this world.you are brave.stay strong.you are still growing as human.im proud of you.you have a beautiful soul.your doings affects many if you didnt notice,in many ways..wish you the best.Be well.may hashem bless you..Hashem is always here beside you..Happy hanukkah.Chag sameach.מאחל לך את הכי הטוב בעולם היקר .. אתה אחד האורות הרבים אלוהים מנורה שלו והאור שלך זורח אפילו חזק מתמיד..

  2. Abby,
    So glad my alma mater is taking good care of you!

    You should know that some of what you are seeing is not unique to the חרדי community -- the "modern" community has just as much of an aversion to queer people, only their intolerance is first presented with a smile, rather than outright dismissal. I'm not sure which is worse.

    כל הכבוד, חברתי!

    1. Truth is not unique to any community...like oil it rises to the top!
      Your mistake is thinking we are intolerant of a person, while the truth is that WE ARE INTOLERANT OF AN ACT. We are intolerant of those who deny G- ds Torah,knowing deep down that they are going against his will and most likely influencing others to sin...which is in a category in itself. Those that love G-d...modern or orthodox feel the same way.. its either you're with us or your not!

  3. One either believes in the eternity of the soul and the afterlife, or doesn't.

    If it's all over at death, then I guess it trully make no difference to the doer what you do because it's all about temporary passing existance. So you may as well do whatever gives you the most instant gratification, because instant or relatively short term gratification is sadly all that there is.

    But if there is an eternity to the soul, Then one needs to look at the bigger picture. What you do today remains with you for ever and ever. What you become is what you will have. So if Luzer has some film awards, does that have eternal value? It needs to be assessed in terms of what has value in the place of the soul's eternity.

    That was the meaning of your mother's sarcastic remark “I see, you are doing something useful with your life.” She doesn't see these things as truly useful at all, because she doesn't believs that they nourish and enrich the soul with anything of eternal value.

    I agree with you mother.

    1. I have a serious question for Abby and all tbe OTD kids. Lets presume that there is a 50% chance that u are right or a 50% chance you are wrong. After all, you can't prove something "DOESNT EXIST".... so tbe chance that you may be wrong that G-d DOES indeed exist....and you have to wait to find out...what will you say to the heavenly court if you are proven wrong? Oh woops I made a mistake...dear Lord. I'm so sorry...my mistake? You have to live your life with the idea that you may be on tbe wrong side of tbe fence a d see tbe bigger picture. You cannot rule it out. And then what.

    2. @anonymous on 11/26/16 at 11:25 PM: You can apply that thinking to any religion. What if Scientology or Christianity or Hinduism or Islam are the right ones? Youre taking a chance on Judaism that may not pay off either!

  4. @Anonymous 11:25

    You're talking about Pascal's wager, a famous philosophical problem. But your presumption that there's a 50% chance of right or wrong is a bad start already...You make the mistake that any time there are two choices, each is equally likely.

    Do you think for a moment that perhaps -- just perhaps -- there are learned people out there who have, indeed, gone and studied, and asked, and probed...and still have managed to figure out that theirs is the best way to live going forward?

    Or, as one wag put it, "I'm sure if there is a God, He's big enough to understand an honest difference of opinion."

    (BTW, I am still "frum", if you consider Very Left Wing Modern Orthodox "frum".)

    1. 50/50 is the fairest assessment I can give for practical purposes...to me its 100%
      Secondly, you can all live your lives as you see fit...I have no problem with that....just know who the accounting will go to when your time is up. G-d in his infinite love for you also gave you BECHIRA .. a choice...he doesn't force anything on you...just tells you what he expects of you and tbe rest is up to you dear. However, he also warns you of the consequences of your actions and that there is a price to pay for everything. The choice is all yours . No " I didnt know or wasnt aware" business when your time is up.
      Your statement about G-d understanding honest difference in opinions is very nice sweet talk...but highly impractical in real life where a difference could mean life or death for eternity. No childs play, I would say.

    2. "50/50 is the fairest assessment" means you have not given it any thought at all.

      BTW, "I wasn't aware" is the response of a tinok she-nishba, no? *They* at least get the benefit of that doubt.

      I'd strongly suggest re-reading Rambam's _Hilkhot Teshuvah_, and understanding what might be going on. And asking yourself: "Am I, by my actions, being _mechallel(et) hashem_? Am I accidentally being _chotei u'machti'ei et harabbim?"

      I'd make sure you are 100% sure of your own _cheshbon_ at 120, and let others learn by your example how to be good.
      That's what I'm aiming for. I'm trying to be the best me that I can be, given all what I'm up against.

      And I'm willing to put my name on that.


    3. For one, Abby is not and I repeat NOT a tinok shenishba...so he cannot get the benefit of the doubt...that is obvious. A person does not have to be 100% perfect to give rebuke. No, of course I'm not perfect...but it IS our duty to wake people up and remind them of their actions.If someone is mechallel shabbos, I have every right to bring that to their attention,as that is an area I am strong in. Maybe we should not rebuke people in areas we are alone weak in,but reminding my fellow brother of his seemingly lack of knowledge about consequences doesn't fall into the category of whatever it is you are trying to accuse me of.
      We all need to try and be the best we can be,that's true...but kol Yisroel areivim ze luzeh.. WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ONE ANOTHER, NOT ONLY FINANCIALLY EMOTIONALLY....BUT ALSO SPIRITUALLY!
      And if you only see these posts as coming from a place other than love for a fellow jew, brother and even closer...someone from your own community who cares about someone's neshama....then you got a problem. Staying by the sidelines with a " Im not getting involved" attitude while the ship is sinking, aint the Jewish way. You can't always come with the "MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS" attitude in life. Who are you to give rebuke.... because nobody would ever be worthy of that status. We all are sinners, making mistakes... being challenged. But there's a difference between a mistake and deliberately sinning. It hurts the heart and if you can stand idly by with no care in the world and just come up with your Veahavta leraicha Kumoicha.....well THIS is loving your fellow jew...helping him out of the hole he has dug himself into..!!!!
      P.S Talk about choiti imachti es harabim.....huh?

    4. So the moderator wont cut me off for using the wrong pronouns,,,,how sad...

    5. It's Abby's blog, why is it sad if she removes comments that insult her directly?

      In any case: you're right that you don't have to be 100% to give a rebuke, but are you in a position to give a rebuke? Do you know what giving a proper _tochachah_ is really all about? Have you learned what is involved? Or are you just anonymously venting on the internet? Once you have given your warning, have you executed your duty fully? Do you have the obligation to repeatedly bang someone on the head? Would it not be better instead to show her what she's missing out on by being absolutely fantastic and wonderful doing what it is you do?

    6. Because sometimes one can make a mistake between he and she ..esp if one is used to the he...and it isn't intentional...to hurt.
      How would you like me to endear myself if the basic premise of Abby at this point is to cast a shadow on a community, who as a whole is b"h satisfied with its lifestyle. I have a hard time with all the OTD going out into the media and besmirching their own...writing books and pulling people away from their former derech. It hurts the heart. If one is not happy and wants out...that is your choice. Go on...live your life..move on. 99% of them are still busy years later casting ugly shadows on our lifestyle to people who dont know better and feed off of tbat information. Many lies and innuendos..I've read them all, seem them all..causing great chillul Hashem which among all the sins is the greatest and greatest punishment for.. almost no redemption...and if yes...it comes with great pain. Check it out...not my words.
      You don't agree to your family's way of life...you do6nt agree with G-ds Torah and his laws...MOVE ON. don't spend the rest of your living breathing days purging your guilt in leaving. Because people who are so secure and feel so self righteous do not go around spouting and embarrassing and hurting the people who gave them life, breath, sustenance...unless they are plagued with incessant guilt, which is quite obvious to me they are. I dont have guilt for something I'm sure of. Sure is sure.
      P. S I don't consider myself BANGING anyone.Creating heartfelt awareness and talking truth is not banging. Of course to those who don't want to hear, it may feel differently... their sensitivity clearly evident in their responses.

    7. By the way: addressing *only* your comment about "Because sometimes one can make a mistake between he and she ..esp if one is used to the he...and it isn't intentional...to hurt."

      There is *NO EXCUSE* in this forum for making that mistake. You're not speaking extemporaneously. You're writing. You can go back and edit. You can read over what you wrote to make sure you get things right.

      Doing otherwise just indicates you have no interest in actually being respectful to Abby.

      Sorry, "I meant no harm" won't fly here. Read over your posts for hitting "publish". That's why there's a "Preview" button, even...


    8. Sorry but your being judgemental. I do review my posts..but Im human...and it DID slip by me FYI.. And....pleaseOMG...I didnt call him a dog for crying out loud! I have more to say about this but I'll remain silent..

    9. Once again, you insist on the incorrect pronouns.
      > "OMG...I didnt call him a dog for crying out loud!"

      Abby's pronouns, last time I checked, were she/her/hers.

    10. I noticed it too late. I guess I know her as a he...wow ...got it right this time.
      In any case these pronouns dont mean anything because if a he can feel like a she... then a she can be a he!!!! Case closed.

  5. @Anonymous 11:27 (I do so wish you'd put even pseudonyms on your posts, it makes it so much easier to disambiguate one troll from the rest.)

    It must be comforting to know that you are in possession of TEH TROOF. Alas, your assessment is wrong. Communities aren't intolerant of acts. My transition act is done! They have now become intolerant of me, as a person. They have decided that *a person* is now beyond the pale, without chance of redemption, dangerous, or unworthy.

    When you demonize one of your own for being different, or believing differently, you're guilty of the same problem as described on Baba Metziah 83b: "Leave it for the owner of the vineyard, he will weed his own thorns."

    ואהבתה לרעך כמוך. Abby is still רעך, and it's not to you to decide otherwise. If your truth is so strong, show it to her through your good actions and righteous life, not your sanctimonious anonymous rants on her blog.

    1. I don't speak for anyone but myself and you feeling and clumping it ALL INTO "THE COMMUNITY".... is as unfair as it gets...
      We are all individuals and do not VOTE "AS A BLOCK", so to speak. I don't know ur personal experience,but don't clump people together as groups until you have gotten to speak to a majority of them.
      We are capable of loving a sinner but not the sin. Hashem loves us all and waits for our teshuva. Love has nothing to do with this. Bringing awareness to someone who is grappling in the dark is not a one up on anyone. Unless you are not a torah observant jew...these arguments are ludicrous.

    2. You spoke in terms of what the "community" does or does not do.
      Unless you've got a tapeworm, why else say "we" if you aren't lumping in a community of some kind?

      I only know of my experience, and the experience of others like me, at the hands of communities. I only know how my family was treated living in Brooklyn but having the absolute *temerity* to send our boys to the "wrong yeshivahs"...or wanting them to go on to college like their parents did. (And one of them, B"H, went to his parents' alma mater, and is a student along with Abby at Columbia!)

      You say you are "capable of loving the sinner but not the sin", and yet, "you" seem grossly unwilling to do exactly that. Love has *everything* to do with this. It's interesting that of all the things you could be מחמיר with, you apparently ignore ואהבתה לרעך כמוך and כבוד הבראיות.

      btw, as mentioned before, I *am* a "Torah-observant Jew". But I don't have to defend my observance to you; I only owe an explanation to God.

    3. I guess you did not understand the part where I say love has nothing to do with it. Of course we love our fellow jews...thats why I said we can love the sinner and not the sin. You were trying to prove that if you love someone you kinda let them do whatever they " choose " to do...regardless. I am not discussing the L O V E aspect here. I am discussing the DESPITE or INSPITE of,we still need to be responsible for one another. I dont think we are understanding each other quite. So let's just call it a day..and move on.
      I know my intentions are coming straight from the heart and no need to defend myself.
      I'm sorry for the pain you have felt in whatever transition you have made. I'm sure people must have meant well and most likely could not properly express themselves to you.
      Good luck

    4. @ Anonymous 9:39 a.m.

      How do you know the "intentions" of those who have hurt me and my family, over and over again, over the course of *decades*? What hubris you possess!

      Once again: lead by example. And sign your name (or a traceable alias). Otherwise, you're just some meaningless pashkevil stapled to a pole in Boro Park, next to a "lost dog" tearaway.

    5. Hubris? Wow, we really are coming from different planets. I DON'T know anyones intentions and for that matter INTENT is not something written on ones forehead...and so being dan l' chaf zechus is my job. I suspect...not "KNOW" that if your changed courses in your life, you may have encountered negativity in the process or ongoing. But I will take the LIBERTY,if I may, and defend those who see it as a step down and concern...No, I dont know your story so it's hard to even say anything. I don't think as a whole people want to be bad .we are rachmanim b'nei rachmunim...I believe that with my whole heart. We are children of our father Avraham...and chessed is our middle name.
      I'm sorry that people are not able to accept you if you remained frum...albeit maybe a watered down frumkeit ( by their standards)for lack of a better description.
      How do you know where I hail from? You see...you are already making accusations and ASSUMING, (BY YOUR PREJUDICE,MAY I SAY) that I am from b.p. so how does that make you a nicer person? I didnt insult you in any way...so why your last sentence? Could have phrased it nicer.
      If my name were Yanky, Mendy or Rochel...how would that help you or change things. It's obvious Im a human being, not a dog. Josie doesnt tell me anything. You can be Claire for that matter...do I know?
      I wish you Peace hatzlocha and bracha in all your endeavors..
      I sincerely remain
      A Bas Yisroel
      Who loves my fellow jews...with a deep love!

    6. Anonymous, you are tiring and tedious.
      I never said you were from BP. Only that posting anonymously is like a pashkevil therein. But I'd be surprised if you've never seen a pashkevil, either in BP or elsewhere. I'm willing to recant my claim if you honestly never have.

      I only know you from your writings, which I can't tell from any other "Anonymous" poster because, well, you don't sign your name. If your name were traceable to a real person, providing real accountability (I am findable), that would mean something. At the very least, Abby knows exactly who I am.

      As for knowing people's intentions, you wrote: "I'm sure people must have meant well and most likely could not properly express themselves to you." In fact, even Jews can be mean-spirited and spiteful. If you need an example, I'd suggest going back to the Na"kh portion of Tanakh. "Jews behaving badly" is kind of a recurring theme. And I can guarantee you that they were, indeed, spiteful and mean, and they expressed that clearly to me.

      I have no idea if you're the same anonymous who also railed against people going OTD and then "badmouthing" religious Jews. You know what? I don't like it either. But even worse is when religious Jews fail to meet even the barest minimum standards for a citizen of the US and then get caught at it. Or end up molesting children...you know, all those things that are really a MUCH bigger חילול השם then going on TV and saying, 'boy are those people wrong'. I think you're aiming at the wrong people if you're aiming at the few OTD people who make a public stink. Oh, and by the way, I have literally met dozens of OTD folk who would probably be just plain old Modern Orthodox if they didn't get a bad taste in their mouths from the חרידי world telling them "this is the *only* way to live."

      If you really want to be דן לכף זכות, maybe you should realize that not every person can meet the standards. Some will fall, and you can help them up, not by standing and hectoring, but by offering the hand if it's there. "I don't like what you do, but I will never turn my back on you." And realizing that maybe if you will support and hide a child-molester in your community (generic you, not specific you here) but harass someone who wants to be frum but who happens to be queer, you're aiming at the wrong person.

      I, too, am a בת ישראל. I have high standards to live up to. Sometimes, I make it. And I welcome your extended hand in support. By the way: sometimes that support means telling other people to pipe down and make a path back for תשובה.

      Josephine (my legal first name)
      יוספה בתיה

  6. Josie, I won't pretend to have read the entire dialogue thoroughly, but I have something general to say. Many or probably most people from my communities, the orthodox communities, are very much against those who transition, in one form or another, away from the ways of those orthodox communities. Those feelings often consist of anger, ridicule or even hatred of sorts. Let me not try to deny that. But those who transition claim to know all about understanding people. They surely need to be able to understand and validate those feelings of those orthodox communities. I think it's quite understandable that my community is angry. We feel violated, robbed and insulted in the worst way and betrayed. The OTD community is saying that our tradition and our entire of set life values and morals are wrong. I agree that we make mistakes and mishandle things at times. But does that invalidate our entire belief system? Certainly not. If someone was hurt by members of the chassidishe community and they want to leave, does that mean that everything about chassidim is automatically wrong? So I agree that by chassidim making certain mistakes and giving people the feeling that the community is bad, it desecrates The Torah which they supposedly represent, but that doesn't mean that The Torah or chassidus it being accurately represented by them. So the things which The Torah says about homosexuality doesn't therefore come into dispute chas veshalom. And if someone openly and shamelessly violates those Torah rules, such rules which are written as clearly as can be, they are among the worst offenders of publicly desecrating The Torah. This is a valid reason for the anger and disdain coming from my community. Don't you think?

  7. I grew up Ultra Orthodix like you, and experienced many of the issues you faced. We were also foster children and preyed upon by some in the community who knew we were vulnerable. It was a fight to get out of there and in those days, they administers physical punishment too. Bravo to you for your personal awesome courage in finding yourself from a gender perspective and a lifestyle choice path.

    My move to Israel saved me. I note that you refer to Shulem Dean who helped you, hoping though you keep an open mind as regards Usrael as he has already made up his mind that we're bad.