Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Off the Derech - Chicago

Guest Post from an Ex-Rabbi’s Son

I just received an e-mail from an ‘off-the-Derech’ (OTD) young man. The words are heartbreaking to the point of tears. The story he tells is a devastating indictment of how a community is failing them. These troubled souls are as Jewish and holy as any other Jewish soul. But they have been discarded and left to rot.

I am not accusing anyone of nefarious motives here. I am not even saying that there weren’t any attempts to help. But there is something horribly wrong when an entire community of formerly religious Jews from fine families is allowed to end up in the gutter - with feelings of hopelessness and resentment. It is an indictment of those who had opportunities to help them - and dropped the ball. Big time! Even if their intentions were good.

I want to clearly state that the comments and accusations made in the post are made out of a sense of frustration and anger and are not necessarily my own views. I posted them verbatim to demonstrate exactly how they feel – and why they feel that way. It is important to know the un-sugarcoated truth. I don’t blame them one bit for feeling this way.

This young man is exposing a raw nerve to the public. His post is a plea - a wake up call to what is happening right in front of us to the children of some of the finest families in Chicago. I am beside myself with both sadness and anger.

The post is verbatim with the exception of my editing some minor of typos. I think we ought to pay attention.

I am a non-frum former yeshiva guy. I went through the stages of being “at-risk” and OTD now I’m simply not frum. Without knowing my background there is no way anyone would know I ever affiliated with Jews. I’m not proud of my decision to give it all up. Along with quite a few others we just simply couldn’t take the pain.

We all share similar backgrounds. We are all kids of the “establishment”, or families supported by the “establishment”, or have parents looked at as meek. Because our parents aren’t in the position to protect us we are sitting ducks.

Sick predators who are members of or close to leaders of the “establishment” know they are protected. They then start preying on the sitting targets.

The pain of knowing we were hurt BECAUSE our parents would lose their jobs if they make waves… the pain of knowing we were targeted BECAUSE our parents risk losing money from chessed places if they try to help us… the pain of knowing we were targeted BECAUSE our parents aren’t pushy and thugs… this pain is too much to handle.

My father refused to allow me to come forward out of fear for his job. A few kids tried their luck with the “rabbis” of the city. The answers show Al Capone is still alive and well in Chicago .

They were called liars, yelled how they talked lashon hara and will burn for it - all the way up to threatening them and their families. I thought murdering someone is a bigger problem than lashon hara. These fakers try to protect their turf by yelling about lashon hara. I know it’s a big sin but does it outweigh protecting kids? Our lives are not lives. We’re miserable.

But this was the final blow to my being Jewish. My mother pleaded and cried for me to come for Seders this year. My father showed a human side I never saw before and begged me to come back home. They said with all the awareness the community woke up.

They finally risked ruffling feathers and took me to a “rabbi” in town. His answer was “Before I could have helped you - but now that you went OTD you have no nemanus (trustworthiness)”. I threw my yamikah in his face and called him what he is and stormed out.

I’m not going to depress you with details how we burn our lives away. I will say is Jews for J and other places give us more comfort and heart-to-heart talks than we ever got before. Besides for one frum guy everyone else gave up on us.

I got a GED and will start college in Fall so I could live a productive life. The problem is for every kid who succeeds another five kids end up on the street to take his place. Trust me, its no fun talking with us.

Have a physically easy fast but a meaningful emotional one. We OTD guys want to see if the Jewish community can make things right. We doubt its possible but will give one more try. We don’t want to harm the families of these sick evil people, all we want is for them to STAY AWAY FROM KIDS.

We are writing vague in the hope that those who know who we’re talking about get the message. As my father says in Hebrew “Dai Lchakima Brmiza - a wise man gets hints.