Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Brainwashed or Lifestyle Choice?

This story is one of the strangest stories I have read in recent memory. According to a report in VIN it seems that a 17 year old young woman ran away from her own secular family to a Charedi one in Bnei Brak. She is certainly old enough to chose what kind of life she wants to lead. If she chose a Charedi family that should to be the end of the story.

But her own family members would not hear of it. They kidnapped her back. Who has the greater right in this situation? I think it belongs to the young woman in question. But there is a complicating factor here. The Charedi family she chose to be with was accused by their own children of abuse and left home because of it. Why would a 17 year old chose this family over her own?

I’m not sure what to make of this other than to say that there must be a lot more to this story than meets the eye.

Ostensibly the young woman left her home because she was tired of the rocket attacks from Gaza. How she found her way to an abusive Charedi family is not mentioned in the article.

I am not going to speculate about the reasons she is in this situation or the legalities of the kidnapping. Nor am I even certain what the right course of action would be at this point. But one thing is certain: A 17 year old young woman should be able to choose who she is without interference by anyone including her natural parents.

For their part her natural family claims she is being brainwashed by the Charedi family. I suppose that’s possible. But it is also possible that she saw what leading a religious lifestyle means and that she prefers that. On the other hand if her Charedi family is abusive - why would she prefer that? Even if she is not personally abused - abusers are hardly role models for a religious lifestyle.

After all is said and done she apparently she chooses an abusive religious family over her own secular one. On the one hand - that suggests sincerity on her part rather than a brainwashing. On the other hand there are countless stories of various cults brainwashing young people her age and even older. Was this the case here? And why would a family just take in a run-away?

She has been given the option by the Social Affairs Ministry to live apart from both her biological family and her adopted one until the courts decide the situation. If I were a judge, I would place a lot of weight on what she wants – much more than on what either of her families want. Whatever the decision, however, whether it is to allow he to live with her Charedi family or return her to her biological one - I would do it with great caution and would insist on strict and frequent monitoring by professionals to assure that there is no abuse – or brainwashing - by either side.