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August 31, 2014 / 5 Elul, 5774
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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

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A Double Tragedy  

Dear Rachel,

A friend alerted me to a disturbing article that lately appeared in a Jewish weekly. It’s about a troubled young woman, a mother, who recently took her own life. The article refers to (author’s words) “the alienation of children from their non-frum parents” and “a disturbing trend within ultra-Orthodox communities.” To my mind, the piece is basically a thinly veiled condemnation of a chassidic community.

My curiosity aroused, I searched the net for more information on this particular incident and came up with much more than I bargained for. In reality I shouldn’t have been all that surprised, since the article I quote from above alerts readers to the “ensuing outcry” by social media contributors – who, I discovered in short order, have joined the fray in trying, judging and convicting the relevant “ultra-orthodox” community for breeding the atmosphere that culminated in the tragic young woman’s death.

With no intent to minimize the tragedy in any way, I must in all honesty say I was most disconcerted by the criticisms and vilification of an entire community of people – based, no less, on Facebook postings, the biased opinions and hearsay of ex-chassids and some of the woman’s purported friends.

Though I label myself Modern Orthodox, my more than a handful of encounters with Chassidim over the years have always left me with a favorable impression. In fact, I’m rather inspired by their steadfast adherence to their faith and chosen lifestyle. Their perseverance in carrying on the traditions of their bubbies and zeidas in this modern day and age is, to say the least, a challenging and admirable endeavor.

I am hoping to read an opinion in the “Chronicles of Crises” column. If this doesn’t constitute crises in our midst, I don’t know what does.

A faithful reader  

Dear Faithful,

Several bloggers have indeed given little thought to jumping aboard the loshon hora wagon with nary a misgiving about reaching conclusions after having heard only one side, and indirectly at that. The harsh words of condemnation aimed at the tragic woman’s family and their community as a whole are both misguided and unwarranted.

This story/episode is a personal tragedy, the kind that can affect a family anywhere. The woman was not a well person and her condition impacted the marital relationship. In short, she ended up returning home to her parents and sought treatment for her depression.

With the assistance of professional counsel and inducement from new OTD acquaintances, she made a conscious decision to abandon her chassidish lifestyle and, moreover, became completely non-observant.

In regards to one’s faith, it is well known and accepted – in Jewish and non-Jewish circles – that the courts will generally side with the spouse that stays true to the couple’s original intent and commitment at marriage (in this case to live the chassidish lifestyle they were born into) and raise their children accordingly.

Despite her extreme transformation, this mother was granted supervised visitation rights with her children – a stipulation adhered to until she violated a caveat by trying to influence her two older children to the authenticity of her way of life over theirs. (Which frum parent would stand silently by and allow his or her young, vulnerable children to be led astray?)

You are right; this whole episode constitutes crises (plural). The first crisis is the catastrophe a family suffered, watching helplessly as the life of a beloved daughter/wife/mother careened out of control and tragically crashed.

The second crisis is the propagation of vicious slander that only serves to compound this family’s pain. How any blogger/writer/Facebook poster/friend-come-lately has the temerity to sit in judgment of those whose shoes they never walked in defies all logic.

As to the disgruntled OTDs who consistently promote the trashing of an entire chassidish community on the basis of not seeing eye-to-eye with the way its members choose to live their lives, the bashers are entirely free to live elsewhere in the manner they please. Obviously there are enough community residents perfectly content to lead their lives the way they see fit, and since they formed their enclave with the objective of guarding against what they perceive as negative outside influences, it is their prerogative and their right to fight to keep these from infringing on their territory and openly trampling their beliefs.

Chassidim are held to a higher standard, as they should be. Hence, their deeds and behavior are examined through a magnifying glass. Notwithstanding the fallout from the negative publicity garnered by the shameful acts of some unscrupulous individuals, we should know better than to judge a whole people because of the actions of a few.

As Jews, we are not lacking for enemies needing little excuse to trash and bash us. But it is most unsettling when our own choose to have their voices heard rather than to check out the facts – or, better yet, keep mum.

Thank you for addressing this injustice. Shedding light on the truth will hopefully counter the damaging effects of tale-bearing and evil speech … and ameliorate the tzar of the tragic victim’s neshama.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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4 Responses to “Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities”

  1. Arielle Kuperberg says:

    "the propagation of vicious slander that only serves to compound this family’s pain. How any blogger/writer/Facebook poster/friend-come-lately has the temerity to sit in judgment of those whose shoes they never walked in defies all logic." Indeed, indeed. How dare you do this to this poor woman who can no longer defend herself. How dare you sit in judgement of her, based on hearsay.

  2. Dasi Schnee says:

    How dare these people judge a woman who went through nothing but hell. Is it really so hard to fathom that Judaism is possibly oppressive. Don't judge until you are in another person's shoes. That is, unless they are OTD/ and or kill themselves. Instead of feeling sympathy for the individual you protect the community.

  3. Very very well written!

  4. Sara Maimon says:

    imagine someone who was denied normal visits with his children because he had become baal teshuva. horrors, his older son might even want to wear a yamuka like daddy! you'd be up in arms wouldn't you? but when its a parent becomeing non frum you think its ok to treat him like a child molester….

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