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Saturday, February 01, 2014 

Ex-Haredis have difficulty leaving when children are involved

A former Haredi woman wrote on Time about how it's hard for some Haredis to leave the lifestyle because of the problems they could face with child custody battles:
I hadn’t been adequately briefed, but Rachel quickly filled me in. She was 26 years old, had four kids and an abusive husband. She wanted out. She wanted to raise her children in safety. She wanted the freedom to uncover her hair, pursue her education, and teach her kids the wonders of science and the beauty of diversity.

But Rachel knew that she could not leave. She, like I once had been, was a member of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, and the obstacles placed in the path of those from that group who reject conformity for individualism, are daunting. If Rachel chose freedom, her community might hire her husband a top lawyer, supply him with religious psychologists and powerful rabbis to testify that Rachel was an unfit parent, and might even persuade Rachel’s own family to testify against her, ensuring she lost custody of her children. Almost every man or woman who wants to break free from ultra-Orthodoxy risks this heart-breaking price that too many have already paid.

We send troops to Afghanistan to liberate the oppressed women there, Rachel said to me, but no one seems to give a damn that there are thousands of people in New York City living in similar conditions.

According to the Pew Research Center’s recent study, there are approximately 400,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews in the US, with the vast majority living in the New York metro area. Ultra-Orthodoxy includes many different sects, both Hasidic and non-Hasidic, who generally abide by strict laws of semi-isolation, limits on the public presence of females, restrictions in dress, and expectations of obedience to a hierarchy of rabbis. Life revolves around the Sabbath, holidays, weddings, bar mitzvahs and circumcisions. Marriages happen young, after chaste non-romantic courtships that range from half an hour to a few weeks. With birth control largely forbidden, children soon follow. Self-sufficient educational systems, businesses, kosher restaurants and media platforms ensure that the community’s members need not step outside the invisible walls of their self-created shtetl. Attending university, studying mainstream philosophy or using the internet are mostly forbidden. Continuously augmented rabbinical edicts, modesty patrols, pressure to maintain a “spotless” reputation in order to score a good marriage match and the harsh treatment of rebels, help keep dissenters in line.

While there are urgent needs for reform within these communities, particularly regarding sex abuse cover ups and the treatment of women, there is also much that is beautiful and admirable about the ultra-Orthodox lifestyle that commands respect. But a closed community’s right to unquestioned privacy and autonomy becomes threatened when the exit routes out of that community are blocked.

When a man or woman tries to explore beyond ultra-Orthodoxy, to move in the direction of a self-determined life, not only do they often have to deal with a serious educational deficit (most ultra-Orthodox boys receive no high school math, science or English education) and an absence of interpersonal skills needed to integrate in a gender-mixed and diverse society, but they can also face threats of physical violence, estrangement from parents, siblings and friends, lose their job, and have their children taken from them in vicious custody battles where the ultra-Orthodox spouse is bolstered by the financial, emotional and political resources of their community — this being the consequence Rachel feared the most. In November, the suicide of Deb Tambor, a woman who had left ultra-Orthodoxy and subsequently lost custody of her three children, highlighted the anguish former ultra-Orthodox Jews often face in their struggles for freedom.

I myself know well the costs of pursing freedom. When I was 16, my parents pushed me out of the family after a culmination of rebellions that included talking to a boy, wanting to go to college, and wearing an immodestly form-fitting sweater.
I've already read a few other reports about how ex-Haredis have faced uphill battles with the leaderships of these atrocious clans who spend all the money they probably took for "charity" but rather than use to help feed the poor, they use it to bankroll the legal funds of the undeserving. And it's one of the worst things about a lot of Haredi communities.

Unfortunately, the claim America has really liberated oppressed women in Afghanistan isn't fully true, if they didn't liberate them from Islam itself. So it's awkward to say that when it's not entirely factual.

While this whole item is vital for discussion, I'm going to have to note that I find it appalling if only otherwise unreliable news outlets like Time are the ones covering these cases. Leftarded magazines like them can't be allowed to monopolize serious subjects like insular Haredi societies that do their subjects more harm than good. Fortunately, there are some right wing outlets that have tackled these, but still, it does bother me when more left wing outlets appear to be writing about them.

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