Understanding Off the Derech Survivors – Guest Post by Asher Lovy

Over shabbos I was talking to someone about the upcoming trial of Nechemye Weberman. Unfortunately, his response was what I was expecting. His face twisted into the disgusted, doubtful expression that shouted “what a bilbul, what a chillul hashem.” It was the typical response of many in our community when faced with challenging issues.

He said, “I hear she’s not such a tzanuah,” as though that rendered her claims incredible and irrelevant. “She was always a troubled girl, always had problems with yahadus and hashkafah. It’s no wonder she’s making up this bilbul now. Nebach. She wants to live a hefker life and this is her way of punishing her parents and the therapist who tried to help her by not allowing her to just do whatever she wanted”

I walked away from the conversation. Leave him to his ignorance. There’s just no convincing some people, and I have better things to do with my time.

When I first started telling people what happened to me, they responded by asking me where I was learning. When I told them I wasn’t, they would suddenly lose interest. Not being in beis medrash at the age of eighteen branded me a confused child with an overactive imagination and an inability to keep my desires in check.

I hear that a lot about survivors, especially if they are no longer frum. “They must have gone off the derech because they were mentally ill, or they were too lazy to be frum, or too involved in gashmius. They made up the abuse story to justify their indiscretions.” They assume that anyone giving up the  bucolic life of a frum Jew is somehow, less of a human being.

I am a frum Jew, and I am proud to say so. Not because of my community or the way it conducts itself but because I find beauty in Judaism and I feel a connection with God and the Torah. Thankfully I have been able to separate my religiosity from my feelings toward my community, but many people are not able to do that. They see a community united in religious observance, uniting against a coreligionist who he dares to speak out about another “religious” person who abused them. For them it’s not such an imaginative leap to feel there is no place for them and to then leave the community, and by extension, the religion.

Yet many frum people never see it that way. They see the abandonment of religion as so inconceivable that it must be the decision of a lunatic. This allows them to reject claims of abuse as libelous self-justification. They never stop to consider if that person may have had a very good reason for leaving.

I’ve been involved with kiruv and organizations that deal with people who are not frum. Someone once asked for “the number one cause of “OTD.” I told him that there was no single cause; there were usually multiple factors. I added, that if he was really curious he should start asking individuals who are no longer frum instead of asking me for a one line answer. That wasn’t the answer he was looking for.

As a survivor I meet other survivors. Many of whom are not frum or do not fit the mould of mainstream Boro Park Judaism. There’s always a reason. Often it is because they were hurt terribly by the community and faith they believed in. That betrayal turned them off.

But no one ever asks, “why?” No one ever sees the effect and inquires about the cause. Instead they confuse the effect with the cause. Instead, they assume that the OTD’s clothing , language , food , and places they live explain what led up to their decision to leave Judaism. They insist that people who are OTD are “lying” about their abuse because they are frustrated with themselves and feel a need to lash out at others for attention. Nothing could be further from the truth.

For a survivor to come forward with his or her story takes a tremendous amount of courage and personal strength. They then have to confront a community that insults them as liars.  They became what the community made them by its ignorance, inaction, silence, and callousness which now hurts them and alienates them even more.

The world is not a perfect place. There are some very terrible people out there who abuse innocent children. They exist. It’s an uncomfortable reality, but a reality nonetheless. Instead of being worried about its image, the community should be worried about the people it loses, be it spiritually when they stop being frum or physically when they commit suicide. I am astounded at the hypocrisy of  our community. The same people who will give hundreds and thousands of dollars to kiruv organizations will then shun, ostracize, and harass the very people those organizations serve.

To call a survivor a liar because he does not look like you is backwards. Maybe he doesn’t look like you because he is a survivor and you stood by and did nothing as he cried out in pain. The mark of a Jew is that he is a Rachman, Bayshan, and a Gomel Chesed; in fact, if any of these traits are lacking in a Jew it is cause to question his heritage. Yet, I see so many in our community who lack these traits the moment someone is a surrvivor or doesn’t wear a black hat.


13 thoughts on “Understanding Off the Derech Survivors – Guest Post by Asher Lovy

  1. To Mr. Lowy, I read your article, and have to agree with you 100% or even more if possible. Now I would like to explain in a professional way- the pathology of OTD. When children from a observant and religious community get abused by the very people that are supposed to live or impart the very religion the live in, they go off the derech BIG TIME!!! After surviving horrendous abuse does anyone really think- those kids will trust religion or the derech they are supposed to tread in???? Its the very religion that sold them down the path to hell. So since they cannot fight “hashem” because he is too high up in the heavens (and hashem being in celestial spheres and terms….) the fight his next emissaries= the parents!!!! And they leave the very upbringing and religion they were born in. No one goes OTD for fun or because it was too restrictive and a host of other reasons. If they feel too restricted they change and become more lax, but they do not throw everything away (kashrus,shabbos, and modesty [purity-shomer negiah..] ). When they throw everything away- its a roaring cry of pain!!!!!! Some turn to drugs-some become bona fide alcoholics and some dress out!!!! the DSM-V manual of medical definitions are re-structuring their books (or reprinting them) and they came to the conclusion that “the first things survivors from CPA and CSA (child physical abuse and child sexual abuse) will throw off- will be the religion they come from!!! this has been said by a goyishe doctor at a seminar I attended. (nothing new there- As us in Kiruv knew this a long time ago). However the medical community decided that there is way too many cases of Drug-Alcohol-Med and Sex addiction- to just write if off as chemical dependency in a person’s DNA….., they are now researching the root and the cause of them. This is what they came up- that all these horrendous things that people do- is a way to silence the voice in their brains- the voice that is screaming for validation and closure. And yes people in Williamsburg or Boro Park- refuse to believe that the spiritual holocaust we are experiencing is of our own making. Its easier to blame the victims. Otherwise we have to own up and admit- that yes there does exist evil in our midst.
    Judy Genut
    President of
    Chayas Community Inc.
    A Safe Haven for Teens at Risk

    • Um – ok. I’m not sure what you mean by explaining OTD in a professional way(!!!). As someone who is a CSA survivor and OTD from a very frum family, I would like to point out that, although you sound as though you are trying to be compassionate and “openminded”, there are many of us OTDers who do not turn to drugs, alcohol, or whoring it up – and you sort of come across as being very…idk the word I’m looking for…..”holier than thou” perhaps…..anyway, many OTDers simply cannot live amongst a group of people who so clearly condone horrific behavior such as raping and molesting a child (and other terrible things that many frum Jews do and that their coreligionists cover up, condone, or ignore). We also don’t want to raise our children in a community like that knowing it is unsafe. Being a survivor of CSA who remains frum (and there are tons of those too) requires a lot of ignoring and justifications. I wasn’t capable of doing that. I applaud those who can, if they are satisfied doing so.

      While I agree that no one goes OTD for no reason, I think you are kidding yourself by giving credit to “those of you in kiruv” who knew “a long time ago” that the reasons for addictions go beyond DNA…..I think Bill and his friends were well aware of that fact way before any kiruv organization. This is a big part of the problem. You “in kiruv” all want to act like you have the answers and you created them, when in fact – YOU HAVE NO IDEA. Have a little busha and learn from those who may not be as frum as you are.

      And why is it that the doctor’s non-Jewish status needs to be mentioned?

      So yes – the frum community has a TON to own up to and admit and LEARN – including coming to the realization that they need help from the outside (including *shocker* goyishe and frei doctors and professionals) to fix this.

    • Your statement contains a few inaccuracies, Ms. Genut. Firstly, you imply that all survivors of abuse will go off the derech, conversely implying that a survivor who doesn’t is unusual. That’s not true. I don’t have a study to back up what I’m going to say, but it is based on considerable personal experience. While you’re correct that there are many survivors who go off the derech, to imply a majority is, in my opinion, inaccurate.

      Next point. What drives people off in many cases (to speak for all or even a majority of cases would be presumptuous) is the seeming contradiction between what was promised and what was received. We learn from a young age that d’racheha darchei noam, however so much of our community is combative and abusive, ostracizing, exclusive, narrow minded, discriminatory, and xenophobic. None of the aforementioned traits are espoused in the Torah, yet they exhibit themselves clearly among communities which claim to be the most pious devotees of the Torah. Faced with this apparent contradiction most people would not make the distinction between Jews and Judaism, would view the two as equal parts of the same oppressive construct, and abandon it entirely. The truth is that Jews are a very poor representation of Judaism.

      “No one goes OTD for fun or because it was too restrictive and a host of other reasons. If they feel too restricted they change and become more lax, but they do not throw everything away (kashrus,shabbos, and modesty [purity-shomer negiah..] ). When they throw everything away- its a roaring cry of pain!!!!!!”
      That is a complete baseless fabrication. That’s what well–meaning frum people like to believe when they make off the derech people their own personal chessed nebachs, but that’s not true. You’re doing yourself and your cause a disservice by subscribing to that mentality.

      As to your next statement about the DSM-V, please cite a source for that.

      As a professional you should know that the dynamics of addiction are complicated. Even if there were a genetic predisposition toward addiction it would take a trigger to express that genetic trait. Hence the term predisposition. I sincerely doubt that survivors who turn to drugs and alcohol as means of escape are all genetically predisposed toward addiction, and I doubt all addicts are survivors of sexual abuse. The two are not mutually exclusive; it does not have to be one or the other.

      “This is what they came up- that all these horrendous things that people do- is a way to silence the voice in their brains- the voice that is screaming for validation and closure.”
      Not exactly…your point leads back to the premise that if someone has a perfect life as a frum Jew he will never want to leave the fold, which is, again, a ridiculous and baseless premise perpetuated by people who like making off the derech people into their own little chessed nebachs. I’m all for kiruv, but don’t be offensive about it.

      “Its easier to blame the victims. Otherwise we have to own up and admit- that yes there does exist evil in our midst.”

      Amen to that. I’ll be following this up with a piece on why I think that happens. Stay tuned.

      • ^^^^^ YES!! ^^^^^^

        this is exactly what I was trying to say. Thank you, Usher, for once again sorting it out and making it clear!

        Also, anecdotally, I completely believe that the majority of survivors remain frum. Most of the survivors on the Forum are frum – many pretty much unquestionably so.

    • I just realized I should clarify the premise of my objection to your comment. The point I was trying to make in the post was twofold. Firstly, that it is wrong and misguided to dismiss someone off the derech as a liar because he is off the derech because, secondly, there may be a very good reason why he is off the derech and the only way you could know is by asking him. The conclusion drawn from that premise was that when you see someone who looks and acts differently from you, and is off the derech, claiming abuse, it is MORE LIKELY that the abuse caused him to off the derech than the fact that he’s off the derech pushed him to claim abuse. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough. Your comment ruffled my feathers because it did exactly what I was trying to warn people off from doing. Do not try to find an overarching reason for why people go off the derech. Do not lump them all into one category, two categories, or even a hundred. There is no categorical reason why people go off, it’s a personal decision for each person and it usually involves a large number of factors and consideration. You can try to find common factors, but don’t try to then categorize them by those commonalities. Bear those factors in mind when dealing with someone who you are trying to be mekarev and/or help, but always be open to his story without any preconceptions.

  2. This story is missing something. Perhaps in Chicago we have a different version of English? Nechemye Weberman is male, yet in paragraph two the author quotes, “she’s not such a tzanuah,” Is a paragraph missing or did Weberman change genders?

  3. If I may,

    Over shabbos I was talking to someone about the upcoming trial of Nechemye Weberman. Unfortunately, his response was what I was expecting. His face twisted into the disgusted, doubtful expression that shouted “what a bilbul, what a chillul hashem.” …

    … this is her way of punishing her parents and the “Therapist = TheRapist”,
    ( rofl a Freudian slip )

    Some questions to ponder.

    If a Bilbul, why the claim of his Grand Rabbi that the-rapist is in Therapy? therapy for WHAT?

    The EPITOME of Haratzachta vegam Yarashta?

    Weberman was paid good money, allegedly AS A ROLL MODEL, first kills her begashmiyut, then burns her soul beruchniyut, only to claim her as OTD. You must be kidding! After Raping her and sodomizing a 12 year old for several years, your first line of defense is, “I hear she’s not such a tzanuah,” ???
    This is a replica of the famous line of defense pleading to the judge for mercy. He murdered his parents, only to claim that he is now an ORPHAN, Mercy your Honor, just like Kadaffi. Have you no shame? Have you no decency? You are nothing but a disgrace.

    Weren’t you supposed to therapeutize her, Torah-ly? What did you do instead???
    Is THIS the path getting her back to the Derech , you scumbag. Shoteh shebeolam, even for thinking up such grandiose stupidity. Then again, hasn’t Nechemye been sent away from KJ?

    (Now you understand why the posters showed joint forces of KJ & WB for his so called and alleged pidyon shvuyim of 700 years. Lock him up and throw away the key.)

    How many times was he reported to his Grand Rabbi? Had you taken action in the beginning, there would be no need to report to the authorities, and could have spared you a Chilul hashem. The same game has been played over in UK, the Enablers protecting molesters, kol tzarua vekol zov, sweeping it under the rug, punishing the victims, rewarding the perpetrators, KiSdom hayinu ulAmorrah daminu, and Bingo, Chilull Hashem. Is that the umbrella you use, hiding and scrambling for cover behind and underneath? It hasn’t worked THERE, and it won’t work HERE.

    You are sending all the wrong messages. You try to skip the PHASE of admitting the WRONGDOING, and moving on with, “He is in Therapy”. Not so fast, my friend. That is, “Ikar chasser min Hesefer”, isn’t it. Walking up the ladder takes orderly steps in ascending order. Otherwise, it might seem that if you schedule yourself for therapy, you can go on molesting with impunity. My dear, lo zu haderech velo zu Ha’ir. Get real, and try to snap out of your denial, wake up and smell the Coffee. A time to laugh, a time to cry, a time to sleep, and high time to wake up! Uru yesheinim mitardumatchem.

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