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Interview with an Off The Derech community leader

Rachmuna Litzlon You may remember that guy who was trying to sell his olam habah on Ebay, but Rachmuna Litzlon AKA Ari Mandel is also one of the Off The Derech community leaders online. Between his overly active Facebook page, groups, twitter, and blog postings, he’s kind of hard to miss. He readily agreed to an interview in which I gave him the option to be funny, serious, or both. He chose the serious route, but it’s still quite funny and kind of mind blowing. You see, like anybody else who’s frum and slightly jealous of 3 day weekends, bacon ice cream, and washing past the knuckles on Yom Kippur, I always assumed that the Off The Derech community was made up of a bunch of drug and sex crazed, mentally ill people who were abused by their rebbe and have an axe to grind against “us” frum people. Let’s just say that the following interview which is going to be posted in 2 or 3 parts, is very informative and very fascinating.

Iíve heard that going off the derech is a bit like coming out of the closet, how long were you in the closet until you had enough?

It’s hardto say exactly, it was a slow and gradual process, but I was “in the closet” for a good few years. I tried all sorts of compromises and even moved from Monsey to Lakewood, in the hope that if I could cut my beard off and put on a short suit I’d be happy, but I soon realized it was all the same, my problem was with the fundamentals, not the style of dress.

Family and friends reactions?

They were pretty shocked. I was never a crazy Frummak, but I was a good kid growing up, I was the first guy in my class to get engaged and married, I was a decent student, I played by the rules, and so on. I was thinking about it for years on the inside, but my transition was fairly quick on the outside. We went through a rocky period, it was tough for them, but we get along now as if nothing ever happened, and I’m very happy about that.

How did it start, was there a eureka moment, an existential epiphany or did you slowly spiral into the immorality of goyishkeit by eating vegan out and getting a library card?

It all started with goyishe booksÖ The Rabbis are right in banning them. I’m very curious by nature, and was always reading, but I grew tired of Feldheim and CIS, so after I got married I went into the public library for the first time – which is a big no no. I snuck in right before Shabbos so no one would see me, grabbed the Da Vinci Code, and raced home. That was the beginning of the endÖ It made me curious, so I read everything I could get my hands on about the subject, and I just kept following my curiosity, whatever piqued my interest, I’d take out a bunch of books on the subject, and I’d study it to death.

Before long I started running into problems, I found out that everything I took for granted wasn’t quiet as obvious as I’d thought, so I took out books on those subjects, hoping to find the answers to all these new questions. But instead of answers, I only found new questions. Turns out evolution isn’t the joke we were told it is, the Big Bang isn’t a punchline, there’s a lot more to history than the tunnel-vision stories we were taught, and so on. So I started going to Rabbis, but I was shocked when they had nothing to offer me. Either their answers were silly and childish, or they’d say things like “say some tehillim”, or “are you smarter than your father? You smarter than your Rosh Yeshivas?”. It took a while, I desperately wanted to be proven wrong, but eventually I became an atheist.

As for eating out, I didn’t eat OU-D until I was an atheist. I meant it, I believed in god, heaven and hell, all of it, I wouldn’t dare break the rules.

I see on Facebook that you were in the Army, whatís the deal? Were you frum at the time?

After I left, I was bouncing around, not sure what to do or where to go with my life, I wanted to go to school, but I didn’t have a high school diploma and I was clueless about the whole process. I was looking for some excitement, I wanted to challenge myself, I had also recently lost a ton of weight, so I thought I was Super Man, and I was also very right-wing (politically) at the time, so I figured enlisting would be perfect. I was in for close to five years and it had it’s pros and it’s cons, but I can’t complain, it helped me in a lot of ways. It’s paying for NYU, it was a crash course in American/non-Jewish culture and life, it taught me a lot about life and about myself, but most importantly, the army turned me into a flaming liberal.

If there was an OTD back to the future movie in which someone went back in time to make sure you didnít go off the derech, what would they do?

Stop me from ever stepping foot in the public library. Like in the Matrix, once you take the red pill, there’s no going back, there’s no unlearning or unseeing what you’ve seen or learned. One bite from the aitz haddass, and it’s all over.

Where did you grow up? Do you still visit old friends?

I grew up in Monsey, and I go there all the time. I visit family and friends fairly often.

Where did you go to yeshiva? Are any of your former classmates off the derech or reaching out to you about their frustrations?

I went to chassidish yeshivas, in Monsey, Israel and Brooklyn. I have a few friends from cheder (elementary school) who went off, but nobody that I can think of from yeshiva, but there are many who’ve become a lot more “relaxed” in their lifestyles. I’ve been lucky with my friends, most of them have been very cool about me and my changes, and I’ve maintained most of my friendships. Some better than others, but most are still intact.

I have people tell me constantly that they’re frustrated with this or that thing about Frumkeit or the community, and that they agree with me on this or that point. I find that individual Frum people are mostly good, but when they get together and act as a group, they can be pretty crappy.

Do any of your old friends accept you for who you are or are they constantly trying to do kiruv on you?

Most of my friends have accepted me, or they’ve given up on trying to change my views. A select few kept up with me as if nothing had ever changed, in fact, some of best friends from my Frum days are the† very Frum ones, not the modernish types. You can tell when someone is being nice to you for other than nobel reasons, and I tend to avoid such people.

Do you have frum friends? If so, are you constantly trying to do kiruv on them, to coax them out of religion?

I do have many Frum friends, and I would never try to coax them away. In fact I actively avoid having those discussions with family and friends. If they davka want to go there, I’ll do it, but I don’t seek it out. I’ve had those conversations in the past, and they rarely end well. Even if I “win”, people take religion too personally, so it’s just not worth it. But more importantly, I see no need to disturb their lives, if they are seeking for the information, it’s out there, but why would I potentially throw their lives into chaos?

A lot of frum people like to point out that the OTD community is full of hate and canít seem to let go of the past. Do you have sort of response to this sentiment?

I hate to invoke Godwins Law, and this is only an analogy, I’m not calling the Frum community Nazis, whoeverÖ Try telling a Holocaust survivor to just get over it. Try telling them that they’re full of hate. Do I hate the Frum community? No. But I do hate the extremism, I hate the close-mindedness, I hate certain aspects of that world, but I don’t hate people or the community as a whole.

Do we live in the past? Do Cuban exiles live in the past? It’s a defining part of who we are. Italian immigrants to the US will usually live near other Italian immigrants, will eat Italian food, and read Italian newspapers till the day they die, are they living in the past?

How large is the OTD community?

I have no clue, but it’s huge. I’m an administrator on the main OTD group on Facebook, which has about 800 people in it, and for every one of them, I know five people who either aren’t on Facebook, or aren’t in the group. Everywhere I go, I meet people who don’t identify as “OTD”, but essentially are. And that’s not counting the huge amount of people who go off, and disappear into the world, and are never heard from again.

I find from my experience that the OTD community skews more towards Chassidish, is that true?

Ex-chassidim tend to stick out, and stick together more than ex-MO or ex-Lubabs, (sorry, Lubabs, I know you’re chassidim too, but you’re a different breed). A MO person, who might have a degree, can speak a perfect English, knows how to shave and talk to a girl can melt into the American landscape and just be Johnny American, but ex-chassidim have a much harder time doing that, so they’re more visible.

Is there such a thing as OTD Yichus?

Frum people like to say that mockingly, and we OTD people like to joke about that, but the truth is there isn’t such a thing. There are some of us who are more noisy and boisterous than others, but there is no hierarchy, and there’s no yichus.

To us outsiders, it seems like one big happy family. Is there community politics?

Of course there’s politics, just like anywhere else in the world. I tend to steer clear of it, just because I like to get along with everyone, and I don’t care for drama, but there isn’t a group on earth that doesn’t have any sort of conflict.

Besides for Footsteps and Cholent, are there any other organizations that support the OTD community?

Footsteps is the only organization that I’m aware of that is explicitly there to help OTD people. There’s Hillel in Israel, which is the equivalent to Footsteps.

Do you think Tomchei Shabbos or Hatzolah would discriminate against someone who was openly OTD?

If Tomchei Shabbos provided walkie-talkies, they’d help OTD typesÖ I’ve seen Hatzalah members help out OTD people, but I doubt TS would do the same.

Do you think that the community is growing or that itís always been large and now is the first time one can go OTD and have a support system to deal with the trauma? Or both?

Definitely both. The internet made it easy for people to connect and to communicate, which made it easier for people to come out, and it also made information easily accessible, so more people are going OTD. The more people leave, the more people have the courage to follow suit. Each one of those things feeds on the other, and causes more and more people to leave.

What do you think of Orthopraxy? Are they included in the community?

I was orthoprax long before I knew the word, and I know tons of them now, and my heart breaks for them. Many of them are stuck for life, and their only respite from their prison is sneaking off to eat pork in a treif restaurant every once in a while. I go out with these people sometimes, and I wonder what the waitstaff in half the restaurants in New York think, we come in, guys with beards and payes stuffed under baseball caps, women changing into jeans in the bathroom, and goyish-looking me. They look and sound like chassidim, but they’re chowing down on bacon cheeseburgers and shrimp cocktails, while I nibble on a salad (I’m a vegetarian).

Are they part of the community? I guess it depends how you define “community”, but in many ways they are part of it. They tend to be very secretive and private – and understandably so, and I’m flattered to be an honorary “RM” (Reverse Marranno).

Do you think that going off the derech is for everybody?

Absolutely not. I get asked that question a lot, both by people about themselves, and in general, and my answer is it depends. Who are you? Why do you want to go OTD? What are you expecting at the other end? If you’re a married guy with five kids, and you feel like smoking pot and having the occasional cheeseburger, why would you throw your whole life into upheaval just to do that? Put on a ball cap, and go do what you gotta do. But if you’re eighteen, and you’re not into the life at all, and even more so if you don’t believe in it, then I might recommend it. It’s very much dependent on the person and their situation.

What do you miss most about being frum?

The self-assuredness. Having all the answers. Knowing that Hashem is smiling down on you, and everything you do has a higher purpose. Knowing that you’re one of the chosen few, and that you’re better than everyone else in the world. Living in that bubble is very comforting. It’s all baloney, but it’s very comforting.

A lot of people wonder why you had to throw away everything, why not just become modern orthodox or conservadox?

There’s a good chance I would’ve never left if I were born and raised modern orthodox. Even if I ceased believing in god, the lifestyle is so much less restrictive, that it wouldn’t have bugged me as much. But I left because I don’t believe in god, not because of the clothing or lifestyle, so once I’m leaving, why bother with a watered-down version of what I don’t believe in? It’s not like I’m going to feel that much more comfortable or familiar in a MO shul than I will at McDonald’s, so what’s the point?

Did you throw away everything? It seems that you still have an appreciation for frum culture, chumrahs, boys choirs, cholent, a little shteiging perhaps. What else do you still love about Orthodox culture?

I love the Frum culture. I say I’m culturally Jewish, but I’m really culturally Frum/chassidish. I love the food, I love the music (yes, even the boys choirs), I love reading the Jewish news and gossip, I even go to a shiur every now and then. Even if I don’t believe in it’s underpinnings, I can still appreciate it as a cultural or lifestyle choice. I go to people for Shabbos or Yom Yov meals, or I go to shul on Simchas Torah, or a HASC concert, not because I feel like my neshama needs it, but because it’s what I was raised with and I enjoy it.

It seems like everyone who goes off the derech sounds exactly the same in their opinions, they are almost always liberal and atheist. Is this true? Are there gun toting, bible thumping, right wing nuts that are off the derech?

There is definitely a strong correlation between going OTD and becoming a liberal and/or an atheist. I like to think it’s because (as the statistics show) the smarter and more educated you are, the higher your chance of being a liberal and/or an atheist is. But there are plenty of us who are right wing, or still believe in god. I debate and argue with them all the time, and they can be more annoying than the Frummies “so Obama’s you new rebbe, huh?” “You sound just like a Frum person, you want the government to be your daddy, instead of Hashem”, and so onÖ And the same thing with god, “I believe in god, but I don’t believe in religion”, or “I’m spiritual” whatever that meansÖ

Rachmuna can be reached at:

There is much more to this interview and it will be posted soon…

If you have any questions you can ask them below and I’m sure someone will answer them.

If you need a kosher search engine check out 4torah.com, so frum my own advertiser doesn’t allow me in their search.

{ 132 comments… add one }
  • Anonymous October 15, 2013, 10:25 AM

    Some families went off the derech when they came to the United States 100 years ago. RL’s cultural Judaism sounds like the Judaism of my conservative friends and relatives.

    I believe in G-d but because I believe in absolute bechira, I believe that RL’s choices are logical. Thank you for this interview.

    • Donna October 16, 2013, 3:05 PM

      Are your conservative friends and relatives atheists?

  • A. Nuran October 15, 2013, 10:36 AM

    A very good interview. Covered all the important questions. Personal, but not too personal.

  • Abe October 15, 2013, 10:39 AM

    “What do you miss most about being frum? The self-assuredness. Having all the answers. Knowing that Hashem is smiling down on you, and everything you do has a higher purpose. Knowing that youíre one of the chosen few, and that youíre better than everyone else in the world. ”

    I find this statement really interesting since presumably it gives insight into what Mr. Mandel’s feelings were before going OTD, so it may provide a window into what some OJ’s feel, perhaps typically in certain segments -and perhaps in all segments. In terms of my own outlook which is closest to what is referred to here as MO (though I hate hate hate these labels) I guess I do feel self assured if you stress the “self” part, insofar as I feel the derech I (try to) follow is best for me. But part in parcel of that derech is a constant search for understanding and attempts and battles to grow in observance (sometimes fails, sometimes succeeds). Who really “knows” that Hashem is smiling on them and that everything is for a higher purpose? Those are feelings I strive for, at times with success, at times not so much. And in terms of “knowing” about chosen-ness; that is something we must grapple to understand, and my understanding is most definitely NOT that I am better than everyone else in the World, nor is that the understanding that my teachers and Rabbis (the ones with any sense – and part of owning one’s religion is figuring out exactly who to look up to) imparted to me.

  • Shragi October 15, 2013, 10:39 AM

    So much kefirah in the article I don’t know how you’re not ashamed to post it. A vegetarian? Seriously? He probably wen’t OTD so he could become a vegetarian, no self respecting frum person is a vegetarian. But still, if you want to come back we’ll welcome you back, as long as you leave your newfound knowledge and vegetarianism at the door.

    • Anonymous October 15, 2013, 2:02 PM

      Lol, if you’re sarcastic…

    • Aaron October 16, 2013, 8:30 AM

      Yours sounds like the type of attitude he was trying to escape from by going OTD.

  • Baal Habos October 15, 2013, 10:48 AM

    Excellent interview except for one thing. Orthoprax means correct-practice, as opposed to orthodox (correct beliefs). An Orthoprax is one who does not believe but practices the religion at all times, even when in private. Orthoprax people do not sneak off and eat pork.

    • tesyaa October 15, 2013, 12:17 PM

      At ALL times? Even in private? I think the number of orthoprax who are medakdek in all halacha even in secret might be pretty small.

      • ksil October 16, 2013, 7:49 AM

        I would agree, I think it means that outwardly, they are practicing….but if the A/C needs to be turned up a little on shabbos and no one is looking….or there is no hasgacha on these pretzels, but you are starving

  • Sergeant J October 15, 2013, 11:22 AM

    Orthoprax, like “antisemetism” isn’t necessarily a literal translation of the components. It’s based on the folks who coined it’s definition.

  • Baal Habos October 15, 2013, 11:30 AM

    Sarge, check the reference above to Orthopraxy IN THIS ARTCLE and click the link. It’s a pretty well accepted definition.

    • Sergeant J October 23, 2013, 3:40 PM

      As was said already, the accepted definition among actual people seems to be more of the “public practice”.

  • Israel Oz October 15, 2013, 11:35 AM

    Excellent interview. Thank you. I am a middle aged orthoprax. Since I’m a BT (from a very long time ago) I don’t feel any great need to run out and eat bacon. But since I am, happily for the most part, living within an orthodox framework I seek out the most liberal practices my family will tolerate. It’s one thing to practice orthodox without believing, it’s quite another to do so as a “machmir”.

    • BB nut December 28, 2013, 2:24 AM

      Israel Oz,
      I am a middle aged ‘reverse marrano.’ I do everything frum in public and with my family, but everything the opposite when behind my own closed door. I got very very very tired of the holier than thou exterior concealing the corrupt inside of the frummies I met in Israel. And totally disgusted by their control of the politics, batei din, etc. I just couldn’t feel part of that horrible community.

      I don’t understand how any normal person who becomes a BT can live with this reality after the kiruv bubble has burst. I was also a BT from a long time ago. I grew up on bacon. I don’t need to eat bacon now. But a cheeseburger on Yom Kippur is delightful.

  • Ari Gold October 15, 2013, 12:11 PM
  • wants to know October 15, 2013, 12:23 PM

    I wonder if going OTD was because of your strict Hasidic upbringing. Suppose you were born “yeshivish” or MO, where library is more accepted, would you still have chosen this path?

    • Anonymous October 15, 2013, 12:36 PM

      He answered that question…

    • Shragi October 15, 2013, 12:39 PM

      And since when is yeshivish more easy on a person than chasidish? In many ways yeshivish is even more extreme, yeah you may be allowed to play basketball but you have to learn in koillel for the rest of your life.

      • tesyaa October 15, 2013, 12:42 PM

        Is kollel so bad? I imagine it’s not great for everyone, but for some guys it’s the easiest life on the planet. For a woman it’s a diffferent story.

        • Shragi October 15, 2013, 1:05 PM

          Sure koillel is bad, perhaps not for everyone, but many people would love to leave but can’t due to family and/or community pressure.

          • tesyaa October 15, 2013, 1:16 PM

            Ha, I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. I have kollel relatives who are moser nefesh to learn full time for the rest of their lives despite their MO parents’ disapproval. I do think it’s tough on the wives, but the guys chose it and they supposedly love it, and the girls were brainwashed that their Torah is to support the guys. Although wh knows, maybe they’d like to give it up but don’t want to hear their parents say “I told you so”.

            • David October 15, 2013, 2:35 PM

              In my opinion, the yeshivah and kollel world can’t produce real scholars. A talmud hokham can’t just work in theory. He also has to be able to apply his learning to practical situations. His work is where “the parchment hits the pavement,” as it were. Rabbi Akiva, whose wife toiled so he could sit an learn is an exception – and she is presented as exceptional as a result. Most of Chazal – the sages of the Talmud – had jobs incl. manual labor jobs. R’ Yehudah, the Av Beit Din of the Sanhedrin, was a poor blacksmith. R’ Shimon Ben Gamliel, the Nasi, was a weathly land-owner who had to dedicate some time to managing workers in his fields. Shamai was an Engineer! Many were manual laborers, or merchants who took the trading season off to make their living for the year. This was the norm. The sages were, by-and-large- men who worked and were out in the world. They did not seal themselves off in enclaves that distanced them from the real world and warped their perspective. Even Rabbi Akiva was a worldly man – he was a shepherd until he was 40. The yeshivishe-velt – especially the notion that all but the exceptional few should sit and learn for life – is totally off its rocker and has little conception of what an authentic this-world application of Judaism ala our non-revised history looks like.

              • Sugar pop October 15, 2013, 4:32 PM

                You don’t know what you’re talking about. See ‘kooloytoyra’ AUG 14, 2013.

                • David October 15, 2013, 4:36 PM

                  Okay… I looked. I have no idea how this is relevant, or even relates, to anything I said.

                  • Davidil October 15, 2013, 4:46 PM

                    I looked at the day before – I do see how it applies. I also completely disagree with it and dismiss it as reactionary and self-justifying nonsense. Its all well and good to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. But if you want me to take you seriously, you are going to have to actually use some nuance and address my point rather than pointing me to a drivel-ridden rant. I didn’t say learning came easy. I didn’t say the great sages were workaholics, or that they didn’t devote hours and hours to learning – and thinking about what they learned. What I said was, they didn’t live in enclaves cloistered away from the world and held down jobs like mentschen who had the weight of normative responsibility on their shoulders. And that is what they did. The kollel system is, without a doubt, a product not just of the diaspora, but the sickened malaise of diaspora-think. A people secure and sovereign in their land cannot hide from the world or sequester their Torah away for only the most pious. They have to march boldly into the world with it, and to do that they actually have to be a part of the world – and participate in it. Anything less is trite and unworthy of the derekh of our prophets, kings, and great sages. The blog you referenced is pure anti-Torah screed.

                • David October 15, 2013, 4:55 PM

                  I would add, I spent four years full time in a yeshivah gevohah and then went and got a job – but continued to sit in an evening kollel for married men for the next twelve years. And, I continue to have a private seder with a havruta for two hours five nights a week. I’m all for intensive learning, but I also have a career and am out in the world. Hiding in a sterile environment does not produce people who can sustain – or apply – the Torah out in the real world. It boils down to the fundamental difference between the Arukh HaShulkhan and Mishneh Berurah. One is for decisors who deal with the real world and have to think about what the derekh ha’am should be; the other is for guys sitting around learning all day long who can afford to be chumro-jockeys.

                  • sugar pop October 15, 2013, 5:13 PM

                    You sound like Slifkin. When the Romans destroyed the temple it was the secluded Yavneh with the talmudic rabbis that saved the Jewish people. If all you had was working guys the Jews would have disappeared immediately.

                    I think the rabbis of Yavneh were wrong. They should have gone out into the world and make videos of girls twerking.

                    • Funny October 15, 2013, 6:46 PM

                      If that blog is yours, kudos. It’s hilarious stuff, smart too. Like this solid piece of advice.”So there you have it folks. Asking for a divorce is not a big deal. It just shows that you shouldn’t expect marriage to be one big lollipop.”

                    • G*3 October 15, 2013, 8:04 PM

                      > You sound like Slifkin.

                      That’s a compliment.

                      > When the Romans destroyed the temple it was the secluded Yavneh with the talmudic rabbis that saved the Jewish people.

                      They saved the Perushi version of Judaism, which would later become Rabbinic Judaism. Without them, some other form of Judaism might have “won.” There was a time when the Kaarites were something like a third of the Jewish population in Europe. Without Yavneh, maybe the Kaarite version of Judaism would have become dominant.

                      > I think the rabbis of Yavneh were wrong. They should have gone out into the world and make videos

                      Now that would have been impressive.

                  • ksil October 16, 2013, 7:58 AM

                    i wonder how guys like david have a normal relationship with their wives and kids. I mean, how do you wake up at 6 (presumably) to go to shul, work all day and then come home and go t oshul again, and learn for 2 hours EVERY night and have time to throw a ball around with your son, or test your daughter on her navi test or go to a soccer game, or sit down and eat dinner with the family and ask them how their day was.

                    sounds like a crappy life and crappy father to me

            • ksil October 16, 2013, 7:54 AM

              my nightmare

              what a waste of a life, i really hope my kids dont choose that path

  • David October 15, 2013, 2:19 PM

    I’m orthoprax with an existentialist streak. I think we’re all grappling with a great mystery and that man needs stories. I regard ritual and myth as critical components of the human experience, and parables as having an intense mimetic value as a vehicle for conveying ethics, values, and identity. The Torah isn’t a science manual dealing in quantities. Its a book about qualitative life and identity. For me, kashrut – as an example – is a signpost to bigger implicit value questions. The Jewish particulars are questions of history, tradition, and identity. I don’t eat pork or shellfish because I am a Jew, not because I think God will smite me for it. But, all religious experiences – one’s encounter with the mysterium tremendum – must be consensual. Compulsion doesn’t work, and there is more to being a mentsch than mitzvot. An OTD Jew can still be a mentsch, IMO. One thing I’ve noticed is that hareidi Jews who go OTD tend to be more absolute about it than – and I hate the labels – MO Jews who go OTD. Hareidim tend to see everything as “black and white.”

    • John October 16, 2013, 10:22 AM

      I think that in many ideas there is grey, but I fail to understand why the existence of a deity like the Jewish G-d is not a black or white issue – He either exists or doesn’t. MO who believe in G-d are also engaging in black and white thinking.

  • Tim Rosen October 15, 2013, 4:29 PM

    I have met Ari Mandel (aka Rachmuna Litzlon) and have had extensive communications with him and I must say, the image he gives in this interview is a total lie. He is one of the angriest, meanest, most vindictive people I have ever spoken to. He has nothing but pure hatred, contempt, and malice in his heart for people who believe in God and or Torah. He has insulted me viciously and I have personally seen him insult many others with the most vile, hateful language. This interview is a total sham. He even says he does not do “Kiruv” to frum people and he does not seek to get them to go off the derech, again, he is lying. He is a liar and a fraud. And most of his militant atheist friends are very similar to him. Don’t be fooled. It’s not that these people are off the derech. It’s that they HATE religion and have only hatred and contempt for religious people, and contrary to his lies, they are actively trying to get people to give up on God and Torah. If he had any guts he would at least be open and honest about himself and his agenda.

    • Rachmuna Litzlon October 15, 2013, 5:02 PM

      What’s that I hear? It sounds a lot like a little baby crying. oh wait, it’s getting closer, nope, it’s a siren. Look! It’s a wambulance here to lick Tim Rosen’s wounds. Baruch HaFlying Spaghetti Monster! They arrived just in the nick of time!
      Instead of getting into a back and forth with the crybaby above me, I will challenge him to find a single person who will back up what he said. One. Not ten, not five, one. Tim is a sad little man, who was thrown out of the OTD group for being an annoying whiney little man, and has ever since then hated me, kind of like when a parent (or an OTD godol) punishes a child (or a whiney little man), and the child then throws a tantrum, only this tantrum has been going on for a year. I’ll repeat my challenge, Timsky, find me one other person to back up your claims, I know you’re super excited that you met me, but believe it or not many others have met me and know me in real life. Find someone – anyone – who will agree with your assessment of me. I’ll wait.

      • Bear-of-Peace October 15, 2013, 5:43 PM

        Dude, i have no skin in this fight but your response kinda proved Ol’ Timsky correct on some point.

        • Bear-of-Peace October 15, 2013, 5:45 PM


        • Kaf Hakela October 15, 2013, 6:14 PM

          To the contrary, I think that Timsky has proven Rachmuna’s point.
          In any case, I’ve followed their arguments for a while, and while Rachmuna does have his own unique sense of humor which can be missed by some people, he is nothing like what Timsky portrays him as. He’s a nice a funny guy with a big mouth, that’s all.

        • Rachmuna Litzlon October 15, 2013, 7:53 PM

          How did I prove his point? I’m asking him to back up his accusation. Was I supposed to let him slander me, and not say a word?

          • Bear-of-Peace October 16, 2013, 12:00 AM

            “Whatís that I hear? It sounds a lot like a little baby crying. oh wait, itís getting closer, nope, itís a siren. Look! Itís a wambulance here to lick Tim Rosenís wounds. Baruch HaFlying Spaghetti Monster! They arrived just in the nick of time!”

            To me that sounds pretty vindictive and petty coming from the purported “adult” in the relationship.

            • Rachmuna Litzlon October 16, 2013, 1:22 AM

              Tim and I have a history, and it mostly consists of him whining about how mean atheists are, so yes, I’m a little short with him, but that’s only in response to his original comment, which doesn’t address anything I said in the interview, but rather attacks me and my character. I see that as just Tim whining yet again, so I responded the way I did.

              • Aaron Englard October 16, 2013, 8:49 AM

                I’ve sat with both Tim and Ari. And at one time or another have been subject to both of their scorn. But when ari Mandel says that he challenges Tim to find 1 or 10 people to back him up and they fail to appear it’s not because people don’t back Tim up, or that they don’t find the online bullying of Ari Mandel to be despicable. It’s because they don’t want to be ostracized by the hordes of Ari ass-lickers online that will like and agree with just about anything and everything he says for fear of not being part of the clique or just wanting to belong.
                And one other thing- Ari made a point that as people go otd they generally become atheists and liberals as they get educated and smarter. Is it not possible to be educated and smart and yet still NOT be a liberal?

                Now I know I will get a ton of flak for this, and almost no one will stand with me on this. But I know that many agree that the “power” perceived and wielded and used with abandon online by Mr. Mandel is what keeps many from speaking out when they disagree. And even many times show faux support for him.

                To end- I like Ari in person. I just believe that his portrayal of himself and his online persona is a sham and an outright lie. But I am writing this to clear the air and not let a friend – Tim – stand alone. However much of the article regarding the otd community itself was spot on. Except where it was self-serving to ari Mandel.

                Now let the attacks begin.

                • Aaron Englard October 16, 2013, 8:58 AM

                  To clarify liberal in advance- there’s liberal socially, and liberal fiscally, as well as with monetary policy. You lump them into one as if all liberal ideology is the end result of education and the correct and only philosophy.

                  • Rachmuna Litzlon October 16, 2013, 9:10 AM

                    You clearly didn’t read what I said, I said there’s a correlation between going OTD, getting an eduaction, and becoming an atheist and/or a liberal, but there are plenty of believers and right-wingers among us.
                    The simple fact is, if you look at statistics, the more educated one is, the more of a chance there is of them being an atheist and a liberal.

                    • ksil October 16, 2013, 10:00 AM

                      “the more educated one is, the more of a chance there is of them being an atheist and a liberal.”

                      thats only becasue the universities and colleges are filled with atheists and liberals and brainwash people and do not let discenting (conservative) voices be heard

                • Rachmuna Litzlon October 16, 2013, 9:05 AM

                  Aaron – the reason he can’t find anyone to back him up, is because he (and you) are wrong. What you both have in common is that you both don’t know me, and you’re both uber sensitive, and take arguments and disagreements personally. So far I haven’t seen any “Ari ass-licking” here, I’ve seen some agreeing and disagreeing, but only you and Tim, again, two people who do not know me, have attacked me, not what I said in the interview. Like I said to Tim, I’m very public, anybody can read and see what I say and do, if I were the bastard you are making me out to be, why isn’t there an army of people attacking me?
                  As for my “power”, nobody but you and Tim think I have any sort of power, I’m just a guy with a Facebook account. It says more about you two that you perceive me to be such a powerful figure than it does about me.
                  And finally, you said “Except where it was self-serving to ari Mandel.” – what exactly did I say that was self-serving?

                  • Aaron Englard October 16, 2013, 4:18 PM

                    I’ve made clear in my original comment why everyone publicly fawns over you. To feel included in the cool crowd by the other “cool” people. And not be ostracized for crossing you, and they feel included when they pile on your bandwagon. But in private, in message, in chat and pm- if only you knew the countless people that do KNOW you that use the phrase “Ari is a prick” as casually as you laugh off my critique of you. So think that you’re the great one if you want to. But there are many that you think are your “friends” that are laughing their asses off now.

                    • Rachmuna Litzlon October 16, 2013, 7:08 PM

                      Aaron – what’s stopping all these people who you allege to say I’m a prick from commenting here anonymously?
                      And what is this “cool crowd” you speak of? I’m as “cool” as you are, I’m just a guy with a Facebook account.

                  • Aaron Englard October 16, 2013, 9:14 PM

                    Since it won’t let me reply below I’ll reply here.
                    “Aaron Ė whatís stopping all these people who you allege to say Iím a prick from commenting here anonymously?

                    We both know that any anonymous comment will be shrugged off with a “you don’t know me”, and as I’ve stated 3 times already but you apparently can’t comprehend this point- people who publicly stand against you aren’t really scared of you. It’s the fear of being ostracized from the otd community which sadly has closed and group-think mentality where people want to be liked and glom on to the popular opinions and crowd. Not that dissimilar from the frum community. I hope that’s clear enough for you now.

                    • Rachmuna Litzlon October 17, 2013, 9:36 AM

                      It’s clear enough, but it’s bullshit. I argue and debate and disagree with people all day long. We have disagreements on religion, politics, and every other facet of life, so your premise is garbage.

                    • Sergeant J October 23, 2013, 3:48 PM

                      Having seen how you all communicate in other parts of the web, RL is kinda in-your-face, Tim is the Jewish version of an evangelical, and Aaron, well, he’s just a bit weird. I would hope in person you were all a bit toned down from your internet personae.

    • bec October 15, 2013, 7:47 PM

      “Donít be fooled. Itís not that these people are off the derech. Itís that they HATE religion and have only hatred and contempt for religious people, and contrary to his lies, they are actively trying to get people to give up on God and Torah.”~Tim Rosen

      Tim, why did you feel the need to hurl your anger and insults at all people who are off the derech? That seems a bit like stereotyping, no?

      • Tim Rosen October 15, 2013, 10:21 PM

        Valid point. I’m not implying that all “off the derech” people behave this way, but a substantial percentage do. What angers me is the false advertising in this interview. Ari Mandel (aka Rachmuna Litzlon) pretends to be a nice, easy-going guy who does not have an agenda when nothing can be further from the truth. He viciously and ruthlessly attacks and insults religious people on an almost daily basis and he is not just merely, “off the derech” but is a militant atheist who, with his friends, does a sort of “reverse Kiruv” where they actively try to convince people to give up on God and Torah. Don’t get me wrong, they have every right to do that but I hate the dishonesty. This whole interview was a sham.

        • Rachmuna Litzlon October 15, 2013, 11:26 PM

          Tim – I’m a “militant atheist” as much as you are a “militant theist”, we both have our points of view, and we argue for them. You just don’t know how to lose an argument with grace and you take everything personally, so to you this is a big tit for tat. Sorry, buddy, but as I said earlier, you’re the only one who sees me the way you do.

    • ModernOrthodoxObserver October 15, 2013, 10:38 PM

      Tim, the problem, I think, is that you have malice in your heart for those who are different from you. I’ve known you for a long time, Tim, and theres 3 things that you hate: 1) those who don’t believe in God, 2) those who have a liberal interpretation of the Constitution, and 3) those who beat you in an argument.

      You may say that Mr. Mandel is intolerant, but I say, look at yourself in the mirror.

      • Tim Rosen October 15, 2013, 11:07 PM

        well, I am pretty sure I know who this is. Anyway, let me say this: this is not about me. This is about an interview of Ari Mandel that portrays him as a tolerant, open-minded, easy going guy when nothing can be further from the truth. This whole interview is a sham. It’s false advertising so your opinion of me is really not important because this is not about me. When Heshy publishes my interview then we can talk about me. Otherwise this is just not relevant.

        • Rachmuna Litzlon October 15, 2013, 11:30 PM

          It’s highly relevant, because it demonstrates exactly why you’re here boohooing. I’m a liberal, I’m an atheist, and I’ve crushed you in debates in public countless times, so you hate my guts.

          • Aaron Englard October 16, 2013, 5:19 PM

            And don’t forget humble too.

            • Rachmuna Litzlon October 17, 2013, 9:48 AM

              Indeed. The only thing greater than my brilliance, debating skills, grasp of the issues, mastery of the English language, courage and good looks, is my humility.

        • Shragi October 16, 2013, 4:56 AM

          But it is about you, Tim. It seems to bother you that Rachmuna could say something – or many things – in an interview which you disagree with. You made it about yourself when you came here and took a crap on this site, you dropped a bunch of allegations, called Rachmuna a liar without even attempting to substantiate any of it except with the fact that you’ve met him once in real life and have dealt with him on Facebook like thousands of others, and then whine when attention is brought to yourself.

          • Seriously? October 16, 2013, 5:31 AM

            Just a point of order. Attacking the speaker and not his argument is merely ad hominem. It is logically fallacious, and intellectually dishonest.

            • Shragi October 16, 2013, 7:28 AM

              Writing a bunch of nuevo fancy sounding words you learned online in online conversations and reinforced by a quick reading of a Wikipedia entry, doesn’t negate any of the points I made.

            • A. Nuran October 17, 2013, 3:30 PM

              It is not an ad hominem argument. We are not discounting what Tim says simply because he is Tim, although sometimes one is tempted. We are taking issue with the fact that he immediately shifted the focus from the substance of the interview to his personal dislike of Rachmuna as well as unpleasant and again personal aspersions on Rachmuna’s character, aspersions which do not seem to be borne out by the experiences of others who know the man.

    • A. Nuran October 16, 2013, 7:29 AM

      Have a cookie, Tim. You’ll feel better about the Big Bad Atheists

  • chupie October 15, 2013, 5:30 PM

    I hate this kind of stupid back and forth on blogs with people you don’t know but I have to just say that Ari is not an angry confrontational person at all. I am his (religious) sister. I see him all the time and I see him interacting with his religious friends and there is no “kiruv” happening and no angry talk.

    • Rachmuna Litzlon October 15, 2013, 7:56 PM

      You clearly hate Hashem, the Torah, and Yiddishkeit, Chupie.

    • Tim Rosen October 15, 2013, 10:23 PM

      Valid point. I’m not implying that all “off the derech” people behave this way, but a substantial percentage do. What angers me is the false advertising in this interview. Ari Mandel (aka Rachmuna Litzlon) pretends to be a nice, easy-going guy who does not have an agenda when nothing can be further from the truth. He viciously and ruthlessly attacks and insults religious people on an almost daily basis and he is not just merely, “off the derech” but is a militant atheist who, with his friends, does a sort of “reverse Kiruv” where they actively try to convince people to give up on God and Torah. Don’t get me wrong, they have every right to do that but I hate the dishonesty. This whole interview was a sham.

      • Sergeant J October 23, 2013, 4:00 PM

        Because the single sphere of internet groups you went to preach to happen to not like being preached at, that means “the majority of OTD” are a certain way?
        Well, then, that just became fact, it was typed out on a computer and everything….

    • Tim Rosen October 15, 2013, 10:32 PM

      you only see the side of him he chooses to show you. Being that you are religious I assume you are not in any of the many discussion groups on Facebook that he is a part of. If you were you might have a different idea.

      • Rachmuna Litzlon October 15, 2013, 11:37 PM

        Tim – Has it ever dawned on you that you only see the side of me I choose to show you? Whose word should we take, those who know me for real, and interact with me on a daily basis, and for years, or the opinion of someone who doesn’t know me, is known to go around bitching and moaning about me because I threw them out of a Facebook group (boo freaking hoo, how old are you?), and can’t get over the fact that he was manhandled in countless debates?
        Mt challenge still stands, find someone who knows me, who will agree with your assessment of me.

        • Rachmuna Litzlon October 15, 2013, 11:41 PM

          And one more thing, Tim. I’m very public, I’ve done countless interview in print, on TV, and on the radio, I write on my own blog, I write on Facebook all the time and so on. If I were the bastard you say I am, it would be impossible for me to hide it for this long, how long can I pretend to be someone entirely different?

      • Anonymous October 16, 2013, 5:51 AM

        Tim, quite the contrary, I have seen him in many more settings than you have I’m sure. I have seen him with frum people and non frum people, friends, family and strangers and I’ve never seen him act the way you describe. Perhaps you are in fact deserving of some sharp words and set downs, in that case I can’t comment. But since you are attacking Ari’s character and saying all kinds of slanderous comments I have to say you are so far from the truth.

  • Chavie October 15, 2013, 6:01 PM

    I know Ari in real life too. Go me! And he is a wonderful, kind, compassionate human being. He treats others with respect. I’ve seen the hate you used to spew on the OTD group, Tim, and I see that you’re just repeating old patterns on this site.

  • Sugar pop October 15, 2013, 6:31 PM

    The only reason that the Jews left G-d and worshiped other gods was in order to legalize all the forbidden sexual relations. (Sanhedrin 63b (I think). So cut the crap. It’s all about sex and McDonald’s.

    • Sergeant J October 23, 2013, 4:22 PM

      And according to other ancient books with different “scholarly” authors, the earth is the center of the universe, the Jews killed their Messiah 2000 years ago for being a hippie, and birth pain is a curse from God…. people say the damnedest things to push their cause du jour….

  • Rev Noiach October 15, 2013, 8:08 PM

    It’s so interesting that this guy thinks he left the chassidish world. In reality though, he has not. He still thinks that libraries are danger zones for religious people and that Modern Orthodox is a ‘watered down’ version of where he came from. Secular knowledge is no threat to religious belief or practice and MO and the like base their theology on a completely different set of assumptions than the chassidish world. Too bad he cannot grow beyond his origins. You can take the boy out of Monsey/Lakewood but not the reverse.

    • Rachmuna Litzlon October 15, 2013, 8:48 PM

      Rev Noiach – I said nothing of the sort. What I said was that libraries are danger zones for people who were raised as sheltered as I was, not all religious people, and that Modern Orthodoxy is a watered-down version of what I was raised in, not Judaism as a whole. I’m glad I’ve grown beyond my origins. I took the boy out of Monsey/Lakewood thank you very much.

      • Reb Noiach October 16, 2013, 1:05 AM

        Actually, you didn’t. You are still a slave to looking at the world in black and white terms. Either I am chassidish or I am an atheiest. What would have shown enlightenment on your part is a recognition that the Judaism that you were brought up with is not authentic. Rather it is mainly a creation of the 19th century and then found a more nuanced way to leave. There are numerous intellectually honest ways to continue to relate to Judaism and many of its practices, but you seem too damaged or limited by your background to either understand those avenues or to adopt them. One need not have perfect certainty in the divine revelation to recognize the historical, cultural, political and ethical values of Judaism and its practices.

        • Shragi October 16, 2013, 4:51 AM

          Seems to me that you’re the one stuck in your religious upbringing and its tradition of kiruv; always dictating to others that they must find at least some meaning in Judaism.

        • David October 16, 2013, 5:59 AM

          What possible value could there be in not eating pork or in putting on tefilin unless it was a divine command? Why do it if it is merely some cultural custom like Irish wearing green on St. Patricks day?

          • Reb Noiach October 16, 2013, 7:48 AM

            There are many ways to connect to Jewish life beyond just wearing tefilin and not eating pork. Michael Steinhardt, the most philanthropic Jew to Jewish causes, is an atheist. Nevertheless, he founded and funded Birthright and many other causes with the goal of keeping Jews connected to Judaism in some form. My point is that Mr. Mandel, and people like him who were raised with extreme forms of Jewish expression, cannot fathom that preserving Judaism and its practices can emanate from valuing the Jewish community, Jewish history, Jewish ethics, the Jewish homeland and not just be based on adherence to theological purity and an absolute belief in god. People like him cannot recognize that doubt and faith can coexist and that meaning can be found in supporting the Jewish community through a variety of expressions. So to answer your question directly, you can wear tefilin and not eat pork without “emunah shelema”, but with the desire to identify with the Jewish people and its practices. What is the alternative, to leave Judaism to the few “true believers” and their ilk who will undoubtedly further corrupt Judaism with their 19th century rituals and small minded views?

            • David October 16, 2013, 12:30 PM

              When and where did this pure “uncorrupted Judaism” exist?
              What rituals can you name that were first introduced in 19th century? And even if they were, why are they any worse than 20th and 21st centruy rituals introduced by Reform/Conservative.
              You talk of Jewish practice, but what is Jewish practice? Does that simply mean what a majority of Jews do? So if most Jews decided to worship cats would that ipso facto be a Jewish ritual practice?

            • Rachmuna Litzlon October 16, 2013, 4:17 PM

              “My point is that Mr. Mandel, and people like him who were raised with extreme forms of Jewish expression, cannot fathom that preserving Judaism and its practices can emanate from valuing the Jewish community, Jewish history, Jewish ethics, the Jewish homeland and not just be based on adherence to theological purity and an absolute belief in god.”
              Why do you assume I don’t do some or all of those things? I’m very proud of my Jewishness.

              • Rev Noiach October 16, 2013, 8:44 PM

                Ok, but how does this pride express itself? What actions do you take to exhibit this pride?

                • Rachmuna Litzlon October 17, 2013, 9:38 AM

                  I could sit here and tell you what I do and what my “Jewishness” consists of, but I don’t feel the need to validate it to you.

        • Rachmuna Litzlon October 16, 2013, 6:17 AM

          I look at reality, I don’t care about labels, I’m not an atheist because I’m no longer a chassid, I spent years doing research, and I came to the conclusion that there most probably is no god, therefor I see no reason to worship him/her/it in way fashion, be that the chassidic fashion, the MO fashion, or the Hare Krishna fashion.

          • Rev Noiach October 16, 2013, 12:59 PM

            “I spent years doing research, and I came to the conclusion….” There is the rub right there. What are you researching? Whether somebody can prove that god exists and gave the torah to Moshe? I could have saved you “years of doing research”, because there is never going to be a scientifically satisfactory answer to that. But you are asking the wrong question. The question is not whether god exists and do Jews have to perform the mitzvot. I don’t claim to know the answer to that. The question you should ask yourself is whether in the 3,000 years or so of Judaism has anything at all emanated from it that is worth preserving? How about the Jewish people themselves, are they worth preserving (I saw your wishy-washy answer on inter-marriage)? Is Israel worth preserving as a homeland for Jews that have no place else to go or want to live in their historic homeland? Is the memory of the holocaust worth preserving? Is having one day of the week set aside (in some meaningful manner, short of total shomer shabbos) for family and reflection without secular interruption worth preserving? I hope you see my point. Stop thinking of relating to Judaism the way your old community did and start thinking is there any way I can relate to Judaism or the Jewish community in a positive way that speaks to values that I believe are worth preserving. You can do that without stepping foot in a shul or beis medrash. In fact, thousands of Jews do that every day and are proud of their Judaism.

            • Rachmuna Litzlon October 17, 2013, 9:45 AM

              “How about the Jewish people themselves, are they worth preserving (I saw your wishy-washy answer on inter-marriage)?”
              Nope, don’t care. And my answer was very clear, nothing wishy-washy about it.
              “Is Israel worth preserving as a homeland for Jews that have no place else to go or want to live in their historic homeland?”
              Nope, don’t care.
              “Is the memory of the holocaust worth preserving?”
              As an historical footnote – sure, but it doesn’t define me, and it doesn’t make up any part of who I am.
              “Is having one day of the week set aside (in some meaningful manner, short of total shomer shabbos) for family and reflection without secular interruption worth preserving?”
              Meh, some parts of that idea are nice, but most of it is arbitrary, and more of a pain in the neck than anything else.

          • A. Nuran October 17, 2013, 9:42 PM

            My fear is that there are gods. But given how large and strange and dangerous the universe is they’re not the fuzzy, approachable, somewhat comprehensible ones we have created in our own image like Hashem and Baal and ?tzp?p?l?tl and Agloolik. More like something out of H. P. Lovecraft with strange hungers, monstrous powers and too many angles and tentacles.

    • A. Nuran October 15, 2013, 8:54 PM

      On the contrary. Science, history and most of all the right to ask questions outside of narrowly-permitted boundaries and to use unauthorized sources is the greatest existential threat to any and all revealed religions. The very first thing that dissolves on contact is the inerrancy of the written and oral Torahs.

      • Ari Gold October 16, 2013, 5:01 AM


  • Tamar October 15, 2013, 9:21 PM

    Excellent interview. Thanks, Heshy and Rachmuna, for a more in depth into the mind of Rachmuna Litztlon.

  • tzfatisha October 16, 2013, 4:47 AM

    thanks for this. very interesting. as someone who went the other way and became a BT in mid-life (about 13/14yrs ago)- whatever that means – i am still working on my practice/tshuava….
    i find it sad that certain FFB people are brought up in such a restricted mindset that they have to go OTD for their own sanity.
    it seems that many people in the frum world make yiddishkeit into a dress code.. and if you vary by a hair you are automatically labeled as OTD.. even if you want to wear a smaller kippa, a blue shirt, tzizit inside yr trousers/a just under the knee skirt/dress in any colour but black etc..etc
    the rabbis are fighting a losing battle viz a vee the internet.. it is now so pervasive for regular work/life that unless they move their communities to the middle of the desert/ montana or wherever and set up Amish style villages where noone has a chance of coming across a -public library -shock horror!!! – cellphones etc etc… these very chassidic communities are going to be busted right open and the rabbis stranglehold will be lessened and people will continue to leave…
    i just bless people that they are able to find themselves before they are ‘forced’ into a marriage.. before they have kids, so that they can live their lives how they want to…
    and i bless them that their families will see them for the good people they are who are trying to find a way of life that works for them…
    even if it is being a ‘rock star’, plumber, zoo keeper, doctor, lawyer, soldier, sailor, indian chief,.. etc

  • Seriously? October 16, 2013, 5:34 AM

    I find it saddest that people who have questions cannot find decent answers.

    OTD people conclude that there are, in fact, no good answers, and Judaism is baloney. The answers ALL exist – but most frummies are far too insecure and ignorant to actually engage and discover them.

    So much lost potential.

    • Anon October 16, 2013, 6:11 AM

      Why are you sad again?

    • Rachmuna Litzlon October 16, 2013, 6:23 AM

      I’m still open to these elusive answers, feel free to point me in the right direction. As I’ve said a thousand times before, if you can prove that god and orthodox Judaism is true and real, I’ll be a BT overnight.

      • Abe Weinstein October 16, 2013, 1:51 PM

        so i guess a few people got together and made up the torah.

        • Ari Gold October 16, 2013, 2:06 PM

          50/50% chance right?

        • Sergeant J October 23, 2013, 4:15 PM

          Worked for the Flavians, Mohammed, and Jo Smith, why not earlier?

    • Ari Gold October 16, 2013, 6:53 AM

      Different strokes for different folks.

    • G*3 October 16, 2013, 8:27 AM

      > The answers ALL exist

      And they are invariably bad.

      • Ari Gold October 16, 2013, 9:14 AM

        They are not bad, some of them are just straight b.s.

    • Heshy Fried October 16, 2013, 10:50 AM

      The answers are all bad, the Kuzari sucks, Rambam was lame, Ais Discovery barf. In the end it’s about faith, no answer can prove God or Judaism

      • A. Nuran October 19, 2013, 12:07 AM

        And there’s the nugget in the middle of the gravel. If you accept it and make it your discipline it’s yours. The answers are beyond proof, and job is its own constant reward.

        More power to anyone who can live like that and allow others the freedom to live according to their own magnificently ridiculous principles

    • JewishAtheist October 16, 2013, 6:26 PM

      It’s not just that OTD people have questions; we have answers – and they’re not favorable to orthodoxy.
      I know how old the universe is – and isn’t. I know whether a global flood occurred. I know the flaws in kiruv arguments. I know there’s almost no chance the exodus story, as presented in the bible, is true. I know evolution is real. I have explanations for the origins of the israelites, the torah, and rabbinic judaism. I have reasons that I’m happy to explain why I think Judaism is ridiculous. And I have a lifestyle that makes sense to me and which makes me happy.
      I had questions. I have answers.

      But feel free to visit my blog and enlighten me with all the amazing answers you apparently have.

      • A. Nuran October 17, 2013, 9:46 PM

        Correction: You know our best current estimate of the age of the universe. But if new evidence and theory change that number you can be convinced to alter what you believe. That’s the real difference between a world-view based on faith and one based on inquiry.

      • Tim Rosen October 17, 2013, 11:23 PM

        You don’t have answers. You have beliefs. And you are just as dogmatic and unyielding in your newfound beliefs as the religious people who look down upon. I have faith that God exists and created the universe. You have faith that the universe is some kind of a random accident of nature and that there is no creator and that someday somehow science will tell us us we can have a creation without a creator. In the meantime, you are content to feel smarter and more “enlightened” than those silly religious people.

        • Ari Gold October 18, 2013, 5:23 AM

          I follow a religion called ” I Don’t Know”. – Bill Maher

        • Rachmuna Litzlon October 18, 2013, 1:54 PM

          Thanks for telling me what I think, Tim. I never once said I have faith in anything, I said you cannot prove that god exists. Do that, and I’ll be Frum otherwise stop whining.

          • Sergeant J October 23, 2013, 4:13 PM

            Well, unless the Mormon god turns out to exist… ūüôā

  • David October 16, 2013, 6:26 AM

    I have a hard time buying the whole “secular books made me not frum” thing.
    I am BT and I read (and continue to read) secular books.
    Reading Moby Dick and The Catcher in the Rye didn’t keep me from becoming frum and it didn’t make me stop being frum either.

    • Heshy Fried October 16, 2013, 10:48 AM

      I have a hard time buying the whole BT thing, you have internet access and can really see what goes on, but alas that’s what happens. I don’t think anyone can relate to anyone else’s experience on that level of what made them turn their life upside down.

      I can honestly say that mountain biking and backpacking has kept me frum, but who can relate to that.

    • tesyaa October 16, 2013, 12:53 PM

      Most people who are bt’s do it for social/community reasons. So it doesn’t matter what you read, as long as you want to be part of the big comfy frum couch.

    • Rachmuna Litzlon October 16, 2013, 4:21 PM

      David – it wasn’t the Da Vinci Code that did it, it was science and history that showed me how rotten the core of all religious belief is, the Da Vinci Code was merely the first book that set off reading other books.

  • A. Nuran October 16, 2013, 7:27 AM

    A question, Rachmuna:

    Your relationship with your family seems to have been good through all of this. Sadly, your marriage did not survive the transition, but you’re very much involved in your child’s life. On the other hand, many who leave the lifestyle are completely cut off from their family and friends.

    How did having a supportive family who did not turn their backs on you change your OTD experience compared to those others?

    • Rachmuna Litzlon October 16, 2013, 9:19 AM

      When I left, I really left. I went far away and joined the army shortly thereafter, so my family’s support (or lack thereof) wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Now that I’m back, I’m very grateful that we do get along, and I enjoy spending time with them. It definitely makes life easier and more enjoyable when you have a family whom you love, and they don’t reject you, it’s heartbreaking to see some of my friends who’ve been cut off entirely by their families, and I’m lucky that I wasn’t.

  • JewishAtheist October 16, 2013, 8:44 AM

    re: tim and RL: Rachmuna can get pretty heated in debate, and tim can get people pretty riled up. sure, I’ve seen rachmuna use some sharp language, but I think tim’s characterization is quite exaggerated. and as RL said, it has more to do with the history and dynamic between the two of them. $.02
    anyways, interesting interview.

    • Tim Rosen October 17, 2013, 11:32 PM

      My characterization is quite exaggerated? Rachmuna can use some “sharp language?” that should get a prize for understatement of the century. Saying Rachmuna Litzlon uses some “sharp language” is like saying Jack the Ripper was good with knives. But of course you would take his side. I’m not surprised.

      • Rachmuna Litzlon October 19, 2013, 8:36 PM

        Instead of wasting time with rational answers, I’ll address Tim the way Frumbots address atheists.
        Tim, were you molested by an atheist?
        Why are you so angry?
        Do you hate atheists?
        You’re a self-hating atheist.
        Have you tried agnosticism?
        You clearly haven’t spoken to my favorite atheist and read my favorite atheism book, otherwise you’d be one yourself.
        This whole believing in fairytales is just a phase, you’ll get over it.
        You’re close-minded, you don’t want answers.
        You must have an empty vacuous life, Frum peoples’ lives are a waste of time.
        I’ll pray to Darwin for you.

  • Paula October 16, 2013, 9:48 AM

    Great piece of Jewish journalism. Much gratitude and respect, Heshy.

  • Oyber Chuchem October 16, 2013, 12:04 PM

    To anyone feeling personally embittered by the Godol Ha’OTD, I do feel very sorry for you.

    As a therapeutic solution, take a class in UNDERSTANDING HUMOR 101.

    In case you were wondering, this will not work as solution for those abused by a Godol Ha’Dor. For that, you need to see an actual qualified (non-Frum) therapist.

  • chanah October 21, 2013, 3:17 AM

    brilliant interview by both of you.

  • jewish.atheist.alter.cocker January 5, 2015, 12:09 AM

    I went OTD over 30 years ago. In part after I discovered the close relationship between Torah rituals, customs, mythology and other ancient near east cultures. See my non commercial blog for refutations of Orthodox Judaism and proofs of God.

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