One of the things I like most about folks who are off the derech is seeing the differences between their views and how they label themselves depending on their backgrounds. As the unofficial frum community sociologist, I like tp study the differences between off the derech folks because not all are created equal, I always figured that once you went off – you dissociated yourself from your former community and while in some instances this is very true because of parents or friends dis-ownership of you – I have noticed that everyone is different in how they view Judaism and their former communities.
Chabad: Possibly the most fascinating off the derech folks are chabad, because no matter how far from religion they stray, there is really no such thing as a former chabadnick. It’s almost like “once you’re chabad you’re in for life” and I always meet chabad folks who drive on shabbos, don’t believe the Rebbe’s moshiach and eat pork – but still identify as chabad. Chabad itself is more open minded in general and chabad kids go off the derech in droves, some of which is a result of baal teshuva parents and some which may be a result of the interactions with regular folks when they try to convince folks to shake the lulav on their way to work- one of these days I may approach the subject of why folks go off the derech, because there are many valid and good reasons to leave the path for a life of 3 day weekends and barbeque pulled pork sandwiches.
Modern Orthodox: I remember in yeshiva they used to say that since modern orthodox folks were already somewhat off the derech, they didn’t have that far to fall. I have noticed that this kind of holds true in the sense that they don’t show much bitterness towards the community and many off the derech modern orthodox folks have left the community and don’t even consider themselves off the derech – the terminology tends to be reserved for people from the more frummer communities.
Yeshivish: The yeshivish community is interesting, because you will find that there is an effort to bring these people “back” and there is also this extreme fear of kids going off the derech and influencing others – so they love to send their kids to Israel. Yeshivish off the derech kids tend to fluctuate between the community and I have noticed that they never really fall out of the community. They tend to hang around other members of the yeshivish community who went off and never truly abandon their communities. You seem them at shul, hanging at the pizza store and getting jobs within the community.
Chassidish: Yes I am lumping all of you non-chabadnicks together, because although there are huge differences, I have noticed that you all have these off the derech communities of Yiddish speaking folks trying to navigate your way through the harsh English speaking educated world. Not all off the derech chassidim are created equal, I am sure some are accepted by their families, but for the most part I have been privy to gut wrenching stories of heart break, solitude and broken marriages – it’s not an easy thing to do, to leave a close knit community of people bound by strict practice and this could be a good reason for the off the derech chassidic community to be based on this feature.
Baal Teshuva’s: It’s not talked about much, but I was once talking to David Kelsey of Heeb and he told me that the most feared off the derech people are the baal teshuvas – because they are usually educated, have bee privy to the secrets of the community and are usually willing to speak out – just look at Shmarya Rosenberg – the frum communities most hated commentator. Off the derech BT’s are interesting, because they all have stories of how they fell prey to their local kiruv rabbi and at some point were extremely turned off – usually by the racism or some sort of ignorance displayed by someone they respected.
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