Off The Derech Community writes Halachic Guidelines

In the early 90’s when the Kids At Risk movement began it wasn’t anything to get too excited over, basically a bunch of yeshiva kids with ADHD who would roam from yeshiva to yeshiva until they hit the end of the line  at Rudinsky, Hamilton, Rochester or Adelphi. When they were done with school, they would hang out in pool halls and listen to Metallica. Fast forward 15 years to today’s highly sophisticated movement of Off The Derech communities around the world. Never did anyone think that those angry yeshiva rejects could form such a community filled with art, culture, and a highly intellectualized population of folks who have all left the community to form their own.

The Off The Derech community is kind of like the modern day haskala, they are at work doing their own kind of kiruv, or reverse kiruv shall we say. Deprogramming the lies, propaganda and cult material that has been shoved down the throats of everyone who’s grown up frum. Of course, like any fast growing community the OTD folks need to have some halachic guidelines, their own shulchan aruch if you will, so that they can start their mesorah somewhere.

I can’t imagine what the community will look like in 50 years from now, I like to compare it to the gay community in some ways. There are so many closeted members, people who you’d never guess belonged in the OTD community, yet were fervent believers in being OTD. Coming out as OTD is also a pretty big deal for many folks, I have celebrated with many friends of mine who finally admitted to being OTD (I feel that OTD is just another derech and there really is no right derech is there?)

If you want tosee how the OTD world communicates and thinks, there is a closed OTD group on Facebook, at the risk of being called a kofer, I’d like to compare the OTD group to the Gemara. Ideas are being spewed on a constant basis and responses are so varied you wonder how far reaching the OTD community goes. For instance, in my opinion, in order to be considered off the derech you had to have once been orthodox. Either way, this talmudic-like OTD page is very exciting because it’s creating the OTD mesorah.

For instance, the OTD mesorah is definitely skewed toward a liberal viewpoint, probably because they are rejecting the mostly rabid right wing political views of the frum community. I’m sure there are OTD folks who are forming their own OTD communities, akin to modern orthodoxy, reform, conservative, humanistic, etc…

Below, is what I would like to call the OTD mishna, I am certain that there are already debates going on as to what exactly things mean. At some point there will be splinter groups, for instance one would think that kiruv would be allowed because it encourages some debate and discussion beyond the echo chamber. If everyone agrees on something than discussion ends, so why not insert some people who are disagreeable to the populous. At some point the OTD community will expand beyond focusing on their off the derechness, but this is still years away.

Admin Guidelines OTD FB Group

Security note:

Anyone can see the group and its members. Only members see actual posts.

Member rules:

  1. No Kiruv!
  2. We have some members who are still closeted OTD, and we don’t want frummies snooping around. Please only join this group if you are Off the Derech to some degree (skeptical and questioning counts, we welcome the orthoprax).
  3. Respect members’ privacy. Some members are operating under a pseudonym, and that is fine. Don’t pressure them into revealing their names, location or background; some people want privacy.
  4. Be polite and sensitive. Just because we are all OTD doesn’t mean we all agree on everything. Some of us are atheist and some aren’t, some are conservative and some are liberal and some are libertarian and some are socialists, etc.
  5. All political views and non-frum religious views are welcome as long as you are OTD to some degree.  However being an OTD group, views that argue with people from a frum perspective are unwelcome and considered a form of kiruv.
  6. Some members are newly off the derech and may not know the extent to which some of their views have been skewed by the community they grew up in, or how to interact in mixed company. Some may be testing boundaries having been raised with completely different ones and not knowing where the new ones are. Some may be used to a more vitriolic way of interacting on the internet. It is *always* better to argue calmly and gently give constructive criticism than to go on the attack and try to beat the idea out of them.
  7. Effective debate involves stating opinions and backing up with facts and/or evidence, not personally attacking someone on the basis of their opinion.
  8. If you are offended by someone’s beliefs, posts, comments, interactions, et cetera, you can block that poster so his/her comments no longer appear in your feed.
  9. Please do not post pornographic pictures (pictures including uncovered nipples and/or genitalia) to the main board, many people visit this site from work computers and we do not want to compromise people’s jobs.
  10. Allowing the moderators to view all comments posted by members is integral to maintaining the accepting and open atmosphere on the Off The Derech Facebook group. Blocking a moderator will result in a warning and request to unblock the moderator in question. Failure to comply after two requests will result in dismissal from the group.
  11. While it is generally assumed that board etiquette dictates that one should not spam the board, it needs to be posted that one should refrain from spamming the board.


What constitutes being impolite:

  1. Personal attacks and insults INCLUDING using hate speech and racial/ethnic/religious slurs in an effort to promote hatred and discord within this community.
  2. Attacking people on the basis of their gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, age , disability, mental illness, ethnicity, location, educational attainment, or former religious group
  3. Continuing with remarks that other users complained about and which the mods have warned you about.
  4. Cybersex topics, or derailing topics into cybersex


If any of these above rules are being violated:

  1. One of our mods will warn the person, stating why she/he is being warned.
  2. If behavior is repeated she/he will get a second warning
  3. Once the second warning is violated, a time-out will go into effect in which the offending party will be removed from the board for a 24 hour period, followed by a week of probation, during which the offending behavior should be corrected. Three out of four mods must agree for a time-out to take place.
  4. If the violation is repeated, the violator will be warned a second time and given a second time-out for 72 hours followed by a week of probation, during which the offending behavior should be corrected. Additionally, the offending party will be forced to wear a scarlet A and his/her fingernails will be peeled off.
  5. If said person violates the rules a third time within that probation period, a one month time out will be put in place after which the offender will be on a three month probation.
  6. Upon the agreement of ¾ moderators, a fourth offense during that probation period will result in a one year time out during which we hope you forget all about us.


Admin rules

Admin will be revoked if:

  1. People are banned without consulting the three other mods.
  2. Other mods are added without involving the other mods
  3. Starting another competing group.


Plan of action if a posting and its comments are about to derail:

  1. While we would prefer not to take down any comments, and we do not want to censor any ideas, if they clearly and deliberately violate the terms of use, offending comments will be taken down. Moderators are not constantly on the board 24/7, so if there is a problem please alert us so that it can be dealt with accordingly. Sending an email with the offending remarks and the thread in which they appear is crucial to deciding whether or not they will be removed.
  2. Any comments removed are removed at the sole discretion of the mods.  The moderators have jobs and lives and can’t be on facebook 24/7, but  they do check facebook frequently. Be patient.
  3. Once moderators have ruled on a comment removal or a time out, that ruling is final. Repeatedly bringing up an issue that has been ruled on because you disagree with with the ruling is beating a dead horse, will not change our minds, and if deemed disruptive may result in a time out.

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