Dear Heshy: Can one actually be frum if they live out of town?

out of townDear Heshy,

I know that you live out of town and consider yourself frum, so I hope that you and your out of town readers don’t take this the wrong way, but I always felt that those folks who moved out of town were sacrificing on their yiddishkeit for a higher quality of life in the secular sense. To put it bluntly, I really don’t hold out of towners to a high standard, unless they traveled to far off places to do kiruv. Kiruv is a lofty enough enterprise to give one a heter to move away from the centers of frumkeit, but to merely leave because you can’t make it in a regular frum community is no excuse.

I should make one thing clear, unlike most frum Jews I agree with you that many east coast cities that frummies consider out of town are in fact just extensions of town. New Jersey, Connecticut, and Baltimore for example are quite in town, while places like Denver, Chicago, Phoenix, and Detroit are definitely out of town.

How can you consider yourself to be frum, when you put yourself in such a dangerous situation? You live in a place without a minyan factory, multiple mikvos, yeshivas, pizza stores, or an eruv and you expect to stay frum. How can one stay frum without all of the conveniences of frum life. The temptation to leave the path is strong enough that I was a Posek I wouldn’t allow anyone to leave the NY/NJ area.

I’m curious as to how you or anyone reading this can justify your decision to leave a large frum area to go to Siberia?

Proud life long Brooklyn resident.


Don’t worry, I take no offense to your theories because they are pure nonsense. Unfortunately, your viewpoint is shared by many in the frum community whether they state it so plainly or not. If the NY metro area was such a good place for frum Jews, why is the Off The Derech community mostly from that area, you seldom meet someone from a true out of town community that went off the derech. Why is it that most of the complaining, kvetching, and general annoyance at frumkeit is from those who call the large Jewish communities home? Could it be that those who live in large Jewish cities may have all the kosher food, yeshivas, and minyan factories at their disposal yet have no happiness in their lives.

I can’t speak for everyone, but once one moves away from the large Jewish centers, it seems that folks are a little less judgmental and a little more content with their lives. In a small Jewish community everyone has to work together, you can’t just start a new minyan or yeshiva because you don’t agree with the one you currently have. Sure, I’d like to have the breakaway heicha kedusha minyan, but I would never do anything to hurt my community regardless of the fact that a 3.5 hour shabbos shachris is 2 hours too long. I learn to live with it and in the process it opens your mind.

By Lakewood standards we out of town folks are less frum, we tend not to receive tznius pamphlets telling us how to dress and I never get to attend any kind of asifa whatsoever. In fact, many of my community members have televisions in their homes and still the Rabbi allows us to eat by them. Sure, I myself am far frummer than most of my fellow community members, but I keep my judgements to myself and prefer to anonymously write them on the internet.

Now to the title of your question, can one be frum and live out of town? I guess it all depends on what you consider frum, if you consider having a lot of choices as to what frum luxuries you want, then no, we out of town peeps can never really be frum. I have to drive 400 miles to eat kosher pizza, buy seforim, and look at women in skirts.

You may notice that the only folks advocating for folks to move out of town are not really that frum, for instance the OU has a yearly community fair showcasing out of town communities and what they will give you if you move there. Most of the really frum people moving out of town are merely doing so to help more people move to the big cities, for instance kiruv workers tend to make their subjects so frum that they leave the places they grew up because it’s not frum enough for them there. Take a look at San Francisco, kiruv has decimated their frum population, everyone becomes frum and moves away because one cannot possibly be frum in such an out of town place.

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