Tag Archives: Ultra Orthodox Jews

Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood Book Review

In a perfect world, we would be able to make our own choices and still be loved by our families. But that is not always the case.

Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood, a memoir by Leah Vincent was published in 2015. Born and raised in the Yeshivish Jewish community in Pittsburgh, her world as a child was bound by a long list of rules of do’s and don’ts. Everything changed at sixteen when her letters to a young man were discovered.

Retribution was swift and cold. Forced to become an outcast to her family, she moved to New York City, where she faced a secular world that was far from the ultra-religious world she knew. As a result, she embarked on a series of sexual and semi-romantic relationships that all ended in disaster. Complicating these “relationships” was her still fierce adherence to the Judaism she was raised in.

This is one of the best memoirs I have ever read. Her journey at times is both difficult and universal. Most, if not all of us, go through changes when we are in our teens and early 20’s. But, we do so within the loving bosom of our families. Ms. Vincent had to go through those changes on her own.

I was stuck by several things while reading this book. The first is that the double standard is one hundred times more powerful in the Yeshivish community than it is in the secular world. The second is that she is a survivor who found her backbone. It would have been easy to crawl back to her parents on hands and knees, begging for forgiveness. But she didn’t. The third and most powerful thing is that the reader does not have to be Jewish to understand or relate to her story. If I was a betting woman, I would wager that there are many from all faiths who for any number of reasons, have walked away from the ultra-religious communities they were raised in.

I absolutely recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, Life, New York City

Mental Illness is Not an Excuse for Sexual Abuse

Mental illness and it’s various forms affect countless people around the world. But unlike physical illness and it’s many variations, mental illness does not get the respect it deserves.

Back in 2008, Malka Leifer was accused of sexually abusing several students at the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in Melbourne, Australia, where she worked as a teacher. But before she could be brought into the courtroom to face her accusers, Ms. Leifer left Australia for Israel. Twelve years later, she faces extradition back to Australia. Her lawyers and supporters claim that she is mentally ill.

I have a huge problem with this claim. The problem is that her claim (if it is not true) is not only foolish, but it could also have life-shattering consequences. Millions of us wake up every day with mental illness. I wake every day with depression hanging around my neck. Does that mean I will commit such a heinous crime as sexual assault on a minor?

No.

It’s hard enough to admit that one is living with mental illness and needs help. The last thing those of us who live with this disease need is for someone to use it as an excuse for moral failings.

Mental illness is NOT an excuse for sexual assault and never will be.

Leave a comment

Filed under International News, Mental Health, World News

Practicing One’s Faith During the Coronavirus Only Needs a Little Creativity

It is without a doubt that the coronavirus has upended our lives as we know them to be.

This includes religious practice. With the holidays of Easter, Passover, and Ramadan coming quickly, the faithful must find new ways to celebrate their respective holidays while following the recommendations of the experts.

Across the country and across the world, religious leaders are turning to video conferencing services programs such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, and other programs to hold services.

What is frustrating to me is that there are some who are are willingly putting their lives and the lives of their loved ones in danger by acting as life is normal. Last month, a Fundamentalist church in Indiana held services in spite of warnings against holding large gatherings. In Israel and in my hometown of New York City, some ultra-Orthodox Jews ignored the edicts by the government to prevent coronavirus from spreading further than it already has spread.

Anyone who has read this blog knows of my Jewish faith. Though I am not as religious as others, my faith is important to me. Passover starts Wednesday night. My family, like many other families, are being creative when it comes to the Seder and the traditional ways of telling the Passover story.

If the coronavirus has taught us one thing, it is that it takes a little flexibility to get through tough times. To say that we are going through tough times is an understatement. That requires us to understand that we cannot live as we did a month ago. Those who willingly ignore that fact endanger us all.

Leave a comment

Filed under National News, New York City