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CJN Daily: Why Hasidic Jews Leave their Communities to go ‘Off the Derech’

A sizeable number of formerly ultra-Orthodox Jews have left that community.
Naomi Seidman, Ellin Bessner
Naomi Seidman is a Fellow of the Kogod Research Center at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America and the Chancellor Jackman Professor of the Arts in the Department for the Study of Religion and the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto, and a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow. Her publications include Faithful Renderings: Jewish—Christian Difference and the Politics of Difference (Chicago, 2006), The Marriage Plot, Or, How Jews Fell in Love

Ellin Bessner

Naomi Seidman’s father, Hillel, was a descendant of a Hasidic dynasty. Despite her family heritage and religious schooling in New York, Seidman eventually left her home and community, forging a new relationship with Judaism and enjoying a successful career in academia. She now teaches at the University of Toronto.

She wants you to know that, while not often talked about, there is a sizeable community of people like her in Canada and the United States—formerly ultra-Orthodox Jews who went “off the derech,” as they say. To share their stories, she teamed up with the Shalom Hartman Institute to product a podcast miniseries, Heretic in the House, which debuted today.

As she explains in the show, the true lives of these former Hasids are nothing like the depictions you see on Shtisel, Unorthodox, My Unorthodox Life or many other TV shows. These people can easily lose family, friends, spouses, children and careers—which can send them into deep depression, even suicide. Seidman joins The CJN Daily to discuss her life and new podcast.

You care about Israel, peoplehood, and vibrant, ethical Jewish communities. We do too.

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