Friday, June 15, 2007

Why We Leave Orthodoxy

Rabbi Gil Student approvingly links to an article by Dr. Benzion Sorotzkin about "the Current Crisis of Rebellious Adolescents."

Excerpt:
This paper will review the items commonly mentioned as risk factors in Orthodox children becoming rebellious ("going off the derech"). I will demonstrate that there is a strong tendency - albeit with the best of intentions - to downplay the role of parents in this problem. The reasons for this avoidance and how it can impede efforts to alleviate the problem will be explored.


Here is the comment I left at Rabbi Student's blog:
I find the constant conflation of teens "at-risk" of going off the derech with teens "at-risk" of getting into drugs and destructive lifestyles infuriating. There seems to be no recognition that it's possible -- indeed common -- for children to decide Orthodox Judaism is simply not right for them, for various reasons. A quick look around the Jblogosphere reveals a great number of people who left or are leaving due to theological differences with Orthodox Judaism.

I had a pretty good childhood. I loved my parents and continue to do so today. The reasons I am not Orthodox are that I honestly believe that Orthodox Judaism is factually incorrect. I believe God does not exist and that, even if he did, he certainly did not dictate the Torah to Moses at Sinai.

Maybe instead of seeing every child who goes "off the derech" as a tragedy, Jewish leaders should focus on those children who are legitimately in danger of unhealthy behaviors.


Update:

The following excerpt better represents what I'm responding to:

More recently, a prominent mechanech in Bnei Brak wrote a sefer on chinuch12 where he does spell out the painful truth clearly [free translation]:

The mecahnchim who deal with at-risk youngsters report that all of the youngsters who dropped out did so only because they received insufficient love and respect at home. Not even one of these youngsters claims that that he dropped out because of complaints c"v against Hashem or against the Torah. A child who receives sufficient love and acceptance at home will never go off the derech.


So I'll say it clearly, for the record. I dropped out because of complaints (c"v!) against Hashem (or at least against his existence) AND against the Torah.

20 comments:

Orthoprax said...

JA,

People that never care enough to think philosophically are those who cannot imagine others caring enough to think philosophically and actually acting on the conclusions reached.

Anonymous said...

See this cover story in my local Jewish paper, "When children are more observant than their parents - Tales of Two Traditions."
http://www.jewishstandard.org/

I'm wondering if they'll do such an understanding follow-up, "When children are less observant," counseling parents to accept their less observant children the same way.

Quote from the psychologist interviewed in the article:
Finally, but not always, said Sarna, "Parents accept the shock that the son or daughter will be living a different lifestyle than they do. Sometimes the parents also become more spiritual. They look at the lives of their children and see the beauty of spirituality and religion, especially when they try to accommodate."

I'd love to read, "sometimes the parents also become more skeptical, because of the questions their children raise."

BTA said...

Interesting thesis. I'll add my own take on this from the BT perspective.

What Orthodoxy loses from bad parenting, it gains in the Ba'al T'shuva department.

The vast majority of today's BTs came from broken homes and were at least seeking out a surefire path to stable marriages and stable family lives- needs that were unmet by their own parents.

Most BTs don't really do an in-depth analysis before becoming frum, they just see the possibility of fulfilling these unmet needs and "go for it," hook, line and sinker.

So, there's an interesting mirror-image effect going on here.

Baal Habos said...

JA, while I'm in agreement with your attitude towards OJ, I'm not so sure that children and adolescents drop out because of theological reasons. You use yourself as an example, how old were you when you began to question?

littlefoxling said...

JA,

Like BHB, I never did any formal study of the issue, so I don’t really know. But I can say for myself that my own problems with OJ were purely theological and had nothing to do with my parents or anything else. I can also say anecdotally that many of my friends feel the same way.

I’d also like to add one note here. There is an implication, on the part of all the people who write such things, that people wouldn’t go OTD for theological reasons. The implication, then, is that no person could possibly deny the truth of Orthodox Judaism. I find this very difficult to accept because:
-Clearly, many many people in the world don’t accept OJ.
-All of the people that do accept OJ are born Jews. If the case is so compelling, why do only those who are biased towards OJ accept it?
-If the case for OJ is so compelling, why do the OJ people have to censor, ban, and suppress any information that is relevant to the truth of OJ? Why not debate the issue on its merits? When I was in Yeshiva, theology wasn’t even addressed.

I think, then, that what the writer really means to say is, given the amazing efficacy of our brainwashing capabilities, why is it that certain people don’t listen to what they are brainwashed to believe? It must be their parents fault for not being effective enough brainwashers and allowing their children to think a little.

XGH said...

> So I'll say it clearly, for the record. I dropped out because of complaints (c"v!) against Hashem (or at least against his existence) AND against the Torah.

You're missing the point. Had your parents done their job of indoctrination err I mean education correctly, you would never have developed those complaints in the first place.

Orthoprax said...

To be fair, theology and Jewish philosophy was addressed in my yeshivah. Though in a rather rudimentary way. But most of the kids aren't interested anyway.

Jay said...

If a family member was not observant there would whispers in their absence or when they left a room momentarily akin to SHE HAS CANCER...she's not frum- mebech-It's not teens who are at risk- it's the parents who by their reflexive actions stigamtize a youn person, try to conceal her existence from the "frum world" at large to perserve the shidduch prospects of a sibling or maintain the integrity of the family. BTW I am a non practicing orthodox Jew. Therefore I am flexidox

Jewish Atheist said...

Orthoprax:

People that never care enough to think philosophically are those who cannot imagine others caring enough to think philosophically and actually acting on the conclusions reached.

Good point. One tends to forget how differently people live their lives.

Anonymous:

I'm wondering if they'll do such an understanding follow-up, "When children are less observant," counseling parents to accept their less observant children the same way.

Yes!

BTA: The vast majority of today's BTs came from broken homes and were at least seeking out a surefire path to stable marriages and stable family lives- needs that were unmet by their own parents.

I'm not sure the broken homes part is true, but I know that many people become BTs because they want the OJ life. There are also those who become BTs for theological reasons, I'm sure.

BH:

JA, while I'm in agreement with your attitude towards OJ, I'm not so sure that children and adolescents drop out because of theological reasons. You use yourself as an example, how old were you when you began to question?

I started having questions that were not being satisfactorily answered around 16 or so, but I didn't really make the break until my early 20s. You might have a point.

littlefoxling,

I think, then, that what the writer really means to say is, given the amazing efficacy of our brainwashing capabilities, why is it that certain people don’t listen to what they are brainwashed to believe? It must be their parents fault for not being effective enough brainwashers and allowing their children to think a little.

I think it's more like they can't even comprehend the idea that OJ isn't true. Ergo, people who reach that conclusion must have other issues.

XGH:

You're missing the point. Had your parents done their job of indoctrination err I mean education correctly, you would never have developed those complaints in the first place.

Is that possible?

Jay:

That's one of my biggest complaints about the Orthodox world.

Intuitor said...

Those who work with teens at risk are a self selected group who were indoctrinated to think that every Off the Derech person deep inside is a believing jew. At the same time they face the reality that many are disbelievers deep inside. This creates cognitive disonance for outreach workers themselves. They grapple with it by fooling themselves into thinking that they actually have control over the situation: if only the parents provide good enough chinuch...

Chaim B. said...

>>>I dropped out because of complaints (c"v!) against Hashem (or at least against his existence) AND against the Torah.

I hope this is not too personal a question, but I am curious - at what age did you reach these conclusions and what was your level of Jewish ed at that point?

Also, in response to Jay you wrote
>>>That's one of my biggest complaints about the Orthodox world.
But the issue Jay raises is sociological - some O Jews don't live up to the standards of ethics you would expect - nothing to do with whether Judaism as an abstract system is correct. Is your main complaint that you are turned off by Jewish society's behavior, or you are turned off by Judaism?

muse said...

I think that there's another factor, also related to the BT.
It's from Gardiner's theory of "multiple intelligences."
There are different levels of "spiritual intelligence."

tafka PP said...

My favourite moment of late was telling my (also, non-event and nothing to do with bad parenting) OTD story and having the BT girl who was listening clutch her toddler and whisper, petrified, "Now I'm worried for my babies! What if they turn out like...you?"

Jewish Atheist said...

Chaim b:

I hope this is not too personal a question, but I am curious - at what age did you reach these conclusions and what was your level of Jewish ed at that point?

I didn't leave until my early 20s, but in hindsight the questions went back at least to around 16 or so.

But the issue Jay raises is sociological - some O Jews don't live up to the standards of ethics you would expect - nothing to do with whether Judaism as an abstract system is correct. Is your main complaint that you are turned off by Jewish society's behavior, or you are turned off by Judaism?

My main reason for not being religious is that I don't believe Judaism itself is true. On top of that, there are some things about the community that turn me off as well.

muse:

There are different levels of "spiritual intelligence."

That's an interesting point and one I've thought of. I have to be open to the possibility that I'm just lacking something necessary to be religious.

tafka PP:

That's awful and hilarious at the same time.

Chaim G. said...

Maybe instead of seeing every child who goes "off the derech" as a tragedy, Jewish leaders should focus on those children who are legitimately in danger of unhealthy behaviors.

What's so hard to khop? For a Charedi losing one's faith is a fate more terrible than inoperable excruciating cancer. It robs the newly faithless of two worlds. It is the ultimate "unhealthy behavior" and as stubborn to cure as the most antibiotic resistant of mutated bacteria.

Confession: I went straight from the post to this comment. So if I was redundant i.e. if another commenter has already said this forgive me.

Chaim G. said...

Just curious. Did your lovinf, presumubly credulous and Orthodox parents, greet your own atheism with equanimity? How old were you when you dropped your faith?

jewish philosopher said...

JA, I don't believe that you are an atheist because of any overwhelming evidence, because you have never been able to provide the evidence. If you've got it, I wish you would share.

Rather, your atheism is based primarily on "appeal to authority" - if Nobel Prize winning scientists are mostly atheists, how can they atheism be wrong?

I don't find that compelling. We know from history (Communism, Nazism, Christianity, etc. etc.) that plenty of brilliant people can be absolutely wrong.

Jewish Atheist said...

Chaim G:

What's so hard to khop? For a Charedi losing one's faith is a fate more terrible than inoperable excruciating cancer.

I khop, I just wish it would change. Not bloody likely, I know.

Just curious. Did your lovinf, presumubly credulous and Orthodox parents, greet your own atheism with equanimity? How old were you when you dropped your faith?

I discussed it here:

http://jewishatheist.blogspot.com/2005/06/how-i-left-orthodoxy.html

Anonymous said...

Jewish Philosopher,
Scientists claim authority by providing evidence that their positions are true, and not like religious authorities who claim that whatever they say is true because it comes from the authority. Compare how Euclid presents his positions to how the Bible presents its.

Anonymous said...

I hope this is not too personal a question, but I am curious - at what age did you reach these conclusions and what was your level of Jewish ed at that point?

To add to JA's point, people also often insinuate that those who go OTD are didn't study enough gemora and halacha or were otherwise religiously lacking. That isn't true. I know some of the best and brightest, the most knowledgable and the shtarkest who left the beis medrash in their search for truth.