Press Release

Footsteps’ New Program to Provide $50,000 in Legal Assistance to Formerly Ultra-Orthodox Jews Facing Custody Battles

Assistance will help people who have left ultra-Orthodoxy secure their parental rights

NEW YORK, NY, June 15 ‘“ Footsteps today announced a new program that will make $50,000 in legal services available to members who face the possibility of losing custody of their children as a result of their decision to leave the ultra-Orthodox community. Members will be referred to the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), whose family law attorneys will provide legal representation and educate clients about their legal rights.

The partnership emerged to address the growing need of formerly ultra-Orthodox parents who were losing custody as a result of their lack of resources, unfamiliarity with the legal system, and the willingness of the ultra-Orthodox community to supply the funds and guidance needed to help the still-religious partner secure custody in family court.

‘œIt is unacceptable that some people who choose a self-determined life face the horror of losing custody of their children as a consequence,’ said Lani Santo, Executive Director of Footsteps, an organization that provides a range of services to people wishing to leave the rigid confines of ultra-Orthodoxy. ‘œThrough this partnership with NYLAG we have a place where our members can obtain quality legal help.”

The partnership was made possible by an anonymous $50,000 contribution.

Since 2003, Footsteps has helped more than 900 formerly ultra-Orthodox men and women wishing to explore the world beyond their insular communities of origin. Footsteps provides a range of services, including social and emotional support, educational and vocational guidance, workshops and social activities, and access to resources. Thanks to Footsteps, former ultra-Orthodox Jews have a safe, supportive, and flourishing community to turn to as they work to define their own identities, build new connections, and lead self-determined lives.

The New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) provides free civil legal services to New Yorkers who cannot afford private attorneys. Founded in 1990 on the premise that low-income individuals can improve their lives significantly if they are given access to the justice system, NYLAG has a comprehensive range of services and core practice areas. For more information, go to