June 6, 2017 – New Humanist
For those who’ve grown up within the ultra-orthodox community, getting caught breaking the rules is to risk being cast out of society. When she did get found out, Maya, who’s now in her early 20s, remembers her parents threatening to say prayers for the dead for her. But while she had to find her way, alone and undercover, into the secular world, there’s now a charity that exists to make the transition easier for people like her.
Mavar (the name means ‘œcrossings’ in Hebrew) often uses public libraries to meet ultra-orthodox Jews who ask for help. ‘œ
Mavar deals with around 15 ‘œrebels’ at any one time. In New York, where the 600,000-strong Hasidic community dwarfs its London equivalent, 1,250 people have made use of Footsteps, which has been around since 2003. Footsteps’ director Lani Santo says the group now welcomes around 150 new members every year. She, too, says the internet plays a role. ‘œThere are a huge number of underground forums that exist ‘“ secret, private Facebook groups ‘“ international ones ‘“ used by [Hasidic] people with aliases,’ she says. ‘œEven people who do not have access to Facebook have email addresses that they can access at public libraries.’ Having connected online, ‘œdoubters’ then go on to meet up face to face, and it’s at that point that awareness of Footsteps spreads, through word of mouth.
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