June 7, 2021 – Vice
“I’ve spent a decade caught between the secular world and the Haredi Jewish community. But watching the latter resist COVID-19 restrictions while being decimated by the virus pushed that tension to the brink.
The deaths in my family came fast and early. My first cousin, a 39-year-old Hasidic mother of three, contracted the virus and did not wake up on the morning of April 3, 2020, less than a month into lockdown. The gut punch of her death presaged the painful road ahead. We had grown up next door to each other on Satmar Drive, named for our sect, in the exclusively Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel (now Town of Palm Tree) in Orange County, New York. She would entertain me and my sisters for hours with hilarious stories on our adjacent porches in the town house that our grandfather bought for four of his 13 children. The day she died, my Hasidic brother-in-law, 49 and a father of seven, had improved enough that doctors suggested he might be extubated. The next day, he took his last breath alone in an NYC hospital.”
Read the full article here.
On May 11, 2021, Footsteps hosted our first ever (virtual) gala, New Chapters: An Evening to Benefit Footsteps, honoring Debra Fine, Eli Gordis, and Adina Kadden and celebrating Footsteps members’ achievements during this unprecedented year. In this program book, you’ll learn more about our honorees, members, and supporters featured throughout the evening — and how, with the help of supporters like you, Footsteps has been rising to meet our members’ needs throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
April 7, 2021 – New York Times, Opinion
“My son is 8 years old. He tells me he wants to be a scientist when he grows up. But his ultra-Orthodox Jewish school doesn’t offer any sciences. Even the math and English, it’s only four hours a week. There is a law in New York State that all private schools have to provide an education at least equivalent to what’s being provided in the public school. There’s almost 60,000 children in New York that attend these type of schools. The school is breaking the law, but the city and state officials are not doing anything about it.”
Watch the full video embedded above or by clicking here.
April 4, 2021 – Agence France Presse
Two months into lockdown, 29-year-old Ella left the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community that she was raised in near New York, started wearing trouser pants for the first time and contacted an organization that helps “leavers” adapt to life in wider society.
US groups like the one she approached report increased demand for their services since coronavirus, from people with more time for soul-searching to others troubled by social distancing violations and some who have already left needing counseling and financial support.
Ella, an alias because she has yet to tell her parents that she has quit Orthodoxy, said she was always interested in the world outside her “extremely religious family.” When she was younger she hid romance novels under her mattress and sometimes “pushed” the limits of her community’s strict dress code.
In the summer of 2019, she and her husband took their first steps towards breaking away by moving a couple of miles down the road to a community whose adherence to Jewish law was not quite as strict.
When lockdown happened in March 2020, they found themselves cut off from friends and family, which gave them space and months to think about whether they wanted to take the next step and leave their community altogether.
“We had time to cement our new identity and feel confident that we made the right decision before having to face anybody,” said Ella.
Read the full article here.
January 19, 2021
Watch “Bias and Barriers”, a virtual conversation hosted by Footsteps about the challenges parents face when they leave insular ultra-Orthodox communities — both in the courtroom and in their communities of origin.
This panel follows up on The New Yorker’s publication of “When One Parent Leaves a Hasidic Community, What Happens to the Kids?”, an article featuring Footsteps and our members’ stories. The issues of divorce, custody, and parental alienation depicted in the article affect so many of our members, a third of whom come to Footsteps as parents in the midst of redefining their relationships with their spouses and children. Watch this panel for a closer look inside the communities and courtrooms at the center of this story.
Moderator: Award-winning author, journalist, and producer Abigail Pogrebin
Panelists: Larissa MacFarquhar, the article’s author and Staff Writer at The New Yorker; Julie F. Kay, Footsteps’ Senior Legal Strategist; and Chani Getter, Footsteps’ Senior Director of Organizational Development.
December 15, 2020 – News 12 Connecticut
Naomi Moskowitz grew up with strong religious values in Long Beach, Long Island, in a community known as the Yeshiva-ish–with strict rules in place through community policing.
She says everything was controlled, from the food she ate to the books she read and a strong sense of fear conditioned in her head regarding turning to anything or anyone outside the community.
News 12’s Mary-Lyn Buckley spoke with Moskowitz on how she left behind everything from her Orthodox life in Long Island and now helps others throughout the city choosing to do the same.
Watch the full video here.
December 4, 2020 – The New Yorker Radio Hour
Larissa MacFarquhar recently reported on the difficulties of leaving the insular world of Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, Judaism, where the way of life is profoundly different from that in secular society. If a married person wants to leave a Haredi community and live another way, the process of divorce can be profoundly rupturing and contentious. For the children of a couple in this situation, no judge can help them reconcile the differing messages about life that they hear from their parents. MacFarquhar spoke with a woman named Chani Getter, who grew up Orthodox and went through a divorce as a young mother, and with two lawyers who see the process from opposing sides.
Listen to the segment here.
November 30, 2020 – The New Yorker
(Print Edition – December 7, 2020, titled “Solomon’s Choice”)
“One of the most painful difficulties that leavers faced was the risk of losing their children. In the early days, the few who left had not attracted a lot of attention, and some got custody of their kids without much of a fight. But, as more people defected, communities alarmed by the prospect of so many children lost to Haredism mobilized to keep them. Secular courts were called upon to determine the best interests of children who were being torn between two irreconcilable ways of life: what to one parent was a basic human freedom might be, to the other, a violation of the laws of God. To many Haredim, the loss of a child to secular life was unbearable, because it meant that the child’s future, and that of all his descendants, would be ruined, not only in this world but also in the next.”
Read the full article here.
November 19, 2020
What do you do when you leave ultra-Orthodoxy, but you can’t leave it all behind?
For those who maintain a connection with their ultra-Orthodox communities of origin, the journey out has become all the more complex and dangerous. What was already a high-stakes decision is even riskier against the backdrop of a public health and economic crisis.
In this Webinar, Footsteps members share what it means to be caught between two worlds in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This virtual conversation was moderated by award-winning author and journalist Taffy Brodesser-Akner and features Footsteps members Dr. Schneur Zalman Newfield, author of Degrees of Separation: Identity Formation While Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Judaism and Assistant Professor of Sociology at Borough of Manhattan Community College (CUNY); and Beatrice Weber, speaker, writer, and Interspiritual Minister.
Click here to view as a PDF
Welcome to the first ever Footsteps Yearbook! Inside, you will read about Footsteps members’ triumphs, which are all the more epic given the year’s context. This yearbook is a testament to their hard work and to outpouring of support they have received from our extended community. We hope you will take a few moments out of your day to flip through the pages of this yearbook and to celebrate with them.