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Leaving the Faith: A Man Who Left His Hasidic Roots in Brooklyn

Sunday, April 17, 2011

There is a fairly low rate of attrition in the Hasidic community but each year some do exit the faith. Some leave because they want to experience the things that are forbidden: movies, dating, secular clothing and non-kosher food. Others leave because they have doubts about the existence of God and, as a result, the myriad rules that strictly govern Hasidic life become a heavy burden. Oftentimes, it is a mixture of both, as in the case of Luzer Twersky.

Twersky was raised in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn. Outwardly, he had a characteristic Hasidic childhood. He was the fourth in a family of 12 children, a size not uncommon in the Hasidic community. He was educated at religious schools. At age 19, he entered into an arranged marriage with a woman he had only two hours with prior to their wedding day.

Internally, Twersky was fighting a desire to question his faith, and to know more about the world at large. Gradually, in the years following his marriage, Twersky's belief in the fundamental premises of ultra-orthodox Judaism eroded. At 23, he divorced his wife and openly rebuffed the religion. The consequences were immediate.

His parents disowned him and instructed his siblings to follow suit.

"To them it's like someone who's throwing away eternity over materialistic things that only exist in this world," Twersky said. "To them I'm worthless."

Twersky entered the secular world more or less alone, and, aside from what he learned watching Hollywood films, almost completely ignorant of its ways.

"It's like a kid who was born in a one-room basement," he said. "He never left that room all his life. And when he was 23-years old, someone took him, put him in Grand Central Station and walked away."

In leaving, Twersky had to confront a set of challenges that he was almost entirely unprepared for: finding a job, learning how to date and perhaps hardest of all, carrying the weight of his past.

You can hear the full story by clicking the audio above.

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Comments [17]

Inspired in E"Y from Israel

Luzer - I feel your pain (to whatever extent I can)...I can't imagine the pain of rejection, not only from your ex-wife, but your immediate family and your community. That must be tremendously painful! :(

The problem is when we try to get back at others (whether family, friends or others), while they may be in pain to a certain extent, they do go on with their lives, whereas the person we hurt the most is ourselves.

I know as I grew up "Chassidish MO" (hard to explain, mostly MO but grandparents were chassidish so so were our minhagim etc) - I went through going off somewhat in HS, the boy girl scene etc and back. Today we're eseentially litvish, my husband is in kollel and I'm thrilled. It is hard work but I would never have this much fulfillment and deep happiness with a different life.

My life is not what will neccessarily be the answer for you. What I want to tell you is that there are different paths in yiddishkeit and being close to Hashem - try exploring what different "groups" in Orthodoxy have to say. It doesn't have to be chassidish, or maybe it would be a different stream of chassidus - it depends what speaks to you! There were 12 different shevatim, and just cuz you were born into a specific family that doesn't mean that is your neshama's path. But the neshama does come to this world to serve Hashem and get close to him. 70 years or so, even 120 if we're lucky, end eventually, and we want to have eternal reward and bask in His love and closeness to Him for eternity. The way to gain eternity is to find your path in serving Him. Not someone else's.

I highly recommend you check out Aishaudio.com, Torahanytime.com or google shiurim - find any speaker who "talks" to you and you feel motivates you.

If you ever get to Israel, ohr somayach, aish hatorah, etc are extremely accepting and have great hashkafa motivating shiurim - and are open to pple trying it out even for a short time.

If you ever make it to E"Y you're invited for a shabbos, anytime. Please - don't be "goreis" your family's rejection, and please realize you have a huge family of siblings and cousins, children of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, who welcome you with open arms, anytime.

Hang in there!

All the best,
a sister in Israel

Oct. 03 2013 04:12 AM
Harriet G from NY, Israel

Theres good and bad among all groups.

Interestingly, for every formerly religious person leaving religion, there are 10 becoming religious who were never religion and are looking to fill voids in their lives and for meaning. Read about aish.com and ncsy! This story paints an inaccurate picture as if there are droves leaving and much less attracted. Not true at all. For the love of a cheeseburger.... Totally inaccurate portrayal. Compare the stats, folks.

Aug. 28 2011 07:08 AM
Ouick

slimming products Wholesale Welcome! Google Search www.ouick.com!

Jul. 26 2011 04:30 AM
david

Luzer, a man in the mid of an emotional crisis having just having gone through a divorce, exploited in order to assault the Hasidim.

Why would wnyc feature this before passover, to show the love towards religious Jews?

Apr. 28 2011 01:41 AM
Daniel Yoseph from Israel

Luzer, thanks for sharing your story.
Personally, it's strange to hear Luzer's story of the challenges of breaking out of the Orthodox Jewish world as I myself have been going through the process of "teshuvah" (meaning, returning), where I'm dealing with the, thank G-d, positive challenges of breaking in. Ironic that both of us see these challenges we face in our professed development as positive, despite there being difficult and unsettling.
From my exposure to the Hasidic world--which is more than a little since I've begun my religious journey, moving to Israel and studying at multiple yeshivot--is that it is from time to time guilty of teaching and practicing a Judaism with narrow-mindedness that can overpower the tremendous blessing and love that Hasidic Judaism has given to the Jewish world over the last few hundred years.
It is my deepest hope and blessing to you, Luzer, that you find your way back to Hashem through the infinite ahavat chesed that can be found in many places still within Orthodox Judaism. In Israel, there is a common phenomenon amongst those raised religious called "chozer b'she'elah" (return to questioning). Sometimes--though, of course this is not the ideal--one has to find his connection with H' on his own in order to achieve that true relationship with Hakadosh B"H that would be built to last. BE"H, and I include myself in this blessing, may we both merit to find our path in Torah and not be tempted by the "yetzer hara" (evil-inclination) that preys on our weaknesses to try to push us away from Torah. Am Israel, in all it's unique and different forms, always accepts our brothers and sisters back with open arms.

Apr. 22 2011 08:11 AM
joe from london

I know luzer he does not belive what he says he belives in god he wishs he can come back to his roots he told me this in person its not to late he can still come back we will take him eith 2 hands

Apr. 21 2011 05:00 PM
Lani Santo from Manhattan, NY

Luzer - thank you for sharing your story. It takes a brave person to not only take this step, but to share about your journey with others. There are many others out there. For those who are seeking support through this difficult transition, contact Footsteps: www.footstepsorg.org.

Apr. 21 2011 11:47 AM
Stam from Brooklyn

A Real Ulltimate Tuna Beigal!

Apr. 21 2011 12:10 AM
vel from pennsylvania

It is sad and disgusting that myths make a family hate their child.

Apr. 20 2011 12:43 PM
Leib from Brooklyn

As someone that left the Chasidic faith I believe that the onus of reasoning to stay is on those that do.
The reason one leaves is as diverse as the individuals that leave, what was Luzers reason was by no means the reason for others.
Some leave because they don't want to live a lie they can't live a lifestyle that is rooted in the past when bigotry, racism, misogyny, and the like ruled supreme.
Living in a society like that you either have to strongly believe and agree in its values or be utterly scared and coerced into, which there are thousands of individuals that I know of who chose to stay because of fear.
One word of advice to Luzer please move on you took a courageous path, don't look back, yes its hard but life is a struggle to a lot of people, and don't make your identity based on the society that you left, you are more then that.

Apr. 18 2011 04:26 PM
Leib from Brooklyn

As someone that left the Chasidic faith I believe that the onus of reasoning to stay is on those that do.
The reason one leaves is as diverse as the individuals that leave, what was Luzers reason was by no means the reason for others.
Some leave because they don't want to live a lie they can't live a lifestyle that is rooted in the past when bigotry, racism, misogyny, and the like ruled supreme.
Living in a society like that you either have to strongly believe and agree in its values or be utterly scared and coerced into, which there are thousands of individuals that I know of who chose to stay because of fear.
One word of advice to Luzer please move on you took a courageous path, don't look back, yes its hard but life is a struggle to a lot of people, and don't make your identity based on the society that you left, you are more then that.

Apr. 18 2011 04:25 PM

Luzer is a brave man and I'm thrilled to see his story covered here.
You can learn more about his journey in his own words, and the journeys of others who have left, at Unpious.com, a website featuring voices on the Hasidic Fringe.

Apr. 18 2011 03:45 PM
Nina from Flatbush, Bklyn

this audio can be heard on tablet- here's the link:

http://www.tabletmag.com/podcasts/53048/breaking-away-2/

I married a man who broke away from orthodox judeism & had similiar issues, struggled through many years of questioning his true identity, and still suffers with emotions over loss of family and self-esteem at the tender age of 60.
He was/is very brave to stand up for himself after a life of constriction. Luzer's story is authentic.

Apr. 18 2011 09:54 AM
Mike from Orange County, NY

What is the attrition rate?

Apr. 18 2011 09:33 AM
joe

is (will) the audio of this report (be) available? anybody know?

Apr. 18 2011 08:59 AM
brooklynchick

This young man sounds brave; his journey sounds harder than I can imagine. Mr. Twersky, I am impressed with your courage!

Apr. 18 2011 08:00 AM
Rikks from Brooklyn

Twersky you took a step in the right direction just drop your past completely already!!!

Apr. 17 2011 11:44 PM

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