Monday, April 18, 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.
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