Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Encounters with OTD people

This is going to be a long post…but don’t let that turn you off! I actually wrote this a long time ago and just hadn’t posted it yet. I wrote it on 10/8/08.

My first experience with an off the derech person was with a girl. She had been my classmate till second grade, at that time she was a sweet nice girl. I don’t remember much of her since I was very young. Fast forward 10 years and I see her profile on myspace. I knew she had left my school but I never knew what came out of her till then. I saw she had been switched to public school and was attending the same college as me. I communicated a bit with her online, she had remembered me and asked what’s doing with everyone else from the class. I caught her up with whose engaged and married. I never figured I would see her again in real life.

Then one day as I was walking to the city bus stop by college, I recognized her eating in a treif store. I wasn’t going to go in the store to say hello to her. Then a couple of days later I actually meet her, I recognize her again, so I stop her and ask her if she is “so and so”, she says yes, then she realizes who I must be, and we did some talking. She is now majoring in either music or acting, one of the entertainment kind of majors. I realize she is totally off the derech, but yet since I barely remember her when she was younger I am able to accept the new her. She is still nice and everything, just with a different life style. I don’t feel close enough with her to invade in her privacy and ask her why she went off. Although my thinking is that she was never really on. She is Russian, so perhaps her family hadn’t been so religious and they just chose my school in the beginning because they felt they owed her some type of Jewish education.

My next encounter with an off the derech person was with a boy. Here it was very different. Here he was a neighbor and a couple of years younger than me. He was a good friend of my brothers for a while. They both had blond hair and were of the same height so everyone would comment how they look so much alike. The boy’s family was a bit mixed, again a Russian family, his parents were never so religious but they did keep Shabbos and Kosher. His parents got divorced and his step father is much more religious, so he would bring the boy to shul and made sure he davened. But yet the mother didn’t cover her hair so mixed messages were being sent. But overall he was a good boy. I can picture him as a cute 13 year old boy.

Then one day I don’t know what happened but all of a sudden I see him grow his hair and dye it black. He also started smoking and listening to heavy metal. It made me look at him in a new way, he became different, scary and creepy to me. At first I thought perhaps he is still the same person. When I would see him, I would wave and say hello, but I would get no response, it’s as if he doesn’t know who I am. One day as I was walking on my block, I turned a corner which is near some bushes then all of a sudden he jumps out from behind the bush and tries to scare me. I still thought of him as his old self, so I laughed and said “very funny”. But he didn’t respond back, he made no acknowledgement that he knew who I was, with his hood hiding his face. I had joined facebook and while searching for people I might know, I found him. I added him as a friend and messaged him asking what’s up with that trick/scare he did on me, but he never replied back.

So I admitted that he must of changed and became different, so I then regarded him as a creepy person who is unfriendly. Then recently I saw he uploaded pictures on facebook and I saw a picture of him hugging and kissing a girl. I couldn’t understand how someone could actually let him touch them. Then I saw his status said that he loves the girl who was tagged in the picture with him. This shocked me further, that he is actually capable of love.

So you see with this second person my attitude was totally different. I saw it as so sad that he changed from that cute boy I pictured to the scary looking teen he is now. He had a change of personality in addition to his going off the derech. My next two encounters were similar with the second one, just a bit different.

The next two boys are brothers, their father had died a couple of years back and I guess they didn’t get much guidance and they had grief in them. I’m not one to judge. These two didn’t go off the derech completely, they still keep mitzvos I think, but they changed their personality. Both grew their hair long which made me question if this is a sign of rebellion and anger, and a sign that they are going off the derech.

What made me think about this all is that on Rosh Hashonah as my family was walking to Tashlich, I noticed that the younger of the two brothers I just mentioned before, had grown his hair long and was wearing a black t-shirt and a magen david necklace. His face didn’t look right, it gave me that creepy feeling that something must be bothering him. It got me sad to picture him turning out like that other boy. I felt bad for the pain he must be going through. He had just been seen at shul a few days prior to Rosh Hashonah so it was a big shock to see him that way. He had been with some other boys from shul who are frum good boys so at least he was still hanging out with good friends. But when asked if he went to Tashlich he pointed to the Tehillim my brother was holding and said  “I would throw that into the water” so there was something troubling him about being Jewish. Then on Yom Kippur I saw him with the other boy and they were both purposefully eating food in front of everyone.


Moshe said...

Parents getting divorced and father dying, especially at such an age, is very traumatic.
The kid with divorced parents, his stepfather may have been forcing him to be frummer than he wanted to be and as it always is with such approach, it backfired.

If you'd see me during the week, you'd think I'm OTD too. Nothing wrong with jeans, t-shirt and heavy metal, or long hair.

Anonymous said...

I always cry (or almost) when I see OTD people. I feel as if it's my fault :( I have many family members who are otds, and I remember when i was younger I once walked into the room my cousin was staying in and saw her writing (it was Shabbos). I was so confused. Oy Moshiach where are you?!

Child Ish Behavior said...

You said it, for most OTD situations it is a product of emotional problems that when on or are going on. You have to feel sad, both because they chose to abandon Yiddishkeit, and also because they are hurting inside. What can you do? You have to hope that they find their own way back to doing what's right, or at least find some sort of happiness.

Shorty said...

I agree with the above comment - someone needs to choose their own path...our job as friends is to keep positive and keep showing light.

Mikeinmidwood said...

Music is the first sign, to where a person is headed in life.

DavenedByDeKoisel said...

People who are deep thinkers also tend to go OTD as well. It's very hard to rationalize frumkeit, the passage of years sometimes helps for that.

rickismom said...

I have several kids who are OTD or half-off. And, as most families with OTD kids, there was a "problem" (not MY fault...). But I believe very strongly that if a parent does not want his OTD kid (or even close to OTD), they have to accept that this child will make his own decissions, and they have to "support" him in his OTD lifestyle. What do I mean by support? If he wants to studt at a non-frum place, help pay. Because if you keep kicking the kid he will likely turn out a "street" kid. If you support him in NORMAL non-frum things, he has a chance to at least stay "normal". And the good connection you have with them may very well keep them from falling further. Sometimes my non-frum kids have asked for the craziest things because they DO want to please. (Like a kid who eats non-kosher food calling up erev Peasch asking what wine in the US is not "Yain Nesek".)

an additional comment on the above:

rickismom said...

And I'll add that Bli eyin hara, my kids are all "menchen"- normal, happy, productive people.

The Babysitter said...

Moshe: True, those things can be traumatic and cause the kid to try to channel his troubling emotions.

The step father I don't think forced him into frumness to much, although he would try to get him to come to shul every shabbos. But yea, I can see how such approaches would backfire.

lol, 1- you don't have long hair 2- you have a beard. 3- people can dress with jeans and t-shirts and have longer hair and still look normal and not seem OTD. There are Yeshiva of Flatbush types like that, most are very nice good people. It's just when they start getting all gothic looking then it's a different story. Heavy metal I guess can be okay if it's just listened to. But if someone becomes obsessed...

Anonymous: yea, it is sad, it makes me cry too. I don't think it's ever any relatives fault.

I think the person themselves is responsible for making their own decisions, and no matter what kind of horrible situations they had that "caused" them to go OTD, ultimately it was their own decision, and the horrible factors didn't force them into it. We learn this from this weeks Parsha even. That Yaakov still kept the 613 mitzvos even though he was with Lavan in a bad environment. So no matter what it's still possible if a person truly wants it.

That is confusing to see that at a young age, I remember we used to always call each other "shabbos goys" if we would do something muktzah, and it was considered such a bad thing, and nobody wanted to be called that, so we would all make sure not to do anything wrong.

yea, we need Moshiach!

The Babysitter said...

Childish: Well put, I agree with that.

Shorty: Great idea, to show still remain positive with them and let them see the good stuff.

MikeInMidwood: Not sure if you're being sarcastic or not. But I believe it does have truth in it. I remember in HS, my teacher told us we can judge if a song is pure or not based on how it makes us move. You can feel the music and could tell if it's improper. We tested it out in class where my teacher played different songs and let us move to it, and it was amazing how the whole class would do the same type of move. Like with certain Avraham Fried songs it was kumzits type where it makes you sway from side to side which is fine, there are some that make you put your hands up to Shamayim which are also good. But then there are the ones that make you move in provactive ways which aren't good.

Anyways, so yea, music can change you're life. It goes into your subconsciousness and you start believing/acting/speaking based on what you listened to.

The Babysitter said...

DavenedByDeKoisel: true, those types I actually like the best, in that you can debate with them. But they can be dangerous in that their like the "Achi" part of Eisav, where they will act nice, but then trick you into stuff.

Ricki'sMom: You're comment reminds me of 2 things which I'm going to post about on Sunday and Monday. 1- about a Destiny song, where a mother waits by the window sill for her son to come back home. 2- Fiddler on The Roof, where the father is stuck on his traditions and thinks of his daughter Chava as dead when she marries a non Jew.

I think you are right in your theory and what you say. I agree with you.

Moshe said...

1. I had long hair and would prob still have it if I had hair. ;-)
2. I have a beard because I'm too lazy to shave/trim.
3. I have black shirts and black t-shirts. Also have wolf eyes contacts.

You can't write it off by saying "they're responsible" unless you went through the same or similar.

The Babysitter said...

Moshe: lol...

You're right, I'm not blaming them or judging them or anything. I'm just saying from a relative or close friends view point, they shouldn't have to feel guilty. That just because you know someone well doesn't mean it's your fault if they go OTD.

DavenedByDeKoisel said...

Babysitter: Didn't someone get punished because they tried to avoid Eisav's "Uchhi" side by hiding someone from him?

The Babysitter said...

DavenedByDeKoisel: umm I don't remember?

Lion of Zion said...


"He also started smoking"

the orthodox community is in big trouble if this is a sign of OTD

anyway, yes, some people go OTD because of the reasons stated above. but for others judaism is simply no longer compelling. these people have intellectual issues with judaism that they are grappling with. i think it says something about us that we automatically assume every OTD person reached that stage because of some psychological "abnormality" due to upbringing, domestic dysfunction, various stressors, etc.

and not every OTD person becomes a druggie. many a are well adjusted in their new lives.

The Babysitter said...

Lion Of Zion: right, I know smoking isn't a sign of going OTD, after all there are Rabbi's who used to smoke. I meant that he started smoking drugs, I think it was that cause it would smell.

right, that's what DavendByDeKoisel said.

right, so there are different types of people that go OTD, and not all have emotional troubles.

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