Thursday, August 08, 2013

"Off the derech" - a crisis?

A guest post by dstaum

Today, Harry Maryles wrote about the "off the derech" phenomenon, which many have labeled a "crisis".

Harry makes some good and compassionate suggestions, such as families remaining accepting of their children, no matter the path they choose.

I'd like to look at this from another perspective, with just a few short points:

  • Who says that Orthodoxy is the right path for everyone? Even if you believe it contains ultimate truth, one-size-fits-all is a very doubtful proposition when it comes to religion.

  • Young, autonomous individuals should have the right to make their own choices, and those choices should be respected, not seen as mistakes that should only be tolerated in the name of compassion and family harmony.

  • Here is my biggest point: by declaring an "OTD phenomenon", Orthodoxy lumps all young people who have left that sect into one group. It lumps someone like Abandoning Eden, a blogger who is a successful academic and has a happy marriage, into the same pool as young yeshiva dropouts who may be on drugs and have no jobs, no marketable skills, and sometimes, nowhere to live. Not only is this disrespectful of the Abandoning Eden types, but far worse, it treats the very real problems of the young dropouts as symptoms of their having left Orthodoxy. And their real problems, which need solutions like rehab, job training, and support sytems, get ignored.

    Until we look at young people with such problems as individuals, we won't be able to help those who actually need help.

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