The ultra-orthodox lead very sheltered lives within the bounds of religious schools, neighborhoods and even shops. So much control is exerted over them by their religious community and family that they are, in essence, being kept in a cage. And they are afraid to leave because they know that their families will shun them for leaving, some even going so far as to sit shiva (days of mourning) for those who are now ‘dead’ to them. Once a religious person gets desperate enough to finally make the break, it doesn’t take him long to discover that he is unable to integrate into society. He discovers that his limited education does not give him the skills to earn a living. The rigid environment leaves him ill-prepared to cope in social settings, let alone with his own emotions. These individuals are now beginning to present for help in a state of crisis, suffering from homelessness, hunger, substance abuse, and mental health issues, including suicidality.
Machaseh has been contacted by the state social services and others, with requests to help with the most difficult cases. Our interventions have included treatment, housing and food. Once stabilized, we offer training in social and life skills, as well as co-ordinate job training so that they can become self-sufficient. We would like to introduce you to ex-ultraOrthodox people that God has entrusted to our care. We are thankful and honored to be a part of their healing and recovery process.
Please pray for them, and for Israel’s government and society. The examples of these two young men are a reflection of something much larger that needs God’s intervention.
*Identifying information has be changed to protect privacy.
Yaniv is from a prominent Chasidic family. He studied in Yeshiva until he decided to leave the Chasidic religious way of living. Yaniv is highly motivated and capable of studying. When he came to us for help, he was already teaching himself English, math and computer skills even though he has no basic Bagrut.
In order to help Yaniv to achieve the knowledge needed to integrate into society, Machaseh helped with private English lessons, housing, education, food and clothes. Today Yaniv is working, in a stable living situation and has recently launched a business start-up. Although the way remains difficult, this gentle, determined young man presses forward. I believe that others’ faith and hope for him took root and now he is able to experience real hope himself.
Binyiam, a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, grew up in an abusive ultra-Orthodox religious home. His parents, like many second-generation Holocaust survivors, had their own issues that contributed to a dysfunctional family life. Binyiam’s family had gone through the Holocaust in Europe, and in the end, became religious. Holocaust survivors tended to go to extremes: They were either angry with God and abandoned all faith, or they became religious fanatics because the structure and order helped them to function. Binyiam eventually left the religious community and was referred to us. We helped him to pay for studies and provided counseling support. After many years and seemingly no progress, the decision was made to part ways. A few years later, Binyiam contacted us with some very good news: He wanted to announce that he is engaged to marry. We met with him and were overwhelmed at total change in him! He and his fiancé have plans to work together to help others who suffer from religious abuse in the same way he did. Hope and love of others led to this man’s renewal.
As we celebrate the holiday of Purim today,
we are reminded in the book of Esther that even when all seems lost, there is hope.