Important change is happening in the Belzer Hasidic community. Unfortunately, when someone decides not to remain religious anymore, they can be cut off from their family and the community they grew up in, which often, is all they know. This doesn’t always happen, but it exists, and it is now being both publicly addressed and admonished.
After the tragic incident of a 23-year-old man who took his life when his family cut ties with him after he went OTD (off the derech, i.e. left observance), it was reported last week that the Belzer Rebbe has ordered the founding of a new organization to support those who leave the community. The intention is not to bring them back to Judaism. The program is being built to solely to support them through any sort of emotional distress they’re experiencing, to give them pure love and care for exactly who they are. The first program this group organized was a trip to Europe, where a group of ex-hasidic Belzer Hasidim got to tour around and simply enjoy a supportive community.
This step is the first of its kind taken by a mainstream Haredi community. The organization will be called ‘Ahavat Kadumim’ or, “Ancient Love.” Former Haredi Jews who were interviewed by Galatz, said excitedly: “We feel like we are in a dream, we received a genuine hug from one of the great men of the generation.”
Many of our readers sent us information about this new initiative since it was announced, and we congratulate the Belzer Rebbe and leadership in the Belz community for not just creating this program, but for raising awareness about the importance of unconditional love of children, which we have discussed here on many occasions, as a crucial piece of preventing and healing the OTD phenemenon.
Ahavat Kadumim does not compete with our Makom branch or even have the same mission or programs. Makom was created after ex-hasidic Jews told us they wanted to remain observant, but didn’t know how to find their place in a new Jewish community. We built programming specifically for Jews raised Haredi who want to explore the broader Orthodox Jewish community. Ahavat Kadumim is specifically for ex-Hasidic Jews who no longer wish to be observant, to be supported emotionally and physically. We have reached out to the Belz leadership, as we believe that our programs could refer to one another. We hope their courageous start will lead to more Haredi communities following with similar initiatives. And we wish every Jew, who has left his community of origin success in finding his place and being supported once he is there.