Freethinking Jewboy: Building Community Among Orthodox Nonbelievers

Hi, I’m Freethinking Jewboy, your friendly neighborhood kofer!  Welcome to my OTD (“off the derech”) blog.

The purpose of this blog is to build community among “Orthodox nonbelievers”: people, observant or not, who are living an impossible tug-of-war between their Orthodox identities and non-Orthodox beliefs.  I feel strongly that we need each other – for friendship, for love, for culture, for understanding – and I hope, with this blog, to extend an open hand to those of us who are most closeted and alone.

I hail from the Five Towns, and my experience over the last three or so years will appear familiar to many of you.  One day, I knew who I was and where I belonged.  The next, it dawned on me that I did not believe in Judaism.  I held on to that secret, along with my observance of Halacha, for over a year.  I felt stuck in a nightmarish scenario in which my need to be fully part of the Orthodox world battled with my need to be true to myself and my beliefs.  Eventually, after a string of bitter struggles spanning two further years during which I dropped Halachic observance and came out to many people close to me, I reached a measure of peace.  Nevertheless, I am still dealing with questions about who I am and what my Orthodox identity means for me.  The fun never ends.

It wasn’t so long ago that I doubted that there were many closeted nonbelievers like me; or that if there were, that I could find them; or that if I could find them, that they would be interested in building community with me.  You may share those doubts.  However, I have discovered them to be baseless.  Armed with just a small vision, I formed an actual group of closeted doubters and nonbelievers that meets up regularly in NYC.  We talk about our beliefs and experiences, or we just laugh and have a good time.  If that sounds awesome… it is.

This blog can provide a forum for Orthodox nonbelievers to make essential connections with one another.  The bonding should not stop at the virtual.  I would like to see other groups like mine formed, along with a broader network of upstanding Orthodox kofrim.  It’s a larger vision than my previous one, and I have my doubts.  One simply needs to have faith, I suppose.