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.