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.

11 thoughts on “Freethinking Jewboy: Building Community Among Orthodox Nonbelievers”

  1. There’s nothing more upending then realizing that you’re an outsider among everyone you know. In a way, the challenges of becoming a nonbeliever are as different for all of us as our families and communities are. But that’s exactly it – in a way it’s not that different at all :). This is a great idea. Looking forward to hearing more from you.

    1. Thanks Izzy, your involvement and support mean a lot. I would very much like to give you a Snickers bar for being first commenter…

  2. Hi, I’m Sharona, and I’m an undercover kofer. It’s ok, I didn’t confuse this for an AA Meeting. All that higher power crap, ugh! I’ve been dealing with this for about a year now. It isn’t easy! I guess I’m from a “yeshivish lite” background.

  3. Hello all! I’d say I’m more like Jacob, never was fully in or out of the “yeshivish” world. Spent some time when I thought I’d be more in than out…not quite the way things turned out.

    1. been doing this for close to five years now. Begun to come out some more to friends and family. So part undercover, part not. Where’s everyone from?

      1. Please call me Yakov. And Izzy, now that you mention it, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ve crossed paths at one point or another…

  4. I’m still a bit scared of putting my name here just yet but I share it with one of y’all lol. Hopefully this is the start of a strong community!

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