Friday, December 18, 2009

Oy gevalt

Nearly a year ago, my youngest brother E called me from Israel to tell me that he had talked to his Rabbi about B and I, and his rabbi told him that one of 3 things would happen within a year; either B and I would break up, B would convert to Judaism, or B would die.

Clearly none of those 3 things have happened, and I'm pretty sure they are not going to happen anytime soon (although I suspect that one day B will die...but if all goes well that won't be for decades). I'm not sure if he meant within a year of us getting married or a year after talking to that Rabbi, so I'm waiting until our first year wedding anniversary to send him a letter pointing out the stupidity of that phone call.

Meanwhile, I found out today that for the second year in a row, my brother will be spending his entire winter break (about a month) in Israel, learning with this very same Rabbi.

I wish there were a book or something I could send to him that he would read and suddenly magically realize that religion is a crock, and that these people are leading him wrong. I know I will get flack for that because blah blah blah respecting other people's beliefs blah. But really. I feel like my brother has been preyed upon by these people. I feel like he has been brainwashed by a bunch of people who do not have his best interests in mind. He has given up all his hobbies and things he used to enjoy in order to learn all the time. He used to be a huge movie buff, and would make his own short films. Before he went to Israel for a year, he was planning on going into the film industry. Last year (right after he got back) I sent him a dvd of animated short films, the type of thing he would have been all over before he went to Israel. When I talked to him around 6 months later he told me that with his schedule he hadn't had time to watch it. He also told me he was thinking of becoming a rabbi. A rabbi!

Now readers, you don't know my brother, but last I heard being a rabbi involves public speaking, which is the exact opposite of a job my brother would be well suited for. My brother is extremely shy, and a little...well, when he was a kid there was a question of whether he was on the autistic spectrum or not. Only they didn't have words like "autistic spectrum" back then, and my dad managed to find some shrinks who said he was ok so that the school wouldn't leave him back. Had he been born 10 years later, I think he would have been diagnosed as on that spectrum.

Which makes him perfect for these brainwashing asshats, who seem to prey on people like this- people who don't have the best social skills, who don't have things entirely together. Maybe for him religion is actually a good thing, since it gives him structure. But I don't know. I really worry about him going off to these places and having his head stuffed full of lies. I worry that he has given up the things he used to love, what made him unique and awesome, to have more time for religion. I worry that my parents are complacently letting this happen because since me and my other brother ended up non-religious, they think that enabling my other brother become a fundy (because who else is paying for his trips to israel and his yeshiva fees in the states?) is the only way to keep him jewish. I worry about how our relationship will be going forward, and I worry about him, because even if we have no relationship going forward, he is still my brother, and I love him, and I worry that he is being led astray.


  1. But what can you do? He's a grown man, no matter how gullible and his path is his own. But it would make me sad, too.

  2. well, that's why I don't do anything other then occasionally send him messages so we can keep in touch.

    I am sad and feel powerless to stop it.

  3. Don't bother trying to convince him religion isn't true. He'll never go for that. Don't even try to convince him to become Modern Orthodox again. Instead, you can send him articles or information about people who are yeshivish yet do find a way to indulge their passions.

    For instance, if he's interested in movies, maybe he can get involved in making movies about Jewish history, like Rabbi Berel Wein does. There's a whole "kosher" film industry. Yes, it's kind of slanted, but at least he'd be able to enjoy doing something creative.

    The problem is that the system he's in now wants to do one thing: turn out cookie cutter men whose only concern is learning.

    Even if your parents desparately want him to be religious, would they at least be aware that he wouldn't be a good rabbi & dissuade him from that?

  4. Rabba- I don't try to convince him that religion isn't true or to become modern orthodox, lately my policy has been to not discuss religion with him at all.

    My parents are aware of what this rabbi said, since I called them immediately after he called me-but they paid for him to go back for winter break, so it seems they are not very concerned about it.

  5. Do your parents believe this Rabbi (that B will die etc.)?

  6. I meant, wouldn't your parents be aware of your brother's limits as a public speaker & dissuade him from becoming a rabbi?

  7. NOP- I'm pretty sure they do not believe this rabbi. My brother is now much more religious than my parents- I would call him charedi while my parents are modern orthodox.

    Rabba- I'm not sure how my parents are treating his plans to be a rabbi, but they are paying for him to go to yeshiva and live in a yeshiva dorm, so I suppose they are implicitly (if not explicitly) lending support to this plan.

    Honestly, I don't think my parents are so good at the parenting-of-adult-children thing. I heard somewhere (possibly from a comment here?) that when your kids turn into teenager your jobs turns from management to sales...instead of telling them to do what you want, you have to persuade them to do what you want, and sell it as the best option. If that makes sense.

    Anyways my parents have always been much better at the management than the sales part. In fact personally, as I got older they tried to come up with more and more creative ways to try to force me to do things (tying all sorts of strings to money until I was financially independent, and then they stopped talking to me when I did something they really didn't like), but don't seem to have the persuasion skills down.

  8. I understand your concern about your brother's welfare. I wouldn't want a relative I cared about preyed on by people (who in all likelihood do not care about him.

  9. Do you think we can blame this Rabbi for my car accident and bacon grease burns? I think he put the "evil eye" on me.

  10. When I switched rooms in my Yeshiva's dorm, the previous occupant had left Orwell's 1984 in the drawer.

    I read it in the bathroom in one night, while my roommate slept.

    It wasn't enough. I was religious until over a year after I left that environment.

    I doubt any individual book would be enough, though my experience was with metaphor and not a history or science book. Taking up all of his time and mental energy with learning is how he is kept from thinking about it.

    As his older sister, it is important that you don't raise the emotional cost to him of escape. Every time he has to argue for religion against you or anyone else, it makes it harder for him to later admit he was wrong.

  11. brian, 1984 was an integral part of my leaving.

    this literally has me rotflol

  12. AE, I'm so sorry about this difficult situation. I know some intermarried women whose brother went down a similar path and has cut them off. But perhaps the situation can be turned in your favor. If he has disagreements with your parents, a likely eventuality if he is much frummer than them, make sure he knows that you support and understand him from the perspective of another sibling who made her own decisions. Perhaps you can play up the similarity between your situations, stand up for him to your father if need be, and strengthen your relationship.

  13. This is tough, but sometimes you don't know how things will turn out:

    For me, I was also pushed away from my talents and the things that had make me unique, as well as put in opposition with my siblings. But at a certain point, that push was too much, and it was that estrangement from myself that made me resentful, and pushed me towards questioning and skepticism.

    Obviously there are people for whom that doesn't happen, but I'm just saying, you don't know how it will turn out sometimes. From my similar experience, I'd agree that "kosher" normalization--as Rabba bar bar Chana suggested--might be helpful, if he gets to a point of wanting it. For me, it was the combination of resentment at feeling duped/pushed away from the things I cared about along with settling back into my "normal" life in America that brought me around.

  14. Hi

    I just came across this blog, and have spent the past hour reading it.

    There is one thing I'm wondering about, (it was triggered by the lovely Chanuka pic u posted of your family) and I would appreciate your honest opinion.

    In your current view of things, is there anything your parents could have done , or avoid, during your childhood and/or adolescence that would have resulted in a different outcome from their perspective (i.e. a frum daughter...) ?

    Thanks ahead,

    PS, forgive my poor English, I'm an Israeli...

  15. I like the point vashty made. I reckon the "sad and feel powerless to stop it," gives you something in common with some of your other relatives. Obnoxious when the shoe's on the other foot. I'd treat him as you would have wanted relatives who felt that way to treat you. Or with respect and compassion, even if at a distance. He may be sticking his head someplace you feel is potentially dangerous, but he's still your brother. Nothing to do but try to love him and remember that when he spouts crap he really is trying to tell you what he feels is the right thing, even if it's totally not the right thing for you. Ginx, sing "Our House" by CSN every morning to ward off the evil eye. (I forgot the word for superstition.)


    Just kiddin, it's Judah :) I changed my blog name to so add me :)

    Also, Sorry to hear about your brother. Doesn't he like spend 3 hours a day in the bathroom anyway? Not that there's anything wrong with that.

    I'm not in that mindset of "religion is a crock". But I am in the mindset that any religion that forces you to give up the things that make you happy is lets just say politely "not for me and go fuck yourself"

  17. So, tell me if I'm in the right place, or if you can direct me to another site.

    I am a secular mom who had a secular daughter. My daughter is now ultra orthodox, frum, and at a seminary in Israel. I hired a deprogrammer who spent four days with us before she left for Israel. She ignored him & me went anyway.

    Our relationship is extremely strained now. I haven't heard from her since the recent "fatwa" from rabbis about the internet's terrible impurity, and demand that yeshiva students, which I assume includes girls, stay off the internet.

    We celebrate Christmas at home. It was never a religious holiday for us. It's about Santa, snowmen, a big meal, and being together as a family. This year she didn't call, send a card, email, or anything. The post office attempted to deliver the gift I sent her five times, and now it's being returned.

    I've looked and looked, and I really can't find a support group. Am I in the right place? Can you point me to a better place?



  18. Hi ali,

    I went through something similar as the inductee. You can email me.



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