Yesterday a woman named Deb Tambor committed suicide.She was 33.
I didn't know Deb in person, but she and I posted on the same Off the Derech facebook groups for several years. Deb was a lovely woman who often posted encouraging words to others struggling with leaving the orthodox jewish religion, and posted about her own struggles. The last time I heard from her was when she was congratulating me for having a child. And I got to know some details of her life over the years. How she had several children with an orthodox jewish spouse whom she divorced. How her own father testified against her in the child custody case because she was no longer religious, and she lost custody of her children. How her children were told negative things about her because she was no longer religious, and how they began to treat her with the same disdain shown towards her by her former chassidic community.
I hesitate to post these details becasue Deb posted them in a protected group, in confidence. But I felt it was important for the world to know that these type of things happen, and continue to happen. And what the consequences sometimes are. And these aren't the only consequences. The consequence of the threat of having this happen keeps many people in unhappy marriages, or hiding their true religious beliefs, sometimes for decades .
Now I'm not saying that these things are the reason she committed suicide. I don't know why she committed suicide and I don't really know why she lost custody of her kids, other than what she said about it. Maybe she was depressed in general, although that's no reason to lose custody of your children unless she posed a threat to them. Maybe she did pose a threat to them. I have no idea.
What I do know is that if there is an all powerful sky being, and that sky being is just, then there's a special place in hell reserved for people who encourage parents to turn against their children, or children to turn against their parents, in the name of religion or lack thereof.
What I do know is that if court systems are ruling in favor of religious spouses and cutting off custody of non religious spouses due to religious reasons, whether that is because of some misguided idea that keeping children in the same religion is more in their best interest than regular visits with both parents, or because witnesses are giving false testimony due to the religious beliefs of a parent, then they are making unjust decisions.
What I do know is that the off the derech community has more and more been turning into a real community in the past few years, due in no small part to facebook groups, and before that, the writing of many bloggers. Along with things like footsteps and cholent. We've organized protests against child molestation and have visited courts to support victims of the orthodox community. And maybe it's time we started using that community power to organize something more. Maybe a non profit that provides free legal aid for those going through custody cases with religious spouses or who need other sorts of legal help related to leaving their religion? Maybe a phone line to connect you with another OTDer for those who need someone to talk to or advice? I'm just throwing out ideas here.
Please use this post to throw out some more ideas. I may not be able to respond right away because things are crazy right now but I would love for those who have more time and who are geographically closer to centers of jewish life to begin organizing themselves, and I will help in any way I can. I will update with more info as I know it.
ETA: I've just learned that a young man named Yoeli Speilman, who had grown up chassidic and become modern orthodox, and who was disowned by his family as a result, killed himself the day after yom kippur. I don't even know what to say. I'm not saying his family situation is the reason he killed himself, and unlike Deb I never interacted with him him personally or know anything other than what people are saying on the grapevine, but f it's true I think it's telling that two people in similar situations killed themselves over the jewish holidays. What can we do to help people who are thinking of committing suicide?
ETA2: Some other posts about Deb from other OTDers and Jewish bloggers:
My Derech, On and Off: A Mother's Murder
I am Acher!: For Deb: A very special eulogy
Hayley Amanda: for deb. for life.
Stop Kiruv Now: Turning families against each other
Y-Love: Stolen too soon: In memory of Deb Tambor a'h
Kol B'isha Erva: Why do we assume that when a marriage ends its because one spouse went otd
ETA3: Sunday 5:04pm (eastern): Rumor is that the funeral will take place on roosevelt ave. in New Square tonight at midnight. Other rumors say she was already buried in New Square without a real funeral. A third rumor says the funeral will take place there within an hour. Either way there are many people heading to New Square right now and there is talk of a candelight vigil tonight. I'll try to post more as I find out about it
ETA4: Anyone who is thinking of taking your life, please first take the time to call someone on this list and tell them about it.
ETA5: I hear many OTDers who wanted to attend the funeral of their friend Deb Tambor (who many of us knew in 'real life') went to new square yesterday with some staying until the wee hours of the morning, but the new square shitheads wouldn't tell them where or when it was going to happen, and she ended up being buried this morning in Long island with only her family present. I am told she was not buried in the new square cemetery because she was not shomer shabbas(??). Also someone has posted a poem written by Deb before her death: Can a father hate his child? Deb's last poem
ETA6: Deb's boyfriend told me that he was notified about the funeral location by Deb's family as the funeral was starting, and that they knew he was an hour and a half away. I feel sick to my stomach over the way this has played out. One thing I will be doing in the very near future is writing a will.
ETA7: Failed Messiah has A good summary of the situation which has more sickening details of what happened to Deb.