Why Leah Vincent Fled Judaism

Why Leah Vincent Fled Judaism

It was my first Shabbat spent at a religious family, and I got into a knock-down-drag-out fight with the husband about women’s role in Judaism. I left in tears, shaking with fury.

I wanted to flee Neve Yaakov right there and then, but a warm and understanding mother from a different family convinced me to stick it out until Shabbat was over.

Late in the afternoon I returned to my host family for third meal, and after Shabbat the husband gave me peace-offering: an exquisite mezuzah scroll he had written himself.

A few months later I returned to the United States, and I brought that mezuzah scroll with me. But it took me over a year to put it up. And for that year I just left it rolling around among the AAA maps and packages of Big Red gum in my parents’ glove compartment.

I guess I disliked that mezuzah as much as I disliked the man who had given it to me.
At the age of 16, Leah Vincent came to Israel for seminary, and bought a sweater that her family considered immodestly tight. According to Leah, her parents were so outraged that they brought her back to America and stopped supporting her financially. She found a minimum-wage job, a small apartment, and was frequently hungry and terribly lonely since she had been ostracized from her family and friends.

You can hear Leah’s whole tragic version of the story in her interview with Katie Couric below. When you listen, though, please keep in mind that there are two sides to every story. Leah’s parents, who are a highly-respected and beloved community rabbi and rebbetzin, deny Leah’s version of what happened. And I also think that we need to wonder about Leah’s decision to seek revenge against her parents in such a public forum. I am unsure whether this public venting serves any positive purpose…

Again, we don’t know exactly what happened between Leah and her parents…but two things we do know for certain. One: Leah Vincent feels deep resentment towards her parents. Two: Leah Vincent has abandoned observant Judaism and is today only ”culturally Jewish.”

As a person who traveled in the opposite direction as Leah Vincent—from a secular lifestyle to a religious one– it is nearly impossible for me to understand how a person could abandon the magic, the wonder, the beauty of Shabbat, of the Holidays, of Prayer, of the Torah. How could somebody, especially somebody as intelligent and sensitive as Leah Vincent appears to be, leave behind all this holiness and light for the emptiness of a secular, American life?

But then I remembered that mezuzah rolling around in my parents’ glove compartment.
When you hate the person who gives you a gift, no matter how beautiful and precious and meaningful the gift is, you hate the gift as well.

Obviously, the Jewish community is filled with dedicated, loving, wonderful parents whose kids are no longer observant.

Our job is to be the best parents we can be, and to know, at the same time, that how our kids ultimately turn out is not in our hands.

But Leah Vincent’s tragic story makes me see more clearly than ever that my husband and I are the main people teaching our children about God and the mitzvot and the Torah, so if our children see us as angry and vengeful and unreasonably strict then that pushes our children to hate all of these gifts as much as they hate us.

And if our kids see us as calm and loving and fair? That doesn’t just enable our kids to love us more. It enables them, IY”H, to love God and the mitzvot and the Torah as much as they love Eema and Abba.


  1. I have a few questions here:
    1. Why did her father deny her allegations? Maybe she misinterpreted what they said to her.

    2. Instead of throwing frumkeit away , why not find someone who will give you answers? That’s what I did when things didnt’ seem to make sense to me. I wasn’t coming from a Chassidic backround but still. I am not judging her but these questions stick up in my mind because it seems like we are hearing about a new OTD person all the time.

    • Cream Soda

      @Ita: ” why not find someone who will give you answers?”

      That’s exactly what she did.

      The question was: “What’s for supper?”

      The answer was: Go get it on your own.

      And so she did. And she realized that the “beautiful” frum world gave her nothing when she was on the streets, hungry and alone at 17, and that that “beautiful” frum world was in fact the reason her parents put her out.

      Remember: when the question is, “I’m hungry and alone,” the Rambam and the Kuzari and Aryeh Kaplan aren’t going to feed you.

  2. As usual, Chana Jenny, you hit the nail square on the head with this piece. Ah, Big Red. Oh how I loved that gum…

  3. so sad. you are totally right. I’m going to give my kids extra hugs today.

  4. Debra Nussbaum Cohen

    Beautifully stated, Chana Jenny…..as you say, for children their first image of God is their parents. But when a family’s expression of Judaism is so strict, so punishing, leaves so little room for individual expression — especially for an older teen who has just been away for the first time — can you not understand why the person would reject the whole system? I sure can. My husband grew up Hasidic, was taught what to do but not why, and was taught his whole life that conformity was more important than he was as an individual — it’s no mystery to me why he left as soon as he could.

  5. Why does anyone leave a faith? Don’t focus on how could she leave what you love. Listen to how she felt alone and abandoned. Her family cut her off. This is terrible in any religion. I had a friend who was of a religion that does a lot of door knocking (I won’t say which one– there are a few who do this!) and in college she left it and she was shunned. She had a baby and couldn’t handle her mother not speaking to her. She committed suicide.

    How could she leave Judaism? Those who were closest to her, instead of loving her and helping her ease better into a different life, ruined it for her at least then. Was she really crazy? How many times have women and daughters been committed over the centuries because they upset their husbands or parents and were not following the guidelines that were set out for them? (I do not believe her father. He could prove that she had been crazy and it doesn’t sound like he did, and how can she prove that she wasn’t getting psychiatric help?)

    The holiness and light that you see isn’t the same that Leah Vincent had, as what was given to her was a blanket that nearly smothered her.

    I know _______’s who are very strict and LOVE it and use happy words to describe it, yet I also know others who were raised in it who won’t go near that same branch of That Faith because of a completely different experience.

    As practitioners of ANY faith, we must remember that we are representatives of it, to our children and to the world and make sure that we provide something for the youngsters to come home to if they question every thing.

  6. My concern are parents and educators who can’t see the forest for the trees. The emphasis on the minutiae and the exact letter of the law sometimes obscures the beauty of the mitzvah. The message that Leah got was that even though she was still trying to be tzniut, it wasn’t good enough. Whatever she did was probably criticized as not being exactly as they saw as perfect. We often send that type of message, and people – especially young people – hear the criticism and don’t often get the validation for the things they are doing right! We need to infuse these messages with love and not react in such a knee-jerk fashion as throwing someone away (Gd forbid) for perhaps not measuring up to our standards.

  7. Life and also Judaism is what WE, YOU make of it. I decided that I will not live my life IN REACTION to what my parents did, what my friends do, what i hear about others or what others say about me. I (bolded i)will LIVE! I tested- read experimented with Judaism for myself. If I kept Shabbos would that make me more holy? If I kept Kosher…I experimented, like a scientist. It had to be an honest experiment or I wold never know the truth. If it didn’t work I could always go back. Live! Experiment! try it out. But never live in reaction ( as much as one can know themselves–try to know yourself and seek the truth about who you are and why you do the things you do to be free from being in reactions. Then one is TRULY FREE. By the way its been 33 years since I experimented and I haven’t looked back. Judaism for Jews is like being a fish in water…out of the water …what are we?

  8. I get so sad when I hear these stories.. such a large scale chillul Hashem.. i wonder if Leah’s parents (assuming what leah said was true) realized what kind of effects their actions would have. We really do need to be so careful how we our mechanech our children, and to do it in the most loving and gentle way possible.

  9. So true Chana Jenny- it is a big responsibility to make give the gifts of Judaism to your children with warmth and love.

  10. Chana, I just want you to know that your words are very hurtful & unfair to many parents who gave everything to their children & loved them deeply yet despite it all, the children have still abandoned Orthodoxy.

    There are SO many reasons why children go OTD & it is absolutely rude of you to put even more guilt on many parents who already feel guilty enough that their children have left Judaism.

    Oftentimes kids go OTD because of learning challenges & not being able to succeed with the dual curriculum of limudei kodesh/chol. They also sometimes go OTD b/c of peer pressure regardless of how wonderful their home life & parents are. Other times it’s because cannot reconcile what they learn in science class with what they were taught all their lives in Yeshiva & they begin to feel that everything they were taught up till then were lies b/c unlike science the Torah cannot be proven.

    Bottom line, there are SO very many reasons why children go OTD & your article is downright hurtful to all the many wonderful & caring parents whose children have decided for whatever reason to choose another way of life. You really do owe those parents an apology.

    • is not true that the tora cannot be proven first of all in the Tora their is answer for all questions. kids go out of religion cause yea we can be good parent but first we need to teach your kid to be a human being and cannot be sooooo strict that it makes these kids life a living hell by adding so much pressure like what dress they wear, how socks look like are they plain w design hows the skirt is it long enough, color right etc. we cannot judge but these are teenager we are talking about and they are going to be defiant, and want to experiment, and have so many question but at the end you just have to be caring and show them Judaism is not a religion but a way of life w love, compassion. some religious people want their kids to live in such a bubble and make a big deal about stuff that bis not really so important, talk crap about other jews, judgmental about others, how u expect anyone to stay in a place like that as a teenager. u see this in israel so much how haredim divide between each other all the time. here in america u will see it more in tighter groups and as religious people we have to be so careful not to do this cause kids listen and then they grow up and leave. and i dont think jenny was at all rude.

  11. JewishMom

    I am sorry if I added to any parents’ pain. Many parents of OTD kids are incredibly devoted and loving parents, but how our kids turn out is not totally in our control.

    I just edited the article to make that point clear…thanks for drawing my attention to this so that I don’t, G-d forbid, cause these parents any more pain.

    • thank you Chana Jenny for being clear enough and big enough to apologize.

      it’s obvious from the comments on this jewishmom blogsite that many people relate to parenting/chinuch as having rules which work autonomously, mechanically, and immutably.

      as if, with the “right parenting/chinuch” all difficulties on the journey of life can be successfully navigated and avoided.

      such faith in parenting/chinuch is misplaced because this hishtadlus is always subordinate to G-d’s plan for a child’s life. and, no amount of “the- right-parenting-technique” is going to trump G-d’s plan, ever.

      some neshamas, like leah vincent, need to experience being otd to evolve & grow, in order to fulfill their tafkid.

      otd kids, like leah vincent, are works-in-progress. we’re only getting a fleeting glimpse of past chapters in leah vincent’s life in the video clips, and a peek into where she’s at now. we don’t get to see how the story of leah vincent ends, or how she fits into G-d’s larger scheme of things.

      trusting that G-d knows better than we do about who needs what on their journey could spare us from the anguished and judgmental “how-could-she-response??!!” if we allow it to, and open us up to choosing a more understanding and accepting response when we come across otd kids like leah vincent in the future.

      these otd kids aren’t interested in our anguish, our judgments, or our rhapsodies about the beauty and magic of yiddishkeit. they’ve become inured to these varieties of self indulgence.

      if we want to understand them, and even more so, if we want to make a connection with them we will have to come from a place that isn’t all about us, ie: indulging our own feelings.

      additionally, a child’s individual hard-wired needs and personality can triumph over even the most superior chinuch. (does anybody remember that rivka and yaacov had an otd child named eisav?)

      wise, loving, and nurturing parenting/chinuch that is so successful with other people’s children, or your other children, may not be successful with a particular child.

      quote: “how our kids turn out is not totally in our control”. may i add, but only 100% of the time.

      if each of us really took this to heart it could become an entrance-way, an opportunity to evolve into wiser, kinder, more realistic people who will be less inclined to blame others (or ourselves) for how kids turn out.

      we could begin to approach the whole topic of otd kids with greater clarity, humility, sensitivity, and realism.

    • Ellen H. Center

      I would like to have a nickle for every time different frum people told me to disconnect from my kids but I never did and the whole Vincent fiasco is why. I knew if I did that, then they would not be part of Judiasm at all. We as parents have to be so careful of how we deal with our children. Sometimes in the business of life we forget that we are the role models

      • yep, totally agree. im glad u will never turn ure back on your kid.

  12. Mark Bernstein

    For the media, she’s just a pawn in the Leftist attack on traditional Jewish and Christian religious values as medieval and fanatic, while they paint hedonistic, selfish, empty liberal secular values as modern and enlightened, and Islamic values as deeply meaningful. And she probably thinks she’s sophisticated.

  13. Hi There!
    My friend posted your blog entry about Leah Vincent and how children can go off the derech from parents who are very mean and strict and how we should be loving and good to our kids so they won\’t go OTD.
    Your article stabbed me in the heart.
    Let me explain.
    I became frum at the age of sixteen. I was very happy to get married to a great husband at the age of 23. My oldest daughter was born to us when I was 25, after a year of trying to conceive.
    I showered her with so much love, so much affection. There was nothing I wouldn\’t do for her.
    If someone would have told me that our daughter would be OTD when she grew up, I would never believe them.
    Sadly, she went off the derech when she was a teenager. She is turning twenty six soon. We love her dearly but this is what she chose. She keeps on telling me it is not my fault that she is not frum. I still blame myself.
    I don\’t know how old your children are but you should have much yiddishe nachas from them and not have to go through the pain that I always have.
    Sometimes a parent can be a great parent and be very loving and devoted to the kids but life happens and things don\’t always turn out the way we planned. Our kids grow up and make their own decisions, just like we decided to become frum and go against our parents way of life.
    When I had small children I too thought that kids go off the derech because they had bad parents. I guess now I know better.
    Well, good luck.

    • bravo sharon for your honesty and courage in posting this!

      what you wrote touched me deeply.

      from a place of admiration for your honesty and courage, as well as empathy for your situation, may i suggest that you try to accept what your daughter is telling you when she says it isn’t your fault that she isn’t frum right now?? and, to try to stop yourself from blaming yourself??

      from what you write it seems to me that you are already in so much pain over her situation. so blaming yourself can only be adding to your overall pain. i hope i am not over-stepping here in suggesting that you please try to be compassionate to yourself by desisting from blaming yourself.

      as you wisely write, “life happens”. sometimes in life no one and nothing is to blame.

      it’s just the way H-shem wants it for now, and NOT necessarily for always.

      there are good reasons why H-shem wants painful situations like yours to exist now, reasons only He is privy to. sometimes it’s not easy to trust in His greater wisdom in His management of His universe, but if we try we often find that we can somehow manage to do it.

      when we’re in the thick of it it’s hard not to lose sight of the fact that painful situations can and do turn around in unexpected, and even miraculous ways if we keep davening and hoping in H-shem.

      i’ve been blessed to see some pretty hopeless looking otd kid situations turn around in all types of communities. so i know H-shem can make it happen.

      best wishes, and thanks again for your honest and courageous post.

    • JewishMom

      Dear Sharon, I request your forgiveness for unintentionally adding to your pain. Many parents of OTD kids are incredibly devoted and loving parents, but how our kids turn out is not totally in our control.
      I just edited the article to make that point clear…thank you for drawing my attention to this so that I don’t, G-d forbid, cause any more parents any more pain.

  14. OMG…you really write THE BEST articles,,,seriously!!! YOu are so gifted and talented and so insightful!!!!! Thank you!!!

  15. Raped? She had a boyfriend…

    These stories happen daily…

    Awareness? rather craves attention. Or else you can go live your life.

    Again the same old blame game..

    Let’s see the little girl grow up to complain about her mom’s mistakes in life. Just like her own mom did.

    • Whether you believe her or not, I find your comment regarding rape to be quite shameful. So what that she had a boyfriend? Just because a woman has a boyfriend/husband, rape is impossible? Once a man calls a woman his own, he should have unlimited access to woman’s body without her say and can’t rape her?

  16. you can press “get link” on the video and go to the TV shows site, and- Hashem should help put the right words at your fingertips- leave a comment there and Couric will read it it seems.
    the fact that this interview shows such a negative picture of all orthodoxy is terrible. It is very obvious to me that this girl’s parents were/are dysfunctional. Hopefully she will find her way back to Hashem, and to love and forgiveness- and maybe help others too. You have to be human before you can be frum, yes?

    • to chaya, and others who are feeling terrible about this video:

      perhaps you might want to consider questioning the thought that this interview is such a chilul H-shem because it shows such a negative picture of all orthodoxy”??

      in truth, both couric and leah vincent were both careful to emphasize that there are many quote “sects” within Judaism. if you have the time, perhaps watch it more carefully again and you will feel less terrible about it.

      additionally, what’s obvious is that leah vincent and couric believe leah’s parents are dysfunctional.

      but, is it absolutely true that leah’s parents were/are dysfunctional??

      viewers are only provided with leah’s sound-bite take on her parents, and couric’s empathetic active listening and mirroring technique.

      truthfully, we are only seeing one side of a what is clearly a much more complex story which is hinted at in leah’s father’s response read aloud by couric.

      we haven’t been privy to everything that went on between leah and her parents, leah and her siblings/extended family, leah and her schools, leah and her community in the 16 years leading up to her purchase of the too-tight-grey sweater she bought in israel that allegedly led to her living all alone, struggling financially, and getting involved with a guy who raped her.

      therefore, isn’t being dan l’kaf zchus on leah’s parents, while being understanding and accepting of an otd kid like leah, a more pragmatic and compassionate approach??

      if we can balance doing both, we as viewers can be spared the anguish and judgement that doesn’t evolve any of us (and doesn’t contribute anything to helping leah, her parents, other otd kids and their parents as well)

      please think about it.

  17. I believe there are some basic values of derech eretz, which are primary, kadma l’torah, like parents taking care of children, and spouses supporting each other, these are the foundation of life. True, sometimes it happens that we overindulge children at the expense of higher values, but when the opposite happens, child and spouse abuse supposedly for the sake of shamayim, it is shuddering. However in that situation the victims recourse is the One Above, ki avi v’imi azavuni, v’Hashem yihavseini. If someone other than parents helps you get up, it is because Hashem speaks to them, even when indirectly.

  18. Yisroel Ackerman

    Ms. Chana Jenny, holding onto yidishkeit is not obvious. Beauty of anything is a shallow reason for holding onto belief in G-d. Belief needs to be strengthened to a high degree to have the passion to produce the effort this girl had to, when she was growing up. Your personal anecdote is irrelevant to this woman’s life, and the questions that arise as a result of so many people becoming irreligious and sometime atheist, as a result of “ultra-orthodoxy.” According to you, ultra-orthodoxy must a high percentage of abusive people.

  19. Dearest Yonah, THANK YOU for all the important points that you took the time and effort to explain here. I agree with everything 100 percent. As usual, you lift the discourse to a higher level by helping us see how everything is from Hashem; how whatever experiences are handed to us (even or especially the painful ones) are done that way for our benefit and for our growth; and most of all that how our children turn out is not within our control.

    • I agree that Yonah seems to be very perceptive & I agree with all that he has written in the comments here.

  20. You write:

    At the age of 16, Leah Vincent came to Israel for seminary, and bought a sweater that her family considered immodestly tight. Her parents were so outraged that they…

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say that something rings false here. It doesn’t. Obviously she’s not lying. But there’s a piece or two of the puzzle that is missing. Their whole ostracizing of Leah was due to the too-tight sweater? There has GOT to be another side to this story.

    • JewishMom

      I agree. I would love to hear the parents’ version of what happened, and their view of the sweater incident. Maybe Leah couldn’t tell the whole story because of a time limit the show put on her, or possibly (and this is my guess) the interview was badly edited and an important part of the story was cut out. At present, it really seems like there is a big hole in the story.

      • Not only is it surely edited, but my adult children often remember incidences from their teen years very differently than I. Remember, there are THREE sides to ever story, his side, her side, and the truth.

  21. Leah’s parents taught her that “if you’re not ultra-Orthodox, you’re not Jewish”?
    Does anyone have insider information on this? is this what is taught in some circles? I’m Chabad so I am not familiar with this horrifically misguided belief, if indeed it exists the way Leah says.

    • JewishMom

      Leah’s family doesn’t belong to an insular Chassidic group, they are (it appears to me) mainstream yeshivish. Her father is the nephew of one of the greatest rabbis of the 20th century. I think she must mean that she learned that anyone who isn’t Charedi isn’t a GOOD Jew.

      • her father is not only the nephew of one of the greatest rabbis of the 20th century. He HIMSELF is a rabbi that is very well respected and not only in the strictly “chareidi” world- but also in the OU, Torah Umesorah etc… type of the world. I’m not saying she’s making it up. I’m also not saying they are fakes and are extremely dysfunctional. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t be picturing a very sheltered family that doesn’t interact with people who aren’t just like them. I think all the posters who have already said that we don’t know what the real deal is and therefore shouldn’t judge anyone involved are right.

        • And I must tell you that as a former member of her father’s (former) synagogue that I believe every word, I agree that there are likely some edited out parts to the story, and that the gray sweater was not the only issue but rather a defining moment in their fissure. Which she very clearly states. Some if you are so busy defending your Judaism from Leah, that you neglect to mention she didn’t attack it, and neither did Katie Couric. And although Leah’s family lived in a town which was not an insular community, get family was very much so. My mother remembers seeing lLeah’s father reading a newspaper in the library (when she knew he didn’t allow one at home). He told her that he was required to keep up to date on world events because he was the rabbi of a big shul, but that the same was not true for his family. That’s the kind of house she was raised in.

  22. Something about this does not ring true. I have never heard a person in the religious community call him or herself “ultra-orthodox”. Maybe Leah is trying to speak the vernacular of the secular world? She is an articulate young woman, certainly, but I sympathize very much with her parents who no doubt love her very much. All parents want their children to adopt the values they believe in–no matter how open and accepting they try to be. I was particularly struck by the way Leah misinterpreted her father’s note at the end of the video. He seemed to be reaching out and letting her know he loves her. It is possible that there is some truth in what he is saying–Leah, for all of her articulate presentation–may not be presenting the whole picture. To the secular world, it seems insane that a parent would react so strongly to a tight sweater. In the context of the religious community, this is not an over-reaction. And Leah knows this, as she grew up in this world. She is “cherry-picking” and she knows how the secular world will react. She will get her tv spots and a book out of it. This is her 15 minutes of fame. I’m sorry she isn’t using it better.

    • Susan Hirsch

      Yael—how can you even begin to judge Leah? I was a member of her father’s shul and I know her parents—– without judging, this is America and Leah deserves to be heard. I am impressed by her intellect and her ability to communicate. She could have publically embarrassed her parents on nationwide television (Katie Couric interview), but she did not. I wish Leah only continued success and a life full of happiness. She is truly impressive.

  23. I think the aim of Chana Jenny is not to tell us that if we are loving and devoted parents we won’t have otd kids, this is in Hashem’s hands, but on the other hand she wants to tell us:
    be careful, because if you are too stern you may disgust your child!
    did i understood well?
    By the way we shouldn’t stick to what the media tell us, since it is often demagogic and they can present a girl coming from a dysfunctional family and say”hey look the orthodox are all dysfunctional”!
    this is easily found in movies and books… and it reassures atheist and non religious people;

    • JewishMom

      hi ann, My point is that if our relationship with our kids is solid and loving and healthy, it is more likely that our kids will want to continue the Judaism we model for them. At the same time, children go OTD for many reasons which have NOTHING to do with their relationships with their parents. So, while we must make our best effort, how our children ultimately turn out is not in our hands.

  24. It seems to me Leah Vincent’s problems stem more from extremely poor parenting than from actual orthodoxy.

    • Miriam, we really do not know much about Leah Vincent’s parents & their parenting skills. What we do know is Leah’s opinions of her parents’ parenting skills. Many kids have grievances against their parents for one reason or another but there is always 2 sides to every story.

      I think we are better off when we don’t judge the parents of children who are OTD or the children/young adults themselves who for WHATEVER reasons (& there are many) have decided that they do not want to continue being observant anymore.

      It is not OUR place to judge as it says (in Pirkei Avos I think): “al tadun es chavercha ad she’tagiyah l’mkomo”. What we as parents should try to do is to present our religion in a positive way to our children & to love them UNconditionally!

  25. Chaya Rivka Carasso

    While the story of Leah Vincent is sad, it has had an important effect – to alert parents of how precious yet how fragile are our children’s relationship to Hashem and to us. In some way, Leah, through her pain, and perhaps her choices, good or bad, she is helping others reevaluate their relationships, and, B’ezrat Hashem, to improve them.

    Thank you,

    Chaya Rivka

  26. Being a religious jew, is very hard in our times. Our values are never given a moments rest. Whereas the general jewish and non-jewish populations even a few decades ago, for certain a century ago, shared alot of our beliefs, that has changed, and even from within our own “religious” camp we are under constant attack from outside and in.
    It is wicekd tough to believe in our own beliefs now. If internalize the teachings of our Sages, the ways of our Fathers and Mothers, we set ourselves up to never ending angst, conflict, and attack

  27. It may surprise some of you to know that Katie Couric is a Jew. Although she was raised in the faith of her father’s family and identifies as a Presbyterian, her mother, in fact, was a Jew, and her maternal great grandparents immigrated to the US from Germany in the late 19th century.

  28. I have been reading the Leah Vincent posts and stories for a bit. And until I clicked on a story with a picture I didn’t realize that I knew her. I grew up in her father’s shul (she is a few years younger than me). And I am sorry to say, I believe her version 100%. I had several interactions with her father as a teenager that made me nearly leave Judaism altogether myself. We in the community always wondered why a respected rabbi of a large, affluent congregation picked himself up and moved to a tiny, out if the way community in The middle of nowhere a few years ago. Maybe this is why? Anyway, I wouldn’t take Leah’s story as an attack on your Judaism (because why else are you all rushing to doubt/criticize her version of the events), but having known her, her family and her rabbi father, I find the story 100% plausible.

  29. Also, I just listened to the interview (as opposed to reading the fallout) and I am finding it hard to see what she said that was so terrible. If she had really wanted to punish her parents she could have named the communities she came from or where they live (she didn’t), her maiden name is not used. I applaud her and am happy to see a happy ending to her tragic story.

  30. The irony is that leaving the “horrible” Orthodox lifestyle, gained her a man without rules and limits. She wound up being raped by her non-Jewish boyfriend. I hope Hashem helps her and gives her a good life and sends some kind of a shliach to inspire her neshama.

  31. I just saw the video and thought that Leah was absolutely credible, displayed not one iota of bitterness (I actually detected a little sadness) and was adorable, to boot.
    Aside from that, I noticed something in this weeks blog posts: EXTREMES. There were examples of huge families, and this interview, an extreme example of parenting/rejection, OTD.
    I think that in some ways, we are able to be far more objective in taking lessons from these people because their experiences are so far removed from our own. Sometimes when we read about people who are too close to our own experience for comfort, we may feel defensive in hearing their advice. But when that person is on a different planet entirely the advice is heard and applied to our own situation without being hard on ourselves.

  32. The issue isn’t whether or not her story is true or plausible or credible. The issue is that when a Jew is unhappy with their situation, they get help and choose an appropriate path to a healthier and safer life. The chutzpah of this traitor to tell her story to the secular press, where it becomes fodder for anti-Semites and self-hating Jews! What she’s done is an enormous chillul Hashem – compounded by involving Katie Couric, a Jewish reporter who has now committed the aveirah of rechilus (despite the fact that she doesn’t even know what that is). I’m as deeply disturbed by Leah’s actions as I am by the number of dati women who support her inappropriate method of gaining notoriety at the expense of our Holy Torah and international reputation. No one comes away from this looking good, and Leah Vincent has done nothing to advance the beauty and wisdom of our great and unique Torah.

  33. Hindel, good point about the irony!

    that she wanted to leave the “horrible” Orthodox lifestyle, and her decision to do so gained her a man without rules and limits and boundaries of any sort; thus she wound up being raped by her non-Jewish boyfriend.

    YES of course one can be raped by one’s boyfriend or husband

    force equals rape and no woman should be forced

    • My understanding was that she didn’t exactly want to leave, but was kicked out by her parents. Had she not been kicked out, she wouldn’t have looked for comfort in all the wrong places. Did you see a passage where she describes how lonely she was? How her siblings wouldn’t talk to her? How she felt completely alone? Are you sure that in the similar situation for whatever reason, alone and 17 years old, you would’ve had the clarity of mind to pick only those friends and acquaintances that were good for you?

  34. Mrs Belogski

    There’s an excellent article by Rabbi Keleman on this topic in the recent Jewish Action magazine http://bit.ly/18nbn8r It’s the third article in the section. He suggests that while there are many potential causes for kids going OTD, the primary one is a breakdown of the parents’ relationship. Before anyone replies and says that they have excellent shalom bayis but their child still left Yiddishkeit, obviously each case is different and he gives other potential causes as well. Also interesting is Rabbi Ilan Feldman’s article on emunah which begins by saying that the way to instil emunah in our children is…. to pick them up when they cry! (just in case there weren’t enough comments on this post anyway)

  35. I grew up with BT parents who continued there journey as we grew. We have an impressive mixture in the family. My philosophy “not the truth” just my view is that the parent child connection is vital and life is long. Perhaps a child may OTD for awhile but a great connection with the family will always keep them peripherally connected and can save them or the next generation.

    OTD or not is not in our control as parents. Our relationship with our kids is to some extent. I see lots of prayer and faith as the only solution. Each child has three parents and only one with any power.

    I struggle with deciding how to handle “benching” for example with my kids, force it, motivate it positively, negatively? it is confusing. Torah adds the structure to our lives so that we can achieve our purpose. Not all kids take this “easy” structured path to achieve their contribution to the world. They need our love too, perhaps even more since they must make decisions awash in conflicting ideas. is there ever as reason to send a child away? I hope I never ever ever find out if that could be best for my kid at some point. G-d bless her and her family they are obviously all in great pain.

  36. best way to handle bentching?

    best way to instill any habit in children?

    let them see you do it yourself.

    as you do it, say (to yourself, of course, but loud enough…) “i had better bentch right now before i forget! i love bentching and it’s so important” or whatever words are natural to you, about importance of bentching/davening/other mitzvah

    thus without a word to your children, you are “handling bentching”

  37. My story is the same as Leah and I understand exactly what happened. The community failed Leah. Its not anyones “fault”, its just life. Its happens. Judaism and the rules and regulations, however meaningful, is not for everyone. I am a sensitive meaningful person and I find spirituality everywhere. Unfortunately due to my upbringing I only see negativity, forced requirements, obligations, black and white from the orthodoxy I grew up in. Go Leah Go!

    • Sara, what a shame. I do hope that one day you can see a positive view of Judaism. It is so sad when we, as a community, have gaps that someone raised within the community can slip through…

  38. What is OTD?
    sorry. i couldn’t figure out what the acronym OTD meant. I finally discovered it means “off the derech”. Is there a glossary of terms somewhere. am I the only person who’s not in the loop with froomie jargon.
    i didn’t want to watch the interview. it’s so disturbing that every couple of years there is a new book or television interview featuring the latest “poster child” of a disgruntled formerly frum person. The secular world loves these revelations. After a while it’s always the same script with different characters.

  39. I think that it is sad that some of you are more concerned about how a story being shared impacts the view of secular people on frum people and culture than you are about the health and welfare of the people who have endured such social, emotion, and spiritual abuse (if we are going to call a spade a spade).

  40. mom in pain - to Hana Basha

    “The issue is that when a Jew is unhappy with their situation, they get help and choose an appropriate path to a healthier and safer life.”

    But don’t you realize, that’s exactly what she did!

    I commented earlier without having seen the videos
    I agree that she seems very articulate as well as non vindictive

    She grew up in a YIddishkeit more restrictive than most
    parents may present their own way of life as the ONLY “authentic” YIddishkeit
    and a child believes them
    not necessarily knowing what a wealth of choices exist even within YIddishkeit and orthodoxy
    besides – who are we to say she isn’t fulfilling G-d’s will in her own way?
    it is all part of G-d’s plan, after all
    as yomah pointed out

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