Torah in Motion will examine the “off the derech” issue – the question of observant Jews leaving Orthodox practice – as part of a program this weekend on “Educating our Children in a Complex World.”
The program at Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto Congregation will begin Saturday night (Jan. 19) with a screening of The Rabbi’s Daughter, a documentary about three women who have all gone “off the derech” and whose fathers are prominent rabbis in Israel.
A panel discussion on “Leaving Judaism: The Return to Questioning” will follow. Participants will include Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, N.Y., who will speak the following morning about “Keeping our children safe;” Rabbi Daniel Korobkin of the BAYT; Leah Malamet, who is completing her PhD in clinical psychology, and Arie Margolies, a student from Dallas, Texas, who will also speak Sunday on “Why I went ‘Off the Derech,’ and why you are all wrong about it.” TIM co-founder Elliott Malamet will moderate the panel.
Rabbi Jay Kelman, director of Torah in Motion (TIM), said that children’s education and the possibility of going “off the derech” – whether that means giving up kashrut and Shabbat observance, or in some cases endangering physical welfare by, for example, turning to drugs – is an ongoing issue.
“The problem is increasing,” said Rabbi Kelman. “It’s painful for the family, and in certain circles, there are other implications,” he added, citing the possible impact on marriage prospects.
At the same time, he noted, “our generation is probably more ‘on the derech’ than any other generation since the Emancipation… Orthodoxy is much stronger than it was. More people are committed to it.”
Rabbi Michael Skobac of Jews for Judaism, who will speak Sunday morning about “Making Judaism compelling for our students,” said that today’s world is “saturated with competing voices.”
He said he has often encountered Orthodox Jews whose spiritual life may be “non-existent or dry.” It’s an issue that often isn’t talked about, he said. “I think it’s certainly a phenomenon in the community.”