My Statesman from Austin American-Statesman has an article about a former Chabad housewife and mother of seven who has written a book about her 30 years in the hasidic world and how she left after coming out as lesbian: “Uncovered: How I Left Hasidic Life and Finally Came Home.”
Among the points in the article I find interesting are her experiences with shunning from her Chabad community, and that she describes a Chabad Lubavitch women’s center as having “cultlike conditions.”
She also mentions the high suicide rate among those who leave their hasidic communities and a secret Facebook page (and one more public) for gay members of the Hasidic community.
Lax thinks about her story in the context of what was happening in America at the time. When she came to UT in the early 1970s and sought out Chabad and Hasidic Judaism, she saw people across campus looking for more fundamentalist religious offerings as well. “We were rebelling against our liberal 1960s parents,” she says. “Every one of us felt like we were the grownups and were identifying with something solid, not our parents with their fungible reality.”
In high school, she went away to a Lubavitch women’s center and lived in what she now realizes was cultlike conditions. [Ed.-bold] “For me, I was hungry for structure, for reliable parental knowledge (that the rabbis provided) and for a sense of community,” she says. “The family, the community, that you don’t really have to go out alone was too compelling to avoid at that age.”
The idea that the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, had all the answers also was very comforting. In Hasidic life, she says, every act has cosmic influences. “That’s very soothing. The simple act of lighting a candle moves the world,” she says.
Leaving meant that, at 45, she had to grow up and realize she didn’t have all the answers. “I grieved my faith for a very long time,” she says. “We turn to religion for assurance that we are not a blip in the universe, that we matter.”
Not having that assurance brought many questions, but she realizes she was lucky. Her family of her childhood welcomed her back with open arms. Many people who leave the community feel permanently exiled and the suicide rate is high, she says.