The phenomenon of the individual who grew up in an extreme Chassidish community, then rejects it entirely while physically escaping from it, has become part of everyday discourse regarding Orthodoxy thanks to books and Netflix series such as Unorthodox. It has almost become a type of stereotype, and we might assume that most who leave hold on to bitterness, and feel extreme animosity.
Yet Leah Forster does not fit this stereotype at all. She grew up in a Chassidic community in Boro Park, and after she broke some of the norms of the community, she was instructed by her mother not to attend her eventual funeral; that was their final communication. But Leah defends her community, expresses love for her family, and demonstrates genuine faith.
Scott and Leah talked about the community she came from, when she realized that she was attracted to women, what was the last straw that drove her family to reject her, how crucial it is to address mental health issues, whether she actually left Orthodoxy at all, and much more.
But the purpose of this interview transcends Leah’s story. It can teach us about the trouble with labels; it identifies the danger of caring primarily about what people will think, rather than what is best for our children; it points out that life is far from black and white, and that we can choose to love and defend even the people who hurt us the most. These are lessons that apply to all of us, and we need to take them to heart to ensure that we and our various communities live up to the values that matter most, rather than the values that we want other people to believe that we possess.
Please listen to and share this podcast, and let us know what you think on the Orthodox Conundrum Discussion Group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/432020081498108).
Thanks to all of our Patreon subscribers, who have access to bonus JCH podcasts, merch, and more – we appreciate your help, and hope you really enjoy the extras! Visit the JCH Patreon site at https://www.patreon.com/jewishcoffeehouse.
Visit https://www.jchpodcasts.com/ to learn all about creating your own podcast.
Music: “Happy Rock” by bensound.com