There’s a phenomenon in the Orthodox world which is called by various names, though most commonly “Off the Derech” or OTD, and “Datlash,” short for “Dati Leshe’avar” – that is, formerly religious. For a community which prides itself on continuity and on passing the tradition from one generation to the next, the idea that people leave Orthodoxy is simultaneously painful and threatening. Why did he or she leave? What didn’t work? Why don’t they see what I see… or perhaps, if we’re being truly honest with ourselves, what do they see that I may be missing? And when the people who reject an Orthodox way of life are members of our family, the difficulties are compounded.
Rabbi Alex Israel has given a lot of thought to this issue and these questions, and his insights are humane, generous, and rooted in Torah. Rabbi Israel and Scott spoke about whether the terms OTD and Datlash – and even “dati,” religious – are helpful or misleading, whether the phenomenon of people moving away from Orthodoxy is becoming more common, how it may be different in Israel and in the United States, whether we should actively try to bring those who have left Orthodoxy back into the Orthodox fold, if an emphasis on dogma is partially to blame, how parents should navigate having a child who is less religious than they are, what we can learn from those who leave Orthodoxy, and more.
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