Zalman Newfield Interview – Degrees of Separation

In 1867, Isaac Joel Linetsky published his best selling Yiddish novel The Polish Lad. The book is a semi-autobiographic account of Linetsky’s rejection of his Hasidic upbringing and community. Linetsky’s protagonist left because he was disgusted by the Hasidic community’s closed ways, lack of morals, misogyny,  pettiness, and ignorance. However, the lad lacks the skills needed to survive in the outside world. He did not have language skills, secular education, or even the ability to dress, eat, or make conversation. The latter half of the book narrates his inability to make a living or find his way until a kind-hearted Reform rabbi has pity on him and helps him. This depiction of the lad is, in many ways, a typical description of what is now colloquially called the off derech-OTD (derech means path or way of life). This lad typifies how a hasid who grew up in a sheltered sectarian community and leaves it to enter the wider world despite lacking the requisite skills and education has to struggle to form a new identify.

Linetsky was not alone. At the end of the 19th century the majority of Polish-Russian village youth left the path and became secular believers in the many new movements- socialism, communism, Bund, civil rights party, Zionism- that were going to change Polish Jewish life. They moved to the cities such as Lublin, Lodz, Bialystok, or Odessa to seek their new lives. Some showed up at the Warsaw address of the famed Yiddish author I. L Peretz still wearing their long Hasidic garb but grasping a manuscript in hand telling him they wanted to be an author so they could tell their story.

In the last twenty years, there has been a bevy of similar cases of those leaving contemporary Hasidic communities and wanting to write about their stories. A significant group of those who left became authors writing at first hesitant blog posts, followed by memoirs and books. But do these novels contain an accurate sociological depiction of those who leave? To find out, Schneur Zalman Newfield, who is himself an Ex-Lubavitcher, one who left the path of Chabad, wrote his dissertation on the topic.    

Dr. Schneur Zalman Newfield is an assistant professor at Borough of Manhattan Community College. Newfield received his MA & PhD in Sociology from New York University and a BA from Brooklyn College, CUNY. Prior to attaining his academic position, he taught sociology courses for two years in six New Jersey state prisons through Rutgers University-Newark’s New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons (NJ-STEP) program. He has a reflection of his prison teaching experience- here. Newfield’s wrote a book on those who leave the Hasidic path today Degrees of Separation: Identity Formation While Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Judaism (Temple University Press, April 2020).

Leaving religion is not new. Secular ages and periods of religious recession have always been with us going back to the Roman Empire and ancient India. Most of Eastern European Jewry left the path in the early 20th century. The United States has been having religious recessions and inflations approximately every 35 years. In the 21st century, many American Evangelical Christians and Mormons are leaving their paths, which the American anthropologist James Bielo called deconverting. This follows a period of rapid religious revival in the 1990’s. This back and forth of pendulum of religious revival and recession is not new.

However, when an Evangelical forgoes the closed Christian culture, he or she speaks English as a native tongue and usually has received enough education to function in today’s world. Exceptions tend to be the segregated old-world Amish and those whose parents kept them away from education like the family depicted in the 2018 bestseller Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. When an early 20th century Hasid left to become a socialist, they usually still existed an all Yiddish world. But the contemporary ex-Hasid does not have the language skills or education that makes the transition easy. This is what Newfield studied, the transition from Hasid to ex-Hasid and the process of forming a new identity. They are like the Polish lad in Linetsky novel, having to completely change their identity.

(Modern Orthodox who graduate from a day school and then give up their religion in college already have full language and cultural skills, have full TV and pop-culture values, and do not have to be taught the basics of secular society or obtain a GED. Therefore, they should not be compared to the OTD who need to entirely form a new identity.)

Unlike the contemporary literary memoirs of ex-hasidim that generally present a complete break with their past, portraying those who leave as not going back and certainly not going back and forth or being indecisive or creating a new hybrid identity. The thesis of Newfield’s book, based on extensive interviews and collecting a statistically meaningful number of cases, is that many do create hybrid identities and do go back and forth. They want to maintain ties with family, friends, and accustomed aspects of their lives. People Newfield interviewed exhibited a range of degrees to which they have successfully moved beyond their religious upbringing and managed to create a new lifestyle and mode of being in the world.

Newfield divides his interviewees into three categories: trapped, hybrid, and disconnected, those who cannot form a new identity, those who combine aspects of both their new and their former lives, and those who completely sever connection with the past. But Newfield shows that even the latter category still struggle with their attraction to the old ways. These people may experience intense and unhealthy preoccupation with their upbringing.  Newfield’s data places most people in the middle category.  Newfield credits successful adjustment to being able to move beyond black and white thinking.

The most interesting parts of the book are those on the descriptions by ex-Hasidim of the fear of leaving, how leaving is treated as a pathology, and how one of the biggest shifts of thinking required is to stop denigrating non-Jews, goyim, and secular society as worthless, immoral, and valueless. He also discusses the various habits and traits that Ex-Hasidim retain after the formation of a new identity, such as right-wing values, anti-feminism, or shukling. He also deals with their anti-intellectualism and their need to acquire the basics of secular studies.  

The book is a very quick read and a solid sociology monograph to earn an academic position. Newfield should be commended for a fine first monograph, but it does not push far enough or hard enough. Essentials in the process of forming a new identity which I would want to know about include discussion of the changes in sartorial choices, eating, and leisure habits, finding a job, and how they became educated. The book points out how they had to become less demonizing of gentiles. But does that apply to only white gentiles? How about black and Hispanic gentiles? How about Christians who self-identify as Evangelical?  

Personally, I would have also wanted a frame analysis of an event with ex-Hasidim showing the hybridity of their choices. I would have also liked a greater sensitivity to socio-economic concerns in the viable options in forming a new identity. From where I sit in the township of Modern Orthodoxy, they cannot easily transition to Modern Orthodoxy or most Liberal Jewish communities because of the need for an upper middle-class income as well as having the worldview and class distinctions that maintain it. The book also does not directly address the issues of pain and psychic rupture from the transition.

The biggest question that the book consciously avoids is: why now? What are the social and historic factors that are leading to the current defection? For that, we need another book. The data would not be personal narratives but a social history of the last seventy years of how Hasidism was rebuilt in Brooklyn after WWII. That generation of immigrants adjusted to the new country by learning to be highly adaptive and pragmatic. How did they produce grandchildren without those skills that felt compelled to leave? How many of those who leave had parents and grandparents whose decisions played a role?

Finally, there is the rise of the Modern Hasidic, Hasidim who are in commerce, real estate, or have even gotten psychology degrees. Many of them stay in the community but are now more exposed to broader ideas, western culture, and their liberal Jewish co-workers. Are those who leave part of a broader phenomena of modernizing Hasidim or are they something completely separate? I hope that Newfield or another scholar devotes themselves to this topic

  1. How is this book autobiographical?

I was raised in the Lubavitch Hasidic community and exited it in my early twenties, so in a sense my research on people leaving their Hasidic upbringing is autobiographical. At the same time, I’ve worked very hard to separate my own personal experiences and emotions from those of the people I interviewed for my study.

For a long time, I’ve wondered who is best suited to study religious communities, those who were raised in them or those who come to it from the outside. Eventually I realized that there is no such thing as a completely “objective” scholar and that everyone brings their own biases, experiences, and concerns to their research. The most any scholar can do is to be honest about their background and orientation and to try to approach their work with an open mind. I have tried to live up to this standard. Studying others who left Hasidic communities has certainly opened my eyes to the many different kinds of exiters and to the realization that there are many particular circumstances that can shape people’s exit process and their feelings about it after the fact. I’m still figuring out the details of my next research project, but it will certainly explore some facet of ultra-Orthodox communities.           

2. Why is this topic an important topic?

There are several reasons why the study of ultra-Orthodox exiters is of interest. For one thing, according to some studies there are currently as many as ten thousand exiters from Orthodox Judaism throughout the world, with a majority living in the US but substantial minorities living in Israel and parts of Europe. That is not an insignificant number. In addition, there is some reason to believe that the rate of exit has increased in the past decade and it may continue to go up even higher in the foreseeable future, potentially brining into question the entire ultra-Orthodox way of life. 

Certainly, there are many examples—from public pronouncements by ultra-Orthodox leaders and articles in ultra-Orthodox publications—that these communities themselves view this issue as a major problem.  For example, Reb Aaron Teitelbaum, one of the spiritual leaders of the Satmar Hasidic community, in a tearful Yom Kippur speech in 2013 lamented the “lost neshumas,” the lost souls, who are leaving his community.  Similarly, thirty-three prominent Lubavitch rabbis from around the world issued a public statement proposing that community members get married earlier to ensure that members stay faithful to the community.  These statements illustrate that both communities are well aware of the fact that members are exiting and are trying to respond to this situation as they see fit.

From a sociological perspective, in addition to the inherent interest in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish case, there are broader insights this case illuminates that helps us understand all kinds of experiences of “exit” or radical personal transformation. This study is about the process of resocialization from a total institution and there are many other kinds of exiting from other total institutions.  For example, the experiences of immigrants, divorcees, and people leaving prison.  In all these cases people need to learn the new rules of their new society or circumstances, need to develop a new set of norms and behaviors, and they need to determine what parts of their previous selves they want to hold onto and what parts they want to let go.   

I should mention that there are many similarities among the experiences of those exiting ultra-Orthodox Judaism and those exiting other strict religions. One possible significant difference has to do with how the former religion is perceived by mainstream society. So, for example, if someone exits fundamentalist Islam, given the widespread Islamophobia in America, they may face greater scrutiny and suspicion than someone exiting ultra-Orthodox Judaism.  This suspicion may make it more difficult for them to speak openly about their upbringing and make it more difficult for them to develop new social contacts and fully integrate into the broader society.    

3. What does it mean to exit the Ultra-Orthodox world?

Scholars have used various terms to describe people leaving a religion. Some of these terms are value-laden such as “apostasy” or “heresy,” which tend to have negative connotations. Others terms also have other shortcomings. For example, the term “deconversion” implies that leaving a religion is the reverse of joining one, but that misses the mark since leaving a lifestyle one was born into and lived for decades tends to be much more gradual and less linear than the process of conversion.  One of the most popular phrases within the American Orthodox Jewish community to describe people leaving is “to go off the derech,” off the path, often referred to by community members as going OTD (off the derech).  This expression is certainly not neutral, since it assumes that there is a single “path” and that those who deviate from it are off that path, and negatively judges those who do so.

Among some Hasidim (notably Lubavitchers) they often describe exit-ers as “going frai;” the word “frai” is a Yiddish word derived from German, meaning “free.”  This phrase may sound less judgmental, or possibly even value-neutral, until the true meaning of the word “free” in this context is understood.  “Free” is not associated with a “free spirit” or “free as a bird,” but rather someone who is free from “the yoke of the sovereignty of Heaven” (ol malchus shamayim).  The person exiting is viewed as devoid of the constraining force of Jewish law and tradition and is as depraved as an animal wholly at the mercy of its natural passions.  I try not to use these phrases in my scholarship. Instead I use the term “exiting” because it is value neutral, and it leaves open the question of when they exited and whether they exited completely.

4. Is there any typology that can be made of those who leave?

The people I interviewed exhibited a range of degrees to which they have successfully moved beyond their religious upbringing and managed to create a new lifestyle and mode of being in the world. I divide the interviewees into three categories: trapped, hybrid, and disconnected.

Exiters who are “trapped” feel they are stuck, living in a no-man’s-land, as it were, uncomfortable and constantly struggling with the norms that they find in the outside world.

Exiters who are “hybrids” adopt new norms from the outside world while simultaneously incorporating a limited amount of their former community’s norms into their new lives.

Exiters who are “disconnected” appear on the surface to have replaced all of the norms of their former community with new ones, without any carry overs. Upon closer analysis, however, they still struggle with their attraction to the old ways. These people may experience intense and unhealthy preoccupation with their upbringing.  I would say that the majority of exiters would fall into the hybrid category, with only a small, but tragic, number of exiters comprising the trapped and disconnected categories. 

It is difficult to say exactly why some exiters thrive post exit while others falter. It does seem that an ability to transcend the rigid mindset of ultra-Orthodoxy that sees everything in black and white terms (for example, either God wrote the Torah and every word must be followed punctiliously or it was written by humans and is of no lasting import) is key to being able to adapt to mainstream secular society.    

5. How do Hasidim denigrate Goyim? How do they imagine Goyim live?

In Hasidic communities there is a tendency to view non-Jews, as “goyim,” as lower than and less than Jews.  The Hasidim tend to view non-Jews as less intellectual, less spiritual, and less moral than Jews.  Hasidim also tend to view non-Jews as more enslaved to their animal instincts and less capable than Jews of using their free will to make moral decisions.  As one of my Hasidic male interviewees told me, “I was taught that non-Jews have no choice, they have no free will.  My teachers went so far as to say that non-Jews were robots.” Along similar lines, a Hasidic woman told me, “I was taught that non-Jews are unclean….[Non-Jews] weren’t portrayed as caring, loving, family-minded people like us.  We live for our families, for our kids, we love our kids.  They don’t love their kids, they hurt their kids all the time.  There is so much abuse going on” in the goyish world.

One of the reasons why it is possible for the Hasidic community to promote such negative stereotypes of non-Jews is because there is very little genuine familiarity between the Hasidim and non-Jews. Hasidim tend to shop in Jewish own stores, go to Jewish (although largely non-Hasidic) doctors and dentists, patronize Jewish-own car services, and when they do interact with non-Jews such interactions tend to be brief and superficial.  What is more, when they do occasionally see non-Jewish strangers in their neighborhoods or in the news acting immorally, they use this as evidence that the Hasidic negative preconceptions of non-Jews are correct.  It is a kind of confirmation bias.  Overcoming this negative attitude towards non-Jews is certainly one of the major hurdles exiters must overcome.     

6. How is exiting prevented? What is the role of fear?

For people contemplating exiting their community, fear plays a huge role. Hasidim tend to know very little about the outside secular world; therefore they are understandably terrified about surviving on their own on the outside without the supports they can often expect to receive from their community were they to remain inside. Because of this fear, most people who think about exiting tend to decide not to go through with it. 

For those who decide to exit anyway, their Hasidic communities have various ways to try to prevent it.  Among the Lubavitch and Satmar communities I studied, I found that these communities tended to denigrate those who exited and claim that there were no “legitimate” reasons for exit. All those who exited were viewed as doing so in order to satiate their lusts.

Among the Satmar community, but not the Lubavitch one, it was common for the religious schools to expel children whose parents deviated religiously. This was a major weapon against those starting to deviate religiously since all the neighborhood Hasidic schools were in alliance, and if a child were expelled from one school another school in the area would not accept that child. This meant that if the parents still wanted their children to attend a religious school, they would need to move to a new neighborhood with a different school system. So, expelling a child from a school was a way to force a religiously deviating family to move.

Of course, for those parents who were farther along in their process of exiting and no longer wanted their children to attend a religious school, the Satmar community had another weapon at its disposal. It would forcefully inset itself in the child custody hearings to ensure that the parent who remained in the community retained full custody of the children.  The community would arrange to have former friends and neighbors of the exiter come to court and testify that the exiter was not a fit parent.  The community also raised money to cover legal costs and other expenses to assist the parent remaining in the community.  The threat of an exiter potentially losing all contact with his or her children is very real and is a major disincentive for would-be exiters to exit.      

7. How and why does the community pathologize exiting?

Hasidic communities pathologize exiting by arguing that those who exit are mentally ill (meshuga).  They maintain this position for several reasons. For one thing such a position attempts to remove from public discourse any legitimacy from the motives or actions of exiters.  That is, it implies that there is no legitimate reason for exiting, these exiters are simply out of their mind.  It also acts as a deterrence to others who might be thinking about exiting.  How many people are going to decide to exit when they know that their own family and friends will go around saying that they suffered from a mental illness. 

It is also possible that these communities maintain that exiters have a mental illness out of a genuine bafflement at the choices exiters make.  That is, these communities cannot fathom how someone in their right mind who knows so much about the Hasidic way of life could choose to live in violation of its norms—it must be that person is crazy!     

8. How does your research show that ex-Hasidim do not cut off ties with the past including family and ways of life?

My research found that the majority of exiters continue to maintain at least some connection with their families post exit. There was range in terms of how connected exiters were to their families post exit. Some exiters only called their families before major Jewish holidays and endured awkward conversations, some visited a few times a year and suffered through stilted conversations, and others continued to enjoy regular loving—although still complicated—meaningful family contact.   This finding is significant because there is a general perception among some scholars and the public that once people exit from the Hasidic community they are completed cut off from their families.  Some outsiders even believe that Hasidic families sit shiva for the exit-er, as if the person had actually died.  Of the seventy-four exiters I interviewed, I only confirmed one case where parents sat shiva, and that case had two distinct characteristics: The exiter not only stopped being Orthodox but also married a non-Jewish women (which was uncommon among the majority of exiters) and the leader of the exiter’s community had a personal antagonism against the exiters.  This antagonism grew out of the fact that the exiter had publicized sexual abuse inside his community of origin. 

I should mention that the image that emerges from memoirs written by those who exit the ultra-Orthodox community may conflict with my findings. These memoirists may give the impression of being completely cut off post exit. Assuming the veracity of their claims, there is a simple explanation for the discrepancies. Specifically, these personal memoirs may represent the narratives of a marginal group who are indeed so disconnected from their family and community that they feel free to write about it and tell the whole world their personal story.  However, for the majority of ultra-Orthodox exiters who still connections with their family or community have they are loath to publicly discuss their disagreements with the community for fear of causing offense and jeopardizing those relationships. 

9. How do they retain and give up many habits after exiting?

My research also found that exiters continue to hold on to aspects of their upbringing as well, what scholars call “role residuals.”  Examples of this include the way that some exiters continue to maintain the socially conservative attitudes from their upbringing regarding race and gender.

Other exiters continue to hold onto some of the bodily behaviors that were instilled in them growing up such as swaying (shuckling) while reading a book, even though now the book they are reading is not a “sacred” text.  It must be stressed that these role residuals are not simply things that exiters choose to hold on to because they enjoy or appreciate them. Instead, these are more like habits that they are either unaware of or unable to jettison even if they want to.  The presence of these role residuals is significant because it highlights how much of an effect the  upbringing has them, even if (or especially when!) we are unaware of it.      

One pattern to emerge in terms of which habits exiters maintained from their upbringing and which they discarded, was that habits that were not supported by the outside world (such as the denigration of non-Jews) were much less likely to be maintained.

On the other hand, habits that found support from at least some segment of the broader public (such as conservative attitudes towards race and gender) were more likely to be maintained. That is, it is possible for exiters to tune into conservative talk radio and hear people promoting reactionary views on race and gender. Therefore, it is possible for exiters to feel like these views are not simply “Hasidic” and should be maintained. But it is extremely unlikely for exiters to find non-Orthodox Jews (let alone non-Jews) who would agree that none-Jews are less than full human beings. Therefore, it is very unlikely that exiters will maintain the kind of anti-goy attitudes from their upbringing. 

10. How is Hasidism anti-intellectual?  Do Ex-Hasidim often substitute Dawkins and Hitchens for Torah, trading a religious fundamentalism for an atheist fundamentalism?

Hasidic communities tend to be anti-intellectual in several ways. For one thing, they tend to disparage secular knowledge as “foreign knowledge” (chochmas chitzonim) and limit or entirely prevent members from learning in school even such basic subjects as English reading and writing and rudimentary mathematics.  This not only limits members knowledge of these specific secular subjects but also limits the imagination and exploration regarding the physical universe and the outside world in general.  This general pattern exists within both the Lubavitch and Satmar communities.      

Hasidic communities also tend to place strict ideological boundaries around the religious subjects that they teach in their schools.  So, for example, students in yeshiva will be discouraged from asking the “wrong” kind of questions when studying the Bible or the Talmud, such as questions that challenge God’s omniscience or the wisdom of particular legal rulings of the sages.

When people leave their Hasidic upbringing, they often reject its theological foundations. Approximately 16 percent of the exiters I interviewed become atheists, the rest were agnostics or maintained some form of belief in god. Many of these atheist exiters are attracted to the “four horsemen” of New Atheism (Hitchins, Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett) and embrace these authors simplistic critique of religion as based primarily on theological beliefs which they reject as superstitious. Atheist exiters sometimes also embrace the Islamophobia rampant among the New Atheists.

11. What do the gender attitudes remain after exiting?

About a third of the exiters I interviewed expressed conservative gender attitudes. That is, they said that men and women were fundamentally different and that there were certain types of jobs, specifically being a rabbi, which were better suited to men than women.  Interestingly, these were the same views as those of people inside the Hasidic community.  I think one reason these views of gender remain with exiters is that they are supported by socially conservative voices in the broader society. This support reinforces these views among exiters and allows them to feel like this is not one of the things that are unique to the Hasidic community and therefore should be rejected. It is also possible that since views about gender are related in their minds to embodied differences, this embodied aspect may naturalize these views and make them less susceptible to change.    

12. What is your method? How do you differ from others?

My main research method is to use in depth interviews. This is a significant methodological difference between my study and most other studies on ultra-Orthodox Jews, which tend to use ethnographies and participant observations.    

I wanted a method that would allow me to have extended conversations with exiters in order to find out exactly what they were thinking and how they made sense of their own experiences and transformations.  I’m not aware of any other contemporary study of ultra-Orthodoxy based primarily on in-depth interviews.

My interviews tended to last about two and a half hours and I tried as much as possible to let the interviewees describe their own experiences in a way that made sense to them without superimposing my own sociological issues and concerns on their narratives. Once I finished conducting interviews, I pored over their transcripts and searched for emergent patterns. 

I’ve learned so much from the many insightful ethnographic works on Orthodoxy.  One book in particular that inspired me was Ayala Fader’s Mitzvah Girls. Although our methods differ, I greatly appreciated how serious Fader took her subject and how she wasn’t afraid to describe honestly what she observed, even if it made for occasionally uncomfortable reading, such as when she described the anti-goy messages rampant in the Hasidic girls schools she observed.   

13. What did they become religiously after exiting?

Out of the seventy-four people I interviewed, only eight could be classified now as Modern Orthodox and only five actively embraced some form of liberal Judaism.  The rest tended to create their own amalgam of Jewish rituals and practices as they saw fit.  As one exiter I interviewed put it, “For some weird reason when it comes to Hanukah and the menorah, there was one year I was like “Ok let’s just do this,” but this year I didn’t light it once.  I mean I wouldn’t not light it. I’ve come to the point that I could enjoy those things. But I don’t of my own volition do anything religious.” 

As a sociologist nothing would please me more than being able to identify a clear pattern to explain why particular exiters ended up in particular places religiously, but I could not find such a pattern.  For people raised ultra-Orthodox and socialized to believe that conforming to Orthodox religious standards is the highest ideal and that Judaism is an all or nothing proposition, it is extremely difficult for exiters to develop their own sense of Jewishness and to feel confident to embrace some aspects of Judaism while disengaging from others.  Being able to improvise in this way is an expression of religious open-mindedness and creatively not typically associated with ultra-Orthodoxy.  

14. You seem to trust the narratives, as a sociologist should not you question them more?

Although my research is based on interviews with exiters, and although I take what exiters tell me seriously, I do not accept it uncritically as fact.  That is, throughout my work I make it clear that I do not view what exiters tell me as the causal reason for their exit as a straightforward fact. Rather I analyze what exiters tell me in order to understand how they make sense of their experiences.  So, when exiters tell me that they left their community for intellectual or social reasons, rather than assuming that these explanations are the causal reasons for their behavior, I look at these explanations as narratives that invite scholarly interpretation.  And it is as “narratives” that I present them in my scholarship.  Analyzing exiter narratives in this way allowed me to discover not only that there were differences among exiters in terms of how they explained their motivations for exiting—some giving primacy to intellectual critiques of religious texts and their communities and others giving primacy to feelings of alienation and disconnect with their upbringing—I also discovered that there was intense competition between these two groups and mutual recriminations against each other. 

Those who gave intellectual narratives argued that if one does not leave for intellectual reasons, they are not real exiters.  They claimed that if the exiters do not have “real” problems with their community, as soon as they realize how hard it is to start over in mainstream society, they will come running back to the community to be readmitted.  Conversely, those who consider their reasons for leaving to be emotional or social, often ridicule the “intellectuals” for their self-deception.  They say things like: “These people think that they are so smart and so much better than the rest of us. Really, they left for the same reasons that we left but they don’t want to admit it, so they protect themselves by claiming intellectual reasons.”

15. I encounter Hasidim who are in commerce, real estate, or even gotten psychology degrees. Many of them stay in the community but are now more exposed to broader ideas, western culture, and their liberal Jewish co-workers. How do you see them changing? Is it in continuity with the OTD? Many of the things you noted also apply to these “Modern Hasidic”?

This might get me into trouble with my fellow sociologists, but in general I try to avoid grand schemas or systems of classification as much as possible.  My study explores the lives of those raised in the Hasidic community who decide to exit it. There are certainly many other members of ultra-Orthodoxy who are exposed to the secular world to some degree or other and who change some aspects of their thinking or behavior while remaining in their community of origin.  These people are sometimes referred to as “Modern Hasidic.”  These people are certainly interesting and should be studied, but this would be a very different kind of study.    

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