Lea Lavy; Saturday, June 25, 2022; 2:00 PM-2:50 PM – online
People born into strict religions who decide to leave them remain in an in-between state even years later because of the internalization of the totalizing institutions in which they were raised. While converts into strict religious groups have considerable institutional support, the same is not true for those who transition into secular society. They are frequently stigmatized, rejected, and publicly humiliated by their former friends and communities. I argue that efforts required by former Ultra Orthodox Jews to adjust to a secular Jewish lifestyle, with no guidance to help them navigate the unfamiliar territories, are enormous. The lack of previous experience in autonomous thought, as they come from communities that demand blind following, further exacerbates the difficulty. For many, the Hasidic way of life with its all-encompassing support net are a source of comfort. Many of those leaving ultra-orthodox life have suffered violence, sexual abuse or have difficulties remaining in an ultra-Orthodox society because of their sexual identity. The aspiration to leave often results from a traumatic event or rejection the lead to religious doubts and aversion to ultra-Orthodox society. Some have spent a long time on the fringes of their community. Mental health is often also affected, as a result of the harm caused before leaving or as an accompanying factor to rejection from the ultra-Orthodox society. However, leaving means giving up everything familiar, and a close, enveloping community where one is never alone, with little sense of what could replace it. It is therefore crucial to examine the entirety of one’s account and creatively develop the supports needed as to navigate the complexities of role and identity change as these people transition from, within, back to, and out of Orthodoxies without the limiting implications that tend to be associated with deconversion.
University of Alberta
Lea Lavy is a Doctoral student at the University of Alberta, under the supervision of Dr. Stephen Kent. Mrs. Lavy holds an MBA in Educational management. From Israel to Nigeria, the United States, Mexico and Canada, Mrs. Lavy has spent the past 30 years teaching students of all ages and levels. The inspiration for her research came while teaching in an ultra orthodox school in Edmonton, Alberta. Having a unique insight into the ultra-Orthodox community as a non-orthodox Jew, made her consider different aspects of Judaism, the role(s) that society and leaders (Rabbis), and subsequently, religion, play in the life of individuals participants. Mrs. Lavy’s research explores ancient customs, devotional religious practices, and religious norms that lead to fanaticism and sectism, bring the practice of listening to the Rabbi to the extreme. The purpose of her research is to raise awareness to issues of abuse within the Orthodox Jewish community as well as abuses that may result from religious affiliations.