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Leaving the Fold (Quitter le Bercail) cover image

Leaving the Fold (Quitter le Bercail) 2008

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Bunbury Films Inc., 5725 Ave de l'Esplanade, Montreal (QC) H2T 2Z9, Canada
Produced by Frederic Bohbot, Evan Beloff
Directed by Eric R. Scott
DVD, color, 52 min. English, Hebrew and French with English subtitles; optional French soundtrack with English subtitles; and optional French subtitles for Hebrew portion

Jr. High - Adult
Jewish Studies

Date Entered: 02/22/2010

Reviewed by Maureen Puffer-Rothenberg, Valdosta State University, Valdosta, GA

Leaving the Fold profiles five young men and women who left “ultra-orthodox” Hasidic Jewish communities and started new lives in the secular world. They talk about why they chose secular life, what happened when they left home, and the impact Orthodox Judaism still has on their lives.

Levi and Hudi Riven are brothers who have established lives and careers outside the Hasidic community. Levi talks about how rule-bound Hasidic life is, to the point where rubbing one’s eyes on awakening is forbidden. He wanted to “listen to non-Jewish music, watch movies, go to bars, get drunk, socialize, maybe get laid—without feeling guilty . . . without it being wrong,” but in the end worldly experiences were less important to him than simply having choices. Levi and his brother remain close to their father Pinchus, with whom they still participate occasionally in religious rituals; their respect and affection for each other is evident as the three men discuss the situation over beer. In interviews Pinchus expresses his hope that his sons will return to religious life, and his conviction that family ties remain strong regardless of the choices his sons make.

Basya Schecter is a singer/songwriter based in New York City. She was drawn to music and dance from a young age but could not express herself freely through music in the ultra-orthodox world, where women were not even allowed to sing in public. She left to travel and seek artistic freedom, although her songs are is still inspired by traditional music.

Sara Lock lived in one of the most orthodox and isolated communities in Jerusalem; her family was violently attacked after her sister was seen wearing trousers. Lock explains how the Jerusalem organization Hillel provides clothing for people who have left orthodox life, to help them blend in to secular communities. A young man identified only as Z explains that he still feels a strong connection to Orthodox Judaism even though he felt compelled to leave the community where he grew up. Z left a wife and children behind and his pain is evident, presenting a contrast to the relatively positive outlook expressed by Lock, Schecter and the Riven brothers. Lock and Z discuss sexual issues; Lock wasn’t told about menstruation and was frightened by her first period. Z describes his arranged marriage with a girl he barely knew, and says that for both the man and woman a wedding night under such circumstances is essentially rape.

Montreal’s Rabbi Snir Bitton maintains connections with young people who have left the faith. Bitton says Hasidic life is difficult, and trying to follow its many rules can engender guilt. He suggests young people leave the faith because they believe so strongly and become disillusioned when even their elders cannot meet the standards they teach.

Interview subjects are given ample time on-camera to express their views, and are also shown in footage of their everyday lives in new jobs and among new friends. Their accounts also serve as voiceovers to rare scenes of orthodox neighborhoods and Hasidic gatherings, often focusing on children (who in one scene throw rocks at the camera).

This film is highly recommended for students in Jewish studies or those interested in the tensions between the secular world and Orthodox Jews.