Monday, April 6, 2015

All Who Go Do not Return

      I just finished reading Shulem Deen's memoir All Who Go Do not Return .It is the first  of the recent batch of off the derech memoirs that I have not found offensive. Perhaps it is because Deen was a little older when he left frumkeit that his story is a little more palatable. Perhaps it is because his book tells his story and lets the reader form his or her own opinion of his situation. I am not convinced that he feels so civil about the aftermath of his leaving his community but I appreciate his attempt nonetheless. After reading Deborah Feldman's juvenile first book and Leah Vincent's attempt at the National Enquirer Deen's book is a welcome change. If his children ever read his book they will not feel ashamed even if they do not agree with the path he has chosen.
     Shulem Deen is the son of former non observant Jews who became frum  and Hasidic as young adults . Deen grew up non denominational Hasidic in Borough Park, Brooklyn and at 13 chose to be a Skverer Hasid and eventually moved to New Square , married and had 5 kids. Somewhere along the line after realizing he had not been given the skills to support a family and slowly becoming more aware of the outside world via books and computer he realizes there are other ways of life . He lost his belief in G-d and in yiddishkeit.  He tries to stay within the fold because of his children but eventually he feels he must be true to his convictions and leave. At first he and his ex wife have an amicable child custody agreement but eventually that crumbles. He felt that he chose the life he had to but naively did not anticipate what the fallout might be.
       At the end of the book he briefly mentioned that his mother and siblings have not abandoned him  despite his lack of religious affiliation. I wish he would have includ more about his grandparents and other non frum relatives and if and what kind of relationship he had with them as a child.
        I hope that my review of this book does not seem as too much of a spoiler. That was not my intention . I actually had heard of Shulem Deen's story through the grapevine and had read parts of his blog hasidic rebel and unpious periodically before reading his memoir. It does not spoil anything .What makes the book interesting is reading his point of view and the way he tells his story. It is important to note in the afterward that he states that his book is not meant to convince anyone that his path of belief is the only way merely that it's the path he has chosen for himself. Whether or not this is what he truly believes I do not know but I would say that this is what the tone of his book portrayed. It truly is the story of why he left not the story of why everyone should leave. I hope he finds peace.


Mr. Cohen said...

Skverer is a very extreme lifestyle that is NOT appropriate for most Jews, especially those who grew up in America.

If Mr. Deen had not joined Skverer, then he might not have gone "off the derech."

frum single female said...

That is probably true