A Mother’s Murder

There is no good way to start a post about how far the velt can push you into darkness. How that darkness becomes so vast and dense that moving a hand to reach a phone to call for help seems like an ordeal far too arduous to make it worthwhile.

There is no good way to make sense of a 33 year old mother’s suicide.

It is senseless.

It was preventable.

Deb Tambor reached out to me a long time ago. We chatted on Facebook for a while, exchanging horror stories about our children’s alienation from us. My heart broke for her and for other non-custodial mothers I spoke to. I stopped chatting because I couldn’t bear to add to the grief I felt or take away my own energy fighting the battle I needed to fight.

It was my problem, too.

Ultra-Orthodox, Chassidish Judaism ripped away the children Deb Tambor carried in her body and raised from the moment they took their first breath. They taunted her, taught her children that she was less of a human because she dared question the tenets of a cult so evil they would rip a mother’s heart out to prove a point.

There are people, in New Square and beyond, who are feeling justified in their actions tonight. To those people, I pledge defiance. I pledge ferocity.

I pledge truth.

Deb Tambor was murdered.

She was pushed so far and abused so much that suicide was the only way to release herself from the exquisite pain of losing her children.

I am breaking for her children tonight, as I write with a lump in my throat and fuzzy eyes. Had it not been for the woman who took me in when I left the velt, I could be in Deb’s position. The rabbit-hole of depression when you cannot see your children but for an hour or two each month is deep, dark and physically crippling. You can even start here. If you need to speak to someone, reach out. Call anyone. Help exists. myderech at gmail.

To Deb’s partner, I wish peace. To Deb’s children, I wish release from the system that drove their mother to remove herself altogether from their lives. To the rabbonim and leaders, blood is on your hands.

May Deb Tambor’s memory be a point of cohesion for us, especially in the community off the derech.

Expose the evil posing as piety.

Strike it down for good.

Rest peacefully, Deb.

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33 responses to “A Mother’s Murder

  1. I agree that the New Square community might have gone too far with everything and all, but I always read those stories where they say that ultra orthodox Jews are the worst ppl on this universe, like separating children from their birth giving mothers and separating their moms from society, but we have to take a point into account over here, and everywhere where bashing ultra orthodox Jewry is a ‘must’… It has nothing to do with the general ppl of the community, you can’t just stamp all the rabbonnim as worse of worst… There are just some rotten tomatoes among us… And everywhere else!! Not everything is everybody. And not everybody is everything, think before you spread a statement or article on the Chasidim… They’re good ppl… Great ppl, but like every other community out there, they have rotten tomatoes as well…

    • Complacency and inaction are as much to blame here as those who actively pursued Deb Tambor. The rotten ones are the ones who did nothing while she was villified. They are the ones who stood by and didn’t speak up about how wrong it was for a mother to have her children turned against her so viciously.

      The velt is rotten. How much longer are we going to turn a blind eye to the evil that exists in our communities? Just because it doesn’t affect us now does not mean that we won’t find ourselves in similar situations down the road. My community, your community, everyone’s community. If you are truly a believer that yiddishkeit is the right derech in life, then you must acknowledge that the inactions of the masses will cause the entire fabric to disintegrate.

      • The problem, at it’s core, I have realized, is faith in religion itself. A religion:
        which believes itself to be the be-all-and-end all of all existence;
        which makes clear unambiguous statements like
        גדול המחטיאו יותר מההורגו – “it is worse to cause someone to sin that to kill him”;
        which has extremely clear-cut stories as part of its pantheon of a father willing and happy to KILL his own flesh and blood son (!) for the sake of an impossibly unknowable God;
        which constantly drums in that the greatest act a person can do is “sanctifying the name of God” by complete and utter devotion and ביטול העצמיות – total cancellation of one own’s desires and wants for the sake of Heaven;
        such a religion would OF COURSE totally remove a child from their parent’s contact if it serves the greater purpose of serving Hashem.
        Any Frum person claiming otherwise is not a true believer or simply does not fully comprehend the full import of what true belief in Hashem and the Torah demands.

  2. The problem is that the religious people will look at it as, she left the derech she was miserable and depressed, she didn’t have any happiness from this kind of life, so she killed herself. They won’t even see it as their fault. Sick cult!

    • I won’t speculate on whether or not they’re feeling guilty. I do know it’s spooked my own family into asking uncomfortable questions today.

      It is a cult, and they are ill. How do we fix it?

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  4. This is a problem that extends beyond New Square and the chassidish velt. It happens in every spectrum of the orthodox world. This was an avoidable tragedy. Now, how can we prevent it from happening again?

  5. my children aare embarrassed of me and have been taught that I will hurt their prospects for any kind of future. My one child who still loves me is thriving and happy and successful. I live for her, but it would be impossible to stay alive if all 3 hated me.

    • Unfortunately, Marisa – I am in the very same boat. I struggled through the depths of depression when I left, and it’s my youngest that keeps me getting out of bed in the morning.

      The velt is cruel and vicious. We need to speak out.

  6. This is what happens when we limit our point of view to that of the surface.
    It results in confusing people with actions.

    Some people view others as actions by themselves.
    They view others as soulless,mindless,emotionless,beings.
    They view others as lifeless pieces of machinery.

    It becomes results at all costs.
    It becomes action just for the sake of action.

    The connection and relationship,the meaning and purpose of those actions just ends up being skipped way over to the wayside.

    Ignoring the persons individuality is akin to ignoring the uniqueness of the individual parts of your body. The body as a whole is bound by the laws of the group. However,the individual parts of that body help to process,chew,digest,absorb,and discard the waste,all in their own unique way.

    Each part plays its unique important role.
    Each part makes its own unique ontribution.

    Some do more,some do less.

    Each part requires continuous adaptation to fulfill its needs.
    Those needs will continue to fluctuate with their environment.

    As long as the parts are in sync with one another,the body will stay in a state of balance and unity.

    However,if for example,the Foot (considered in Chassidus to resemble action) wants to have its way with the Heart,it could end up leading to a Heart attack.

    It could end up leading to a broken Heart.
    It may end up shattering that Heart to bits and pieces.

    The broken Heart will cause the rest of the body to begin breaking down,because that rest of the body cannot function without it.

    The Foot needs to instead,allow room for the Heart to beat.

    There are times when you need to give that Heart a rest.

    There are also times when you need to get to the Heart of the matter.

    There are times when you need to get to the why.
    There are times when you need to see how the body as a whole applies to you personally,as an individual.

    Feeling like you are part of the whole will pump life giving blood into the rest of your body.
    It will infuse that body with spirit,meaning and purpose.

    There are also times where you need to allow room for the Heart to heal.

    A Heart which has been shattered into pieces can longer re-charge itself from the source,because it has no more connection to its breath. It needs to first become still and allow itself room for newer,cleaner air. It needs a different kind of air.

    It needs the kind of air which is undefined,which is not subject to the conditions of its environment. It needs the kind of air which comes from the breath of G-Ds innermost being. It needs unconditional love,faith,and acceptance.

    Otherwise,the shattered Heart will end up having no individual connection. Having no individual connection will lead to having no individual purpose,and having no individual purpose can sometimes end up leading to suicide.

    My Heart goes out to the soul of Deb Tambor!
    My Heart also goes out to the rest of the world for its terrible loss!

  7. If they would believe and have confidence in what their teaching in the chasidish community they would have no problem with kids seeing their mother who thinks a bit differently, the problem is that they know their teaching nonsense and bullshit so they try to avoid as much as they can their people from seeing the other side

  8. its a terrible tragedy!! and i cry for everyone involved.
    BUT this has nothing to do with the Jewish religion it has to do with someones desire to change Jewish children from growing up in a way that they where born in too, and regardless of if you think its the right level of Judaism is not a justifiable means to take that chance away from the children themselves to make that decision on there own when they get older.

    Again im not saying one is right or one is wrong all im saying is that we all know that if your born a jew you will always be a jew and if you were born in one level of Judaism and you want out, you cant drag the kids with you not until they had a chance to decide when they get older (which in this country is 18) what is right for them

    do not blame suicide of a 33 year old mom who did not want to be really frum and missed her kids and killed herself, on hashems holy children!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Is it holy of Hashem’s children to desecrate the memory of a mother? To prevent her friends – her family of choice – to honor her life at her levaye?

      There is nothing holy about the chassidic community’s actions before and after the death of Deb Tambor. If you are truly a child of Hashem, start with examining yourself and your actions before placing the blame on Deb or the OTD community.

      I believe Hashem is weeping for Deb, for her children and for the treatment she received at the hands of Skver. The actions of Skver, Twersky and the wider community were anything but holy.

    • An utterly ridiculous comment. You obviously know nothing about the history of this case, nor do you care to. Your only goal is to protect your belief system.

      The people who caused this woman to commit suicide – including the judge who was obviously bought and paid for – are guilty of murder. Her father, who testified against her, should be put down like a rabid animal. They are NOT “hashems holy children”, and placing multiple exclamation points after the phrase doesn’t make it true, no matter how desperately you want it to be.

  9. What could’ve been avoided was, thank G-d, avoided, namely the inevitable future homicide of the spiritual, mental and possibly physical being of her children, by the decisions she made and the actions she took, if only she’d gotten custody.

    Thankfully, the courts backed by mental practitioners have increasingly been able to see through the thin veil of the so-called benefits of allowing the deviating parent shared custody, and recognized the great harm caused to their young minds by having to cope with the trauma of contrasting life cultures and contradictory messages in their most vulnerable years, let alone when they’re very often also used as a stick against their former communities and spouse.

    I don’t wish the pain and agony of a parent loosing custody on anyone, regardless of their choice of faith, but let it be very clear – especially to anyone still contemplating leaving their current (if outwardly) affiliation – you are entitled to live your life as you wish so long as you don’t mess up your child’s life in the process. (Mind you, children from divorced parents where religion does not come into play, have their share of trauma as is, yet when religion is a factor the trauma is amplified and multiplied by factors of tens.) Do not expect the world to see the glee and glamor that you envision, as promising and worth the risk as you think. You will be taking your chances knowing fully in advance that your prior children are not to be dragged through the turmoil of the journey that you choose to embark on. Expect and be ready to go without them.

    And, should this tragic episode bring awareness to any potential OTD parents (or a solo BT parent, for that matter) contemplating their choices and thus help avoid any potential trauma due to child-custody battles by knowing what to expect and making the choices accordingly; then surely it will be a big zchus for the ailing neshama of this unfortunate Deb Tambor.

    • What? I am sickened by “Am Yisrroel Chai’s” response! I wonder if two parents got divorced because one was invited for Shabbat to Chabad or Aish and then decided to turn the house upside down by koshering it and altering the children’s lifestyle, ie.,no more little league or tv shabbat afternoon ?? What if all this caused marital strife as it most oftentimes does…should the newly orthodox parent lose custody and deserve what they get and thank God the court system will see through their selfish acts and not damage the children by exposing them to this orthodox lifestyle that the Baal tshuva parent decides to bring into their home… The Baal tshuva parent will feel their eyes have been opened and they don’t want to have their children grow up in an “empty and meaningless culture” where Torah and Mitzvos are not there…. Well that is what most OTD think of the religious world…and their eyes are opened to the empty meaningless and empty based on ridiculous chumrahs that are man made lives…and they don’t want to expose their children to it anymore… Should any one of these parents lose custody and rights to their own children because anyone feels that it would disrupt their childhood? Not having a parent disrupts a child’s childhood
      Anyone who thinks any child should be removed from their parent because of a belief is part of a cult.
      That being said I was removed from my Mother by my Baal Tshuva Father… For the same of my Neshama…I grew up satmar, the entire community was involved in hiding me and my 2 siblings, our names were changed…I met her when I was 17…I stopped keeping anything at 17.
      It has taken me years to appreciate our Jewish culture after all the anger and pain, my sister was 21 when we found her she already had 3 kids (one with cerebral palsy that was very hard for her to handle as a teenager…she refused to let my Mother meet her kids so as not to ” “influence” them
      My heart breaks for Deb’s kids…when will this mishogas and selfishness for the “sake of the kids” end?????
      Gamarnu!

      • I alluded to your question in the last paragraph in parenthesis, in that the same logic would be held against a solo BT parent wanting to go his or her way, yes he should be ready to give up shared custody for the sake of the mental well being of the children regardless of the truth or promise that his new path is to benefit them.

        I’m sorry to hear that you were put through such a struggle at the hands of your father and that you were basically held captive by people in the community. Based on the limited facts mentioned, I can’t justify it nor condemn it, I just hope it never happens again.

        Yet, as someone who has experienced it first hand, I ask you to take a cue from your experience and apply the same logic to the opposite end of the spectrum and imagine the turmoil Deb’s children would’ve had to endure if they were to be dragged away from their childhood upbringing by their mother and faced similar, albeit reversed, emotional stress as you had to endure. can you not?

    • You’re a contemptible imbecile – a credit to your rebbaim. May you live to see your children reject everything in which you believe.

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  11. divorce is pain. the religion was just a crossfire here. Everyone who decides to leave the chassidishe community is aware that their children will not be their’s to take along. Major decisions come along with major consequences. Life is not fair either way. There is one major misconception you all have, secular life is not so blissful and the trade off does not gain the freedom imagined. Before one decides on suicide, there are enough people in the frum community that are here to help. There is a popular clip of the Lubavitch Rebbe Z”L, with an encounter with a yid that left the religion. The Rebbe vinched him “A Refuah Shelama”, the man proclaimed, ” I am not ill, Rebbe”. The Rebbe replied, ” You are very ill”.
    This is a very sad story. May her neshama have an aliyah.

    • “Before one decides on suicide, there are enough people in the frum community that are here to help.”

      This is simply not true. It was the frum community that drove her to suicide. You’re merely trying to rationalize your own life decisions.

  12. The truth needs to be told – I think most posters here might be missing an important point:

    This isn’t a story about treatment of “OTD” members of the community.

    New Square / Skver acts this way to ANYONE that…

    1) Once belonged to the community, and …

    2) Dares to publicly express doubts about their false version of Orthodox Judaism.

    It his nothing to do with going OTD. Really.

    They did the same parental alienation thing to me – a STILL 100% ULTRA-ORTHODOX JEW.

    I was punished for getting disgusted by the ongoing moral lapses, financial shenanigans and deceptions that constantly go on in the upper echelons there. I knew what was going on, since at the time I was affiliated with several of their organizations and – at one time – a confident of the Rebbe.

    I knew that the Rebbe was (and IS) a fake, because he supported – and continues to support – frightening ethical & moral lapses, INCLUDING SERIOUS HALACHIC AND HASHKAFIC LAPSES.

    When I refused to stay silent, a campaign of demoralization, deception, dehumanization, and “gaslighting” followed.

    They’re experts at “blowing off” any concerns that don’t fit their agenda, and making you feel like trash. Tearing families apart? Fair game.

    There is nothing sacred in their book, once you dare to expose their failings. They will do EVERYTHING to demolish you, including spreading false rumors of the worst kind.

    Ms. Tambor writes:
    My very own father,
    Not only has he betrayed me
    He made up lies

    They betrayed me, too – BECAUSE I REFUSED TO STAY SILENT!

    Many INSIDERS feel as I do, but that would never dear to speak up, because they know that their whole social support network and life-long affiliations would be DEMOLISHED.

    So… let’s call a spade a spade, ok?

    • Thank you for sharing your truth, Yokel. I agree that the upper echelons of Skvere leadership sound morally and financially corrupt.

      What happened to Deb Tambor, what happened to you, what happened to Aron Rottenberg (and loads of others) is disgusting. I don’t know where to start, but in America in 2013 this shouldn’t be allowed to happen.

      I’m calling a spade a spade, and a cult a cult. Now, how do we stop it?

      • Dear C:
        Please excuse my delay in responding, I haven’t been to your blog for a while and therefore didn’t notice your post.

        I too am very much interested in doing everything possible to stop the murderous injustices being perpetuated – count me in on that front.

        There is, however, a caveat: I have every intention of never giving up on Torah Judaism. If that’s okay with you – I’m very much interested in brainstorming.

        In fact, the thoughts swirling in my mind are centered on clarifying the in-congruence between what the Torah says to what these leaders CONTINUOUSLY practice – without a shred of remorse.

        Just thinking out loud, more than anything else, perhaps our goal should be to enlighten the thousands of well-meaning people that are sucked into a life of condoning emotional blackmail, ugliness and inhumanity masquerading as righteousness, by showing them how such falsities are the antithesis of what authentic religion is about.

        If that’s okay with you – please respond positively…. and we can perhaps work together.

  13. I wish I had something positive to contribute. I wish I could get up and take a stand against the cruelties committed in this world. But I don’t think my voice would matter.
    I do want to say (and I am prepared for the stoning) that NOT all Jews are like these communities you come from . NOT all frum Jews treat their fellow brothers in such a horrific manner. There ARE communities all over the world where any kind of Jew is accepted and loved. There ARE Rabbis who are honest and kind and loving.
    Yes, there are disgusting cults that we know exist but that is NOT yiddishkeit. Come to me for Shabbos and I will show you what true Judaism is. And trust me, I have no interest in being mekarev anyone. I can understand why someone would leave. But come to my shul, come to my community. Come to my Shabbos table. And you will see that we are not oppressed or controlled. We choose to be here. And we are happy.

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  15. Being from a religious sect and still sticking to it, I do not condemn all orthodoxy. I do think though, that there are a few concepts that the orthodox community doesn’t get right. for example that when a person kills themselves it is excepted as “just been a crazy or mentally ill person.”
    The truth is that when someone commits suecide it’s because they are trying to get out of a pain greater then the pain of death. in Deb Tuamber’s case “the pain of not seeing her children.”

    My son is in her sons class and he communicated to me that his friends mother was crazy. What can I say to him?

  16. I’m not sure you can say anything to him, other than that his mother loved him very much and was heartbroken to be away from him. I don’t know what people tell my children about me, and I’m fairly certain it is never positive. Deb’s children should hear that their mother loved them. They should hear that their mother had excruciating pain whenever she thought of their absence in her life. They should think that their community slowly drove their mother to suicide.

    I don’t know what you tell your son except you love him, and that he should show kindness to everyone – even those who don’t conform to his lifestyle.

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