It has been a week since a mother who loved her children ended her life. It has been a week of lies spread about Deb Tambor, about the off the derech (OTD) community, about mental illness.
For me, this week hasn’t been easy. It has brought to the surface truths about my own feelings regarding the children I don’t have custody of. It has caused me to question my mental health. It has caused me to question whether I’m doing enough for women (and men) in my situation. I keep reading and re-reading the conversations I had with Deb long before her death. Where modern technology affords us the opportunity for retrospection, it also drives home the painful reality of a message that can’t be sent, a life that should still be lived.
I miss my kids so much.
I go between sharing what was said to me by Deb, and respecting her privacy. I do know that she loved her kids, that they were on her mind every minute of the day. I know how the slightest trigger of my own kids, whether it be the way my youngest smiles or seeing religious boys running down the street together, incapacitates and devastates me. The steel door I try to keep shut to the emotional ruin of not being able to see my children was blown open by a mortar this week. It has been difficult because any one of us could’ve given up.
But, I feel like there could be hope.
I’m reminded of text from the parsha just before Rosh Hashone that should be fresh in Duvid Twersky‘s mind:
אתם נצבים היום כלכם לפני יהוה אלהיכם ראשיכם שבטיכם זקניכם ושטריכם כל איש ישראל
We are standing today – before our communities and families, before America and the world and not just Hashem and other yidden – facing a crossroads. Skver are closing ranks, but their steel door is open too. The outrage of Jews, both secular and religious, that followed Deb Tambor’s death has got to count for something. A groundswell. A developing movement. A shift in the way the secular authorities deal with cultish religious behaviors.
Cracks are emerging. OTDers are coming out of the woodwork – not just the ones who have always made noise – and talking about how Deb’s death has created the feeling that the idea of live and let live is unacceptable now. Support has come from all corners. An orthodox rabbi stood alongside frei friends of Deb as they tried in vain to honor her by attending her levaye. Friends are reaching out, making sure the marginalized in our communities are being protected.
Skver tried to create a heilige kehilo in New Square and ended up creating a community of fear and viciousness. We are creating heilige kehilos globally, with the promise of support and change both outside and in. We often talk about peoples’ lives not being lost in vain, and I believe that Deb’s death has given us a catalyst to change how we live our lives as OTDers.
We are all Deb Tambor. It is our responsibility to create light in the darkness, and let the people who are questioning know that there are viable options outside a strict chassidish lifestyle.
Change is coming.
Change is here.