Yeah, I’m Not for Everyone. Lena Dunham comes to terms with herself.
New York Magazine
Abby Stein, New York, 2018. Off the Derech. March 2018. Abby Stein in her bedroom with her 6 year old son’s photographs hanging above her. (His face is blurred in order to protect his identity) Now a trans activist, just 5 years ago Abby was an ultra-Orthodox rabbi from a high-ranking Hasidic dynasty. Although she followed the traditional path of a young Hasidic man - Yeshiva, an arranged marriage at 18, Abby always felt different, but didn’t understand what that exactly meant. Abby's first language is Yiddish even though she grew up in Brooklyn. She had no access to the internet, TV, music, literature, so at the age of 20 she taught herself English. A breakthrough came when she used her friends tablet to connect to wi-fi and typed “a boy turning into a girl.” She quickly learned she was not alone and started to question the hermetically sealed community she was raised in. She also knew leaving would come at tremendous cost. She could lose her son. She said, "To some extent, leaving the community was even harder than transitioning. I had no idea what I was getting into. I didn't know anyone, couldn't speak the language, and didn't have an education. I didn't know how to dress. I didn't know how to talk. I remember the first time walking into a Starbucks, I was like, 'OK, what's happening here?' The culture shock is just in every level, every way...it’s like being an immigrant in your own country…It was a slow process it didn’t happen overnight.” Abby is now a student at Columbia University and sends her family a text every week wishing them a good Shabbat. They haven’t responded to her yet.
Melissa Weisz, New York, 2018. Off the Derech. March 2018. This is Melissa in her bedroom wearing her everyday clothes. She is a producer and actor, often cast in yiddish speaking roles. She left the Satmar community in Borough Park 10 years ago when she was 24 years old. She said leaving her community, especially her husband, parents, 6 sisters, and 2 brothers, was the most terrifying and liberating moment in her life. “I wish I could’ve stayed. After trying for years, I was finally ready to lose and risk everything to live the life that felt right to me. But I had so much guilt and shame for leaving, hurting the people I love most. It was a painful process. My family is so important to me and I didn’t want to hurt my husband. He’s a good person. When I first left, I had a roommate who also left the religious community. She struggled a lot and took her own life. It was scary. I think my family worried that would happen to me if I felt alone and not supported. They have made a lot of effort to accept my choices and we’ve worked hard on our relationship. I don’t feel alone, but I often feel like a foreigner in my own city. That’s why most of my friends are European. Maybe we connect as outsiders living in this big unfamiliar world together.”