Deb Tambor Child-Custody Woes Common Among Parents Who Leave Hasidic World

System Favors Unified Ultra-Orthodox Extended Families

Not Forgotten: Deb Tambor was remembered at a poignant memorial gathering. Unfortunately, her tragic story is all too common among those who leave the Hasidic world.
blesofsky photos
Not Forgotten: Deb Tambor was remembered at a poignant memorial gathering. Unfortunately, her tragic story is all too common among those who leave the Hasidic world.

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

Published October 13, 2013, issue of October 18, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 5)

A private Facebook group called “Off the Derech” has 755 members. There are a burgeoning number of OTD bloggers. And Pearl Reich, the daughter of a prominent Hasidic rabbi in Borough Park, Brooklyn who left her community, is starting an offline group, Your Kids Deserve You, to support parents separated from their children.

Experts say that there may even be some early indications of some openness to addressing issues of sexual abuse and mental health in insular Hasidic communities, including New Square and Kiryas Joel, another upstate New York Hasidic enclave, which is populated by the Satmar Hasidic community.

When someone leaves an ultra-Orthodox community, he or she leaves a social support network of extraordinary strength. The cohesion of those communities comes with an insularity amplified by the distinctive, ultra-Orthodox dress style and the use of Yiddish as their primary language.

When people depart, they face a modern world for which many are ill prepared. Being a parent can compound those challenges with a battle for custody. Among other things, the ultra-Orthodox community will often help provide for the legal costs of the parent who stays, while the one who leaves seldom has resources to match.

“There’s a lot of stigma, a lot of shaming,” said psychotherapist Michael Jenkins, director of programs at Footsteps. “I’ve heard stories made up to attack the parents [who are leaving]. If it’s a long court battle, often the person leaving will just resign themselves” to giving up custody of his or her children. “They feel it’s insurmountable.”

The religious community they are leaving “will separate them from seeing the spouse leaving as much as possible, because they are seen as a negative influence,” Jenkins said. “Most people would prefer that the spouse who is leaving just leave and be invisible.”

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, a well-known yeshiva educator and advocate for abused children in Monsey, N.Y., sees the number of contested custody cases arising from such instances growing. He also sees the point of view of the parent who remains in the community when he or she fights to limit the child’s exposure to the “departed” parent’s new life.

“If a child is raised in a very sheltered environment, it is very jarring to have to navigate in between the two worlds,” he said. “The judges in situations where children are on a track typically favor the status quo.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.