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Breaking Away

A year in the life of Luzer Twersky, a 23-year-old former Satmar who left hasidism behind

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Luzer Twersky in 2009.(Evan Abramson)

Luzer Twersky spent the first 23 years of his life in Hasidic enclaves in Brooklyn, London, and suburban New York. For much of that time, he struggled to square his own beliefs and desires with those of his family and community. Two years ago, he gave up and left. It was a painful decision, and one for which he paid dearly, if predictably—his family now considers him as good as dead.

Reporter Josh Gleason shadowed Twersky during much of the first year on his own. Here is Gleason’s portrait of a young man searching for work and housing, exploring online dating, and seeking a community to replace the one he lost. [Running time: 23:16.]
 

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see: shalom auslander, “foreskin’s kament”

It sounds as if he has delusions of grandeur and a future as a star actor. He did not say a word about any spiritual dimension to his search, no mention of any plans to work and earn a living. No interest in signing up at Touro College which offers higher education for hasidic jews. Sounds like a self-infatuated good for nothing!

Cathy Buckwalter says:

This is a very courageous young man with high native intelligence, a great deal of psychological and emotional perception toward his friend and especially himself, and a questioning mind — very honest to no fault, with a good sense of humor, too. Getting his high school diploma and then college will just aid him in his search for who he is! Once he is able to shed his outward visual persona as well as learn about the “outside” world, I’m sure he will succeed and do well…Mr. Twersky’s view of life is nascently upbeat and will serve him well. He doesn’t sound like a depressed person. Also, he should clean up his apartment, learn to be clean and neat with no one picking up after him, and learn to cook!…women like that! All the best in the world to you, Mr. Twersky, you are no “looser”! This is an excellent interview. P.S. You might want to look at taking some low level job that at least pays you a living wage until you figure it out…plenty of illegal immigrants take jobs cleaning houses, washing restaurant dishes, so at least you won’t be living off your friends and losing your housing. Whatever you do DO NOT GO ON WELFARE…IT’S WAY DEMEANING AND THEN ALL YOUR DOING IS SUCKING AT THE TIT OF THE TAXPAYER..become a taxpayer and remind yourself that you’re ONLY 23.

correction: see: book/audiobook, Shalom Auslander, “Foreskin’s Lament” for a funny, wry, critical and dramatic memoir & reflection on life in the ultra-Orthodox lane and the joys &
pains of leaving it.

“His family considers him as good as dead.” Where is the love and forgiveness that Judaism teaches? Or for these people does Judaism consist of wearing the clothes of 18th century Polish noblemen and observing rituals with no understanding behind them?

Dear Mr Twersky,

I am a Reform Jew and a convert at that. I aways knew I was a Jew. It is hard wired. Whether anyone else accepts me is up to them and not my problem. G-d is wherever you let him in. Religion for the most part is a human construct which may be suited to you or not but do not thow away G-d with the bath water.

I pray that you find the balance you seek, I found that when the time is right your path will seek you. You just have be open to it. You have taked a big first step, keep seeking with an open heart and mind.

B’Shalom

This guy is very brave. I wish him well.

billie says:

Luzer’s story is heartbreaking… I can only hope that he finds a warm loving substitute for the Neanderthal family that considers him dead. I wonder if he has read any books since he began his new journey. To Kill a Mockingbird should be on the list. Upward and onward, Luzer… May you go from strength to strength.

JackieFour says:

GSK, Hasidic Jewery has different more relaxed values than the general Jewish community who interacts with non Jews.

Luzer’s story is courages and admirable, I hope that many young Chassidim listen to this and follow his lead. Luzer, best of luck in your new life!

You’re always welcome to stay at my place, Twersky. I know exactly what you’re going through. I live in Warsaw, Poland and if you want to see where your life really came from, you can find out here.

brilliant

A very intriguing portrait, thank you to Josh Gleason and Luzer Twersky. It’s not uncommon to see tremendous gaps between the Chassidus and the Chassidim. so much of Chassidus is of enough depth and power for an understanding chosid to want some release from his society,- not necessarily to seek an exclusively secular life, but to find a more full and authentic religious experience. Consider the Twersky (!) family of Hornisteipel/Tchernobil: Rabbis, professors of Jewish studies, of law and psychology, bearing deep understanding of Torah and engaging in the best and noble of secular culture. No doubt, there are societies like the one Luzer has left that can only afford the extremes of ‘in ‘or ‘out’, which is expressed most blatantly in the wholesale abandonment (so it sounds) of Yiddishkeit. Luzer may discover real options in the larger world that will offer him, in a different Jewish culture than Satmar Williamsburg, a contemporary Toras HaShem and a way into the world.

confused says:

I am appalled that tablet would just give away 25 minutes of air time without any opposing viewpoint. I know Luzer and I’ve had just about enough of his spewing against religious people. I get it. You don’t want to be religious, fine. That’s between you and your Creator. Leave – if that makes you feel better. But as far as I can tell from everything that I’ve heard and read about you, you are NOT happy. You don’t have a steady job, steady shelter, you don’t even eat regularly. Perhaps a balance of both worlds would work for you? It seems that all you’ve done is go from one extreme to the other. Extremism on both ends of the spectrum is not healthy. Being religious does not mean being an extremist. How can you tell the difference? Well, if you are afraid to leave the house without a hat and jacket because people will think you are a bum and you won’t get a shidduch – that’s extreme. When did Minhag become a replacement for Torah? Go back to basics and don’t throw it all away. Your soul will find the balance and the peace it craves.

He might have a point, but if you go to Touro College you will see plenty of chasiddim.

The headline should read “Satmarer”

Rebecca says:

he sounds as if he is a new immigrant, which in many ways he is. I can’t put my mind around someone being born and raised here without a highschool diploma or having never attended a school that is open to everyone. He took a huge step and gave up a lot. I am glad this interview was done. i would like to hear a follow up after say 6 months and I would have like to hear from his ex-wife although it’s not possible most likely. I would also like to hear from women who left. I would imagine it is even more difficult for them since they learn to obey, not think for themselves.

I appreciated Luzer’s story tremendously. It is impossible for me, a liberal Jew, to understand the full raminifications of his choice and the loneliness he must feel. However, he speaks at the end about his new struggles. That they have a purpose. Perhaps there is a lesson there. The paths we CHOOSE, however difficult, empower and strengthen us even when they are lonely, difficult and challenging…

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
-Anais Nin

Great piece!

ShatzMatz says:

I knew Luzer’s family from his past life. Athough I have no problem with him leaving the fold and pursuing a life in paradise, I cannot let stand the fact that his whole premise is BS. There is plenty of leeway in the hassidic world where he could have tempered his devotion and pursued worldly pleasures to his hearts content. Sure there are some strings attached, but this is tue of any society. There was no need to abandon his god, parents and family. Many hassidic people don’t neccessarily believe in god, but for the most part they act as they do.

Luzer;s leaving has nothing to do with the particular culture he came from. He rejected all culture and associations and put himself into a life of freefall.

He knows very well that if he wants a roof over his head and 3 squares a day where he can get it. But it fits his current persona to bemoan his current sorry state and to blame it on his past. This is akin to ordinary people who abandon their lives for a life on skid row. Each one of them will have a laundry list of people or things to blame, except for themselves.

Luzer did not stick around long enough to find out that in the long run, the sex life an average hassid rivals one of a freefaller, and is spiritually and materialistically more satisfying. He can’t ever come back, but I would at least suggest that he carve himself out a new reality and moral compass and stick to it through thick and thin. Otherwise this story will not end well.

Yisrael says:

How predictable, a story of an extreme hasid who goes to extreme atheist. How about one who leaves the sect but still retains some sense of faith?

Luzer!

Its about time you should expose your molester who is pretty close to rotting in prison anyway for his next victim. It might make your mother proud. Also you should thank the chasidim who you hate so much for their mercy of giving you a job at a place where NO education is needed whatsoever.

I am just saying….

Otherwise I wish you lots of luck where ever you turn and where ever your life might lead you.

I am touched by your story, Luzer. You may feel alone and may, indeed, find yourself alone for a while, but you are not alone spiritually. The comments here illustrate that many people, even complete strangers, who hear of your struggle care for you. I am one of them and someone with her own journey into and out of “the fold”.
Stick with your goals! Finish school. You seem like a very sensitive, caring and intelligent guy: I know it may seem strange to you, but once you finish high school, consider a career in nursing! There is a big need for nurses; it’s a career more and more men are entering. Job opportunities and money are quite good/stable as well. If you ever need a new friend/friends, feel free to write me at: omegleliz@gmail.com
All the best to you and stay strong!
Liz, Princeton, NJ

I hope he finds his way to a Modern Orthodox lifestyle. He does not have to abandon Torah to find what he is looking for.

Shloime Z says:

Very nice journalistic work.
Unfortunately, a very tired, familiar and redundant story.
Luzer sounds like a brilliant and brave young man. However, he is not the first nor will he be the last to question and ultimately leave Judaism. This experience has preoccupied many Jews throughout our history. It’s a reality. The big secret is that perhaps not everybody can follow a Torah-observant lifestyle. Ho hum. This is truly a non-story.
No doubt some of your liberal readers (as evidenced from the comments above), are lapping up this story and are quivering with shock upon hearing some of the details of Luzer’s life. Who cares? So his parents are whatever. Are all secular parents so well-adjusted? Whatever you think, Satmar chassidim are not touched or bothered by any of this. They will continue with their brand of chassidism and way of life and will see Judaism perpetuated through their progeny precisely because of their insular lifestyle.
It’s interesting to note that Luzer talks about choices and mentions his non-observant uncle, an uncle whom he appears to have wanted to emulate since his own childhood. Too bad he didn’t take a page from another one of his relatives – Rabbi Dr Abraham Twersky, a thoroughly Torah-observant Chassidic Jew, who in addition to being an ordained rabbi and Talmudic scholar, also bears an MD from Marquette University (Milwaukee)and post-graduate psychiatric training from the University of Pittsburgh’s Western Psychiatric Institute. He too made made some conscious choices, just as the many Chassidim like him who manage to blend contemporary lifestyle with old-time Chassidic beliefs.
To borrow a quote – sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. If Luzer was so unhappy with Satmar chassidus, he could have chosen a more moderate Torah-observant path, of which there are many. Perhaps Luzer just wanted to get away from all the restrictions and live a secular lifestyle – no justification or Chassidim-bashing is therefore necessary, thank you very much.

I am actually shocked that anyone could have a negative response to this story. I can’t imagine the courage it must take to leave behind every thing one knows to follow their own truth. Luzer says it very eloquently himself at the end. It’s about making our own choices and learning from them. Luzer you sound like a thoughtful intelligent person. You will make it and be rewarded with all the gifts the world of choice has to offer.

Lois Stavsky says:

“Many hassidic people don’t neccessarily believe in god, but for the most part they act as they do.” I can’t imagine how it must feel to live one’s entire life as a lie. Now — that’s a tragedy! Luzer, I’m sure, will find his way, as have so many others who have left that world behind. Yes, it’s a story that’s been told many times. Life is a journey, and without a road map, it can go anywhere.

Bianca says:

I found this a very superficial portrait of what could be an interesting person.

I’m not sure if it because Luzer was deliberately avoiding many topics, or because he is simply stuck in the superficial, narcissistic stage of early adolescent development.

For a portrait supposedly recorded over the period of a year, there seemed to be no shift from the start to the end. Just more of the same…

I’m eagerly awaiting “Hush” to arrive in the mail, following Marjorie I’s recommendation – it appears to have been written by someone who has struggled with similar issues but has been able to process them with more thoughtfulness.

Robby Your Friend says:

Lou

Read Andrew and Bianca’s comments again and again.
:-)

Love ya man but you have to move on.

RB

Robby Your Friend says:

I feel bad that I wrote the last post because I just realized that this audio interview was taped over a long period of time. Luzer has since moved on somewhat, he has found a steady job with a lot of responsibility and is doing relatively well.

Der Duker Your Friend says:

Brother,
I had the honor to host you sometime back at my Chabad house over Peasach and was touched by your deep and real soul and how much the students liked you -you know who and where I am -and while you may be less observant you are no less of a brother and a fellow Jew -and no I am not on a mission to get you back religious just to make sure you have what you need- Please contact me if you are in difficult financial straights and may G-d help you find a purpose and mission in the world to create your own unique music in this great symphony called life
Just please whatever you do don’t eat Gebrockts;)

Janet S. Katz says:

You sound like a young man who has a lot to offer his fellow Jews – besides your doubts and questions you must also know the joys of being Jewish – the holidays, the practice of charity, and the history of a people that have overcome so much hostility and given so much to the societies in which they live. Material things come and go but what you have inside your head, no one can take away from you, and you must share. I feel that your were born to be a teacher, and know that you will learn much from your pupils. Shalom, Janet S. Katz

אלעזר! ביסט א העראאישער יונגערמאן.
חזק ואמץ.
מיר אלע אן א ברעקל קוראזש זיצן נאך דא אין דעם עמק הבכה און מאכן מיט טאג טעגליך דאס פון וואס דו ביסט אנטלאפן.

All I hear is blah blah blah, someone so self centered and eager to blame everything on anybody else but himself..
His kids are well rid of him.
He is so self absorbed – at least I expected to here he left because he wanted an education in a higher institution or etc.
This guy is a bum.
If you wanted a reason to run away from your responsibilites- You didn’t want to be satmar so be a more modern jew. But to throw away everything just shows your selfishness and your immaturity.
Good luck because you haven’t got any direction just a bunch of delusions.
You’ll probably end up on food stamps collecting unemployment …….whats the difference what you ran away from….

As someone who has left a Chassidic home some 15 years ago, I understand clearly what your challenges are. I laughed hard throughout the piece because I identified with much of your experiences. It is not an easy path you have chosen, but you have to pursue your own happiness. It is unfortunate that your family cannot see that they have a beautiful son and be supportive of you.
I will add, that while the secular world has many admirable qualities, such as democracy, tolerance, openness and freedom, you will find lots of depression, drugs, alcoholism, and a general lack of meaning underlying peoples lives. Just go into any bar and you will see loads of depressed neurotic people doing anything they can to anesthetize themselves with drugs, alcohol and sex. Ultimately you will have to bring together the great qualities of the secular world with the beauty of your Chassidic past into a unified whole. That is true freedom!
For me, the thing I miss most are the Niggunim!

As others have already said, great and moving piece. Look forward to hearing more about the subject.

Brian Cohen says:

This was an interesting interview, but Mr. Twersky is someone who while he grew up in a Hasidic environment, simply lacks a basic understanding of the fundamentals of Jewish theology.
After a while, he simply sounded like a kvetch.

He hates certain customs of chasidut, but they have nothing to do with torah or hashem they are just chassidic no-no’s. You can be orthodox, keep shabbat, kosher but watch movies, go to the mall.. You might leave the chasidishe velt if that doesnt fit you but throwing away your Jewish life?? No reason to do so…
He really needs to learn what is halacha, what is chumra and what are minhagim and distinguish between the 3!

Hey Luzer! I like your honesty and your wry sense of humor. You remind me of a frum Woody Allen. And your story would make a great Woody Allen movie. Why not try to meet up with him? In one of his movies he tries to become religious because he wants meaning in his life, but he can’t do it because he doesn’t believe in God. I bet you two would hit it off.

Joanne says:

I really feel for Luzer. He clearly has an honest, intelligent mind, a sense of integrity. And he’s very courageous. It’s just a shame that his own Hasidic background has not prepared him for life as an adult in the outside world: with little socialization, no secular education, no skills, no contacts…and trying to find a job in a bad economy.

He really needed better preparation before making the jump, but I guess that would have been impossible. He’ll make the adjustment gradually. One year is not a lot of time.

If I were he, I’d finish high school an then look for a place in a college (no matter his age) where he could have a scholarship providing tuition and a living stipend, or perhaps a place in a dormitory.

That way, he could make a transition within a supportive institution that would introduce him to the outer world while at the same time protecting him from it.

It is really strange how his experiences, feelings, and outlook seem similar to those of people who have escaped cults after membership for a long time.

Joanne says:

One more point: given his unusual story, some liberal arts college might gladly accept him with a scholarship. It’s worth a try.

Bianca says:

@Joanne

I don’t think the fact that L’s situation is similar to the situation of people leaving cults is strange at all!

I think that’s the point…

I am close friends with a guy that grew up like him, but he doesn’t look it at all.

This seems to be very common and I am sure he will end up doing well.

I always admired the hasids, until I started hearing the real truth on what goes on there, it seems like most of the people who get away from it, end up living great lives.

The sooner ones does it the better!

“Luzer did not stick around long enough to find out that in the long run, the sex life an average hassid rivals one of a freefaller”

I worked in a salon, I did waxing etc. for the most part the hasid ladies where EXTREMELY hairy and not clean, after that I understood why the men run to strip clubs and hookers.

In the long run? When after baby number 15?

Who are you kidding here

abraham says:

there r in the jewish community manny millionaires with out a college degree. and without watching any movies. so to nake a change in life like u did is pointless!!!

Very very moving — thank you for sharing this.

Luzer,

You must be a man of great courage as is obvious from the ‘insider’ comments here, trying to get at you with the personal tidbits they claim to know about you.

And yes, being a young chassid in Boro Park is precisely as Luzer puts it.

I wish to thank Josh Gleason for providing an inside glimpse into what appears to be a very closed society. I have heard other work produced by him and he seems to have a knack for doing this.

luzer poor loser yes he is right that Williamsburg provides you with an almost cult like jewish experience.however, he would need to explore other communities b4 dropping it all.
this is a portrait of someone who thinks he knows it all but he really knows nothing about his own religion and basically is looking for guidance….who knows mayb he’ll find it?

Hi my name is dave, I’ve met Mr. Twersky more then once and I basically know what he’s going through and I can say that I come from where Luzer is at the moment, all confused mixed up, broke up with family, whatever total I had hell same as he probably has now.

But it was a mistake of my side, I thought I knew everything about Judaism, but I didn’t, who says that when your not comfortable the way you are at the moment you need to drop your religion? U can go on with your daily life style meaning Dating, Going out with friends, enjoying your self, working even though you are jewish, (I’m pretty much sure that Mr. Luzer didn’t really do all of that comfortable cause of being afraid of loosing his family friends) okay I’ll admit that your not comfortable doing all of this with your “Pie’as and Beard” but cause of that u can take it down and still be a jew without that, I know Luzer, and I think he’s pretty much mixed up and he’ll one day get back on track and start a jewish life even not really Hasidic but still be jewish and have a nice jewish girl that he’ll marry.

mattw1 says:

Awesome piece.

Great podcast. Best of luck to Luzer. Maybe he should start blogging about his experience.

I’m modern orthodox and have to say feel sorry for him.
he should try and rediscover religion in his own way, maybe Aish Hatorah where he can air all his doubts….

by the way, whats he living off?

freilach says:

Anyone who knows Luzer knows that every second word in this interview is a blatant lie. He is still completely supported by his family and he insists on wearing the hasidic costume to get attention from reporters just like Josh. If only he could move on with his life just like plenty of other ex-hasids have managed to, and then he could be a positive role model and I wouldn’t have to vomit while listening to this.

D'rorah says:

Sheesh …really sad. I’m only halfway through the podcast and don’t know if I care to finish. Nu he left a wife because he wants to have sex without the sanctity of marriage? FEH! What’s so special, so deserving of attention, this wanting to sin? Who’s not tempted from time to time?!? He’s blaming Judaism for having no desire to practice decent personal hygiene? LOL …what a farce. I think the problem with Luzer is that he’s equating G-d with religion, not necessarily the same. What he needs is HaShem, not what he can get from man – whether Chassidic or secular. He’s wasting his time, wandering around without a map or a compass, just hoping to find his way. Sad :(

Interesting how the comments are so starkly pro- and con-. I liked the piece, but I’m curious: is Luzer putting us all on, as “freilach” claims? Supported by his family and what-not? Alas, there’s no way to tell in the cyberworld. “freilach” is anonymous, so one can’t rely too much on what s/he says. I hope Luzer finds himself – he’s only 23 – and that he can figure out a balanced way to live that honors his background and is open to the larger world.

Thank you so much for this. I wept as I listened to Luzer’s personal odyssey. As a gay man, both personally and culturally located, I could not be admire his strength. He represents an interesting and diverse perspective of how dislocation and assimilation occurs within the cosmopolitanism of our own United States. Thanks again.

Melissa says:

choose your path and live your life. Miserable. Happy. it’s all your choice. Luzer, if this is what you wanted, es iz!

This is disturbing. Mr. Twersky comes across as 23 going on 15. He uses the ‘luck of the draw’ to take a test? He justifies not showering because if you’re not going to meet girls, why bother? Clearly self-absorbed and immature. Someone is supporting him – he’s got a laptop, cell phone with text, buys coffee at Starbucks — but is looking for a job???

Luzer shouldn’t give up on religion so quickly. It’s easy to jump out of black and white when you discover that theres a whole world or color out there, but before he does that, he should know that there are many, many shades of grey. There are so many sects of Judaism out there, and he shouldn’t cast it all off without exploring whats out there. Going straight from one extreme to another is like jumping from a hot bath into an ice-cold bath. Not a great idea.

Great piece, and moving. One of the best I’ve heard on Vox Tablet. I commend Luzer’s strength to move beyond all he has known and his insights.

As for many other comments, he may seem like a kid because he has had no chance to really be one. And as he says, he is like a foreigner, still learning the ways of this world. Whether he comes back to religion, who knows. He has a lot of time and a lot to learn and needs to find his own path, and I hope he finds it without too many people telling him what they think it should be.

To all of you who have expressed your support for your fellow human being, Thank you. It’s nice to know that there are still people out there who are capable of empathizing with a person whose views they don’t necessarily agree with. Your comments gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. May the feeling you gave me be upon you, and if you believe God exists and likes and rewards those who make other people feel good, then…

To those who decided to enter a “Who’s Angrier?” contest with me, sorry to break it to you, I win.

On a serious note. This piece was recorded over the period of one year beginning in February of 2009 (approximately 6 months after my divorce). During that time I received no financial support from my family – besides the occasional pack of cigarettes from my brother (I love my brother, he’s awesome) – or any of my Hasidic friends. The only support I got at that time was from Footsteps. To this day I haven’t received a single phone call from my parents inquiring about my well-being. It wasn’t until I hit rock bottom when an old Hasidic friend offered his help, which I accepted on the condition that he will not infringe on my lack-of religious practice. I am indebted and extremely thankful to him for that.

Even though I am confident with my skeptic views on religion and superstition, I probably should have better prepared for my journey into the secular world and I urge my fellow struggling Chasidim to contact Footsteps and plan an exit strategy.

I did not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I only threw out the baby, the bathwater was fine.

Thanks for this story. I found Luzer and his story to be compelling and thought provoking in many ways. I appreciate the window into a world and experience I will never know. I hope Vox Tablet will continue to follow his story.

yitzik says:

“”The person is not what he does, the person is what he is” thats what people say, but Luzer, dear, it doesn’t work for ya, cuz you dunno who you are and what you wanna be and that my friend is the biggest problem of yours… And if you already guessed who I am you do understand that I do have a full right to say that cuz I am a baal tshuva myself. 14 years of my life I had no idea what a jew means what so ever, and now I am chassidic orthodox. So during REALLY SHORT JOURNEY of yours you still did not see all the aspects of Judaism… Its a pity to see a smart guy like you all messed up… Mostly from what I heard its all about sex and revenge for something you dunno yourself. So get on with your life and pick a side cuz the way you look and behave you won’t get too far. My point is if you don’t wanna be religious so be it, try and see for yourself what its like to be “free”, and eventually you’ll get it… Now about limitations of chassidic world you are TOTALLY WRONG, and a just a not so far to you proof to it is that your brother works as system admin in unix environments in one of the biggest electronic retailers in the world. Sooooo…. Do not bull$#it folks around here, zip your guilt and doubt and move on and especially don’t FOOL YOURSELF… Sincerely STILL YOUR FRIEND yitzik ;)

Many comments here betray a lack of familiarity with chassidische life and the ways that it can strangely mirror, and diverge from, the big world outside its sphere.

Luzer seems remarkable because Jews no longer live in heterogeneous Jewish communities. In Poland during the 1930s, for example, chassidische families commonly had one kid who was a fire-breathing Communist atheist, another who was an earnest Bundist, another who was a fire-breathing Betar supporter, and another who was a faithful chassid.

Nowadays you can still find this kind of diversity in Sephardi families, primarily in Israel where the full range of Jewish religious and political self-expression is at one’s fingertips.

In contrast to 21st century Ashkenazim, however, these Sephardi families don’t seem as easily rattled by a kid’s drifting up and down the secular-to-ultra-orthodox spectrum. (Syrians are, of course, a whole other kettle of fish. But we don’t have room for that particular discussion.)

I don’t find Luzer’s story outlandish at all. He seems to be sincerely trying to figure out who he is and what he believes without implicating others in his search, or committing chilul hashem. In fact, what seems especially healthy about his quest is that it doesn’t appear to be driven by a need to find “happiness.”

Self-knowledge isn’t about “happiness.” And anyone who leaves everything they know and everyone they love to find “happiness” would do best to never leave home at all.

Sara Gilbert says:

I really enjoyed this piece. Putting aside the argument many are picking of whether he was right or wrong in his choice, well it’s his choice I say and leave it at that. I don’t feel sorry for him per-say, although I think it is quite unfortunate that groups in the world believe ignorance or closing oneself off to the outside world is beneficial and not damaging… but to each his own. What I loved about this piece was the work reporter Josh Gleason did. Way to go!! As someone interested in creating similar radio pieces (Vox-style or This American Life-style), I think this piece is captivating, really draws one in. It must have taken a lot of dedication to edit down a year’s worth of material into 20-something minutes, well done.

Dear Luzer,

I hope all works out well for you. I will keep you in my prayers. And don’t give up on God either! When others choose to abandon you, just know that the Creator will not. Turn to Him and learn to trust in Him. I had to learn these lessons myself.

Peace be with you!

-Kathy

Daniella says:

Luzer, we would love to help you and have you as part of our community!! please email me .

jonathan says:

I listened to the podcast. It was very thought provoking, as is Luzer’s situation. I don’t feel however that this is a ‘Hasidic’ issue. Many children of various cultural milieus decide not to follow their parents or families path. It is less than perfect that they do not receive support for their decision, but that is part of growing up and maturing. It doesn’t seem (from reading his blog) as if Luzer chose a different ‘spiritual’ path but a rather he chose a secular path. The differences in paradigms are great and he seems to be pretty successful so far (Thank Hashem). The seduction of secular life is great. I hope he can find a middle path so as not to be polarized from his past and maybe can be a bridge between the two worlds.

Having grown up in a Chasideshe family, and having taken a number of my teen and 20′s years to “break away”, I know how difficult it is to make your way in the non-religious world (not to speak of the non-Jewish world). How do you speak to others, what is the meaning of many things, events and behaviors? How to behave in this new world? We make many mistakes, many experiments and failed experiments, some harming others and some harming our self. And along the way hopefully we learn and explore who and what we are and what we want to be.

The strangeness of the world (which seems ordinary for most of the secular Jews and non-Jews and even for Conservative/Reform/Modern Orthodox Jews)[notice that way of categorizing which itself speaks volumes] is hard to comprehend for those who do not grow up in the Chasidishe life, and therefore it is also hard for them to comprehend the enormous and ongoing difficulties.

Yerachmiel Mordechai says:

Oy va voy, what a kvetcher! How does someone grow up in a lifestyle like his and have really no feeling for it. Just going through the motions.

rabbi stern says:

Luzer, needs EMERGENCY mental help, he is an emotional disturb and depressed young man.
Saying the words Running from hashem will not help him, in the outside world he would long be gone, he needs someone in the mental field to help him.

luzer, i really feel you pain, i made the same transition quite a few years back. dont listen to any of the negative comments, no human is in any position to judge you on what you are going through and what have been through.. just remember that hashem loves you and understands you because he is the one that put you through this and he never ever will abandon you..
i pray that you shall have the strength to continue and you shall find inner peace which shall come from the depths of your soul…

Luzer was always a pathetic human being, got married into a pathetic family, and thinks the way out of all this is to be even more pathetic to gain attention and sympathy. GROW UP! Luzer your a big “LOOSER”

Just so you get a better idea of who I am.. We used to daven together in “Dinov” on 43 Albert Drive.

As a modern orthodox jew who was brought up in an ultra-orthodx home, i can do nothing but sympathize with mr. twersky. i wish more modern orthodox people would be open and honest with me about chassidim and ultra orthodox jewry. its a system where entire communities of kids are thrown into large classes that focus on nothing but intense talmud and restricting almost anything remotely secular. and they do this without considering the fact that just because somebody was born to chassidic parents, he’s automatically going to be able to handle intense talmud and severe restrictions on all remotely secular studies and forms of entertainment.

Mr twersky, i sympathize with you. your not a “luzer” youre a great person-jew, atheist, or whatever you believe.

Sol, as a modern orthodox jew who probably grew up either in williamsburg, kj or new square and lives a life full of resentment about something you were never able to achieve. I belive that most of the ultra othodox jewry are living a very happy rich live. Fact is that those ppl that become modern, or drop the whole yidishkeit all together are mostly the ones who were never successful in anything in life, Theuy are people who’s live is full of regret, anger and resentment. Luzer is far from happy now and will probably never be happy. I will not be surprised if he becomes a musmlim one day and tries to blow himself up. I remember him very well from yeshivah in London, Wwhile most of us were playing soccer and having fun he’d be running around looking for someone to listen to his bullshit.

Chris says:

Listened intently.. and often smiling spontaneously.. to podcast last night (learning to use my first MP3 player), I sending my best wishes to you, Luzer. As an atheist from age 10 or earlier, raised in a Protestant home/family, converted to agnostic in high school, to atheist as soon as I grasped the definition of agnostic. I’ve been able to continue most/many usual activities because my life- my boring English/German descent culture- never revolved around religion. I continue to love the Pagan parts of X-Mas and Easter while smirking at the fabled origins of these winter and spring events. Religion was never integral to school, friendships, travel, eating, movies, etc. I was struck by your challenge of having a happy social life, with things and people who bring familiarity, appreciation and understanding sans religion. I shop on-line at B & H and was thrilled to find that if I ever make it there in person, I could lend a sincere supporting handshake- from a woman.
Though I’m surrounded by piles of good people, despite them being practicing Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Jains, and related to converted Jews I stand my ground and just tell folks that goodness doesn’t come from fear of hell, or obeying strict nutzy rules.
Luzer, I hope you’re finding your religion free life much as you hoped, or at least feeling better about being YOU. There’s some great things across the globe- go enjoy them. Get off Manhattan for a year… or 10.

joymars says:

Just heard this project again today.
Luzer seems a bit too self-promoting for having been such a sheltered Hassid. But what do I know? Maybe self-promotion is an aspect of personality and not culture.

Which brings me to my belief that religion on the intense level that Luzer has supposedly left IS culture. It’s kind of weird to leave your culture. Few people do it, no matter which one they’re born into. Humans are usually too lazy to make the effort.

I don’t give Luzer much hope. I think he’ll be back in the fold sooner or later. He had it way too easy the other way, and the incessant work that it will take him to keep balanced in our problematic modern times will eventually wear him down. I hope he isn’t depending on a significant other to come along and make a difference for him. That would be unfair to heap so much on another person or onto any one single relationship.

blessed says:

It is amazing how much anger, negativity and jelousy this piece has generated.
So many of these comments are a prime example of how horrible people can be to one another.
Thank you for sharing this with us.

Mayer says:

Mr. Twersky’s bravery cannot be underestimated. I grew up in a Chabad community, which is much more open to the outside world than the Hasidic world Luzer has left behind, and I have had a very difficult time accepting that I do not believe what I’ve been taught. I applaud his willingness to attempt to live his own life and I wish him good fortune.

Sorry for him. I was raised conservative and later became orthodox. I found that I knew so little about my own religion and it’s exciting to learn more and more every day. If he wants life without boundaries, then just live it and shut up. Why is he airing his personal problems and desires and also his desire to be filthy, that’s a choice also – just go do it and leave the rest of us alone.

Transparent self-promoter, trying to be a psuedo-celebrity. Is he trying to get on Dancing with the Stars?

Moishy says:

Luzer Taierer, many people think that haimishe jewish guys cannot pick up girls with the beard and payes…. they are WRONG, if you know the tricks, and you have the courage GUTS, you can have both worlds.
Guess what, there are so many good orginasations out there to help you train to get a career. Dont bullshit be with footsteps, they might be nice ppl, they might be out there to help you, but cut the crap.
get a life make some real money find yoruself a hot chick and Stop blaming gawd for all your stupidities
Hatzluche RABAH
BTW if you wanna come to my house and make a chulent party sorry with kosher meat, we enjoy ourselves and sing and have fun.
NO CHARGE

Annie says:

You have a problem with being religious? Its your problem.
That you left a wife, more important kids without a father, – I feel sorry for those children, that you couldn’t have put their needs before your own.
People who do put their own selfish needs before innocent children have a lot to answer for.
They didn’t deserve what you brought to their lives.
Children deserve a chance.
You took away that from them.
That’s just wrong in my book.
Who cares what you believe in- just believe in them and help them believe in themselves as people – that they matter the most .

paula zimmermann says:

congratulations on breaking away and following your own true longing.
every path gets rocky sometimes, but it will still get you somewhere.

Bethany Frank says:

I have a few kids who went off the derech. I doubt if Luzer will ever read this – but to anyone who does, we cannot judge our children by how religious they are not – or they will not thrive as normal people. Most of my kids came “back” and the two who did not have become extraordinary professionals, highly respected, and accomplished in their fields. All I can saw is respect them! Don’t judge them; because you will never anyway figure out why they rejected their lifestyles.

As I web site possessor I believe the content matter here is rattling fantastic , appreciate it for your hard work. You should keep it up forever! Best of luck.

Mahatma Gandhi~ I want freedom for the full expression on my personality.

I’ve said that least 1957388 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean

Henry David Thoreau~ In what concerns you much do not think that you have companions know that you are alone in the world.

Because of reading your blog, I unquestioned to inscribe my own. I had not in any degree been interested in keeping a blog until I saw how kind yours was, then I was inspired!

I aint never gone lose weight them turnip greens n donut was bussin

Thank you for your thoughtful post!

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Natan79 says:

Idiot

Natan79 says:

Not as big looser as yourself, illiterate lout.

Natan79 says:

Maybe he didn’t want it. He has a mind and the freedom to choose.

loser*

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Breaking Away

A year in the life of Luzer Twersky, a 23-year-old former Satmar who left hasidism behind

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