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Off the Derech: How to Respond to the Challenge [Hardcover]

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Item description for Off the Derech: How to Respond to the Challenge by Faranak Margolese...

"Off the Derech," translated as "Off the Path," is the term used within the Orthodox Jewish community to describe those who have left Jewish observance. This groundbreaking new book by Faranak Margolese examines why Orthodox Jews stop practicing Judaism, confronting one of the most pressing issues in the religious Jewish world today.

Based on a study which involved over 500 Jews who left Orthodox Judaism, Off the Derech presents the first comprehensive examination of the causes of defection from Orthodox Judaism. It clearly and thoroughly explains those causes, and provides solutions to this increasingly common phenomenon. In doing so, Off the Derech enlightens not only the Orthodox but Jewish parents and leaders from all streams of Judaism as the research provides valuable insights into assimilation and Jewish continuity at large.

This highly anticipated work, over five years in the making, is certain to become the definitive handbook on what is emerging as one of the most difficult issues in the Orthodox and Jewish world today. It is a must-have, invaluable handbook for parents, teachers and Rabbis alike.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   429
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9" Width: 6.2" Height: 1.4"
Weight:   1.5 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Oct 10, 2005
Publisher   Devora Publishing
ISBN  1932687408  
ISBN13  9781932687408  

Availability  0 units.

More About Faranak Margolese

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Faranak Margolese is a freelance writer and editor. She received her BA in Philosophy from Stern College and a Master of Fine Arts in Non-Fiction Creating Writing from Columbia University's School of the Arts. She subsequently served as an adjunct professor of writing at Yeshiva University and Queens College; as a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Jewish Times; and as editor of Freedom in the World.

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Product Categories

2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > Jewish Life

Reviews - What do customers think about Off the Derech: How to Respond to the Challenge?

Great book! Incisive and accurate. Author is both brave and wise.  Aug 31, 2008
Should be made a "required reading" for all Jewish parents, especially in the Western countries.
Important Work But Not Quite Complete  Jun 13, 2008
Although, as observant Jews, we believe all Jews are important and that we would like all those who are observant to remain that way, we should not get despondent because there might be a significant number who drift away from observance. The fact that Orthodox Judaism is thriving today, in the wake of the Holocaust, which brought many to question their faith, and in a society whose materialist, post-Modern values are at odds with traditional Jewish values, is nothing short of a miracle in my eyes.
This book points out many failings in the Orthodox world which push many people out, and the author seems to be on the right track in identifying what these are. However, I think she misses a couple of important points. One is that she believes, correctly, that a mitzva-observant Jew should not view Judaism simply as a "faith-community" , but that a Jew is a member of group which is daily working to bring redemption to the Jewish people and Mankind as a whole. However, in super-materialist America, this view gets lost. That is why I think she should have emphasized the importance of Eretz Israel to the observant Jew more in her study. She does praise Religious Zionists for their committment to Eretz Israel, but the fact is that it is my observation that the daily struggles Israel faces in the world today makes an impression on the observant Jews and gives them a greater feeling of responsibility for their actions than do observant Jews living outside Israel. In other words, the realization that the mitzvot that every Jew performs plays a direct role in affecting the lives of one's fellow Jews in Israel. This just isn't perceived the same way outside Eretz Israel and this does affect the way Jews outside Israel view their Jewish observance, and their fellow Jews, in a negative way.

The second point I think she does not bring out so well regards a well-known educational "trick" of rewriting and distorting history to convince the students that, up until recently, all Orthodox Jews were Tzaddikim (righteous) and that religious life in Eastern Europe was idyllic. She mentions, for example, airbrushing photographs of famous Rabbis from Eastern Europe to show them wearing a hat when they didn't actually go around with one, and their wives with haircoverings, when in fact, many religious women in Lithuania didn't wear one. She also mentions how the biographies of famous Rabbis of the past are "edited" to remove mention of mistakes they might have made, or politically-incorrent stands they may have advocated (e.g. non-Zionist schools may try to pretend that great Rabbis condemned the Zionist movement when in fact they supported it). She points out, correctly, that doing this revision of history can backfire when the student finds out the truth and he then may ask himself "what else did they lie to me about?". This is a utilitarian approach. I would say rather that religious education should emphasize the truth as a value in and of itself, and that if their are flaws in our religious trend or our leaders, we should be the first to recognize them and to try to correct them.

Having said this, the writer should be congratulated on doing such a thorough study on this matter and her conclusions, are by-and-large, correct. We can all learn a lot from this important study.
Excellent Explanation Of The Phenomenon  Apr 9, 2008
As a young person who went "off the derech", I found this book very insightful. I was expecting to see trite comments like "those kids are emotionally disturbed" but instead found a thorough and sensitive approach.

Of course I disagree with the author as far as thinking that this is a bad thing. Discovering my own independent beliefs was a wonderful thing for me. Not everyone is cut out for organized religion.

I don't think there IS a solution, because I do not see the phenomenon as a problem. But the author does describe it fairly accurately.
Faranak Margolese Is An Amazing Woman  Nov 3, 2007
I met this woman in person, at a lecture she was giving. I spent almost her entire lecture in open-mouthed shock. It was as if this woman were a mind-reader, knowing my thoughts exactly. Before hearing her, I had felt guilty having such thoughts, that I dare not express them to anybody, and that even if I did, they would be categorically rejected by any of the countless Orthodox Jews that I know. I myself used to be far more formally religious, slowly but surely shuffling off this religious coil, precisely due my personal experience with the abysmal behavior of so-called religious Jews. Ironically, the Rabbi that has most turned me off from being a religious Jew, was a Rabbi present in that very audience where I heard Faranak speak. And when she allowed for questions afterward, he tried to discount everything she had said. Clearly, he had completely and very defensively missed the entire purpose of her lecture.
If you like to blame yourself ...  Jun 14, 2007
People who like to blame themselves will love this book.

Unfortunately, blaming other peoples behavior for your own failure to incorporate a belief system into your life, isn't particularly honest.

True, there are some Orthodox Jews who lead less than exemplary lives. But, this is not a function of their Orthodoxy as Ms. Margolese would like us to believe. People who blame others for their own failures, simply cannot confront their own problems.

Unfortunately, the truth is that people who leave Orthodoxy do so for a myriad of reasons, none of which are honestly explored in this book. As someone with a sociologist's background, I would have, at least, expected, a legitimate sociological analysis to support her conclusions. All she provides is carefully selected anecdotal evidence to support her thesis.

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