'It takes away your choices' - One man's journey out of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community

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'It takes away your choices' - One man's journey out of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community
15th August 2014

“The community way takes away your choices – what you eat, what you learn, who you marry. That’s why I want to tell my story.”

Moishy* grew up in a secluded, ultra-Orthodox (‘charedi’) Jewish community in Stamford Hill.

But after years of being almost completely cut off from the outside world, he left the community and is now shunned by his family.

“There are so many other young boys in the community with so much potential,” he said.

“I hope this message will go out to them: so many things you’re being told aren't true. Life can be different.”

The 27-year-old once adhered to a strict uniform of a black suit, a hat, curls in his hair and a beard trimmed to exactly the right length.

Women wear long skirts, long sleeves and wigs once they are married to protect their modesty.

Contact between Charedim and the rest of the world is mainly non-existent, with children taught to fear the non-Charedi world.

With Yiddish as their language, most children are not taught to speak English. Jewish studies replace the secular curriculum.

According to Moishy, TV and secular newspapers are banned. He says that rabbis monitor their congregants’ marital relations to ensure that couples adhere to the rules of ‘family purity’ – not making love whilst a woman is menstruating.

Moishy also says that community members can’t have a computer or a mobile phone until they get married (typically around the age of 18) and even then they must have software fitted into their gadgets so that the rabbis can check that their devotees aren't surfing the web or using social media.

But Moishy had contact with the outside world due to family circumstances, which he said showed him what he was being ‘taught was wrong’.

Aged 14 he began talking about leaving the community.

Moishy said: “Rabbis came to see me and warned me about a ‘world full of sin’.

“They said only dropouts and lowlifes wanted to leave. They offered me money, new friends and a new home. They transformed my circumstances.

“They said that the only way to get a girl was to stay in the community.”

Just four years later, he found himself married to a woman he’d known for an hour.

But Moishy’s desire to escape just intensified. He got a computer, furtively taught himself English, and managed to find other escapees.

Nearly ten years after his first attempt to leave, Moishy made the break.

He’s now studying and planning for the future alone, as his family have cut him off.

His father speaks to him occasionally ‘to keep things open in case I want to go back’.

That, Moishy says emphatically, will never happen.

Responding to Moishy's claims about the lack of education in the community, a Department for Education spokesman said: “Independent schools must meet the Independent School Standards which make clear they must deliver a curriculum appropriate to the ages of the pupils that includes Maths, English and Science. 

“They are also inspected either by Ofsted or an Ofsted-assessed inspectorate.”

We also spoke to representatives of the Charedi community, including leaders at the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congretations, to offer them the chance to respond to the allegations made by Moishy. Unfortunately, they declined to comment.

*Real names have not been used in this interview

Moishy’s interview with Louise Scodie will be shown on Not The One Show from 7pm tonight.

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