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September 26, 2014

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PAGE 12A By Maayan Jaffe Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kip- pur, and the days in between them mark the season of ,teshuva'--which in Hebrew literally means "to return," but in the context of the High Holidays refers to repentance. Aunique case of those seeking to return and repent, or"do te- shuva," are Jews who become less observant but later decide to return to their roots. Last year's much-debated Pew Research Center survey of U.S. Jews found that 52 per- cent of Jews raised Orthodox no longer consider themselves to be so. That figure stands at 64 and 45 percent in the Conservative and Reform movements, respectively. While a gloom-and-doom Owned And Operated By NRT LLC HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, SEPTEMBER 26, 2014 Off and on-rn,' Orthodox path picture of rising assimilation seemed to be most observers' takeaway from the Pew study, the journey of Jews who actu- ally return to an observant lifestyle after initially leaving it behind is a more common storyline than one might think. Rabbi Yaakov Menken, an early pioneer in the field of Internet-based Orthodox Jew- ish outreach and the founder of Project Genesis, said there is "usually some cause" for someone Orthodox to choose a different lifestyle, but that "usually it has little to do with religion and a lot to do with religious people--or should I say, people who identify as religious." Josh, who asked that his full name not be used because it might embarrass his parents, was raised jn a haredi home. He said he found his Atlanta Jewish community "stifling." Although his parents and rab- bis went to great lengths to keep Josh away from outside influences, by 13 he already started "checking out" and by 18 he was "off the derech (path)," or no longer Ortho- dox. "Judaism then was all this external stuff that didn't speak to me, like the way people dress .... There was a major focus on learning Torah, but without.., spirituality," said Josh. "It was just routine, a very dull, dead-ended life." Menken said cases like Josh's are not too uncom- mon in the 21stcentury. The causes for leaving observance can range from the most aw- ful-abuse-to overly critical NATHALIE TOLEDANO REALTOR teachers or misguided com- munity members/mentors who focus on a superficial Judaism, he said. In particular, college a trendy time for Orthodox Jews to test their boundaries, said Menken, explaining that "when a person is just over 18 and goes out on his own and has to make decisions surrounded by people who do things differently and with differentvalues," he will likely be faced with peer pressure. Thiswas the case for Yaakov Cohen, who chose to leave his Orthodox upbringing during college. "I was like, 'Iwant to experi- ence the world,'" said Cohen, who described his childhood Judaism as "shoved down his throat," "following the mo- tions," and "zombie-like." Cohen said his decision to become less observantwas not spontaneous, but gradual. He still remembers the firstTorah commandment he broke: eat- ing non-kosher food. (407) 488-2763 CELL (407) 647-1211 EXT 3685 BUSINESS (407) 628-1210 FAX nathalie.toledano@ RESIDENTIAL REAL ESTATE 400 Park Avenue South, Suite 210 Winter Park, FL 32789 www.floridamoves.eom/nathalie.toledano HANDYMAN SERVICE Handy man and General Maintenance Air Conditioning Electrical Plumbing Carpentry Formerly handled maintenance at JCC References available STEVE'S SERVICES Call Steve Doyle at (386) 668-8960 We are pleased to announce that the Temple has a new Rabbi, Sanford (Sandy) Olshansky, who has been leading our services for several months and will be officiating all our High Holy Day Services. In addition, Jillian Marini, operatic soloist, will be gracing our Bima for these Days of Awe with her soaring voice, and accomplished pianist of Orlando, Wayne Garrison, as music accompanist. ?::: !:: .: i :: :!, ::ii:::i:. J :i, . "It was Chester Cab pizza. I ordered a slice and just gulped it down. Itwas like aweird feel- ing overcame me, and I just ate that pizza in two seconds," Cohen said. Yissachar "Jason" Schnei- derman started his non- observant journey by eating a stick of non-kosher chewing gum. "I was very frustrated at be- ing frum (Orthodox)," Schnei- derman said of his teenage years. "I was surrounded by negative frum people." The fact that Schneider- man is the son of divorced parents who themselves were newly observant made it hard for him to have the support he needed at home. He said some of his friends' parents judged him because of his broken home and refused to let him play with their children. When he chewed his stick of gum, "the fact that a bolt of lightning didn't come out of the sky immediately made it easier," Schneiderman said. "The fact that you don't im- mediately die from your sins made it easier to continue on the path of trying new things," he said. Josh turned on the light switch on Shabbat, and then let go of most other com- mandments. "Turning on that light switch was a turning point in my life," he said. Today, however, Cohen, Schneiderman, and Josh are all Orthodox. They all found God again. "It wasn't the religion I came back to," explained Co- hen."Itwas Jewish spirituality and a relationshipwith God." Cohen said he always had "spiritual tendencies" as a child that he wasn't able to tap into. But once he experienced God himself, he felt compelled to return. "It was going off for a run one day and seeing the sun set and saying [the verse[, 'Ma rabu mEasecha Hashem kulam be'chochma asisah (How many are your works, they are all made with wis- dom). That little spark started something in me," he said. Cohen said he often thinks about the "what ifs': What if he had done something that tremendously impacted his relationship with his parents or community? What if he had fathered a child with a non-Jewish woman or gotten tattoos? Would returning have been harder? Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trug- man, who runs the Ohr Chadash outreach organiza- Yissachar "Jason" Schneiderman (1) was diagnosed with cancer while he started his journey back to observance. He says reading the book "The Garden of Emunah" by Rabbi Shalom Arush helped him realize that God "is more patient than anyone," and that he had time to complete his journey back. Today Schneiderman is married with two children (pictured), and describes himself as "a master returner. tion in Israel, said becoming He said anyone can do tes- observant is much harder for huva, not just those who have someone who chose to leave sinned, but those who want to than it is for someone discov- get closer to God. ering a religious connection One should start each day for the first time. saying, "Hashem, if I would "When [secular people[ have known yesterday what discover the beauty of Torah I know about You today, I andJudaismandShabbos and would have served You bet- the holidays and mitzvot, they ter," he said. realize this is something they Trugman, through Ohr weremissing,"saidTrugman. Chadash, has hosted more "Iftheyhadnoideahowbeau- than 10,000 people for Shab- tifulandrichJudaismis, there bat. He said he always tells is a tremendous incentive to visitors to take teshuva one pursue that knowledge. For day at a time. someone who was brought "The secret of teshuva up religious, whatever made is never to be satisfied in a them walk away may still spiritual sense with what we make a strong and emotional thinkwe haveaccomplished," impression that is not easy to he said. overcome." Schneiderman was diag- But no matter how off the nosed with cancer while he pathapersongoes, theJewish started his journey back to spark in his or her soul never observance. He said reading dies, according to Trugman. the book "The Garden of "One can always get closer Emunah" by Rabbi Shalom toHashem .... Onecanalways Arush helped him realize do teshuva," he said. that God "is more patient "There is a concept in than anyone," and that he had Judaism that someone who time to complete his journey commits a sin thinking he back. Today Schneiderman is willjustrepentforitlatercan- married with two children, not receive forgiveness. They and described himself as "a don't allow him to teshuva," master returner." saidJosh, explainingthatthis "I have to constantly be idea weighed on him during recharging and renewing his journey back to faith. But my relationship with God," he said he learned that it is not he said. that one cannot repent, but "I have learned that God rather that repentance itself forgives," said Cohen, who cannot come without effort, today is marriedwith children Menken said the process of and living in Israel. "He gives doing teshuva, as described us chance, after chance after succinctly in an article he chance. I think going off the has read on theAish HaTorah derech has made me a stron- website, is as follows: stop, ger Jew." regret, verbalize, make a plan Maayan Jaffe is a freelance to never do the sin again, writer in Overland Park, Kan. Trugman defined teshuva Reach her at maayanjaffe@ as "retuning to the natural or follow her on state of the Jewish Soul." Twitter, @MaayanJaffe. 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