Shoshana Mael
Shoshana Mael

Dear OTD People

This is Part Two of a collaborative project in which folks address both frum and OTD people collectively. You can read Part One here.

Dear OTD People,

The only important path in life is YOUR path. We are all here to travel our own, unique journeys and to discover who we are though our individual choices and experiences. As you travel your journey, we wish you strength to stand your ground when others try to push you around or dictate what is right or wrong for you. We wish you peace of mind and clarity now that you are open to thoughts and ideas from both the frum and secular world.

We ask that you please remember how you felt and thought about OTD people when you were still frum. People tend to believe what they are taught, so while you don’t need to tolerate inappropriate comments or behavior from us, please use your perspective to communicate with us in a way that we can understand. As much as you can, please treat us with the respect and tolerance that you want from us. We recognize that we are generally the one making requests of you, whether it’s related to kashrut, tzniut, or shabbat, but please understand that you believe certain things to be a choice, whereas we believe them to be non-negotiable.  

When you leave, remember that you have the choice to keep or reclaim pieces of your tradition that resonate with you. Just like you reclaimed the term “OTD” from the mainstream Orthodox community with pride, you are free to take what you want. If you want a Star of David tattoo, rock it. If you love speaking Yiddish, go for it. If you can’t get enough of potato kugel, dig in.

You rejected the black and white binary, so don’t ever lose those shades of grey. You can live in multiple worlds now. Your identity is complex, interesting, and ever-developing. It may be scary, but try to embrace it. Allow yourself to not know exactly where you belong and exactly where you are going.

Please don’t fall for the frum narrative that you’ve probably heard since you were a small child. The narrative that says that if you go OTD, you will be a drug addict and a lonely, mentally ill loser. It’s a lie, but believing it could result in a self-fulfilling prophecy. You can create an authentic, fulfilling life. Thousands of us have done it so far, and we’re here to help you along the way.

We know that the frum community has it share of problems and nastiness. But that doesn’t mean that other communities are immune. Keep your eyes open and be aware that users, abusers, and close-minded people exist in every group.  

Please don’t assume that every frum person will be intolerant and treat you horribly just because of how we dress or where we live. Some of us loathe the issues in our community and are trying to fix them from within. Do what you must to protect yourselves, but give us a chance.

Dear OTD People, when you leave the community, take the opportunity to critically examine everything about your upbringing. Consider the way you were socialized and how you were taught to view the world. Develop your own beliefs around race, sex, sexuality, and culture. You don’t need to ascribe to any particular point of view. Find your own.

Dear OTD People, your upbringing probably didn’t teach you how to interact with the opposite gender. Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance.

Dear OTD People, it’s okay if you experience depression, anxiety, and loneliness upon your journey. It doesn’t mean you made a mistake. If just means that you are growing beyond the intended limits. That growth is a good thing.

Dear OTD People, you have worth. No matter what anyone else says or thinks. Including that little voice of self-doubt.

Dear OTD People, the whole world is now open to you. Enjoy the fuck out of it.





About the Author
Shoshana is an author and social worker living in South Jersey. She works primarily with teenagers and has mostly worked in urban environments. In her spare time, she can be found rock climbing and drinking iced coffee, occasionally at the same time.
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