Saturday, September 05, 2015

why I left the trembling...,

independent |  Moishy*, 27, is a good-looking young man. Dressed in unremarkable jeans and a hoodie, he blends in easily: he’s just another ordinary Londoner. For Moishy, that’s a compliment. Having finally escaped one of the city’s most secretive religious communities, Moishy has achieved a dream he’s held for years: to live an everyday, secular life.

Moishy grew up in the ultra-orthodox (‘charedi’) Jewish community in Stamford Hill, which he describes as “like living in a different world – it’s like the Middle Ages – totally secluded.” There were no jeans there: Moishy 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. Moishy remembers: “As kids we were told that the outside world hated us, so we were suspicious and afraid of them. We were taught that non-Jews had no soul and that our duty in life was not to fall into the trap of going into their world.” That suspicion even extended to non-Charedi Jews like me – Moishy points to me and says: “They wouldn’t regard you as Jewish. We weren’t taught that there are lots of different types of Judaism.”

With Yiddish as their language, most children are not taught to speak English. Jewish studies replace the secular curriculum. Moishy explains: “Children don’t need to learn anything. They grow up controlled and put into arranged marriages. The only thing you aspire to is to become a rabbi. If you’re not academic enough for that you’re found a low-paid job within the community. The Government know about the lack of education in the community, but they don't do anything about it.” Although girls receive a little more education to help them raise children – “they learn enough to go to the doctors” – Moishy says it’s nowhere near enough: “Girls are treated like nothing. They’re not taught anything. If they knew more they’d know that they wouldn’t have to marry these boys who don’t know anything either.”