Safety Net for ‘Un-Orthodox’ Services


I read with great interest the story about Deborah Feldman and her decision to leave the Satmar community (“Unapologetically ‘Unorthodox,’” Feb. 17). Feldman’s journey out of her community reflects many of the challenges that confront those whom we serve at Footsteps, the only organization in North America with a mission to assist ultra-Orthodox men and women interested in exploring life in the secular world.

Footsteps provides a range of psychological, social, educational and vocational services. Since our founding in 2003, we have assisted over 650 people seeking to make the transition into mainstream society. In 2011 alone, we helped 15 people obtain GEDs, provided 20 academic scholarships totaling $65,000, celebrated the college graduation of 12 participants and assisted 20 people in finding jobs. When we cannot provide direct assistance, as in the case of legal services and housing, we refer people to partner organizations that can. We take this approach because we do not want to use our resources to replicate existing ones.

Through the services we provide, Footsteps has facilitated the emergence of a vibrant new community of smart, energetic, motivated people. As Feldman’s story reflects, when someone decides to leave the insular Orthodox community, she often loses the support of family and friends. Our support groups, participant-led art shows, sports activities, camping trips and holiday parties, give Footsteppers the opportunity to meet like-minded people. As a result, friendships have flourished and new bonds — including happy marriages — have formed.

Over the next few years, we anticipate continued growth as well as expansion to other cities where there is need. We hope that newspapers such as The Jewish Week and the Jewish community at large will stand with us in our effort to support some very deserving people.

Executive Director Footsteps