Beatrice Weber, 49, Yaffed executive director


Beatrice Weber, 49, is the executive director of Yaffed, whose mission is to improve the quality of secular education in New York’s Hasidic and haredi yeshivas. A speaker, activist and writer raised in the haredi Orthodox community in Toronto, and a board member of Right to Parent, she is the first person to successfully sue a New York City school for its failure to provide a secular education in accordance with state education law. Weber lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Ordained as an Interspiritual Minister, I inspire others to tell their stories and become change makers in their own lives and beyond.

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Growing up, everything was decided for me. At the age of 18, I was married off to a rabbi in my ultra-Orthodox community. I had never even finished high school. For years, I tried to be the perfect submissive wife. I dressed modestly, even shaving all the hair from my head. I cared for our children and household. For over two decades, I was stuck, living imprisoned in my own life. When I finally left my marriage with my four youngest children, I faced severe opposition from my family and the community. While leaving to a new city and life was a huge victory for me, it also felt like the start of a battle. I had to fight for custody of my youngest children. I had to fight for the very permission to live my own life.

Deprived of a well-rounded education and knowledge of the world as a Hasidic child, I have devoted my life to telling the truth about the institutionalized education deprivation taking place in many Hasidic and haredi communities and advocating for change. Recently, I have been encouraged by invitations to address Jewish communities and put together storytelling events and know that the only way we will effect lasting change is to unite on the issue of education which is core to Jews throughout the world and over the course of our history. I also know that change comes from within and I will continue being a “secret sister” to the ultra-Orthodox men and women who contact me under the cover of anonymity, seeking support in their own life journey to self-actualization.

Who is your New York Jewish hero?

Ruth Messinger, global ambassador of American Jewish World Service and former Manhattan Borough President.

What’s a fun/surprising fact about you?

I have 10 kids.

How does your Jewish identity or experience influence your work?

My personal biography is the catalyst for the work I do. I believe in the Jewish ethic of “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” It is unjust to deprive a child of their legal right to an education and to a future bright with possibilities.

Was there a formative Jewish experience that influenced your life path?

Being the grandchild of Holocaust survivors.

Do you have a favorite inspiring quote?

From Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot): “It is not up to you to finish the task; neither are you exempt from taking part.” (2:21)

What is your favorite place to eat Jewish food in New York?

My kitchen!

What is your favorite book about New York?

“All of a Kind Family,” by Sydney Taylor.

What are three spots in NYC that all Jewish New Yorkers should visit? 

The Tenement Museum. Hasidic Williamsburg. A guided tour of Union Square, where Jewish progressives have protested and agitated for change for more than a century.

Anything else you’d like us and our readers to know about you?

I am writing a memoir.

How can people follow you online?,  Facebook,  Twitter

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