Saturday, 2 Kislev, 5783
  |  November 26, 2022

A Letter to My OTD Classmate

From the COLlive inbox: "I sincerely ask your forgiveness," a young Lubavitcher chossid writes in an open letter to a classmate of his from Yeshiva who has gone off the derech and is now asking him mechila ahead of Yom Kippur. Full Story

Illustration photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters / Unsplash

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October 2, 2022 11:16 pm

I hope somehow this letter finds its way to the recipient. Thank you for sharing this with us.

never too late
October 2, 2022 11:29 pm

I still keep up with the old friends- frum and not frum. sometimes its every few months and sometimes its every few years. Everyone loves getting a personal call and a “how are you doing”.

You can still pick up the phone and call him – im sure he would be happy to talk to you.

Its a good reminder though to reach out to others. In this social media world pple are lonlier than ever. Plus research shows that by calling someone and making them happy, it makes you happy too. Win, win!

What should you have done?
October 3, 2022 12:00 am

Unfortunately, situations like this happen too often in our community. School aged children need to be taught about how they should react to a classmate who is struggling. They should be given the tools needed to be a real friend to such a person. School staff members should explain what role a friend plays, which boundaries to set, and who to speak to for support. Professionals in the field should be available to answer individual question from personal situations that come up. This will save many from a lot of heartache. May Hashem bring Moshiach now when there will finally… Read more »

1000% yes
Reply to  What should you have done?
October 3, 2022 7:54 am

When will our school leaders take action and accountability in the ways we teach the children to act towards each other? How many more children will go through being bullied and cry out only to be told the great words just ignore it? Instead of teachers validating that a child was hurt and teaching children to take responsibility for their actions. They sit by idly watching instead of using these moments as they should be valuable lessons in ahavas yisroel

parents also need to do this
Reply to  1000% yes
October 6, 2022 2:29 am

the schools are not the kids parents

what about when kids see their parents not acting nicely to others

October 3, 2022 12:03 am

My son’s classmate, who knew that he was OTD, asked me how he was. My silent answer was “Now you suddenly care? Where were you when your interest would have made a difference?”

Reply to  Disgusted
October 3, 2022 1:30 am

but he still cares, even if its too late. look at it that way!

Could be me.
Reply to  anonymous
October 3, 2022 9:35 pm

This letter “could” have been written to me.
But it wasn’t. I am frum & still living in CH. Every time I see you, I get flashbacks of the crap you (THE WHOLE CLASS) thru at me.

Without revealing my identity, I was bullied from the time I entered the class.
You all thought that I was easy bait because we were the nebech family on the street.

So to all you guys who some are shluchim of the Rebbe I say.
Sorry, the hurt is still there. You are not forgiven.
Have a great life.
Your classmate.

I hear this
Reply to  Disgusted
October 3, 2022 1:42 am

I had a similar feeling when a relative of mine took ill years ago. Suddenly everyone was asking me how I was doing and how my relative was.
I kept thinking, do you just want an update or do you really care?

Still, I knew that it was coming from a good place…

Give me a break!
Reply to  Disgusted
October 3, 2022 3:22 am

Did your OTD son ever approach him and ask him how he’s doing in his life emotionally, mentally and physically, when HE could’ve made a difference?

This letter sounds very sincere
October 3, 2022 12:04 am

I’m sorry for have to say this but with a crown heights mentality it’s almost a joke. Why do people “wake up” when it’s too late? Why in the crown heights world if you write such a letter or say this to a friend its code translated as ” the person wants to get you or wants something from you that you dont want to give…” people tend to put a stumbling block in front of a blind person and the blind person DOES FALL. why should the guy who left take this letter seriously?! All I can say is,… Read more »

It's never too late
Reply to  This letter sounds very sincere
October 3, 2022 8:49 am

One can always do teshuva. Don’t give up hope.

Reply to  This letter sounds very sincere
October 3, 2022 1:29 pm

Crown Hights is part of the New York City mentality. “Keep to yourself, there’s something wrong with anyone who even tries to reach out to you.” It’s so sad…how many people stare at you grimacing when you wish them “Good Shabbos” on the street?

many kids adults do things without understanding
Reply to  This letter sounds very sincere
October 6, 2022 1:55 am

it does not excuse it but often this is not done maliciously

like most humans, i am sure that you have inadvertently hurt someone as well

don’t be so fast to accuse

And dont be so fast to assume
Reply to  many kids adults do things without understanding
October 6, 2022 10:38 am

I know I haven’t. There is a chinuch in crown heights which thank G-d I dont have since I wasnt brought up there or live there, so no I haven’t. Dont assume everyone is a crown heighter because thank G-d a lot aren’t!

what in the world
Reply to  And dont be so fast to assume
October 6, 2022 11:26 pm

are you saying that everyone in Crown Heights has something wrong with them?

and everyone not from Crown Heights are all people who always do things with full understanding and just the right way?

because if yes, just by what you say, there is obviously so much that you need to learn

The answer is yes...
Reply to  what in the world
October 7, 2022 1:02 am

And I dont need to learn it. I’ve been there and done that. And I’m proud not to be a crown heightser. Now if you want to be in denial as most are, you are more then welcome. As long as someone doesn’t step on your toe and when that happens, then I just would love to see your reaction.

Is that a label?
October 3, 2022 12:32 am

I don’t think the Rebbe would call someone OTD. Can we come up with another title? How about a letter to my classmate? We’ll figure it out. Or call someone “frei”?

Reply to  Is that a label?
October 3, 2022 3:58 am

Very true. Thank you for that. I would at times say OTD = on the derech,,,, not, off the derech.
This person is ‘on’ his own derech perhaps not yours. Or the one he should be on. But it’s his own derech of struggles confusion and wondering. But it’s his !! Respect it.

A bit tighter
Reply to  Is that a label?
October 3, 2022 10:49 am

Rather than focusing on what the Rebbe “would” do, you can review what the Rebbe did (or didnt) to see if there’s such terminology in the Rebbe’s talks and writings. And you’re allowed to use your own neshomo and seichel to ascertain what to do as well – what do you think? And why is there a title/label necessary at all? Is that not indicative of that there still is residual ostracizing? If one wants to apologize for something done to someone and wants to publicize the letter, just do so. The letter works well without coloring it with a… Read more »

True point
Reply to  Is that a label?
October 3, 2022 1:06 pm

Someone once mentioned to the Freerdike Rebbe about a a fellow who went “Frei” the Freerdike Rebbe replied “ver hut eem bafreit?”..

Why wait?
October 3, 2022 12:42 am

Why are you waiting for you to “reconnect naturally”? Make a call! Our biggest mistake is not making the first move!

So true
October 3, 2022 12:48 am

As I’m reading this article I am already thinking of how true this experience is in my life. Thank you so much to the author for expressing this feeling many of us have so well

Some context please
October 3, 2022 12:50 am

Story is unfinished please tell us more.

Nice sentiments
October 3, 2022 1:23 am

However, it seems too patronizing and too much of an implied insult that his life is a disaster because he chose to pursue his own journey. Just say your sorry that you lost touch. And that you’ll always value the friendship. No more needs to be said.

I agree!
Reply to  Nice sentiments
October 3, 2022 3:18 am

What does any of this have to do with a classmate that went OTD??? What about the classmate who was a loner? What about the socially off class mate? What about the class mate that made himself look like the mocho guy but inside was really soft and broken? In general young adults in yeshivah are somewhat self conscious, if not self conscious period. So unless there’s a strong two way friendship, it’s a very normal thought that “he has his people and I have mine” or “he’s probably not even interested in me befriending him” Going a little deeper… Read more »

Beautiful but ....
October 3, 2022 1:52 am

Such a Sincere message… but to possibly know one. Why would you just put it out there so that mabey he will go on COL and mabey he will read this and mabey he will realize its for him and will probably not know who it’s from. You care ? Send it to him directly know matter how embarrassing it is, that would be a much better way of caring for a freind you lost.

Gut yom tov.

Aseres Yemei Teshuvah
October 3, 2022 1:55 am

This Yungerman is clearly having remorse. He is trying to figure out, how he missed the signs. He wants to connect with his friend.He is writing an obviously sincere letter, to his friend. He is kind of asking for advice from the public that is reading his heartfelt letter, how to go about doing it. And I might suggest, that maybe his friend wasn’t too forthcoming, and giving him much access, either. And what is everyone doing, pounding him down,telling him nasty words. For heaven’s sake, what is this? I am shocked by all these negative responses.His letter looks like… Read more »

Frei by choice
October 3, 2022 2:27 am

Anyone going off the Derech clearly has some emotional or mental health issues that weren’t treated or diagnosed possibly they were abused as well.

Reply to  Frei by choice
October 3, 2022 6:27 am

It is very condescending to assume you have all the answers figured out. How many people have you actually spoken to to really understand their perspective? You are oversimplifying things to fit what you think is the case.

Reply to  Frei by choice
October 3, 2022 6:33 am

Have you actually had a real heart to heart conversation with any of these people? You decided you know why. There are many layers and a lot of personal responsibility that we as a community and mechanchim have. What constitutes an emotional issue? A very shy or insecure child who could use support in school to grow but didn’t get it? And then doesn’t feel that they fit? Or a child who struggles to keep up with Gemara and then suddenly can’t fit into Yeshiva because the whole system is built around learning? Perhaps the child has no issue with… Read more »

Or, or
Reply to  Frei by choice
October 3, 2022 7:11 am

Or he just has a bigger yetzer horo and couldnt control it. And kudos to the many many who stayed frum and were able to be misgaber on the yetzer horo. Its time to start taking responsibility…

Anyone or most
Reply to  Frei by choice
October 3, 2022 7:51 am

Either it’s something they have from birth , but how often have they “ gone crazy” because of the loneliness the pain , the fear of coming to school ! each day knowing they will come over to you, with a comment at least , probably more , maybe pushed to the cement , or randomly punched in the stomach , or kicked in the knee!! and not having anyone To go to for help , embarrassed to get your parents and teachers involved . (All these are real examples not once also not every day but they mixed it… Read more »

Reply to  Frei by choice
October 3, 2022 7:58 am

Judgementalism is what drives ppl to go and stay off the derech.
Where is the acceptance that a person made a choice for themselves that is different than your choice. Not every person who makes a choice that is different than your choice, mentally ill.

Reply to  Judgementalism
October 3, 2022 10:27 am

yes there are consequences for their “choices” after 120 I am giving them the benefit of the doubt to show that they werent making a choice but rather it is a disorder that caused them to abandon Yahadus, how could they not see the truth in Yiddishkeit?

Reply to  choice
October 4, 2022 1:43 am

I stayed frum, I am not modern in my lifestyle at all, in fact, I am in the rabbinate, I’m sure if I said my name you would recognize it, and guess what? I struggled mightily at times to see the truth in Yiddishkeit, maybe the otd people are actually more honest than I am.

if you struggle to see the truth in Yiddishkeit
Reply to  truth
October 6, 2022 11:30 pm

maybe take off some time from the Rabbinate to strengthen yourself

a rov has to be a yirei shamayim

much hatzlacha and may you continue to share your light

Not necessarily
Reply to  Frei by choice
October 3, 2022 8:53 am

Maybe they have a higher neshama that has greater nisyanos.

Super Jewie
Reply to  Frei by choice
October 3, 2022 8:58 am

Interested to know your case study to prove this point.

Reply to  Frei by choice
October 3, 2022 12:19 pm

This kind of comment and the corresponding lack of understanding is the kind of thing that can drive people off

October 3, 2022 3:54 am

Wow, it’s written so beautifully and movingly, it’s so touching, I’m sad, I also have close friends with whom I’ve lost contact and I miss them, and I don’t know how to contact them, I have friends who are ashamed that they left the road and they don’t want to talk too much, too bad, Because I really want to talk to them and it doesn’t matter to me that they are like this now, I remember them when they were completely like me, it’s a shame and it hurts me that this is the situation that happens to us,… Read more »

Reread your comment
Reply to  Binyamin
October 3, 2022 9:45 am

There’s a gap between you and your childhood friend. They’ve moved on from where you two were when you were children. Assuming they are ashamed is not a way to engender friendships. I’ve kept friendships from my childhood that transcend our religious commitment. Some of my yeshiva friends drive over an hour to join me at my shabbos table. It’s doable but it’s mostly on you to figure out how to maintain the friendship. They’ve moved on in life and many times they’re childhood memories and their memories of leaving their parents ways are painful to them. If you were… Read more »

does every child have a school?
October 3, 2022 6:10 am

Sadly a lot of kids today are on the brink due to schools/yeshivas not accepting them. How many kids at this point of the year haven’t stepped foot into a school building? Who is gonna say yudeini lo shufchi es hadam haze when something happens to one of these kids? The schools? The so called organizations that probably make money but don’t help? If half the kids who are not in school now would have a school after succos, lives would be saved.

Excuse me
October 3, 2022 7:34 am

Clearly people like you are the cause of all these “mental issues that make people otd”
This mindset will cause people to realize you aren’t taking them seriously bc you are just blaming it on mental illness when they genuinely have doubts and questions they want answered.
People go otd for many other reasons and no they do not have to be mentally ill to do so

Just pick up the phone and wish him a Shana tova
October 3, 2022 7:42 am

No need for long explanations. Just reach out , consistently

Parent of child who is weak in mitzvos
October 3, 2022 9:01 am

I long for classmates or others to connect with my son. Maybe they can influence him to teshuva. Mitzvoim isn’t just putting tefillin on people who have never put them on.

Just contact and say hi like normal
Reply to  Parent of child who is weak in mitzvos
October 3, 2022 10:05 am

Sending hugs to you
But I to have kids who have found different paths but she would say why they contacted me now where were they in school when I was being bullied and also only contacting me because I’m not frum
Best thing is for someone to contact your son saying let’s catch up and say I have no intention on making you frum your were my classmate and would like to catch up

Yes your right
Reply to  Parent of child who is weak in mitzvos
October 4, 2022 2:18 am

Bochrim do mivtzah Tefilin because it’s Ahava and yira which is what they Koch in. Today it baca me a chore instead of sharing yiddishkeit.

Their are more mivtzah of the rebbe read up officially 10!

Read letters

It has to be stressed
October 3, 2022 12:22 pm

Ahavas yisroel is not a tactic that you try in order to make someone frum

October 3, 2022 12:27 pm

Maybe, just maybe, the friend to whom this letter addresses, is on his way to a more rewarding, richer, healthier place (state of being). While it seems wise to be friendly and kind and supportive and non-judgmental (if that’s what this letter writer now understands) the fact that his friend is now on his way to a different place and job and way of life, seems a good thing. And perhaps it’s the letter writer who now needs the other guy’s resilience and support. Yes, the letter writer’s world might be accurate it its remorse at losing a member of… Read more »

October 3, 2022 1:36 pm

Moved to tears from this letter.

I believe most people have this happen to them at some point in their lives.

Thank you

A parent
October 3, 2022 5:46 pm

One of my children is not frum. I did alot of soul searching when that child was leaving my derech for their own. Here’s a few things I learned during that time. There’s a pretty big lack of self awareness in our community that exasperates the struggle of those that are searching and don’t feel like they fit the mold. This can often be harmful enough where stable young people spiral to a point that it leads to mental health issues (not always, but enough RL that they end up with addictions etc. that are life long challenges for them… Read more »

Reply to  A parent
October 5, 2022 9:42 pm

Thank you for a helpful comment

Reply to  A parent
October 6, 2022 2:03 am

it is not their parents “derech”, it is the derech Hashem has laid out for every Yid

maybe right they have chosen not to do that, but it is not all derechs are the correct one as long as they make the person happy

October 4, 2022 2:03 pm

thank you

What is the best thing to do in this scenario
October 6, 2022 12:56 am

I have a friend who was in a lot of pain and start ghosting everyone and being nasty while she was in the process of chilling out. I wanted to stay friends and tried to come up with different ways to spend time with her, tried to encourage her not to cut off friends, but she only wanted to hang out with me if I would go to a bar with her, which was never something I did, and then she ghosted me too. It has been 4 years, I still reach out to her every so often and feel… Read more »

stop blaming family friends or school for this
October 6, 2022 2:11 am

stop automatically blaming family friends or school for this there are all kinds of situations there is a lot that can lead to this we must honestly try our best as the Torah guides us, and constatntly reflect where we can improve, but we are all “humans” and are not perfect, if someone else decides to not keep Yiddisheit, we should not “beat ourselves up” or decide to name blame it’s always easy for a person to go blame others, they are not perfect themseves where mistakes have been made, let’s try to fix, not to bash, for then you… Read more »

October 6, 2022 2:31 am

while struggling in some areas, it is important that both others and we ourselves learn to also celebrate the areas we are doing well in, as we continue to try and improve overall

no Yid is without Mitzvos

Again, it's the....
October 7, 2022 1:03 am

school the neighbors, the neighborhood, the you name it. This kind of sad oversight can and does happen in all circles, to considerable numbers of people whoever and wherever they may be. Would that it weren’t so but it is. Why is this writer being attacked for admitting that he assumed his classmate was doing what most people do, just going about their lives. It speaks well of the writer that he is berating himself for not realizing that something was bothering his classmate. Perhaps the classmate never mentioned to anyone that something was bothering him. We don’t know; and… Read more »