Wednesday, January 4, 2012


No, not OTB. And, oh my, not OTK.

No, OTD. Off the derech. The state of having left the traditional/Orthodox/Hasidic life and community. Also, a state of mind wherein one's soul is already at the diner eating a cheeseburger with a beautiful blond girlfriend even while one's body is eating kugel at a plastic covered dining room table.

The OTD experience has spawned a universe of its own blogs. I'll admit that I'm about five or six years late to this phenomenon. Many of the best OTD blogs have been inactive for quite a while as their owners have either worked out their issues and begun new lives or made peace with things as they are.

My gateway blog was actually Frum Satire. Frum Satire is disappointingly light on actual satire. But it got me hooked on the sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, most times horny, genre of the Yeshiva memories story. That, in turn, led me to Yeshiva Forum for more.

Different from the Yeshiva/youth oriented content of Frum Satire and Yeshiva Forum are the Chasidic/Ex-Chasidic blogs. A good place to start is Unpious, an excellent group blog with a lively mix of stories, reviews, rants and links to all things OTD.

Chasidic OTD blogs are utterly compelling. For one, they remind of why I first fell in love with reading blogs. I'm nosy, too curious for my own good. The inner life of the person next to me on the subway is way more interesting than a single episode of some fake reality show. Stumbling on a good personal blog is like catching my across-the-airshaft Israeli neighbors walking around naked. Which they did a lot. If they weren't going to close the drapes I wasn't going to look away.

The Chasidic OTD blogs are, in their own way, as sensational as the naked Israelis. Many of the best ones come from the extremes of the Hasidic universe, especially Satmar. What is it like to grow up in Brooklyn and be almost totally alienated from English and American culture? What is it like to feel trapped in a community, in a marriage to someone you met for an hour at the age of 18? What on earth do I, a thoroughly American, high achieving, child-free, Yiddish romantic have in common with a Williamsburg Jew? A good question.

As some of you probably know, at one time (and another) I was involved with a gentleman of the chasidic persuasion. After all this time he remains mysterious to me, a mystery inside an enigma wearing a dirty hoodie. And though he came from a place far removed from the isolation of Satmar Williamsburg, I'm still trying to penetrate the psyche of the chasidic yingerman. Reading OTD blogs feels like a window onto that mindset.

Not all of the Chasidic OTD blogs are serious. Some are downright dada. Some are incredibly well written, as well as funny and fascinating.

So, I shared mine. What are some of your favorite OTD blogs? I only mentioned English blogs, as I find chasidic Yiddish thick as fog and I'm lost inside it. But maybe you're not? Do tell in the comments.

And now, just for reading, here's a gift for you, because sometimes, the grass really isn't greener and you have to just accept what is, vos zol zayn, vet zayn.

(For Olga)


  1. I read both unpious and beyondbt. I find the stories and mindsets of people who cross over fascinating.

    In the category of 'see how people on the other side live', aidelmaidel and renreb were fabulous reads until they went private. BadforShidduchim is still a great read, although she's merely yeshivish (she has a secular college degree), not chassidic.


  2. Utterly compelling, to me, are the blogs that tell how utterly compelling ex-Hasidic blogs are. :) Seriously -- to some of us, it's a window into the world of our readers and quite fascinating.

    Glad you stopped by Unpious. And since you mentioned Yiddish blogs, Katle Kanye is a must read, even if you have only passing familiarity with the language. It's that good.

  3. Shulem, is this that awkward moment when I'm staring at the naked Israelis and all of a sudden they're staring back at me? Is there protocol for this? I'm gonna act totally casual and pretend I'm actually gawking at that pigeon nest on the ledge...