"Leaving the Hasidic Community" with Schneur Zalman Newfield

T'chiyah is thrilled to host Dr. Schneur Zalman Newfield, author of Degrees of Separation: Identity Formation While Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Judaism, for an evening discussion on his personal experience and scholarly research on leaving Ultra-Orthodoxy. We are grateful for this educational opportunity to learn about Jewish experiences that may radically differ from our own!

***This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. It will not be recorded.***

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The current Netflix series "Unorthodox" portrays the journey of a young woman who leaves her Hasidic community. The series has prompted much discussion. Among the questions is "how accurately was this experience portrayed?" Professor Schneur Zalman Newfield also went through a separation process and will discuss his experience and his recently published book based on his research on this topic. He will also provide some perspectives on the Netflix series.


Schneur Zalman Newfield, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Borough of Manhattan Community College (CUNY), will discuss the hit Netflix series, Unorthodox. Newfield is uniquely qualified to discuss the Unorthodox series. As a young adult, he left his ultra-Orthodox community and set out to create a new life for himself. For his just-released book, Degrees of Separation: Identity Formation While Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Judaism, Newfield interviewed former members of the Lubavitch and Satmar ultra-Orthodox communities about their experiences leaving those sects and beginning new lives. The book is currently available as an ebook and in paperback from Temple University Press. Visit him online at ZalmanNewfield.com.


Those who exit a religion—particularly one they were born and raised in—often find themselves at sea in their efforts to transition to life beyond their community. In Degrees of Separation, Schneur Zalman Newfield, who went through this process himself, interviews seventy-four Lubavitch and Satmar ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews who left their communities. He presents their motivations for leaving as well as how they make sense of their experiences and their processes of exiting, detailing their attitudes and opinions regarding their religious upbringing. Newfield also examines how these exiters forged new ways of being that their upbringings had not prepared them for while also considering what these particular individuals lose and retain in the exit process.

Degrees of Separation presents a comprehensive portrait of the prolonged state of being “in-between” that characterizes transition out of a totalizing worldview. What Newfield discovers is that exiters experience both a sense of independence and a persistent connection; they are not completely dislocated from their roots once they “arrive” at their new destination. Moreover, Degrees of Separation shows the process of transitioning identity has implications beyond religion.

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August 10, 2020 at 7:30pm - 8:30pm
Jake Ehrlich ·

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Roslyn Schindler

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  • Roslyn Schindler
    rsvped 2020-07-15 11:11:53 -0400
  • Jake Ehrlich
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