‘I am not afraid to shout the truth’

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I grew up part of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Jerusalem, attending ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools. My teachers always emphasized how different we were from the secular, non-religious world at large.

Life for us was different: we had strict dress codes that meant I could only wear dark colors, long dresses or skirts, and specific hairdos. My ponytail had to be centered in the back of my head – if it was slightly askew, I would be sent to the bathroom to fix it. Of course, the Internet was forbidden. Non-Jewish movies and music too.

I am definitely not the poster child for the ultra-Orthodox school I attended. While I was in high school, I broke more than a few rules, and I left after 10th grade. 

I ended up in suburban Maryland, spending time on Instagram growing a following of moms who, like me, were using the Internet more than we are supposed to. None of these choices my former teachers would approve of, and I have found myself living far from the Ultra-Orthodox enclaves of Israel or the New York area.

Since Hamas’s massacre on October 7th, however, I have been thinking about my teachers, relatives, and my friends back home in those Ultra-Orthodox enclaves. They taught us something I’ve seen is even more valuable over the past couple of weeks.

My former community drilled into us an important lesson: no matter what the whole world thinks, no matter what people around us say, we have to be upright and strong and do the right thing, even when it’s not popular. 

The ultra-Orthodox Jewish community is a punching bag and a punchline for those in modern American society; the portrayals you see of us on screen and in the media portray us as primitive at best.

Most pop culture depictions of our community center around a storyline involving someone escaping its clutches, as if the Ultra-Orthodox world is a cult that one must flee. But, in fact, there is a lot to be admired, a fact that I’m realizing more with every passing day since October 7th.


Traditional Orthodox Jewish education is predicated on the notion that the outside world with all its thoughts, opinions, and expectations can not move us one millimeter from our Jewish tradition. It teaches us that morality comes with our faith alone. It is the essence of who we are.

The last few weeks are helping me to understand the power of this idea.

I live in a country, the United States, where almost every elite university has had a Hamas-sympathizer protest, just like the Nazi sympathizers in America in the late 1930s. These universities have refused to condemn evil, and so they have become accomplices to evil. 

My former community drilled into us an important lesson: no matter what the whole world thinks, no matter what people around us say, we have to be upright and strong and do the right thing, even when it’s not popular. 

Some may even have the chutzpah to come asking for my tuition dollars when my children are in high school. My husband, an alum of one of these institutions, will even get fundraising calls.

I live in a society where some people who were once close to me have not reached out even once since October 7 to check in. They know I have all of my family in Israel, including siblings serving in the military in combat roles. They know that my heart is breaking watching my homeland be ripped apart, but they have been stone walls of silence. 

They aren’t too busy to post on their own social media about the situation, but they do have time to cry out incessantly about the ‘genocide’ that Israel is supposedly committing in Gaza. Or they complain about how much more aid Gaza should be getting, as if the big question before D-Day was how much aid we were going to send Germany to make its wartime experience more comfortable.

I live in an area where our local elected officials, not realizing that the unexpected happens and that people need to be prepared, will do anything to make it difficult for concerned and capable citizens to legally own and carry guns. These same politicians give lip service to the idea of defunding the police.

I live in a culture in which more people mindlessly fantasize about ‘peace’ in the Middle East than are willing to stand up to the barbarians who massacre, torture, abuse, and kidnap innocent civilians. They’re indifferent to all Israeli loss of life, even the brutal murder of women, children and the elderly. At least that’s what everyone says, as if it’s OK to murder innocent middle-aged men.

This peer pressure is why some may feel apprehension or anxiety before standing up and shouting the truth.

But I am not afraid to shout the truth. My ultra-Orthodox teachers taught me to be the kind of person who would proudly as Jewish woman stand for what’s right. They had a point that I didn’t appreciate at the time. Sometimes society, especially elite secular society, gets it wrong.

And our job is to get it right. 

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