I was raised in an orthodox, Jewish community and published my first novel in 2013. It was an instant hit, and sold well in Orthodox communities all over the world. I’m proud to say it helped raise awareness of mental health issues and normalized therapy and medication, which is highly stigmatized in that community.

My second novel was published a few years later and by that time, I was on my way out of the community for a long list of reasons.

I self-published my most recent novel on Amazon in 2018, when I was fully irreligious and frankly, feeling frustrated with the community I had left. I wrote about sexual abuse and sexuality and self-harm and all sorts of taboo topics, all written about a bunch of Orthodox, Jewish girls that are labeled as “troubled”.

Ironically, I still get “fan mail” from young girls who have read my first 2 books and are obsessed with those characters. They assume I’m still the inspirational, religious woman that I seemed to be in my first two books.

All of my books are available on Amazon, and I’m making my newest book free for the next few days (Kindle) to give folks something to read during this quarantine.

So go ahead and ask me anything about writing, leaving the community, my favorite drink, if I think Carol Baskin killed her husband, etc.

Comments: 624 • Responses: 47  • Date: 

Neonbluefox268 karma

Hi, I'm a psychiatrist with a client that has left the Jewish community himself a few years ago, before belonging to one of the most strict Jewish families.

While 100% at peace with the decision to leave, he now feels very alone, baseless, and without a safety net.

How did you deal with this after leaving? Have you any experience or advice you can share that might help my client feel more at home in the Western world?

climballthethingsss228 karma

Having a support group is extremely important. I always had a sense of community outside of religion whether it was classmates in college, coworkers, or friends that I rock climbed with. There are also organizations like Footsteps that help people acclimate to the secular world.

After leaving religion, I did spend several years just trying to find myself. I dealt with anorexia for about 8 years, and part of my recovery was finding my identify completely outside of my religion. At times, it was a really painful process and there were some dark years. But now, on the other side, I have found true happiness.

I encourage your client to try new things and figure out what makes him happy, excited, and inspired. He will have to break a lot of mental rules about the meaning of life and I’m glad he is getting professional help.

PamPoovey81265 karma

I'm more familiar with Amish leaving their orders (due to where I live - there are few Jews here and those here are not really orthodox). How hard was it for you to leave? Amish don't have Social Security cards, driver's licenses, etc. Did you have any major adjustments like that?

climballthethingsss452 karma

I did not. By the time I left, I had a driver’s license, Masters degree, savings, etc. Leaving the Chassidic community is incredibly hard, probably similar to Amish, because of the language barrier and lack of secular education.

Another thing that helped me leave more easily was that I had no children. I was married once, but got out pretty quickly. When there are kids involved, custody can get messy real fast, and many people don’t leave because they don’t want to cause chaos for their kids. Teenagers who want to leave the religion also go through a lot of pushback and brainwashing. I was in my early 20’s when I left.

The hardest changes for me were emotional. All my life I was led to believe that the secular world was immoral, unhappy, and untrustworthy. The Orthodox community wants you to believe that you won’t survive with them, and I had to learn - and truly believe - that it was a lie.

VoltageNZ191 karma

" All my life I was led to believe that the secular world was immoral, unhappy, and untrustworthy. The Orthodox community wants you to believe that you won’t survive with them, and I had to learn - and truly believe - that it was a lie."

That's basically every religion in my opinion.

climballthethingsss158 karma

I agree. I’ve found that I can relate quite well to ex-Christians, ex-Mormons, etc. Same story, different religion.

Unbathed174 karma

Does the Orthodox community have any general opinion about the Amish?

climballthethingsss295 karma

We went to visit like they were a tourist attraction. I suppose we had some begrudging respect for the way they stuck to their beliefs, but bottom line, anyone who wasn’t Jewish had the wrong belief system.

gallimaufrys156 karma

What is your opinion on the Netflix show unorthodox?

climballthethingsss273 karma

Even though I don’t come from a Chassidic community, it was hard to watch because many themes hit close to home. I read the book Unorthodox when I was still religious and remember how much hatred there was for the author, because she had the nerve to expose these things about Jews. I thought it was a good show, and hope there will be more like it.

eye-opened109 karma

I found it triggering too. I think it was done quite brilliantly though. It's interesting now to see this up here, since your books were really popular amongst the girls at the semminary I went to. I'm glad I'm out, the journey is tough but well worth it.

climballthethingsss88 karma

I’ve gotten quite a bit of fan mail from seminary girls! I’m happy to hear that you’re out and wish you only the best things.

Earguy139 karma

What is the community mindset that results in people ignoring social distancing laws, having weddings and parties against the law? Do they think they're isolated therefore not at risk? "Chosen people" arrogance? It's a real problem in Lakewood NJ near me.

climballthethingsss152 karma

It’s infuriating. I’m only hearing of it in the Chassidic communities. Only thing I can think of is that many of them don’t have internet access. It’s not an excuse but they may not know how serious it is or may have a distrust of the media. Luckily, most mainstream Orthodox communities in the US are taking it seriously and are publicly stating that people can’t gather for anything. I already saw those emails about 2-3 weeks ago.

Earguy45 karma

Thank you. Just as an illustration, in Ocean County NJ last week Lakewood had 84 cases while the big population area Toms River had 28. EDIT/UPDATE: As of yesterday Toms River had 106 cases, Lakewood had 371

climballthethingsss67 karma

It’s bad. It’s really bad. You also have more people living in each household due to large families size, so even if they do quarantine (which I don’t know if they are), one person can easily infect 8-10 others.

estherstein12 karma

My impression is that in many of the more Chassidic/Charedi communities that rabbeim were urging on this behavior with the excuse that mitzvot are more likely to help than social distancing. Luckily there seems to have been a return to sanity recently.

climballthethingsss16 karma

That rings true. I also heard that the religious schools closed later than the public schools, which may be a reason for the increased spread.

quentinislive92 karma

Did Carol Baskin kill her husband?

climballthethingsss176 karma

I don’t know if she got her own hands dirty but I bet she knows exactly what happened to him.

ChihuahuaBeech26 karma

Yeah she just seems way too calm about the whole thing. I get coming to terms with your husband missing is a thing, but she seems so whatever about it all

climballthethingsss93 karma

I have to say I’m a bit torn though because the Netflix producers probably chopped up all of her interviews to make her look like an evil, scheming, woman. I feel like they want us to believe she killed him, which is making me suspicious. But hopefully this will open up the cold case and get some answers!

JudeanPF75 karma

As a modern Orthodox Jew, it's especially heartbreaking to hear of the things you went through and continue to go through. I'm so sorry that you and other Jews are subject to painful things like this. It seems like most Jews who leave haredi communities never consider other branches of Judaism since they were raised with such a black and white (pun intended) view of "we're right and everything else is wrong." Was there ever a point in your journey when you considered another form of Judaism?

climballthethingsss80 karma

Great comment! Yes, I absolutely considered other forms of Judaism. I joke that I’m both an FFB (frum from birth) and a BT (baal teshuva) because after I’d been irreligious for a while, I returned to religion, in a modern Orthodox community. I liked it at first, but once I got to know the people in it, I was disappointed to see the same hypocrisy and immorality that I detested in the frum community. Ultimately, I simply don’t believe anymore, but if I were to meet someone who wanted to leave their Chassidic/Yeshivish community, I would recommend they try an MO community. I believe Project Makom exists for that very purpose.

roastbeeftacohat60 karma

What food am I missing out on by being a gentile?

climballthethingsss134 karma

Potato kugel, hands down. Super easy to make though, so I give you a Jewish pass to find a recipe online and make some.

roastbeeftacohat33 karma

always buy shell on shrimp, the shell has a ton of flavor in it and can be turned into shrimp stock with almost no effort. a great pan sauce for steak is just that, garlic butter, lemon, and the shrimp you got the shells from.

guessing you don't have a lot of family recipes involving shrimp.

climballthethingsss76 karma

I’ve tried shrimp twice now and I can’t get past the texture! I do really enjoy cheeseburgers though. Discovering those were fun.

TheGreatQuillow26 karma

What about bacon? My dad was raised orthodox and kept kosher my whole life until a couple of years ago. I grew up in a reformed, kosher household.

He loves the seafood he couldn’t eat before, but still says bacon “doesn’t smell good” to him. Which is something that I can’t even fathom! Bacon is delicious!!!

I still can’t bring myself to eat ham, though.

climballthethingsss32 karma

It took some time, but I now I do like bacon! I’ve never tried ham - it seems a lot less appealing.

toosoered15 karma

If you like potato and bacon one of my favorite sandwiches is a potato bacon egg and cheese on an everything bagel. If you haven’t tried it I highly recommend it.

climballthethingsss12 karma

Ooh that sounds amazing.

INeverLearnedToRead7 karma

girl, PM me your address. there is a thing called "honey baked ham" which is absolutly awesome, Ill have then send you one.

climballthethingsss28 karma

That is very sweet of you but that sounds horrendous lol

Thedirtyjersey0 karma

Seafood in general is icky

climballthethingsss2 karma

I like cooked fish, but raw fish has always grossed me out. I might like seafood if I’d grown up eating it, but that ship seems to have sailed.

geedavey2 karma

Lox is raw... Just sayin'

climballthethingsss1 karma

Does smoked count as raw?!

Shrinkerofbrains58 karma

I can really relate with your post and the comments. I am a modern orthodox jew but my belief system is mostly agnostic but leaning towards no god. I stay in the community because I have two beautiful girls and want to be there for them as much as possible. I know if I leave Judaism, my wife would want a divorce and my family would hate me. I keep shabbos and kosher but occasionally vape secretly on shabbos. There are a million reasons to leave and allow myself to just be myself, but I stay for my girls. I feel depressed about this but I feel trapped. Any advice?

climballthethingsss56 karma

Hey there. Unfortunately, you are not alone. I know of many that are in the same situation as you. If I’d had children during my very brief marriage, my life might look very differently now. Are you connected with Footsteps? Not sure where you live but they have lots of support for folks like you. I’d also check out Project Makom.

In terms of advice, if you aren’t already going, I highly recommend therapy. It was very instrumental in helping me figure myself out.

There is no easy answer for you. I believe the community is designed to make it feel impossible for folks to leave. But people do leave, and come out okay on the other side. I hope that can be you one day.

KendraGoatFucker57 karma

What are your thoughts on eruvs?

climballthethingsss122 karma

Silly. It’s honestly just playing a game of “let’s pretend”. But I wish they would use that creative attitude when it came to helping trapped women (agunot) get out of abusive marriages or other issues that are actually important.

quentinislive36 karma

What was the hardest part about leaving? What do you write back to your fan girls?

climballthethingsss88 karma

The hardest part is not having the family connections I used to have. I live with my girlfriend of 2.5 years and we have been invited to exactly 1 family event. My family has a hard time acknowledging that she even exists.

I used to write back to every fan. They would often share their personal struggles and I’d respond to that. I would never tell them that I wrote Finding Eden, because it would likely traumatize then. But lately I’ve stopped responding. It takes a lot out of me and feels disingenuous. I save the emails so maybe one day I’ll write back.

ALonelyRoadRunner34 karma

Did you go to a yeshiva?

climballthethingsss66 karma

All girls Jewish school from K-12th grade, then one year of seminary in Israel followed by a second year in a Jewish college to finish my Bachelors degree.

estherstein16 karma

You got a BA from one year in Israel and one in college?

climballthethingsss54 karma

Yes. They offered college courses in my senior year of high school as well as during the summer. Then I took up to 27 credits a semester over 2 years. Most of my classmates did this, so I don’t think I was disproportionately intelligent. I actually think I missed out on the college experience. I went straight into a masters program and finished with my masters degree at age 21.

talldean13 karma

Were the courses easier than average, or did you work 14 hours a day seven days a week for those two years or similar? I've never heard of a college or university that would allow someone to take that load, let alone multiple people taking (and managing!) it.

climballthethingsss33 karma

I honestly don’t know if they were harder or easier than average. But all through k-12, we were in school from 8:00 to 4:45, with Hebrew classes in the morning and English classes in the afternoon. Some years we had school on Sunday. I got my Bachelors degree from a college that I never actually attended, with all my credits being transferred there at the end of the two years. I CLEPed several classes (self-study then take the test online) which basically lets you knock out 6 credits in an hour, and once got 12 credits for taking a Hebrew language test.

change3149 karma


climballthethingsss21 karma

Nope - it was called Seminar

sumelar31 karma

Have you seen the South Park episode Jewbilee?

If so, what type of arts and craft project would you offer Moses?

climballthethingsss29 karma

I have not! But I’ll add it to my list of quarantine activities.

Zenobiya28 karma

Do you have any regrets about leaving the community? And have you found your own community now?

climballthethingsss47 karma

No. I wish my family was more accepting of me but I can’t change them.

Yes I have! I have an amazing girlfriend who comes from a similar background. I have a lot of friends and coworkers and folks that I rock climb with. I’m a pretty outgoing person which helps.

shredmaster666128 karma

I’m a modern Orthodox Jew, and want to know, why is it that you left?

climballthethingsss81 karma

I didn’t agree with too many things. I couldn’t get behind the racism, the homophobia, the politics, the judgmental people, and superiority. I saw a lot of injustice and hypocrisy, and it didn’t match up with what I was being taught by my Hebrew teachers.

At first, I decided to stop being religious even though I still thought that Orthodox Judaism was the right way of life. Then I lost my faith completely. Now, I don’t believe in god or the Torah.

cellendril22 karma

Now that you’ve left, how does a lifetime of deeply entrenched bigotry and cultural superiority affect you? I have Israeli friends that are very much anti-ultra orthodox.

climballthethingsss59 karma

I think I always chafed against those things, even when I was fully religious. I always questioned the homophobia and bigotry. Insults like “feminist” and “liberal” were used to keep me in my place.

I’ve always been open minded and made friends with non-Jews, which was heavily discouraged. I read a lot and became a social worker, working in inner cities that were nothing like where I came from.

As I completely left religion, I came to dislike the bigotry and superiority even more. When I came out as gay, which was actually after I was totally irreligious, it of course bothered me even more.

I totally understand why your friends are anti-ultra-Orthodox.

Thedirtyjersey21 karma

Any opinion on the recent covid issues? In the new jersey Lakewood community there's been a ton of 50+ weddings broken up in the last two weeks despite quarantine rules. In Israel as well, with excuses about lack of technology etc to get message out.

Do you think it may lean more towards purposefully ignoring outsider rules etc?

climballthethingsss37 karma

It’s awful and inexcusable because by now even those without access to Internet know what’s going on. I think it has to do with prioritizing certain things (celebrating the bride and groom) and ignoring others (local laws about quarantine). They will always defer to the rabbis so it all depends on what the rabbis are saying. The rabbis of certain communities (Passaic, Teaneck) have been great about making public statements about quarantine. Lakewood needs to follow suit.

s2bc21 karma

What about cult of circumcision aka religious brit ceremony on community. Do they really think that it is necessary/mandatory. Cut is a permanent mark. Is it religious? What about baby boy's freedom of religion? I'm not thinking about his parents freedom of religion now.

Here in Finland, Europe the issue is about human rights for child. Without his consent it is violence.

When some non-teistic person talk about issue I always hear you are antisemi. I'm not. The point of view is so different here.

climballthethingsss37 karma

I agree with you and I don’t think your opinion is anti-Semitic. But I also don’t think that Orthodox Jews will ever budge on this, even if the laws change.

AsABlackMan18 karma

How contentious were Israel's policies towards Arabs and Palestinians in the Orthodox community?

climballthethingsss39 karma

In my community, it was pretty black and white: what Israel was doing was justified and necessary. There wasn’t much discussion and if you tried to ask questions, you’d likely get called a liberal (which is an insult).

BitPoet15 karma

Have you ever sat down and tried to figure out the tastiest thing that breaks the most Kosher rules? I'd imagine a bacon cheeseburger would come close (meat+dairy+pork, leavened bread, etc.) but I'm sure there are dozens of others that could be added in.

climballthethingsss37 karma

The rules of Kosher are so strict, it’s pretty easy to break the laws. Honestly, some of my most thrilling non-Kosher experiences have been super tame, like eating a salad at Panera. But the bacon cheeseburger would be pretty up there!

lapras2515 karma

What inspires you to write? Do you write the sort of things you like to read? Or are your reading preferences totally different?

climballthethingsss14 karma

I like this question. I definitely write the sort of things I would like to read. So I write a lot about trauma and abuse and mental health and friendship and deep emotional pain.

As a kid, I was always feeling sad or angry or misunderstood. As I got older, those feelings evolved but I never really had a way of expressing them. As a writer, I get to create characters that feel all the things I felt in my life, and I get to choose how my characters will handle these feelings. It’s almost like my writing is a corrective experience of my own life.

When it comes to reading, I actually love memoirs. Before I wrote my novels, I actually wrote a memoir of my life and submitted it to my Orthodox Jewish publisher. They wrote back saying that it was a great piece of work, but that my depictions of anorexia and self-harm were too accurate and it might encourage others to engage in that behavior. So I scrapped the memoir and wrote my novels.

PhilipWaterford9 karma

What reason were you given for the animal sacrifices being no longer practiced (destruction of the temple aside) while the rest of the laws were still necessary? (Eg the sabbath) In the written torah, the sacrifices seemed intrinsically linked to practice of the faith.

climballthethingsss22 karma

Destruction of the temple was the main reason, IIRC. Orthodox men still study the text surrounding sacrifices as if they will one day do them again.

lazylupine8 karma

Do you have any regrets looking back? Anything you did at the time in your community that is hard to accept or think back to now?

I left a very intense religious group as a young adult and often have trouble thinking back to how my actions affected others and contributed to them staying in the groups that ultimately were so damaging.

climballthethingsss33 karma

Great question. I think of all the times I engaged in “kiruv”, which is the act of bringing irreligious Jews closer to Orthodox Judaism, and I’m not proud of that, even though I thought I was doing the right thing at the time.

I wish I hadn’t gotten married. I married a man that I didn’t love because I was taught that love is not a requirement for marriage. He wasn’t a bad person but I divorced him within the year because I realized it wasn’t what I wanted and I would never raise a family with him. I feel bad for him because he was just playing by the rules too.

twitchy_and_fatigued7 karma

What are your thoughts on I/P conflict? I'm Jewish and my best friend is Palestinian, and we talk about it sometimes. I do think there should be a Jewish state, since everywhere else, we get killed. But I think Britain screwed it up by making the borders shitty and basically forcing Palestine to acknowledge Israel.

climballthethingsss20 karma

I don’t think I’m educated enough to have the most intelligent opinion. Basically, I think Israel has a right to exist, and so does Palestine. I have no idea what a resolution would look like. While not perfect, I do think Israel is more ethical than Hamas, but Hamas does not equal all Palestinians.

ChihuahuaBeech7 karma

Hi there! I recently realized I have Jewish ancestors/relatives. I want to reconnect with that heritage, and I thought a good way to do that would be to explore traditionally Jewish foods. What are/were some of your favorites?

climballthethingsss15 karma

Welcome! I can’t recommend potato kugel enough. It’s super easy to make. Some of my other favorites are potato knishes, kokosh cake, and homemade challah.

is-a-dinosaur13 karma

I'm not the AMAer (?) but welcome! First off you should know that if your mother or her mother, grandmother, etc. are Jewish then that means you are too! Some of the staple Jewish foods that come to mind are challah, lox and bagels, hummus and pita, schnitzel, falafel, shawarma, kugel, cholent, rugelach and babka (the last two at least in my Ashkenazi community). Also, Passover is coming up so you may want to look at matzah, though it's one of if not the worst of our foods in terms of taste but very symbolically significant. I hope you'll learn more about this part of your heritage and I'm happy to give you resources if you want them. Just know that Jews, yes even the Orthodox, are largely loving and caring people and not the demons we are characterized as.

climballthethingsss16 karma

Those are all awesome suggestions, and I have to double down on challah, potato kugel, falafel, chulent, rugelach, and babka. So delicious!

Lost-Semicolon4 karma

Although you left the Chassidic community, do you still practice Judaism? Are you religious in any way?

climballthethingsss9 karma

So I actually was never Chassidic, just what we call “Yeshivish”. I do not practice Judaism at all, and I’m pretty adverse to any religious rituals or things that remind me of my religious past.

phys943 karma

Do you think the term goy is derogatory?

climballthethingsss7 karma

Probably. It has been most times I’ve heard it used.

koryisma3 karma

Can you please provide the link to the free book? Sounds great and I just binge watched Unorthodox this weekend.

climballthethingsss4 karma

The book becomes free at midnight tonight. Enjoy!

Here you go

[deleted]2 karma


climballthethingsss5 karma

Proof was submitted

Norgeroff2 karma

What color is your toothbrush?

climballthethingsss5 karma

Black and white electric with a little blue band. Thanks for asking the important things!

coquimbo2 karma

I have a question about weaves and veils. I've seen that othordox jew women wear both veils and weaves. It appears to be more weaves (at least in public?). And I don't quite get it. What are the rules?How fake hairs (weave) does something to cover real hair? Feels a bit "hyprocrite" (don't mean to be offensive, I didn't find a better word and English is not my 1rst language).

climballthethingsss3 karma

It has to do with modesty and only showing your real hair to your husband and close male relatives. I do think it’s odd that most women’s wigs are ten times nice than their real hair, so the rest of the world sees them looking their best, while their husband gets the real hair that’s been sitting under a wig all day.

skyvictor1 karma

Is Kabbalah based on actual Judaism or is it phony?

climballthethingsss1 karma

I don’t actually know what Kabbalah is based on, but I personally think it’s phony.