One thing that struck me about Baruch’s story is how he decided to dramatically change his life alone. He chose to leave behind everything and everyone that felt familiar and safe to him.
Perhaps the pivotal moment of adolescence can be a prime opportunity for change. A time for us to instinctively choose our path and bravely follow our curiosities. Although Baruch was 18 when I met him his transition began at 16 . Having never learnt English, Maths or Science it was when he stumbled across a podcast secretly passed to him that he began to wonder. The podcast was about evolution and science.
It is natural to form a herd and find security in a shared identity during teen years. We feel comfort in united interests and identities whilst we grow into adults.
However, what happens when we find ourselves fleeing from a group that accepts us?
When we hold a compelling and relentless urge to step outside and search alone?
We have all experienced that notion of otherness, of not belonging . Baruch never saw this as a sadness or as being unaccepted, he simply perceived it as a pull to explore; an opportunity to discover what was unknown to him.
More so, he held onto the beliefs he wanted to and the traditions he respected and adored. He didn’t feel the pressure to deny himself the parts of his Jewish identity he connected with. Rather than succumb to the pigeon-holing order of society he carved a true self. Perhaps being regimented from birth into a conforming community instils an urge to rebel ; outside the red tape feels seductive and wonderous as well as terrifying.
I remember speaking to him about friends and if he had lost many. He mentioned he is still very close to his cousin who had felt inspired by Baruch’s change. In fact, it had encouraged him to consider an alternative life outside of the community for himself.
When we all met he confessed how terrified he was and how he didn’t have the confidence to yet make that drastic leap . He simply couldn’t disobey the rules he knew so well. He felt a huge loyalty to his family . The fear of living without a secure sense of belonging overwhelms him. It was interesting to hear how these great friends reflected on the complexities of life outside of the orthodox community. Baruch held a belief that one day his cousin would follow his path but as we spoke it felt very uncertain.
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