I’m Sari Shapira, 26 years old from Tel Aviv. I grew up in Jerusalem in the ultra-orthodox Lithuanian community, but at age 21 when discussions around finding me a “match” intensified, I realized that I wasn’t interested in getting married at such a young age. I began to withdraw. I remember rumors in the 11th grade about two girls who were “caught in the Hillel cult” because they had chosen to disaffiliate. I did some research online and was satisfied that Hillel was not a “cult,” but an organization that could help me build my life away from the ultra-Orthodox community. Hillel was essential during the initial period after leaving – I received social support and secured a scholarship. I received a lot from Hillel, but I was also luckier than most, in being able to rely as well on my brothers. Currently, I work as a student advisor at the Technical College of Animation, where I plan to continue my graduate studies. I intend to fulfill my dreams, work at a job I love, travel a lot, and most of all, do things that do me good.
To those new Yotzim, I want to say that in the beginning, the longing is more painful than the fear. Leaving is a challenging, agonizing and frightening process. As time goes by it remains a challenge; and it takes endless reserves of courage to face your family, friends, community and, at times, yourself. But even with all of that, I still say: Come on out – to freedom.
I’m Sarah Reich, 33 years old. I left the ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem about 4 years ago with my two sons now aged 9 and