A Letter to the GesherEU Community
Thank you so much for all your kind and heart warming wishes and for your lovely gift. I feel very emotional at this time and apologise for the long letter that I am writing to you. I just want to thank you for being such a crucial part of my journey to freedom and life. I know that we are all different worlds to ourselves and have different needs, but here’s a bit about myself and how I feel you have changed me and given me my freedom.
I feel blessed and deeply grateful to have met all of you. Since I first met you, you have empowered me, filled me with confidence, comforted me when I was down and have been my role model. You have been like family and community to me.
I was brought up Manchester chareidi with one goal in life of learning Torah in kolel (sounds familiar). I never connected with this. I remember from the age of 11 dreaming about not having to be shackled by the chains of religion, of not believing in god and other basic beliefs that are expected and taken for granted. For some reason, from a young age, I decided that I could never express the real person that I am and in its place I became a prisoner to the society’s expectations. I became a robot, I squashed my real identity into a crumpled piece of paper and sent it on a space mission into the deepest parts of my subconscious until I truly had no sense of my own identity. I was a robot, I had no ability to feel or understand my emotions and I was constantly insecure of my place and contribution in society.
To cut what seems to me a long story short, at the age of 16 after 1 and a half years in yeshiva (as a Shpitz Bochur) I had a complete emotional meltdown. I had three years of Therapy which helped me a lot and in a very slow manner I began to return closer to myself and who I have always been. At 18 I returned to Manchester and began working, this was the beginning of my diversion from the kolel route but most crucially was the beginning of my journey to self-actualisation. I sampled different ways of being religious but I could never escape the all-encompassing sense of being trapped behind bars and the gloom of an impending future living inside a cul-de-sac of my worst nightmare of meaningless routines and loveless family practises. Although I had grown and developed very well and knew myself very well I was still living a hidden existence by the age of 25. Although I now knew with pure clarity that a religious lifestyle and all its trappings made no sense or meaning to me I was afraid to lose the only companions in life that I had in my life. I think I was also afraid of losing their admiration alongside the negative sentiments that would have been sent my way. I had heard of footsteps in America and dreamed there would be something like this in the UK.
My dream was answered when I found out about Geshereu after getting into a conversation with an unknown internet bot on a Youtube video conversation. I met Geshereu when I moved to London at the age of 25 in December 2015. This was the first time in my life that I found a voice to express my beliefs and identity in an open and honest manner. It is remarkable to think of it now, but until that point I had not told anyone how I felt inside and how the religion made me feel. Instead, I had been suffering internally for all those years.
In life we need a security blanket, a place or space that we know is available to fall into if the bottom of life falls from beneath us.
My dear Geshereu friends, you accepted me instantaneously and showed me so much compassion, sympathy and understanding. Suddenly I had a most strong and stable security blanket and my life changed from one day to the next. I moved to London and began my life as a free man living honestly to my own identity. The security blanket that you gave me empowered me to be genuine self. To cut again what seems to me another long story, almost two years have passed and my life is filled with light and happiness. I have been thriving on my personal freedom and have been healing many deep wounds. I think it is important to mention that Mavar provided me a Therapist who has provided me with a truly blessed cathartic recovery from my chareidi shackles. I also want to mention that although my journey and difficulties have been real to me I truly appreciate that I have been privileged with good fortune in life. I am referring to my families process in accepting me, the fact that I wasn’t shiduched off and all the kindness, love and goodwill that many communities and strangers have given me in my journey this far.
Now to the present: On boxing day 2016 we were all together in Muswell Hill and Gesher friends, you brought me together with my Darling R. We met there and as you know we fell in love almost immediately. Our relationship has only grown deeper and closer over the past eleven months and we now cannot envisage a future apart. R, is everything to me, she is my world, my passion and my heart. It has been hard for us to be apart and we are excited that we no longer have to struggle in this way.
Gesher friends, you have given me so much and empowered me with so much and I feel a debt of gratitude that I don’t know how to repay to you. But, I will always consider myself a part of the Gesher community and will not forget all that you have given me. Please, let’s keep in touch, R and I will visit on our trips to the UK and please be in touch when you come to Israel. Wishing you all only the very best of freedom and enjoyment that this life has to offer.