But others seem to be little more than venting of anger that could be more productively expressed in a therapist's office or a kickboxing class.
In the past few years, this phenomenon has crept into works of semi-fiction, as a few authors have worked off anger at their Orthodox upbringings through short stories and novels.
These various angry writers express, through words (a typically Jewish means of expression) what Eminem expresses through his music: rage against everyone who he believes wronged him along the way. Except unlike Eminem, for these bloggers and authors the complaints are not about poverty, domestic violence, or trailer parks. The allegations instead are that they were enrolled in yeshivot, made to sit out sports leagues on Shabbat and holidays, had non-Kosher food withheld and given guilt treatments about sex (which they somehow believe was unique to Judaism).
Whether the complaints of these writers are justified (and some are) or not, they've chosen to use their stories, books or blogs as spaces for catharsis, not simply expressing their anger, but making sure to keep their anger going, writing after writing. Now here's the thing: there are healthy and productive ways to express anger. But keeping the grudge going and fueling a lifetime of angry writings is more likely to lead to the more negative side of anger and the physiological symptoms that are often associated with ongoing anger and rage.
My suggestion for the angry (ex-) Orthodox is the following:
- Develop a sense of perspective and a sense of humor. In the majority of cases, your upbringing and/or the time in an Orthodox Jewish world left you with a set of moral guidelines like: do not murder, do not steal, do not lie and the like. If you keep those and decide to chuck the tefillin or even Shabbat and Kashrut, you're still ahead of the game in leading a good life.
- Recognize that every school has bad teachers and good teachers. I got a decent education in the modern Orthodox day school I attended. Even so, there was the female Israeli teacher who told the girls in her class that only prostitutes wear makeup and lipstick or the rabbi who seemed to have two standards: one for the wealthier students and another for the less wealthy. Think there aren't good and bad teachers in the best public or private schools? Guess again.
- Understand that, as Mark Twain wrote, "I never let schooling get in the way of my education." School, yeshiva or otherwise, is the beginning of the search for knowledge, not the end. Think your teachers had a skewed view of the Jewish tradition? OK, do your own study and reading. Use the tools you gained and move forward to find the Judaism that you believe has greater intellectual or spiritual integrity.
- If your parents instilled a little too much guilt, or if your family was dysfunctional, don't automatically ascribe that to Orthodox Judaism. Dysfunction and poor parenting exist all over. At some point, it's time to grow up and take responsibility for your own happiness. Your readers eventually will tell you that.
Basically, I would recommend to my angry compatriots to follow the advice that I've seen written in countless Jewish exercise classes: Stop kvetching and start stretching. Stretch by getting in the game with the rest of us -- search for the truth you want to guide your lives and the message you want to convey to your readers. And instead of trying to inspire others to join in your anger, come join the rest of (Jewish) humanity in the age-old journey. And use the gifts you have to build and to encourage others to build.