Articles in The Forward, The Jewish Week and the online magazine Tablet and on blogs run by Hasidic defectors, like Failed Messiah, have detailed the agonizing challenges facing those who leave the insular world of Hasidim, where dress is austere, the language is Yiddish and religious obligations structure each day.
Former Hasidim seeking child custody arrangements find that rabbis, community leaders and Orthodox Jewish family therapists line up with money and witnesses behind the Hasidic spouse. Such influence is especially powerful in a place like Rockland, a county near New York City where one-third of the residents are Jewish. [...]
Even before she divorced and had to work out custody arrangements to see her children, she had a troubled history that included depression and, according to friends, sexual abuse by a relative. But Ms. Tambor’s friends and supporters say her alienation from her children weighed most heavily, and for that they blame her family and the rest of the Hasidic community she left behind.[...]
Yeedle Melber, a cousin of Mr. Dirnfeld, said close family members had told him that Ms. Tambor began to have mental problems several years ago after she was struck by a car. There followed an attempt to take her own life during the marriage and hospitalization for five months at Rockland Psychiatric Center. [...]
Family Court records are sealed. But an official in the state courts familiar with the Tambor case, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said decisions in the children’s custody were based entirely on Ms. Tambor’s mercurial behavior and the previous suicide attempt.
“There was a unanimous feeling that the mother was in no shape to get custody or even unsupervised visits,” the official said. “The fact that she tragically took her own life is the clearest indication that what the experts said about her psychiatric problems was right.”[...]