Fifty year old Esti Weinstein committed suicide. Some years ago she had left Gur (Yiddish: Ger).
Gur is Israel’s largest chassidic group. A couple of years ago I wrote a few articles about the history of GUR:
The truth is that I had never heard about Esti Weinstein. I wasn’t familiar with her story at all. When it comes to Gur runaways, most people think of Sarah Einfeld who I interviewed seven years ago.
Almost 15 years ago I knew some people who were quite friendly with a Gur dropout from Jerusalem. He was the only son of a Gerrer family and became totally secular. I witnessed the whole process and even saw how his girlfriend cut off his peyes. Unfortunately, the guy started taking drugs because he thought that this is what secular Jews do: They take drugs. I guess that he was taught in school that secular Jews are into drugs and whatever sins.
Esti Weinstein grew up in Gur. She got married and had six children. Only one daughter decided to join her when Esti left Gur. The other children stopped talking to her.
Esti wrote a book about growing up in Gur. How her husband treated her and how unhappy she used to be. The sex Takanot of Gur are also known to outsiders and other Chassidim claim that these Takanot are the reason why Gur founded it’s own Beit Yaakov girl’s school. Because the girls have to be taught in accordance with the group’s Takanot.
There is no reason given why Esti Weinstein killed herself. Most people think that she was depressed because she had “lost” five of her children. I was surprised seeing a lot of Gerrer Chassidim coming to her funeral. First, the funeral was extremely religious with all the Gerrer and afterwards, there was a kind of another ceremony. After the Gerrer ceremony, secular people came and started their own eulogies.
When people leave a chassidic group, they don’t only lose their family ties. You can keep on telling yourself that you can deal with that. However, what most dropouts don’t take into consideration is the feeling of guilt. Feeling guilty for having left your home and what is even worse: The feeling of guilt towards G – d. Suddenly you don’t keep Mitvot anymore. This may be nice and easy at the beginning. When a dropout enjoys all his new freedom. However, after a while you start to realize what is important in life. People start to look for some meaning because all the freedom in the world doesn’t make you constantly happy.
I don’t know about Esti but a lot of runaways suffer from guilt. Of course, you can ignore it but, from time to time, the feeling just shows up again and again. One has to live with it and, at the same time, go on with life.
An Israeli TV news report on the tragic death of Esti Weinstein