I Left Hasidism To Become A Woman

A man who descends from a Hasidic “dynasty” is transitioning into a woman — enraging members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community she left behind.

Srully Stein — who now goes by Abby — recently came out as a woman and said she’s finally living as her true self — something she said was impossible to do growing up in her restrictive household in Brooklyn.

“In the community that I was raised in, Trans did not exist, neither was it ever discussed,” the 24-year-old writes in her blog.

“I was therefore convinced that I have to be crazy, and that I have to get this ‘stupidity’ of feeling like a girl, out of my head.”

Stein — who some say has “royal blood” coursing through her veins because of her grandfather, the prominent Rabbi Mordechai Stein — began hormone replacement therapy Sept. 4.

The results have been “amazing,” she kvelled.

“The road is long, but with the support of some amazing friends and professionals, for the first time in my life I feel like I am getting to be my real self,” she wrote in a recent post, which received more than 20,000 hits in just a couple days.

But Stein’s family has not been as supportive.

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She broke the news to her father — who can trace his lineage back to the founder of the Hasidic movement — and hasn’t heard from him since.

“I think right now it’s shock more than anything,” Stein told The Post. “He doesn’t know what to do.”

Others took to social media to spew hate-filled messages about her transition.

“And family is nothing?” one member of the Lee Avenue WhatsApp group wrote. “The lowest scum of earth live with deficiencies with lifelong pain not to hurt their family. I saw your father today in synagogue, he is going to die of the shame you have caused him.”

The person continues: “No human in the world puts his pleasure in front of the pain of his loved ones. What kind of animal are you?”

Another added, “It’s all the devil, the evil inclination that says there is such a thing a man can be born in the wrong body.”

But Stein said she’s prepared for the backlash.

“My main goal is to get people to talk about it,” she said. “I don’t care how hateful the reaction might be within the Orthodox community.”

Stein added that many of the Orthodox people she’s heard from are in “denial” about transgender people.

“For most of them, they don’t even know what this is, they have no context for it,” she said.

Stein said she hopes that will change and that her story will reach other transgender Orthodox teens who’ve been battling similar conflicts.

“Since I’ve gone public, 17 people have reached out to me who still live within the community and struggle with similar things,” she said. “Most of them didn’t know there’s help.”

Stein said that while she felt like a woman for many years, she couldn’t even consider taking action until she left her Orthodox community.

Initially, she followed the traditional path of most in Hasidic Williamsburg. By 18, Stein was married, and soon had a son.

“I was raised in an extremely sheltered community,” she said. “No Internet, no TV and no movies — not even Jewish ones.”

“My family and community was so sheltered that up to around 14 I thought that most of the world is Jewish and most of the Jews are ultra-Orthodox,” she added.
With an intense desire to pursue a college education, Stein divorced, and ultimately left the Orthodox community about four years ago.

Being part of a famous Hasidic family made that split even more difficult, Stein said.

“My family had more restrictions than most families even in Williamsburg,” she explained. “Like men were expected to work only in Jewish scholarly jobs, not drive, and I was constantly told that we ought to be role models.”

Now Stein is a second-year student at Columbia University’s School of General Studies, where she’s taking courses in political science and gender studies.

Adjusting to a secular scholar’s life wasn’t easy, but she said she’s found comfort in the campus’ strong Jewish community and trans support group.

“Culturally it took me quite a while to blend in, and until [now] there were so many basic references to popular culture that everyone ‘just knows’ and I had no idea what they are talking about,” she said.

Stein is interested in someday working in the nonprofit world, advocating for other transgender people from similar backgrounds and shaping public policy.

She’s currently raising money for her own transition on her blog.

“But my main goal is to raise awareness for trans people within the ultra-Orthodox community,” Stein said.

She added: “It’s been totally ignored until now.”

2 replies
  1. Just saying
    Just saying says:

    He/she actuly got me thinking that maybe from a non religious point of view, it’s rite. And the fact that he/she wants this trans, is ONLY because he has some feelings of his mature being in a wrong body. Until I saw this phrase
    “My main goal is to get people to talk about it……”
    I don’t care how hateful the reaction will be in the orthodox community”
    And he/she said some other comment about how she hopes the orthodox community change their views towards transgender, and that she plans on working nonprofit, to help and push others to do so IN the “ultra/orthodox community.
    Listen up mr. Mrs. Or what ever you call yourself your full of bull shit, why the hell is your “main goal”, people talking about it???? Isn’t to be happy? Or to feel pleasure? To feel yourself?
    #2:
    What makes you feel that your smarter then thousands of rabbis that knew the whole Torah, that knew complete science of the earth, brain, stars, sun, moon and much more. And for what ever resin they had, wether it was religious or not, they band such things in their community and from their religion.
    Comes along a little punk like you, says “hey, I feel funny, I stuck in the wrong body” Go ahead, change, I’m sure there are some people that feel it’s a disgrace to their community etc, etc……….
    But what’s a disgrace to you, is that you don’t stop there, you disrespect a full religion and their believes. You disrespect thousands of genarations and their studies, and you say “I will try to to bring change to this great comunty” ” I hope others will follow” I will DEVOTE MY LIFE TO BRING AWARENESS TO THE ULTRA ORTHODOX COMMUNITY” etc, etc…
    What the hell are you trying to do? Why is this your game in life? Why you acting nothing more then any rebel towards anything their rebelling
    on?? Why can’t you for once and for all, stop trying to teach the world, change accentual values and religious morals??

    My advice to you is, if your problem in life was that you didn’t feel yourself, and you decided to leave your values and believes to do so. Now that your done and finally “yourself”, go find a nice person to love, a nice house, comfie car, good job, or what ever els makes you happy, and leave the Jews and their values alone don’t live a hateful and rebellious life and try to change the people you left.
    Have a wonderful life. Let’s hope the media gets away from you so you could live in piece and quite

    From a sincere jew

  2. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    A 24-year-old Brooklyn descendant of one of Hasidic Judaism’s founders has come out as transgender.

    Raised haredi Orthodox in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, Abby — originally Srully — Stein told the New York Post, and announced on a personal blog called The Second Transition that she recently began transitioning into a woman.

    Stein is a descendant of Hasidic Judaism founder Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer, better known as the Baal Shem Tov, and the grandchild of Rabbi Mordechai Stein. She said being a member of a prominent family in the Hasidic world made her early struggle with her transgender identity more challenging.

    “My family had more restrictions than most families even in Williamsburg,” she told the Post. “Like men were expected to work only in Jewish scholarly jobs, not drive, and I was constantly told that we ought to be role models.”

    In a blog post, Stein wrote that for as long as she could remember, she “wanted to wake up one day as a girl.”

    “I was very far from the typical ‘masculine’ boy, even in a community where masculinity is not a discussion topic, so to speak. I was never interested in typical boy stuff, and I was always told that I act, and talk with the manners of a girl. … Yet, until I was 19, I did not know that there is even something like that — someone assigned boy at birth who is actually a girl, in mind and spirit.”

    Stein said her father has not spoken to her since she shared the news.

    “I think right now it’s shock more than anything,” she told The Post. “He doesn’t know what to do.”

    Stein said she hopes the Orthodox community becomes more accepting of transgender people and that her story will inspire transgender Orthodox teens.

    “My main goal is to get people to talk about it,” she said, adding, “Since I’ve gone public, 17 people have reached out to me who still live within the community and struggle with similar things. Most of them didn’t know there’s help.”

    Before leaving the haredi Orthodox community, Stein married a woman and had a son. Four years ago, she divorced and left the community. Now Stein is a student at Columbia University, where she is involved in campus Jewish life and a transgender support group.

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