Footsteps is a not-for-profit organization based in New York that provides educational, vocational, and social support to people who have left or want to leave the ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox Jewish community.
According to the Footsteps website, the organization's mission is as follows:
- Footsteps provides educational, vocational and social support to those seeking to enter or explore the world beyond the insular ultra-religious communities in which they were raised. People from the ultra-orthodox and Chasidic communities who choose to enter mainstream America currently do so as new immigrants in every sense. They face cultural disorientation and isolation coupled with a lack of practical and marketable skills. Founded in December 2003, Footsteps aims to assist individuals who choose to make this difficult transition.
Footsteps was founded in December, 2003, by Malkie Schwartz, a former Chabad Hasid from Crown Heights, while enrolled as a student at Hunter College in New York City. According to Schwartz, 20 people showed up to the first meeting, announced on flyers around the Hunter campus and through word of mouth.
Since its founding in 2003, Footsteps has assisted nearly 700 members.
Footsteps provides an array of services for its members and their guests throughout the year. The Footsteps "Space," an office and lounge area at an unpublicized location due to privacy concerns, contains a computer lab, library, meeting space, and kitchenette, open several days a week. Members gather for regular, bi-weekly drop-in groups, or at specially scheduled meetings on specific topics, such as dating and sexuality, navigating the college admissions process, or career advancement.
Footsteps also holds several annual events, which are also open to members and their guests. Events include: Thanksgiving dinner, Passover Potluck, and an annual camping trip. Since 2009, "Footsteps Celebrates" has been held each year in June, to celebrate graduations, accomplishments, and leadership roles. During summer months, Footsteps organizes a weekly soccer game in Prospect Park. During Winter, an indoor game of basketball takes place bi-weekly.
Footsteps has also held several art shows in which it exhibited work by Footsteps members.
Lani Santo serves as Footsteps's Executive Director. Leah Vincent is a member and board member of Footsteps.
Major Media References
The book Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels by Hella Winston relates the story of the founder of Footsteps and some of those who have gone through the organization as part of their journey to leave the ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox community.
- Ari Shapiro. Young Ultra-Orthodox Jews Struggle Against Tradition, All Things Considered, August 8, 2011.
- Orli Santo. The Departed, Unpious.com, August 17, 2010.
- Libby Copeland. Google vs. God: What’s causing all these Hasidic Jews to flee their community? Smartphones, Slate.com, August 21, 2012.
- Josh Nathan-Kazis. The 'Footsteps' of Those Leaving Ultra-Orthodoxy, Forward.com, June 8, 2012.
- Josh Nathan-Kazis. For Ex-Orthodox, More Than a Game, Forward.com, June 29, 2012.
- Shulem Deen. Ex-Haredi Artists Grapple With Their Pasts, Forward.com, April 27, 2011.