Rabbi reunites haredi families with secular children

The phenomenon of haredim leaving the lifestyle and becoming more secular, known as neshira, is growing, and Kornfeld looks to his own experiences to help haredim connect with their secular children.

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October 11, 2019 06:03
3 minute read.
Rabbi reunites haredi families with secular children

haredi with secular 298. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Rabbi Motti Kornfeld has dedicated his life to keeping families together, specifically haredi families whose children have left the community.

"You never throw a child out of the house, it's forbidden," he explained to Ynet.

For Kornfeld, this is more than simply a mantra to repeat, as he very much practices what he preaches.

An American-born rabbi, Kornfeld lives in Israel today and is the father of 11 children, including Daniel, who left the haredi world behind a decade ago.

The phenomenon of haredim leaving the lifestyle and becoming more secular, known as neshira, is growing, and Kornfeld looks to his own experiences to help haredi families connect with their secular children.

"I grew up a haredi boy, I went to a haredi school... and a haredi yeshiva," said Daniel Kornfeld, 26, who realized at age 16 that the haredi lifestyle wasn't for him. "My parents accepted it and were understanding and supportive throughout my journey. We didn’t always agree but they were always understanding."

"We responded to the path he chose with understanding, love, support and a little fear," Kornfeld said. "On the one hand, we’re very very happy that he chose to seek his truth, which is very important. On the other hand, because it was different from what we wanted at first, it wasn’t easy going at first. Nevertheless, despite this, we showed him love and support the entire time. For us, there’s no other option."

Why do so many haredi families disassociate themselves from children that went off the derech?

For Kornfeld, the answer is quite sad but simple. "Unfortunately, parents are throwing their children out of the house for various reasons," he said, "mainly because of their influence on their other children."

This is something he sees all too often in his work with the Shahar project, which helps integrate haredim into the IDF.

"As part of my work at the Shahar organization, [I see cases], especially when a haredi bochur decides to enlist [in the IDF], that often his parents totally banish him and throw him out of the house," he explained. "One of the things we’re trying to do is reconnect haredi soldiers with their parents. I’m happy to say that we’ve been quite successful. It’s a long process but eventually, they welcome back their children with open arms."

However, not everyone in the haredi world shares Kornfeld's view.

“I went into shul one day and a very kind smiling Jew came over to me and said, ‘How is it that you have a son who went off the derech?’" Kornfeld said, according to theyeshivaworld.com. "I looked at him and said, 'I have no idea what you’re talking about.'

“He said, ‘Well, really, I and you, we know each other, we eat cholent together.’ I told him with the utmost seriousness: ‘Listen, I want to tell you a message, you should understand – we don’t have a son who went off the derech – there’s no such thing.'

"The fact that your friends or your neighbors don’t understand – that’s their problem. It’s really their problem."

In addition to his work with Shahar and in bringing families together, Kornfeld – along with his entire family – are very musically inclined. In 2001, the family released an album titled Fathers and Sons, which consisted of 10 hasidic songs sung by Kornfeld and his sons – including Daniel.

In June, Daniel – who has been writing songs for the past few years – and his father released a song called "One," which is about the love a father and son have for each other despite their differences.


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