Dear Therapist:

I have a friend that went off the derech and I think I can be a mashpia on him. I've texted him a few times and called him once in a while but he always ignores me. I'm just curious does he think I'm invading his privacy and I should stop calling or he just is embarrassed of his new lifestyle and I should keep calling him in order to mechazek him?



I obviously don’t know what it was that led to your friend’s decision to go off the derech. There are often many reasons, and these are different for each person. Also, different people feel differently about their decision once made. Therefore, there are many possible reasons that your friend is ignoring you.

Your friend may simply have decided that the frum way of life is not for him. Perhaps, as you suggested, he is embarrassed to face certain people from his past. If this is the case, he may have mixed feelings about your contact with him. Though he may feel uncomfortable responding, he might also be appreciative of your overtures toward him. This can make him feel more of a link to his old way of life. Continued efforts to reach him can make him feel somewhat connected to you.

Another possibility is that your friend was turned off from frumkeit for a particular reason or reasons. If so, he may not be interested in any links to his past, especially those that remind him of whatever it is that bothers him. In this instance, you would need to decide whether your attempts to contact him constantly trigger feelings of animosity. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should never again try to contact him. But you might want to do so less often, and try and keep your messages neutral.

Another possibility is that your friend is simply busy, and isn’t very good about returning calls and texts. He may not be interested in continuing his relationship with you for any number of reasons. If he feels that you are invading his privacy, this is something that he can tell you. Perhaps you can ask him point blank whether he feels this way, and wants you to stop reaching out. Regardless of your actions, I think that you should try and get the message across that you are reaching out because of your friendship and your interest in maintaining this, rather than giving him the sense that you are trying to “save” him.

-Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW

  psychotherapist in private practice

  Woodmere, NY

  adjunct professor at Touro College

  Graduate School of Social Work

  author of Self-Esteem: A Primer / 516-218-4200


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