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Sunday Platform – Departing from Dogma: Challenges and Resources for Ex-Fundamentalists in the NYC Area
June 2, 2019 @ 11:00 am - 12:30 pm
Members of Formerly Fundamentalists share their stories of life before and after leaving their fundamentalist faiths.
HANNAH ABBASI is a NYC public school teacher who grew up Pentecostal Christian and converted to Salafi Islam in high school, then to Shia Islam in college. She now identifies as a Secular Muslim and is a co-founder of An-Nas, an organization for Secular Humanists from Muslim backgrounds.
ANGEL AULET is an ordained Christian Minister who, following experiences in Catholicism and Pentecostalism, became a fundamentalist Protestant preacher, leading a church affiliated with the non-denominational New York City Church of Christ. Angel lectured to thousands about religious history at the Javitz Center, but as the result of further research and soul searching, he had a secular revelation around the age of 30 which led him to separate from his church, community, friends, and family. Angel now works as a fitness instructor and is active with several atheist meetup organizations in New York City, groups which helped him through his difficult transition.
TORAH BONTRAGER, whose story has been featured on MTV, HuffPost, and elsewhere, was raised traditional Amish, growing up without electricity and speaking English as a second language. At age 15, she escaped from her community in the middle of the night, established a secular life on her own, and eventually graduated from Columbia University. After writing her memoir An Amish Girl in Manhattan, Torah established The Amish Heritage Foundation (AHF), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that advocates on behalf of Amish children, many of whom are fellow sex abuse victims. AHF is also working on overturning WI v. Yoder, the Supreme Court case that denies Amish children an education beyond eighth grade.
ISAAC CARMIGNANI, was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, a Judeo-Christian sect known worldwide for their proselytizing. He served with the religious title “elder” for 11 years but left in 2007 after much research into the group’s policies and practices. He is now thriving while enjoying his family and serving as a trustee on New York’s Board of Ed and accompanying pension fund.
TODD KADISH, now a lawyer in NYC, was raised in Reform and Conservative Jewish synagogues in suburban Connecticut before his entire family became Modern Orthodox Jews, and Todd subsequently studied at an Orthodox yeshiva in Israel for a year. Todd had been actively involved with various Orthodox communities and Jewish organizations, including serving as the acting and Associate Director of the New Jersey Anti-Defamation League, but in his 30’s, Todd realized his belief system was based on problematic evidence as well as oversimplifications and misrepresentations of traditional Judaism. Todd therefore became part of the “Off the Derekh” (“OTD”) movement of ex-Orthodox Jews and started the Formerly Fundamentalist NYC organization, which helps individuals who have left different fundamentalist faiths socialize with and support one another.
DR. MICA NICOLE, a psychologist who has worked counseling many ex-Mormons.
GENE STEINBERG, raised in the Satmar sect, is founder and Executive Director of Freidom, which provides social support to individuals raised in insular religious communities who wish to live a life that is aligned with their personal values
This week’s Shared Charity is Formerly Fundamentalists, which connects people who left various fundamentalist faiths and are now living in the NYC metropolitan area. Founded in 2013, the group provides a welcoming environment for friendship and support to ex-fundamentalists who reject stifling dogma and embrace personal and intellectual freedom.
Presider: Leader Dr. Anne Klaeysen