Dear Matis,

In response to your Facebook post about being judged for your new look:

Matis, as an artist, I understand your need to constantly evolve, change and express what is true. And as a “FFB” (always observant) who is close to many “BT”S (chose observance), I understand the BT’s single-minded pursuit to live what they see as authentic and adapt as they learn to navigate the gray areas of Judaism and of life.

Which is why, when I read your Facebook post, I felt a need to explain:

Matis, for those of us who were born into observant families, we were taught at a young age to accept the yoke; to be religious because this was the expectation and to never veer because among other reasons—how could we let down all those who came before us and sacrificed much to keep the precepts of the Torah?

We aren’t neccesarily observant because it feels authentic, or inspires us or makes us feel spiritual… We try to keep the commandments because we believe this is what God expects from us, whether we like it or not.

Unlike the BT, for the FFB—there is little, if any choice.

So we have to make the best of it. And mostly we don’t mind, but some things really grate on us. For every FFB, what irritates us about accepting the yoke of religion is different: Maybe we want to eat that cheeseburger, or dress immodestly or take all that money we spend on yeshiva tuition and buy a shiny red sports car with leather seats and a retractable roof instead. We each have our own personal Yetzer haras, and most of us at times stumble and fall. But even when we make the choices that distance us from God…we all know what the expectations are.

For my kids, the yarmulke, which identifies them as Jews– is an especially tough custom to keep. It wasn’t hard when they lived in Brooklyn…but in Georgia?

Atlanta tends to be a very tolerant city…but we’ve crossed paths with people from other parts of the South who’ve never met observant Jews. And not every interaction has been pleasant. So at times, at crowded events– my son has wanted to take off his yarmulke. He didn’t want to stand out and was afraid of being harassed and that tore at my heartstrings. How could he let down those who’ve truly suffered because they were identifiably Jewish?

And so, with great difficulty—he kept it on.

Matis, my sons would sit for hours watching your videos: Here is a man who didn’t cave under pressure—and makes awesome music. You were a role model for observant kids…and adults. You gave us strength and hope—that maybe we, too, could succeed in pursuing our dreams while remaining true to our heritage. Maybe they wouldn’t call us weird, but see our essence—and accept us on our own terms.

I am not judging you and your desire for personal growth. Your FFB fans still love you. But you need to understand from the perspective of the FFB…you caved. You’ve let us down and are no longer a role model for us. You’ve joined the ranks of the myriad of talented Jewish artists and don’t represent us anymore: You now belong to them.

I wish you well on your ongoing journey.