Calling out the bad shepherds

I try to keep posts to comedy, but this is a serious topic, multiple topics all in one, worth addressing because people are suffering.

1. Orthodox communities, including “modern” Orthodox are designed intentionally to be insular. This is presented to followers (literally called “sheep,” leaders being “shepherds”) as a way to keep them pure. It’s not. It’s a way to keep them subservient to a family dynasty, to fear speaking out, to fear critical thinking — “it’s OK to question,” but you’re excommunicated if you come up with certain answers.

2. The family dynamic becomes a fractal of this. The father is the dynastic leader, though often himself a very broken-down, fearful man, and the children are expected blind obedience.

When I went “Off The Path” as the Yeshiva University community calls it, my father, who’d always controlled through verbal abuse (and physical when I was younger), stepped it up. He thought not talking to his son, sitting at the table and pouting, not looking at me, would make me want to backtrack. Excommunication and ostracism is par for the Orthodox course. (I’ve seen Chabad be better, but I’m not an insider.)

Even today, as a side note, my father withholds paying his own bills, sticking me with them, thinking I’ll break and fall inline. Fuck him.

3. Housing stability is a life and death situation. Not having a regular place to sleep, not having that primal thing called shelter, hits our inner brain. We are wired to seek shelter above all else, and not having it can break our will.

Not having a regular place to sleep can also ruin our sleep, causing or magnifying mental health illnesses.

We must start seeing sleep and shelter as life and death and treat a humans without a place to sleep like one bleeding out before our eyes. We must house people, even, (especially!) when they’re in no state to be able to afford it. You cannot rebuild, you cannot heal, you cannot create without a regular, safe, healthy place to sleep.

4. The startup community is full of assholes, some rich, some pretending to be rich, who lead young entrepreneurs as if on bad dates — players, teasing highs they never intend to give. Angels who don’t actually ever invest, or who lead founders to the point of starvation before they do, are pushing people off roofs.

Because it’s a field that attracts newbie dreamers, it also attracts these predators who prey upon the innocent, who shill snake oil, who promise salvation, and who sit by and watch the mass death.

So too the VC funds who draw people into meetings to look busy and justify management fees, except they’re never going to invest in that category, or stage, or demographic… Most of these funds lose money, but the crooks at the top still get the fees.

There are amazing people, too, but we need to find a way to screen out the assholes and warn newbies.

Freebie for founders: expensive law firms repping 150+ startups don’t really care about you, and are almost never worth it. Ditto, “incubators” and “accelerators.” If they fuck hundreds of entrepreneurs, one or two will survive to be Twitter, but batting under 10% isn’t genius.

5. What all these areas have in common is a fear of speaking up. What will people think of me if they know what my father did to me as a child when nobody was around? Who will invest in me if I tell them I battled depression? Where will I live and how will I work if my community cuts me off because I think differently?

These are incomparably frightening things to carry, and these young adults carry them. I did. Some, I still do. Groups like Footsteps help, but clearly they’re not everything, and here we lost someone because we’ve allowed this culture of fear.

The Jewish community, and startup community, have been sheep, under sheep, prey to wolves, and we need to step up and be shepherds to shepherds. I really hate this analogy, but, let me put it this way: what hurts a victim most aren’t the bad people, but those who do nothing. Imagine being abused and knowing you live in a world where that will be allowed only because people fear doing the right thing.

We live in a shame driven culture, but we’re shaming the wrong people. We’re shaming the victims because we’re too cowardly to punch up. It’s time to start.

Originally posted on Facebook.

About the Author
Ari Teman is an award-winning comedian performing on TV, in sold-out theaters across North America and Israel, for the President and the Israeli Ambassador, and as a headliner for Jewish, corporate, and charity events. He can whistle in 17 languages. Ari is also founder Friend or Fraud, the 12gurus conferences (12gurus:Health and 12gurus:Charity), and the founder of JCorps International the first and largest Jewish "social volunteering" network. Follow him on Twitter & Facebook for jokes, shows, and updates. Book him at
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