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One of the two young Jewish cousins who jumped to their deaths from the top of a Jerusalem building overnight Sunday may have been sexually abused by a relative, Channel 12 reported Tuesday. Hani Solish (age 19) and Sarah Klapman (age 24) left behind a suicide note explaining why they wanted to die. Solish said in the note she was struggling with her family’s religious convictions and she was afraid of disappointing them. Both women came from a strictly observant Orthodox Jewish family.
Channel 12 said that the relative who abused one of the girls was arrested and convicted for abuse, and sentenced to service. He was released on parole a decade ago. It was also reported that the young woman sought therapy but stopped going for treatment due to family pressure shortly after the incident.
A close friend of both girls described their ongoing struggles with mental illness and suicidal ideation:
“Hani was still anxious. As far as I know she just didn’t see so much reason to live. She was depressed and found no interest in life. For a long time [Sarah] had moments with suicidal thoughts. She didn’t see many reasons to live in those moments; she was pumped into depression… She told me that [Hani] was sad even before they moved in together. In an attempt to make her happy, she ordered a Taylor Swift shirt from the Internet. Hani adored her.”
Not long after the suicide, a girl from the WhatsApp group posted to say she understood her friends’ choice, writing, “I understand what you did.” One or both girls had reportedly received some help from a therapist, but her family pressured her to give up the highly-stigmatized treatment.
According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, who studied a cohort of Orthodox Jewish infants born around the same time as Sarah Klapman, one in ten of them will abandon the Orthodox community. Young people might seek to practice the Jewish faith in a way that better suits their own convictions, or they might leave the religion altogether. Questioning the family’s faith can lead to former believers losing their family, friends, and community just when they most need support to handle the upheaval in their belief system.
Realizing how hard leaving the religion can be, there is a center called “Hillel - The Right to Choose,” an Israeli-nonprofit dedicated to helping young adults who have left the ultra-orthodox world integrate and lead successful lives as members of secular Israeli society. In Hillel’s early days, its location was hidden due to protests from within the haredi community. Those seeking refuge from the community had to make an effort to locate the facilities on their own. Now it’s no longer necessary to hide the facilities as the ex-haredi community is not only growing, but also thriving according to Yair Hass, the executive director of Hillel.