‘I can and will find my own path’
'This program has given me a support, a friend and a person who listens without judgement and offers advice without judgement.'
In June 2022, Pathways Melbourne launched its unique PATH 4 LIFE Mentor Program, which offers confidential advice to members of the Melbourne Jewish community who may be deliberating over the risks versus the rewards of leaving, are transitioning away from, or have recently left their ultra-Orthodox or Orthodox community.
The program features three types of fully-trained volunteer mentors from the local Jewish community; buddy mentors who have lived experience of questioning and/or moving away from the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox lifestyle to provide support and guidance, professional mentors who empower individual mentees to reach their full potential in a professional capacity and life skills mentors who guide individual mentees to reach their full potential in life.
PATH 4 LIFE mentee Julia Lindner, and her mentor, Susan Glass, have agreed to forgo their privacy to share how the program has enriched both their lives, particularly when Glass was there to support Lindner during her recent gett (Jewish divorce) procedure.
Lindner told The AJN, “This program has given me a support, a friend and a person who listens without judgement and offers advice without judgement. Hearing someone who has walked on a similar path has reassured me.
“Seeing that she has found peace in areas I still struggle with reassures me that I can and will find my own path.”
Glass shared that accompanying Lindner to receive her gett and supporting her through the process has been “both memorable and rewarding for me”.
Lindner said, “I wasn’t scared of the gett but I was a little unsure of how I was going to feel in front of a group of men conducting a ritual ceremony that I knew nothing about and having that support was really nice.”
Lindner and Glass have been meeting together twice a month for the last nine months to chat about their individual experiences and to discuss the way they each express their Jewish identities.
Both women have had parallel life trajectories, having chosen to become Orthodox as young adults, and after having children and getting divorced, then deciding to explore a less observant Jewish lifestyle.
“I am still working out what Jewish identity means to the 40-year-old self who is a mother and no longer a wife. The program has been a platform to talk about identity but also as we approach each chag [Jewish festival], it is an opportunity to discuss what they mean to me and how I connect to them,” Lindner explained.
“Keeping a strong Jewish identity and keeping my children connected to Judaism are a focus for me but exploring what that looks like is a constantly evolving process. This program is a place to explore this.”