Footsteps is a not-for-profit organization based in New York City that provides educational, vocational, and social support to people who have left or want to leave an ultra-Orthodox or Orthodox Jewish community in the United States.
According to its website, Footsteps provides educational, vocational, professional, social, and legal support to those seeking to enter or explore the world beyond the insular ultra-religious communities in which they were raised. Some people from the ultra-orthodox and Chasidic communities who choose to enter mainstream America may feel like cultural immigrants. They may face cultural disorientation and isolation coupled with a lack of practical and marketable skills. Founded in December 2003, Footsteps aims to assist individuals who choose to make this difficult transition.
Footsteps was founded in December, 2003, by Malkie Schwartz, a former Chabad Hasid from Crown Heights, while enrolled as a student at Hunter College in New York City. According to Schwartz, 20 people showed up to the first meeting, announced on flyers around the Hunter campus and through word of mouth.
Since its founding in 2003, Footsteps has assisted over 1,100 members.
Footsteps provides an array of services for its members. The Footsteps offices, known as "The Space" and located at an unpublicized location due to privacy concerns, contains a computer lab, library, meeting space, kitchenette, and lounge, where members can work and hang out. Members gather for various groups, events, and workshops on topics such as dating and sexuality, navigating the college admissions process, career advancement, painting, and much more.
Footsteps also holds several annual events, which are open to members and guests. Events include: Thanksgiving dinner, Passover Potluck, and an annual camping trip. Since 2009, "Footsteps Celebrates" has been held each year in June, to celebrate graduations, accomplishments, and leadership roles. During summer months, Footsteps organizes a weekly soccer game in Prospect Park. During Winter, an indoor game of basketball takes place bi-weekly.
Footsteps has also holds annual art shows in which it exhibits works by Footsteps members.
Footsteps has been featured in numerous media outlets, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, PBS, NBC, and many others. The book Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels by Hella Winston relates the story of the founder of Footsteps and some of those who have gone through the organization as part of their journey to leave the ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox community. The National Geographic program, "Inside Hasidism," included a segment about Footsteps and some of its members.
- Ari Shapiro. Young Ultra-Orthodox Jews Struggle Against Tradition, All Things Considered, August 8, 2011.
- Orli Santo. The Departed, Unpious.com, August 17, 2010.
- Libby Copeland. Google vs. God: What’s causing all these Hasidic Jews to flee their community? Smartphones, Slate.com, August 21, 2012.
- Josh Nathan-Kazis. The 'Footsteps' of Those Leaving Ultra-Orthodoxy, Forward.com, June 8, 2012.
- Josh Nathan-Kazis. For Ex-Orthodox, More Than a Game, Forward.com, June 29, 2012.
- Shulem Deen. Ex-Haredi Artists Grapple With Their Pasts, Forward.com, April 27, 2011.
- "Inside Hasidism". Fox International Channels. Retrieved 2015-05-31.