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Tensions mar funeral for woman who fled Hasidic life, committed suicide

Hundreds pay last respects to Esti Weinstein, 50, who penned book on ultra-Orthodox world; father recalls her first 43 years, ‘when you were pure’

Family and friends attend the funeral of Esti Weinstein at the Yarkon cemetery in Petah Tikva on June 28, 2016. (Photo by Avi Dishi/FLASH90)
Family and friends attend the funeral of Esti Weinstein at the Yarkon cemetery in Petah Tikva on June 28, 2016. (Photo by Avi Dishi/FLASH90)

Hundreds of people on Tuesday attended the Petah Tivka funeral of Esti Weinstein — a formerly ultra-Orthodox woman who was found dead in an apparent suicide over the weekend — in a ceremony wracked by religious and family tensions.

Weinstein’s estranged daughter and father spoke at the funeral, with the latter praising her for the first 43 years of her life, when she was “pure.”

Weinstein, 50, was discovered dead in her car at the Hakshatot Beach in the coastal city of Ashdod on Sunday, bringing a week of frantic searches to an end.

Eight years ago, Weinstein, who had seven daughters, left the ultra-Orthodox fold, in which she had grown up and which had seen her married at 17. Only one daughter maintained contact with her.

Weinstein also penned an autobiography about her experiences in the Gur sect and on leaving the religious world. In the book, she described the rigid regulations of Hasidic life, noting that her husband would not even call her by her first name.

Her daughter, Tami Montag, had asked mourners to bring flowers and songs to the funeral, fulfilling her mother’s last wish.

“I love you so much and will always love you,” her daughter said in a eulogy. “You were everything to me, a friend and mother.”

Esti Weinstein, a formerly ultra-Orthodox woman who committed suicide in June 2016. (Facebook)
Esti Weinstein, a formerly ultra-Orthodox woman who committed suicide in June 2016. (Facebook)

But another daughter, estranged from her mother for years, said she would “forever remember the bitter day you left the house.”

Members of Weinstein’s family from the Hasidic sect were also present at the funeral.

“It’s hard for me to speak about you. For me, you will always be like your first 43 years, when you were pure,” her father Rabbi Menachem Orenstein said, according to Ynet.

Weinstein’s boyfriend, however, used his eulogy to criticize the religious community for cutting off contact with her.

“At the heart of every religion is a kernel of unity, and that’s the source of life. But unfortunately it’s turned into ideology. Don’t let any rabbi lead you to hatred and to alienation. The pain from being cut off by your kids is massive,” he said. “Those who leave religion choose freedom but the path is not easy.”

Members of the Orthodox community attend the funeral of former Hasidic Jew Esti Weinstein at the Yarkon cemetery in Petah Tikva on June 28, 2016. (Photo by Avi Dishi/FLASH90)
Members of the Orthodox community attend the funeral of former Hasidic Jew Esti Weinstein at the Yarkon cemetery in Petah Tikva on June 28, 2016. (Photo by Avi Dishi/FLASH90)

The High Court of Justice on Monday rejected a petition by Weinstein’s family to hold a private funeral service in Jerusalem.

In the car in Ashdod where police found her body, Weinstein had left a note.

“In this city I gave birth to my daughters, in this city I die because of my daughters,” Weinstein, once a member of a prominent family in the Gur sect, wrote.

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