The Brave, Tragic Life of Faigy Mayer
What can we learn from ex-Hasid's suicide?
Faigy Mayer left the Belz community, a Hasidic enclave in Brooklyn’s Boro Park, in 2010. She was 24 years old. Five years later, having finally made the move to Manhattan, she was seemingly self-sufficient. She had an undergraduate degree from Touro College under her belt, and she was pursuing her master’s in accounting and computer science at Brooklyn College. She learned to code.
She networked her way into the city’s booming tech world and became CEO and founder of Appton, an app development company. Among her projects, Mayer was creating an app for homeless people, and another called Ex Hasid’s Guide to NYC. She toyed with the idea of relocating to Silicon Valley, in California, and finishing her master’s at Stanford, but the young entrepreneur could afford her own apartment in Manhattan and was proud to live alone.
Mayer loved her independence, and she was dating a little, too.
“She had one short relationship for the purpose of, ‘Hey, what is this that others speak of ?’” Henny Kupferstein, her friend and confidante, told the Forward.
On paper, Mayer seemed like a success. She had an apartment, a good job and friends — just like any young New Yorker.
But emotionally she was still fragile. Even five years after leaving the ultra-Orthodox world, she
lacked any enduring support from her family, friends said.
On July 20, as Manhattan cooled down from the day’s 90-degree heat, Mayer went alone to 230 Fifth in the Flatiron District, a popular rooftop bar best known for its nighttime view of the glittering, colorful Empire State Building. She took the elevator up 20 floors, stepped out and asked a bartender to point her in the direction of the east deck.
Minutes later, after weaving her way through a mish-mosh of happy-hour-goers and patrons closing their tabs before dinner, Mayer plunged off the side of the building, to her death.
Mayer’s suicide has left the ex-Hasid community reeling, with many trying to understand not only how her death came to be, but also the effect it had on other ex-Hasids.
“I do not have any baby pics of myself,” Mayer posted to Facebook on March 26, in a plaintive plea to her estranged parents that they almost certainly never saw. “I don’t think it’s human to withhold your daughter’s photos from most of her life.”
When Mayer was growing up in Hasidic Boro Park, her mother worked as a baby sitter. Parents from the neighborhood would drop off their children at the Mayer home —sometimes 10 kids at a time.
Young Faigy was always around. Sometimes she’d forget to wear tights around the house, and in private she didn’t always dress the part of a “nice Jewish girl,” said Kupferstein, a former Hasid who attended the Bnos Belz Girls School with Mayer and belonged to her synagogue. Not only was Mayer’s mother ashamed of this behavior, but she also worried that Faigy might hurt her baby sitting busi-
‘I hope to be an inspiration to others who leave.’