The Brave, Tragic Life of Faigy Mayer

What can we learn from ex-Hasid's sui­cide?

Forward Magazine - - Front Page - By Alexan­dra Levine

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.’

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