Faranak Margolese (born 1972) is an American writer, best known as the author of Off the Derech, a book about contemporary assimilation in the Orthodox Jewish world.

Early life and education

Margolese was born in Manchester, England, in 1972,[1] the great-granddaughter of the former Chief Rabbi of Tehran, Iran.[2] She was raised in Los Angeles, California, to Persian immigrant parents in a traditional Sephardi home.[1] She graduated from Yeshiva University High School of Los Angeles,[3] received a BA in philosophy from Stern College and a Master of Fine Arts in nonfiction creative writing from Columbia University in New York.[2]


From 1995 to 1997, she was an adjunct professor teaching expository writing at Yeshiva University and Queens College.

Off the Derech


Margolese conceived of the idea for Off the Derech: Why Observant Jews Stop Practicing Judaism; How to Respond to the Challenge while living in New York City and noticing that many of her friends who had grown up in Orthodox households were no longer observant.[3] She spent five years doing research, conducting interviews and setting up an online survey with people who had left their Orthodox way of life.[1][4] She also interviewed rabbis, educators, therapists and program directors.[5]


Off the Derech (A Jewish term that means “off the path”)[6] explores the phenomenon of Jews raised in Orthodox households who choose to leave that lifestyle as adults, examining their reasons for doing so and offering preventative measures for the Jewish community to take.[1] Margolese writes that “there is no greater challenge facing the Jewish world today.”[4]


Off the Derech has been called “a groundbreaking book,”[7] with Margolese earning praise for “authoring the first seminal work on contemporary assimilation from the ranks of the previously observant.”[8] Her writing style has been called “extremely lucid and logical.”[3]Rabbi Abraham Twerski endorsed Off the Derech as “mandatory reading for every rabbi, teacher and parent.”[9]Publisher’s Weekly wrote that Margolese’s conclusion (“God cannot be confined to the narrow path we walk... neither can his people”) “will resonate with those of all faiths.”[5]

Other work

Margolese served as Editor of the 1999 edition of Freedom in the World.[10] The comprehensive annual report by Freedom House monitors political rights and civil liberties in nations and disputed territories across the globe.[10] She has also worked as a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Jewish Times.[11]

Personal life

She immigrated to Israel in 2002 with her husband David Margolese.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Daphna Berman, “Finding your own way on the religious path,” Haaretz, December 23, 2005.
  2. ^ a b Frances Kraft, “Author Explores Reasons for Lapses in Jewish Observance,” Canadian Jewish News, March 2, 2006.
  3. ^ a b c Orit Arfa, “New book tries to keep Orthodox, well, Orthodox,” The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, September 21, 2006.
  4. ^ a b Daniel Septimus, “Where did it go wrong?” Jerusalem Post, January 12, 2006.
  5. ^ a b “Religion review: Off the Derech: Why Observant Jews Leave Judaism – How to Respond to the Challenge,” Publisher’s Weekly, October 3, 2005.
  6. ^ Steve Lipman, “A Year Of Living Dangerously,” The Jewish Week, August 18, 2006.
  7. ^ Rosally Saltsman, “Title: Off The Derech – Why Observant Jews Leave Judaism/How To Respond To The Challenge,” The Jewish Press, February 10, 2006.
  8. ^ Rabbi Avrohom Meir Gluck, “Book Review: Off the Derech,” The Jewish Observer, January/February 2006.
  9. ^ “Amar’s insults,” The Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh, June 29, 2012.
  10. ^ a b Adrian Karatnycky, et al, Freedom in the World: The Annual Survey of Political Rights and Civil Liberties, 1998-99, New York: Freedom House, 1999, Foreword.
  11. ^ "About the Author," Offthederech.com. Accessed November 11, 2012.

External links