August 1, 2003 | Issue 3

Girls Flee Modern LA for Frum Boro Park

LOS ANGELES, CA — [TheKnish.com] Rachel and Debra's excellent adventure came to an end yesterday when the runaway Valley teens returned home after a weeklong cross-country trip.

The 16-year-old best friends, whose disappearance sparked panic in Los Angeles's Modern Jewish community, spent the week in Boro Park buying seamed stockings, black pleated skirts and setting up bishows, wanting never to come back.

"They had plans to disappear off the face of the Earth," Assemblyman Harold Clay (D-Los Angeles) said yesterday.

But a Los Angeles cop persuaded them to return to California, where they arrived yesterday in long sleeve shirts, plain black sweaters and black skirts - a far cry from the usual Modern Orthodox garb.

Rachel Goldberg and Debra Klein took off a couple of weeks ago with a few thousand dollars in savings and grabbed a cab to the central LA bus depot. They asked for tickets for the next bus, with separate seating, that would take them to Boro Park.

By the time they got to Boro Park, the girls immediately began shedding their old lives, plunking down $2,300 in monthly rent for a one-bedroom basement apartment (water, gas and electric not included). They then went on a shopping spree on 13th Avenue for skirts and other Chasidic garb.

Last Friday - hours after Clay joined the girls' parents at an emotional press conference that hinted the children might have been slain - Rachel called a beloved teacher, vowing that she and Debra were never coming home.

"We're okay, we just don't want to live in the community. We don't want to live without rules anymore," Rachel told the teacher, according to a police source. She also told her they changed their names to Elky and Frimcha.

They were finally persuaded to come home where the LAPD and local community members met them at the airport. When they got off the plane, the girls looked more like Hasidic teens than suburban mall chicks.

"They looked different," Clay said. "A lot of people have issues. Very few, and hardly any, disappear for a week. They made a decision to go away.

"The girls were not immediately reunited with their parents. Clay declined to reveal their whereabouts. The community as a whole is examining what would make young girls do this. They are thinking of instituting bishows, mitzvah tanses and head shaving when girls reach 15 years old. Stay tuned for further developments.

Writer

Pencil Chaim Y got the ball rolling, so you owe him big. He co-founded the TheKnish.com with Martin Bodek, a day which will forever live in famy. His hobbies include gum-chewing, bubblewrap-popping, and comparing chometz horror stories. He lives in a city with people.


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