Not even an hour before Faigy Mayer jumped to her death from a rooftop bar in New York City, she shared a photo album of old family pictures on Facebook.
“My family refuses to allow me to have my baby pictures so finding these pics were cool!” the caption read.
Witnesses recalled seeing the 29-year-old jump 20 floors to her death from the top of 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar on Monday evening.
“There was a big corporate party up there and she kind of ran through them and jumped,” witness Becky Whittemore told the New York Post.
Another witness, Dale Martin, told the newspaper that he was walking across the street when he saw her falling.
“You can tell it was a lady. She had on shoes and a dress,” he said.
Wanting to Be Free
Mayer walked away from her ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community five years ago, numerous friends of the young woman tell PEOPLE. For that reason, her family refused to let her back into her childhood home in Borough Park, Brooklyn.
Mayer’s close friend, Pinny Gold, who said Mayer had been hospitalized three times in the past for depression, bumped into her on the train just two weeks ago.
“She was going to her parents’ house to pick up her Apple Watch that she had shipped there because she didn’t trust her roommates,” Gold, 30, tells PEOPLE. “She put on a dress over her pants, covered her arms with a sweater – so she wasn’t showing skin – and even then her mother wouldn’t let her into her house.”
Mayer had to wait outside to get her package.
“This was just one thing she was dealing with. She was never good enough in their eyes,” Gold says. “She had a lot of struggles.”
“I’m hoping this is the last suicide in our community, but I sadly know it won’t be,” he adds.
On April 10, Gold went to visit Mayer at the psychiatric unit of Bellevue Hospital in New York City.
“She really wanted people to come visit her,” he says. “And she wanted me to bring her chips and tea. I was also helping her with housing issues because her roommates were trying to get her evicted.”
Mayer had also reached out to a group of people she knew from Footsteps, an organization that helps former members of the ultra-Orthodox community transition to secular life.
“She was very open about her mental health issues,” Ari Mendel, 32, who also left the Hasidic community, tells PEOPLE. “She wrote from the hospital on this Google document that we are part of that she really wanted people to visit her and would like a home-cooked meal.”
Search for Happiness
On June 19, Mayer joined her friend Libelle Polaki at the Swedish Midsummer Festival in Battery Park.
Polaki went to high school with Mayer, but it wasn’t until 2011 that they became friends.
“We both broke free from our community,” Polaki, 27, tells PEOPLE. “So we suddenly had a lot in common. We supported each other. No one outside of our community understands what it’s like to leave.”
At the event, Mayer seemed happy and went out of her way to meet new people.
“We joked about our current lifestyles and how we were dating guys who weren’t Jewish,” Polaki says. “That’s the worst thing you could do where we are from.”
They also talked about Mayer’s passion for coding and creating apps. She had been working on an app that would help former Hasids navigate life in New York City.
“She just wanted to pursue her own passions and be free,” Polaki says. “But finding work for people like us is hard. We didn’t get credit for going to high school that we could use for college. We never learned math or simple algebra. We had to start all over again when we left.”
Trying to Cope
At Mayer’s funeral on Tuesday, her father cried, apologized to the English speakers in attendance for mainly speaking Yiddish and said, “We tried our best.”
But her close friend Chaim Levin says her family tried to keep her friends out of the service.
“They wouldn’t tell us what time the funeral was. They said noon, then they said it was 2 p.m.,” he tells PEOPLE. “When we got there, the family said they wanted a private service, but there were so many of us that we just piled in.”
According to Levin, Mayer always tried to be positive.
“She would post on Facebook about some sushi event or wanting to bring people together,” he says. “She wasn’t going to settle with being sad.”
On July 12, Mayer, who went to an all-girls Hasidic Jewish school, sent Levin an essay about her upbringing that she wanted to publish.
“I didn’t even know that leaving the faith was an option until the age of 23,” she wrote.
She also wrote about her three nephews and how “it isn’t fair to them that they have to live the lives they do. The most fun they have is to color with crayons. Even if I was allowed to be in their lives, they would not be allowed to play games on my iPhone.”
And when she watched Roger Federer play at Wimbledon, she wrote about asking her friend questions about the rules, while thinking that her nephews would never see the sport being played.
“Thinking analytically when it comes to basic life decisions is something new to me and something I still struggle with five years after leaving,” she wrote.
Polaki says that Mayer and those with similar backgrounds spend their entire lives trying to catch up academically and socially.
“She held out for as long as she could,” she says. “I think that if she didn’t have such great friends, she would have jumped sooner. She tried to cope the best she could, but it was just too much for her.”
Polaki also feels guilty that she hadn’t seen Mayer since their afternoon together in Battery Park.
“You don’t think that someone you care about will disappear,” she says. “I know I was a good friend, but she really just wanted her family. We all want to be close to our family, and when she left them it was like she landed on another planet.”