11/21/2014 02:10 EST | Updated 01/21/2015 05:59 EST

Yohanan Lowen, former Hasidic Jew suing government, recounts painful childhood

Yohanan Lowen, the former Hasidic Jew who is now suing the Quebec government for $1.2 million in damages for the poor quality of his religion-based education, said he suffered greatly as a child.

Lowen spoke to CBC Daybreak host Mike Finnerty on Friday morning. He discussed his painful childhood, his faith and his decision to leave the Hasidic Jewish community.

Lowen said he still does know the alphabet by heart, and can only solve simple mathematics problems. He said he still doesn’t know the location of the St. Lawrence River.

Growing up in a Boisbriand, Que., Hasidic community, Lowen said he had a profoundly unhappy childhood. He said his favourite day of the year was the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av, a day of fasting and weeping, because he could cry openly the entire day.

He said he believed many Hasidic children are probably just as unhappy today.

"I must say, I cannot generalize," Lowen said. "But I would say that from the Hungarian Hasidic communities, I would say that 95 per cent, if not 100 per cent, of the children are definitely not happy."

Lowen, 37, is also suing the Seigneurie-des-Mille-Îles school board and two Hasidic schools.

He said he is going after the government because he feels it failed to ensure that Quebec's Hasidic communities taught mandatory curriculum in their schools.

Lowen left the community with his family in 2010 and settled in Montreal.

Listen to the whole interview here: