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Saturday, September 17, 2005

A Baal Teshuva's fate in the Charedi world

Mishpacha had an article last week (I think by a Baal Teshuva) about the problems that they encounter in the Charedi community. The main one is that their kids are not accepted in mainstream Charedi schools. She told a story of a new school that started that originally accepted the children of Baalei Teshuva and as soon as they became successfult they kicked them all out. Of course this continues on with Shidduchim.

This week they published a response. The woman who responded is married to the son of a Baal teshuva. She explained that she originally also felt very bad about this but a relative in Chinuch explained the situation. He said that many Baalei Teshuva stay in contact with their non-religious families. Therefore they are a tremendous danger to everyone else. After all, the friends may actually see a non-religious person in the house etc. Of course she threw in the obligatory anecdote about such a thing really happening (going off the derech due ti the influence of a baal teshuva friend). Therefore she concluded, that it is better to hurt individual baalei teshuva then to put the whole community at harm.

I could not believe what I was reading. What kind of paranoia is this? Why punish all the baalei teshuva? The Charedi world has such little faith in their kids, they feel that any little thing will throw them off the derech.

I really feel bad for any Charedi Baal Teshuva, these people have no idea what they are getting into.

Last week in Mishpacha they had an article about the workload of Girls seminaries. Many parents complained that the workload was too high. The administrator's justification, we need to keep the girls busy, otherwise who knows what they will do? The same story, a complete lack of faith in the kids and their education.

These kinds of things really bother me about the Charedi comunity.

39 Comments:

At 12:58 AM, Blogger asher said...

Are you really surprised?

In the next decade there will be a tremendous shortage of nurses and pharmacists. Would you think anyone would take the trouble to tell the girls in yeshiva h.s. about these great opportunites?
Or is it more important for them to learn the minutia about things that will never come up in their real lives?

A baal teshuva should not be surprised to be treated as a second class citizen in the charedi world. After all there was always a pecking order: chasiddm vs. misnagdim, german jews vs. eastern european jews, established jews vs. greenhorns.

But then again, you have to question the motivation behind most baal teshuvas...I'd talk about it but it would be painful.

 
At 5:21 AM, Anonymous doresh said...

Asher, I am suprised about your comment about baalai teshuva. What do you think their motivation is???

 
At 7:29 AM, Anonymous daat y said...

ThIS IS WHY REMAIN A DIKDUK bemitzvot but keep your hashkafa MO.

 
At 2:42 PM, Anonymous Dorsh said...

daat y:


But what about baalai teshuva who believe in the hashkofos of OU?

 
At 8:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very few people, if any, become frum for intellectual reasons. Most become frum to find meaning in their life and a warm social circle.

 
At 3:55 AM, Blogger lamedzayin said...

But what about baalai teshuva who believe in the hashkofos of OU?

I've found by expeience that BT's generally have the hashkafah of whatever organization they got involved with, and it takes maybe a decade for them to find their own path, because they aren't comfortable making religious decisions against their teachers.

 
At 6:23 AM, Anonymous daat y said...

dorsh,
Butyou see now where the hashkafa of UO leads them.-closed-minded and fearful and unaccepted..

 
At 3:48 PM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Bluke: Here's a completely different question for you:

Last week, on my way home to the Muqata from LA, I stopped by my parents house (5 hour stopover). My father posed the following question:

The halachik building blocks of induction, the 13 "midot" brought down by Rabbi Yishmael -- do not apply to which halachot? ie, when can't a kal vachomer be applied to a halacha, specifically because of the "type" of halacha being evaluated?

Hint: The answer is in gemara shabbat...

Have a nice day...and don't worry too much about the Chareidim and Mispocha magazine. The Geula is on its way which should solve everything.

 
At 8:22 PM, Anonymous dave said...

I can't relate to this kind of thinking. Here in Brooklyn, I know many baal teshuvos whose children are enrolled in the most charedi yeshivos. Of course, charedi even in Brooklyn is not charedi in Israel, but....

 
At 6:17 AM, Anonymous daat y said...

halacha lemoshe me'sinai

 
At 12:54 PM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

daat y: Kol Hakavod :-)

You impress me more and more daily.

 
At 8:18 PM, Blogger Gil Student said...

Just don't tell anyone that you are a Ba'al Teshuvah. It's not like it's on any questionnaire that the yeshivos make you fill out.

 
At 8:21 PM, Anonymous Stephen said...

Gil,

Not all baalei teshuva "blend in" as well as you do.

 
At 4:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gil, why are you advising Jews to lie?

 
At 5:05 PM, Anonymous Manny said...

anonymous, how on earth are you interpreting Gil's advice as a lie? All he is saying is that one isn't obligated in publicizing the fact that one was not always frum; he's not saying that one should deny it if asked...

 
At 5:36 PM, Blogger bluke said...

Gil,

Many times that is not possible, certainly not without lying. Many yeshivos interview the parents and ask them about their schooling past.

 
At 10:18 PM, Blogger Masmida said...

'The defect you have, don't critize in another' should apply just as much to Ba'alei Teshuva as it does to G'erim.

If it doesn't, I would love to know what they're going to be crying about this yom kippur, because it can't possibly be their sins.

 
At 10:39 PM, Blogger BrooklynWolf said...

This very scenario happened to me.

When I was nine, my parents split up. I went with my mother and we both became frum the next year. When it came time to enroll in a yeshiva, there was one that would accept me only on condition that my mother cut off all contact between myself and my non-frum father.

She turned them down flat.

The Wolf

 
At 3:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a baal teshuva (married to a FFB),I have never encountered (or even heard of) these problems.

However, if I did, I would do what I always do - stop giving money and encourage my friends to do the same.

I continue to be amazed how many people provide financial support to mosdos that have hashkafas and policies contrary to their own.

 
At 5:51 PM, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

This whole issue is disgusting. They are trying to develop a society of inbred drones. I wouldn't want anything to do with people who think like that.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go smoke pot, eat a ham sandwich, and go mixed dancing with my non-frum cousin.

 
At 12:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gil--You may be able to hid that you are a BT. But, one cannot hide the fact that they are a Ger, even if they grew up in a Jewish home, because the application form asks for information on yichus. (Now naturally it is understandable that we can only admit Jews into our schools, but the fact that the Rav of the shul, the principal of the school, the mesader kiddushin, the beit din, and just about everyone else needs to keep verifying the same information is ridiculous).

And, if it is a problem for some schools to accept the children of BT's, imagine what happens to the children of a Ger. Not only do they have contact with non-frum family, but they may even have contact with non-Jews.

 
At 12:12 AM, Blogger Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

These chereidi institutions are just doing what they have to do to keep competitive in their specific system. The rules of competition are no different here than in ivy league colleges that profile for what they consider the cream of the academic crop.
Nobody forces a baal teshuvah to apply to these exclusive schools. Just substitute "chareidi" for "parochial" and you'll understand everything.

 
At 5:46 AM, Blogger Balabusta in Blue Jeans said...

"The Charedi world has such little faith in their kids, they feel that any little thing will throw them off the derech."

The derech should be a road, not a balance beam. When it is too narrow for one foot, let alone two, people will tend to fall off.

 
At 11:04 PM, Blogger abureena1 said...

Hmm, as a ba'al t'shuva (machmir in praxis, MO in hashkafa, sort of, I guess), I am also disturbed by the lack of acceptance of ba'alei t'shuva, but I don't wholly discount the impact of the non-frum relatives.

My parents are non-observant, divorced, and both intermarried. So we have both non-observant and non-Jewish relatives popping over on Shabbos and Yom Tov.

"Daddy, why does Bubbe drive on Shabbos?" "Daddy, why does Gramma celebrate christmas?"

I'm not saying these issues are in any way insurmountable. But they are issues. My poor kids get so confused! I keep explaining to my oldest, who thinks I wasn't always Jewish, that I'm a JFB (jew from birth) but not an FFB, since Bubbe is Jewish (aren't all bubbes?) (of course, her husband, who is a bit of a pagan catholic, couldn't be Zayde!)

there are issues that come along with being a BT. On the other hand, we're much more excited about yahadut! (ok, gross overgeneralization).

 
At 11:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find that in alot of situations, the chareidi community does not accept a slightly different way of life then their own. they fear " going off the derech" so much they think going to an extreme and accepting only one path is the answer. not realizing by doing so, they are pushing more people away. this is a huge problem within our schools, communities, shuls, and jewish society in general.only the strong ones remain frum. the rest, and justifiably so, do not remain religious due to needless outside presure.

 
At 11:43 PM, Blogger Hillary said...

"only the strong ones remain frum. the rest, and justifiably so, do not remain religious due to needless outside presure."

What does it mean that, "only the strong ones remain frum?" Who are you suggesting is strong? Those who grow up in a chareidi household and do not have to think for themselves or those who open themselves up to the world and yet remain "frum?"

 
At 11:12 PM, Blogger Rebel withacause said...

Freelance Kiruv Maniac hat gesagt...
These chereidi institutions are just doing what they have to do to keep competitive in their specific system. The rules of competition are no different here than in ivy league colleges that profile for what they consider the cream of the academic crop.
Nobody forces a baal teshuvah to apply to these exclusive schools. Just substitute "chareidi" for "parochial" and you'll understand everything.

12:12 AM

Come on now. Ivy schools do not take in their candidates on the basis of the family heritage. You can be a little farmer boy from Japan or a high snob from Europe, this does not matter;if you have excellent grades and good contacts you will get into an Ivy School. If you are a BT however, you are banned from integrating into the "holier than thou" world.

 
At 11:14 PM, Blogger Rebel withacause said...

Hillary has said...
"only the strong ones remain frum. the rest, and justifiably so, do not remain religious due to needless outside presure."

What does it mean that, "only the strong ones remain frum?" Who are you suggesting is strong? Those who grow up in a chareidi household and do not have to think for themselves or those who open themselves up to the world and yet remain "frum?"

11:43 PM

In the end, most give up. Disappointed and pushed away, they collect the pieces of their broken pride and heart and go onto a different lifestyle. Who wants to be humiliated for life?

 
At 1:30 AM, Blogger bflat said...

The Jerusalem BT yeshiva that I went to cared for the wellbeing of its ex-students. I'm not so sure that BTs generally put themselves out to care for the wellfare of other BTs, though. We actually share a 'BT heritage', but there doesn't seem to be much of a wish by BTs to consolidate and celebrate this by way of creating institutions that reflect this. Where are the leaders? Think you've got what it takes to help create communities with a BT flavour?: Well, have a go!

 
At 4:25 PM, Blogger Ez said...

Interesting last point there bflat. It would be interesting to see more 'Baal Teshuvah' pride! Amongst BTs, there is such a strong tendency to suppress that fact, and to appear (at least initially) as a life-long member of the faithful. I guess the asuumption is that you'll be taken more seriously that way, and as less of a fanatic.

In any case it sould surely be cool to see BTs telling these chareidi institutions and individuals where to go, and nurturing or creating alternatives.

 
At 10:52 PM, Blogger Allen said...

BS"D

I am a Ba'al Teshuva that is meeting fierce resistance right here in the USA. The resistance is as follows:
1) In order to Keep Glatt Kosher (Which I will never stop doing by the way) you must be able to produce rediculous amounts of money to feed the family. This is a big business for all who own the hechshers. Sorry Rabbanim, but it's true. For those of us who are poor, it can add a lot of extra stress to our lives. The Rabbi will say: "Pray for Parnasa" which I do, but it does not justify how hard Rabbincal structure makes it for a Jew to live. If Ahavat Yisroel is so important then why would Chassidim make it so hard for a Jew to observe.

2) Acceptance - I currently am dealing with a religious community dominated by the rich. They do not take a lot of steps to help a Ba'al Teshuva who wants to live a life of Torah and Mitzvot (I don't mean monitarily either). They rather, make you feel unaccepted and expect impossible things. There is no moral support. There is very little compassion and understanding. They do not know what it is to have a real job and try to make minyanim that are scheduled around their schedule. They have no idea what it is to go without anything, yet they will preach to you about how you should do this and how you should do that. This is primarily because the Slichim that run the Chabad houses either come from a well off family or have strong financial backing. They have no idea what it is like to have to try to be a Ba'al Teshuva (in some cases they could care less) in this unfriendly world, because they rarely step out of their bubble or comfort zone.

3) Politics - most communities are dominated by unfair politics. It's almost like being in High School again. If you are accepted and part of an "in" crowd you will receive support. If for some reason you do not jive with the locals, you can pretty much expect alienation. There is NOTHING TORAH about running synagouges and communities in this manner. I am certain that Hashem does not appreciate hypocrisy! I am FAR from perfect, but at least I try to do what I can. Right now, I am struggling with the Yetzer Hara which wants me of course to give up completely. I will not do this, but I would feel safer practicing my religion as a hermit, because of all the dysfunctionality in Jewish communities.

I am a person who works very hard and even makes time to Observe Shabbat, Daven, teach my children, study Torah, Tanya & Chassidus and will drop what I am doing to support the shul. Until the leaders of our religion find a way to really promote the true practice of Ahavat Yisroel, the Bet Hamigdash will not stand and Moshiach will not come.
You can call me crazy or shut me out, but that is already happening and so will not phase me. We are so few in number and Chassidim insist on keeping a barrier...putting a fence around the Torah. So much to the point that they are fencing out their own people.

So what does a person do?

 
At 11:57 AM, Blogger beowulf2k8 said...

"off the derech"

All this goofy terminology kills me. I suppose derech is more or less equivalent to the Christian "straight and narrow." And a baal teshuvah means essentially a convert who already was a Jew. In that case, why the need to even distinguish them from the rest of the Jewish population? Seems that this is breaking the whole thing about not mistreating the foreigner because you were foreigners in Egypt -- but in this case, essentially, you are treating a fellow Jew as a foreigner by this asinine terminology.

 
At 12:02 PM, Blogger Ez said...

What's goofy is trying to fit Jewish terms into Christian categories like "straight and narrow" and "convert."

 
At 12:05 PM, Blogger beowulf2k8 said...

"In order to Keep Glatt Kosher (Which I will never stop doing by the way) you must be able to produce rediculous amounts of money to feed the family. This is a big business for all who own the hechshers. Sorry Rabbanim, but it's true. For those of us who are poor, it can add a lot of extra stress to our lives."

If all this is true, and I'm sure it is, then why keep Glatt Kosher. Glatt means something extra right, beyond regular kosher, more strict? Look, as a Gentile, I keep more Kosher than you Jews whether you believe it or not. You eat all kinds of crazy mystery meats -- I only eat beef, chicken, and fish, and turkey on thanksgiving. No other meat. I don't eat that mystery meat they serve in the Jewish Delicatessas. Ok, so I don't interpret "thou shalt not boil a calf in its mother's milk" as prohibiting cheese burgers. I think its pretty safe to say that the cheese didn't come from the mother of the cow I'm eating. Nor was the meat boiled in it, since the meat is cooked first, then they put the cheese on it. Technically speaking then, I keep the Torah's kosher. I don't kill the cow myself, so I don't know how the Gentile butcher drains the blood -- but I know I don't eat the blood. If I see any pink, I don't eat it. I bet you eat your glatt kosher steak a little pink, don't you? Why waste your money on some higher kosher that doesn't even meet gentile standards?

 
At 12:08 PM, Blogger beowulf2k8 said...

"What's goofy is trying to fit Jewish terms into Christian categories like 'straight and narrow' and 'convert.'"

What's goofy is to insist on mixing languages and creating a sort of fragmented speech. Instead of derech, why not just say 'right way'? What's wrong with translating these terms? For baal teshuvah (master of repentance) why not 'secular Jew who turned frum'?

 
At 12:14 PM, Blogger Ez said...

Keeping kosher is not just based on personal interpretation of the bible. It's based on a tradition that goes back through all of Jewish history to the founding fathers (ie Abraham, Moses etc.). Keeping glatt kosher is a way of showing God that you are super dedicated to following His law and religion. So it makes sense to adherent. If you are not eating food slaughtered according to Jewish law then by definition you are not keeping kosher.

Furthermore, Hebrew terms such as "derech" allow for a meaning that English translations just don' capture. It's like asking you to use Japanese to explain an English concept. Yes it can be done, but it doesn't convey the richness, subtly etc.

 
At 12:19 PM, Blogger beowulf2k8 said...

Economic slavery to those who interpret kosher to their economic benefit to bilk you out of your money is your right.

 
At 12:47 PM, Blogger Ez said...

relax, it's just food man ....

 
At 11:58 PM, Blogger Mommy said...

I don't know if anyone is still following this, but...

I am a baalas teshuva, married to what you would call an FFB (I hate labels and do not usually use these.) I never really had a problem "fitting in." Didn't even think about it.

I think most of these blogs are simply places for people to gripe, instead of doing something positive.

Allen writes: "the Slichim [sic] that run the Chabad houses either come from a well off family or have strong financial backing. They have no idea what it is like to have to try to be a Ba'al Teshuva (in some cases they could care less) in this unfriendly world, because they rarely step out of their bubble or comfort zone."

Most shluchim are NOT from well-off families. Some are, just as some people anywhere are from well-off families, but definitely not most. Many are extremely far from well-off. I know, because I am one of them. There are many shluchim who cannot put food on their own tables, while at the same time they are out there helping others. I remember once we could not buy any food for a month, and a neighbor gave me as a thank you gift for something I'd done, a basket of fruit. Because I did not want anyone to know our situation, I could not tell her how much that fruit meant to us!

Many of us know EXACTLY what it means to be a baal teshuvah, since more and more baalei teshuvah are becoming shluchim. In any case, EVERYONE should ideally be a baal teshuvah, in the sense of constantly growing.

And to insinuate that we "could care less" is ludicrous. A shliach leaves his home and his family and friends and entire comfort zone in order to move to hutzenklutz in order to help other Jews reconnect with our heritage. Many move to under-developed countries as well. When we are exhausted and ready to drop, and haven't slept in days, and someone calls us that they need help, we pick up the energy we really didn't have a moment before, and are telling them not to worry, whatever they need, we will be glad to help them.

Please take the energy you are all using to complain, and go do something positive instead of griping.

Have a great day!

 

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