web analytics
April 28, 2015 / 9 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post


What Is It Really Like for a Baal Teshuva?


baal teshuva

So… how’s it working out for you now that you have become observant?  This is a question to Baalei Teshuva (BTs) that I think may very well be ignored – or at least not as deeply explored as it should be.

There is probably a lot going on in the mind of a Baal Teshuva that is left unsaid – but ought to be. We are our brothers’ keepers. All Jews are responsible for one another.  And we need to evaluate the outreach that has been achieved.  How successful is it really?

Are Baalei Teshuva truly happy with their changes? Are their new lifestyles what they expected them to be? Are they as accepted as they thought they would be? Are there any regrets? Have their lives improved? And is there a negative side to their experience? What kind of guidance do they continue to get – if any?

What about their children? If they were old enough to realize the changes, were they accepting? Were they rebellious? What about the non religious parents or extended family of Baalei Teshuva? To what extent does their change impact that relationship? And to what extent does that cause any regrets – if any? Is there any evidence that there is a greater chance for dysfunction among Baalei Teshuva because of their radical change in lifestyle?

There were 2 very important articles on this subject by two of my favorite people, Jonathan Rosenblum and Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein.  Although these articles did not directly deal with these issues, I received the following response to them by a Baal Teshuva who is intimately familiar with them via his profession. His thoughts follow.

I am a BT – a function of both a very traditional South African upbringing and Ohr Somayach and Aish in Israel – where I studied.

While I am forever grateful to the these institutions for discovering a world of depth and meaning through Torah living – my experience since and having lived in many frum communities throughout the world – and my experience in working with the ills and challenges of our community leads me to say that just as the general Chareidi world is going through profound change so too must the the kiruv world.

In a nutshell – the rigid compartmentalization and almost robotic cloning of graduates in one “Torah-True” way of thinking and living – where all other derachim (Hashkafic paths) are rejected at best, has to end.

Otherwise the post Baal Teshuva road which is littered with many tragic and dysfunctional tails of individual and family – will only get more acute.

Suffice to say that this is a very serious but complex issue.  I have always said that to some extent I can understand the approaches of Aish, Ohr Somayach, etc.

They see themselves like intensive care units (ICU) and they don’t know how much time they have with each ‘patient.’ Hence a very strict and regimental prescription. But there are terrible costs to this as well. Yes, in the short-term it may yield more ‘patients’ that look to have been miraculously transformed to profound mental and spiritual health, but in reality – for many the tools/thinking/one-dimensional prism of life that is fostered – are the very seeds that sprout disaster down the line.

From a learning reality devoid of the richness of Torah life diversity (and true individual expression), the challenges of the frum world, to over-night frum packages that include pushed through/suggested marriages with equally naive, just-newly-frum so-called soul mates. To the ludicrous reality – very common – where a Baal Teshuva  woman will rather look for a black-hat Baal Teshuva who only seeks to learn than say a Yeshiva University graduate who is deeply religious and also deeply engaged in the world- in a kosher way and bringing kedusha to the world.

I take major issue in Jonathan’s and the Chareidi world in relation to kiruv whereas Rabbi Alderstein quotes “what potential students look for is authenticity and passion, and these have been lacking in the DL community. Too often, secular Jews see Dati Leumi (DL) Jews as very much like themselves, other than the wearing of a kipah serugah.”

Again while I see great merit in the passion of Chareidi world, there is also a great deal of passion that is solely misguided and solely not Torah. As for authenticity – yes I even always prefer a Rabbi with a beard, but there is so much in Chareidi world that they present as only authentic – which just is not.

It is far easier in life being narrow-minded and narrow focused and driving passion and authenticity. But this also very often yields zealots and extremists. It is far more difficult and yes, maybe less superficially passionate and authentic – when one fuses faith and the modern world – where every day is not just a beating of the Gemera but learning – and by example, effectively managing one’s anger in the workplace.

This is not to say that DL or Modern Orthodox (MO) world has got it right in Kiruv. It hasn’t.  It also needs to do some very clever and creative soul searching in realizing an outreach approach that attracts and inspires the less affiliated. But not by propagating through the tools of the Chareidi camp where is all “black” or white” and is “us or them.”

Here are some more points to ponder:

  •  Being any less so-called passionate, does not denote being any less authentic. Most importantly the question is the authenticity of that passion!
  • I do not have numbers, but anecdotally I know so many BT’s who got divorced and are now in their 2nd and even 3rd marriages
  • How many stories do I/we hear of BT’s who driven to do what they see as “only emes” have 5, 6 7 children and just cannot cope and families and marriages implode
  • Many of these BT cannot face to question ANY aspect of guidance they may have blindly taken as truth/only path for if they do, it opens a pandora’s box – that the Rabbi could have been wrong! He is not infallible…
  • Many male BT’s with such large and dysfunctional families, cannot handle the financial realities (money was meant to fall from the sky) simply loose it, get divorced and very often completely go off the derech

I do believe this subject warrants a whole book. But let me just end with this. I think it is a very difficult issue as it touches a third rail for many BT’s – even myself. That is – how can one be critical of such institutions when they gave you so much?! What chutzpah! This is not to detract from the incredible work they have done and continue to do.

What I am merely saying is that just as the frum-from-birth Chareidi world is finally reevaluating issues of the value of work, parnassah, contribution to Israeli society, so too the Chareidi kiruv institutions that ‘produce’ BT’s have to realign and reassess how they nurture the frum population of tomorrow. And so too how DL and MO world needs to candidly evaluate what more they can do to play a more prominent and effective role in outreach. Outreach that sans black hat is no less passionate, more authentic, and ever more relevant for tomorrow.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “What Is It Really Like for a Baal Teshuva?”

  1. PLEASE READ THIS STUDY RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG A Study of the Alumni of the James Striar School at Yeshiva …
    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15244119408549023

    Apr 2, 2008 … The purpose of this study was to gather information regarding lifestyles and Jewish Identification of alumni of the James Striar School (JSS) of …

    [PDF]
    A Study of the Alumni of the James Stria…

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/15244119408549023

    ARTICLES. BERNHARD H. ROSENBERG. A STUDY OF THE ALUMNI OF. THE JAMES STRIAR SCHOOL AT. YESHIVA UNIVERSITY. The purpose of this …

    [ More results from http://www.tandfonline.com ]

    —–Original Message—–

Comments are closed.

Binyamin and Chaya Maryles, uncle and aunt of Emes Ve-Emunah author Harry Maryles.
Current Top Story
Desperate crowd awaits relief aid at Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus.
US: UNRWA Gets Add’l $6M for Yarmouk ‘Palestinians,’ Only $10M for Nepal
Latest Blogs Stories
Moment of Silence 1

By not standing you are drawing distinctions between religious & secular, AND religious & religious.

A Soldier's Mother

Israel’s radio is like a voice from home…

empirestatebuildinginnewyorkgeneralview4361.jpeg

Truly, in the modern world, we live in the time of ‘What’s in it for me?’ The time of the ‘selfie’!

A Soldier's Mother

My final reaction remains – who builds a mountain of ashes, who turns it into a “tourist” site?

Is the recent increase in Arab terror attacks related to the fact that there’s no new government?

They called it “religious coercion” but it was really “secular coercion” and secular intolerance.

One exciting element of traveling is that it was my first time ever doing so as a dual-citizen!

Attackers of this innocent religious solider had been brainwashed that Israel is evil & illegitimate

How can you take care of the one you love and look after your finances at the same time?

Celebrating 67 years of democratic independence, surviving wars&threats; so much to be thankful for!

He was a Torah giant, uniquely exemplifying the Hashkafa of Torah U’Mada (Torah & worldly knowledge)

All Israel walks beside them, holding them in our hearts, listening, our hearts breaking with theirs

I’ve felt that if only we had established these communities sooner, then the victims would not have been killed

Is inflation always bad for the economy, and why is deflation not always an ideal situation?

It is the character of the individual that counts, not his sexual preferences.

Bibi gives a great speech, especially when talking to foreigners, but on policy, he’s very weak.

More Articles from Harry Maryles
empirestatebuildinginnewyorkgeneralview4361.jpeg

Truly, in the modern world, we live in the time of ‘What’s in it for me?’ The time of the ‘selfie’!

Remains of the back window of the car driven in Mea Shearim by an officer of a Hareidi IDF unit.

Attackers of this innocent religious solider had been brainwashed that Israel is evil & illegitimate

He was a Torah giant, uniquely exemplifying the Hashkafa of Torah U’Mada (Torah & worldly knowledge)

It is the character of the individual that counts, not his sexual preferences.

“I am 100% convinced that she is not in any way anti-Semitic. She is in fact a philo-Semite”

Chumros-YES! But when it comes to the Chilul HaShem described in the article they couldn’t care less

Why are employers reluctant to hire Charedim? Legitimate concerns or plain old fashioned prejudice?

Just like the shoppers on Black Friday those attending Rav Wosner’s funeral were oblivious to others

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/what-is-it-really-like-for-a-baal-teshuva/2014/01/29/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: