Teachers, Friends and Advisors

I had the pleasure of hosting Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller for lunch and dinner yesterday as she visited Kew Gardens Hills on the tail end of her 2 week US tour. In her “to the heart of the matter” style, she commented that conformity cuts you off from your past, while non-conformity cuts you off from your community. We will G-d willing hear more wisdom from Rebbetzin Heller in the coming months.

Today we’re running another guest contributor piece from Rabbi Yakov Horowitz. As you might know, Rabbi Horowitz serves as Menahel (Dean) of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, is the founder and Program Director of Agudath Israel’s Project Y.E.S., which assists at-risk teens and their families, and is one of the leading community advocates for providing the infrastructure necessary to support BTs throughout the entire lifecycle.

When I first spoke to Rabbi Horowitz about being an advisor on the Beyond Teshuva project, all he kept saying was “What can I do to help?”, “What can I do to help?”…. And he has shown that he meant it with a whole heart.

In the many people in the community like Rabbi Horowitz and Rebbetzin Heller, we have more than teachers and advisors, we have friends and advocates who care deeply about us as individuals and as an integral part of Klal Yisroel.

3 comments on “Teachers, Friends and Advisors

  1. Both Rabbi Horowitz and Rebbitzen Heller are indeed wonderful teachers, friends and advisors. They are superlative role models not just for BTs and FFBs, but for all thinking Jews. Rabbi Horowitz has an excellent column which is in the Jewish Press on a weekly basis on the issues that he specializes in ( i.e. kids at risk, etc).

  2. Max – Good Points! The response that follows is my understanding of Rebbetzin Heller’s statement.

    I would say that the degree of differentiation acceptable and the area of differentiation are parameters which contribute to the definition of the communal norm. And I don’t set the norm as point, but rather a range of commonly considered acceptable behaviors.

    I totally agree that each individual community defines it’s norms. That community’s level of tolerance would define the range of that norm.

    In my experience, there are almost always values behind the external manifestations. You sometimes need to talk to a wise person to discern those values, but they are usually there.

    I think many people would agree that values are more important than behavior, but conforming behavior is also important. Chava in a previous post/comment pointed out that conformity can actually lead to an increase feeling of Achdus with the community.

    I’ll leave the possible BT paths in reaching a proper/comfortable/workable conformity within the community to a future topic.

  3. Dear Mark, you are very fortunate to host a guest like Rebbetzin Heller. Her comments ask for elaboration. One, I suppose there are different levels of non-conformity, representing the degree of differentiation from one’s community as well as the area of differentiation, what value does the community place on the area of differentiation. Different types of non-conformity bear different results. Second, choice of community. Fortunatily Torah Observant society is not monotone. Different groups place different value on conformity. Just as a community can react to a person, a person can react to community.
    This reminds early steps along one’s career path. Straight out of school most people are thrilled with any job they could get, but as they gaine experience and confidence in their careers they become pickier and the choice of employment becomes a two way street. Similar is one’s return to Torah observance. At the initial steps, all one hopes is to be accepted by the first observant peers he meets. Later as Torah observance becomes part of us and we are more confident in our identity, we begin to make choices which include choosing the right community to be a part of. In my personal opinion more focus should be placed on the values that are behind the ways of the community, rather their external manifestations. Successful adoptation of the external manifistation can only come as result of sincere internalization of the values being manifested.

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