Imagine this scenario:
You’re sitting with a bunch of your friends at a Shabbat dinner. Everything is going fine until across the table—
“Hey, Yosef, remember when we did that skit at Moshava for color war?”
“Yeah, and Jacob sang the theme from ‘Gilligan’s Island’”
“And us girls on the red team totally had more ruach, but the judges were biased and you guys won”
“And then Adam raided our cabin afterwards…”
And suddenly everyone at the table starts talking about the wonderful time they had at Moshava/NCSY/Morasha/Lavi/Nesher/Mesorah/Yeshiva Har et Tzion/Brovender’s/any other frum yeshiva, seminary, youth group, or summer camp. No matter how hard you might try at passing, your silence and inability to contribute to the conversation will probably give you away. Especially when they ask “where did you go, Rachel?”
I went to NFTY, camp KUTZ (I wear the lanyard around my neck since it is a convenient place to store my keys). I went to JCC camp Kingswood. I went to public school. But as soon as I say that, the conversation will come to an awkward pause.
The last time this came up, I let the conversation go for a while, and I eventually said “Hey you guys. I was wondering—could we possibly change the subject? I feel a bit left out.”
And of course everyone was a bit ashamed after my gentle rebuke, and we got back into a discussion about how much homework we all had. But of course these were my friends who all know that I’m a recent BT. I was not in a place where I needed to project an FFB image. I don’t think I have the ability to pass as an FFB.
In this way, as ba’alei teshuva, we may be forever doomed. No amount of studying, davening, black hat wearing or Yiddish speaking will get you those shared memories of bygone days when frum kids could be frum kids. Sure, as soon as you speak up people will be nice enough to change the subject (and if you’re lucky maybe even to Torah) but that involves saying something, and calling attention to your different-ness.
I often wonder if maybe this is just an age thing, and that as soon as we get old enough our past will be so far behind us that no one will have any reason to bring up the summer camps we have never been to. I hope for every BT’s sake that it is.