Some people are ‘starters’. They love to create and develop new products and ideas. Others are ‘finishers’. They are systems people. They may not be that creative, but they can take ideas and turn them into reality.
A ‘starter’ will invent and patent a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that idea (a Shabbos lamp, for example). But without a ‘finisher’, that creative idea may never take off. The ‘starter’ will lose interest when the bulbs get hot too quickly or if production gets bogged down. And, in all likelihood, he or she will be spending many of his or her waking hours thinking about the next invention.
I think that just about sums up the dilemma that many ba’alei teshuvah face. The vast majority of outreach efforts are focused on starting and very few resources are focused on the finish. And if Shabbos lamps have a hard time making it without finishers, imagine how parents with teenagers and tuition bills are coping.
I started the Life After Teshuva Conference in 2001 to address the unique needs of ba’alei teshuva who were desperately searching for longer term support. At the “Where Do We Go From Here?” session that closed the one-day conference, the panel members opened the floor to the 230 participants and asked them for their input and suggestions. The number one request by far was for rabbis and advisors who ‘get it’ – who understand the unique issues facing ba’alei teshuva families. In fact, since this website opened, Mark has been inundated with such requests, some of which he forwards to myself and other ‘rabbi-types’. But this is clearly not a long-term solution.
For the past four years, on and off (mostly off, as I need to raise funds for the Yeshiva where I serve a Menahel, and for Project YES, my program for at-risk teens), I would approach people of means and ask them to invest in programs to address these needs. To date, I have not been successful.
Until last night.
Over the past few weeks, spurred by the incredible energy and dialogue of this website, I have been soliciting prospective donors to make this issue a tzedakah priority in their portfolio. Last night I had a lengthy conversation with a donor (who wishes to remain anonymous), and I got a firm commitment to dedicate substantial funds to the long-term-ba’al-teshuvah-acclimation issue.
Now the question: How to spend the money wisely? (See Inspiring our Prospective Donors, an article I recently wrote on the topic of spending charity money wisely.)
– Should we invest in education or awareness for school heads and rabbonim?
– Should we be training a cadre of ‘finisher’ kiruv professionals?
– Should we ‘retool’ the current kiruv professionals?
– Should we pursue mentoring programs for ‘newer’ ba’alei teshuva?
– Will programs like the ones I mentioned create stigmas for ba’alei teshuva?
After kicking these questions around for a while, the donor and I decided to take a few hours off to think of ways to develop these ideas. Then, a creative (starter) idea came to me.
Why not ask all of our readers for their input?
So, here goes: How would YOU spend the money?