Being Proud of Your Past

I become orthodox in high school. I actually had the opportunity to go to a yeshiva high school after 8th grade before I was frum, but that would have meant a one-hour commute on the train in each direction. So, to my 8th grade rebbie’s chagrin, I opted instead for public high school. Given the caliber of students and the general atmosphere of the yeshiva I would have attended, I don’t know that I would have become frum had I gone there.

However, almost from the day I stepped into my public high school I started feeling my 8 years of yeshiva day school education trying to surface. That feeling combined with a two night a week learning program taught by one of my frum friend’s fathers, and my involvement with NCSY nurtured my teshuva process. I am, to this day, happy with my decision to go to public high school. I am proud of what I was able to accomplish there and appreciate the sensitivity I received from being exposed to, and yes even being friends with, a diversity of people.

I have a friend who also became frum during her public high school years. Today she is married to a major talmud chochom (FFB). They have 7 wonderful children with amazing midos who are solidly BY/Black Hat frum. She has built a true Bayit Ne’eman. Yet to this day there are 7 words that strike the deepest fear in her heart.. They are; “where did you go to high school”?

I think on occasion she has actually lied and said, “Bais Yaakov of Osh Kosh”. I find this hard to understand as I feel that she should be proud of herself, her teshuva, and her accomplishments. She lives in a nice East Coast community known for its tolerance and understanding.

I’d be interested to hear insights from those who have a similar reaction as my friend.

63 comments on “Being Proud of Your Past

  1. I just discovered this amazing website, so I’m obviously way late in responding (it’s erev Yom Kippur, 2007, and last post is April 2006) but even if I’m writing to no one in particular out in cyberspace since no one may be following this thread anymore, this topic is one that was a sore spot for me for many years and maybe I can clarify some issues for myself and anyone else if they happen to surf over here. I became frum a long, long time ago (mid-60’s) when I was 16. I transferred from public school to yeshiva in the 11th grade. Though I wasn’t aware as a teen-ager (and living “out-of-town”) that being a BT would be a blight on my resume, it became painfully clear to me after I moved mid-college years to Brooklyn. I was dating an FFB cousin of a friend I’d made at Brooklyn College, and things were going well until his parents decided to conduct an investigation of my past and found my credentials (conservative) to be lacking. I was devestated when he finally decided to give in to parental pressure and broke up with me. I quickly learned how to bend over backwards to cover up my “flawed” past, and was grateful I could truthfully answer that I’d graduated yeshiva high school (no one asked me where I’d spent grades K thru 10).I perfected the art of blending in and only my closest friends learned the dark truth…that my parents (lo aleinu!) weren’t frum. I did remember to get as much mileage as I could with the friends who did know that we kept kosher, Pesach kashrus was impeccable, and there was a level of Shabbos and Yomtov adherence. At least I wasn’t as far out of the sphere of kedusha as my BT peers!

    Many years, one divorce and remarriage, and 2 out of 4 adult sons off the derech (one well on his way back, but slowly), I’ve been forced on a spiritual journey where I’d never thought I’d have to go. Since it’s erev Yom Kippur time doesn’t allow me to go into it here, but I’ve learned so much, albeit with much pain. One valuable lesson has been that I couldn’t amputate some of whom I was at my core, which was the first 16 years of my life. Not that I hadn’t made a valiant effort. But I sometimes feel that by misrepresenting myself to the community (not by lying, but certainly by not “coming out of the closet”, I essentially hurt myself, and even more so, my children, who though they know my past well, may have found some inconsistencies in what I spouted and pushed in the home, and that part of me that subconsciously seeped out of me despite my best efforts to keep it bottled up. I sometimes wonder how much of that took my two off-the -derech sons on the journey they needed to take. But it’s also forced me to look at my relationship with Hashem, the Torah, and the Jewish community. Today I am open about who I am, and am finding I’m meeting spiritual needs for myself that I’d heavily relied on the community to fill, rather than relying on G-d. I’m still searching and growing, and though I’ve been a BT for 40 years(!), I haven’t been an honest BT until recently. And it’s now that I can more fully explore Yiddishkeit in the way I need to. P. S. Three out of four of those sons are married, 2 to lovely frum girls, 1 to and off-the-derech girl but both are looking at coming back, especially considering their 7 and 6 year old children who are in yeshiva will have many questions for them as they become more aware. The other 4 grandchildren are in yeshiva as well, and my single son is once again learning and growing as he journeys back to his roots BH. We can do our best to protect our pasts and our children’s shidduchim, but ultimately Hashem will take us all on the route we need to go on.

  2. Jaded Topaz-I think that men, especially, are commanded to find out and know the ins and outs, the initial premise and the conclusion and the view of Rov Poskim , lchatchilah, bdeievd, hiduur , shas hadchak, shas hadchak gadol meod views on as many issues within Torah as much as possible.

    (I know that we have experienced a publishing explosion in Sefarim and English Halachic works. Personally, and I realize that some don’t have the desire or capability, I love working thru the original as much as possible. As one of my chavrusas once observed “kli sheni aino mvashel.” I think that one needs a balance between Talmud, Halacha , Machshavah and Tanach in order to really find something that really grabs you. IIRC, the Talmud states that one should learn something that one is attracted to. { “libo chaftez”}.)

    In fact, the Beis HaLevi posits that is the difference in the level of Torah knowledge for men and women. There are many excellent works in English that will get you either to a “halachic bottom line”. The Chazon Ish also wrote in Emunah uBitachon that one cannot begin to talk about the Jewish view on anuything before knowing what halacha requires of you in any instance.

  3. Yakov , regarding your comment “I think it happens more often than we care to admit that people/kids can get pushed off the derech if they are more “global” than detail-oriented in personality”.

    my sentiments exactly … Also – when the emphasis is on the detail (local) level and the global level vision gets blurrier for some its difficult to avoid tripping and falling on the local level .And then the subsequent switching of the paths for greener pathways ( the grass is always greener and flowers r always prettier and the rocks more fascinating on alternate / scenic routes and paths ) seems logical since the global vision has been lost/ scattered/shattered among the local details and mundane, dim trivialisms .

  4. Steve,regarding your commment = “the powerful experiental mitzvos of Shabbos and meaningful tefillah lead me to realize that details are the bread and butter of a Jew’s existence.”

    For some (obviously you dont belong to this particular group of some) with limited resources on the patience, focusing and reasoning energies in the internal emotional vocabulary database ,instead of channeling the finite energies towards the mundane and trivial details of mitzvahs and not having any patience left for the actual concept why not just focus on the big pic and skip the hyperfocusing on the details (global versus local ) . a half a loaf albeit stale maybe trite (& no butter) is still better than none at all ….Its not like g-d gave out Ritalin or Adderall samples along with the torah at har sinai so how does he expect persons with below sea level attention spans to be able to focus on all the halachas and corresponding viewpoints and perspectives ,opinions and aspirations in addition to actual expectations ? lets not forget choosing the actual path and a life tour guide for the bumps /weeds/ pitfalls and ditches in addition to faded/blurry and or wrong direction roadsigns ….

  5. Another point re dikduk bmitzvos. One can argue that dikduk, as opposed to either a search for the most meikil or machmir approach, is present throughout the Talmud’s use of shiurim, elements of time and the day and other objective criteria to measure how a mitzvah should be performed, as opposed to the actual quantification of the time element itself , for which one can find many shitos lhachmir and lkula. RYBS, in a famous drasha, pointed out that lack of precision and attention to the element of time ( “chimutz hashaah”) can lead to the worst posssible consequences-Chametz , as opposed to matzah, Chillul Shabbos, Nosar, Piggul, etc.

  6. … pointed to the lack of a simple sprocket in the Challenger space shuttle as the cause of its tragic explosion.

    Sorry to nitpick, but IIRC it was an O-ring that got too cold and brittle which caused the Challenger explosion.

  7. One last point-Too many of us use the terms “mekil” and “Machmir” too cavalierly. IMO, we could and should all strive to be “mdakdek bmitzvos”, as opposed to a rigidly Meikil or Machmir approach .

  8. Undoubtdly, both the whole/concept and the details are important. Yet, one can ask which is the proverbial chicken and the egg. I can only speak for myself-the powerful experiental mitzvos of Shabbos and meaningful tefillah lead me to realize that details are the bread and butter of a Jew’s existence.

    RHS once compared the concepts and details in this respect-The concepts behind every mitzvah, especially those such as Tzitzis, Tefillin and Mzuzah are awesome. Yet, if they are missing the wrong elements, it is missing a critical ingredient. RHS quoted many Baalei Mussar who pointed to the lack of a simple sprocket in the Challenger space shuttle as the cause of its tragic explosion. IOW, Torah works on the same level-the ideas behind every mitzvah are awesome but can only be fully implemented to their fullest extent ( Lshlemushah) by understanding and following thru on the details. Look at it this way-Tomorrow night is Shabbos which we usher in with preparations of our home and clothing and in special tefillos. Yet, the essence of kedushas hayom of Shabbos is not necessarily the hacanos and tefilos , but rather the cessation from melacha. Sweating the details of Hilchos Shabbos is a prime example of implementing the wonderful idea of Shabbos.

    Many years ago, one of my rebbes in JSS was R S Riskin, who was then the rav of Lincoln Square.(I will note that R Riskin was far more yeshivish for us vis a vis his approach to Talmud than he was with his Baale Batim, who were an amazing combo of FFBs and BTs and who helped make Lincoln Square into a dynamic model forn Torah observance and all sorts of lectures and shiurim). Someone asked him whether HaShem cares about we select our clothes -a possible violation of Borer. R Riskin answered affirmatively and emphasized that HaShem wants to sweat the details so that we can better appreciate the concepts in every aspect of our lives-even those as seemingly mundane as picking out a pair of socks.

  9. Yes, God cares about the “little things.” But one of those “little things” is the “big things.” Don’t forget that “little thing” too.

    It’s definitely true that in pursuing the little things we can sometimes lose focus of the big things. Some people, it seems, even make a habit of it.

    One of the big things is our inner emotional state, serving Hashem with joy. I encounter this a lot with baalei teshuva. We can be so focused trying to catch up to speed we overconcentrate on the details and lose sight of the whole. We’re so set on doing every details right that we forget to enjoy time with our family and friends, take a hike, go to a ballgame — whatever makes us happy (in a kosher way, of course).

    Some people are naturally detail oriented and focusing on the details is their pleasure. Others are just the opposite. Both have a place in Torah. The avodah of one will necessarily look different than the avodah of another. But “it’s not the quantity, but the quality [kavanah in the Gemara]” and “God seeks the heart” [Zohar]. There are a lot of different ways serving Hashem looks. I think it happens more often than we care to admit that people/kids can get pushed off the derech if they are more “global” than detail-oriented in personality. We need a community that is tolerant to different expressons of that avodah. Each has to find his or her place. Each has to have a place alotted to them within the greater community.

  10. Alter’s remark

    ‘Let’s remember that we don’t know what really is a “little thing” and what really is a “big thing” so lets do them all right’

    Good reminder for learning Pirkei Avos between Pesach and Rosh HaShanah.

  11. Yes, G-d cares about the details. All the details. With that said, there are details between how people act between people and how people act between themselves and Hashem. If he didn’t care about the details, why would the Bible be full of minute details of sacrifices and the Temple? It could have had just nice stories about peoples lives to learn from. We shouldnt lose focus of the forest for the trees but let’s remember every tree counts.

    Yes, people need to put emphasis on all aspects of halacha and not just pick and choose the one’s that suit them. Treating your fellow human being in the proper manner deserves just as much emphasis as other mitzvahs. We need to work on ourselves from all fronts.

    Let’s remember that we don’t know what really is a “little thing” and what really is a “big thing” so lets do them all right.

  12. I suppose the kid who wants to be the new Heifetz should skip all the heavy, boring, nitpicky theory and training and practice, and just buy a fiddle and be a star.

    JT’s 00:15 post above looks like an argument against Orthodox Judaism itself. I hope that was not intended.

  13. The hyperfocusing and zooming in on one part of a picture and blurrying/fading away the surrounding areas is intended for photography purposes mostly .Reality living involves seeing the big pic . Hyperfocusing and overanalyzing with supposed answers/ theories postulations/arguments and sixty view points with corresponding lofty aspirations is a recipe for distortion and skewed/screwed up viewings and perspectives with concerted emphasis on the mundane and trivial (basically focusing on the wildflowers which is step below the trees in the forest) . everyone is only born with limited amount of patience /focusing /reasoning power. Instead of using this limited resource contemplating and rehashing the past with ifs and buts maybe s and supposeds why cant g-d just give us a break especially considering the fact that he did have some sort of hand in the matter ….whatever happened to starting over on a sparkly clean slate or newer version of the blackberry/Treo. living , researching ,arguing and ruminating (and rendering invalid or not pure or not perfect) about the past will not facilitate the present spiritual growth process. Neither will spending hours reading rabbi falks thick volume on modesty and how not to cause men to stumble amonng other things or pondering the ramifications of using an elevator in a hospital on shabbas or should I eat at my friends house on passover .does g-d really care about these little things ? What is our main purpose here on earth to hyperfocus on one part of the big pic and just stay stuck there ….basically my point is that if everyone channeled the same sensitivities and patience and concern dedicated and reserved for nuances and chumrahs in halacha towards caring about others being and more sensitive to others … ever visit your local halfway home for forgotten adults with mental illness for just a little care and concern for people who dont have anyone caring about them .did you ever stop and give the lost/homeless people at port authority bus terminal or Union Square Park a smile/ a quarter/ a burger ….. this is the kind of stuff that will make one a better person and g-d happy which is basically our objective in life… not arguing about esoteric halacha’s ruminating about the past and the twenty different viewpoints .If you have the new blackberry or treo you can just start over, new contacts, new connections new keyboard and new features and better color too ..your past does not have to be your present ….

  14. Last night, I mentioned that I would continue my rough survey of some of the published ShuT of a number of Gdolim and some of their views as noted in sefarim by their talmidim.

    RHS in Mpinnei HaRav mentioned that one single Kohen who had learned in a yeshiva in EY for a number of years met a BT whose father was a Gentile. His parents lived in Boston and requested that their rav, a young rav ( not RYBS) serve as the Msader Kiddushin. This rav asked RYBS for halachic advice. Perhaps, there would be leniency to arrive for the seudah, as opposed to serving as the Msader Kiddushin. RYBS answered that not only was it wrong to officiate, it was assur to attend the seudah because doing so would signal rabbinical approve of a prohibited marriage.

    Vlayhu Lo Yvol is an unauthorized and fairly controversial two volume collection of discussions by a Merkaz HaRav student who was zoche to spend a lot of his time with RSZA. RSZA purportedly informed the author that the force of Torah that a BT observes influences them to such a degree that it fixes any negativity associated with being a Ben or Bas Nidah. RSZA did not make any differences between a Ben or Baas Teshuvah.( Vol 2: 173).

    Shalmei Moed is another sefer about the psakim and hanhagos of RSZA that appears to be more authoritative and more favorably approved by RSZA’s immediate family. RSZA also was cited therein as stating that there are no general rules but took the same position as RMF with respect to disclosure of a serious illness, provided that the disclosure followed the rules set down in Sefer Chafetz Chaim.

    As I hinted last night, RM Sternbuch’s ( “RMS”)ShuT Teshuvos vHanhagos has many ShuT therein on BTs, their issues and especially on Shidduchim.In general, this sefer is very different than RMS Moadim Uzmanim, a series of essays on the Yamim Noraim and Shalosh Regalim. These four volumes incorporate thousands of teshuvos to which RMS, now the Sgan Nasi of the Edah Charedis, responded to as the Rav and Av Bes Din of the Merkaz HaTorah in Johannesburg and elsewhere. One does not see when , where or to whom these teshuvos were written, unlike Igros Moshe and other Sifrei ShuT. Nevertheless, they are an important source for psak, especially in the areas of BTs and their many halachic issues.

    His Volume 2, on Even HaEzer, has an entire section devoted to issues arising out of shidduchim, many of which deal with BTs and their issues. In Vol 2: 623, RMS deals with a couple wherein one side wanted to break a shidduch because the potential kallah’s grandmother was a convert. RMS rejects this as a grounds for terminating the shidduch. In 2: 624, RMS does not require disclosure of a disease for which the unidentified woman was successfully treated for-a view contrary to both RMF and RSZA. In 2: 627, RMS deals with a young woman who was offered a shidduch with a BT who was a Ben Nidah. RMS adopts the same position as RMF and RSZA and rejects a published view of the Steipler ZTL that BTs should marry BTs. RMS points out that the Steipler ZTL did not adhere to this statement and made many similar shidduchim as the case in question. However, RMS stated that even though some families view yichus as paramount, sometimes HaShem sends them a gift in the form of a BT, especially one who is a Gadol BaTorah with pure Yiras HaShem. Therefore, for these and many other Maamarei Chazal that praise the virtues of a BT, and we because should judge a person as to where they stand now, one should not reject a shidduch with a BT solely because of the Ben Nidah issue. In 2: 628, RMS wrestles with the case of a BT/kallah who may not have acted in a Tzniusdik manner. RMS states that the chasan’s side should not investigate her past, especially where she now acts in a very tzniusdik manner but does note that the only halachic issue is the wording and amount of the ksubah.

    In Vol 1, RMS also dedicates a portion of the ShuT on Even HaEzer to shidduchim. in Vol 1: 632, RMS advises a chasan not to reject a BT whose parents were Mchallelei Shabbos, despite the contrary view of the Maharam Shik because the potential kallah was now steadfast in her ways as a BT despite her upbringing.

    In 1:63, RMS rules that there is no necessity for a young man or woman to mention that their parents were BTs because the essential element of the shidduch was the midos of the prospective chasan and kallah. RMS suggests looking at either potentially problematic midos issues in a potential marital partner such as stubbornness vs giving.

    As I mentioned, I posted these mareh mkomos so that the interested reader would be able to find them in a readily available manner to discuss, if necessary with a LOR or Posek. Chazal say that a little light ( via the study of Torah) removes much darkness.Although they represent individual halachic responses to different individuals,one can only be awed and dutifully impressed by the sensitivity of our Gdolim to BTs and their simultaneous insistence that we adhere to halachic norms and even sacrifice the factor of Yichus in some cases so as to allow a BT a proper place in Klal Yisrael . (Obviously, issues regarding Kohanim have special strictness and rules. RHS cited RYBS as stating that this is because of a special mitzvah that a Kohen retain his own Yichus and Kedushas Kehunah as much as possible [“Vkedashto”]). I hope that these mareh mkomos will aid those who are interested in knowing more about this sensitive halachic area which appears to be a subject of some misconception within our communities and that it enables all of us to be less judgmental in approaching these issues.

  15. Jacob-It is great to hear that your father was impressed with the “cleanliness, orderliness, and ostensible professionalism.” Where I taught briefly, there was none of the above. Backpacks were strewn threw the hallways, desks where destroyed by graffiti, students came and went as they pleased, and the janitor or even another teachers or administrator would never dare ask a student where she was headed to and where her (non-exsistant) hallpass was.

    When I approached the administration with the issues at hand, I was given the cold shoulder because I was not a product of a yeshiva or Bais Yaakov and “Jewish schools are different.” The schools should be different, but somehow I don’t think basic order and cleanliness is “goyish.”

    (This is bad business too, since as a potential future parents who will probably be on the higher end of the tuition paying scale, this school has potentially lost tens of thousands of dollars unless major changes take place between now and then).

  16. Sarah Newcomb-Glad to see that you are a fan of KGH. I highly recommend our neighborhood for its rabbanim, shuls, yeshivos , shopping (and the only eruv approved in writing by RMF-who was taken on a tour of its dimensions when it was in the planning stages back in the 70s).

  17. Mark and David ( grin)-do we agree that KGH is an “outer suburb of Brooklyn”? AFAIK, some Brooklnites look at us as living “out of town.” I suppose that it all depends on one’s perspective and from where the comment originated!

  18. Steve Brizel: Yes, the “group in the middle” so to speak, grows in numbers daily. They are admirable youngsters who have a desire to keep growing. In some ways they can relate to the family challenges we may go through. I have friends of all types, and these folks are some of them as well.

    I also know personally people who have married BT’s, Rabbis included, or whose children have, I was not saying it never happens, just wondering though how rarely, as besides the ones in our neighborhood I am aware of, and maybe a handful of others scattered across the country, unless they are very private which they could be, just wondering how rare or often it occurs. The ones I personally have friendships with have done it very successfully.

    The real estate business is busy, always busy. There are more signs around with Gedaliah and my name on it than one. And some folks just don’t like signs. There is always activity though, people realize what a great and valuable community Kew Gardens Hills is. Feel free to send anybody in need of real estate services to your friendly and professional BT Realtor.

  19. FWIW, this FFB wants to reassure you that there are plenty of us who:

    (1) greatly admire BTs (regardless of where on the spectrum you started off) for having made enormously challenging life changes,

    (2) see many ma’alos (positive attributes) that seem more common in BTs than FFBs (e.g., in the areas of middos, priorities, and thinking for yourselves), and

    (3) would be proud and delighted to consider BTs and their children as potential mechutanim.

    And while it’s true that these views are more common in out-of-town communities, they are also found in the outer suburbs of Brooklyn (e.g., KGH, Passaic, Monsey, etc.), and yes — even in the heart of Flatbush and in Lakewood.

    I would advocate for full disclosure, and have some faith that HaShem will not disappoint you.

  20. Well said SephardiLady! As it says in the Gemara “Yaish Chochma B’Goyim, Ta’amin” If one says there is wisdom amongst the Nations, believe it.

    The Gemara continues conversely that if one says there’s Torah amongst the Nations, don’t believe.

    Hopefully not a risky venture to suggest that some organizational procedures like hall passes and overall professionalism is not antithetical to a yeshiva environment.

    Any Ba’al T’shuvas with a background in educational administration ready and willing to contribute?

    My father is a retired public schools teacher from a school district considered to be of a higher quality. While he may not be qualified to judge the level of Limudei Kodesh at my son’s yeshiva ketana, he was quite impressed with the cleanliness, orderliness, and ostensible professionalism of the staff. Kiddush Hashem? Hope so, but I’ll leave that one up to the experts. It at least made me feel great (and relieved).

    Can’t help but think that the positive impression incidentally bridged a potential gap between a BT and his parent regarding the topic of children’s education.

    This is not some subtle suggestion that all should decide on a yeshiva based on it’s external likeness to a public school building and to davka impress others, just that as SL phrased it

    “These “small” things make a huge difference in the environment of a school”

  21. (The above should say “as a freshman”; I did learn spelling somewhere along the line!)

  22. In prehistory (1962) when I entered Stuyvesant HS (Manhattan) as a freshmen, the school held an orientation assembly for our class and our parents. Most of the freshmen, including me, were Jewish day school students (public elementary school students went on to junior high and entered later as sophomores). So what did we new recruits have to know? A senior staff person gleefully announced to us, “You can take your tzitzis off now!”.

    Nowadays, this sounds pretty tame as an example of anti-religion, as public school instruction has descended into leftist PC-ness, and immorality has proliferated among students, even within school walls.

    This type of environment can harm a student’s outlook. But, in sizing up graduates who later broke free of this system and now clearly have their Jewish act together, we should not hold their public school stay against them.

  23. This comment goes back to the original article and doesn’t really follow the direction of the comments, so please don’t let this comment distract from the direction of the rest of the discussion.

    I actually think that it could be an asset to the frum community that there are people (both FFB and BT) who attended public schools and other types of private schools. Unfortunately, due to the embarrassement of so many, their voices will never be heard.

    Despite the many problems with public school, there is a lot that is also right and might be helpful to implemented some of what works in our schools to improve staff recruiting and professionalism, improve behavior, and increase life skills. I can think of many positive things that worked from student teaching, to study skills, to hall passes and bathroom passes, to having all students use a standard heading for all written work.

    These “small” things make a huge difference in the environment of a school, and the lack of some of these basic tools is often seen more clearly by those who grew up in a different environment.

  24. Jacob-You are 100% on the mark, but I am trying to adhere to a suggestion by Mark which he definitely and zealously adheres to far better than me-avoidng labels. I have met many of these young men and women and their Avodas HaShem is something that I personally am inspired by in many, many ways- their hasmadah in learning, kavanas hatefilah , tznius and devotion to chesed-can teach many of us lessons in these areas. I personally cringe when I hear them described as “flipped out.” Would their kehilos of origin prefer that they drop out or go “off the derech”? Many of them inspire their parents and their parents accept their childrens’ decisions in this regard, but some parents just can’t deal with the fact that their own observance is challenged or that their childen view the life of a Talmid Chacham or Kollel wife as more desirable than a professional-even one who is mdakdek bmitzvos and is kovea itim LaTorah.

    I recall that last summer when some well meaning indivuals suggested that the tuition crisis could be solved by instituting a high level Talmud Torah in conjunction with a public school education, that RHS criticized it as showing a lack of priorties. Among his points, RHS quoted a statement in the Talmud in Sanhedrin that all parents hope and expect that their children will be more knowledgeable and observant than they were.

  25. Steve Brizel’s comment

    “Another related factor that cannot be discounted is the development of an entire generation of yeshiva high school graduates of both genders who have increased their intensity to Torah and Mitzvos after a year or more of learning in EY. These young people, many of whom who were raised in a frum home, are “works in progress” and are somewhere between the BT and FFB sectors.”

    Are you referring (but maybe not exclusively) to those who attended co-ed Modern Orthodox high schools but were attracted to a more “chareidi” Beis Medrash and kehila? I’ve toyed with a term for that: MOBAT (Modern Orthodox Ba’al T’shuva). Some would of course bristle at the suggestion but they have their own and unique nisyonos. They might find themselves returning to their kehila of origin for Yamim Tovim to be asked/mocked “we weren’t frum enough for you” not to mention that quite unfortunate and lamentable “hit single” “Flippin’ Out”.

  26. Jaded Topaz-In response to your query, RMF’s discussion is in his Sefer Igros Moshe-which is a sefer of halachic questions and answers posed to RMF and his answers.I leave it for others to argue whether such a sefer is entitled to more weight in these discussions than a sefer that contains a Gadol or Admor’s “eitzos.” Under that proviso,all of the teshuvos that I mentioned were halachic answers unless someone else states otherwise. (Obviously, one should consult one’s LOR if one wants further clarification and is need of a psak on a particular issue.)

    In fact, that teshuvah expressly states that the issue of Ben Nidah should not be considered especially if the prospective marital partner is a Ben Torah, with good midos, etc. Although I don’t have
    R Sternbuch’s sefer here , I will discuss his multiple teshuvos on this issue tonight.

    Sarah Newcomb-BTW-how is the real estate business? I have seen at least one of your signs in KGH . I do know that RHS’s children have married all sorts of fine young men and daughters-many of whom are the children of Baale Batim, etc, as opposed to Roshei Yeshivah’s children. I know of another rav in our neighborhood whose daughter married a BT and another Chasidishe rav whose daughter married a BT-doctor as well. I can’t vouch for others. Bezras HaShem, I will be speaking to RHS again on these issues and I will be able to clarify any lack of clarity on these issues. There is another incident involving RYBS that RHS describes in Mpinie HaRav ( RHS’s second sefer on RYBS) and another observation from RSZA that I will mention tonight as well.

    Another related factor that cannot be discounted is the development of an entire generation of yeshiva high school graduates of both genders who have increased their intensity to Torah and Mitzvos after a year or more of learning in EY. These young people, many of whom who were raised in a frum home, are “works in progress” and are somewhere between the BT and FFB sectors. IIRC, the JO dealt with this issue a while back as well.

  27. Steve Brizel: Glad to hear all that is in print, just wondering though, in actuality, have you found that Rabbonim and Gedolim will actually marry one of us themselves, or allow their children to do so? Many years ago I heard a Rav say at a shiur encouraging kiruv, that if “we are going to create all these baalei teshuva, then we will eventually have to marry them”.

  28. Steve , regarding your points of interest on shidduchim – full disclosure and the stringent adherence to experiencing pure and unadulterated discomfort reference sources .Is RMF’s full disclosure on the besulah thing an actual halacha ? Or are these just lofty aspirations and opinions (leader specific).Are lofty aspirations from leaders halachah ?

  29. I mentioned that a number of Gdolim have written ShuT on various aspects of shidduchim. This post is intended just to provide the interested reader with mareh mkomos for information on the views of some of the Gdolim on this very sensitive area. R Chaim Jachter’s Halacha File for Parshas Vayigash Vol 12:12 relates R Moshe Feinstein ZTL
    ( RMF) paskened that the Torah prohibition of Onaah Vaikta 25:14 required someone with Marfan’s Syndrome to disclose this fact to a potential marriage partner ( Igros Moshe Even HaEzer 4:73:2) RMF also wrote that a would be kallah must disclose that she is not a Bsulah, albeit not on a first date, but only when things look “serious” in the relationship (Igros Moshe Orach Chaim 4:118). RMF also paskened that one should not refuse a shidduch with someone who is a Ben Nidah, if that person has good midos ( Igros Moshe Even HaEzer 4:14). Due to time constraints, I will continue this post with some of the ShuT of R Moshe Sternbuch in ShuT Teshuvos vHanhagos, wherein R Sternbuch devotes a number of ShuT to issues involving shiddushim , disclosure and BTs.

    I did not see any ShUt in R Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach ZTL’s Minchas Shlomoh, but I checked some of the seforim of other psakim of RSZA for further details. In HaTorah HaMisamachas, RSZA is cited as having paskened in the same vein as RMF on the issue of non-disclosure of a serious condition and a congenital heart disorder (See Nishmas Avraham Even HaEzer 154:3 and 39:1).

    I do recall that RHS once mentioned that for many years some rabbanim “relied” on a psak that RYBS never issued that purportedly allowed a woman who had been mzaneh in a commune to marry a Kohen. RHS denied that any such psak ever was issued by RYBS.

  30. Out of town life sounds so nice and healthy. I wonder if alot of BT’s naturally migrate that way after a while.

  31. I have had similar experiences to Belle. In my NCSY days, I often got asked, and quickly learned to answer “public school”, because no one really wanted to know the name (seeing as how it wasn’t a day school/yeshiva). And then got quasi-surprised reactions because my NCSY friends were msotly the day school kids.

    Now, in a community that I moved to after a year of learning in E”Y, as a married, post-college woman, no one asks where I went to HS, although I have had a few newer BT’s almost gasp in shock when they discover that I’m not an FFB.

    But this community, solidly frum as it is, has a significant number of 2nd generation BTs who came from a background of some sort of observance. Their children, by and large, are marrying FFBs. It may primarily be a problem in NY/Lakewood communities – my apologies for buttonholing, but it’s mostly based on population density of frum Jews; those of us out-of-town can’t afford to be so picky :)

  32. Alter, I hope you realize that, “all things being equal”, (which they never are) your children will also face this type of “anxiety avoidence” being the children of a BT.

    The truth is that it’s somewhat self-correcting in that I really don’t want someone for my child who can’t deal with the fact the her parents are BTs.

    I know that even my friend who has trouble admitting where she went to high school feels the same.

    Taking the “all things being equal” game to its logical conclusion anyone who doesn’t live within a 10 block radius of Ave M. in Flatbush and who’s father doesn’t earn mid 6 six figures is at a severe disadvantage. B”H all things are rarely equal. :)

  33. Just to clarify my previous comment. In no way am I saying that BT’s are doomed to marry other BT’s. All I am saying is that I understand why an ffb might hesitate to marry a BT. I don’t see it as discimination rather just trying to avoid potential anxiety.

  34. Mark-thanks for the article. I note that the authors made no pretense of being Poskim and cited passages from Tanach and Talmud and a few cases from Rishonim and Acharonim. None of the footnotes or sources involved cited ShUt or reported discussions with Poskim on this issue. I will post some ShuT from Gdolim on this issue tonight for those who are interested in seeing how Gdolim deal with these issues.None of the cases dealt with any of the instances that I raised but posed statements of Chazal, Rishonim and Achraronim without showing their application in any factual or halachic context that might be of relevance to the contemporary reader in his or her everyday life. It is a nice introduction, but would you consider it like a sefer or kuntres setting forth Psak on these issues? I do note in the passages that you posted that the authors emphasized that one should generally tell the truth subject to a few well recognized exceptions.I do not believe that the article presents sufficient evidence justifying its conclusion or that it even remotely discusses the issue of whether a BT should deny his or her past in any situation.

    I think that we disagree on the basic definition of what constitutes “judgmentalism”. I see nothing wrong with expressing an opinion based upon a Mesorah and defending it, especially when the response is dismissive or hostile. At times, the discussion gets hot and heated , but that is part and parcel of what is called Milchamta Shel Torah. That is how issues in Torah , hashkafa and halacha are discussed in a Beis Medrash, in print and online. Machlokes in Halacha, Hashkafa and Machshavah is the bread and butter of Jewish life and cannot be simply wished away under the notion of “why can’t we be friends”. If at times I display what you call judgmentalism, that is because discusssions on these issues require a Mesorah and a passion in one’s beliefs.

    I will repeat-I have either discussed or heard shiurim on these issues from a very eminent Posek. My Posek views Emes, especially in the interpersonal and business realm, as a halachic norm to be strived for, as opposed to rationalizing why people look for reasons for their failure to adhere to the same.

    Alter-On the issue of Shidduchim-How do you understand the well known statement that in a place where a BT stands, even a complete Tzadik can’t stand? If a FFB family viewed us not “shayach”, that is their dilemna and decision. Yet, I don’t think that I should either rationalize that process or try to gain their acceptance where and when it will not be forthcoming. IOW-anyone who would engage in such an exercise of judgmentalism would IMO not exactlty be someone that I would want as a rav, mchutanim, etc.because such an attitude IMO shows a profound ignorance of how the Torah expects us to deal with the stranger, etc. I don’t view Yichus as more important per se than where a potential son in law is standing now, the ehrlichkeit, mentschlichleit, midos of his parents and their current ethical standing and religious orientation. ( I once heard a prominent rav mention that he was having lunch at a restaurant on the Lower East Side and two elderly Chasidishe women were discussing shidduchim at the next table in an animated tone. When one of the women mentioned Yichus, her friend responded by stating that Yichus died in Auschwitz.) By the standards that you mention, would R Akiva, Resh Lakish or Unkelus HaGer be entitled to a shidduch with the FFB community? If that means that I have to fight City Hall or the conventional wisdom, I will be more than happy. I am not upset with City Hall or the conventional wisdom on these issues-Ignoring it and associating with those who also could care less about the overly conflated factor of yichus is IMO the best way to deal with it. Of course, not every BT should feel that he or she is “doomed” or “consigned” or “relegated” to a shidduch with a BT. The same logic would or should hold with respect to FFBS. Obviously, that is not the case.

    In fact, given the fluid changes within the Torah observant community, it is not uncommon to see Shidduchim between families that started on one end of the spectrum of observance within Torah and evolved towards another level.

  35. Alter, some comments on your comments, b’reshus.

    AK – “Also, I being a BT, understand why some ffb don’t want to marry bt’s. Think about it. We read many complaints from bt’s how lonely the Chagim can be because of no extended family celebrating, etc. So, those ffb’s want the big, frum extended families. Who can blame them. I can’t.”

    This is of course understandable. But another aspect of this argument touches on the subject of the Bais Ya’acov student from Oshkosh or maybe another from Podunk. Is pride in pedigree or adherence to some hierarchy also a player in this? I’m not a posek and this is by no means a p’sak but I can’t for the life of me see how changing the truth in this case could benefit anyone, especially the subject at hand.

    From a different angle: Prior to becoming (fully) frum, (stong interest, though) and while in college, many assumed, despite no yarmulke, that I went to a “yeshiva” (that is a modern co-ed Hebrew Day School). Mostly I lied by answering in the affirmative since telling the truth by saying I was a product of public schools would (in my view) indicate someone who was a public school misfit who didn’t quite fit in, didn’t party, goody2shoes, introverted, etc. A list of insecure and irrational adolescent phobias.

    Once when confronted by someone who asked me the same question but likely knew enough to find my story line questionable, I fessed up and if you pardon the new age cliches, telling the truth was extremely liberating. Some shrink could likely provide a laundry list of reasons why telling the truth is healthier, but ultimately it was the….Emes.

    AK- “Yes, we bt’s have so much to offer the ffb/Jewish world. We have so much to be proud of. That doesn’t mean we should be upset with people for not wanting to expose themselves to our secular pasts.”

    True, but there’s a world of difference between someone who painstakingly tries to leave their past behind and those who, shall we say don’t understand the fuss? Should both be viewed identically?

    AK – “Trust me, when most of us have kids of marriageable age, and the shidduchim offers come in for 2 identical shidduchim. 1 ffb and 1 bt with secular parents who have a chanuka bush/x-mas tree during the holiday season, I think most people will choose the ffb( this is talking where all other factors are equal).”

    Alter, there’s a potential flip side here. Although your FFB kids BE”H will grow up to be solidly Shomrei Torah u’Mitzvos and with impeccable midos, does that mean they are in the clear? When the time comes, maybe some other potential parents will also look at shidduch candidates. Two FFB candidates, one with 2 FFB parents and one with 2 or 1 BT parents, who’s got the edge? I too have worked hard to fit in with the FFB “mainstream” but sometimes one should pause before towing the party line since this form of advocacy could also prove harmful (lo aleynu) in some form.

  36. My experience has been that very few people ask where I went to high school. If someone asked me when I was younger and less secure (both with myself and with my place in society), I would hedge and say, “out of town, you wouldn’t know it” or something like that. Now that I’m older and have lived in this community almost 15 years, I am more secure. I don’t carry my BTness on my sleeve, I look like everyone else and my kids are well integrated, I don’t try to hide it, and I don’t try to broadcast it. Honesty and circumspection together. So if the subject ever arises where it is revealed that I am from a non-frum family I find that people are surprised and view me with a new respect. I don’t perceive any change in status or relationship. Do I really know what they are thinking? No. Perhaps they look down. Mostly people don’t care. I think that the reality today is different than 15 or 20 years ago. There are so many BTs today that it is no longer the huge stand out it once was.

    I guess it all depends on how one perceives the tolerance level in the community and how secure one feels of his or her place within it.

    As for Alter’s comment, I also agree that we can say both that we should be proud of who we are and at the same time say that we prefer ffb’s for our children’s spouses. It is not just the family background, although that is a big thing. It is the experiences that the bt had when younger that would scare me off. I am a firm believer that like should marry like. Not that it never works otherwise, but that it is simpler when 2 people share a background.

  37. I basically agree with Mark on this. Every situation is different. SO many people get caught up on “it’s not fair that people judge”, etc. I agree the system (really the people) sometimes need an attitude change. With that said, the practical reality is that is how people are and you sometimes need to play the game. You can’t always fight city hall.

    Also, I being a BT, understand why some ffb don’t want to marry bt’s. Think about it. We read many complaints from bt’s how lonely the Chagim can be because of no extended family celebrating, etc. So, those ffb’s want the big, frum extended families. Who can blame them. I can’t.

    Also, how many of us want, by choice, our kids being exposed to Santa and other stuff by non-jewish/secular grandparents. I wouldn’t. I cringe when I realize what my kids will be exposed to the few times a year they visit their non-religious cousins. After the 1st couple of BT generations, there is a certain mixing that then blends it all together.

    Yes, we bt’s have so much to offer the ffb/Jewish world. We have so much to be proud of. That doesn’t mean we should be upset with people for not wanting to expose themselves to our secular pasts.

    Trust me, when most of us have kids of marriageable age, and the shidduchim offers come in for 2 identical shidduchim. 1 ffb and 1 bt with secular parents who have a chanuka bush/x-mas tree during the holiday season, I think most people will choose the ffb( this is talking where all other factors are equal).

  38. Mark

    I did not mean to imply that I was commenting on the halacha aspect of whether she could lie or not. I was focusing on the hashkafa aspect. I feel that lying in this situation was tantamount to Moshe striking the water or the sand. How can you strike that which saved you? I always put emes on a pedestal so I felt it was inconsiderate to throw it down at times like this. Imagine if emes could talk back, “Why are you throwing me down? Had I known you would throw me down I wouldn’t have gotten up here (i.e., made you frum).”

    What I learned from this post is not to be quick and judge others and to ask others why they do the things they do.

    I’m an “intrapersonal” person and this is where I stand. Maybe she is a “helper” and she has others in mind when she answers this way.

  39. A community shouldn’t, but if we understand why it occurs, for example Gil’s answer of fear/uncomfortableness around the unfamiliar, we might pursue a path of education on what BTs are all about rather than just proclaim don’t be judgemental.

  40. But, again, why should a Jewish community or its members put a BT into a dilemma where telling the truth could cause him/her unwarranted harm?

  41. Steve – It is not believable that any posek has ever said that it is never permissible to lie. That definitely sounds like sheker to me :-)

    For starters, see this article Should Moral Individuals Ever Lie? Insights from Jewish Law . Here are some excerpts:

    Thus, there are several circumstances where one is permitted or sometimes required to lie:

    Lying to preserve the cause of peace, not to hurt another person’s feelings, or to provide comfort.
    Lying in a situation where honesty might cause oneself or another person harm.
    Lying for the sake of modesty or in order not to appear arrogant.
    Lying for the sake of decency, i.e., not telling the truth about intimate matters.
    Lying to protect one’s property from scoundrels.


    This paper demonstrates that Jewish law does not take an absolutist approach to prevaricating and, indeed, will obligate the individual to lie in various circumstances, for instance, lying to save a life or to bring peace. This, by no means, makes light of the seriousness of lying. The Talmud is replete with statements that stress the importance of truth-telling and remarks that “the seal of God is emeth [truth]” (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 55a); “God hates one who speaks one thing with his mouth and another thing in his heart” (Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 113b); “Whoever breaks his word is regarded as though he has worshipped idols” (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 92a); and “liars will not receive the Divine Presence (Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 42a).” The extreme importance of honesty is appropriately summed up by the Talmudic belief that the first question a person is asked in the hereafter at the final judgment is (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a): “Have you been honest in your dealings?” Despite all this, the Talmud recognizes that there are situations where one may be untruthful.

    In terms of judgementalism, I can go through your posts and comments on this and other blog and find tens of examples of you being judgemental. Of course you would probably justify every case, or explain why it was not judgemental, which is why I said we have to go beyond simplistic understandings of judgementalism.

  42. Mark-All of the questions that I posed to you involve elements of sheker and its being resorted to at various times. I think that there is a common thread between all of them-namely the distortion of the truth and whether or not it is justified.FYI, I have consulted and heard shiurim from a “recognized expert in Psak Halacha” on these issues and received answers, all of which were the bases for my comments.

    Re “Judgmentalism”-why do we have to engage in convoluted exercises to understand conduct that violates many Torah prohibitions?Why can’t we expect that those who engage in it will look at themselves and ask whether it is proper behavior? My concern remains a simple one- whether or not such behavior is permitted or probibited. If it is prohibited, then once one gets into the habit of rationalizing it, it assumes the proportions of being accepted as normal ( “Naaseh lo Keheter”). If such conduct is permitted, that ends my inquiry.

  43. Steve

    The issue under discussion is whether hiding that one is a BT is considered sheker, and whether it is or isn’t sanctioned by the halacha, and in what situations. How you jumped to all those other issues is somewhat of a mystery to me.

    Instead of conjecturing any further, I suggest we consult a Posek who is a recognized expert in psak halacha, so I’ll meet you after Maariv tomorrow night and we can talk to our Rav.

    In regard to judgementalism, I think the key is trying to understand why and when we do it and why and when others do it. I’m certainly not advocating any specific behaviour, rather I’m advocating taking a more realistic attitude of introspection and trying to understand others.

    To me saying the equivalent of “If only everybody would be like me and be less judgemental, things would be fine” is simplistic and not emesdik.

  44. This is a great post. I wonder sometimes if I would have stayed frum if I had grown up FFB – I tend to be such an idealist, and I think some of the things that go on in the O. community would have forced me to explore the secular world. Coming from the secular world, I am able to see that whatever the shortcomings of the O. world, they are a fraction of what goes out outside. Also, I constantly remember what I personally heard Rabbi Beryl Wein say – “Don’t judge Judaism by the Jews!”

  45. Mark-which Rishonim, Acharonim, and Gdolei HaPoskim support hiding or not disclosing that one is a BT one’s background , medical history,and under what circumstances? Do you know of any statements by any Posek that allow for lying on an IRS return or similar document? How about whether a business partner or potential mchuatan is serving or has served a jail sentence-I have been told by a Gadol that is an absolutely relevant inquiry in the checking process. Do you know of any heterim for Gnevas Daas-either with respect to a fellow Jew or a non-Jew? The Talmud goes out of its way to tell us about the background of some of our most prominent Tannaim and Amoraim whose background was not exactly from the most stellar yichus-Unkelus HaGer, R Akiva and Resh Lakish, among others. It also does not hesitate to tell us about some Tanaim who went off the Derech-Acher and R Elazar Ben Padas. Chazal saw no need to censor the transmission of the Mesorah and not to tell us about their problems as well as the fact that R Akiva suffered the loss of all 24,000 of his talmidim in order to find talmidim who had the proper interpersonal midos. Clearly, Chazal saw no down side in telling us the good and bad and about those Tannaim with awesome and less than awesome yichus.

  46. Ruby-excellent point. Hopefully, such young men have not picked up such attitudes or replaced them with ones that are more in line with how the Baalei Mesorah view BTs, as opposed to judgments based upon negative values. I do know of prominent Roshei Yeshivah for whom shidduchim for their daughters were refused because of where they were RY. I also know of a shidduch for a boy from yeshiva A where the parents of the potential kallah turned it down because they viewed Yeshiva A as inferior to Yeshiva Y for the most arcane reasons. In an ideal world, such issues and some of the more psychotic criteria re shidduchim would not exist. However, these facts and others have created a crisis for shidduchim that all sectors within the Torah world have begun to address, albeit in very different manners.

    Mark-I agree that public denunuciations of judgmental values may not be helpful, but when these values have not abated, are not you advocating that the BT must adopt the same tactics ala ” don’t fight city hall” or “go along in order to get along”. It is sort of saying that if you want to be “accepted” that you must participate in, condone by silence or ignore the same type of behavior that you might find objectionable and which might be totally irrelevant as to your choice of schools, friends, shul, etc.Isn’t that just a tad bit contradictory or bordering on the hypocritical?

  47. Groucho Marx said,
    “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.”

  48. I know how it feels when asked where your kids go to school, or where I went (though that doesn’t come up much, since it’s so long ago!)…I would definitely NOT say “Yeshiva of Osh Kosh”, even jokingly, just to “fit in”. I would just speak the truth about where you’ve been. Again, when I used to be asked questions like that, I admit to feeling uncomfortable answering, but, look, I think if you are showing that you are making a committment to being Frum, it really should make no difference what your background was.

  49. Steve – supporting a halachic statement from Tanach seems far less appropriate then supporting it from Poskim. Also, in the cases where halacha permits not telling the truth, I don’t think that it’s considered sheker.

  50. Mark suggested that privacy may represent an overiding halachic and hashkafic consideration than truth. That may be the case and there are numerous cases in Tanach to support that statement. Yet, I would tend to doubt that I am the only person uncomfortable with such an approach-despite its having more than a small amount of suppport in Halacha and Hashkafah.

    In this regard,truth is considered Chosomo Shel HaKadosh Baruch Hu-The seal of HaShem Himself. Chazal compare emes and shker by pointing out that emes yesh lo raglayim and sheker ain lo raglayim. R Y Engel ZTL explained that Emes consists of the the first, last and middle letters of the Aleph Basis and has a basis . Sheker consists of the last letters and therefore cannot stand by itself.

    I once heard my rebbe say that rabbanim have to speak about midas haemes on a practical level in areas such as tax laws, etc. Many of us assume something in this realm is permitted unless we hear someting to the contrary. This creates a negative cycle in which lying is justified by children when they cheat in school, and parents lie to their children and each other, their business associates and the government.

    Perhaps, this goes back to one of our earliest discussions-is teshuvah a process whereby we elevate our past or we eliminate it-ala Teshuvah MAhavah ( love) or Yirah ( fear). Based upon RYBS’s explanation of that sugya in Yoma, I maintained that each derech posed by the Talmud may be legitimate for different people. Yet, I have my hesitations on whether even Teshuvah mYirah implies that one goes beyond changing one’s name to denying the past and whether that is appropriate for all BTs to adopt as a raison de etre in dealing with such issues.

  51. Steve, shidduchim experience has shown that the potential son-in-law usually has no problem with where you’ve been compared with who you are now. The problem lies more often with his parents. You will not want to be so quick to dismiss a fine young man because of his parents’ negative judgement in this area.

  52. Bob – I agree that people should be less judgemental, but I’m not sure that public denunciations of judgementalism will go far towards solving the problem.

    I think we need to become aware that nobody has fully mastered the trait of judgementalism and we are all guilty of it at some times.

    What makes it especially difficult is that although there is a mitzvah to judge people and institutions favorably, we constantly must make judgements on what schools we want to go to, where we want to live, who we want to socialize with, where we want to daven, what type of son-in-law or daughter-in-law we would like to have, etc.. So judgements are a real part of life and we can’t just wish them away.

    However, after we’ve made a necessary negative judgement we must work on seeing all the positive and identifying the institution or person with their positive attributes.

    Another helpful tool which I heard on a R’ Heller tape this morning is recognizing the absolute fact that nobody is perfect, and we must include ourselves in that group with the stark realization that we are far from perfect.

  53. When our daughters applied for seminaries, we had no hesitation whatsoever about stating our public high school backgrounds, involvement in NCSY, etc. It is unfortunate that too many people in the frum world judge people negatively by their pasts, as opposed to their present station in life. ( This is an issue which also surfaces in the context of biographies of Gdolim that tend to whitewash their backgrounds, etc aval ain kaan makom lharrich kaan on that subject.) OTOH, I think that anyone who would pass judgment on us because of our backgrounds wouldn’t exactly be the type of person that I would want as a rav, an educator of our children or a potential son-in law.

  54. Realistically, can such “secrets” be protected for long anyway? Being caught in a lie later may be more embarrassing than telling the truth now.

    If a community has the wrong attitude in matters like this, its leaders should take note and act. Why allow BT’s to be placed in this sort of dilemma?

  55. As a Public School grad I also struggled with this question when I was learning in E”Y. Emes is the only way to go. My wife has a friend who also won’t come and say outright that she is BT or involved with NCSY. I can only guess that for the women with 7 kids, a public school background might be the Shidduchim-Kiss-of-Death. There are, sadly, plenty of families that are not intersted in BTs or even children who are raised FFB with BT parents.

  56. Just because you should be proud of your accomplishments does not mean that the world sees it the same way. I had the same educational situation as Menachem. Many times the first part of my answer is “I was privately tutored”.

  57. David

    The halacha allows lying in certain situations and preserving privacy is one of them. So I don’t think Menachem’s friend is violating the halacha and she might be doing the l’chatchila appropriate thing given her circumstances.

    Of course this is certainly a situation where the CYLOR (Consult Your Local Orthodox Rabbi) principle should be applied.

  58. I would usually respond with a vague answer but I wouldn’t lie as that would be going against –emes- the exact thing that got me were I am today.

    If I can paraphrase R. Miller who says that one who commits suicide is worse than a murderer as he kills someone who he should love the most. When we lie to others we are really killing ourselves.

    The Chofez Chaim felt bad that no one would embarrass him, so we who could use some atonement should surely welcome it.

    How does she dodge being caught with her irreligious relatives? There is probably nothing more humiliating as being caught a liar.

    We should all reexamine what we were told or thought was right when we first started on our new way of life.

  59. FFBs who have lived their whole lives “in town” have so little exposure to people who with different backgrounds that they often become uncomfortable around, or treat as curiosities, people who are different.

    I assume your friend spent years trying to become “normal”, like one of the FFBs, and doesn’t want to lose that acceptance, even minimally.

  60. I think on occasion she has actually lied and said, “Bais Yaakov of Osh Kosh”. I find this hard to understand as I feel that she should be proud of herself, her teshuva, and her accomplishments.

    I think it’s very possible that she is proud of herself, but she’s also probably painfully aware that others might just focus on the fact that she was born to non-observant parents and not on her wonderful accomplishments.

  61. As a convert, who went to a parochial high school, I can understand this situation. However I must say that at least in my experience there’s no good remedy. Some people actually recoil when they hear but then others want to hear my story. I guess it all depends on the other person really, but your past is nothing to be ashamed of.

Comments are closed.