Have We Burned Out?

I am sitting at my desk thinking, “what do I write about?” I could write about my feelings about the war since I live in Israel. I could also write about Elul. I then realized that I am not supposed to be writing a regular torah column. It is supposed to be for Baalei Teshuva and their issues. I ask myself have we burned out in our mission?

The website started off with a bang and has continued over the last year. It has evolved into something, but what? Is it fulfilling its goal? Have we come up with workable solutions to the Baalei Teshuvah issues? Does anyone really care anymore? Have we become just another torah blog on the web? I leave that for you to think about.

What about the solutions for all the issues that have been brought up here on BeyondBT? Here is one more go at it. After careful thinking of the issues at stake, I would think to identify that one of the biggest issues facing BTs today is the lack of access to Rabbanim and mentors to help them transition and grow throughout their frum lives, ie: from “the cradle to the grave”.

I originally thought the answer was to focus on the macro and bring it to the micro. However I am convinced that it needs to be done in the micro and that will then spread to lots of little micros across the world and that will then make up the macro. Let me explain what I mean. Every community/synagogue needs to establish a mentor system, various members of the community who have the ability and time to mentor BT families. They wouldn’t be their halachic poskim however they would be there to model Torah Judaism and show them how to deal with the issues that BTs didn’t grow up with. They would be their “surrogate” parents. The Rabbi of the community would try to identify who the mentors should be and they would undergo so called “Sunday” training sessions. The community itself would pay their Rav extra $$$ so he doesn’t need to have a second job so he can be more involved in the daily life experiences of the community. Being that the mentors are local, shabbos could be a shared experience by all on a regular basis.

I think by approaching it from the micro level, there is no need to wait for some fundraisers to raise “big” money to establish another organization, which probably won’t happen and might not be the solution either. Being that many of the issues that BTs face are ones that need regular personal attention, the local community is nearest and hopefully dearest. There are a lot of nice communities out there that I am sure have qualified mentors and Ravs and also the ability to do what I am saying.

The biggest question to be asked is then what about the people that don’t live near one of these communities. It is a question that I don’t have an answer to other than move. I don’t mean that sarcastically. The Talmud tells us in various places the importance of living in a torah community. I realize it isn’t always so simple to pick up and move but I’ll leave that for a different article.

We need the 1st community to stand up and say that they’ll do it. There are various Rabbis that can help get it started. Then, once going this would be the model for all other communities. Do we have any takers out there…………

18 comments on “Have We Burned Out?

  1. “does Passaic have a sister-city in England?”

    I know a BT from the UK who said that he found Passaic similar to Manchester.

  2. I don’t think that Beyond Teshuva has lost it’s way or burned out. I do think that there is still a lot of untapped potential out there. The main advantage of a virtual support network over a real one is the realtive ability to be much bigger and broader.

    There are sizable BT communities in Los Angeles, Baltimore, Passaic, Moscow and Tsfat to name just a few. (does Passaic have a sister-city in England?) What can we do/change to hear a lot more voices emanating from these Teshuva strongholds?

  3. Ahuva,
    No one should pressure you to move into their community rather into the right community. We also need to do our best and make changes when we are able to, too early is wrong and too late is a tragedy. Don’t drop your whole life, channel it and use your strengths to serve Hashem properly.If that means moving, then at the right time and with the right people.

    Also, should someone avoid the doctor because they are afraid he is going to tell them to improve their lifestyle? Of course not. They might get sick and die needlessly. Things they can’t do, they won’t, but they shouldn’t avoid him completely. The same with a mentor. It would be ideal if we could do everything perfectly. We can’t, so we do our best. Hashem doesn’t demand results (they are up to him), he demands effort.
    Kol tuv

  4. To bring the problem into sharper relief imagine this scenario: A new early stage BT has been turned on to Torah and Mitzvos by a Telepartner in Torah. The person in question lives say in Sheyenne, Wyoming. There are none of the accoutrements of Jewish life or community even within hard commuting distance. What would advise him/her to do? Be a Torah Jew all alone in a vacuum or move to a community?

    As for your own exasperation remember what Rav Nachman said “Gevalt Yidden, never give up”.

  5. I was nodding my head along with every word until this:

    “It is a question that I don’t have an answer to other than move. I don’t mean that sarcastically. The Talmud tells us in various places the importance of living in a torah community.”

    This is probably the biggest stumbling block. It’s hard to develop a relationship with a mentor when I know that sooner or later she’s going to start pressuring me to move into the community. It doesn’t matter that I’d have to sell my house and quit my job. If I’m sincere, I have to drop my whole life and move.

    Sometimes, it’s almost enough to make me want to throw up my hands and quit.

  6. Reb Alter Klein has hit it on the head again. Many years ago I had a similar idea, about personal relationships between specific families and BT’s, my idea though was with FFB families doing the mentoring, or following the transition into frum life and lifestyles. It’s very interesting about BT’s doing it. Perhaps both are needed.

    When I thought about creating those relationships for people, just based on my own experiences, it was simply that regular frum families would be willing to be involved in day to day lives of growing BT’s and the stages that arise afterward.

    For me , in my earlier years, being “mentored” was my learning style of choice. I always felt that I learned anything and everything better by direct contact and hands on experience. That included everything from basic practical things like learning to cook and prepare for Shabbos and bake Challa, how to distinguish appropriate tznius clothing from not and where to shop to discussing in depth family issues, raising babies, nursing, children, chinuch, Shalom Bayis, priorities in chesed and tzedaka, being part of the community, the list goes on……

    I am sure I took much time from many giving people. Now that I find myself so busy with so many things, I wonder how those busy women and Rabbis gave so much of their precious time. An organized approach to this need is a great idea because the guidelines would be clear and set for everybody and each host family would have to figure out for themselves how to share the responsibility within, ex. husband on this time, wife on that time, perhaps even teenagers helping out as well. I definitely have always felt I learned so much from the children and teenagers of my role models as well as their parents.

    If KG Hills is up to formalizing this task, I will be happy to be involved in any way that I can.

  7. Fear not, we have a post from Kressel waiting in the wings. And we’re hoping to hear from our other women contributors who have not posted in a while.

    We also have a great tape on Achdus from Rabbi Schiller in the bank. We’re waiting on a summary of that one for people who prefer text over audio.

    If any readers, female or male would like to join the contributor team by committing to about a post a month, please send us an email at beyondbt@gmail.com. Guest contributors are also welcome.

  8. Chana you’re forgetting one thing.

    On May 30th one of BeyondBTs most eloquent voices, male or female, was stilled.

    When Kressel basically declared war on the Internet and by association Blogging here:


    Maybe more sisters heeded her call than brothers.

  9. As someone who has been following beyondbt.com from the beginning, the website has taken a life of it’s own. While the initial “goal” was for mentoring. That can take on any form. Mentors don’t have to be Rabbonim, rather those who inspire us, and can assume any form. I have read so many amazing posts from amazing individuals who have shared and taught me so much simply by sharing. Topics such as dress style, education, families, growth and a slew of others have been covered. Personally, my favorite part of the website, and I commend our administrators is the openness of opinion and interpretation. People naturally love hearing thier beliefs to be echoed, but hearing competing opinions help us grow, and challege our thoughts.


  10. Bob,
    I was only building on what Rabbi Alter wrote.
    Years ago, I submitted an idea to the NCSY national office of using alumni as “newcomer contacts” within various cities across the country. At the time, the OU was dealing with leadership issue. Maybe something like this could be started on a grass-roots level within our various cities?

  11. Some kind of local buddy system could be still be arranged along the lines Neil gave (comment #5), even if no one there is prepared yet to be a full-blown mentor.

  12. I’m glad you brought up the topic of access to Rabbaim and mentors. Although we have met many who have expressed willingness to help, many have also became less accessible when the issues get too deep; we have learned not to discuss the deeper issues except when they become emergencies.

    As for this forum, it is terrific to see that so many of the BT concerns are discussed;
    the blog has in some way helped me to feel a sense of belonging that is sometimes missing in trying to integrate into the frum world.

    OTOH, I am also sensing that certain issues are taboo here as well. A few months back a post entitled “rightsizing our children’s education” generated a very emotional response regarding chinuch in our yeshivas. Since then I haven’t seen much on this subject, although I can’t imagine that those with children in school aren’t dealing with numerous issues in this regard. Truthfully, I have learned that it is better for my children if I say little about major chinuch problems (not only in this venue), and of course, daven. But I would have liked to find a mentor that I could be honest and open about this topic without putting them on the defense.

    One last point, I wonder why there is a change in the frequency of postings by women? Are the topics of most concern to women not being discussed, or are the women just too busy?

    BTW: the mentor family system operated on a kibbutz we lived in. In principle it seems to work, but it really depends on the shidduch between the BT and the family.

    Shana Tova to all, and special hakaras hatov to Mark & David for giving us all the opportunity to “BT blog” together.

  13. Sounds great. As Steve wrote, I think the key is finding “first gen BTs” of various ages. They can provide insight to dealing with family members, parenting issues, non-loshan hora views on different places to daven, etc.

  14. Sounds like a great idea but how easy is it to hand pick and train a BT mentor? Surely every BT needs, just like an FFB does, to find out what Da’as Torah is for the issues in his life which would clearly require knowledge of “BT psakim” and even more importantly good etzos, even if it one step towards asking the right shayla or etza from an higher authority be it the Rav or Posek.

    This being the case, can one simply train mentors on a Sunday course in this? Isnt this type of skill only found in yechidim who do not come ready to go after a 1 or 2 year course? Could be a danger also that if the kehilla is not particularly tuned in to BT issues (which begs the question why not in 2006?) then the mentor may see himself too detached, taking on more than he is able to and becoming a BT posek so-to-speak.

    Surely if there is a gap that needs to be filled in a particular kehilla, wouldnt it be better for the “potential mentor” to set up BT shiruim, Shabbatons and events out of which the mentor role may grow naturally.

    Just my inexperienced opinion!

  15. Alter-Many BTs have mentors in the form of families with whom they spend Shabbos. Some also maintain a relationship with their rebbes and teachers from yeshivos and seminaries. I also think that many communities have “first generation” BTs who can offer advice, guidance,serve as chavrusos, etc on many issues without crossing the boundaries and engaging in psak. In that regard, this website has been a huge success.

    FWIW-my wife and I enjoyed meeting you and your wife at the Shabbos lunch at the BT Shabbaton.

    I do believe that it is important for BTs to meet others who have gone thru the system and dealt with many of the issues that we have discussed on line via the least expensive and best means of kiruv- a Shabbos meal. IMO, while a Shabbaton is great, seeing families in a natural Shabbos setting is even better.

  16. This article was written before the author heard of the Chayei Olom project. I wish them much success in their endeavors.

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