BTs in the News

The Baltimore Jewish Times has a cover story titled A Change in which they deal with the changing relationships of Baalei Teshuva and their parents.

Mr. Shichtman, now 20, was taking his first step onto the path of teshuva. His move was not uncommon; thousands throughout the world have become part of the spiritual tidal wave known as the ba’al teshuva movement, or those who have returned to Torah. Much has been written about how the commitment and discipline of observance can drive a wedge between the ba’al teshuva and his or her loved ones. Peruse your local Jewish bookstore, and you will find a series of guidebooks for how to cope when your child becomes observant, mothers telling their sob stories about children who betrayed them, and children informing the world about their parents who “just don’t get it.”

About the potential for enhancement of friendships and family relationships � how sometimes it does work out when you stick it out � virtually nothing has been written. It is time that something was.

The Jewish Week has a story Call Of The Wildes about the Manhattan Jewish Experience a Modern Orthodox outreach organization founded by Rabbi Mark Wildes.

Over the years, MJE has grown from a one-room operation located in The Jewish Center on the Upper West Side to a franchise occupying an entire, renovated floor, along with the East Side location and now, Murray Hill. And a doctor who has been active in MJE events, Marc Arkovitz, donated MJE’s first Torah, which was dedicated in a lively ceremony on Nov. 12.

Rabbi Gili Houpt, who will be overseeing the downtown branch, said it was important to locate where a lot of younger people were moving right out of college, people not yet established in a community. MJE partnered with Congregation Adereth El, an Orthodox synagogue in Murray Hill, and held the first services and a Shabbat dinner earlier this month. More than anything, say its founders and participants, MJE seeks to meet people where they are.

“I’m a realist and I don’t believe every young Jew out there is searching to become more and more religious,” said Rabbi Wildes, who grew up in Queens and got involved in outreach as a project while he was in rabbinical school at Yeshiva University. He also pursued a law degree and a master’s in international affairs. “But I do believe that a lot of people want to belong to something greater, to belong to a Jewish community.”

“Some people view outreach as ‘I’m trying to change the other person, force them to live a certain way,’” said Rabbi Houpt. “Whereas this approach is really just trying to share something with the other person, show them the beauty of Judaism. There can be more to life than what they’ve been living.”

Rabbi Gili Houpt is the husband of Chaya who is a guest contributor and commentor to Beyond BT. He was the ruach leader at our Shabbaton. He’s pictured on the left in the photo below, strumming the red guitar. We wish him much Hatzlacha in all his efforts.

5 comments on “BTs in the News

  1. If it weren’t for Rabbi Mark Wildes and the Manhattan Jewish Experience, I never would have realized that there actually existed a place where young non-observant Jews could go to learn how to daven without being stared at, and at their own pace.

    Before I was Shomer Shabbos, in late 2001, in the beginning of my journey to becoming observant, I discovered Isralight where I met Gili Houpt. Seeing him and others strum guitars in the middle of the Upper West Side piqued my interest in Torah-true Judaism. Thanks, Gili. It was great seeing you last week at the Matisyahu concert.

    Isralight led me to Rabbi Mark Wildes, and I will forever be thankful to him, Arnie Singer and all the friendly, accepting faces there who didn’t ask how I got there from Long Island, how I was still dry when it was pouring outside, and who welcomed me with open arms for services & cholent.

    May the Manhattan Jewish Experience and all like-minded kiruv organizations go only from strength to strength.

  2. Thanks! We are excited. MJE is an amazing organization and Murray Hill is an exciting neighborhood. I’m alerting Rabbi Houpt to this post…

  3. Mr. Schichtman’s statement about Teshuvah and one’s relationships with his or her family of origin is IMO a cry for help in the forest amid the trees. If a BT notes that too much of the literature on this issue seemingly stresses the negative as opposed to the positive side of dealing with this issue, then it is time for a book to be written on this subject-BUT by BTs who have been able to maintain their relationships after a stormy beginning, as opposed to those who either had to endure stormy times on a permanent basis or severed their relationships.

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