Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller – Some Brief Thoughts & Finding Inspiration From Within – mp3

Mark and his family had the good fortune of having lunch with Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller on Monday during the Kew Garden Hills stop of her Spring visit to the States. As you know, Rebbetzin Heller has been working with Baalei Teshuva for many years and she is much sought after for her sage advice. Here are some of the thoughts she shared.


Rebbetzin Heller feels it is important that Baalei Teshuva integrate into their communities. There is no benefit in retaining that which no longer serves you. She compared it to a foreigner learning the language and customs of the place they currently live for their own benefit. This does not mean hiding the fact that you are a Baalei Teshuva or cutting off parts of yourself, it means trying to understand and adapt to your community.


Reb. Heller feels that one area that Baalei Teshuva could use help in is parenting. Many times, BTs are too stringent with their children and other times they are much too lenient. Parenting involves many grey areas and one must deal with each child and each situation differently. It’s also important not to try and make your children be the frum from birth success that you could never be as a BT.


Rebbetzin Heller feels that there definitely is a Shidduch Crisis. She does not feel that the situation is worse for BTs because they are usually willing to consider a wider range of people. She said that she has seen success on the dating site which combines Shadchanim with a web based database. It is also important for BTs to try to find  advocates to help them find an appropriate match.

Here is a shiur, Reb. Heller gave Monday night at Congregation Ahavas Yisroel titled Finding Inspiration From Within.

37 comments on “Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller – Some Brief Thoughts & Finding Inspiration From Within – mp3

  1. I’m going to step in and request that we stop this particular discussion for now, because I want to refocus on the wisdom that Rebbetzin Heller is sharing.

    Rebbetzin Heller is a wise and wonderful teacher who gives so much to Jewish people of all affiliations. We are offering her words in text and audio for those who are interested in spiritual growth, which we’ll define for now as getting closer to G-d.

    Beyond BT is a site that is focused on learning, growing and giving. Please join us on that journey.

  2. Bob Miller, you make the same mistake over and over again. You think people have to be practicing Orthodox — to your satisfaction — to be allowed criticism of the BT Movement and its methods.

    That might be true internally, or rather, is true internally, but it isn’t secular Jewry or former BTs who are the aggressors. Apikorsim are not doing kiruv of frum people, nor are we in your schools.

    The question should not be whether you are frum before questioning kiruv, but rather, are you respectful of the non-religious value system of the people you seek to recruit to your movement.

    In the secular marketplace, which is the BT recruiting ground to a large degree, the hardliners can be slowed because the shield of “well, you’re not frum anyway, so you have no right to ask questions” is useless on that terrain.

    Remember — this is blog is not the reality of the relationship between haredi kiruvniks and former BTs. That realty can be seen more clearly on other blogs and in other places. Just ask Rabbi Burg or Aish Hatorah professionals — they’ll tell you this is a relatively friendly space.

    Strategically speaking, the more acrimonious the relationship between hardliners and former haredi BTs, the better. Because in the end, though haredi-kiruvniks will be able to shut down questions internally, secular Jewry will not validate their precondition for questions.

    Which perhaps may be why BeyondBT does not seek acrimony, and is reluctant to shut down discussion.

    Bob, the most educated critics of the BT movement are not aiming their guns at NJOP or MJE.

    But even if we can’t stop the growth of the hardline groups, we can at least create an awareness of their problems and their goals. And resistance — educated resistance — is helpful to our goals of slowing haredi recruitment through what we consider deceptive tactics and harboring problematic goals for recruits from the secular Jewish community.

  3. Steve,

    Please clarify your position. Do you agree that Neveh is haredi? Is Ohr Somayach?

    As for your claim that Touro is a “fine college,” take it up with U.S. News and World Report. Third Tier. That’s not “fine.”

    As for your point about attending good graduate schools, I want to see numbers, Steve, not individuals, and I want to see the careers of those who don’t attend graduate schools, and I want to contrast the general liberal arts education levels between those who attend Touro and those who attend actually “fine colleges”

    Oh wait…U.S. News and World Report already did that, Touro they came in THIRD.

    “More importantly, neither the faculty members of Michlelet nor Machon Mayan can be called Charedi.”

    I don’t care what it’s called — if they are directing smart, educated public school graduates to Touro, it shmeckt nit frish. Mark my words — this is gonna cost ya. You want to send your own kids to Touro, gezundte hey.

    Not liberal and traditional-secular kids. Not without us screaming “downward socio-economic mobility!” until more and more and more people say, “Hey, what’s going on over there? I thought they were just giving away pizza and promoting Jewish identity! I thought that “‘was it!'”

  4. DK,

    The evidence, from your comments here and your articles on your own blog site, is that you’re a thoroughgoing secularist with no particular attachment to the Jewish religion.

    This, for example, is how you lead off an April 30 blog article:

    “As many of you may be aware, there are a few of us in the vocal, affiliated secular Jewish community—and right now, we are indeed a small minority–who swerve to the right on aspects of immigration policy.”

    You’re not against hardliners to the exclusion of other Jewish religious authorities, your rejection is all-inclusive. We are not characters in your psychodrama; we’re onto you.

  5. DK-how about some facts?Yes, Neveh was started by OS and has some OS staff members. Neveh has an entire range of seminaries for young women, depending on their educational background that run the gamut from Bnos Chavah to Midreshet Esther.

    Michlelet is an NCSY summer program for girls.It combines learning, shiurim, independent study and tiyulim among many other activities. It is a superb program and has been around for years, In fact, we sent our younger daughter there. IIRC, it used the Neveh campus as a dorm and base for the program.The fact that it now is using the Reshet campus may be due to any one of a number of reasons, including price, as opposed to hashkafa. AFAIK, that is the only thing that is “all new” about Michlelet. More fundamentally, that fact does not elevate the same to a “partnership with Nebveh” under any definition of the term “partnership” any more than NCSY being allowed to use the campuse of Ner Yisrael for free to run its Camp Sports. I am sure that you should be aware that NCSY also sponsors many summer “partnership” and other programs that are hardly charedi such as Summer at YU, Taglit-Birthright, Shakepeare in Jerusalem,JOLT, Yachad,etc,( BTW.I invite the interested BT reader to go to the NCSY alumni website and check out a fascinating interview with R Pinchas Stolper about NCSY’s very early years if one wants to read facts, not fiction, about NCSY. )

    FWIW, many Neveh students as well as NCSYers who attend an entire range of other seminaries attend SCW, Touro and many other fine colleges and either receive some or no credits for their time. Contrary to your allegations, a seminary student who attends either SCW or Touro and who has the requisite grades, test scores, etc can and will be accepted to the graduate school of her choice. More importantly, neither the faculty members of Michlelet nor Machon Mayan can be called Charedi. The advisors at Michlelet all attended Michlala or MMY and attended colleges ranging from Emory, Barnard, SCW and Touro. The faculty at Machon Mayan, if anything, are primarily very solid RZ, as opposed to Charedi in their hashkafa. Once again, your claim that NCSY, as an organization, “sends” either boys or girls to any yeshiva is devoid of facts.

  6. Steve,

    Neve was started by OS, and employs many OS staff members.

    But why look to me? Why not check with your friends at NCSY, and ask them why they were dissatisfied with Neve enough to pull out of their Michlelet partnership with Neve? And felt a need to stress it is the “All New” Michlelet program?

    Of course, NCSY still sends girls there, but then again they also send boys to their Derech program, which is on their “approved” list of yeshivas.

    Right, Steve?

  7. DK-can you give some evidence to support your post from yesterday at 22:08?

  8. DK-Sooner or later, every BT has to wrestle with and come to grips as to whether his prior social ties, avocational interests and vocations can be integrated into his or her life within the Torah community of their choice, but at his or her own pace. Dealing with that issue is hardly new and can be traced back to a Talmudic discussion in Yoma on this very issue. WADR, it is a decision that can only be dealt with by an individual at his or her own level. I agree with Mark that the issue of discarding is a straw man.

  9. This business about hardliners begs the question:

    DK, can you name any Orthodox religious authority whom you follow?

  10. I really meant personality-as-expressed and not innate personality. We have options to emphasize some elements and de-emphasize others.

  11. Bob Miller, you wrote,

    “Every person has to make a real, ongoing effort to size up which elements of his personality and life style really do conform to HaShem’s will and which do not.”

    Elements of his personality? I think you are wrong, I don’t think that can be changed, nor should it. Channeled, but not changed. And before you say that’s what you meant, consider that isn’t really what is advocated by the hardliners. And you may be influenced by that school of thought, and may, in fact, be advocating a true change of personality for those who don’t fit the Ben Torah mold.

    David said,

    “And I sometimes feel that those who disparage the blog search for hardline opinions in the words of moderate approaches.”

    What can I say — I certainly have done that to some degree at times, and can see that looking back. It isn’t a simple thing. This movement has a range, and an individual can often have influences both from the moderate and hardline camp.

    But there is a hardline camp, and they do have a powerful hold on the BT movement as a whole, and most moderates within the BT movement are unwilling to challenge the hardliners directly or publicly.

    So it gets tricky.

    Anyway — have a great time at your possible shabbaton at Ohr Somayach Monsey.

  12. “I sometimes feel that some on this blog see their own moderate opinions in the words (and at parties) of those who are significantly more hardline than they are willing to see. That is, to me, the most disappointing aspect of Beyondbt.”

    And I sometimes feel that those who disparage the blog search for hardline opinions in the words of moderate approaches.

  13. Every person has to make a real, ongoing effort to size up which elements of his personality and life style really do conform to HaShem’s will and which do not. Objectivity is not easily come by, but without it you can fool yourself for life.

    Every person, not only someone who identifies as a BT.

    Every person, including someone who may have had unfortunate experiences with one or more kiruv organizations. Obsession with one’s own victimhood is an obstacle to growth.

  14. I was speaking about Neve Yerushalayim generally, yes. Like I said, I’m not familiar with Rebbetzin Heller’s positions specifically.

  15. Dk, again discarding is your straw man and not Rebbetzin Hellers. And it is pretty obvious that the goal of integration makes sense.

    I’m not sure what you think, but Rebbetzin Heller works for Neve Yerushalyim, a women’s seminary as she has for the past 25 years, although she may have articles published by other institutions.

    If you listen to her tapes or talk to some of the 100s of former Neve students who she has helped and continues to help, you will see that she is one of the top spiritual advisors in the world. She considers herself a Hirschian and is a proponent of the Zilberman learning method, and is quite moderate, while still being integrated and highly respected in the Israeli Charedi community. This is no small task.

    I listen to her tapes continually, multiple times so I am pretty confident when I say that she is one of the most level headed and wise advisors out there. I recommend that anybody who is *truly* interested in learning give her tapes a good listening to, usually at least twice.

  16. Mark,

    There is a tendency–and why is another discussion–for some BT’s to at the beginning part of their transition into Orthodoxy to go further right than how they will end up. Perhaps some will end up discarding more, and retaining less. But caution — not encouragement of discarding — should be emphasized. There is time to reevaluate when a BT has stabilized, and synthesis takes years. At the very least, ties to communities — vocational, avocation, social — should not be severed early on.

    The advice offered might work for some, but discarding and integration can be a real problem for others, particularly those entering into haredi communities, and we know many BTs do not stay there.

    I don’t know Rebbetzin Heller, but I do know the organization she works for. And that organization, last time I checked, was not “practical,” was not “level-headed,” and its staff members all too frequently give advice that IMHO is solidly unsound. So WADR, I take your moderate interpretation somewhat skeptically.

    I would be more reassured if those caveats you offered were her own, and were made explicit.

    I sometimes feel that some on this blog see their own moderate opinions in the words (and at parties) of those who are significantly more hardline than they are willing to see. That is, to me, the most disappointing aspect of Beyondbt.

  17. SL – She didn’t give specific examples, but this is the gist:

    The basic problem is that non Torah parenting in America is pretty weak. Obviously this is a generalization and there are many good American parents, but the general society has it’s problems primarily because it does not have clear spiritual goals.

    The BT is at a disadvantage because they have usually not grown up in a home with spiritual goals. So without taking the time to learn Torah based spiritually oriented they will be missing lots of information and ignorant of the fundamental rule of educating each child according to their way.

    Of course we can all keep on learning and become better and better parents. There are many BTs I know who are great parents and they are constantly working on being better.

  18. I’m not sure what “full” integration means and I don’t believe the word full was used above. Integration is a process and even FFBs sometimes have to re-integrate into a changing community. It doesn’t mean cutting off parts of yourself or being a chameleon.

    It does mean identifying the positive spiritual aspects of the community and getting with the program when it comes to positive spiritual growth. And again it’s a process with different speeds for different people.

    What does “There is no benefit in retaining that which no longer serves you” mean in terms of community.

    Say you’re coming from France and only speak French but in your new community everybody speaks English. You’re knowledge of French and speaking it constantly is no longer serving you. That *doesn’t* mean you should forget French and all your French friends, but learning English will definitely serve you well.

  19. Did the Rebbitzen give specific examples Mark? Because quite honestly, I see good and bad parenting everywhere I look (even in my own home :)). I have yet to see that BT’s are inherently worse parents or that they provide worse parenting.

  20. Why use the word integrate which would connotate that an existing community is where the integrating should be done. And in this context this probally refers to existing religious communities.What makes current religious communities so integrating worthy.
    Everyone needs a community and connection. The perfect community may or may not be found in the community he or she grew up in whether secular or religious.
    Aside from the fact that you should maintain all the friendships youve managed to cultivate in the various roads traveled this still doesnt necessarily guarantee a community to call home.
    There is also the concept of creating (no not integrating into) a community which could include anyone and everyone in your life too. In addition to providing a sense of belonging without the need to “integrate” and emulate/ feel inferior / or even the need to judge corruption favorably among other fun religious pastimes.
    So instead of trying to integrate into stale trite and tired communities why not create new communities if religion has so inspired you to change your lifestyle.Or ure just looking for direction purpose and connection.

  21. DK-Reread what Mark wrote about integration in the comments about Rebbitzeb Heller’s commments re integration. WADR, I don’t think that your most recent comment is either a fair summmary or even universally acceptable advice.

    In many instances, “old friends” realize that a BT is different than their old childhood friend and those who proclaim themselves the most “tolerant” and “diverse” sometimes do not exactly practice what they preach when it comes to BTs. I don’t think that any BT should have to endure such immature and abusive comments to maintain a relationship that is now non-existent. IMO, that borders on the masochistic.

    FWIW, I also grew up in a small town with a one O shul community that showed up three days per year that was very active in many secular Jewish organizations beyond a shul. Some of us broke completely with our communities of origin because we felt that the best way to raise a family devoted to Torah. Some of us maintained family ties and stayed in contact in varying degrees with the community of origin as a means of showing our kids hakaras hatov for being raised as Jews despite the spiritual obstacles and lack of a formal Jewish education and how priviledged they are to live a life as FFBs and to appreciate the same.

    However, if the community in question offers mothing, either spiritually or psychologically for a BT, then and only then, it just might be time to walk away from it in a dignified manner. Let me give a very specific example in point. The shul where I had my Bar Mitzvah is celebrating its 100th anniversary.We used to spend a Shabbos there at my parents’ house in the summer when our kids were very young before they went started summer camp.

    Since I have a chasunah on the same date of a son of very dear friends, I won’t be attending the celebration. Yet, I hope to write something about growing up in that shul in its Talmud Torah and NCSY chapter for the journal.

    I also disagree about fitting into a community where many have been together since elementary school. WADR, as long as a BT demonstrates that he or she is sincere in his or her devotion to Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim and has friends that also became BTs thru the same teshuvah modus viviendi, a BT will be welcomed into the community and make a new set of friends with similar values.

  22. Mark,

    Full integration is not possible for many. Also, please explain what she meant by, “There is no benefit in retaining that which no longer serves you” in terms of community.

  23. Saying that you should integrate does not mean that you have to break off ties with old friends. And integration is a process.

    You are mis-reading her advice. Rebbetzin Heller is one of the most practical, level headed and wise kiruv people around. And she has the courage to disagree with other organizations when they give advice that she thinks is unsound.

    The bottom line is that gradual integration into a community is a very wise thing to do.

  24. Full integration into a community with a different culture is often impossible for many. Just as immigrants need the camaraderie of lansmen who share their culture, so too BTs should not be expected to drop their old friends from existing communities.

    Alternatively, you will end up with situations where a BT is among people who have been friends since small children, and the BT has no such old friends within the community, or any. Why should you give up old friends? You should not. Very bad idea. There is a terrible ache that comes with that later. And if you have a couple of old friends who also know each other, that is a community, something the Rebbetzin is advocating discarding, and something that is not without a terrible cost. And it won’t be replaced by the new community. Not entirely. No way.

    Such advice is alarming.

    Even on a Jewish communal level specifically. I grew up in a traditional synagogue where my parents have friends for decades, and we had (and have) many synagogue community friends. We were a small but tight Jewish community. One shul, one rabbi — everyone had to deal.

    Now…I was given dispensation. Not because I was adamant (I was) but because the rabbi was Orthodox, even if the synagogue wasn’t quite, and the congregation all but completely secular. But…if it had been Conservative, and the rabbi Conservative, I would have been advised exactly as the Rebbetzin is advising. To break with the Jewish community I grew up in.

    And I think that is unacceptable advice. I’m not saying anyone should daven at a synagogue their rabbi says is unacceptable. That’s not what I am saying. But you can still maintain your ties to a community even if you don’t pray at their house of worship. You know, you can still work bingo, pay a shivah call, go to the summer BBQ — bring your own potato salad and cold chicken. Whatever.

    But to demand a BT break his ties with all his communities is aggressive, and quite frankly, is the stuff of New Religions. That’s who makes such demands.


  25. Mark-I also think that integration is important, but IMO, one can suggest that the fire and enthusiasm that a BT brings to his or her devotion to Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim be maintained and channelled properly and simultaneously work within the communal structure to effectuate changes in attitudes and priorities. I would certainly agree that approaching narrower viewpoints and dealing with them without becoming either disallusioned or cynical is a major task for all BTs,

  26. I understand what DK is griping about. There are some misguided people in kiruv (or mechanchim who interact with BTs as mechanchim of their children) who expect too much. I wonder if there has ever been a real effort on the the part of the chinuch world to formally understand and train themselves to properly advise baalei teshuva and know what’s reasonable to ask of them. An idialistic Rebbe straight from kollel, now in chinuch or outreach, can mean well and still do harm.

  27. DK,

    I’m not sure if you purposely cherrypicked the quote to fit your gripe but you seem to have left out the part where Reb. Heller said:

    This does not mean hiding the fact that you are a Baalei Teshuva or cutting off parts of yourself, it means trying to understand and adapt to your community.

  28. When we stubbornly refuse to adapt to the true norms of Judaism, our outlook begins to DK.

  29. Unreasonable and debilitating? I think it’s extreme logical.

    Rebbetzin Heller wasn’t saying that people must comform 100%, rather the better you can understand and integrate, the more successful your spiritual journey is likely to be.

    I also think that one of the underlying premises of the question and answer is that both the person and the community value Torah based spiritual growth.

  30. I hope Rebbitzin H is being facetious with her sawyouatsinai shidduck crisis remedies.
    Why the hyper- focus on integration. I think the focus shoud be on new perfect communities. Who does Rebbitzin H think everyone is trying so hard to emulate/integrate into.
    I wont ruin the Pollyana ideals and respective perspectives that seem to be running rampant on some of the threads. I would suggest Rebbitzin H just make some random quick stops on her spring tour to the various schools acting their very snobby finest when making their selections for the 2007-08 year. Just this past sunday afternoon , I was privy to some of the snobby inquiries/insults and questions …. from frum friends that have unfortunately married religious and are forced to consider these less than poor excuses for schools. This stuff is just not comprehensible or acceptable and far from emulate worthy.

  31. Entry and integration into Orthodox life are often easier in smaller communities, especially those with diverse member backgrounds already.

    There is often a trade-off between this benefit on the one hand and the relative lack of Jewish infrastructure and amenities on the other.

  32. “Rebbetzin Heller feels it is important that Baalei Teshuva integrate into their communities. There is no benefit in retaining that which no longer serves you. She compared it to a foreigner learning the language and customs of the place they currently live for their own benefit.”

    This seems like an unreasonable and debilitating demand.

  33. The FFB_of_BT kids will probably have a narrower range than their BT parents, but probably broader than FFB_of_FFBs.

    Rebbetzin Heller was talking about earlier childhood parenting.

    As a BT parent of FFB children, I often have to confront narrower viewpoints in a wide range of subjects, be it other Jews, Non-Jews, etc. That’s a part of life and I often have to deal with those narrower viewpoints in my own travels.

    Although having a FFB spouse probably helps, it is not uncommon for BT only couples to integrate successfully. A number of ingredients go into the integration mix.

  34. “BTs because they are usually willing to consider a wider range of people”

    True enough because of their eclectic and merit-based backgrounds. But what about their FFB kids?

    Also how does the dissonance between the BT parents and the far narrower FFB kids impact on the parenting issues that the Rebitzen raises.

    Also if integration is an essential goal shouldn’t a single BT exert themselves to get set up on shidduchim with FFBs?

Comments are closed.