If you look at a person’s music collection or someone’s seforim collection, you can get an idea of what they enjoy listening to or learning.
A quick glance at the “Topics Discussed” section of BeyondBT will show that aside from “Project Notes” the topic with the largest number of postings is “Integration”.
It’s an issue and a concern, there’s no denying it.
I am much happier discussing this topic in the form of ‘comments’ on this website, than with those I daven with or share carpools with.
We want to fit into a community. We’ve changed our lifestyle, our friends, our food tastes so that we can fit in. Yet, there are times when we can’t help but wonder, “Will I ever fit in?”
As a baal teshuva for about 20 years (and I’m only 36) I can honestly only recall a few times that I’ve felt like I really don’t fit into the ‘frum community’.
-There was the time I went to a shalom zachor and didn’t really know any of the songs.
– There was the time that I brought my lulav and esrog to a friends’ house for Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah (I’ll never make that mistake again).
– There was the time when I was asked where my father learned and I replied that he wasn’t observant.
In truth, I think, these feelings of ‘not fitting in’ are mostly self-created.
Now, I would not include general lack of a ‘learning background’ as not fitting into the ‘frum community’. We all have educational hurdles and I, personally, have used the excuse of being a ‘baal teshuva’ far too often as a crutch.
I feel that I am the one who doesn’t allow myself to always integrate into Torah observant society.
In fact from my experience that it doesn’t really make a big difference what my background is to the following people:
– Those who need me for a minyan
– The owners of seforim stores, kosher restaurants, and grocery stores where I shop
– The PTA of my children’s school who utilize my volunteer services
– The fellow Jew who I say, “Good Shabbos” to
– All of the of friends I’m make over the years
It’s a difficult issue, I know. Maybe we just focus on it too much?