Seems like I’m frequently sending in the “warning” story. While it’s not, G-d forbid, my intention to be negative on interactions between BT’s and the frum community, it seems I run across my share of people who have, well lets just say, misunderstood peoples intentions or perspectives, to their personal detriment. This story is one of those, from first hand knowledge, and happened in the last year. Names have been changed, loshon hara is not the objective…
— Leah’s Story —
Leah was a young woman in her early twenties when she first encountered a Jewish outreach organization. She spent some months with them and her soul was ignited. She burned to learn more. The organization encouraged her to attend their women’s yeshiva in New York, and she worked hard to arrange to be able to do so. With great joy she learned for about a year and half, and took an apartment with some of the other young women students in Boro Park (NY City very-frum community). As she learned, she looked around her neighborhood and idolized her neighbors. The women with 4 or 5 or 7 young children moving organized down the street in and out of the stores, walking regally with their husbands and children on Shabbat, this was her goal, and a worthy goal it was.
And her neighbors were warm, helpful, inviting. The children, as children almost always are, were engaging, and a large table covered with a white tablecloth, Shabbos finery and the warm smells of Shabbos food, oh, she ached for such beauty in the norm in her life.
One day, after she’d been there a year, a neighbor invited her in for a cup of tea. The neighbor asked, “what would you think of a shidduch offer (a marriage proposal)?” Well, she was thrilled! She could be the one regally walking on Shabbat, and preparing the fine Shabbos table, it was all within reach! The neighbor continued, “there’s a young man in Williamsburg, he’s a Michlov chossid (fictional chassidus name replacing the real one), who would make a nice match.”
Now we pause a moment for some explanation. There are some frum groups that are heavily involved in outreach, and their communities are full of BTs. There are some that are lightly involved, and their communities have some BTs. And there are those who are not involved at all and are, frankly, pretty darn insular. Among those, well I guess the word sects is appropriate, that are involved in outreach, some in those communities greatly appreciate the BT fervor and zest for Torah and Hashem, but there are those who don’t… because it’s different, because it shows a family problem, because it creates lots of relationship complications. Those that don’t would have concerns about their children marrying a BT (straight up, they would discourage it).
Most living in Williamsburg, a wonderful place full of Torah, are in the insular category. Let’s just say when it comes to having their children marry a BT, it wouldn’t normally be considered. And with that, back to our story…
So Leah consulted her Rosh Yeshiva. He expressed strong concerns and advised her against considering it. She spoke with her rav, same answer. But, this was her dream and she was chasing it…so she went on a date. He was a nice looking young man, had an income, and his family was extremely, extremely, welcoming. Another 2 dates and the match was agreed. But why? Why would a nice looking young man from an insular chassid group with a good family and parnosa be looking so far outside his community for a match? I mean, Leah is a nice young woman of average looks, no special job skills, and from an average family (no special wealth)?
The Rebbe of the chassidus gave a bracha, but also strangely went on about how he was there should she every have a problem, she shouldn’t hesitate to come right over and discuss it.
The wedding was nice, the kallah was beautiful, the music was good. The Get, the divorce, came 6 weeks later. See, he had dropped out of the community (so he no longer was considered an acceptable match for anyone in it) and, supposedly, returned. But in reality, Leah was headed up, he was headed down, she was burning for Torah and Hashem, he was burning with other, less savory, desires. To the shadchun, the matchmaker, it looked like they were in a similar place. But their ships were headed in opposite directions, and when they arrived in the same house, this became apparent very quickly.
— Zahava’s Story —
Zahava’s story starts similar. Her father passed away when she was young, and her mother was part of a marginal community but moderately religious. Full religious education was not available in her area, but in college she became interested and starting looking to learn more. She actually ended up in the same women’s yeshiva as Leah, at the same time. For Zahava, the whole family picture was the draw. Ah, look at the couples lovingly walking together and making their life together. She didn’t grow up with that, and she desired it.
The story from here is similar. A neighbor, a shadchan (matchmaker), a chossid of Memlachta from a Williamsburg family (though living in Flatbush, a bit odd right there). This one takes some interesting twists though… The chasan’s family (groom’s family) wanted to make sure it was properly kosher for their son. So, first, prove you’re Jewish. Well, the mother doesn’t have actual paperwork (do you?). So they push her to go through a geiurus safek (a conversion of doubt). Then, what kind of properly chassidic name is Zahava? So they make her take on an additional name, now she’s Fraida Zahava. They took her to the store and set her up with the right wardrobe (according to their Williamsburg chassidic standards), right down to the type of underwear.
The wedding just occurred, all proper. But again, the question of why an insular chassidic family is taking a BT for their son stands out. A few tidbits have leaked out, and indeed, there’s a reason he was living in Flatbush and not in his chassidic community. Perhaps, G-d willing, it will work out, yet it would seem that again, they are headed in opposite directions.
My dear friends, there are many who greatly appreciate the zeal and drive BTs bring. Yet others don’t appreciate the background BTs bring. Whether this is fair or not is not the point. If those that are known for not appreciating that zeal are suddenly involving themselves with you (as a “BT”), just keep your eyes open and try to recognize why.