Sometimes I Hate Being a Baalas Teshuva

Hi, I am very upset right now with being a Baalas Teshuva.

I have had it with having no frum relatives who understand what planet I fell off of.

My siblings have married goyim, so that curtails a lot of family functions where my siblings children are coming with their goyish boyfriends all over them.

Now my sister in law wants to come on Sunday with her husband and kids. How to explain that we are fasting this Sunday and not really allowed to entertain?

If a genie popped out of this computer this second do you know what I would wish for? To have frum family! Yes, I am sick and tired of bringing my double wrapped food from noah’s ark to the table.

I want to be able to spend a shabbos or a pesach sedar with frum relatives. And not be
different than everybody else. Is this too much to ask for genie?

Sometimes I feel like an orphan! They think we are crazy frum, and do not really understand us or appreciate that they have frum grandchildren.

I should have gone to the Beyond BT shabbaton and finally spend shabbos with people who understand me!!!

Thanks for listening…-I feel better already!

55 comments on “Sometimes I Hate Being a Baalas Teshuva

  1. While I certainly understand the feeling that no one understands you, and the need to be with people who are, don’t ever forget that these people ARE your family. You’re not an orphan; your parents might not always understand you but they are still your parents and they love you. You still have an obligation to do things with your family, just as you would if you were all on the same level of frumkeit. Imagine if you had a child who went off the derech — would you want them to cut you out of their life?

    Also, realize something — you are the one that changed, not them. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that, when being frum has become so normal to you. But when you make the choice to change, you have to accept that those close to will probably stay just as they’ve always been and you’ll need to deal with that.

    That being said, try to find the good in the situation (for me, it was that although my campus Hillel is not very religious, it has a lot of fun people, and I am a leader there). And try to find Shabbatonim to go on every so often.

  2. Bas Yisroel #52: Like Ross, another commenter on this blog, I became a BT on my own and sadly enough had “not one frum relative in the entire universe.” Then I got married and had frum children, who grew up to get married and have their own frum children.

    On Lag B’Omer I went to the Bar Mitzvah of my oldest grandson.

    One day with the help of HKBH you and your husband will be the frum grandparents of the Bar or Bat Mitzvah FFB child.

    Those who sow in tears will reap in joy.

  3. Went to a Bat Mitzvah yesterday of friends of ours. They are FFB’s. I couldn’t help but feel jealous of the frum grandparents of the bat mitzvah girl on both sides and all the frum relatives that attended.

    Reading this made me feel better and appreciate all the things I do have. thank you!

  4. You have a husband and children. Wow. So many people don’t have children or can’t find a zivug. Or hate having to get together with their in-laws. I try to be sensitive if someone is suffering, but some people just need to be told to count their blessings.

    Focus on what you have and thank Hashem for it. Then you can daven for your extended family to return to Hashem.

  5. Laura, it will get better.
    I spent my last two years of high school pretty much in “lock-down” mode in my bedroom, since I was the only person who kept Shabbos in Wichta, KS. I would walk to the traditional shul in the morning, come home after kiddush and then just stay in my room.
    I did a lot of reading and aside from NCSY shabbatons, I was pretty much on my own.

    I’ve heard, and seen it myself, that eventually you will come to look at these difficult Shabbos at home as treasured moments in your life. Despite the difficulties, you are keeping Shabbos. You are finding the strength week to week. Hang in there.

    It’s important to try to show your family, that despite geogrpahic problems you TRULY love Shabbos. Don’t try to get them to join in, unless they want to.

    Like David said, if you can go someplace else for Shabbos once in a while, that might be a good idea, too.

  6. Laura, from my personal experience, and those of others with whom I have spoken, these things generally get better. You sound very respectful but you should double check yourself that you are being respectful to your parentsand not exacerbating the situation. Also, try to get invited to a friend’s for shabbos once in a while or go on a shabbaton where you can enjoy a shabbos without all of the pressures and loneliness.

  7. My future seems so murky for me at this point. I realize that I am going to have to live with much of the family mocking and disapproval for the rest of my life, but I do pray that Hashem will open up my family members hearts and eyes to the beauty of Judaism, so hopefully oneday they will join in more.

    For now it’s shabbos meals with a TV in the background, sitting in the dark by myself on a long summer shabbos while my family is out and about(conveniently turning the lights out before leaving..), and the confines of my bedroom which gives me both the luxury of muffled silence, naptime!, and a secluded place to daven to Hashem that next shabbos should be a little sweeter and a little closer to peaceful.

    With time my friends:)

  8. I wanted to add one more comment. In the 1950’s many Holocaust survivors who came to this country faced the same painful situation. There were no grandparents, no aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no family. No one except the new families that they created.

    Also maybe you have read about the Mirrer Yeshiva students who fled as a group to Shanghai, China. The young men and their Rebbeim had many miracles and nearly all survived the Holocaust. Sadly, most of these young men discovered in 1946 that their parents and siblings (and entire hometowns) had perished. They all stayed with the Mirrer Yeshiva and went with it to America or Israel, none of them going back to Europe. These young men felt as though the Mirrer Yeshiva was their only family, and some stayed on with the Yeshiva as rebbeim and roshei yeshiva their whole lives.

  9. Leah Anderson, I think you are wonderful. In twenty years, you will schep such Yiddishe nachas from your wonderful married children and grandchildren with their beautiful Yiddishe frum homes. You’ll have many invitations from family, for every Yom Tov and Shabbos. You will be the honored Bubbie – Savta to so many gorgeous Jewish kids!

    Remember the well-known Chassidishe mayseh (Hasidic story): There was once a fire that burned down many houses in a small town. A little boy (who laer became a big rebbe) noticed that his mother was crying. He asked her, “Mama, are you crying because all our possessions were destroyed?” She wiped her eyes and said, “No, because our illustrious family tree, showing our yichus going back to King David, was lost.” The little boy smiled and said, “Mama, our family tree will start again from me.”

  10. Phyllis…we both have something better than a magic genie, we have Hashem, who can do anything if it is the right thing. Have nachas from you children and grandchildren, their being frum is a tremendous zechus for you and your husband.

  11. Leah, I just came back from Israel and am catching up. I loved your article.

    If I had a magic genie, I’d ask for my husband to become religious.

    Fortunately all my kids are, and it was so nice to sit at my son’s table and hear him make Kiddush and sing Shabbat songs with him, and to sit at my daughter’s table and hear my son-in-law make Kiddush with their three sons sitting at the table. I don’t have this in my own home, so I have to live on those memories.

    We all have to be as strong as we can, and we can only work with what Hashem chooses to give us. But it’s a long way from the head to the heart, and I can really relate to many aspects of your post.

  12. Sheesh, I’m going to feel like a Marine sergeant again…

    Nobody expects to be “always be enveloped in a cloak of spirituality and connectedness with Hashem”, though that would be nice. Sometimes you have to work out a solution and build your own community, other times you just have to bite the bullet.

    Yitzchak Avinu and Ya’akov Avinu were both “FFBs” with a lot of frum family, and look what idyllic family relations they all had.

    Yes, it’s hard some times. Get over it.

  13. Leah, thank you for your post and for bringing out in the open what many of us feel from time to time, especially around yomim tovim. My husband and I have no family to go to to speak of on yomim tovim, and our community is very small. A lot of the younger people go to their parents, and the few established people in the community are pretty lame. They keep to themselves and most of them never invite anyone over for meals. We try inviting and cooperating with the few other families who are stuck in similar situations, but its hard. Yes, we need to find a better community, but it seems like unless you have a lot of money to buy a house, you’re kind of screwed. It’s just not easy. Yes, everyone says you should be enveloped in a cloak of spirituality and connectedness with Hashem, nothing else matters. Not all of us are that lofty. Whatever. We just have to do what’s in our hearts, despite all the outward difficulties.

  14. Steve said, “I do not believe as Bob Miler stated that Avodas HaShem implicitly means that one negates one’s family of origin.”

    I don’t believe that either! I believe the family has a purpose as a vehicle for Avodas HaShem, as opposed to being “the” supreme value. Maintaining good relations with one’s nonobservant family can help the family to achieve at least some of its mission, even when members balk at the whole program.

  15. This is a great thread. I am really impressed by the quality and thoughtfulness of some of the people who read this blog and am grateful that, from time to time, they are compelled enough by a heartfelt post such as this one to be coaxed out of lurking.

    I agree with the sentiment that one should do everything as possible to maintain the best possible relations with both relations and friends who are not frum, except where they might be affirmatively damaging (as opposed to merely hostile). Doing so is a kiddush Hashem and it would appear to me that doing the opposite is… the opposite. It is particularly valuable for your old friends and family to see that you’re still “okay,” and perhaps even then some. I believe in particular that when family members see how frum kids turn out, and then look at what they see around them or G-d forbid even in their own household, it is very compelling. That won’t happen if they’re alienated early on, or if they are so angry from how they’ve been “dismissed” from our lives that they will rationalize away what they would otherwise appreciate.

    I would add that while there were, early on, many stresses between my parents and me (not all of which are gone), making this change in fact helped me actually assert my individuality and separateness from my parents. The difficulty in doing this for some Jews in our culture is not unheard of it. “A Jewish man with parents alive is a fifteen-year-old boy, and will remain a fifteen-year-old boy till they die,” Philip Roth said famously.

    What a shame it would be for an adult to depart from the path of spiritual and personal development that comes with Torah and mitzvos because he is simply unable to bear parental disapproval.

  16. “I’m Jewish, acceptance of non-Jewish boy friends and girl friends is problematic. On one hand you have to try and be a mensch. But on the other hand you want to do everything practical to end that relationship and certainly to discourage an intermarriage.

    I don’t think there’s an easy answer here, but one’s actions towards the friend can be perceived as indications of acceptance of the relationship and of an intermarriage.”

    I understand, but behaving rudely, refusing to acknowledge or talk to Sean / Guido / Jose isn’t going to make the secular Jew slap her hand against her forehead and say, “My goodness! My frum cousin doesn’t approve of Sean / Guido / Jose, I guess I shouldn’t date him any more!” It’s going to simply alienate her from you and she won’t want to hear anything you have to say about anything. However, behaving like a mensch, being friendly and kind to Sean / Guido / Jose sets you up in a better place to do eventual kiruv to your cousin, or even to Sean / Guido / Jose if they do get serious.

    This seems blindingly obvious; alienating non-frum relatives is not a way to bring non-frum relatives closer to Hashem. I prefer to live my life with calm graciousness that they will want to emulate (and understand why).

  17. I have thought a lot about DK’s comments and I would like to offer the following observation. I was never told to sever or even minimize contacts with my parents, siblings,etc by anyone in NCSY, JSS or RIETS. At times it was not easy , but I treasure the fact that I have worked at maintaining what is now a far better relationship with my mother and siblings than it was years ago.

    However, there are BTs out there who have followed a view or advice that they must do so. IMO, a BT should try as hard as possible to show that he or she is still part of their family of origin even as they evolve and grow in observance. Yes, there are cases where a BT must separate, but I would suggest that in such instances, that the intervention of a rav or spiritual mentor and a mental health professional who is sensitive to these issues ( and they do exist) be brought in to help mediate and minimize the issues and help devise a modus operandi. I donot believe as Bob Miler stated that Avodas HaShem implicitly means that one negates one’s family of origin.

  18. I’m Jewish, acceptance of non-Jewish boy friends and girl friends is problematic. On one hand you have to try and be a mensch. But on the other hand you want to do everything practical to end that relationship and certainly to discourage an intermarriage.

    I don’t think there’s an easy answer here, but one’s actions towards the friend can be perceived as indications of acceptance of the relationship and of an intermarriage.

  19. I would just like to clarify that I by no means wish to suggest that Steve is in any way a bad friend in his personal life. I have no doubt he is a very good friend in his personal life. I am only talking about the RWMO (right-wing Modern Orthodox) when it comes to treating the liberal Jewish community in a manner that does not warrant ideological trust, nor trust or care with our youth.

    “Like it or not, there are many paths to teshuvah.”

    Oh, I wasn’t disputing that, Steve, I was saying that some of those paths that are a part of the “teshuvah revolution” are absolutely unacceptable, and should remain unacceptable to liberal and secular Jewry, and some should also be rejected by the Modern Orthodox, even if the powers that be listen politely (for five minutes) to the MO talk about RYBS without sneering.

    but in an age when all sorts of alternative life styles are accepted as part of what is termed as a “family”,

    Let me make this easy for you, Steve. When I say “family,” I mean parents. Siblings. Cousins. Nice try, though.

    the claim that a BT’s lifestyle is either a threat or divisve is IMO a form of intellectual snobbery and imperialism.

    It isn’t the BTs lifestyle, per se — it is the advice and directives of the BTs “spiritual guide” in the more hardline communities in regards to family.

    Breaking up and inflicting estrangement upon families because they are not living according to the recruit’s haredi rabbi’s direction and is reason to sound the alarm.

    I am going to end you a private email, Steve. I strongly recommend you reconsider. This is a shameful position. But if you want your name attached to this position, so be it.

  20. “My siblings have married goyim, so that curtails a lot of family functions where my siblings children are coming with their goyish boyfriends all over them.”

    Leah, what would be so hard about simply being polite and friendly to Sean or Guido or Jose or whoever the non-Jewish boyfriend is? Isn’t it possible simply to sit and converse and have a pleasant conversation with someone who is important to people you love, regardless of their religion? I guess I don’t get why this is such an impediment. You’re not required to marry them, just to sit and talk politely.

  21. Guys, you lost me. What do you mean by RWMO? Count me as SOBPIAB (Sick Of Being Put In A Box). I thought breaking up families because of ideology was a Commie thing, not McCarthyism. “Kruschev Divorce”, “Molotov Ribbentrop Pact Schism”, “Anti-Trotsky Factions” and all that.

  22. What DK has mentioned in his posts is really a very important discussion in the Talmud. The Talmud discusses whether Teshuvah based on Ahavah is superior to Teshuvah based on Yirah and whether one can transcend one’s past or one must eliminate one’s past. RYBS discussed these issues in his Teshuvah drashos, many of which can be found in Al HaTeshuvah ( beginning at Page 169) ( which AFAIK was translated into English as well) and did not conclude that transcendance was better in all cases than elimination of one’s past. OTOH, RYBS thought that Teshuvah based on Ahavah as described in the last chapter of Hilcos Teshuvah was an infinitely preferable process than Teshuvah based on love which required a painful step by step process of renunciating one’s past, establishing a new personae, etc.

  23. DK-First of all, I think that your last paragraph is simply mistaken. While we have discussed issues here and elsewhere, I don’t think that briefly meeting you in person at a book launch and emails constitute the basis of a claim of “people I know personally.”

    In reverse order, let me break it to you very gently-but for a few hashkafic differences, MO and Charedim have far more in common with each other than they do with what you call “liberal Jewry” or what would RYBS call the heterodox movements. Let me say it again-Klapei chutz issues require unity between the Orthodox and the heterodox communities, Klapei Pnim issues require us to disagree at all costs, even if it means staying home so as not to hear shofar in a mixed pew synagogue. The fact that the extremes of the Charedi and MO worlds bash RW MO is quite irrelevant to me. As far as “mutual appreciation” is concerned, it is and always be my platform because I see no other viable alternative. To paraphrase Churchill’s observations on democracy, it is the worst of all models, except for all others.

    Like it or not, there are many paths to teshuvah. Sometimes, one can work out issues with one’s family origins and in other cases, for a variety of reasons, it isn’t feasible. I can only offer my experience as a model that worked for me and which may be of assistance to others, as opposed to shoving it down somneone’s mind and throat. I don’t think that the issue is an easy one for any BT to deal with because of the innate respect for parents within all children, but in an age when all sorts of alternative life styles are accepted as part of what is termed as a “family”, the claim that a BT’s lifestyle is either a threat or divisve is IMO a form of intellectual snobbery and imperialism. It is an issue that the Torah and the Neviim present different approaches to-so who am I to suggest that one approach works better for all people? IMO, you view the family as sacrosanct when in fact, the Torah shows us that the Avos and Imahos had many difficulties in maintaining family unity for a variety of reasons.

  24. Yes, that’s right, Steve. Insisting that the families should not be broken up just because some “aren’t frum” is true aggression. McCarthyism, really.

    Do you understand the implications of what you are talking about or are you too busy ever-selling the ultra-Orthodox on your “mutual appreciation” platform to even think about what you are agreeing to?

    In terms of people I know personally, you have convinced me more than anyone I know that the RWMO cannot be consistently trusted as a well-meaning friend of liberal Jewry.

  25. DK-WADR, you missed my point. Noone has the right to proclaim one form of Teshuvah, which inherently deals with the issue of how one relates to one’s family of origin as superior, I consider such an approach as intellectual imperialism.

  26. The Jewish People should be one big family, really. Ideally the klal should make up for individuals who need quality in their relationships especially from close relatives. There are so many who lack important concepts of family in our world, the list of dysfunction seems endless in this day and age.

    Rav Salomon, shlita, says that much of this is measure for measure- we broke up the family and were chased away from Hashem’s “table”, from his house- the Bais Hamikdosh. Any time we feel a lack of family/ closeness, even if only in our perception, we are feeling a sting of galus. The Rav mentioned “Banim gedalti v’haym poshu bi!”, I raised up children and they neglected [really scorned] me. When our children act out against us for no apparent reason, we should remember that there is not always a reason, only a consequence we must experience, as we did the same thing to Hashem. This experience is the only springboard to the next level for Klal Yisroel.

    It is lonely, it is bittersweet. Nothing hurts like being hit in the family, and when the pain is real and present, we can remember that we are paying big toward our redemption. May it come speedily in our days.

  27. OTOH, as some have mentioned here, some approaches advocate a total separation from a family of origin and others allow a BT to make his or her decisions. For the same reason that all of the Neviim had different approaches to teshuvh, IMO, either approach works for all BTs.

    Those organizations that encourage separation from family should be exposed and condemned as the cults that they are. Those who tolerate such “prophet” like approaches should be exposed as the predators that they are, and should not be trusted when they give their Haskama. Because if they give their Haskama to one house of darkness, they will give their surely give their Haskama to another even worse.

    Such people should not be trusted at all even if they personally prefer a less radical approach to Neo-Orthodoxy.

    Act like a New Religion, get treated like a New Religion.

  28. i can totally relate. my husband and i are bts coming from not only unobservant but often mocking families. for obvious reasons, holidays are spent without them. now that we’re moving, we’ve decided that we’d try to make sure that we have guests often for shabbos and chagim, especially people in our situation who have nowhere else to go, and for people who are newly observant without the family support that we all crave. i think we all have to remember what it’s like to be a bt and try to open our homes to people like ourselves who know what it’s like and who may find holidays and shabboses to lack some of the joy they should have because of the loneliness of the journey in becoming closer to hashem.

  29. DK-This topic is especially relevant for BTs, and for me, as I am commemorating the Yahrtzeit of my father ZL via Tefilah, Talmud Torah and Tzedaka in some fashion, of which blogging on a Torah oriented site and creating links to Divrei Torah on the Parsha play some role. Like it or not, potential BTs do find themselves thinking about their families of origins as they go through the process of becoming observant. It simply comes with the territory.

    OTOH, as some have mentioned here, some approaches advocate a total separation from a family of origin and others allow a BT to make his or her decisions. For the same reason that all of the Neviim had different approaches to teshuvh, IMO, either approach works for all BTs.

    There are numerous hashkafic and psychological approaches that BTs can take, but I can state without any equivocation that my father ZL, a traditional Jew, was a fierce defender of traditional Judaism, active in Jewish causes from his shul to Bnei Brith and ZOA, an accountant whose free clients included a local Hebrew day School whose principal he respected dearly and who helped a Charedi yeshiva become accepted in his secular but traditional community. My father ZL was very receptive to discussions with and phone calls from rabbis in NCSY and JSS as I grew in observance. His face at our separate dancing chasunah was amazing for his sheer happiness. During these 24 hours and on any day when Yizkor is recited, my memories of my father flash across my mind like it was yesterday, as opposed to the 34 years since his Petirah. Halevai that more BTs would have parents such as my fatherZL and my mother, may she have many years of continued good health, who kept a kosher house in a snall community when and where very few Jewish homes were kosher, kept us out of school on Yamim Tovim other than RH and YK, and who went to shul with us when we were beneath the age of bar mitzvah and who gradually accepted the fact that her oldest son was a Shomer Torah UMitzvos notwithstanding our being raised in a Conservative background. Halevai that more BTs had parents who were accepting as mine.

  30. Steve wrote,

    However, that does not always work in reality and IMO seeking to cast blame on a BT or those who are active in kiruv doesn’t offer a solution to BTs or their families of origin.

    Oh, I wasn’t blaming the BT.

  31. “How natural is it for the rest of you BT’s out there to adapt to using the word goyim or to describe something as goyish? Because maybe it’s my secular upbringing, but I just can’t use it in that vaguely denigrating way. It feels like using the word schvartze – just not how I was raised.”

    I was also not raised with ‘denigrating’ labelling of people, but if and when relevant to distinguish between Jews and those who are not, the word ‘goyim’ was used at least as frequently as ‘non-Jews’. The dictonary-definition usage may be less common than the insulting-connotation usage, but both can be found.

    And having some of both, *understanding and respectful* family is the key, much more so than “frum” – unfortunately, far too many (that could be 3!) shomer-Shabbos people are not tolerant of any but their small circle, whether religiously or socially.

  32. Hello Kitty,
    You might know this already but in the time of the Beis Hamikdash, the Jewish people brought korbanos on behalf of the nations of the world. (Actually 70 corresponding the foundational nations). So maybe it is highly appropriate that your non-Jewish relations are contributing in this way. You are their representative.

    You should have much Hatzlacha and a k’siva v’chasima tova.

  33. Leah, boy, can I relate. I am an older convert who has been more-or-less observant in the Conservative movement for a long while. I haven’t been affiliated with a synagogue until recently, so lack of family and community on an intimate level has been hard at times. Every year around the high-holidays, I get a lonely, isolated feeling. Wah, no one sends me a Rosh Hashana card blah, blah, blah, blech. This year, rather than feeling sorry for myself, I decided to involve my far-flung family & friends. I’m building a sukkah and sent everyone a white or pale blue sheet along with some permanent markers with a request to decorate the panels of my sukkah! I gave them the theme and some symbols, but other than that, they can get creative (of course, ix-nay on eezus-jay references…) I will be surrounded by loved ones in my sukkah: my BFF, sissy-in-law, sister, nieces, their kids. So far, everyone is on board and I can’t wait to hang my walls! Maybe next year, I’ll get some L’shanah Tovah cards…

  34. I think that it is critical for BTs to have a strong friend or two, or thre or…While virtual communities are no substitute for the real thing, they often provide opportunities to interact with others similarly situated and even for real life interaction (imagine that). A small group of good friends can be a family.

  35. Well, kudos on your honesty. That is the first step, acknowledging your feelings and not wishing them away. Yes its tough, it hurts, and its lousy. Yes, we all wish for that Waltons Mountain, Teddy Bear hug of a family, but its rare, even in the FFB world. I think the trick is, and I say this to myself too, because I often get down on myself, to look at the grubby looking folks, the ones who seem to have a less enviable portion, instead of the shiny ones who see to have more. Remember Lefoom tzaara agra–no pain no gain. Good luck and post again. We need your honesty here.

  36. Leah,

    As to your answer-post above, starts with YOU! You should be very proud of yourself for taking that 1st step!

    Onward & upward!


  37. Just picked up Rebbetzin Jungreis’s book “Life is a Test” and found chizuk and answers for the “unfair” circumstances we Jews encounter.

    I also, BTW, have been struggling for many years with the missing family at the seuda issue. Maybe I’m just not trying hard enough to solve it. It would be nice to have some sort of BT network one could tap into for exchanging Shabbos & Yom Tov meals. I would start such an exchange if I knew there was interest.

  38. Leah-as you and your family become more integrated into the FFB world with its rhythyms of Shabbos, YT, Yamim Noraim,chinuch ( schools, camps, Israel), you will meet at some members of that world who will help you feel more at ease. You will always have to deal with your family of origin, but that has been true of all BTs since the time of Avraham Avinu.

    WADR to DK, this is an issuue that BTs address in many different ways. What works for some doesn’t work for others and vice versa. In an ideal world, a BT’s family of origin would respect a BT’s choice in as understanding a fashion as they would any other lifestyle and a BT would be able to work around issues such as Kashrus and family get togethers
    ( Thanksgiving, but probably not Shabbos and YT or a fast day). However, that does not always work in reality and IMO seeking to cast blame on a BT or those who are active in kiruv doesn’t offer a solution to BTs or their families of origin.

  39. “My siblings have married goyim, so that curtails a lot of family functions where my siblings children are coming with their goyish boyfriends all over them.”

    How natural is it for the rest of you BT’s out there to adapt to using the word goyim or to describe something as goyish? Because maybe it’s my secular upbringing, but I just can’t use it in that vaguely denigrating way. It feels like using the word schvartze – just not how I was raised.

  40. I know how you feel as a BT for about 2 years now, who is totally alone including someone who is married to a non-jew with non jewish children it is extremely tough.

    I came from a family that is extremely intermarried and I am the last to even go back. It is not easy and some of my family thinks I take it too serious.

    What do I do? For Shabbos I try to visit not always but frum friends as much as I can.

    I realize this is a huge test for me from Hashem and I am in a different situation then you, but I believe Hashem gives us tests to make us stronger.

  41. Thank you, everyone, for all your support. I wrote this post on a bad day in the beginning of the summer (I was experiencing a little melt down!) I am very thankful to G-d that I have a wonderful husband and I am blessed with children. Just once in a while when something happens, I get upset. Thank G-d that doesn’t happen very often. I cannot change the fact that my family is not religious. I am proud that I am building my own “dynasty”.

  42. Well I can understand your pain; but you should be careful with it. Not that you should keep it all bottled up inside of you…it’s just that when I first read your post, you sounded a bit frustrated and angry. Understand that you still, in spite of these problems, have many brachos. You have children, you have a husband (I take it — my apologies if this is not the case), you have the kosher ‘food from Noah’s Ark’ available to you. But most of all, you have the comfort of knowing that you are keeping your end of the bargain (to the best of your ability) in the covenant between Klal Yisrael and HKBH. This in and of itself should be a major comfort to you.

    Please, when you get frustrated, consider the following individuals…all people I know in real life:

    1) a 97 year-old woman who has been frum all of her life. She has only one daughter who made it to adulthood. Was educated in BY in Brooklyn but fiercely rebelled and went off the derech in while in college in the 1960s. Although she married a Jewish man, her two children are involved with non-Jews. Her daughter is actually a lesbian. They have a good relationship with her, but for Shabbos and Yom Tov she stays alone…or hosted by the local Chabad…because her family just sees all of that as “too odd”.

    2) A Puerto Rican giyores who was in her early 40s at the time of her conversion…now in her early 50s. She and her ex-husband were involved in a messianic “Jewish” congregation for years…but she grew disillusioned. Eventually, she found true Judaism and her ex-husband did not follow her path. They divorced and set out on her own…spiritually and financially. She now commutes about 40 miles for Shabbos and Yom Tov and works as a school bus driver to make ends meet (she could not afford to stay in the community…but has many friends that can host her). She only has rare contact with her grandchildren.

    3) A couple where the husband is BT and his wife is a ger. He only has a sister and she had no relationship with her family — due to intermarriage issues (she is Asian) from before. While their children were growing up, they had almost no natural family; certainly no grandparents for the kinderlach. In spite of all this they are baalei chesed and cornerstones of their community and shul.

    And then there are people like myself; who physically stand out in the frum community. At first I dealt with it as an African-American, and now since my car accident as being disabled (slightly). I surely do not like the game of “let’s see who suffers the most”. But we need to strengthen our resolve sometimes. See past our own pain and realize no one has a golden path laid out in front of them. Even FFB have their issues with bitachon, health, whatever.

    May Hashem continue to bless you and help you during your times of need.

  43. There’s something to what Michoel is saying. My kids always knew I was a BT, but for some reason I just told my youngest how I became one at 16. He told me he was in awe of me, going against the odds as a teen-ager and living with my non-frum parents (there’s hope for you, too, Gemma). It was nice to hear that, but I hear you that it’s not enough. One of the solutions I found was to become a part of an “out-of-towner” community in my neighborhood. It began when a neighbor from Connecticutt and I (from Ohio) were bemoaning how everyone gets together with their extended families on Chanukah and we didn’t have any around. We decided then and there to make our own Chanukah party with other out-of-towners (OK, so I live in Brooklyn) and we became the Non-Cousins Club of *** and held subsequent Chanukah parties for years to come. When I made my first son’s Bar Mitzvah, a time when most people would have family around for the whole Shabbos (and that included my ex-husband), I felt terribly alone and isolated without the excitement and hubbub that most families had at that time. So I took care of myself for subsequent Bar Mitzvahs, and made a lunch in the shul (that was besides the Bar Mitzvah seudah) attended by my father, my sister, and my neighbors and other friends. I continue to anticipate times when I might feel alone and isolated, and I do my best to take care of myself in similar ways. We need to make our own “families”. Good luck to you.

  44. If you keep on going WITH A SMILE ON YOUR FACE, someday your kids will be in awe of your self-sacrifice. And they will all get together with their (many) siblings b’ezras Hashem, and tell their kids how great their Mommy and Tatty were.

    But I fully agree that it is not easy. Hatzlacha Raba!

  45. Leah, you’ve written a very honest, from the heart article here.

    As we know, we can’t envy others. Which means, we shouldn’t fall into thinking that the grass is always greener. For example, my husband’s sister and her family are all frum. She doesn’t talk to us, two of her children and their families moved away, and the remaining family is having their own issues. Which is to say, that just because they’re frum, doesn’t mean we’re not sitting around the seder table as one big happy family. I very much look forward to when my children will be older and I’ll have grandchildren. Then we’ll be our own immediate family!

    In the meantime, try to seek out friends who can relate to you, and enjoy you. If you’re doing take out from Noah’s Ark, does that mean you’re in NJ?

  46. Yeah, let’s stop being differnt! Let’s all be the same. (Perhaps we could start with this famous bed in S’dom, where the ones who were too long were cut off and the ones who were too short were stretched). Later, we could move on to hair colour and cut (that’s easy: just one model of Sheitel for everybody)….

  47. Yeah, I feel the same. I hate eating all my shabbos meals alone, with the TV in the background while I’m making kiddush. I mean I don’t hate it, I shouldn’t say that – it’s just hard. But all that keeps me going is thinking of how nice and amazing it will be bezrat Hashem when I make my own family in the future. It will feel so special because we’ve never experienced it before.

    But it is part of our challenge as baalei teshuva. I think these challenges are only there to strengthen us in our belief and conviction. If we’d drop all what we’d got because our relatives aren’t frum, what did we really have? Perhaps Hashem wants to make sure we’re dedicated. And it is a totally different level of avodat Hashem when you can still manage despite the environment. So keep going and don’t for one second be upset you’re a Baalas Teshuva. In some ways we even have it easier.

  48. Leah,

    I think what you need to do is try to associate with other BT’s and FFB’s as much as you can, however you can do this.

    Good luck,

  49. The estrangement from extended family is an important aspect of the baal teshuvah experience that people should know going in, especially parents of the BT.

  50. Dear Leah,

    It’s true, your situation, and that of many of us, is difficult and sometimes painful. You need to decide in your heart and in your guts that you are doing the RIGHT THING even if it’s hard, and even if it comes at a price. You feel like an orphan–but Hashem grants orphans special protection, because we aren’t getting it from anywhere else.

    I say “we” because I am a convert and am also alone in many ways. On the one hand, I don’t have to worry about my siblings marrying non-Jews or not keeping mitzvot; on the contrary, most of them are wonderful people, exemplary Bnai Noach. On the other hand, I have to live with the fact that I have, on a very profound level, made a separation between myself and these fine people who love me so much, and sometimes it causes them pain. It’s hard to forgive myself for that.

    I know gerim whose families won’t speak to them, and even one who offered to help them buy a house in Israel if only they would return to believing in JC.

    Some people have it worse. Holocaust survivors often were left with no relatives at all, only nightmares. Somehow they manage to form families of their own.

    You have to get tougher. If you really “needed” frum relatives, Hashem would have given you some, but then you would not have the chance to be the special example you are and can be.

    You speak of wishing for a “genie”. Make yourself your own “genie” and realize that this is exactly what Hashem wants from you.

    Get tough. Nobody ever promised that this would be easy.

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