Kiruv for the Already Frum

Too often, after a BT has joined the ranks of the observant, he/she is left to work out major life challenges without an adequate support system. FFBs forget that a BT doesn’t come from a family background with frum values, and may need a surrogate family (maybe just one family, but more often in the form of a supportive community structure) for guidance and Chizuk.

Particular attention should be paid to those BTs who are, or may feel, marginalized: singles (especially older singles, and especially those with children); those who become BTs in mid-life or beyond; those who are married but whose spouses aren’t making the Teshuva journey with them. Older singles are particularly at risk for not finding the support they need and, as a result, giving up observance. That happened to me, and I still remember the pain. Thank G-d that after I remarried outside the frum community, we ended up in the orbit of the wonderful community where we are today, but not everyone is so fortunate.

25 comments on “Kiruv for the Already Frum

  1. There IS a support system for BT singles: Oorah’s Rebbetzins program is filling just this niche. The Rebbetzins program ( is a free resource for singles between the ages of 18-30 (34 for boys) who are already frum and are looking to marry somoene like-minded. Each single is paired with a Rebbetzin, a personal shadchan/mentor whose role is be a surrogate parent to ‘their’ single in shidduchim. This includes reference-checking, advice in dating, actual matchmaking (they have their own singles’ database), and networking on behalf of the single. Many singles have questions about shidduchim, or even about Jewish marriage, and Oorah’s Rebbetzins, located throughout the US and Canada, are knowledgeable, caring, and open to discussing these topics with their singles. Many singles keep up the connection with their Rebbetzins even after marriage. The Rebbetzins can be reached at 1-877-REBBETZINS. To find out more info, go to

  2. To Mem: Please accept my apology for using words unfamiliar to you. I should know better, because my own husband is not religious and doesn’t understand Hebrew or any other language except English, and when he does come to a class, I get very uneasy if the rabbi doesn’t translate everything! I’ll keep this in mind in my future posts.

    Wishing you good Chizuk (spiritual strength, encouragement and fortification),


  3. Since Oorah has been doing such extensive fundraising and advertising in the last few years, we have come to learn a great deal about how they operate, and feel rather mournful that we weren’t able to use their services when we became frum, (later in life, already with a pre-teen.) Maybe the outcome would have been different…….

  4. How about “gevorener” (one who has “become”)? This Yiddish term is used for those who have taken a visible step up in their level of piety.

  5. I have often wondered if I should consider myself a BT. I came from a traditional, though not strictly Shomer shabbat. We ate kosher at home, went to the shul most every week. I had some problems going to shomer shabbat from my parents , but nothing compared to a person who comes from a wholly or mostly secular home.

  6. One can argue that what is called Chizuk Krovimn is simply the flip side of Kiruv Rchokim, namely intensifying or upgrading one’s level of Avodas HaShem based upon increased enhancements in one’s learning, Mitzvos Maasiyos, etc.

  7. I have gotten lazy, too, with jargon or yeshivish in my comments and posts. I apologize for that.

    Now, having said that… people who are looking into a subculture with multilingual and international aspects should not be surprised that it has a specialized language. Remember that the words in question are not usually just Hebrew or Yiddish versions of English. They are an expression of a cultural sensibility, and are not always amenable to direct translation. It’s not unreasonable to expect people seeking entry into a subculture to meet those who are already part of it something like halfway, and to learn some new lingo.

    But we should work harder on this end, too.

  8. Who do I choose to ask? It depends on who is available, who seems to be most knowledgable and who I feel most comfortable with.

    If your question is complex or confiential, then ask each Rabbi for a specific date and time to discuss your question. By making an appointment, you increase your privacy and speak with your Rabbi when he is ready to answer with you. Do not expect that every Rabbi is prepared to answer every question 365 days a year and 24 hours a day; thus the importance of making an appointment.

  9. Nathan,

    1. How do you choose to whom to direct your original and follow-up questions?

    2. How do you decide whom to follow when the respondents appear to disagree?

    3. Are you working to identify a Rav/approach/community to affiliate with so you’ll have a self-consistent direction or orientation within Orthodoxy that satisfies you?


    I assume that almost all Baalei Teshuvah belong in this category. This is my advice:

    When you have a question about Torah that is important to you, you must ask MORE THAN ONE RABBI, because no one Rabbi has the answer to every question.

    Do not feel ashamed to ask your question to 12 or more Rabbis, if your question is important to you and you really need an answer.

    I have actually done this many times, and it is one of the reasons that I possess much more Torah knowledge than the average Baal Teshuvah.

    Even after you find a Rabbi who gives you an answer to you question, you can increase your understanding by asking even more Rabbis, because a second and third Rabbi may supply details that the first Rabbi omitted. Also, hearing the answer from more than one Rabbi reinforces your understanding.

    You also may find a specific Rabbi who has a talent for helping you to understand the answers, better than the other Rabbis.

    If you own a computer, then type the answers that the Rabbis gave you into your computer, so you can look at the anwers later and not depend on your memory.

    Years ago, I met a young Jewish lady who came from a totally non-religious family, who never had any Jewish education. When I asked her why she converted to Christianity, she explained to me that her grandmother was not able to answer the arguements of a Christian missionary that she met, so she converted to his religion. Do not be like this foolish person; take your questions about Judaism to Orthodox Rabbis, not your grandmother; and MORE THAN ONE RABBI.

  11. I have no first-hand knowledge, but I would assume that this problem is endemic to organization-based kiruv where a person is exposed to Torah and mitzvos in a “student-centered” environment away from the real world.

    As opposed to community-based kiruv like a community kollel or kiruv synagogue where the person is introduced to a real Jewish community and Judaism simultaneously.

  12. A huge, huge, huge problem, it seems. Oorah claims to do just that – going along with their “returnees” all the way to the chupa (wedding). Does anyone have such experience to share about them?

  13. This is such a huge problem. I hear people talking and they are confused, yes confused about so many aspects of Judaism and they just don’t have where to go. I have a few friends who’ve dropped out completely, a few others who have dropped their observance down a notch or more and a few others who are well, struggling. It isnt enough to light someone’s fire. That flame needs to be stoked or else it will go out.

  14. My apologies on not making this site as user friendly as we should.

    Bli Neder (without actually making a halachic oath) we will try to translate unfamiliar words in parenthesis and we kindly request our commentors and writers to do the same.

  15. I sympathize with Mem’s comment.

    For many years, as a new Baal Teshuvah, I struggled with Rashei Teivot [Hebrew acronyms and abbreviations].

    Our Torah commands us:
    “DO NOT PLACE A STUMBLING BLOCK BEFORE THE BLIND” (Leviticus, chapter 19, verse 14).

    For Jews who are new to learning Torah, Rashei Teivot are a stumbling block. Rashei Teivot were intended to save space, but in many cases, the amount of space they save in not significant, but the confusion they cause is significant.

  16. Though a faithful reader of this website, I am destined to forever be a non-traditional Jew. Yet, I keep trying to get closer to my roots, and in that vein want to bring up an irritating issue that seems far from the spirit of Kiruv this article talks about.

    For several years, yes years, I find it almost impossible to read a fairly orthodox website such as this without constantly searching the web for definitions of words I’ve never heard of. For example, this article uses the word “chizuk,” which was completely unfamiliar to me. This happens week after week. Why not use the English words we all understand in the first place, or at least provide a comprehensive glossary that explains such “foreign” words and phrases?

    That would be KIRUV!

    I understand the comfort and gemutlicheit that emanates when one uses these almost communal terms, but, nevertheless, those who use these terms must recognize how “unfriendly” and difficult they are for those not orthodox.

    I know there are various glossaries already on line, but I have yet to fond one that is really comprehensive. If other readers can suggest an available book or website I would be most grateful.


  17. Bob, the problem is with number 1. Any BT who feels like that will certainly need number 2. Any BT who has gotten over the fear of not “fitting in” will not need number 2.

  18. It seems that many of us want to have our cake and eat it. That is, we want:

    1. To be recognized as 100% functioning, respectable members of an Orthodox community

    2. To be given special support and counseling services by that same community

    How can this work in practice?

  19. I want to see a list of communities that are most friendly to Baalei Teshuvah.

    To me it appears that Sephardic communities do not have a gap between FFBs and BTs like Ashkenazim do; it seems that as soon as a Sephardic Jew becomes Shomer Shabbat, he is immediately eligible for marriage to a religious Sephardic girl, even if he was off the derech for decades.

    It seems that he is not categorized as a Baal Teshuvah; he is simple a member of the Sephardic community, period.

  20. Bob Miller-IMO, especially in the US, we need more mutual trust and coordination as well as discussion between shuls, yeshivos and kiruv groups, regardless of hashkafic differences. For instance, we need more discussion and awareness of the issues that BTs face in shuls and yeshivos as well as a willingness by kiruv groups to allow BTs to mainstream themselves into shuls that would certainly be welcome to BTs.

  21. Steve,

    Your plan is sound in principle, but it relies to a great extent on getting competitors to work together for the common good. I hope we’re up to that.

  22. What about when you’re not yet frum but becoming more observant? There’s noone there to give us any guidance or support or even ask how it’s going – even that would be so apprieciated.

  23. There is no question that certain communities,within both the Charedi and MO orbits, are more friendly to BTs, Gerim and singles than others. I think that the shuls,yeshivos and kiruv groups should be working together to pool their collective expertise in helping BTs, Gerim and singles find their niche in what can be a cold FFB world.

  24. It’s not so much that a community should dedicate a support system to BT’s. It’s more that the community in general should be a welcoming, supportive place that cares about its members, old and new, as a Jewish community should. Those communities that are not this way can present difficulties even to FFB’s there.

  25. I think some communities may be more BT “friendly” than others. In some large communities a BT can be lost in the shuffle. Maintaining a connection with a “mentor” is crucial. Azrielle Jaffe had an article in the mishpacha mag about this a while ago, right?

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