What are the Challenges that FFB Children of BTs Face

Dear Beyond BT

I’m an FFB born to BT parents and although I love and I am inspired by my parents, there are challenges to FFBs born to BTs.

Do the people here understand the challenges that their FFB children face?

Can you articulate some of those challenges?

Can you think of ways to help mitigate some of those challenges?


27 comments on “What are the Challenges that FFB Children of BTs Face

  1. So don’t identify with anything Chareidish. Be Litvish, RWMO (Right Wing Modern Orthodox), Black Hat But Watches Movies, Works Fulltime But Is Koveya Ittim Regular Learning Shiurim, Centrist Orthodox, American Religious Zionist, FBNC (Frum But Not Crazy), YU-type, Young Israel-type, Yeshivish, or any other kind of hypenation or “ish” or “ism” you feel best describes your own unique place in the broad Orthodox Jewish spectrum. I’m not making fun of you at all, I find it heartening that a fellow Midwoodite would have gotten past the lure of secular Judaism and found the real thing, so to speak. Yaasher kochachem.

  2. Just as you- I attended Midwood High School (1969)Just as you I became- a BT and now have sons reaching Shiddach age. I found out when my daughters were single that the status of being a child of a BT was a liability with shidduchim.I found it no coincidence that both girls married FFB boys from divorced parents. My wife is FFB- her Midwood family made no effort on the girl’ behalf to make introductions. We live in a quiet mostly MO neighborhood in another boro. At this time I find it very hard to identify with anything Chareidish.

  3. When my seventh and last child, who is now a boy of twenty, is ready to do shidduchim, I’m going to ask only two questions. Number One, what medications is she taking? Number Two, OK what problem does she have that she’s willing to “settle” for a not-rich not-yichus boy?

  4. I would agree with Belle #23, having married off four daughters and two sons. I knew in advance that we would have to “settle” for someone “with a problem.” I used to joke that I hoped it would be something small and insignificant like a missing left toe, in other words some blemish or “pgam” that wouldn’t really affect what kind of spouse and parent that person would eventually be. Unfortunately, some of my children-in-law, whom I try my best to be respectful and polite to always, have problems that are not insignificant and not small. I frankly think the problem is worse for daughters than for sons, as boys who are good learners can overcome “sons-of-BT” stigma due to the large numbers of frum girls looking for good learners.

  5. I have heard stories which illustrate one of the biggest challenges for BT parents doing shidduchim for their FFB children: that since this is new territory for the parents, they might be easily misled, or they might not know what questions to ask, or they might not know how to “interpret” the answers. A big “red flag” that I will tell everyone to beware of is when a FFB family with very fine yichus and/or money and/or prominence in town asks to be meshadech (do a match) with a BT family. I am not saying it wouldn’t ever work out well; however it is possible they are choosing the BT family because they know they are naive, and are trying to “hide” something perhaps undesirable about their child, hoping the BT parents will be so flattered they won’t pick up on the problem. Call me a cynic but I have heard it happening more than once and it is very tragic if the scenario I described plays out.

    I have also heard of many very fine shidduchim between FFB families and BT families. But usually the prominence and/or wealth of the two families is relatively equivalent.

  6. I think that BTs, regardless of their degree of integration into the FFB world, to a certain extent, pass onto their children the Mesorah of what led them to choose a life of Torah and Mitzvos. Why consider that a challenge, as opposed to an undisputable fact that BTs can enrich the FFB world and their children with their perspectives, especially given the contributions of notable BTs throughout Jewish history.

  7. To Always a BT’s Daughter #20: The mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationship is never easy, but as long as there is mutual respect it will work. Perhaps you could ask a Rav whom you are comfortable with for some Eitzos. For example, depending on your Rav’s shita, your Rav might permit you to bring precooked Glatt Kosher food, double-wrapped like the airline meals, and warm it up in your in-laws’ oven. Plus you could bring over disposable plastic tablecloths, serving pieces, flatware and plates. Your in-laws could supply national brand soda, certified juices, bottled waters, fresh uncut veggies for a salad (which you could cut up with new just-toiveled knives). In other words, your mother-in-law might warm up a little if she sees you making an effort to eat in their house while not compromising an iota on the Kashrut issue. Good luck, best wishes for Hatzlacha and Bracha in everything you do, happiness until 120.

  8. I happened upon this posting again. I am now married to the BT I was dating back in December. Last week we hosted my parents and in-laws for brunch and my mother remarked how it was so nice to be able to go to a relative’s home and not be worried about the food being kosher. Everyone had a great time. I don’t mind being the host, and my in-laws know we will not eat in their home. My father-in-law is fine with it, but my mother-in-law gives us a hard time about it constantly. As my mother said, there will be challenges, some of which I am aware and others I am not, but I feel well prepared to deal with them and have the full support of my husband.

  9. To Judy Resnick (#17)
    You are absolutely correct that the “youngest child of this particular family may have a very different perspective from the oldest”. There are 16 1/2 years between my oldest and youngest. Our 2 older girls (25 & 21 yrs) say they were raised by “different parents” than their younger sisters (13 & 8 yrs). Aside from the fact that we are now much more relaxed (& tired!) parents, we were definitely holding in a different place spiritually as young parents than we are now. Although we may be a little more “frum” we are not as uptight and spend more time enjoying our kids and less time pushing them to achieve.

    So much in the world has changed that the frum world has shifted “to the right” as a response to the declining morality of society. When our older children were in elementary school, the Internet, cell phones, Ipods, reality television, etc. were virtually non-existent. It was much more acceptable in the frum world to listen to the radio, watch TV & movies aimed at kids and even read the newspaper. Now, we limit our younger children’s exposure to various types of media because almost all secular media has inappropriate content of some sort.

    We have also seen a big shift in parenting styles. Children are now the central focus of the family. The lack of middos tovos that results is disturbing. Our older children are shocked at the selfishness, cruelty, competition and lack of camaraderie among kids in (Yeshiva) classrooms & carpools. It’s very different from their days of sharing after school snacks and quizzing each other on spelling words & parsha questions. Parents are so intent on raising their kids to be more & more “frum” that it has become a competition at the expense of basic derech eretz.

    Not only have we changed, the challenges we face as parents today are very different from 20 years ago.

  10. Regarding shidduchim for FFB children of BT’s, I have a very cute story to relate. My oldest son, an FFB child of a BT, happens to be B”H a very good learner. I used to have nightmares that he would be unable to get a shidduch because of my public school background; that the potential girls’ parents would all reject us. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. My son met and married a lovely young FFB lady with yichus. Her maternal grandfather was the founder of a well-known girls’ school. Her mother is still involved with that particular girls’ school. Well, at the vort, I as the mother of the chosson was mingling with many women, friends of the girl’s mother. One of the women asked me, “Did you go to XYZ School for Girls?” I said, “No.” She then asked, “Which high school did you go to?” I took a deep breath and truthfully replied, “Midwood High School,” (a co-ed public school). The woman said nothing but fled from me like I was contagious. When I told my husband later, he smiled and commented, “It’s lucky you didn’t say you went to Saint Agnes.” Incidentally, six of my seven children are now married. There are so many children of BT’s and Geirim out there, as well as children of divorced families, that there are plenty of shidduchim with wonderful people just waiting to be redd!

  11. It was wonderful to read the post from Always a BT’s daughter. Her insightful candor about being the child of BT’s still in the growing stage was extremely informative. I’ve heard that birth order is very influential in personality development, and the youngest child of this particular family may have a very different perspective from the oldest.

    As far as shidduchim goes, I think that other factors may be far more important; my biggest question for a potential shidduch for a child would be, “Tell me what medication(s) he or she is taking.” Even that would not be an automatic negative (I have children-in-law with medical problems), but I think it’s important to know if there are any medical issues, physical or mental, with the proposed shidduch. A healthy, attractive FFB child of a BT will have a very large pool of potential marriage mates.

  12. Looks like we’re in a binary world (only left and right in each category). Unless this is somehow the way it really is, we’d be better off learning about the fine gradations than about these caricatures.

  13. Dear Mark Frankel,
    I am a regular reader but not a contributor. However, now that you brought it up, could you describe in a line or two the differences between the following:
    “But on the commonly recognized scale of:
    Left Wing Modern Orthodox (LWMO)
    Right Wing Modern Orthodox (RWMO)
    Left Wing Ultra Orthodox (LWUO)
    Right Wing Ultra Orthodox (RWUO)
    I would characterize the majority of posts on Beyond BT as mostly in the Right Wing Modern Orthodox or Left Wing Ultra Orthodox categories.
    I would appreciate any other opinions or comments about the differences or similarities.
    Thank you,

  14. Always a BT’S Daughter gives great insight AND saves me from having to ask my daughters, though we’ve had the discussion and I will try to ask them for some of their viewpoints.

  15. Always a BT and daughter,

    Welcome and thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences here with us.

  16. For me, the FFB daughter of BT parents (see response 11, she’s my mother), the biggest challenge was my parents (and their parents, siblings) not being the same as my friends. My mother didn’t go to Bais Yaakov; my father didn’t learn in yeshiva. I was embarassed that my father took so much longer than my friends’ to say kiddush because he had difficulty pronouncing the words. Other times I felt different because my parents didn’t have frum siblings. We didn’t participate in family simchas or get together for shabbos and yom tov unless it was in our house.

    Looking back, the embarassment and discomfort seem juvenile and immature. I am lucky that I have had so many opportunities to share my Torah knowledge with my parents and extended relatives. My going to yeshiva day school pushed my parents to become more strict in certain aspects of halacha, and I am lucky to have been a part of that process. I am closer with some of my non-frum relatives than I am with my frum ones (mostly because of geography).

    As the oldest child, I am the only one of the children who remembers my parents in the earlier years of their growth. Because of this, I can best appreciate how much they have grown. And as my mother said, I don’t know what all the challenges with be, but my experiences put me in the best position possible to deal with them as they come.

  17. The lack of frum extended family is a very difficult issue. After 30 years of being frum I find it the biggest continuing challenge for me (& I was raised traditional!).

    My husband & I had no real guidance. We became BTs in college, moved away & married shortly after. When we got married, my husband compared our situation to Avraham Avinu in pashas Lech Lecha who had to leave his family and establish his own. As newlyweds we lived in an established but insular community comprised primarily of several generations of a few core families. Some families did “adopt” us, but it’s not the same as having your own family to share holidays etc. I was still the one who had to make every Yom Tov and invite the non-religious relatives. Even though I did this with a full heart, it was incredibly difficult (& still is) because the Yom Tov does not hold the same meaning & significance to them.

    After 2 years of marriage we moved to a much larger & diverse community, primarily to be closer to family. Ironically, many of our FFB friends here have no local family. For them & us our friends have essentially become our family as far as everyday life, regular Shabbosim & even holidays.

    My husband & I have grown much over the years, but we don’t really fit into any one category. In a way, we’ve made our own category and are proud of the fact that our friends span the spectrum & that we can relate to many different types of people. We do have a Rav we consult on major sheilahs, but he lives in a different city. For everyday guidance, we’ve essentially been on our own. I’m comfortable with the path we’ve chosen but there have been many struggles along the way.

    That being said, everyone here has raised important points, but for me, M.Cohen (#10) hit the nail on the head. As our children have now entered the world of shidduchim, the BT issue has raised its ugly head. Although we have integrated into the “new country of orthodoxy”, questions like “where did your father learn”, etc. immediately set us apart. We don’t have the background and although my husband learns & goes to minyan every day, he just does not have the skills (& neither do I) of someone with a Yeshiva education. There are those who are better at assimilating and are ashamed of their BT status. We don’t pretend to be FFB and acknowledge our “past life”. We have nothing to be ashamed of and lead a clean life, just not a frum one.

    We talk about our upbringing with our kids, because we want them to know how lucky they are to have the benefit of a Yeshiva education and being raised with a Torah lifestyle. I’m sure there are times our kids are embarrassed by non frum relatives, our lack of knowledge & frustrated that we could not help with Limudei Kodesh homework past a certain grade. I know it has been painful for them not to have family simchas to go to or extended family “on the same page”. And, although we may not know the names of all the Parshios in order, we still have a depth and breadth of everyday halacha you can only have from life experience.

    We had some concerns when our daughter started dating a BT, but I see now that the only BY girl who could appreciate his journey and growth is an open minded one such as herself. We still don’t think she fully realizes the challenges involved, but she will have to deal with each as it arises. Her past experiences with our own non-frum family will be an asset.

    I am looking forward to the time when all my children are married and their children will have frum grandparents in their lives.

  18. Great question.

    Among other things, the answer will vary very very much depending on how well your parents integrated.

    Especially, did they have in depth guidance (a rebbi) during the years of raising you?

    Did they (the father) have an opportunity for some serious fulltime learning (1yr +) ?

    These two factors (among others) will have greatly affected your parents ‘immigation to their new country of orthodoxy’ and their issues in raising children while being ‘greeners’ themselves.

  19. Neil has an interesting point. Who knows better what these FFB children face than they themselves? However, how likely are they to find this blog to be a priority read?

  20. Every person has flaws and faults, as is taught by Shlomoh HaMelech [King Solomon] in Kohelet [Ecclesiastes], chapter 7, verse 20: “There is no man in the world who always does good and never sins.”

    But when you really love a person, you look away from his or her faults, as is taught by Shlomoh HaMelech in Mishlei [Proverbs], chapter 10, verse 12: “…but love conceals even the worst faults.”

    If FFBs had more Ahavat Yisrael [love of their fellow Jews] then they would place less emphasis on the inferiority of BTs and their children, and place more emphasis on what they could do to help BTs and their children.

  21. Firstly, this is a great topic, Tzippy. Thanks.

    I sort of echo David’s view regarding yiddishemama’s comment about lack of extended family.

    As a BT raising FFB kids I’m constantly trying to improve my parenting skills. Hopefully more people who were raised by BT parents will comment on this post.

    I’ve been able over the past number of years to speak with a few products of such familes and common ground comment I usually get is “don’t raise your kids to be super-frum at everyone else’s expense”. These, now adults, children have stressed the importance of their parents letting them be who they are, not attempting to make them fit into any community based mold.

  22. I agree with yiddishemama that the lack of an extended frum family is the hardest for my kids.
    My son feels akward that a majority of kids in his class go to one set of grandparents for Shabbos Chanukah. My kids never go to family for yontif, never go to relative’s bar mitzvah.
    It is also stressful for my wife since she never gets a break from making yontif, and this stress even if not mentioned, is felt by the children or can come to think of yontif as a negative experience.

  23. Tesyaa, thanks for your comments and thanks for participating here.

    I’m a little confused of your usage of the terms “committed but modern” and “chareidi”.

    But on the commonly recognized scale of:
    Left Wing Modern Orthodox (LWMO)
    Right Wing Modern Orthodox (RWMO)
    Left Wing Ultra Orthodox (LWUO)
    Right Wing Ultra Orthodox (RWUO)
    I would characterize the majority of posts on Beyond BT as mostly in the Right Wing Modern Orthodox or Left Wing Ultra Orthodox categories.

    We would love posts in the other categories and if you have something in mind please send it in and/or become a contributor.

  24. Children of BTs living in RW or chareidi areas may have difficulty fitting in if the community does not fully accept their parents. For families living in more modern areas, the acceptance issue is minimal, or nonexistent. And the modern FFBs living in those areas have probably experienced much of what the BT parents have experienced, such as movies, TV, and relatives with different religious standards. So this post is again an example of how this site is more geared to chareidi BTs, not committed but modern BTs.

    Why would BTs choose a community that will never fully accept them or their kids??

  25. Speaking from a BT parents perspective, I think the hardest thing for our kids is the obvious lack of a mesora, of frum cousins, grandparents etc. I think it makes a kid feel rootless. It can also open the FFB kid to a possibility of rebellion, after all his parents rebelled.
    There are delicate issues of kibbud av v’em.

    My older kids (some are just out of their teenage years, other babies) tell me that kids of BT’s have a different upbringing & no matter how frum their parents are there are gaps in their chinuch. They also have a lot of advantages but being kids & trying hard to fit in they choose not to see this.

    For boys there’s an additional problem if their father does not know how to learn – this can be a major issue.
    I have observed major differences in the way BT’s parent their kids & their level of coping.
    Someone who grew up in a large frum family has no problem running a large household & appointing kids tasks. It’s second nature them & their children are more equipped for future challenges.

    I believe our biggest challenge is to create normal frum yidden not a second generation of BT’s and certainly not someone who’s culturally frum but has totally secular hashkafos. A tall ask…

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