Mishpacha Magazine – BT Symposium Questions

From Mishpacha Magazine BT Symposium – September 13, 2012
We posted Jonathon’s Rosenblum’s response here.
Over the next weeks, with the generous permission of the Mishpacha editors, we will post many of the other repsonses.
Here are the questions that were posed to the participants.

In the last 50 years, tens of thousands of Jews from every walk of life have reclaimed their religious heritage and made their way to a Torah way of life. Their presence in frum communities around the globe has added immeasurably to the success and vitality of observant Jewish communities in too many ways to count. Yet all is not necessarily idyllic in the lives of these baalei teshuvah themselves. They often face a host of unexpected challenges in their newly chosen lives: grappling with the “ghosts” of their past, achieving full acceptance in the frum communities they now call home, uncertainty about the practical aspects of frum living and ongoing religious doubts, and alien¬ation due to lack of an indigenous support network. How can these difficult issues be resolved, and how can the frum community help?

SHOULD FULL INTEGRATION be the universally desirable goal for a baal teshuvah, or is there something to be said for such individuals and families seeking to form or join self-standing communities and institutions?

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES to the baal teshuvah — both internal and external — along the road to full integration? When full integration fails, is that primarily due to the individual, the community, or some combination thereof?

HOW MUCH, if any, of a baal teshuvah’s past life — e.g., relationships, cultural interests, pastimes — should he retain after becoming frum?

WHICH SEGMENT of the frum community presents the best chance for the baal teshuvah to integrate and take his place as a full member? Do the frum communities in the United States or in Eretz Yisrael present different issues regarding integration?

HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND to a baal teshuvah who speaks of “buyer’s remorse” some years after his return to Torah, due to the sheer difficulty and expense of the frum lifestyle? Due to disenchantment with the frum world? Due to loss of faith or still-unanswered questions?

WHAT ARE THE PARTICULAR challenges the baal teshuvah faces in marriage, in raising a family, and in dealing with the lack of a support system?

ARE KIRUV PROFESSIONALS and their funders focusing on the initial stages of the process and less on the later stages, leaving the newly frum without sufficient resources after they’ve made the leap?

WHAT ARE FRUM communities doing wrong — and right — in relation to their newly observant members?

Edited by: Eytan Kobre

3 comments on “Mishpacha Magazine – BT Symposium Questions

  1. BTs and the “world they came from” make for good sales of magazines, just like articles about OTD kids, and interesting stories about gerim.

    To address the last question: WHAT ARE FRUM communities doing wrong — and right — in relation to their newly observant members?

    I know that in Chicago, I recently saw an ad for classes to help adults with understanding and helping with lemudei Kodesh homework and foundations of our belief.

    The issue, as we’ve productively discussed over the years on this site is that most BTs will admit that it’s hard to truly “fit in”, but most of us don’t want to be made to feel like a chessed project.

    Also, as I think about it, different BT are more successful in some areas than others. For example, even after all these years my textual skill are not where I’d like them to be, but I am communally involved and integrated.

  2. I think that the questions,while well meant, to paraphrase a legal concept, are overly vague amd require serious reworking. The notion that BTs “suffer” because they don’t fit into the cookie cutter of the FFB world is IMO highly problematic because such a concept assumes a “my way or the highway” view of “success”, which more than some BTs might find would not at all agree with their own view of integration into community. Such questions seem to assume that there is only way of “sucessful” integration. Such a concept IMO cannot be reconciled with the fact that we invoke all of the various Neviim at the end of Slichos because there is no one way of Teshuvah that fits everyone and anyone. Perhaps, we should just let BTs view success from their POV than from the perspective of the so-called “experts”, and the “kiruv industry”.

  3. I had actually send a letter to the editors after I read that issue of Mishpacha. While I felt that these questions are important (and mentioned in my letter that they are frequently addressed on this site), my reading of the issue left me seeing a bigger line drawn in the sand of the separate beach between the FFB community and BT community.

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