Blast from the past. Originally posted 12/29/2005.
Rabbi Yitz Greenman
Aish HaTorah / Discovery
Being involved in the filming of Inspired was truly a zechus for which I’m grateful to Hashem and a most enjoyable process from beginning to end. That being said, there were some sad moments and I would like to share them in the hopes that someone may benefit.
Several people, when asked to share their story, told me that they did not want others to know that they are BT’s. Okay, I may not choose that path myself, but I respect their choice. One old friend, who has led a particularly interesting life that many could have learned from in the film told me that his kids might find out. “Kids might find out?” I asked. “You’re kids don’t know that you’re a BT?” No, he told me. “Well, do you hide your parents and siblings?” No, he said, they’ve all become BT’s themselves. “Fantastic, but why hide who you are from your kids?” He shared that he doesn’t want them to feel “different” or “disadvantaged” in school. Okay, this is his choice and I respect him.
Here’s the rub however. I have met several people at various screenings who bemoaned [in private] the fact that they hid their identity as BT’s, because they felt that they had to in order to integrate into the frum velt. One woman came to me almost in tears after the film. What upset her I asked. She commented that the people in Inspired became frum and entered the Torah community in such a normal way, but she felt that she had to hide everything about who she was and the fact that she was raised secular. A couple came up to me at another screening and shared that they lived in their community for 25 years but no one knew that they were BT’s. It was as if they needed to share with someone: “Hey, we’re different, we’re special, please acknowledge us” but were afraid to let it out of the bag. This situation played itself out quite a few times.
Whereas I am a firm believer in healthy integration into the frum velt and whereas I understand and respect the decision of some BT’s for not wanting to share the fact that they are BT’s, I believe that people should be aware that this often times comes at a cost. The cost may be their own self image and damaged identity.
These people that I met appeared broken in some real way. Being born into a non frum family is not a sin and nothing to be ashamed of. Secular Jews are tinokes she’nishbau [kidnapped children] in a foreign culture. Our goal must be to reach them, educate them and integrate them into the Torah world, but not by telling them that their prior accomplishments were valueless and that their life had no meaning.
(For information on the film Inspired, visit http://www.kiruv.com)