Are BTs Treated as Second Class Citizens?

A few weeks ago an article about BTs came to our attention. For a number of reasons we decided not to run it, but some of our favorite BT advocates such as Rabbi Adlerstein, Rabbi Maryles and Rabbi Horowitz decided to run with the article.

Instead of us discussing what we didn’t like about the article, despite the good intentions of the author, we decided to ask our audience about the article’s main premise:

In your experience, are BTs generally treated as second class citizens in the communities you’ve lived in?

First Published on July 22, 2008

141 comments on “Are BTs Treated as Second Class Citizens?

  1. Definitely treated 2nd class at times. It’s not as if they don’t let you in their shuls or classes. But one gets looked at as if 2nd class on a regular basis. And it hurts. And when it comes to shiduchim the treatment is worse then 2nd class. The same happens to the children of BTs, sadly, in many cases.

    But I look at them as if they are 2nd class, so we’re even.

  2. I think most BT’s realize that FFB’s have their own issues, mental baggage and pekelach and don’t owe us any special obligations.If we can find ways to relate to each other as good neighbors, fellow mispalelim and friends, then great!

  3. 1 year BT, great attitude and hashkafa. You should continue to go and grow from strength to strength!

  4. I have experienced the phenomenon in a very interesting way recently.

    Im a growing BT of less then a year, Im not yet fully shomer Shabbos, but Im almost there. I have a friend, with whom I have been friends with for 13 years, who also is a BT. He is has now been fully shomer Shabbos for almost 1 whole year. This last Shabbos, while we where in Shul on Saturday morning. he told me that Im a fake, and phony spiritually because I wasn’t fully frum at this point in all mitzvot and wasn’t completely shomer Shabbos. And quoted for me “who ever violates Shabbos has no place in the world to come”

    Some BTs can do the whole transition into frum in one year and some may require more time. Honestly, when I heard this come from him, I got very upset and it really got to me. But this morning I realized that H” was telling me this via my friend and Im glad he did it. I needed a Mussar kick at this stage in my growth and I got one in its proper time. But if a person with weak Emunah or one who is too fresh in the system got those words, in that kind of situation, it might be the end of the rood for their interest in furthering their journey to Saini.

    but really, every time such Mussar is given, it must be H” extending a little constructive Gevurah on us BT’s, because maybe we need it to further us along in the process. Abraham was similar to a BT in the sense that he grew in his understanding and for each growth he was tested first to see if he will continue forward in his development and ability to connect with H”.

    So, to BT or not to BT, that is the question and the answer is, BE a BT, Grow, Accept Holy Pain if it comes and use it to elevate yourself. even if its only an inch at a time, or a mile jump each day, Never Stop Growing, and that goes out to all Jews, FFB’s BTs and those that don’t know yet that they are BT’s. we should elevate eachother and allow yourself to be elevated too, even by a youthful BT

  5. Anyone who lives in KGH, Passaic, and Baltimore knows that BTs are communal leaders and are recognized as such.

  6. Steve –can you provide the date of the issue of mishpacha and the title of the article for those of us interested in tracking it down? thanks

  7. Mishpacha has two editions-one of which is entitled a “Family Edition”, which is geared for women with recipes, child rearing tips and articles that appeal to women in their hashkafic content. This last week’s issue included a BT’s article about she evolved from a Hebrew U student to a Charedi housewife. When we read the same, we all felt that the author described herself as a robot, as opposed to a BT who had integrated herself into the Charedi world.

  8. I have to disagree with majority of the above.
    I became frim in Russia over 20 years ago, and when i came to US, i had never learned in any BT yeshiva-I started with modern orthodox and finished up in a regular Hasidisher Yeshiva in Yerushalaim.I had finished Shas, speak fluent Yiddish, dress Hasisish and if you do not know me, you will never figure out that i am a BT.

    BUT-putting kids mosdos is like going through hell, and here and there you get bad remarks.

    In Hasidisher circles the BT are looked down at.


    If any baal tshuva thinks different-och un vey on him and good luck suffering :)!!!!

  9. While this is a fairly “old” posting, it recently caught my eye. I printed this article, with all the comments, and several other articles mentioned herein with comments as well. It took a few days to get through all of that material.

    The two comments here that troubled me the most were both posted by “D.” In one report, upon which I will not comment further, she describes being verbally attacked by her hostess in Brooklyn. “D” also reported that when her father passed away, the wife of her rabbi made a cruel, petty comment. The comment was bad, but what is worse is that the rabbi’s wife apparently didn’t even know that a congregant’s father had passed away! Views on baalei teshuvah temporarily not withstanding, isn’t it the job of the rabbi and his wife to reach out proactively to the congregants when there is a loss in the family? The synagogue may have some good qualities, but a rabbi’s wife who is a bigot and incompetent could tip the scales against continued membership in that synagogue.

    My renewed interest in Judaism began close to 20 years ago, and I drew on a strong Conservative background to partipate in prayers, Pesach seders, etc., with some degree of competence. I’ve had my ups and downs in observance since I began this journey.

    I don’t feel that I am presently treated as second-class by my friends and (most)acquaintances who have been observant all of their lives. In the past I have been in contact with people who didn’t treat me well, and I did make some bad choices based upon their sometimes well-meaning advice, but other times inappropriate meddling.

    Nevetheless, I not infrequently feel patronized and perhaps even treated condescendingly. I feel that I am viewed as belong to one or more of the following groups at times: bumbling baal teshuvah, lonely divorced guy, or overwhelmed single parent.

    For the record: I can host (and help to prepare) a Shabbat dinner, Pesach seder, or other functions.

    I don’t want to always be the guest; I want to be the “king of the castle” once in a while, or sometimes, just spend a quiet evening with my kids, or alone, have a low key dinner, learn and read a bit and then go to sleep.

    My kids, especially when younger, were capable of being a handful in my home or someone else’s; nothing came up in either setting that for which I absolutely had to have “help” to enjoy a Shabbat dinner.

    Finally, at times I feel the way my teenage kids must feel when someone says “I haven’t seen you since you were this big!” It may be true, but they don’t want to hear that! Please treat them as the young adults that they are.

    In a similar vein, please treat me as the by now somewhat experienced Torah observant Jew that I am. If I tell you that I am making a seder or building a sukkah, please tone down the kol hakavod’s and yasher koach’s! If you see me with a sefer, please don’t clap me on the back like a fifth grader with his or her first Mishnayot! I appreciate your congratulations, and your help or suggestions about learning or ritual, but please, offer it to me the same way that you would offer congratulations to a lifelong friend or services to an adult client in your business.

    I am truly fortunate to be among a group of people that I regard as family. We share each other’s ups, downs, and neutrals. I don’t claim that they and I are perfect with our words and actions towards baalei teshuvah or anyone else, but we are certainly in our lives together, day in and day out.

    It’s hard to be a minority among a minority among a minority, even more so when discriminated against as many of us legitimately can claim. Nevertheless, the long term rewards available to us, and the significant contribution that we can make to the Jewish people and the world make it worth a very substantial effort.

  10. The only shidduch I as an Ashkenazi “older” BT was offered was a Sephardi man who had suffered a series of mental breakdowns or the second option – a seriously physically handicapped man who was “prepared to take a BT” since he couldnt find one of his own to marry. Chaval.

  11. D


  12. Answeres to Jaded Topaz’ “few quick questions regarding the Boro Park Moronic Woman,”

    1)So the woman grew up satmar then became litvish and was living in Boro Park at the time you became acquainted with her.

    ANSWER: Yes.

    2)How did you become friends with her and why?

    ANSWER: A bunch of friends I had made in seminary invited me to join them for Shabbos at this woman’s home – I think they asked if they could bring a friend along. Sadly, it was my first Shabbos back in America after my year at Neve. But I didn’t give up on my commitment to being frum, just on ever returning to this woman’s house.

    3)How did you end up wishing for a boro park borsalino boy for a husband ?

    ANSWER: I *didn’t* end up wishing for a Boro PArk borsalino boy for a shidduch. The woman herself liked me very much when she didn’t know I was BT, and dropped not-so-subtle hints about her eligible son.

    As I don’t believe in discriminating based on externalities, FFB/BT/ger was a nonissue when I was looking for a shidduch.

    If you want to know what I *was* looking for in a shidduch, here was the entire list I gave the shadchan:
    (1) He should be yorei shomayim, and his yiras shomayim should come from himself. Regardless of whether he is FFB, BT, or a ger, his frumkeit has to be his own, and has to come from himself.
    (2) He should be nice to me/treat me well.
    (3) He should be a mensch to everyone.

    That was it. I didn’t care what hat he wore. In fact, when the shadchan came back to me with a boy who didn’t speak English, I only hesitated for a moment before deciding: speaking English was not on my list of what’s most important in a husband. So I agreed to meet him, and we are married 8.5 years bli ayin hara, and very, very happy. (He learned English, I never learned Yiddish – *sigh*.)

    4)Did the woman grow up satmar, what denomination did she affiliate herself with on the birthing table?

    ANSWER: I remember her telling how she grew up Satmar and married a litvishe man, and now she is litvish. I guess it was irrelevant to the story. I think I brought it up as the whole incident was very traumatic, so all the details flood my mind together when I think about it, both the relevant and the irrelevant. It’s not every day someone who had been so nice suddenly turns and attacks you. For that matter, it’s not every day you get attacked at all, B”H.

    5)Where did she grow up satmar?

    ANSWER: I believe she mentioned growing up in Brooklyn.

    6)Why did she become litvish .

    ANSWER: I don’t know, I never asked.

    7)Please list all the medications she was on at the time you knew her.”

    ANSWER: I know some people do it, but I for one do not look into other people’s medicine cabinets when in their homes.

  13. Why defend the POV of those who look down on BT’s? In order to SQUASH those brazen whipper-snappers once and for all! WHO are they, anyway, to even imagine they should have equal rights, those Bnei Nidda and Trojan Horses for the secular culture! Rather they should thank their lucky stars every day that we are such a compassionate people to even let them learn in our Yeshivos and visit our Shabbos tables. Their only goal should be to lower their heads and plead to their Maker who has been so awfully betrayed by their forebearers that after two or maybe three generations of grovelling, one of their descendants might merit to marry one of ours, who have never betryed our loyalty to the Melech.

    You ungrateful scabs!

    Now, is it out of our system?

    Ashrei Ha’Am sh’khakha lo, ashrei HaAm sh’HaSh-m Elokav.

  14. Bob Miller, why not come to New York there is so much to do and see before the summer is over. And you’ll get to see the waterfalls displays among other fun things and happenings.

    Ron, on the contrary, I was hardly suggesting I’m anything other than Miss Manners’ nightmare/ uncultured/ unequipped/ untrained/ uneducated/ unrefined/ non eloquent /snarky/ sardonic /caustic/ sarcastic /abrasive and rough around the edges. You know like the fading ffb’s in the myth books. Hope that clears up any misconceptions you might be harboring.

    Steve Mantz, ure right. Also,in life its all about courage/ convictions/ arguing convincing and standing up loudly for anything you don’t understand or that doesn’t make sense.

    Steve Brizel, no one is suggesting that frum folk are the flawless fully faceted brilliant diamonds of society marrying the rough brilliant diamonds like it’s goin out of style. (Rough diamonds are actually in style now just a diamond fun fact for thought)

    What is not clear though is just who exactly these mean, mental, myopically tainted, individuals are. The ones going around being all mean unfair and holier than thou to everyone.
    It’s hardly fair to pretend they are all FFB without first verifying they actually are FFB.
    In addition it might make sense to understand that looking at orthodox life from a distance you might notice it’s hardly bal teshuvahs that are the only ones targeted in the lean and mean campaign for machmir living.
    So basically;
    a) Why pretend/insist/believe that BT’s are the exclusive target audience for the lean and mean machmir marketing campaign?
    b) Are all the mean people in the stories actually FFB?

    Reading your comments I just wanted to say, I’m sorry you had to go through the kind of stuff you described.
    Not that this would be any consolation to you, but I also have a laundry list that is the list that keeps on growing over the years ,of frum individuals that were really mean to me, spanning all sides of the religious spectrum and different communities and towns.
    Every once in a while I’m inspired to drag one or two of them to a Beth Din (one in particular was such a frum mean religious sneaky sleazy rat and brat)just to have my day in court but then I remember that “do not take revenge “ commandment and sort of decide that there must be some logic to that commandment ……….

    A few quick questions regarding the Boro Park Moronic Woman,
    1)So the woman grew up satmar then became litvish and was living in Boro Park at the time you became acquainted with her.
    2)How did you become friends with her and why?
    3)How did you end up wishing for a boro park borsalino boy for a husband ?
    4)Did the woman grow up satmar, what denomination did she affiliate herself with on the birthing table?
    5)Where did she grow up satmar?
    6)Why did she become litvish .
    7)Please list all the medications she was on at the time you knew her.

  15. I would like to reroute this discussion back to the topic. The letters cited in the article were printed in Mishpacha. R Hillel Gross’s famous speech at an NJOP dinner is available at the NJOP website for a reason.Why should we doubt that this POV exists and why should anyone try to defend this POV, which may very well violate many Mitzvos on a Torah level?

  16. Seems like a good idea, Bob.

    Speaking of which — Jaded, it’s not as if you haven’t pushed the line of unseemliness here yourself, you know! Just Saying.

    Steve — you the Mantz!

  17. One problem with blogs is “seem”. So much is transacted behind a mask. This points to the usefulness of Beyond BT’s occasional group events. Maybe one can be held someday here in the Midwest.

  18. Well, at least that’s a pretty direct reply. Ok, ok, you get a pass. I like people who seem to have some directness. at least you seem to have courage of your convictions. thanks. :-)

  19. Steve Mantz,

    Like you, I’m just excercising my G-d given free speech rights and commenting on comments. I actually love when everyone talks right past each other, niggling at and negating each other’s suggestions in the process, so I found your comment somewhat wanting.
    Isn’t commenting on comments something that you have just asserted is within the reasonable bounds of the acceptable commenting policy. The “self policed” kind of comments.

    “Appropriateness” “considerateness” other than being fun words to bandy about; I have no idea what these words are referring to in this context. You must have mistaken me for someone with grace, elegance and manners!
    Finishing school was not part of my education. I got an F in Feelings 404 & a C in Consideration and Considerateness.
    I got an A++ in Group Hugs though.

  20. Jaded,

    it really is not appropriate for you to be making comments about my approach in this manner. I have the right to comment on others’ cposts, and will continue to do. thanks for your comments and points. however, i consieder myself to be within the bounds of acceptable comments within all my posts.

    Again, I do not feel it is beneficial for you to continually refer to my posts in this way. I’d appreciate a bit more considerateness. thanks.

  21. CL,

    The question in this thread is whether we feel we have been discriminated against as BT’s. The answer I gave was yes, and I gave some examples. It does not mean I haven’t “gotten on with my life.” Just because I can claim discrimination doesn’t mean I don;t have a life, or that I sit around all day feeling sorry for myself.

    Oh, and if red-heads were being treated second class not by one person but by a large segment of the community they live in – from school principals who don’t take their children to rebbetzins who look down at them to the majority who will not marry with them – then yes, I would sympathize with them for blogging about it.

    But anyway, the issue in this topic is whether or not you’ve experienced discrimination. Have I only experienced discrimination and nothing positive? Of course not! I’ve been zocheh to meet some amazing, special people. I had a very close relationship with a true tzadeikes who never saw me as a project, but truly respected me for who I am. I have many positive relationships in the frum world. That horrible lady in Boro Park who called me a dog is only one of over a hundred people who hosted me for Shabbos. Some of them drove me to tears (mostly from trying to pry out every detail of my life), but many people have been nice. That doesn’t change the fact that negative interactions I’ve faced have been painful. Like everyone else, I’ve experienced good and bad. I don’t sit around feeling sorry for myself!

    But at times like this, when the issue is raised, I will spill my stories. Who knows, maybe someone reading this will at least learn to hide their feelings towards BTs better, LOL.

    Since I’ve already spilled so much, I’ll “treat” you guys to one more story. This one was a real doozy. My mother is a BT but my father never quite went along with it. He supported me in my decision, and even tolerated my mother’s decision, but he himself never caught on.

    So I went to the rebbezin of our shul at one point to discuss a situation. My parents were thinking it would be nice to get a two family house and live all together so they could be near to help with/shep nachas from the kids. I wanted the rebbetzin’s opinion of whether seeing that my father isn’t frum might confuse the children, etc.

    We never quite resolved the issue, because sadly, my father took ill and passed away before a decision was reached. Maybe three weeks after his petirah, I bumped into the rebbetzin, who said I didn’t look quite well, was everything okay? So I told her no, my father had passed away a few weeks ago. She burst into a big smile and said, “Congratulations, that’s such good news! And what perfect timing – it really solves your housing problem, doesn’t it?”

    Now regardless of your feelings towards someone who isn’t frum, why would she think I could be HAPPY my father had died? Why would she CONGRATULATE me? It was really just mind boggling.

    CL, if stories like this don’t happen to you – be grateful, not judgmental! And again, I don’t sit around my house thinking about that story every day – but I do believe that stories like this DO belong in a discussion of the treatment of BT’s.

  22. Well I guess, the best solution is
    “BT anochi”: Say it, regardless whether it will raise praise or discrimination.

  23. Bob. Sorry, you seem to be misunderstanding my post. i was repeating someone else’s comment. I think it’s helpful if we indicate disagrement with another person here only if we indicate the reasons for our disagreement. Thanks.

  24. Belle,
    Regarding your comment #61, just for the record you quoted me in this fine sentence “like JT pointed out – the uneducated, less capable, less spiritual looking down on and discriminating against the educated, stellar parenting and spiritual/mesiras nefesh for Torah Jew”.
    Well, this quote is actually your own drash , especially , as I was being a little sardonic and snarky in my original quote when pointing stuff out in this set of fine sentences originally typed as follows : So basically it’s the dependent/ uneducated/unequipped FFB with the lack of general culture and or vocational training that you feel generally discriminates against the educated/ independent /trained /cultured BT’s when it comes to marriage.
    Just wanted to point that out for posterity purposes only.

    Steve Mantz, regarding comment #105, are you the new comment direction suggestion moderator around here? Just curious.

  25. … kol sh’ken in this thread so concerned with proving our first class citizenship within Ameinu HaKoidesh.

  26. Bob – If you believe any of my points appear hypocritical, please be explicit. If you question how well we know one another – pls let’s try to do a little acquainting here!

    These discussions have so much potential for “learning, growing, giving” together IF we’re concomittantly willing to share of ourselves. If we revert to snide remarks, what have we gained?

  27. Akiva:

    “Outing” a BT, I believe, is forbidden by Torah law because we are not supposed to remind someone (and others) of aveiros he did formerly, especially if it is likely to cause him embarrassment (however, I believe it is OK if it is evident that the BT does not mind, ie he speaks openly about his BT-ness). Similarly we are not supposed to “out” a convert because it might cause him/her tzar to be reminded of his past.

    But, your point being that the mere fact that we are afraid that by “outing” someone we might place him in a negative position vis a vis the rest of society, is well taken. The Torah recognizes, however, that there is, or might be, an embarrassment factor about being a BT — interesting, no? [of course the classic definition of BT being someone who was raised knowing torah, and then sinning, and then repenting]

  28. YY,

    I don’t know you and you don’t know me. All I can say is that comments in this blog often appear to show qualities the commenters criticize in others.

  29. Bob – is that sarcasm tetering on insult I detect? I hope I’m wrong.

    Your question is valid, Shoshi. When I stress that elitism is intrinsic to the system of Judaism I mean that it is as organic as is our Yeitzer for treif. And like the central tenet of Judaism states: V’ahavta es H’ Elokeich b’KOL LEVAVKHA, including both yeitzers. This doesn’t mean to cultivate the evil within us but to lovingly engage it in supreme self-destruction.

    So too the elitism our forefather’s bequeathed us. It’s the chaff we must whittle away; the foreskin, if you will, that just never seems to leave mankind no matter how often and purley we strip it away.

    Let’s make no mistake: Elitism suckles from gayva and is thus the ultimate enemy of every true-blue Jew. But just like a leaning towards gluttony is not eliminated by never eating but by learning to eat Kosher and in a kosher SPIRIT, so too we must see the phenomena of the BT movement as an incredible new spirit of non-elitist devotion to Torah that must be appreciated for what it is.

    Mark – I certainly know you don’t WANT to out-holy anyone, but if we see ourselves as the saviors of the ffbs, we’ll be doing just that. Our job is rather to MODEL what it means to serve H’ regardless of a communal support system while doing all we can to nonpretensiously help them help us help H’ (kvyochal).

  30. My heart aches for D who obviously feels she has been snubbed on several occasions. I just wonder if she is not being unrealistic in her expectations. I feel that any adult who snubs somebody else must have major issues themselves. I am not from the “right family” & have neither money nor connections but B’H’ have not had a negative experience. Part of it is accepting the mindset even when it doesn’t make sense e.g. D felt hurt about the family who “settled” on a grandchild of a BT for a shidduch, is it though any more reasonable when somebody feels that they are “settling” by taking a red head. Maybe all the red heads out there should start a blog-discrimination against red heads. Or maybe they should get on with their lives and know that they deserve better than anyone who does not want them due to their hair color. I feel sorry for anyone who does not want to associate with me because of something that is no fault of my own and thank Hashem for all the wonderful people in my life who look beyond circumstances and appreciate me for what I am.

  31. Shoshi asked, “How exactly do you fight against gayva while being elitist?”

    By fighting against the other guy’s elitism only.

  32. Hi. I would like to suggest that we please try not to talk past each other. Let’s just try to deal with problems concretely in a forthright manner. One person suggested we try to discuss how to get BT’s accepted into the main group. Then, another person suggested that we can’t do that, but need to try to eliminate the elite group altogether.

    if people have a concrete suggestion they should feel free to make it, and then discuss openly. we don’t need to use one suggestion to negate another one.

    it is entirely reasonable to discuss how to get BT’s into the main group. it is also reasonable to discuss how to eliminate the main group altogether. however any ideas here need to be presented as a real idea, with real ways to make it happen. if we using any idea just as a way to dismiss the premises of another idea, that might block some useful discussion. I respectfully suggest that we give each idea a chance to spread its wings and fly around a little.

    I just posted another comment much like this one on the “Rift in Orthodoxy” thread. Sometimes we need to try not to greet every genuine issue, dispute or difference with some answer like “How dare anyone say that there are differences among Jews, and even if there are, how dare anyone accept the existence of differences among Jews.” Instead, let’s try discussing any such differences constructively at least a bit, and openly and helpfully. thanks. Just my two cents on this. thanks.

  33. to yy:
    No, I don’t get it.

    How exactely do you fight against gayva while being elitist?

  34. I didn’t in any way mean to imply that myself or BTs as a group are holier that FFBs.

    The point I was trying to make is that everybody needs to come closer to Hashem and we can all be agents of helping bring others closer, no matter where they started or where they are holding.

    Kiruv in it’s broader, perhaps truer, sense is helping people come closer to Hashem and that’s something we can all do whether we are FFBs, BTs or not observant.

  35. P.s. After all that sobreity, let me make it as clear as possible that I share with Mark the passionate certainty that the BT movement is blessed from on high with a novel capacity to further H’s plan towards shleimus… and that this Blog has tremendous potential for facilitating it.

  36. In all seriousness, of COURSE I don’t mean to form our own counter-culture as a sperate entity. Rather, as Mark says, we need to base ourselves on the firm knowledge that “that’s what the Torah demands” and make it very clear to all them helige Rabbonim and chassidim and tsaddikim gamurim that we’re only feeding back precisely what they’ve taught us, albeit with the temerity to insist on the truth, the full truth and nothing but.

    As to Mark’s bold declaration about what I probably have been secretly wishing to say for years: “we have to help bring the FFBs closer to Hashem and point out that treating a sincere Torah observant Jews as second class is against the Torah and detrimental to their souls and the collective Jewish soul” — I lower my head in bashful confession and say: ARE YOU CRAZY!

    This is precisely what everyone fears, that we’re going to turn the tables on ’em and be holier than the holier-than-thous!

    Just won’t go, Mark. For the fact is that this is precisely where they’ve been doing us wrong – presenting themselves as authorities over what our souls need. The truth is to the contrary. *NO* one knows what the soul of the other needs, except perhaps a prophet, under specific circumstances. As per the maxim: “As each face is different, so too each soul.”

    All we can do is to be as felicious as possible to the Holy Torah and respectively trust in the truth that each Yid will find his soul-calling therein.

  37. Bob – I’ll lead if you and Mark join me! First thing is to shed those non-Hebrew names!

    That’ll de-burn a few bridges.

    ; }}

  38. YY, I think you’re right. I think begging for acceptance is the wrong song. FFBs should treat other people (BBTs) right not for our sake, but because that’s what the Torah demands. Unfortunately, when they cause us pain with put downs and superiority snobbery they’re over Issur D’oraisa’s comparable to eating pork.

    In this area we have to help bring the FFBs closer to Hashem and point out that treating a sincere Torah observant Jews as second class is against the Torah and detrimental to their souls and the collective Jewish soul.

    We’re not starting a revolution or a movement. It’s just simple Jews following the prescription of the Torah and not being satisfied with non-Torah concepts of having made it.

    Let’s keep on strengthening each other and anyone who wants to learn, grow and give together with us, BT, FFB or not Observant. We all have it within our power to create the better world Hashem is waiting for and if not now, then when.

  39. I’m suggesting that you need far more than a slogan, and also need to avoid burning the bridges that link you to existing communities.

  40. YY,

    Unless you’re planning to lead the revolution yourself, or find leadership as such to be superfluous or a hindrance, your countercultural movement needs leaders. Who is both qualified and ready?

  41. Don’t you get it, Shoshi,that this basic elitism is the name of the game? It’s a spring that when pressed too tight is bound to snap back with a vegeance.

    Thus instead of wailing abt all the hypocricy and relative let down we have with many contemporary chossidim, let’s get on with COMPLETING the Besh”t’s work and eliminate that spring altogether.

    It will not happen by demanding that the BTs get accepted into the elitist’s club but that the club be NO MORE.

    In its place will spring the ethic of true Baalei Teshuvas; those individuals abt whom the famous gemora tells us challenge even the greatest Tsaddikim. How so? Not by being slack in Mitzvos or easy on chumras, but by doing them all with the utmost sincerity to “learn, grow and give.”

    How’s that for a plug, Mark?

  42. YY said:

    “Indeed, I agree with Shoshi that the Besh”t in many ways sought to cleanse us of this scourage with his radical dose of sweetly nonjudgmental holiness, but the fact reamins that if you study all the info we have on his sayings, you will detect a similar bottom-line elitism.”

    There may be a bottom-line elitism in the BEsht’s attitude, but I strongly doubt that it would be the same kind of elitism that is displayed by various Chassidic denominations today.

  43. Resh Lakish was definitely a BT. Rav Wolbe and R S Schwalb ZTL were BTs in the sense that they evolved into the Charedi world from their strong TIDE roots in Frankfurt. One can argue that is akin to a MO person becoming Charedi or what is called “flipping out” in contemporary jargon.

  44. Are we allowed to “out” people? I’ll just mention two who are open about it:
    Rebb’n Heller is a BT, Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb.

  45. Rav Wolbe was a BT and Rav Zev Leff is a BT. Rabbi Akiva was a BT even though you might think that doesn’t count.

  46. First, many people who commented are from small outlying communities. Usually in such communities many are BT’s, and as such there is no room for any obvious discrimination.

    However, in larger frum communities, there is such an undertone. Ok BT’s, honestly, when the question is “what yeshiva did you learn at, what kollel did you attend?”, how many jump up and readily answer, “none, I learned at the (Chabad house, Aish, local rav’s shiur, etc). Or how often do you hear such an answer?

    Someone in this thread asked “how many gedolim in the last 50 years are BT’s?” How about this question – “how many families of gedolim have married a BT”? Lets be more generic, name me any big rabbonim from anywhere who you know are BT’s?

    NOT that there aren’t, but if they are they’re not advertising it.

    BT’s are pervasive throughout the frum world nowadays. Further, especially in Israel, most of the frum professionals are BT’s or the children of BT’s (if he’s a charedi doctor, lawyer, accountant, computer programmer, serious businessman, he’s probably a BT or child of one). But there is certainly a stigma attached.

    An FFB – BT “mixed marriage” is simply – unusual.

    Yes, I’ve encountered this first hand.

  47. Let’s face it, Judaism IS about a certain elitism and exclusion, at some point or another. Whether it’s on the side of the “untouchable” laws of mamzerus, or that of the near godly prestige conferred upon our Talmidei Chachamim and their various establishments, Jewish history is rife with wild examples of one group trumping or being trumped by the other. As I earlier said, I belive this goes back to Yosef and his brothers.

    So to suddenly take umbrage at how the BTs get relatively brusied from this same, inherently complicated ethos, seems to me to tragically miss the call of the hour. Indeed, I agree with Shoshi that the Besh”t in many ways sought to cleanse us of this scourage with his radical dose of sweetly nonjudgmental holiness, but the fact reamins that if you study all the info we have on his sayings, you will detect a similar bottom-line elitism. Sometimes it came out as an anthema for intellectualism that quickly could turn into outright condescension and a reverse kind of Untouchableness against anyone who’d seek textual pshat! Other times one picks up a scathing aversion to Baal-Batishkeit (the emphasis on making the comfort of one’s personal, family life, his priority). And of course, waht about those poor Mamzeirim??

    The pt is that PURE ahavas Yisroel is a real tough one and BT are by far not the only one’s, and certainly not the worse cases, of those who suffer from it.

    Hence why all the concern with fighting for BT rights? Let’s get down to the shoresh and begin challenging each other to do A.Y. right!

    Which brings me back to D. and the gayva thing –

    Chv”sh to accuse you of being particualrly tainted by this. We ALl suffer from it, as davka the tradition abt the last, dying words of the Besh’t was that there is NO eitza for fighting gayva since each and every Jew must find his / her own way for combatting this ubiquitous yeitzer.

    The pt was just that in your story you’ve gone to super-lengths to describe how wonderful your kids are (bla”h) when really the gist of those horrible stories is that when it comes to purity of lineage, they couldn’t care less!

    You see, the problem I find in your important story is that it bespeaks a subculture of super-BT’s who feed into this “spiritual pathology,” as Ron puts it. By all this emphasis on how we’ve EARNED the right to be treated as equals, or even more, we’re missing the essential lesson that Jewishness is NOT SPIRITUAL CAPITOLISM! Davka it was the humility of the Avos that made all the difference (no one needs proof for that, right?).

    Finally, Shoshi questions how a holy person could be discriminatory. Ha. Just go through tana’ch, my dear. We just touched on it in par. Korach. Coincidentally enough, it was also discussed amongst my guests this leil Shabbos. In the Ribone-ko-oilamim prayer before Kiddush we mention the angels who are “kdoishim v’thoirim sh’osim ritzoneicha” (pure and holy who do Your Will. If they’re truly so holy and pure, it was asked, why do we need to mention their following His Will?

    It’s because there is ALWAYS choice and in many ways, as per chaza”l, the “greater (holier) the man the greater the yeitzer (resistance to His Will).” How is it concievable?

    Gayva. We take pride in our purity. Or our chinnuch. Or our compassion. Or, or, or.

    Isn’t it time we simply stop trying to be the best and JUST seek to do His Will?

  48. This concept of “men make the cholent” is entirely ahistorical, a post-modern haredi-inspired reverse-ironic groupthink marketing ploy to simulate progressive sex-role plasticity and induce new recruits into what is really a patriarchal, hierarchical, fascio-farcicle second-class-citizenship herd of really not hip frummies.

    In other words, by me my wife makes the damned cholent.

  49. Bob, need I remind the BBT community of your famous cholent recipe? That being the case, I agree that your older son’s cholent is better than yours without even tasting either of them!

  50. “Ah ha – That’s the missing ingredient in the Cholent.”

    Our older son makes a far better cholent than I do. Food for thought.

  51. I just happen to believe that virtually everyone is wearing a garment. And that doing so may not be a bad thing. And not doing so may be a bad thing.

    Ah ha – That’s the missing ingredient in the Cholent.

    I’ll let this one marinate over Shabbos but we’ll
    certainly need a tighter definition of “wearing a garment”. Or not.

    Have a good Shabbos.

  52. Yes, I do.

    I just happen to believe that virtually everyone is wearing a garment. And that doing so may not be a bad thing. And not doing so may be a bad thing.

    Is it Shabbos yet?

  53. Ron, I agree 100% that formative experiences have an effect but I think that is very different than saying that “BT’s are really just wearing a garment”.

    Do you see any difference in those two ideas?

  54. Well, Mark, you’re not considering the breadth of my statement. I’m saying, yes, BT’s are human like everyone else. We’re almost none of us the same on the inside as on the outside. But hardly anyone is.

    I do insist that there is an utterly immutable difference that arises from formative experiences. That is why we all kill ourselves over what formative experiences our little FFB’s have.

    That is in no way inconsistent with growing up to be Rabbi Akiva.

  55. I’m not sure what the “the same inside as the idealized FFB” means. No two people are the same inside and every person has unique struggles – that’s haskafa 101.

    Rabbi Akiva had lots of negative from his pre BT days and he became the role model and paradigm post-mikdash Jew for BTs and FFBs alike in so many ways. I guess he just wasn’t the same inside.

    If you’re talking about the difference between a complete Tzaddik who never sinned on purpose and a BT I can hear you make the case that there are differences. But Avakesh was talking about FFBs as a class and BTs a class which is nonsensical. The Jewish Voice article even took this generalization as an example of the outlandishness of anti-BT discrimination.

    It seems to me like a case of cloudy thinking which in this case causes real discriminatory damage. Very sad and surprising when BTs agree with this type of generalization.

  56. I wonder how many BTs or FFBs can claim to be the idealized anything. Aren’t we talking about process? Thinking you’ve really made it is a pitfall for both groups.

  57. OK, Mark, and don’t take my previous comment as a suggestion of either bona fide modesty or genuine introspection!

    You can be moser nefesh and genuinely committed to Torah and mitzvos, as most of us are, but still not be “the same” inside as the idealized FFB. These are absolutely not mutually exclusive.

    Learning, growing and giving… all that much richer when you learn how to live and love paradox.

  58. Ron, please don’t make this a personal thing since you well know I have many limitations and you have an abundance of strengths.

    How did you understand Avakesh’s statement and how would you contrast this with the fact that the average BTs mesiras nefesh indicates his Judaism is not just a coat?

  59. Materialism can get into a person’s ways much more easily when he thinks he’s immune from birth and isn’t watching out for it consciously.

  60. The difference between Mark’s view of the comment by Avakesh and mine is the difference between Mark and me. He’s one of the exceptions I was talking about!

    Well, or I am, but in a bad way. (Clears throat, loosens tie.)

    Well, I don’t know, I guess, just how much we want to “go there” on this thread …

  61. yy, I’m really sorry if it seemed like I portrayed myself as a tzaddeikes – I’m not a tzeddeikes, and I know it. I’m painfully aware of my failings and the areas I need to work on. If it sounded like I have gayva in my mothering – well, just as I’m aware of my weaknesses, I’m aware of my strengths, and this is one of them, though I don’t think I have gayva, just awareness of my strengths as well as my weaknesses.

    I understand your concern that if I come across to people as having gayva it can turn them off, but I don’t think I come across in real life as having gayva, but I can see why you think so from the way I spoke to the principal. I don’t speak that way under ordinary circumstances, but here she was telling me that my girls weren’t good enough for her school because I’m a BT – which is not my daughters’ fault. So I decided to turn the tables on her and tell her my girls are *too* good for her school – it sounds like gayva, but it’s really just self defense. My pride in having taught their brachos to them was my way of showing her, you think my girls are less worthy because I’m a BT? You think because I’m a BT I can’t give over to them beautifully?

    There was more to that conversation as well, which I find amusing to tell. Now mind you, for *years* I’ve been sweet and polite, never answering people back, just as I was always raised to do, but there comes a point where you have to open your mouth for the sake of dignity! In the middle of her speech about how they don’t want the children of BT’s in their heilige school, she mentioned that she personally has nothing against BT’s, she’s sure they will have an amazing olam haba, but they just don’t belong in her school. (In other words, we don’t want you in this world, maybe you’ll have better luck after you’re dead.)

    I just couldn’t take it anymore. I answered, “You know what? I believe you. I believe my olam haba will be something truly special.” At this point she looked shocked – I guess it was easy for her to *say* I would have an amazing olam haba, but for me to *believe* it was something else! I went on to say, “I believe my olam haba will be something special, because if this is the way I’m being treated in the frum world, and yet I still remain frum, and I continue to keep the Torah and do the mitvos with all my heart, then you know I’m doing it l’sheim shamayim!”

    Maybe I shouldn’t have said it – though I can’t say I regret it – but perhaps I should have continued my usual way of smiling sweetly and thanking people for insulting me, but it gets to a point where I have to preserve my self-respect and stand up for myself.

    As for my pride in my children – as I said, I don’t talk about them like this usually, except in a case like this where I’m trying to clarify. But since it came up, I want you to know that I do put whole heart into raising my children, but as proud as I am of my children and how they are turning out – I don’t have gayva in it because I am just one piece of the puzzle. My children are very well loved by *many* people in my extended family – love being the secret ingredient here, I can;t take all the credit since I don;t have the monopoly on love in my family!

    Possibly *because* I’m a BT I’m in a position for my children to receive so much extra love and attention – my children were the only grandchildren in the family until 6 months ago, when one of my brothers had a baby. For the first three years I had both my parents helping with the kids, loving them and enjoying them, and two childless brothers who visited often and were so thrilled for there to be babies in the family. Then after three years my father passed away and my mother retired, so in the years since then my mother spends her days with me and the children. She is truly special and gives over wonderfully to the kids. Also, one of my brothers lives close by and isn’t married yet but looooves children, so he plans a ton of day trips that we take either in the summer or on Sundays during the school year. This Sunday, for example, he has planned a trip for me, my husband, him, and the kids to go to a farm and comb the baby lambs. :)

    Anyway, my children aren’t perfect but all the love they’ve grown up with from so many people has helped shape them into good, fine children. I don’t think it’s gayva for me to think so, as I’ve been told by objective outsiders that my kids are special. I haven’t told anyone outside my family this but since I’ve brought up that I take pride in my children, I want to point out that I’m not only saying so to of blinded love – though I’m guilty of that at times, too – objective outsiders have also said so. A Rav once told me that he has met the children of many rabbonim and my children are just as fine if not finer. Also, one of the teachers in Bais Yaakov took me aside once and told me that they can tell by working with children what kind of homes they come from: homes where the mother works outside the home, homes where the mother does not, etc., and she told me that she can tell I just pour myself into these children, that she has never seen such children, she can’t get over them. At my son’s PTA, his teacher told us how wonderful it is to see parents who are so into their kids.

    But at the same time, the teachers tell me how they hear so much about the kids’ bubby and uncles, and they say it’s so wonderful for children to be surrounded by so much love, they wish all children could be so loved by so many people. It isn’t just me pouring myself into these kids, it’s the extended family as well, and of course the children’s Tatty.

    I know not everyone has such a strong support network, but B”H we do. I can’t possibly have gayva because like I said, I’m just one of many cogs in the wheel of our family. We’re lucky and we’re blessed. It makes my heart swell, not my head!

  62. Our job as Jews is to resist the negative “natural” forces and accomplish our duty. We are given the means to avoid the seemingly inevitable decline and fall.

  63. Then:

    I think that in the first place, chassidism was about being non-elitist and includive and anti-establishment.

    But it is natural that within a few centuries, it becomes an establishment and as petty and arrogant as the ones it blamed.

  64. Jews often talk about the Pintele Yid in the spiritual make-up of every Jew, however humble or ignorant.

    This was stressed by the Baal Shem Tov ZY”A and his followers in particular. There can be no question that a BT, who has already made progress out of ignorance, has this Pintele Yid.

    Anyone today who considers himself or herself a Chassid ought to reflect on this and ask, “Am I, in my daily life, writing Jews off in contradiction to the beliefs I claim to hold? Would the Baal Shem Tov want to have a word with me?”

    Ah, but that was “then”! Well, “then” many of the Baal Shem Tov’s followers in the shtetlach were not nearly as advanced and committed Jewishly as today’s BTs are. “Then” is a shabby excuse.

    The related idea that even a Chassidic group engaged in outreach should maintain communities or institutions sealed off hermetically from their BT understudies is also pernicious.

  65. As I said up top somewhere, one of the points that bothered people in the Avakesh treatment of this topic, apparently, was the claim that BT’s are really just wearing a garment, it never really gets into us.

    I found that particular comment of Avakesh bordering on obscene.

    I feel Judaism has penetrated deeply into the majority of BTs that I’ve met. The proof is that we endure all the isolation, pain and rejection from our non-frum friends and relatives while at the same time receiving less that full support and acceptance from our frum communities. (Note: I am distinguishing between being treated as second class and receiving less than full support and acceptance.)

    Why do we do it? Because we deeply believe in Hashem and His Torah. There is no stronger indication of belief than actions that demonstrate it. We have the goods to expose the lie of Avakesh and others hideous wearing-a-garment statements.

    Integration and exposure to the secular is a different issue.

  66. There is a strong Torah case to be made that too much chol can negatively effect the kodesh. Those of us who limit our intake of secular TV, Movies and Magazines certainly feel that the chol can negatively effect the kodesh. Other more insular communities feel that there should be even more limitations. When confronted with the BT who has integrated more chol because of our backgrounds they flinch, with some good reason.

    Of course the hurt and insensitivity displayed is inexcusable, but we are segregated into different communities with different norms and I think that does make sense at some level.

    Well put. As I said up top somewhere, one of the points that bothered people in the Avakesh treatment of this topic, apparently, was the claim that BT’s are really just wearing a garment, it never really gets into us, etc.

    It’s true. There are some exceptions, some very, very temimisdik people, but for the vast majority of us the TV we watched, the things we did as kids or young adults, the language that we used — it is in there.

    The error, however, is in the premise of the FFB’s that, in contrast, it is not “in there” for them, too. Too many people like the lady D. met — an obviously disturbed, unbalanced person, by the way, regardless of the subculture of which she is a member — it appears, believe their own press releases.

    As R’ Moty Berger used to say (maybe he still does), and I am paraphrasing here because I don’t remember his snappier words, the difference between BT’s and FFB’s is that the BT’s have already identified the spiritual pathology in their families and done something to rectify it.

    Where do these people think all the non-frum Jews came from?

  67. D:

    I just cannot believe what comments you received at that house in Boro Park. That is unbelievable!

    When I tell people my story (not too often), I have NEVER had that experience.

    That is terrible! And they say that you should treat your fellow Jew the right way….


  68. Can we devise some perfect disguise? No.

    Can we force our will on petty people because they ought to know better? No again.

    So we’re like every other seeking Jew in the world, looking to improve ourselves and our opportunities whenever possible, and relying on HaShem to back us up in all the frustrating situations.

    YY is being unfair to D., who is only building a case that doing the right things does not save a BT from the mind-blowing pettiness of some (and I mean some) FFB’s.

    This idea that BTness is a taint on lineage akin to mamzerus is an anti-halachic attitude, now matter how many frum people may buy into it. Jewish leaders of communities harboring such attitudes have a responsibility to drive this truth home.

  69. We want to integrate, they want to segregate.

    I think that statement gets to the root of the pain many of us feel.

    But let’s look at one of the issues that fosters the different communities, the integration of the kodesh and the chol (holy and the secular).

    There is a strong Torah case to be made that too much chol can negatively effect the kodesh. Those of us who limit our intake of secular TV, Movies and Magazines certainly feel that the chol can negatively effect the kodesh. Other more insular communities feel that there should be even more limitations. When confronted with the BT who has integrated more chol because of our backgrounds they flinch, with some good reason.

    Of course the hurt and insensitivity displayed is inexcusable, but we are segregated into different communities with different norms and I think that does make sense at some level.

    Not everybody can fit into every community and many of us have not really accepted that fact. Perhaps we can condemn the hurtful behavior but understand and accept the fact that in this case segregation might not be a dirty word.

  70. is that the unique, divinely ordained task of the contemporary BT is NEVER to try to be exactly like “them”, no matter how holy they are.

    How do you define “holy”?

    I think that this is exactely where the problem lies.

    If they are so discriminatory, they are not holy.

    If their first problem is yichus and theories how a BT could negatively affect the “holy” surroundings, this means that the person is perhaps aspiring to holyness, but is really going right in the opposite direction.

  71. First of all, I think YY should cut D. some slack. I was not put off by any gayva on her part. I think her emphasis on her competence and/or her past accomplishments were included to highlight the fact that this discrimination is mindless, because it is not based on *anything* substantial — not her “weirdness,” her lack of parenting skills, her lack of intelligence, or even lack of yichus!! I don’t think she needs us or anyone else to give her kavod. She is merely pointing out how their actions are just baseless, rank discrimination – like JT pointed out – the uneducated, less capable, less spiritual looking down on and discriminating against the educated, stellar parenting, and spiritual/mesiras nefesh for Torah Jew. It’s despicable.

    It is hard to read D’s post and not think deeply. It strikes me that even though as a community we BTs have been in existence in large numbers for about 20 years now, it can be said that we are at the very beginning of a larger movement, kind of like the civil rights movement in the 60s. The mindset of the people in D’s post are like the racists of old. “go back to where you came from (or at least go segregate yourselves in Passaic!)”, “BTs are like goyim dressed up,” etc.

    They are racist against non-Jews, so they will be racist against us, too. I just read a post on a local online bulletin board which said she got a notice about some kashrus issue “from a dear baalas teshuva friend of mine.” It sort of reminded me of the days when people said “I got a notice from this dear black friend of mine.” Being “dear” was no consolation for being singled out as black; so is it with BTs. We are the “black” frum Jews. We want to integrate, they want to segregate.

    I believe it will take a few generations. This generation of the desert (as a whole, not the accepting, stellar individuals) just does not have what it takes to enter the holy land!

  72. Dear D. WOW, do you have a need to unload! Your story is powerful and revealing. It certainly sheds light on how deepseated the prejudice goes in some frum communities, and thus very relevant to this thread.

    But I must add that there’s a very distubing stress throughout all you write on how much of a tsadeikus you are! Oh, I’m as pleased as I’m sure eveyone here is to hear that your’e kids have learned such great middos and halachos from you. Still there’s a certain gayva that begs a response.

    Actually, if I may be so bold to suggest, it seems that this may be precisely the raw nerve you’re touching among these ddeply prejudiced people within who’s community you’re trying so hard to be accepted. GAYVA, gayva, gayva. They’re reeking with it. “Look at US and the purity of our yichus,” they’re telling you. “Look at how well we’ve perfected our insularism; at how fine-tuned is our ghetto mentality!”

    Now please bear in mind that I’m writing as a kindred soul; one who has also brought my children into a rather “first rate” chassidic community known for being relatively aloof to outside influences. I also have “prided” myself for years on how successful I’ve been in educating my kids and revelled in the outstanding reputation they’ve earned, far above the average miyuchas. Etc, etc, k’ayin HaRa.

    But one thing I believe I’ve learned that I’ve been tying to share in this blog for awhile, and which flies in the face of your above comments, is that the unique, divinely ordained task of the contemporary BT is NEVER to try to be exactly like “them”, no matter how holy they are. In fact if anything we are here to teach our ffb brothers and sisters about the importance of their letting go of this absurdly counterproductive, spiritually destating klippa!

    Just go back to the story of Yosef and his brothers. There began the roots of the conflict: The “real” Miyuchas versus the partial ones! Not only that, we see Yosef falling into the same, reactionary arrogance… until he learns, the hard way, that NO one has the monoploy on “pure” Divine Service.

    NO one.

    Oh, there is a place for challenging those whose Judaim is merely a coat to make it into their skin, as some have earlier mentioned. But once that happens, we must drop all judgments of the skin of the “other.”

    So please, Dear D. As one who’s done such a good job of helping her family seer their Judaism into their skin, PLEASE don’t make the mistake of taking pride in it.

  73. Okay, ya think I have a lot to say on this subject??? To understand better why it hurts me so deeply, it might help to know a bit about my background. I come from a warm, loving, supportive family. We were all high achievers. I myself was premed, one brother is a doctor, and the other has a master’s in his field. In my former life, I attended elite private schools my whole life, to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars a year. In the world I left behind, I was at the top. I left school to go to Neve to become a BT. My parents supported me and paid my way.

    Fast forward 10 years. I’m happily married with a growing family, KA”H, and chatting on the phone with an FFB friend, who had just made a shidduch for her oldest son. She was happily telling all the details, and here’s what she tells me.

    Well, she was looking and looking for a shidduch for him for quite a while, and finally she started to get worried, what’s going to be?? So she spoke to someone who advised her that she’s going to have to accept that she can’t have everything on her “list” and that everyone has to look away on some issues with the other side of the shidduch.

    So finally someone suggested the kallah, and it seemed a good shidduch, but there was a problem. Here’s how she said it, “Well everything looked perfect, except the kallah’s grandfather was a baal teshuva – or was it her grandmother? – anyway, it doesn’t matter which, the point is it wasn’t what I was looking for. But then I had to remind myself, you can’t have everything on your list, you’re going to have to look away from something – just look away from this and move forward,”

    So in other words, after a long and worrisome search for a kallah, they finally forced themselves to “settle” for the *grandchild* of a BT. Yes, when it comes to shidduchim, that’s when you find out the real score!

    Now imagine this. The sister of the woman in the above story was talking to me. I myself married a BT, and this sister’s father told me with great excitement when I got engaged to my husband that “had my husband been born to a frum family, he would have been snatched up right away!” Yes, he truly was special, my husband. Well, I am grateful to be the one to have snatched him, even after all these years I can still say that he’s a gem.

    But anyway, that’s not the point. you get the idea of how hard it is for a BT to get married in that community. Here comes the kicker. I mentioned something about my brother being a doctor, and all of a sudden this woman gets all excited and tells me she has a cousin who needs a shidduch. I tell her my brother isn’t frum, and she says, don’t worry, I’ll have my father talk to him, we’ll work something out.

    Do you see what’s so hurtful here? I gave up everything – I gave up med school! – to become frum, and the Torah is my life – but these people would never marry their family to me. But to a rich doctor – well, who cares if he isn’t frum, let’s snatch him up!

    Like I said, I’m deeply happy in my marriage, and I wouldn’t *want* to marry someone from that community if that’s the way he was raised – but it DOES hurt to be so clearly second class in their eyes. To witness their hypocritical behavior and know – they look down on *me*?

  74. Furthermore, there are deep-seated attitudes that run against BT’s. First of all, you can never ever breathe a word that the FFB world isn’t perfect – that could be lashon hara – but they write articles about BT’s in Mishpacha all the time that run with the assumption that you can say *anything* you want about BT’s.

    Once they ran an article about how BT’s struggle as mothers because they weren’t raised in large families themselves. They interviewed a few (3 or 4) BT’s who spoke about their struggles as mothers. I wrote a letter about how unfair this was – that they should have balanced the letter with storied from BT’s who are great mothers, and FFB’s who struggle. They never printed that letter.

    About a year later, they printed an article about divorce. In the article, they mentioned that in Israel 15% of divorces involve at least one partner who is a BT. Then they went on to say, “You would think that divorce is a problem confined to the BT community, but…”

    I wrote back a letter – which they did print this time. In my letter I mentioned both articles above. I mentioned how if 15% involve at least one BT, then some of those divorces also involved an FFB – and 85% involved no BT’s at all, so why would we think divorce is confined to the BT world?

    Also, if at most 15% of divorces are BT – that doesn’t mean 15% of BT’s get divorced – just as it doesn’t mean 85% of FFB’s get divorced. It means among people who get divorced, these are the proportions. So since some BT’s are married to FFB’s, we could say it’s really 10-15%. Well, if 10-15% of the chareidi world in Israel is BT, then you would *expect* 10-15% of divorces to involve a BT. The statistic is meanless unless we know the proportions of BT’s in the population. So, for example, if 20% of chareidi Israelis are BT’s – then a BT is LESS likely to get divorced than an FFB.

    Anyway, I went on to say how the two articles I described are pure lashon hara (if true) or motzaei shem ra (if not). I said that tens of thousands of readers now have the impression that if you marry a BT, you are more likely to end up divorced with poorly raised children. The magazine is ruining shidduchim for countless BT’s, and causing undue prejudice.

    I also addressed their article about BT’s struggling as mothers. I mentioned that I am praised by Bais Yaakov principals, teachers, and fellow mothers alike that I’m an excellent mother. A chassidishe mother of seven in Williamsburg, is also a Rebbishe einikel – hosted my family for Yom Tov once, and towards the end of Yom Tov she told me, “You know, you’re a much better mother than me.” I really pour myself into my children, they are my whole life, and I am truly happy as an aim b’yisroel. Do you know that Mishpacha printed my letter, but deleted all references to FFB’s struggling, and deleted how the Williamsburg mother praised me?

    Why is it okay for them to portray BT’s in any bad light they want, but if I mention that FFB’s aren’t perfect – without disparaging them as a community – they delete it. What does that tell you?

  75. One cannot deny that in certain venues, whether Charedi or MO, BTs are viewed negatively in the same way as Moonies, Lhavdil Elef VAlfei Havdalos. In many areas, unless you went to the same yeshiva ketanah,day school, summer camps, yeshivos, etc, you will be seen as an outsider unless you integrate into the community by finding a shul, rav, and your family goes thru the educational and maturation process. Some of the comments really border on reminding a person of their past, which is considered by many Rishonim as an Issur Torah.

  76. We have been, many times. First I should say, my husband and I blend in beautifully. Nobody who meets me knows I’m a baalas teshuvah until someone tells them. Once when I had a baby and was staying in Seagate, I was completely accepted as a normal frum lady for several days, until someone who knew me showed up and told everyone I was a BT.

    That wasn’t the descrimination, it’s just a proof to show that we’re not people who stand out in any way, and unless someone tells you, you can’t tell we’re BT’s. So if we experience discrimination, it’s not because were weird or different.

    Anyway, we went to apply to the “frumest” girls’ school in our area, which suited our family to a T. We had excellent recommendations – I know, because a friend of mine’s cousin works in the office and let her know.

    When it came time for our interview, the principal – who I’d never met before – told me, “You don’t belong here. I personally am open minded, but the parents who send here are very narrow minded, and they don’t want baal teshuvas in the school. Your family will never be accepted among them, and it’s your daughters who will suffer. We’ve had other baal teshuvas who’ve pushed their way into the school, and they’ve only regretted it. It’s their daughters who suffered the most. Do you want your daughters to suffer?”

    I answered her, “No, I don’t want my daughters to suffer. They’re much too special, smart, aidel, and pure to be in a school where blind prejudice would relegate them to second class. And why should they be? My girls are first rate girls as you can see. This is not the school for us.”

    Anyway. she did go on to test them anyway, even though we had both agreed we would not be sending to her school. She asked my 5-year-old daughter to say a bracha on a candy. Well, when I feed my children their meals, I don’t just dictate to them what bracha to make, I teach them. I say, “Children doesn’t it seem strange to say hoadomah on a pineapple? Most fruits are ho’eitz because an eitz is a tree. But a pineapple is hoadomah! I guess it doesn’t grow on a tree!” Or I say, “Children, doesn’t it seem strange that we say ho’eitz on a grape, which grows on a vine? I never thought of a vine as a tree before!”

    Anyway, when she saw my daughter knew the bracha right away, I decided to show her what my girls were made of. I gave them lots of hard ones, like pineapple, grape, as well as easy ones like cookie and apple. Then the principal jumped in, wanting to catch them in mistake. She said, “And what’s the bracha on a raisin?” I waited, hoping for one of them to answer – I knew I’d explained this to them many times, but who knew if they’d answer? Finally the older girl, my five year old, piped up, ‘Hoeitz.” The principal asked, “And why do we say hoeitz on a raisin?” She answered, “Because they’re made from grapes.”

    The principal’s mouth dropped! She asked me daughter, “Where did you learn that? Who taught you that?” I guess it never occurred to her that I did, being a BT. I wanted to defend my dignity as a BT, and answer truthfully that I take it to heart when it says in Shema that we should teach it to our children when we sit in our house and when we walk on the way, but I held my tongue. All my daughter said was, “Mommy, can we go home now?” I told her yes, we were going home.

    I’ve had much more direct, hurtful things said to me. Before I was married, I spent Shabbos with some friends at a home in Boro Park by a family where the father was Litvish and the mother was also Litvish, but grew up Satmar. I joined in nicely in all the discussions, and she was really taken with me to the point that by Shabbos afternoon she was already hinting a shidduch between me and her son.

    At one point the discussion turned to issues about BT’s, and someone mentioned that I’m a BT. If you would have seen her face! She wasn’t shocked, she was angry! Her face was turning colors. She said to me, “You! You’re a very smart girl, that’s what you are, a very smart girl! You memorized a bunch of our words and phrases and you know how to repeat them back at the right times, but it isn’t real – you’re just a well trained dog! A well trained dog! You baal teshuvas! You don’t belong in Boro Park, why don’t you go to Passaic with the rest of the baal teshuvas!” I was so stunned. All I could answer was, “Well, Rav Wolbe is a baal teshuva…” She said, “I don’t believe it!” I said, “It’s true, I can give you the phone number of one of his talmidim…” And she said, “Well, even if it were true, the world was different back then!” Anyway, imagine having to spend the rest of Shabbos in this woman’s house??? And be polite the whole time, and not let her see you cry?

    Another time my husband, who is fluent in Yiddish and also blends in well, was davening in a chassidishe shul, and after davening there was a shiur. The man who spoke spend the whole time talking about how baalei teshuva are just goyim dressed up as yidden – because they didnt grow up in a yiddishe environement, it never got into them, whereas the yiddishe kinderlach absorb the yiddishkeit around them, so even if they go off as they grow older they’ll always be yidden…” My husband was still davening when he heard this – they didn’t realize my husband was a baal teshuva. The worst part was how all the men were agreeing, and making fun of baal teshuvas. My husband finished his davening and left immediately without speaking to anyone.

    We’ve had good stories, too, and people who’ve treated us well and as equals, but when things like this happen, the floor drops out from underneath you.

    OH, also, many times BT’s are treated well all along – and think they are really accepted – but when it comes time for their children to get married…. well, then you find out where you really stand. I spoke with a very well known kiruv rabbi who confessed that this is what happened to him – after 12 years in yeshiva, with speaking engagements all around the world, selling his popular tapes, when it came to shidduchim, nobody was interested – they wanted “background.”

    But what do they mean by background? That you’re not a BT and nothing else – they don’t care about yichus. He has great yichus. For the sake of his privacy I won’t say who, but he descends from a great tzaddik. Meanwhile when I was speaking to the Rebbetzin of the shul where we used to daven before we moved, she mentioned that she’s an einikle of the Sanzer Rav, so I mentioned to her that I’m related as well. Do you think this conferred “background” to me? No, once a BT always a BT. She scrunched her nose and said, “Well, yes, nebuch, there are einiklach scattered around the world, doing who knows what, it’s such a pity…” *sigh*

    So when they say they want background, they don’t mean they want yichus – they mean they don’t want a BT. So if they’re nice to your face, great – but let me know what kinds of shidduchim you’re offered.

  77. jaded

    In essence, I agree with you:

    When you notice that the amusement park is not as amusing as it seemed, it’s better to change the venue…

  78. A friend pointed out that although it may be true that BTs are not treated as second class citizens in many communities, isn’t it possible that they are treated as second class in the Right Wing Ultra Orthodox communities that the article is focused?

    Perhaps we need to look at what it means to be a citizen of that community. As we move to the right of the Orthodox spectrum, the requirements of citizenship (ie: to fit in) increase. This makes it more difficult to become a first class citizen no matter who you are, BT or FFB, however a BT will certainly be at a greater disadvantage given their starting point in learning and mitzvah observance.

    It’s also probable that a BT is more likely to making the mistake of moving to an inappropriate community than an FFB.

    So although the problem is probably not as widespread as the article implies, we should be aware that the requirements of first class citizenship do vary from community to community and we should keep that in mind when we chose a community.

  79. JT —

    So basically it’s the dependent / uneducated / unequipped FFB with the lack of general culture and or vocational training that you feel generally discriminates against the educated/ independent / trained / cultured BT’s when it comes to marriage?


  80. 1. I am not convinced that the phenomenon discussed, to whatever degree it actually exists, is a particularly Jewish problem. The basic problem of cliques (think of your high school) has a long history. As imperfect people, we sometimes allow our lower impulses to push our Torah ideals to the back.

    2. Note that the Bostoner Chassidic movement, as one example, has been very hospitable to BT’s, both in the US and in Israel, because of the direction set by their Rebbe, Shlita.

  81. It’s a tough question.

    I haven’t been treated as “second class” at all. However, I’m not really living in the communities mentioned in the article. I was once told that a nice chassidic family I was close to would want FFB spouses for their kids. I was hurt at the time (not that I was hoping to marry their kids, just at the principle of the thing), but in retrospect I understand their decision. The gap between BT and FFB is larger than I thought at the time (the gap grows smaller the longer the BT is frum, but they wanted their kids to marry young, of course).

    I know a couple of people who say they’ve been rejected by some members of their communities because of their past. And that isn’t just those who are secular, but some who just happened to grow up as a different type of frum. But I haven’t heard many stories like that, and I know geirim and BTs living in the Israeli hareidi (or chassidic) world whose children go to the “good” schools, get good shidduchim, etc.

    I think that in all frum communities, hareidi, MO, dati leumi, chassidic, etc, there is a difference between keeping mitzvot and being culturally frum. I might live the same way as the average right-wing dati leumi woman in Israel, but there’s a cultural gap that I can feel whenever I’m in a dati leumi community. It’s not anyone’s fault, not mine and not that of the FFBs. It just is. I can see how it would be very frustrating if someone decided they wanted FFB friends, or if everyone around them was FFB, and they felt a certain coldness. I think that coldness could at times just be a result of cultural differences, which some people (both BT and FFB) don’t feel they can overcome or don’t want to bother to overcome.

    BTs should keep in mind that in some cases, FFBs actually find them intimidating. I’m not saying that’s the explanation if every single one of your neighbors ignores you, but if you find that a few people of your age seem snobbish, it really could be that they’re just shy and feel intimidated talking to someone more “worldly.” Really, I’ve heard from FFBs who say they’ve felt this way, especially those from the more isolated communities.

    In general I see that like attracts like. Most of my friends are BTs, geirim, children of BTs or geirim, or not frum. My husband’s father is a BT, and both of his parents are American. Friendships and marriage between American BTs and Israeli FFBs can work, but there are difficulties there and it’s likely that both partners will have to put in more work than those who married someone from their own background. I’ve seen a lot of intercultural marriages fail, unfortunately, both in the frum world and elsewhere.

    In my admittedly limited experience, children of BTs and geirim really are more likely to stop keeping mitzvot. Even in cases where they are fully accepted by the community. However, from what I’ve seen that’s not true across the board–some children of BTs are as likely or unlikely to leave frumkeit as are children of FFBs, while in some families multiple children become completely secular. It could be that some BT parents experience complete acceptance in a particular community while others are rejected because the school management (or whoever) gets the sense that the latter parents haven’t integrated Torah observance into their lives in the same way the first have, or aren’t as fully a part of the community. I don’t know.

  82. “much of the discrimination felt by Bts is not specifically anti-Bt, since Chareidim, in their shidduchim, are also anti-diabetes, anti-meshuggene, anti-down syndrome (siblings), anti off the derech (siblings), anti divorced parents, anti whatever you like…”

    “I am discriminated against by FFB’s even within my supposedly ideal community… these FFB’s do happen to be my own offspring, but I’m sure it’s a BT thing”

    Shoshi & Ron – all humor aside, we are zoning in on the real issue. All this condescension, even when its combined with sympathy and love for others to find their niche amongst their own, is a natural consequence of an ethos of spiritual perfectionism. There’s a powerful subcurrent within the culture of Jewish Orthodoxy (in all its shades) to elevate the chachamim / Tsaddikim / Chassidim (or whatever other labels are given to those who “succeed”)above and beyond the Benonim and certainly the Amei HaAretz.

    Just think about it. Both of the latter are Kosher Jews and may even be doing tons of chessed and keeping itiim kavuiim (fixed learning times). Yet they’re labelled, deep within our Mishnaic tradition, as a lesser class.

    Perhaps its futile to fight it?

  83. Shoshi , 2 quick things ;

    1)Please explain how the Jewish Voice article is a more nuanced, analytical, objective, and focused snapshot of BT orthodox living, than the hareidi newspaper feature depicting hareidiism with stupidly romantic snapshots of bliss and joy. The one that didn’t like your editorial suggestions.
    The Jewish Voice and your local hareidi newspaper can both publish whatever kind of features they are in the mood of publishing. Freedom of the press applies to everyone BT’s and FFB’s alike.
    The unequipped,untrained poor education and lack of writing skills notwithstanding.
    Some editors and owners of newspapers and periodicals are positive and emotional other editors and owners of newspapers and periodicals are negative and emotional and other others are sensationalist lovers.
    I personally prefer the analytical objective facts less the subjective emotional hysteria and speculative opinion when trying to understand a concept.
    I might have to start my own newspaper and or periodical.

    2)As for the discrimination factor, it’s not clear who is discriminating against whom.
    So basically it’s the dependent/ uneducated/unequipped FFB with the lack of general culture and or vocational training that you feel generally discriminates against the educated/ independent /trained /cultured BT’s when it comes to marriage?

    So when does this discrimination take place before or after the unequipped, untrained FFB stops being FFB ?
    Which party is doing the actual discriminating ? Is it a time sensitive kind of discrimination dependent on various enviromental /educational factors and or is it a mutually beneficial discrimination.

    (Personal disclaimer; please don’t mistaken any of my sentences as an actual defense for the FFB. As a fading FFB I dont have a party, I can party for spiritual pity with.
    And I just don’t understand the whole looking for love discriminating thing. Isnt mutual love, respect and attraction, the reasons one decides to marry the guy the decide is the love of a lifetime?
    What does being discriminated against have to do with anything ? And in what way. Who is doing the discriminating ?
    Isnt everything fair in love and war ?
    I for one, will only marry a guy that was and still is non-frum all the way from birth I’m discriminating like that.

    Also, regarding the whole concept of “Second Class Citizen”, looking at a copy of the copyright registration for the Second Class Citizen Label, here are the specifics;

    Title of Work; Second Class Citizen Sticky Label
    Nature of authorship; two sided/multi- dimensional equal opportunity personality labels
    Description: Comic Sans Font Text “Superiority is just a Pity Party away” hand stitched on fabric heart
    Class 2
    Author of work: The Honorable Inner Ego
    Address: New York City
    First Use in Commerce: late 1800’s in conjunction with the arrival of the first chief rabbi of New York (Trial run as pity party was not the kind of “party” being perpetuated at the time but the second class citizen label had a first successful printing and sticking)
    Date of Effective Registration: early 1900’s at the one of the saddest funeral circumstances in recent history.

    Sometimes it’s too late to un-stick the second class citizen label.

    Apparently, the Second Class Citizen label is not a BT exclusive.It was registered way before.

  84. “and there is an agenda that is becoming more and more obvious: A cynical attempt, not to empathize with BT’s, but to discourage them by maligning the predominantly RW world to which they tend to gravitate.”

    BINGO. And if it’s not the author of the article, who probably meant well, it’s certainly the people he quotes.

    Aside from that, it would be very helpful if people were more specific about what communities they had particular experiences in. As a discerning individual, it helps me not in the slightest to hear the blanket statement of reassurance such as “I have never in my whole life been treated as less of a Jew for being a BT.” As nice as that is, and some may experience a sigh of relief from this, even if repeated 99 times out of 100 people posting here, it’s likely not the case 100% of the time, and what will really be helpful is to be able to associate given communities with various impressions and treatment people experienced.

    Personally, I’m not looking for a ‘sigh of relief’ to keep me “on the path,” and I’m not looking for cartoonish condemnations of the frum-world either. But as some posters have, it would be immensely helpful if people included mention of specific communities to somewhat indicate the general atmosphere, as many BT’s like me are surely looking to settle in a place, now or in the future, that will fit them appropriately and be overall welcoming. I greatly appreciate your comments. Thank you.

  85. Notwithstanding all my knee-jerking, I still feel very strongly that I am discriminated against by FFB’s even within my supposedly ideal community. Their jibes, brutal “helpful” observations and constant attempts to evade my company are painful, and I am considered pretty well integrated.

    Of course these FFB’s do happen to be my own offspring, but I’m sure it’s a BT thing.

  86. “- in virtually every community, some BTs are treated as second class citizens by some people, often by those in leadership positions of communal institutions”

    Man, that’s a lot of communities you’ve lived in. I guess you’re speaking from first hand knowledge?

  87. True: I felt welcomed with open arms at several shabbes tables, more so than by MOs or others.

    But: the ones who invited me would never have me as a daughter-in-law.

    They would recommend me to look for a shidduch who is also a Bt, since the chareidi community is wont to marry the blind to the deaf, the meshuggene to the meshuggene, etc…

    It is true that FFBs suffer perhaps more from it than BTs, because every “deviance” is severely punished and ostracised. The “Shidduch problem” (for themselves, their siblings, their children, their grandchildren) is always above their head, like Damocles’s sword.

    So compared to this, BTs have an easier stance, because they have somewhere to turn to if it doesn’t work.

    If an FFB is ostracised by the community, he has to separate from his immediate family, friends, everything familiar, and often without being equiped (lack of general culture, vocational training, etc).

    So in a way, a BT is less dependend on a community that you do not want to depend on…

    This should make up for the fact that one is not welcome every where…

    much of the discrimination felt by Bts is not specifically anti-Bt, since Chareidim, in their shidduchim, are also anti-diabetes, anti-meshuggene, anti-down syndrome (siblings), anti off the derech (siblings), anti divorced parents, anti whatever you like…

    And perhaps this is the thing I find difficult to adjust t

  88. After having raised two kids to maturity, and two more still in elementary school, I have to say that I don’t dislike the idea of “somewhat” segregated classes altogether. My oldest son was in a class of mostly children of ffb/very yeshiva world families, and was virtually friendless. I don’t know if this was because they were elitist, because he was shy, or because they had very little in common.

    My next son is in a class of mostly children of BTs, and he has lots of friends. Again, don’t kow if it is because he is very social, or because they have a lot in common culturally.

    I think in general, in our world, and in the greater world, the benefits of completely ignoring difference and forcing complete integration is overblown. People, including BTs, and including FFBs, like being around people who are similar to themselves.

    BTW, my very child-of-BT-parents daughter married into an FFB family of some note.

  89. I think the article on the Horowitz Homepage speaks about very real problems.

    And I think it’s a pity that the chareidi press avoids speaking about it. They like to tell romantic stories about how people returned to their jewish roots.

    Upon such a story, I wrote a letter to the editor of my local hareidi newspaper that he should tell the whole story and not only what suits him. (Speak about marriages that were broken up because one spouse wanted to become a BT, the other not, difficulties to be accepted for a Shidduch, into a school, etc).

    The paper did not publish my letter, nor answer it. That’s the easiest way of dealing with problems: Don’t speak about them, they will disappear…

  90. I think that this is sticky issue

    While in general BT’s are not treated as second class citizens, if however they try or think to marry into a “strong FFB family with a very proud linage,” they will be put out and put off as not being the most suitable candidate for this marriage.

    It will take some time for the Hats and Lakewoodites out there to accept BT’s as full fledged real Jews that are “good enough” to marry into these “great” families

  91. Hi, Tzvi. I agree with your points to a point.

    First point: 100%. “Virtually,” “some people” and “often” are excellent words for making this point.

    Second point: I don’t know how “general” “general” is, but all the factors you mention do, indeed, mitigate anti-BT bias.

    Third, sure.

    Fourth, sorry, that’s incoherent. What is not substantiated is not known to be true. Do we throw it up just to see if it will stick? “Sensationalist” and, especially, “unsubstantiated” claims that turn out not to be true… or not to be quite what they were made out to be… or which were all literally true but which only tell half of the story, or even 90% of it… have ruined far more lives than they have improved.


  92. Since we’re taking positions, following is mine:
    – in virtually every community, some BTs are treated as second class citizens by some people, often by those in leadership positions of communal institutions
    – In general BTs are not treated as second class citizens because they usually have at least one of the following: a) money b) spouse with yichus c) a gemaracup d) mastery of FFB appearance and mannerisms
    – Some BTs might not complain about any of this due to a complete and total oblivion to the way they are actually being treated.
    – Making poorly supported and sensationalist claims does not in the end help anybody’s cause, but neither does hiding the truth, if it’s truth, even when it is sensationalist and unsubstantiated.

  93. Shmuel

    In all fairness, the piece put together a number of sensationalist quotes and stories to bind together the claim that BTs are generally treated as second class citizens in certain Frum communities.

    Even if those anonymous quotes were not exaggerations, that *does not* make the case that BTs are generally treated unfairly in these communities.

    Again, let me restate my position
    – BTs are sometimes treated as second class citizens in many communities
    – In general BTs are not treated as second class citizens
    – Making poorly supported and sensationalist claims does not in the end help the BTs clause

  94. FWIW I am not so sure I disagree with all of the comments quoted from Avakesh, including some of the ones that many find most offensive…

  95. Ron,
    Your comments of about my use of the term “knee-jerk defense” are well taken. I was merely trying to point out that it seems to be that many of those who commented (as well the Beyond BT site in general, by failing to post the article) missed the forest for the trees. When one is criticized there is an instinctive urge to reject the criticism without giving it a proper hearing, this is especially true when it is ones religious community or beliefs that are being critized. I’m certainly on occasion guilty of doing just that.

    There is no doubt that the article was written from a MO perspective and in a polemical manner, as BT who is affiliated with the MO community I was struck by the fact that it ignored the (at times great) problems that BT’s face within the MO world and instead focusest all of attention on RW circles. That having been said, this not mean what the article said was not valid or that the cases it described were untrue. The fact is even if the comments made on the Avakesh blog were made two years ago, they still were said and reflect a view held by a certain number of FFB’s (I won’t hazard a guess as to how many). Critizing me for my word choice or ignoring the article because it comes from MO sourse won’t solve the problems it will only make them worse and more devestating for the next BT that encounters them.

  96. For the record, and because Tzvi has declined the opportunity to put up (and has at least employed the rhyming alternative, to his credit), I have confirmed, not only from my own observation from over a decade of involvement in that school and as the spouse of a teacher, but from the very mouth of the sole person in a position to answer the question definitively, that the following statement:

    in your very own yeshiva, under your very own nose, FFB parents organize FFB-only classes such that they shouldn’t be exposed to undesirable influences

    is utterly false.

    Shmuel, I appreciate your thoughtful points. I will say this, however: Whenever I hear the term “knee-jerk defense” I reach for my word processor. “Knee-jerk” is a way to invalidate someone’s argument. If you have a response to an argument based on facts or logic, utilize them and keep the adjectives in the holster. Once drawn such weapons escalate the dispute until… there’s unhappiness. Maybe that’s just my BT kind of way of what JT calls “professional arguing.”

  97. Though undoubdtedly some parts of the article were somewhat polemical, it was nonetheless an important piece that deserves to be read. If I could add one thing to the article it would be many BTs are treated as second class citzens even in the modern orthodox world. It may not be as out in the open as in the haredi world, where it takes the form exlusion from schools or communities but it certainly still exists even in the MO world. This is certainly true by shidduchim. I understand that there are many real issues of compatibility and family relations, but these are always issues and there is no reason that she should be used indiscriminately to blackball BT’s. Furthermore the reason I have heard most often (usually from mo girls) for not wanted to date BT’s has little to do any good reason instead its: “My family has been frum FOREVER and my grandparents just couldn’t stand the thought of me marrying a BT.” This is practically the definition of discrimination and second class citzenship.

    Furthermore, as I read the postings it appears to me (and I may very well be wrong about this) that many of the poster became BT’s a little bit later in life when they were already married or at least financially sound. This is a very different world from those who become BT’s before they are married and financially secure.

    Finally, I have noticed a great many people who posts seem to reflect a knee-jerk defense of the frum world. The special gift that BT’s have is that we don’t see the frum world through the blinders of FFB’s we can see it for all its strengths and it shortcomings. Our tachlis shouldn’t be to simply rush to defend to the frum world when ever it is critized but rather truly attempt to make the frum world better.

  98. When I started to on the road to being as Frum as I am now, I just assumed that all the people I saw in shul were FFB. Then, after a long while, I started realizing that was not the case. However, if I walk into a Shul/Yeshiva/kosher restaurant now, I would never be able to tell who was a FFB, and who was a BT. I treat no one as 2nd class.


  99. One reason I’m leaning in that direction is because the three Rabbis mentioned above thought there was enough credibility in the article to post about it and respond to its claims.

    The second reason is that in the world of the Internet the espousing and valuing of opinions is taking a different shape. How people weigh the credibility of things they read on the Internet is all over the map, so it’s possible the author gave collective credibility to the opinions he had gathered.

    Based on the above two facts, I think we can and perhaps should give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was writing at least partly if not primarily for the benefit of BTs.

  100. “In your experience, are BTs generally treated as second class citizens in the communities you’ve lived in?”

    In a word, no.

    As a frum Jew I’ve only lived in the Bronx, first in Pelham Parkway and then in Riverdale. My wife was living in Pittsburgh when we met and from what I could see the answer would be “no” for that community as well.

  101. I don’t think it’s necessarily wise to attack the author of the article. It is very possible that he feels he is helping BTs by exposing this. Rabbi Adlerstein, Rabbi Horowitz and Rabbi Maryles certainly felt that way when they publicized the article.

    Nobody here is saying that BTs are never treated as second class citizens. It’s just that in many (most) of our experiences it doesn’t seem to be widespread, as the article implied. That coupled with the lack of credible sources in the article leads many of us to a different conclusion than the author.

    But to attribute ill intentions to the author seems to me to be unnecessary and possibly beyond what is called for in this situation.

  102. RDS and yy:
    > As such I am somewhat incredulous of the commenter claiming to be familiar with “many” shidduchim between BT families and Chassideshe Rebbes.

    I should have been more clear. I wrote about shidduchim between BT families and chassidishe rabbonim, not rebbes. I meant a chassidishe rav, such as a rav of a shul or neighborhood, as in the case of a rav of RBS whose son married the daughter of a friend of mine.

    Well put. I think it smacks of the attitude expressed in the first paragraph of R. Adelstein’s post on CC:

    “Several decades ago, a senior official at the Conservative movement’s University of Judaism alerted the wider Los Angeles community by direct mailing to a new threat looming on the Jewish horizon. A growing number of Jews were introducing strange and foreign ideas and practices into the Jewish mainstream. He urged his readers to reject their view of Judaism, and to not take pride in their rediscovery of their Jewish roots.
    “The threat, he claimed, came from people known as Ba’alei Teshuva.”

    The evidence of a cynical attempt is strengthened by the fact that the Mishpacha article is from September, 2005. The quotes from the anonymous Avakesh blog are from 2006. The rest of the shocking stories come from an anonymous “shadchanit.” In fact, the only statement the author challenges is from R. Yitz Greenman who said there’s 60,000 baalei teshuvah in the US.

    I agree, there is an obvious agenda here.

  103. PS reforming some school admission pratices and trying to ameliortae the shidduch crisis in general and the BT shidduch crisis in particular would both be in the spirit of takonas haShovim

  104. Amongst the mkarvim who paint only the rosiest side of Torah life and don’t prepare the newbies for the hard (but worthy) struggle ahead.

    Debateable point. Here’s where the BT dynamic is radically different from the Ger Tzedek dynamic. The halacha mandates discouraging Gerim from converting. IIRC no similar law governs kiruv rechokim. OTC we find many laws instituted mipnei takonas haShovim=”to ‘fix’ things and make things easier, for returness”.

    While a m’karev who failed to inform an 18 year old newbie that she may face shidduch discrimination may now be saddled with guilt as she turns 35 and is still looking, might the gulit not be heavier if a m’karev DID inform an 18 year old newbie that she may face shidduch discrimination and she reacted “with a no-thanks not for me WAY too difficult” and she might’ve otherwise become a 35 frum mother of 4-10 frum Jewish children.

    Not an easy call at all.

  105. Let me clarify something else here. I am not interested in defending malfeasors in the frum world — and that is what they are, if they are acting cruelly in the way they treat BT’s. There are deep pockets of prejudice in our community as in all others, and I am not interested in either whitewashing that phenomenon or minimizing the pain felt by its victims.

    All I have said on this specific topic is that I personally have only been treated like ROYALTY by FFB people — hasidim (not only Lubavitchers), yeshivish and MO — for what is coming on a quarter of a century in this environment, from Day One.

    And while I do not doubt that cruelty exists — as Jaded pointed out, we are always looking for ways to differentiate ourselves from others in order to assert our superiority — my point is that this article is grossly misleading, and there is an agenda that is becoming more and more obvious: A cynical attempt, not to empathize with BT’s, but to discourage them by maligning the predominantly RW world to which they tend to gravitate.

    It smells to High Heaven.

  106. I agree that a BT-Chassidic Rbbe shidduch would be very exceptional.

    At the same time, I can echo what a number of my peers who’ve been frum for 25 odd years and living in a few diverse communities have been saying, namely that there is NO CONSPIRACY against the BT’s tho there is an inherent tribal, heirarchical leaning that brushes many marginal types aside.

    Indeed it is this “inherent” aspect of Torah life that we should be seeking to modify rather than attempting to vent on a particualr sector. I’ve seen in among the Settlers, the Yeshiva U’s, the Litvishers and chassidische. Each have their particular elitism that they cling to with dear life.

    It’s just that some are more upfront an honest about it. Aye, for me this is where the greatest sting lies: Amongst the mkarvim who paint only the rosiest side of Torah life and don’t prepare the newbies for the hard (but worthy) struggle ahead.

    Then again, we’ve been thru this in recent threads…

  107. I was a “BT” before I became frum… at college. Just like a BT, my parents weren’t “from there” — they hadn’t attended college at all. Other “kids'” parents knew each other, or had gone to the same schools or were members of the same clubs. Even minority group students were likely to have college educated parents, or at least one. Believe me, I felt as strange on the country-club campus where I went to school as a lot of us do walking into a bais medrash for the first time. It may as well have been the moon.

    During orientation for RA’s, in fact, they did an exercise where we were supposed to develop empathy for differently-othered people by all 120 of us or so standing out in a field, and the leader called out categories — “if your father went to our college, run over by the tree!” — “if both your parents went to college, go over by that rock!” — so we could see what it felt like to be conspicuously not part of this or that category. The leader was very pleased with this exercise, which was kind of interesting, and was about to be finished when I said, noting the irony in the oversight, “You didn’t do one for people neither of whose parents went to college.” She hadn’t even thought of it!

    There were two of us. And we were so beyond the realm of the leader’s PC expectations that she never even considered — I mean, you get it — the irony!

    And I had a smashing time. I had friends like me, friends whose dads were legacies, friends who were movie stars, the whole gamut. And there were clubs and places where I was not welcome, not explicitly, just as a matter of fact, and I didn’t miss them for a second.

    I made my own world and it was not lonely.

    It’s different when you have kids, of course. Ben-David’s Tosefta is true for adults. There’s no question that social cruelty inflicted on children is the hurt that keeps on giving. Some people, as I’ve more or less said before, have parents who went to college… some have no parents… some wish they never knew their parents. Life is a challenge.

    Every person must regard himself as if the world were created for his sake. Maybe teaching our children how one goes about making his own world, or even how to remain true to your inner world even if complete social integration is possible for you, is something we should all keep in mind. This discussion is reminding me that this could indeed be valuable. Judaism is an intensely social kind of social order, but ultimately if we rely solely on the views and attitudes of others as justifications and validations of ourselves — well, the Mishna also says whoever has 100, desires 200…

  108. touche. As I wrote in my Williamsburg-Teaneck example, more often than not the feeling is mutual. Bottom line though is that no matter whom the snobbery emantes from it is not reflective of Ahavas Yisroel. When will we ever learn?

  109. 1) Quite naturally BTs wind up in communities that accept them – if they were not accepted, they would keep looking.

    2) There is certainly a small minority of FFBs who are put off by BTs for any number of reasons – I believe the proper quote in this situation is Tosefta d’Rabbi Groucho: I wouldn’t want to join a club that would (not) have me… It’s the FFB’s problem – and loss.

  110. I wish we could pick the brains of some old Holocaust survivors to find out if the circle-the-wagons mentality so prevalent in many frum schools admissions policies today was the MO of Yeshivas, Bais Yaakovs and Chadorin in the old country.

    That said comment 14 really hits the nail on the head. I am no shadchan and (basically)have only my own and my one married son’s anecdotal experience to base this on but it seems to me that the shidduch process is humbling for almost everyone involved. Torah society is an undeniably hierarchal one and and contemporary frum society is informed by a multi-tiered system that reflects core values and, sometimes, petty conceits pretending to be core values.

    A shidduch between an FFB shtreimel wearing son of Williamsburg and an FFB snood wearing daughter of Teaneck is highly unlikely to occur, not only becuase the boys family feels that the girls families lack of chumra is “beneath” them, but becuase the girl’s family feels that the boys families lack of higher education and proffesionalism is “beneath” them,

    I studied in several FFB Yeshivas and attended many weddings of Rosh Yeshivas daughters. The Chassanim were, almost exclusively, the sons of other prominent Rabbonim and Rosh Yeshivas. This is not an anti-BT bias per se. It is an aristocracy that chooses to be meshadech with fellow aristocrats.

    IMO there was a “wild-west, no-holds-barred, wide-open-spaces” period of about 25-40 years after the Holocaust when people were advancing and integrating in a pure, close-to-American-dream meritocracy. But over the last 20 years or so things are ossifying into new multi-tiered aristocracies incorporating elements of the pre-war with infusions from the immediate post-war.

    As such I am somewhat incredulous of the commenter claiming to be familiar with “many” shidduchim between BT families and Chassideshe Rebbes. I think that window of opportunity for such unions closed about a generation ago, if it was ever really open at all.

  111. Indeed I know many successful Lakewood BT’s, Michoel. But I believe culturally Lakewood is becoming harder to separate from the haredi world in EY, and I have some pretty good haredi authority to back me up on this.

    Tzvi, what are “FFB only classes”? You mean the children of FFB’s only in certain classes? Most children are not BT’s, after all. If that is what you have heard, it’s a complete bobba mayseh, utterly false. I say this as a parent and as the spouse of a YK teacher. But perhaps I don’t know what you mean. (ADDED:) If anyone else knows what Tzvi means I am dying to hear about it. If you can back up his claim with specifics but don’t want them published email me If there’s a grain of truth to them, believe me, I will not be reluctant to “go to town” on the matter.

    By the way, a friend sent along this alternative view from Rabbi Adlerstein.

  112. Ron, don’t you realize that in your very own city, in your very own yeshiva, under your very own nose, FFB parents organize FFB-only classes such that they shouldn’t be exposed to undesirable influences? You are either being dishonest or are swept up in the same be-positive BT hysteria that infects this forum and prevented the article from even being acknowledged here for all these weeks.

  113. As A BT living in a Chasidishe community for over 3 decades I have never felt as if I am treated as a 2nd class citizen. There are always people who have an attitude problem which prevents them from feeling accepted. As far as shiduchim are concerned eventhough certain people would not be mashadech with me I am not the only one in this situation. Children from one parent families, children with a sick parent, an off the derech sibling and many others have it just as hard. Who says anyway that those from supposedly top families make better spouses. Very often they do not.

  114. I think small communities such as ours cannot afford to ostracize anyone, including non-frum. That is a big advantage (and sometimes disadvantage) to living in such a place. EVERYONE is welcome BUT whose house can I eat in? Hmmmmmmm.

  115. Mark and Dave,
    You did a smart thing by not running the original as is. I wish others would have done that.

    “(By the way I am not sure I am counting Lakewood as being part of the US.)”

    There are plenty of baalei t’shuvah in Lakewood and they are doing fine.

  116. It is the same article as in the Jewish Voice and Opinion and it seems that Rabbi Horowitz, Rabbi Adlerstein and Rabbi Maryles thought it would be helpful to BTs to publish this article and we thank them for their good intentions.

    We at first considered it, but after a careful re-reading and asking other opinions we decided it was too sensationalist and painted an inaccurate picture.

  117. I have simply never seen any of this in the US yeshiva community. Indeed I know BT’s who were redt to the daughters of rosh yeshiva as well. As I said in separate email conversations related to this post, I have been in the BT communities in Brooklyn and Passaic for over 20 years, and my brother in Monsey (he is married to the BBT daughter of a RWO day school principal in fact!), and while nothing is perfect — and there is plenty of room to criticize many aspects of the UO social order — I simply have no first or second hand experience of any of the things being described here.

    (By the way I am not sure I am counting Lakewood as being part of the US.)

    There was a similar article (was it the same one?) in the Jewish Voice and Opinion in New Jersey last month or so… What is really going on here, with articles such as these?

  118. I should add that my children’s school registration form asks for the names, addresses, shuls, and shul rabbi’s name of the students’ grandparents. We give the grandparents’ names and addresses for fundraising but don’t bother filling in the shul information, mainly because it’s none of their business (it’s not like they’d know anything about out-of-town shuls anyway). No one has ever mentioned this as a problem.

  119. In my experience, particularly in Brooklyn, BTs are not treated like second class citizens. However, due to some BTs’ limited experience, they might not understand some of the language and the unspoken communication, not to mention the implicit rules of the community. That might leave them confused and somewhat resentful. It’s unfortunate but should not be perceived as an insult.

    When it comes to marriage, as difficult as this might be, BTs have to understand that many FFBs are simply incapable of dealing with the complex family situations that many BTs have. It’s sad that so many FFBs can’t handle those kinds of delicate relationships but it is true. Others choose to avoid those situations even though they probably could handle the situations. And some BTs, who do not have complex family relationship, might be unfairly treated like all other BTs.

    So I think there is some discrimination when it comes to shidduchim, but some of that is legitimate avoidance of potential disasters.

    Other than shidduchim, I’m no aware of any discrimination. The horror stories told in that article do not represent the realities I’ve seen. I know obvious — very obvious — BTs who have a son in “The Cheder” in Brooklyn. And they aren’t rich and don’t have connections. And more moderate schools have plenty of children of BTs.

  120. My experience in Kew Gardens Hills is that BTs are definitely not treated as second class citizens. There are less distinctions between BTs and FFBs in my particular Shul and the neighborhood in general. The ties that bind here from my perspective are Torah, Avodah and Gemillas Chasadim.

    To be accurate however, there are situations where one might not be totally treated as a first class citizen. However, I think that is a feature of any community or organization and even distinguished Rabbonim like Rabbi’s Horowitz, Adlerstein and Maryles will find many a situation where they would not be treated as first-classers.

  121. The article asked, “In your experience, are BTs generally treated as second class citizens in the communities you’ve lived in?”

    Like most people, we can speak most convincingly of our own direct experience. In the most recent 25 years of our married life, we’ve lived in:

    Allentown, PA
    Oak Park, MI
    Houston, TX
    Indianapolis, IN

    We didn’t detect any hostility toward us for being BT’s; often it was quite the opposite. This was true in our interactions with both the Modern Orthodox and the Yeshivish FFB’s in these places. To at least some degree, this reception could reflect the “out-of-town” factor at work. So, if you’re feeling put upon, consider “out-of-town” as an option. You still need to do your homework to choose the best place for your family.

  122. Dear BBT,

    Thank you very much for this calm and measured approach to the article. Would that more people took this path.

  123. Nope, not in my experience. I am a BT who became shomrei around fifteen years ago, and I cannot think of a single instance where I have been discriminated against in anyway because of that.

  124. In my experience BT’s are completely accepted and aren’t treated as second-class.

    I’ve been a BT for 29 years and married for 25 years in Israel; my wife is also BT. My children have always been well accepted in the litvishe cheder and Bais Yaakov, they get along great socially in the chareidi neighborhood we live in, and so on.

    I think the main point is that my wife and I invested deeply in becoming fluent in Torah knowledge and we believe in and accept the community’s goals and passions.

    The article cited in these blogs is based on anecdotal evidence, and much of the worst stuff is even taken from blogs or as hearsay from some “shadchanit.” It is skewed, and heavily influenced by the author’s prejudices. You could write horror stories all day about any community under the sun if that’s what you set out to do.

    I could write an equally convincing article about the chesed of the frum community and how so many frum people did so much to advance my wife and I, and our family, over the years; about dozens of BT’s I know personally who are marrying their children to the children of roshei yeshivos and mashgichim, and yes, chassidishe rabbonim!

    In fact, Ron Coleman wrote a very penetrating post about this a month ago:

    More and more I am reading submissions and comments that suggest that some of us believe the “frum world” owes us something. It is true that kol yisroel areivim ze l’zeh — all Jews are guarantors, or responsible for, each other — but that does not mean what some people seem to think. And it is not a one-way street.

    I want to thank the “frum world” for building great institutions without any help, and in some cases with opposition, from my family and relatively immediate ancestors.

    I want to thank the “frum world” for accepting me and my family into it, despite its own traumatic experiences, on our merits, or despite a lack of them as may be the case.

    I want to thank the “frum world” for every Shabbos meal given to me, a stranger from a strange place with strange ideas and a vocabulary and level of sensitivity that needed a lot of improvement.

    I want to thank the “frum world” for generating and sharing vast amounts of wealth to build edifices and organizations without which my life would be immensely poorer, and which I could never build myself.

    I want to thank the “frum world” for inspiring me so often and so well.

    Thank you, “frum world.” I can never repay you.

    Okay now, Ron, you don’t have to repeat yourself. :)

    Of course there’s room for improvement, but I wouldn’t denigrate an entire community based on hearsay evidence, especially when there’s so much evidence to the contrary.

  125. On a personal level, the religious school I attended back in the day, from what I remember there were definitely plenty of students whose parents were bal teshuvas. On the student level I cant recall any instance in which a second class citizenship claim was being touted about and or individuals were being discriminated against specifically for having parents that were bal teshuvas.Things may have changed and I’ve never been part of the hanhalah so I cant speak for them. Nor would I ever want to be accused of sticking up for the hanhalah. But I dont recall any BT discrimination/name calling back in the day.

    Also, I’m sure this will not take anyone by surprise, but Jews are always finding reasons to treat other Jews like second class citizens. I believe Rabbi Adlerstien made a similar point. I’ve come to understand that at any point in time, there will always be groups/tribes/subsections and segments that are feeling just a little bit prouder, smarter, better dressed and taller than their shorter, lamer, less spiffy looking and less educated little brothers and sisters.

    I think using pity parties, heartfelt emotions and spiritual support groups as a super subtle defense in order to graciously and self righteously build a whole new set of reasons to be prouder and even better , smarter , and lets not forget those better manners than the scruffy uneducated FFB’s, I think it’s just a waste of energy.Who cares how better anyone is than the FFB.

    It’s like starting out a legal argument with personal feelings, bruised egos, emotional sentiments and constitutional references and calls for peace, liberty, justice, free speech, personal freedoms and control for everyone. It’s just a distraction from what the real focus should be and is not likely to win over the hardcore legal facts, in this case the orthodox reality, the personal heartrending renderings, feelings of hurt and emotional pain notwithstanding, sitting or running.

    For the life of me I have never understood the innate need and desire to be included in the wonderful world of ffb. If you like what they stand for try fitting in with them, enjoy the ride just don’t start puking over everyone on the ride you chose at the amusement park you wanted to spend your life in. The merry go round, carousel, tin cups, scream machine, medusa, kingda ka, and top thrill dragster are just not for everyone. If you don’t like the rides and or what they stand for, find new amusement parks and places to fit in or just create new spaces. End of the story, really, there is no need for oh so shocking sequel after sequel of the same puking different ride in the same or similar amusement parks.
    No one is interested in cleaning up certain kind of messes. So everyone that is not happy in the amusement parks they chose , were born in or ended up in (me included) needs to just get over it, and respect the few and far between, fine cleanup crews around from afar.

    As a fading ffb I was having a little bit of trouble following the underlying logic premise notions points and facts the author was trying to instill the reader with. Humans have been calling other humans derogatory nicknames since the beginning of derogatory nickname knowledge.

    When I was a kid I remember wondering about the connotations ,derogatory names like bastard, son of a bitch and what it clearly implied without there necessarily being any reason to believe so.
    Does the author think that any yeshiva kid calling another kid a “mamzer” or bastard really actually believes he was conceived out of wedlock? It’s not clear what the yeshiva kids actually mean when they call other kids “ben niddah” or whatever. Are they just trying to imply that the parents do not keep the family purity laws, in the same way bastard implies parents having had sex outside the constraints of marriage?

    Or was it specifically a taunt referring to a specific time in the marriage of the parents at which family purity laws were not being kept. But wouldn’t this need a little investigative inquiry, as it is just as logical to believe that the parents became religious before the birth of the kid being taunted, than after he was born.Especially if he is in elementary school. It’s not clear why “ben niddah” would refer specifically to a set of parents that are bal teshuvahs as opposed to any set of parents not keeping family purity laws.

    And while we are in speculative mode has anyone ever taken a poll on how many parents nowadays keep family purity laws, I wonder how many no mikvah shoes will fit on what the “ben or bas niddah” statistics really are on both bt and ffb parents. Jewish schools have been finding reasons to be snobby and exclusive since forever.

    I know it feels so much better to make it more of a personal hurt, and pen eloquent essays to the lovely Mishpachah magazine, but there is a laundry list of outrageous reasons schools do not accept or keep students ranging all the way from money/pride/pettiness to small town politics.
    Same goes for communities.

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