Thirteen years ago, The NY Times ran a puff piece on the Weddings page about me. A unique angle for their “Vows” column–anti-establishment editor burns her Ms. Magazines and ties the knot in all-concealing gown. Driven by the kiruv fever that often hijacks the newly frum, I was quoted insisting that my new lifestyle was the truly liberated way, and declared that I certainly wouldn’t be one of those sterling-polishing housewives.

All these years later, I wish I had a second in my carpool driving, toilet scrubbing, challah kneading, essay-grading, homework-supervising, grocery-shlepping life to polish some silver. Instead, I long ago packed the good stuff away and substituted ersatz silver from the local Odd Lot.

Maybe I should rate this entry: For Women Only, because I don’t want anyone to take me the wrong way. Far from regretting my lifestyle change, I truly appreciate it, and thank Hashem multiple times a day for the many gifts in my life, no matter how bratty they may sometimes behave! But I also have enough experience to resent that kiruv line about how the drudgery that comes along with the enormous honor of being a Jewish mother uplifts us, just like the Kohanim in the Bais HaMikdash. I mean, come on! I am impressed when I can balance it all but I’d rather not define myself by the shine on my floors.

Which brings me to my surprisingly emotional reaction at finally watching the Women’s version of the Inspired DVD.

Yes, I know it’s PROPAGANDA. Yes, I realize the purpose of Inspired is to motivate FFBs to do kiruv. Yes, I know everyone’s life has its ups and downs.

But still, I found myself jealous. Why are all the Inspired BTs so serene, spiritual, beautiful, enlightened? Why do they have so much time for self-fulfillment? Languid afternoons playing the piano? Whiling the afternoon away with creative writing in a moody Jerusalem cafe? Embracing the opportunity to host thirteen last-minute Shabbos guests week after week?

What FFB wouldn’t want to forge a relationship with one of these delightfully accomplished women? They have as much to offer as to take. What a no-risk, feel-good prospect! But how many of us were really confused, demanding, provocative, difficult evolving BTs?

I don’t really care whether this deception is fair to the FFB; whatever it takes, the ends justify the means if it causes them to look outward and relate to secular Jews or new BTs.

And yet. I felt so…messy? Inferior? Complicated?

Is there an alternative? Looking at the two choices, obviously not. We could:

1) Continue to lure BTs with the Inspired image of fulfillment and belonging.

2) Be totally open about the other side of becoming frum (stresses with money, sholom bayis, secular family, the endless work of running a multi-child household and cooking all those meals, jealousy from a lack of frum family, feeling inferior, experiencing actual discrimination, three-day Yom Tovs, and on and on) and dry up the BT movement forever.

That’s why I so treasure this blog. Until we’re totally accepted by the FFB world, we need this anonymous, non-judgmental forum for supporting each other. And when we finally reach the end of the weekly marathon and view our family enjoying our delicious labors around the Shabbos table, we can recall the tarnish in our lives, and know that our path isn’t the easy way but it’s sure the only way!

Originally published February 8, 2006

156 comments on “UnInspired

  1. One really irritating thing about kiruv people is the way many make being frum into a fairy tale. I often found myself over the years regressing emotionally just to adapt to it. Rabbi Soloveitchik criticizes this sort of thing, says religion doesn’t solve life’s problems but deepens them. I don’t go for this Stepford wives happy camp approach to Judaism. In many ways, my life was much more satisfying even in spiritual ways before I was frum. Nevertheless, this is the right way to be, in my view, so I do it, and take the bad with the good. Being a BT has been a difficult ordeal. One of the hardest parts is the emotional repression which is just everywhere. But hopefully one breaks through that and allows himself to be honest about life, even frum life. It gets much more enjoyable after that.

  2. Thank you for sharing your heart so openly and honestly. From someone who has been there: There’s a chassidish saying that when the Angel of Death complained of being overworked in his task of killing people, Hashem sent incompetent doctors to help him. And when the Angle of Death complained that he was overworked in his task of making people feel inadequate and depressed, Hashem sent incompetent teachers to help him.

    What we all-too-often experience in the “kiruv” world is a dose of “the blind leading the blind.” Baalei Tshuvot, in an effort to endorse what they are doing and gain prestige, start “kiruving” others when they are not qualified to do so. New recruits gravitate to these “teachers” (who are not much more than new recruits themselves) because these “guides” usually offer their services and advice for free.

    The solution: ask Hashem, in your own words, to help you to find a competent, qualified teacher/guide who has been authorized by a rabbi known for his compassion and abilities in solid, practical counsel. From experience: you are most likely to find this in the chassidish world than elsewhere.

    Don’t settle for less than the very best. Then, together with the rabbi who is endorsing that teacher, consult together about how much you can afford to pay for his/her time. A good teacher is not easy to find, but it’s worth the quest. I’ve worked out barter systems with students who can’t afford to pay money, but payment is an important spiritual element in a Torah-true teacher-student relationship.

  3. Warning: Generalization alert

    For whatever reason, FFBs are raised to present an image of perfection to the world. BTs aren’t raised with this behavior, and may mistake an image of perfection for perfection. This difference in upbringing is bound to lead to some self-esteem issues among BTs if it’s not recognized for what it is.

  4. I still would like an update from Shayna. After doing some mental math, I figured out that she got married (or made her life changes, not sure which) 20 years ago in 1993. Twenty years is a very significant anniversary, and I was wondering how Shayna feels about reaching this milestone. Also, does she now have a child “in the parsha” of shidduchim, and can we hear her thoughts about that?

  5. I’m going to comment without even looking at the old comments, which are too numerous to mention (and a brief glance seems to indicate they went on a giant tangent, anyway).

    Here’s my problem with this post:


    If is easy, we’re doing something wrong.

    If we want to grow, we’ve got to do challenging things. That’s why it’s called avodas Hashem. The lives of the non-Jewish or secular people I know are no easier than mine, nor happier. What we all need to do is find meaning in our efforts.

    Sure, dishes are a drag–but remember who you’re doing it for, or listen to a Torah tape or fun music while you’re doing it. Sure bills suck–but I know plenty of unhappy, direction-less people who have no kids, or have kids in public school, or who have so much money they spend it on luxuries like yachts and European vacations. Kids getting on your nerves? Take a class, read a book, and daven.

    This isn’t about frumkeit or being BT. A woman who is home with the kids and is overwhelmed by the tedium or frustrated by the challenge needs to decide not to be a victim and discuss with her husband what she needs to do to feel like life is “inspired.” Men and women at work outside the home often feel the same way, BTW. If they feel frustrated, they need to find something they enjoy in the job, acquire a new skill, or sometimes are just ready for a new challenge. Inspiration doesn’t just happen, we have to seek it out.

    Grab an hour here and there to take a class, hang out with each of the kids one-on-one (they’re so much more fun that way!), have a date night, or write in that cafe! If there’s something you need to do because you feel it’s your tafkid — writing, business management, art, science –find a way to integrate it into your life.

    Easy does not equal happy, and hard doesn’t equal unhappy. BTs shouldn’t be told it’s hard to be BT. They should be told that life will be hard, period. It’s through the challenges that we grow.

  6. Speaking as an attorney (although to be completely honest, I do not specialize in this area of law) the recent enactment of no-fault divorce in New York State will have very little impact on the divorce rate. The reason is because for many years getting a divorce in New York State based on the ground of “abandonment” has been relatively easy. If it is uncontested, the parties do not even have to show up in person, it is just granted on the papers, so to speak. The way things are right now, there is practically no difference for the lawyer, the judge or the parties between drafting an uncontested divorce based on the abandonment of one party by the other, and drafting an uncontested divorce based on irreconcilable differences.

  7. Tuvia,

    Following your logic, the fact that Aish now uses the 25% divorce figure, as you acknowledge at the very end, should make you take their rebbeim more seriously. It’s not too late to sign yourself up for courses!

  8. Kiruv rabbis point to a 50% secular divorce as a result of the sexual revolution – it permits premarital intimacy, and people don’t marry based on values, but on (fleeting) sexual chemistry.

    The whole argument is poor – it is not well researched. What is disturbing is I don’t believe many of these rabbis have even looked into this area – but they get up in front of impressionable and somewhat confused college kids, and hope it gets them to rethink secular living.

    The only problem I have with it (with anything in kiruv) is it is not accurate. They pull out the fifty percent divorce number to create tension and fear of failed marriages in these kids. They pull out the shomer negiah part to bring up the idea that frum society has a wiser solution.
    They link all of it together.

    But in reality divorce is 20-25% among white college grads – a better demographic to compare frum marriage to.

    And in reality divorce rates rose (permanently) in response to no fault divorce. Noone really understands how hard it was for an unhappily married (for example) wife to divorce a husband who refuses to cooperate. No fault divorce made divorce much easier – and a trapped wife (or husband) much less common.

    I think kiruv is interesting – but it is difficult to take seriously rabbaim who are either a) ignorant of the subject they are speaking on, or b) willfully bending the facts to get young Jews to come to Yiddishkeit.
    It all comes out in the end anyway, so kiruv rabbis will eventually stop this line of reasoning.

    Recently, I read on Aish.com that the secular divorce rate is 25%.
    So, they have come ‘round. Years ago their rabbaim would say 50%.


  9. This is interesting, but what do divorce rates have to do with kiruv? Was this specifically kiruv for divorced adults?

  10. I want to address two things I learned from kiruv rabbis that were not accurately portrayed:

    First, the idea that 50% of marriage ends in divorce.

    The truth is that, among college educated whites (Jew, gentile) the number is somewhere between 20 and 25% (and it mainly happens in the first ten years.)

    Second, the idea that the sexual revolution is causing the high divorce rate (the idea being that shomer negiah encourages people to marry based on values, not clouded by premarital intimacy).

    The truth is that, starting with California in 1970, states enacted “no fault” divorce laws. By 1983, every state but NY and South Dakota had some form of “no fault divorce.”

    Interestingly, divorce started to spike in 1970 and level off around 1983.

    Before 1970, for an unhappily married individual to get a divorce was very hard (we have no concept today of just how hard it could be.)

    Many just gave up on the idea.

    One blessing of the “no fault” divorce: since enacted, the suicide rate among unhappily married women has dropped significantly.

    New York was the last state to enact no fault (in 2010).

    Interesting to note, NY has had one of the lowest divorce rates of any state. It is expected to now rise, and then, like the other states, level off.

    So, in conclusion, the 50% divorce rate is a myth when applied to your average white college graduate, Jew or gentile.

    And the advent of premarital intimacy as a cause of more divorce is not persuasive. Really, it is the enactment of no-fault divorce that drives a permanently higher divorce rate.

    Kiruv rabbis (often touted as experts in the field of marriage and relationships) are not so expert it appears.

    I was able to research the above with about fifteen minutes on the internet, starting with Google.

    Thank you,


  11. “Not even a tzadik gamur can stand in the shoes of a Baal Teshuvah.” Pat yourself on the back, and keep going forward. As for the rest of us, Chazak Chazak,V’nitchazek.

  12. I didn’t see the Inspired video, but I sure relate to Shayna’s post. I have trouble listening to shiurim or reading about people who although “inspiring” are so far out of my league that it’s frustrating. I’ll never be a holy woman, perfect daughter, wife, mother, etc.–and that’s o.k. HKBH only judges me against myself so why should I judge myself by how I measure up to others?

    Life everywhere is stressful. Sure, leading a frum lifestyle adds certain stressors–BUT, an intelligent person with open eyes can see that a BT just trades one set of stressors for another. The difference is that every day, every stress, every aspect of life has meaning. Not so for our secular bretheren. That’s why people in the secular world are never satified–you cannot fill a spiritual need with “things”.

    I think new BTs view frum people (and especially FFBs) as perfect because they are seeking perfection themselves which they think is attainable by leading a life guided by Torah.

    I’ve had an unbelievable amount of serious stressors over the last 2 years. I hear over & over, “how do you manage?”. I can be falling apart but that’s not what people see. I have my limitations. I look at others & ask them the same thing! Things are not always what they seem until you get below the surface.

    I listen to shiurim by “regular” people who although inspiring, struggle with life too (current fave is Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein–www.torahanytime.com ). Personally, I find someone who struggles more inspiring because I can relate to them.

  13. Just thought I’d comment on your great post. I watched the women’s Inspired video and was mesmerized. But I admit that I laughed all the way through as I knew most of the women interviewed. As such, I was interested to learn parts of their stories I didn’t know. But I also know that all of the women interviewed, like the rest of us, are real people. We saw one little 5 minute interview of their life. We didn’t see the 364 7/8ths of the rest of their days that year, or their life. They have their challenges, I guarantee you they don’t all have polished floors (now that I think of it, NONE of the women I knew on that video have immaculate houses, but they do have happy kids) and their day probably resembles on a day to day basis more of what yours looks like, and they strive for the sparks of spirituality that led them to their life change towards traditional Judaism the same as you do. The inspiration is where they choose to try to focus, when they get that 1 minute breath between mopping the floor – do we look up or back down at the floor? None of us are perfect, including all the women on that video. But its where we’re looking that’s important, and for that, if this encourages others to do kiruv to help others focus on the important things, its highly worthwhile, even to give ourselves the shot in the arm we need. Happy polishing!

  14. I think Kiruv is a good thing but there are problems when the kiruv organization makes people afraid of going back to the secular world, think that they have to get married before they are 25 or an outscast (if they are a woman), not want to associate with Jews who aren’t orthodox. The seminaries I went to were amazing and I would go back to visit but I have problems. It’s not perfect but I don’t expect it to be now. At first I did, so I was disillusioned but now I realize that everything has it’s good and bad points. Fortunately for many kiruv organizations, there are more good points than bad points.

  15. A man approached the great philanthropist, Baron Rothschild, asking for enough money to meet his needs for a month’s food and shelter. In an emotional crescendo he said, “Please sir, my house burned down and I lost everything!” Mr. Rothschild answered, “My friend, I don’t doubt you, but I must see a letter from your rabbi confirming your claims.” “Oy vey!” the man groaned, “in the fire, I also lost the letter!”

    (To read the following on our website, click here)

    * * *

    Parshas Vayeira
    Secret to Fertility
    Abraham and Sarah were famous for their philanthropy and kindness. Their tent was open on all four sides, inviting guests from every direction to enter. At the age of ninety-nine, Abraham was circumcised according to G-d’s request. Three days later, three angels visited him, giving him the news that his eighty-nine-year-old wife Sarah would bear a child.[1]

    They (the angels) said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he (Abraham) said, “Behold, she is in the tent.”
    — Genesis, 18:9
    The word eilav, “to him”, has three nekudos (dots) on top: one on the Alef, the Yud and the Vav, respectively. These three dotted letters together spell Ayo, meaning, “Where is he?” Rashi interprets: not only did the angels ask Abraham, “Where is Sarah?” but they also asked Sarah, “Where is he; where is Abraham?” The angels are teaching us the good trait of inquiring about our hosts. To a man one should ask, “How is your wife?” and to a woman, “How is your husband?”[2]


    The Kli Yakar [3] asks a practical question regarding this verse. Why did the angels have to ask Abraham where Sarah was? Angels are not bound by time and place. Therefore, they already knew where she was. Furthermore, they just finished speaking with Abraham. Why did they have to ask Sarah, “Ayo—where is Abraham?” The Kli Yakar explains: the question was not about the physical whereabouts of Sarah or Abraham. Rather, the angels were asking what z’chus, what merit, did Abraham and Sarah possess, that they deserved such a miraculous birth in their old age?

    Abraham answers, “B’ohel”—’in the tent’, meaning, ‘The merit is in the tent.’ Abraham and Sarah had a large tent that was open on all four sides for guests. Wayfarers traveling through the dry, hot, dangerous desert found there an oasis of safety and nurture. Abraham and Sarah themselves reached out to invite guests, prepared lodging and meals, and served them hand and foot. All of this was just a means of spreading the awareness that there is “a G-d in this lowly world”.[4] In the merit of their hospitality, G-d blessed Abraham and Sarah with a child.


    The Zohar says that when the soul of a tzaddik leaves this world, the tzaddik is even more available to us than during his lifetime.[5] This is because the tzaddik’s life is not a life of the flesh as we commonly experience it, rather it is in a different dimension of reality—it is purely spiritual. The Alter Rebbe explains in the Tanya, “It is a life of faith, awe and love”[6]—love of G-d and the Torah. The letters Alef, Yud, and Vav, are the first letters of the words ‘faith, awe, and love’: Emunah, Yirah V’ahavah. These three qualities transcend the nature of life and death. Through them, tzaddikim have the ability to travel through all the worlds helping people, providing them with shelter and comfort, and satiating them according to their every need.

    Thus, the dots over the Alef, Yud and Vav hint that the angels were telling Abraham, ‘We recognize that you and Sarah are both tzaddikim. Your total faith, awe, and love of G-d and his commandments have made you an oasis of eternal life for all. Therefore, G-d will bless you with extraordinary goodness. Your wife shall give birth to Yitzchak, the first Jewish child. You will parent the Jewish nation, which will endure for all eternity.

    This concept is reinforced by the gematria of Ayo. Alef +Yud +Vav = 17. 17 is equivalent to tov, ‘good’. ‘Goodness’ is the essence of a tzaddik, a fully righteous person, as the prophet Isaiah says, “Praise the tzaddik for he is good.”[7]


    Rabbi Eliezer and Sarah were an elderly couple who lived in a tiny village in the Carpathian Mountains. They always exerted great effort in welcoming any guest who entered their home. They often hosted twenty or thirty guests at their Shabbos table. Rabbi Eliezer and Sarah had not been blessed with offspring, and they silently grieved over this.

    One Shabbos day, after their meal had just concluded, they heard a loud pounding at the door. A hush descended on the room. “Who could that be at this time in the afternoon?”, Rabbi Eliezer wondered aloud. Opening the door, he was startled to find a weary looking stranger. “Good Shabbos, my dear friend, have you eaten?” asked Rabbi Eliezer. “Not yet,” said the stranger, tersely. “Come in, then,” Rabbi Eliezer said, quickly preparing a place at the table, and setting out wine and bread and sumptuous food for the stranger. He wondered where the stranger had come from. There had clearly been no visitors in town before Shabbos. How could this stranger have arrived at this hour unless he had desecrated Shabbos by traveling? Rabbi Eliezer kept quiet and continued to serve the stranger as if he were a king.

    The guests began whispering to each other, “This is not right. That guy must have desecrated Shabbos, and look at how Eliezer is treating him. That shlepper doesn’t deserve it.” “How dare Eliezer condone this man’s desecration of the Holy Shabbos!” Finally one of the guests hissed loudly, “This is intolerable! Our sages would be displeased with Eliezer’s conduct—treating a blatant sinner with such respect!”

    These comments pierced the gentle soul of Rabbi Eliezer, and he ran to the next room and burst into tears. He too was confused and unnerved to see a traveler enter his home on the holy day. But then he thought, “How embarrassed he must feel, and I, his host, left him alone at the table!” He gathered all his strength, returned to the dining room, and began to serve the stranger with even more enthusiasm and honor.

    Later in the afternoon, Rabbi Eliezer served the stranger a sumptuous Third Meal, and as soon as Shabbos was over, he rushed to prepare him a bed. “I have a rule,” said Rabbi Eliezer, “that out-of-town guests must sleep over. You are free to leave after lunch tomorrow.” The next day, after yet another filling meal, the stranger rose to leave. Rabbi Eliezer gracefully escorted him out and walked with him a short distance before bidding farewell. The stranger then turned to him, with light in his eyes. “I am Elijah the Prophet,” he revealed. “G-d sent me to you to test you, and you did very well. I have good news. It has been decreed in Heaven that in the merit of your great hospitality, you will be blessed with a son. When the boy turns two-and-a-half, tell him these words: Fear no creature. Fear only G-d, the G-d of Heaven and earth.”

    The next year, Sarah gave birth to a boy whom they named Yisrael. Yisrael, the son of Sarah and Rabbi Eliezer became known to all as “the Baal Shem Tov”.[8]

    ACTION: This Shabbos invite a new guest to your home, someone who has never joined you for a meal before.

    [1] Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 years old when their son Yitzhak was born.
    [2] The Rambam states that “a man should not send his regards to someone else’s wife.” This could be inappropriate. It is a noble trait, however, simply to inquire how another person’s spouse is. (See the Laws of Isurei Bi’ah, Chaper 21:5, as well as the Talmud, Bava Metzia, p. 87a.)
    [3] The Kli Yakar (Rabbi Shlomo Efraim Lunshitz, c.1550-1619) was a Rosh Yeshivah in Lemberg and the Rabbi of Prague. He wrote a popular commentary on the Five Books of Moses.
    [4] HaYom Yom, Cheshvan 22
    [5] Zohar III, 71b
    [6] Tanya, Igeret ha-Kodesh, ch. 27
    [7] Isaiah, 3:10. See also Torah Ohr, 33a
    [8] Adapted from The Great Mission: The Life and Story of Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, Kehot Publications. Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov (c. 1698-1760) was a holy tzaddik, a great reviver of Jewish spirituality, and the founder of the Chassidic movement.

    * * *

    Ever since I was a child I was amazed by the mysteries of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This led me to research and write my first book, Letters of Light. The following exploration will G-d willing become part of a sequel to Letters of Light. It delves into the profound spiritual lessons found in the letters of the weekly Torah portion. I hope you will find it as exciting and instructive as I do.

    Wishing you all the best,
    Rabbi Raskin

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  17. David,

    Hi. I do like the article. It is true that it does require work but it cannot be done without a rabbi and a social network that I and possibly many other people do not have at this moment due to negative experiences with the frum community. But it is definitely a real eye opener. Thanks!

  18. I am surprised no one diagnosed this as a classic case of “inspiration and disappointment.” Believe it or not the Torah has recognized this phenomenon and given us advice on how to deal with it. Check out this article on the matter.

  19. Tevya, here’s another place that I’d highly recommend – especially because it’s so non-judgmental – Havurat Yisrael in Forest Hills, Queens. I still recall the Rav, David Algaze, calling me every week for many weeks until I finally came to shul. There are people there from all walks of life and observance, you’d never feel you stand out. My original attraction to that shul was that they were very accepting of singles, and to this day (over 20 years later), the people I became friends with then are still some of my closest friends. Just like Pirkei Avos says – find a friend. Because if you have one other guy to hang out with and go places with, it will be a lot easier. Definitely check out R. Buchwald’s minyan too.

    And Shayna, we just HAVE to meet – everytime I read something that you wrote, I feel like I’m hearing myself! When I was single, I frequently had others over (also, Havurat was the kind of place where you could walk over to a stranger at kiddush & invite them), and after being a guest in so many people’s homes, I thought I’d also have a table bursting with guests. Well, guess what, a lot of times by the time Wed. rolls around, I’m starting to feel like a shmate (sic), and therefore, have a long list of “must invite” people from my shul, singles, etc.

  20. Ruth G-In an ideal world, we would not have to worry about Chillul Shabbos as an issue with regard to kiruv. At the risk of opening a can or worms, I believe that R Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach ZTL was asked this by a kiruv organization and answered that they should offer, but not insist upon hospitality as a condition of attending the program and that the hosts should not insist that the guest make brachos if they were uncomfortable to do so. IIRC, both of these psakim are in his Sefer Minchas Shlomoh.

  21. Ruth,

    Hi there. Thanks for writing back. I do see what you are saying. Many of these kiruv organizations do not have Shabbos hospitality like AISH NY, JEC, and Hineni. But they are great for learning purposes especially Hineni. She is wonderful. And maybe one reason that they do not offer Shabbos hospitality is because they probably feel the people that attend these programs will never become shomer shabbos or shomer mitzvos. Which is what I see. The people go to these programs for social reasons. But other groups such as MJE and KJ Beginners would want you to call them up to set you up for a meal but no sleeping arrangements which is fine for me because I am not shomer shabbos. But I am a very shy person and not so comfortable doing that. A very wise person said to me to an email, “You and only you are ultimately responsible for whether you are Shomer Shabbos. Judaism is a religion of self-responsibility and although the community may have shortcomings (no community will ever be perfect), you need to ultimately take responsibility for your own spiritual growth.” And I do believe he is correct. Thank you for that and you know who you are!! It saddens me to realize that but it is the truth. I am not ready to make these phone calls because I feel it is wrong to. A lot has to do how I was raised. I guess the best thing I can do to experience a bit of Shabbos is to go Beginner’s Services on Saturday mornings and start growing from there and see what happens. And hopefully one day I will find a rabbi that will guide and teach me. If not, so be it. Good Shabbos Ruth

  22. Tevye,

    There is a mitzvah in the Torah “B’tzedek tishpot es amitecha”, judging others favorably. I think it would be a good idea for you to try to practice this mitzvah. It takes some work but is well worth it in making your life much more pleasant.

    Start with the people who didn’t extend invitations for Shabbos and try to find possible mitigating circumstances. They may have been more than willing to host you for a meal, but you don’t live in walking distance and they can’t contribute to your violation of Shabbos. So they would have had to put you up, but they have no extra bedrooms. In fact, they may be finding it hard to place all their own children in bedrooms. Frum families tend to be large and few houses are built with so many bedrooms. So it is rare for families, especially in New York and especially those with young children, to have spare bedrooms. Maybe they have a room, but also have young daughters and are uncomfortable having a single male sleeping over. Some people give up their children’s room to guests and have the children sleep on the couch or the floor. But not all families can do that and some children may become very resentful if they have to this often. Each family has to balance family concerns against he mitzvah of hachnasas orchim.

    Now look at the kiruv organizations that you feel rejected you. Try judging them favorably. Maybe the ones you approached don’t have a hospitality program. Maybe the person you approached wasn’t aware of it, didn’t realize that was what you wanted, was a little dense (we all are at some times), or was incompetent. That doesn’t mean you can’t get what you want from another person or some other program. Do a little research. Find out which programs include Shabbos hospitality. If it’s not Aish, it may be some other one. You might try calling AJOP (Association for Jewish Outreach Programs). They would know about all available programs.

    How about signing up for the BeyondBT Shabbaton?

  23. Ruth,

    Thank you so much and I do understand where you are coming from. If someone did invite me to their home for Shabbos, I would sleep over so that is not an issue because that will allow me to become shomer shabbos which I want. I am very respectful of that. The other thing is since I am not involved with the frum community I do not have a rabbi that is guiding me or teaching me which is unfortunate. I personally think it is a great idea to contact a kiruv place but I am afraid due to all the rejection that I have received. So I really am not ready to reach out and it is very unfortunate. Thank you for the advice. Good Shabbos!

  24. Tevye,
    I didn’t realize this thread was still active or I would have posted earlier. I would like to present the other side.

    We love having Shabbos guests. It is a mitzvah and it really does enhance Shabbos for us. And we do take guests who are not yet frum. So I look at your problem from a different perspective.

    You are right. You can’t just call a total stranger and invite yourself for Shabbos. How would they know you are not a criminal or pervert? We have had strangers for Shabbos, but they have always been refered. We have had people coming on Shabbatons; we have had people who have come through the hospitality coordinator in our neighborhood; and we have had people refered by rabbis and friends. What you need is a reference (preferably a rabbi) who can vouch for you. Even if the rabbi can’t invite you himself (and many of them will) or refer you himself, you now have a name that will open doors.

    For someone who wants guests, they are not always easy to find. You can’t imagine how many calls I sometimes have to make to find someone who hasn’t already made other plans. I am sure there are other people who would love an invitation, but I don’t know them. So I’m thrilled when I get a call asking me if I can put up a stranger to town, or host someone at a meal. Now, if I can’t, because I’m eating out or have a full house, I’ll have to decline. But that is rarely the case. And if the person is not a stranger, I love it when they call and ask if they can join us for a meal.

    There are a few exceptions. We don’t want someone who is a raving lunatic or is overly demanding. One guest thought he was in charge and starting bossing me around; he was never invited again. But as long as the guest behaves like a reasonable human being, he is welcome.

    There is another problem with Jews who are not frum. Halachically, we can’t cause them to violate the Shabbos. If we cause them to drive to our house on Shabbos for a meal, we have done so. Some rabbis will allow this as long as we offer them a place to sleep, even if they decline. I have done that on one occasion and would not do so again. It was very unpleasant for us to have someone leave our house on Shabbos and drive off. This may be the reason you are not getting invitations for meals. People may be afraid that you will drive to their home.

    May I recommend that you contact a kiruv organization in your area. They can help you with the arrangements. I am not familiar with the ones in New York, but I know there are many. In Baltimore, Etz Chaim has refered guests to me in the past. If you contact them (410 764-1553), I am sure they can give you the name of an equivalent organization in your area.

  25. Truth in advertising:

    I am sure that there are exceptions but I believe that the following describes the shvil hazahav – the golden mean regarding this issue.

    While it is praiseworthy to promote the goodness and virtues of a G-d fearing life, the mere suggestion of non-truth can be the ultimate turn-off for any potential consumer.

    Projecting inspiration, aspirations and the chance of a fulfilling lifestyle to another must be temprerd by the parallel truth of nisyonos – personal tests of faith – that challenge everyone in their own way.

    Putting our supermen – or superwomen on a pedestal should only be done as part of the inspirational process(warts should be visible to show the human-ness of the role model). It should be clear that since human potential is great, great results can be produced – but that they often come with a lifetime of effort and deliberate positive action.

    Some people may be gifted with an orderly or an extremely benevelent nature but others need to excersise these traits in order to achieve their potential and this may take a long time.

    On a slight tangent, it would behoove us all to promote a respectable, liveable lifestyle for anyone we are able to counsel or affect.

    Years ago I heard that Rabbi Israel Salanter commenting on the Baal Teshuva movement in his time said that “People interested in their fellows ruchnius and their own gashmius have it reversed, they should be interested in their fellow’s gashmius and their own ruchnius.”

    It does not seem to be reasonable to counsel someone that they have inspired with a suggestion of a lifetime (perhaps generations) of unplanned poverty without a lifeline.

    The Rambam clearly counsels that one properly plan for the future responsibilities of a wife and family and NOT irresponsibly rely on the shifting winds of “mazal”.

    It seems to all come down to the same thing: If we promote truth and practice truthfullness, we will fulfill our potential by being the best we can be and doing everything in the best possible way.

  26. Martin,

    Hi! It will be next Shabbos, 3/18/06. I will be attending the Beginners service which I believe starts at 9:30 AM. The host that I am staying with is one of the people that run the Beginner’s Service.

  27. Tevya,

    We start davening @ 7:30, and I know that the Heritage Center starts around 8:30, so what I can do is walk over after my services and see you then. I don’t know what you look like, so you have to let me know.


  28. Chava,

    Thank you so much for the kind gesture. If I am ever in St. Louis, I will tell you. Thanks for your generous offer.


    Hi! I do not know where I will be davening Friday night but the family that I will be with goes to the Jewish Heritage Center on Shabbos morning. So I would love to meet if you wish. Also, I feel the same way as you. If someone wants me for a meal they should call. It is very odd that it is the other way around in the frum world especially for a beginner like myself.

  29. Tevye,

    Hi there! I guess I felt funny because I’m used to being asked to come to a meal on Shabbos, rather than saying, “May I come to your house for a meal on Shabbos”, because I felt that I am imposing on someone…but, as has been discussed, if it’s a Mitzvah to have people over for meals on Shabbos/Yom Tov, then I won’t feel like I am imposing anymore. But, you have to know whom to ask!

    I daven @ the Hashkama Minyan @ Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, 150th & 70th Road, @ 7:30 in the am….usually takes about 2 hours, and usually it’s a hot Kiddush afterwards w/Cholent. We meet in the Beis Hamedrash. I usually sit in the back…it’s not that big a room…just ask where Marty is..and I’ll ID myself!

    Good Shabbos!!!!

  30. Tevye – it’s a bit of a drive, but you have an open invitation to our house in St. Louis, MO.

  31. Shayna,

    I meant to say in the last night of my response that it is not right for me to invite myself to peoples homes but I would love to spend Shabbos with people and have that Torah atmosphere.

  32. Shayna,

    Hi! How are you? I appreciate your advice very advice. You are very correct that you should not apply secular standards to the frum world because it is completely different from each other. And being in the beginning stages since 1999 I think the first step is to attend Beginners Shabbos morning services and Friday night dinners at AISH NY, MJE, KJ Beginners, LSS/NJOP and various other Manhattan other organizations. In other words, by doing that, I will have some of Shabbos but not all. It might not be the right thing to do according to Halachah but I think it is a good way to start. I personally do not have any frum or BT friends so it will be a good way for me to get out of the house and meet people that way. I would love to go to someone to experience the warmth and beauty of Shabbos but I feel it is not right for me. Kol Hakavod. Thanks a lot.


    Hi. Very nice response. Why would you feel funny to ask to be invited for Shabbos? I would love that and would make me feel much better. Anyway, where do you daven in KGH? I do here a lot of good things about KGH. I am hopefully going to be in KGH next Shabbos. Be well

  33. Hi, Shayna.

    I always used to think it was funny to “ask to be invited” for Shabbos..my policy was, “call me if you want me to come” because I was not comfortable “putting the (potential) host on the spot”. I thought it was rude to do something like that……but I guess it’s not! My youngest daughter, who is 13, asks me “Did you invite yourself over” when we go to someone’s house, and I say, “well, I…..” I have another friend who says “We’d love to have you over for Shabbos”, and I say call me when you want me”. The response is to call him to tell him I’m coming!

    I also notice that a shul in our area (which meets in the YCQ basement, KIY, has a list on their website that asks if you want to be invited to someone’s house for Shabbos lunch and/or dinner (on Friday), put it down.

    I always make it a point to try to bring something with me, like a desert (my wife is in favor of fresh fruit, while I, with the sweet tooth, like to get something like Rugelach.

    Like you say, Shayna, it’s different in our world!

  34. Hi, Tevya. Since this is obstensibly my post, I’ll butt in here. I can totally relate to your reticence at “inviting yourself” to a Shabbos meal. I well remember feeling self-righteous about it, too, preferring to go it alone because if no one can go out of their way for me, I’m not so pathetic that I have to beg.

    Here’s what I finally learned: Do not apply secular standards to anything in the Orthodox world, including invitations. I am now a busy working mother, and Shabbos keeps coming around, week after week. Sometimes I get it together in time to call guests, and my family is thrilled. But more often, I don’t. It’s not that I don’t want to offer hospitality–in fact, my friends and I are almost always very happy to host when we’re called to do it.

    In other words, look at it the other way around. For, not only do Shabbos guests enliven the meal, but the guest is also allowing the host to do the mitzvah of hospitality. So, take a deep breath, dial, and say, “I was just wondering if I could join you for lunch this Shabbos.” It’ll do your ego a world of good!

  35. Steve,

    Thank you. It sounds like a perfect service for me and for many others who want to learn more about tefilla. Kol Hakavod Steve

  36. Tevya-R Buchwald’s beginner’s minyan spends a lot of time on translating and interpreting tefillah in a understandable format. There is a kiddush afterwards and many people have become frum as a result. Can’t vouch for the ages of the participants. I would suggest that you call Lincoln Square or NJOP and ask for information about it.

  37. Steve,

    No problem for the delay. I am a very understanding person.:) Thanks for the info. I will check it out in the near future. What is the minyan like? Because I really do not know anything about prayer. Does he explain the prayers and Torah portion in a understandable format? How old are the people that go to the minyan? Is there a kiddush or meal afterwards? Do people eventually become frum from this? I would appreciate any input. Thanks for the info.

  38. Tevya-sorry for the delay.I have known R Buchwald for years and met my wife on the UWS, albeit not thru R Buchwald. His minyan, etc is well known as a great first place for those interested in exploring Torah and mitzvos.

  39. Gershon,

    Hi! Thanks for the answers. I do not know anyone in the Chicago community so I guess I will contact ASBI and see if they can help me. I would love to attend one the classes at Mikor Hachayim to get a feel of it. Keep in touch

  40. Max,
    Mazel Tov! I know your new bother-in-law Yonasan. As a matter of fact I think we spoke on the phone once… I would have loved to have attended the wedding but I was involved in NCSY’s Yarchei Kallah. While Rabbi Greenland broke away for a few hours to attend, I was bringing 27 teens to visit Telshe yeshiva.

    I’ll look out for you this motzei shabbos!

    Kol Tuv,

  41. Are the rabbis from CTN and Torah Learning Network warm and friendly?


    Do they offer Shabbat and Yom Tov hospitality?

    Not sure, but I suppose they do.

    I tried to go on the CTN website and it does not say much. So I will try to talk to them this summer.

    Do young professionals go to YI of WRP and Mikor Hachayim?

    YI of WRP is aneclectic group of people. Young married couples, Some older. Some singles. It’s a pretty small shul.

    Mikor Hachaim started out as a place for guys back from a year in Israel to stay plugged in to learning. Over the past 6 years it eveloved into a little community. Almost everyone there works by day or is in college. Many are paired up with a study partner to learn with a few nights a week, if theycan find the time. Most are in their 20s, a few are about 30. There’s singles and married folk. Then there’s the old folk like me (45) about 3 or 4 of us. There are a few Rabbis who run the place (not me).

    I cannot find a website on Mikor Hachayim so I do not know anything about it.

    They have an email list but no website.

    If I visit, where should I try and possibly spend Shabbos to get a feel or contact?

    Now that’s a good question. I never met people online and just ivited them over to my house for a weekend. I don’t think it’s wise, although you’re probably a fine person. Do you know anyone in Chicago?

  42. Gershon,
    Sorry I did not respond to the last entry. It was in the middle of discussion and I did not want to be a distraction. I am Jenny’s brother. I might have met you at Mikor Haim, but I doven at Migdal Torah. I enjoy your comments.

  43. Gershon,

    Hi! Thanks so much. Are the rabbis from CTN and Torah Learning Network warm and friendly? Do they offer Shabbat and Yom Tov hospitality? I tried to go on the CTN website and it does not say much. So I will try to talk to them this summer. Do young professionals go to YI of WRP and Mikor Hachayim? I am asking that because I definitely want to meet other people my age there for social reasons. I like what you said about Mikor Hachayim in their Carlebach davening because I do enjoy that very much.:) I cannot find a website on Mikor Hachayim so I do not know anything about it. If I visit, where should I try and possibly spend Shabbos to get a feel or contact? Thanks for the input.

  44. I know the people who run Chicago Torah Network very well, great people and great organization. Torah Learning Center in Northbrook is great too, Run by my friend Rabbi Yehoshua Karsh. Great guy who has a very very intersting blog. I know less about Rabbi Lopatin’s shul though – it’s downown. I’ve met him on a number occasions. He seems quite friendly. NCSY had some chapter meetings at his shul a few years a go and went to some of them.

    One great little shul is the Young Israel of West Rogers Park. It’s not like your typical YI shul. It’s much more of an outreach type shul. One a month they have a Saturday night musical event. I daven at another small and warm place called Mikor Hachayim. Best Thursday night chulent in town! Thre’s learning every night for an hour or more, and a Carlebach type service on Friday nights. On Shabbos day there’s 4 separate classes after davening and before the kiddush. Very friendly little place.

    It’s hard to sum up a whole city. There’s a lot going on here. Some of it will be just like you about NY, some of it will be different. (I sure do enjoy driving here and nobody honks at you to start moving, the second the light turns green!)

    Thanks for listening to the music. Hope you find what you’re looking for! If you do come to Chicago, please look me up and give me a call. I’ll try to help any way I can.

  45. Aryeh,

    Hi there. Thanks for the comment. I agree with you not inviting someone you do not know to your house. There are a lot of crazy people out there and I agree with you on that 100%. And to be honest with you I will never be comfortable inviting myself to someone’s home. I think it is 100% wrong. So it looks I will be shomer shabbos unless people reach out to me and invite me to their homes. That is just the bottom line. And I am afraid of putting myself out there because of my negative experiences and rejection. I am very happy that you found a family that you are close with. I just wish G-d sent me the same help. And I am glad you feel that you have grown Jewishly by doing that. I just don’t see how because it is wrong. If the frum community wants me to be shomer shabbos, they have to do the inviting. That is the bottom line in the matter. I just wish the people would open their hearts and homes to others less fortunate. That is the TORAH WAY! But I understand the reasons why people do not do it because of nervousness and anxiety. And I have seen the other suggestions. I do like Steve LSS Beginners minyan idea. But I am not going to like the fact that the people are going to go home to a shabbos seuda with family and friends and I am left out in the cold. 1-800-SHABBAT sounds like a nice idea but I would feel funny because I do not know the people. I am hoping one day I will have the courage. Thanks!

  46. Tevya, My brother from another mother! You rock! Just putting it all out there, making everyone shake from your brutal honesty.

    It’s definately scary, my man. You’re really calling everyone to task. Challenging them to invite you.

    I would like to invite you to my house, but at the same time I’d be nervous to do so.

    I mean, I don’t even know you. You could be anyone. There are lots of crazy people out there. No?

    Personally I feel you gotta put yourself out there, and here I don’t mean necessarily to go and ask people if you could join them for Shabbos. If you think that is wrong, then kol Hakavod, don’t do it. Don’t do it until you feel more comfortable doing it. But let me tell you one thing, it’s a great way to grow Jewishly.

    My wife and I used to (and still do) invite ourselves AND our kids to a particular family for ALL of Shabbos. We’d stay over. And they loved it, and we loved it and they have become like a surrogate family to us. Their relationship is invaluable to us. And we’ve grown immesurably in terms of being Jewish because of our relationship.

    But it was really up to us to call and ask if we could come. Since you don’t want to do that you need to take another route and I wholly endorse all of the suggestions that have already been made above.

    Please remember, it’s not always so easy for everyone to have Shabbos guests. Sometimes they stay too long, or smell funny, or look funny, or they’re boring, or offensive, or a hundred other reasons.

    So please keep that in mind especially when you point out that the people on this blog site have not yet invited you. Nobody knows you personally! And I think that is the key…get yourself out there in the real world (not the virtual world) so that people can get to know you personally.

    Hatzlacha! Good luck! And keep us posted!!!

    P.S. Sometimes BeyondBT.com has events. Keep your eyes peeled for those and maybe even show up. Hey, everyone’s invited to those.

  47. Gershon,

    Hey there. I also see that you live in West Rogers Park. How do you like WRP and your impression of the Chicago community and also any input about the Lakeview community? Also, keep up the great music. Music is my biggest passion. It is one of the things that helped showed me the beauty of Judaism. And now when I listen to Jewish music I get very upset because it reminds me what I do not have (ex: no friends, rabbi, shabbos nor yom tov) and it hurts. So I do not listen to it as often as I would. I avoid it. It is sad because I enjoy the Jewish music (Chevram Shalsheles and many more stars) much more than secular music which has gotten disgusting lately. So, keep up the great music. It is beautiful.:)

  48. Gershon,

    I am so happy that you responded. I am possibly of thinking of visiting Chicago this year to see if I want to move their the following year. People have told me that the “out-of-town” frum people (meaning outside of NYC) are much nicer than the NYC frum people. I do not know how true that is. But I hear great things about Chicago. I am thinking of looking into Lakeview (Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel – Rabbi Asher Lopatin’s shul). I like what I see and hear about the community. I hear many young professionals live there. I also want to check out Chicago Torah Network and Torah Learning Center in Northbrook to get an idea of what that is. So we will see what happens. Thanks.


    How do you know Yitz Greenfield?

    Chana and Steve,

    Where in the NY/NJ area do you live? And Steve how do you know about Rabbi Buchwald’s minyan?

    Question to everybody – Why didn’t anyone here offer Shabbos invitations?? I am sorry if it offends anyone.

  49. Tevya,

    I just had a look a look at this thread and my heart goes out to you. I live in Chicago and can’t do much from here, but it looks like some people are on the case.

    Now for the other side… You mentioned that it is the communitiy’s responsibilty to reach out to you. You’re very, very right. But… individuals within the community, have all kinds of responsibilities that sometimes conflict with their ability to doing outreach on Shabbos. I am very open to doing outreach. There have been years when we were able to have guests over for almost every Shabbos at least for one of the meals. Currently, we have almost none. What changed? Well, for one thing my wife’s job. She worksd much longer hours and gets home tired after a 75 minute drive. She needs to prepare less for Shabbos these days. She needs to just have a quiet and quicker-than-it-used-to-be meal. Another thing that changed is the school my 9 year old goes to. He needs more of my time. Right after our meal, I spend at least 2 hours of studying/playing with him. I also travel often doing outreach. Those weekends away, require me to spend private time on Shabbos when I am home, with my family.

    I’m not trying to give excuses, I’m trying to help you understand that good people who want to be there for you, sometimes just can’t.

    Someone in your situation recently asked me to come over for a shabbos meal and I had to turn him down. It hurt me, but I know I had to. He’s on my mind. We’ll invite him soon. I just invited him to a kumzits we had last week and he came. But Shabbos inmyhome just can’t be the venue for my outreach efforts right now… sigh…

  50. I once overheard someone invite over a couple he just met saying these words, “So, do you need a place to eat this Shabbos?” Where I live, such phraseology means no different from “So, would you like a place to eat this Shabbos?” But this couple got offended. “Whaddaya mean, do we NEED a place to eat…”
    Just a little tip to think about when you invite someone over for a Shabbos meal.

  51. How about starting a “Shabbos coordinator” in each community? Some areas already have that in place. I will be the first volunteer to help.

    Everybody feels differently about the inviting issue. Sometimes it’s the other way around and people invite you where you do not want to go. That’s awkward as well. On the other hand, I’ve even invited myself to weddings, I once told someone I love and respect their family so much and would love to be part of their Simcha. Although I am on one extreme with that, my own mother feels the way Tevye does, so it is an individual thing. Let everyone work on the solution from both ends.

    Rabbi Klein: Hope all is well. Let’s see if that Rav in Staten Island can contact Tevye.

  52. Tevye,

    You can also call 1-800-SHABBAT for Shabbos meal placements. It’s sole purpose is to place people nationally who don’t know frum families or friends for Shabbos meals. Some people who call are newcomers like you; some are singles who simply need places. They get 100s of calls, you certainly won’t be the only one. And since you’re in the NY area, it will be a cinch. Good luck!

  53. Tevye – It looks like I will be speaking at the Canfei Nesharim shabbaton the wknd of Mar 10 in Hillside NJ – it’s a nice non-judgemental event with a strong emphasis on traeting the environment respectfully while maintaining some semblance of fealty to Halacha – Jewish Law – check out their website and if it works for you (or any of you lurkmeisters) I’d love to meet you.
    Alternatively, I will be eating dinner at Grille Pointe in KGH tomorrow (trying to find peace, love and shwarmany and then achieve shwarmageddon – but I digress) and you’re welcome to join me for dinner.
    One observation I have made being s BT myself – as we climb the spiritual ladder, there’s a subtle shift in perception and a certain, empowering tendency to take more control over one’s own past present and destiny. More specifically, I find there’s less blamestoming and finger pointing and a greater willingness to undertake and do what needs to be done torpedos be danged! When I was a young whippersnapper yeshiva smartypants and I read in the Talmud “chisuraei mechs’ra” (which means that something is missing from the text which would allow us to clear up an ambiguity), I would immediately react “the mishneh is deficient” Now that I’ve got a few years under my belt, I see it more as my own deficiencies – Hille obviously knew what he was talking about so the deficiency is really with me – not the text) – it’s simultaneously humbling and empowering – a nice highwire upon which to do our spiritual dance with Hashem

  54. Tevya,
    There is a wonderful Rabbi in Staten Island working with people just like you, named Rabbi Yitz Greenfield. I suggest trying to reach him and seeing what they have going on. Him and his family are very warm people. Their # is::718-317-7771

  55. Yes, I live in the NY/NJ area, and I know about the JOC because I was looking for some Jewish resources for my sons who also won’t go near anything that seems judgemental.

  56. Chana,

    Thanks for the input. What community do you live in? How do you know about the JOC? Do you live in the NY area? Keep in touch.

  57. Tevye: Sorry, the category on Luach was Singles Resources, Not Shabbos invitations. Keep your eyes open there. Also, I know in my shul each Shabbos after prayers, and in others in my community, an announcement is made for anyone who needs a Shabbos meal that day. As for the JOC I don’t think you have to worry about judgement there. Try signing up for their e-mails and you will get a feel for the people in the group. It may make you more comfortable. I also forgot two other suggestions: Discoveryproductions.com is a division of Aish which does seminars and trips geared to newcomers of all kinds. Put in “New York” and it will give you a list of upcoming events. Also, Partnersintorah.org is an organization that sets up people of all backgrounds with a one-on-one learning partner. If you explain where you are holding, they can hook you up with a partner (called a Chavrusah). Their website says they have a branch in Staten Island.
    BTW, as for not being accepted, the only thing I can say is that if you make the leap and try a few more ventures, you are bound to meet people very different from the first experiences you had. It is sad, sometimes a religious Jew is not careful and gives off the wrong impression, and someone gets turned off for a long time. But you have made a first step by reaching out again. There are many great people in the frum world to meet, and many who are very accepting of people in your position. Hatzlacha.

  58. Chana,

    Hi! I checked out the Jewish Outdoors website. It does look nice because I do love outdoor activities but on the website it says it is for “Modern Orthodox” singles. I am not frum at all. So I personally feel they are not going to accept me as a person or a Jew and not want anything to do with me at all which I feel is very sad.

  59. Chana,

    Hi. I do drive and I am able to make it to other areas like in New Jersey, Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan. I went on Luach.com and I found no such thing. But it is a nice website. But I still do not feel it to be correct to respond to a stranger’s open invitation. I still personally that someone should invite you. :) I do know the Chabad center on SI but people my age (late 20s) do not go there so I do not go there as well. Please keep in touch.

  60. Tevye: Welcome to the world of BT’s and others. Your desire to know more about yiddishkeit and try to find connections makes you fit in well here.
    You said you are in S.I. Do you have mobility to visit other communities?
    If you go to Luach.com (Luach means calendar)and peruse the various communities you will find postings from people who are looking to be hosts for Shabbos. I think there is even a category just for that. That way, you aren’t inviting yourself, but are responding to their open invitation.
    Also, on Luach you can get an idea of events that are going on in various locations. They list a few regions in the five boroughs, so if you don’t have a car, maybe you can travel by mass transit? Also, if you are an outdoors type, the JOC (Jewish Outdoors Club) has great activities, and seems to have a large membership around your age. You can find their website online. And finally, a starting point from Staten Island may be to go to Chabad.org and put in your zip code to find the nearest Chabad center. They are usually very welcoming. Hatzlacha!!

  61. Rabbi Shmuel Simenowitz,

    Hi! I could use someone like you in my life.:) And I am not shabbos observant. I do not do anything for it nor will I eat any meals by myself because I did it once and I will never do it again. But how can I expand my horizons when I do not know who to turn to for help? When I do not have a rabbi or kehilla here? Also you said there are so many avenues unturned out there for me. What are these avenues? How can I find out about them? I appreciate the input though. Thanks.:):)

  62. Tevya – yes Springfield is in MA (we’ve got the basketball Hall of Fame and Dr. Suess’s birthplace but despite that it’s a nice kehilla. First of all a hearty “y’yasher kochacha”(congratulations that your parents taught you respect for others to the point that you are concerned that they might think you are a moocher or freeloader – believe me, many are not as sensitive as you about that point and it is much to your credit. In it’s infinite wisdom, the Torah understood that different people’s personalities can play a role in how they nurture or are nurtutre “lo habayshan lomade, v’lo hakapdan m’lamed” “a bashful person will have trouble succedding as a student (for he will be ashamed to ask questions) and an intemperate short fused person will never make a good teacher” The mishneh is not making these observations gratuitously as much as issuing a challenge to each of us to step outside of ourselves and do what’s neccessary for us to get where we need to go. Pesach is now in the air and that’s essentially the passover theme – freedom from our own straits and constraints into wide open spaces where we can grow. You hit certain nails on the head – sitting in a cold dark room eating by yourself on shabbos bites! It’s a time for family, friends, and all the best this world offers. I urge you to try to overshoot your own boundaries – it’s not a matter of right or wrong but a chance to expand your horizons. There are so many avenues unturned out there for you to traverse – wouldn’t it be a pity if you didn’t avail yourself of them. Someone once commented to a certain rebbe “ah that poor man died of poverty” to which the rebbe replied “no he didn’t – he died of pride”
    Remeber – Pesach is around the corner. . .

  63. Eric,

    Hi. Thanks for your comment. In the past when I went over to people’s home for Shabbos they never gave me open invitations. I really do not have any contact with frum people anyway now. And I do not have any FFB or BT friends now or even my own rabbi. So I do not have any hope in this matter. I thank you for your “blessing” of success. When I have told people that I want to learn more they all wish me success and did not offer ANY HELP whatsoever to me. So appreciate what you have now as I do not feel things will change for me. And please be proactive in helping other Jews in this matter.:)


    I have told people that I do not have places for Shabbos and once again they offered no help to me at all. So I voiced myself in this matter. It went in one ear and out the other with the frum community. Even if they encourage people to invite themselves to their homes, it is not the right thing to do. And I do feel it is mooching. I am very uncomfortable with it. And how do I get over that fear/aversion when they do not want to reach out to me?

  64. Tevye-

    You say that if a frum Jew knows someone does not have a place for Shabbat then it is their responsibity to find them a place. If we take that as a given, how can you expect people to know you don’t have a place for shabbat if you’re unwilling to ask them?

    There’s a difference between asking to stay somewhere and inviting yourself. Asking allows the other person to say no if they have too many other responsibilties or aren’t around or aren’t making meals that Shabbat. But even then, if you’ve gone out of your way to ask, hopefully the person will be nice enough to help you find another place.

    But to say that you believe it is wrong to “invite yourself” and you will never change- There’s no absolute right or wrong in this matter. It depends on the society. And frum society accepts, even encourages people without a place for Shabbat to call up and ask. And if you feel like you’re mooching or something, when you have your own house you can repay the favor by hosting people who don’t have places to stay/eat. But really, you should get over that fear/aversion. It won’t do you any good.

  65. Tevya,
    I’ve been in a similar situation in the past not wanting to invite myself over to people for Shabbos meals. Yes, it would have been wonderful to have more people invite me for Shabbos. It would have made me feel more wanted as a part of the Jewish community. However, I disagree that it is wrong to invite onself over. You may feel it’s wrong because it’s just not something you’ve experienced before. Also, once one goes over to people for Shabbos, they often give open invitations for Shabbos meals indicating that they were more than happy that you came and that they’d be happy to have you over again. Again, it would be wonderful to recieve invitations. However, going to others for Shabbos will help you widen your circle of friends and contacts. Wishing you much hatzlacha(success)!

  66. Rabbi Shmuel Simenowitz,

    Hi! Thanks for your comment. I am not going to get over this reluctance of inviting myself to people’s home because it is wrong. I never heard of such a thing like it. And I am not going to change on the matter. I have been taught that in Torah if there is an opportunity to do a mitzvah (such as Hachnasis Orchim), you should run after it and grab the opportunity to do it. This means that if the frum Jew knows someone that does not have a place for Shabbos like me, it is their RESPONSIBILITY to pick up the phone and invite the person. It is not my duty to invite myself to someone’s home. That is their place and space. It is not for me to intrude on them in that matter. It is not polite and not respectful at all to invite yourself to someone’s home for anything. If they want that individual, they should again make the effort and call to invite. I would love to find myself a rav but I do not know who to go to and how to find a social circle to be comfortable when I feel they do not accept me or do not want me in their life because I was not raised like them. How do I make myself a vessel for Hashem’s blessings when I do not know where to start or turn to for help? And where is Springfield anyway? Massachusetts?

  67. Tevya – try to get past your reluctance to invite yourself to people’s house – try looking at it from their perspective – an “orach” guest with which to savor the sweet shabbos kodesh – guests are actually built into the system – we live along the East Coast Tourist route and we have gotten calls less than an hour befopre shabbos that people are stuck in traffic and need to “bail” somewhere – this network of “bailees” (I’m still enjoying yesterday’s Torah portion) exists up and down the coast – they try to make it to Amherst and hope to bail in Springfield – they can’t make it to Springfield, they’ve got to bail in Hartford, no Hartford, they end up in New Haven:)
    As we say in Latin “Illegitimi non carborundum” we’ll have to leave that untranslated but suffice it to say that you are on to something very big – you have sensed that there is a great truth and beauty to yiddishkeit so don’t let the little folks get you down – first try to find a rav with whom you feel comfortable then try to widen your social circles likewise with folks you are comfortable with. As R. Groucho said “I would never want to join a club that would have me as a member :) – you seem to have deep insights into things that many miss – try to harness that depth towards bringing more positive experiences into your life – make yourself the “kli” (vessel) for Hashem’s brachos and He always does His part.
    B’hatzlacha – with much success (and yes if your in the Springfield area, we’d love to have you for a shabbos!

  68. Steve,

    I was in Israel for two weeks for a birthright Israel trip but I do not have any money to go to Israel to learn full-time and I am busy with school right now. I haven’t looked at other kiruv frameworks because I am afraid they will reject me as I had negative experiences with the frum community. And please NO ONE calls me and invites me for Shabbos or Yom Tov. I would never make that up. It is very sad but it is the truth. I do not have any support system whatsoever in this endeavor.


    Thank you for the comment. I will never invite myself to someone’s home because I truthfully believe it to be wrong. You just do not do that. I am sorry. Thanks for the input though.

  69. Tevye-have you spent any time in Israel? Hard to believe that noone would not invite you for a Shabbos meal? Have you looked at kiruv frameworks other than Chabad, Hineni and Aish? How about the beginners’ mimyan at Lincoln Square?

  70. Dear Tevye,

    You are clearly a very sensitive person. May Hashem shower you with clarity. Perhaps you should learn the first perek of pirkei avos where Hillel teaches us that If I am Not for Myself, Who will Be for Me? ie you need to look out for your soul and if that means calling people for shabbos meals, so be it. I was single for 5 years as a bt and always had a place b/c i always called and invited myself. Was it hard? You betcha, but the alternative, which you have accustomed yourself to is harder. You might want to try to be more assertive for your own soul. good luck. Chezkie

  71. I am from Staten Island which is one of the 5 boroughs of New York City. I am a 28 year old single male and grew up in a non-frum home and I went to college in New Jersey and I was exposed to Chabad. After college things became difficult. I never became frum in the sense that I never kept Shabbos and Kosher. I do not keep kosher because I do not have the financial resources too. I have experienced Shabbos and Yom Tov but I do not do it every week because frum people do NOT invite me to their homes. They tell me that I should invite myself to their homes but I feel it is wrong because I was raised with that kind of thinking. So therefore I am not Shomer Shabbos. I did it once by myself and I will never do it again. I personally believe that Shabbos should be done with family (mine is not interested), friends, and community.

    I do not have frum or BT friends because I feel they are very clickish and do not want anything to do with non-frum Jews. And I am not part of a community here at all. I personally feel that frum people are very anti-kiruv meaning that they do NOT want anything to do with non-observant Jews which turns me off completely. They would rather be friends with their FFB friends and not bother with us Jews who are not observant or who even want to learn more about Judaism. I am very jealous of the frum Jews because I personally feel that they have everything (family, friends) and do not want to share it (Shabbos, Yom Tov) with us. I have many questions about Judaism that are not answered (Is Torah true?, Did G-d really give us the Torah?, Proof that the Torah is true and G-d is real?) because I am afraid to reach out to a rabbi or frum people because I personally feel they will think of me in a very negative way.

    My experience with the people involved in kiruv in NYC is that they do teach classes but they also want to remain somewhat distant from non-observant Jews. For example, whenever I went to Hineni, no one mentioned anything about Shabbat hospitality. One time I called AISH NY and spoke to a rabbi about Saturday morning services and lunch. I asked him what do the people do for lunch. (And this rabbi knows me). He said that they sometimes go to friend’s apartments for lunch or they do not have a place for lunch and he never mentioned to me that I am welcome to join him and his family. And he should have realized that I am interested because I would not ask if I was not interested! For the longest time I told my job that I could not work on Shabbos or Yom Tov even though I never kept them and now recently I have told them that I can work on Friday nights. I do NOT have a rabbi reaching out to me, teaching me. I do NOT have FFB or BT friends that I can talk with or go to for Shabbos or Yom Tov! I do NOT have ANY SUPPORT SYSTEM WHATSOEVER!! This is something a person CANNOT do alone at all!

    I am not turned off to learning Torah but I am very much turned off to the frum community. I do want to one day live a frum lifestyle because I see the wonderful benefits (importance of family and very strong friendships that they have with each other) and I want to give my children something that I never had and have a rich family and bring Torah back to my family. But at this point I do not see it happening because I do not have any support whatsoever from ANYBODY and I feel so alone. I mentioned earlier that one question that I have is if Hashem is real because I had prayed to Him to help me and He never did and I feel like I am talking to a brick wall and nobody is listening to me and it hurts me dearly. I am at my wit’s end with this so I can see why many FFB people have left it and it hurts me dearly because I see what they are missing out on. I do not know why Hashem put these individuals into these homes when He knew they were going to leave frumkeit and why He did put people in secular homes like me who wish they were raised in a frum home because it would have made their lives so much easier. I am at my wit’s end with this. I do want to learn more and be comfortable with the frum community but I do not see this happening anytime soon. I would love to hear your comments.

  72. About the film Ushpizin –

    To me, it was possibly the best Israeli film in years. It was a moving story, and actually quite a human tale. Yes, they were tested, and yes they had to endure significant hardships. But in the end, their emunah prevailed as did their determiniation to “stick it out” – almost as if they had to convince themselves of their emunah. The movie was a glimpse into the charedi world, and it was an honest movie. Characters were both praiseworthy and sometimes less so. To me the beautiful part about the movie was that the characters were portrayed honestly, as they are – nothing magical about them, nothing out of the ordinary, just ordinary people, like us, people who changed their ways and are just striving for growth.

    I highly recommend it for those who haven’t seen it.

  73. I realize I am reading this much later than everybody else. But I’m glad I came across it.

    I can relate to the Pesach question, I have always felt badly that we don’t have a large family to spend Pesach with. However, we do enjoy and look forward to the preparations and participation of our own family in the Seder and invite others to join in the week as well.

    Taking care of children and housekeeping are on totally different planes. While it is a privilege to keep house, if it must be hired out, I don’t believe anybody loses anything by it. However, caring for our children is not something that can be hired out without something being lost somewhere. That precious time spent with our children and families in all their stages and needs is truly something to be cherished.

    I think instead of looking to organizations to provide our needs, rather we should create a support system/group of our own whereby people in each locality could be live mentors, providing support where needed. Those talented in organizing, keeping house, cooking and baking, etc. could train others live and provide support for maintenance as well. When I became engaged many years ago I went for hands on live cooking and baking and Shabbos preparation lessons to my role models and Rebbetzins on Thursday nights.

    Like the Big brother/big sister or following in the Twelve sTep program tradition whereby a stronger member “sponsors” a newer member until that person becomes strong enough to be a “sponsor” for someone else. We could be there for each other, as everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses.

    Generations past relied on each other and their extended families, why can’t we do the same for each other. Many of us do, but I mean in some structured formal way where needed.

    Here’s hoping as we all continue to strive to grow and do all that we must for the right reasons, that we will be helped from above.

  74. RachelR and various people-

    Since there’s so much space being taken up by people asking for each other’s e-mails, I think it’s time I just post mine. It’s theyellowhobbit [at]gmail[dot]com. So now you all can find me in the land of internetness.

    And I’m glad what I said connected to you, RachelR.

    And happy Tu b’shvat everyone.

  75. Chana- Thank you for your new insight to this. It has given me a lot to think about, and I appreciate it. Being a BT brings lots of struggles, and one can either look at it and say “why are You doing this to me, Hashem?” or one can look at them and say “Thank you for bringing me closer to You.” This is definately a change which will help, and I greatly appreciate that.

  76. Rachel: The tests were a means to enable them to elevate themselves. They understood they were being tested, through hachnassos orchim. The biggest test was the ability to control anger,(provoked by the Ushpizin’s behavior) which is necessary as a frum Jew. When one controls anger consciously, and especially while aware of being tested, the result is a feeling of satisfaction at having reached a new madrega. This is a gift from Hashem, although admittedly, a struggle.

  77. Shayna- Kiruv is probably one of the simplest and most complicated proecesses all at the same time. It can be as simple as smiling at someone, or saying hello. The truth is that someone who is never exposed to the frum community and only has one experience can be greatly influenced by one small thing. (my grandmother told me of the only experience she ever had EVER with a frum Jew, and it was negative. I hope I will be able to overcome that..) The truth is that enough kind words or friendly smiles can make all the difference. If there was a group of people you never met or knew nothing about except that they are always cheerful it may spark some curiosity. Kiruv also does not have to be finding people to spend shabbos at your house. It depends on the individual and your relationship. I actually had the pleasure of spending shabbos at somebody’s house onbly to learn that they had invited me 2 years earlier and it had never been followed through (on my part, really). The truth was I had also had bad experiences with frum Jews unfortunately, and I wasn’t ready. But the smile and warm invite made all of the difference in my journey.

    Chana- I saw the film Ushpezin, and while it truely was an inspiring film I found it to be very hard. It was as if seeing all of thier struggles, and still Hashem felt it necessary to test their emunah.Maybe somebody could help me to look at it differently?

    Rachel Adler- I would like very much to meet you as all that you have typed directly connected to me. I was thinking about how to comment (because as soon as I finished the article I knew I needed to.) I formulated thoughts, and as soon as I scrolled down I saw my thoughts in your comment!

  78. CM – I’ve read through this thread and I find it overwhemingly supportive of Shayna. The purpose of this blog is to create a supportive environment which I believe we’ve largely achieved as Shayna has acknowledged.

    However, despite our efforts, I do believe it will take a lot more to make our voices heard. Institutions and organizations are not known for their introspection or acceptance and acknowledgement of criticism, even when it is constructive.

    Hopefully there will be some enlightened individuals who will take the time and effort to actually listen and work together to correct some of the problems in the community.

    Our task is to continue being supportive of each other, to recognize the good in our institutions, offer suggestions and insights into ways to make things better, and to analyze any pushback to determine whether it has merits or is just a defensive reaction on the part of the institution.

  79. Shayna wrote a sincere, honest response to “Inspired” based on her life and what was going on at the moment she responded. People obviously analyzed and interpreted Shayna’s post based upon their beliefs and experiences. I feel that the response to Shayna’s sincere feelings, after first acknowledging the feelings and trying to understand where the feelings are coming from, whether you agree or disagree, should be with compassion, without any trace of negativity. I would think that compassion is a fundamental principle in kiruv.

    I thought that the reason for this blog was to provide BTs with a forum to talk about their feelings and concerns so that we can unite to make our voice heard in the frum world. Hopefully it will lead to solutions, or, at least, an awareness of the BT issues in the frum world. Unfortunately there seems to be a cry from BTs that they need help with routine issues such as dealing with tuition, shidduchim, running a household, etc. Maybe the kiruv organizations should join with us and think about how they can expand their services to include the issues faced by established BTs.

  80. Shayna-

    Don’t sweat getting attacked. I bet by the end of Sunday your post will have surpassed my Shidduchim one for most repsonses, and that’s not such a bad thing. It means people are hearing what you have to say, even if they don’t agree with it.

    Though I think everyone on this site could learn something from what Rabbi Gil Student posted on his blog about blogging protocols a few weeks ago.


    Basically don’t write something to a person that you wouldn’t say to them IRL, and be clear in what you write in order to avoid misunderstandings, or recognize that people will interpret your words in different ways.

    If people followed these pieces of advice [well particularly the first one], you probably wouldn’t be getting attacked so much. There are real people out there who read and post on this site, with real emotions and beliefs.

    So everyone, think before you comment.

  81. SephardiLady — no, you can’t put silver plate in! I thought you meant the high quality stainless steel. If you put silver plate in at the same time as other metals you can create a mild battery and actually pull the silver off.

    Regarding Inspired — my husband is FFB and both of us know some of the Inspirational people (neither of has has seen either movie though), but neither of us is inspired by them to mekarev more people. We’re too busy trying to support, host, and marry off the people they’ve already mekareved.

  82. All these comments are almost, but not quite, as good as Shayna’s original post. I think Mark defined what irks some of us about the women’s Inspired. But maybe it was done that way to inspire the FFB’s out there. Unfortunately, nebich, there are a lot of people with serious emotional issues who’ve turned to frumkite the way they may have also tried out cults-as a panacea. Perhaps this is why the emphasis this video is to show show FFB’s how normal and even accomplished these women are. One of the people who originally invited me for Shabbos that very, very first time was just such a lost soul. Last I heard, the person had become a “born again”.

  83. Dear Shayna,

    Firstly, thanks for the line: ‘top level aish people’. It provided me with a great laugh.

    Secondly, rather than being defensive, I appreciate your comments and value your article. I enjoyed reading your column and whereas I take issue with several points that you make and hope to have the time to respond in the near future, your points provide many people a forum for healthy discussion. They’ll be no Taliban around here…!

    Lastly, don’t be so defensive. You took a position publicly, and by doing such a thing [amongst jews no less!], you’re bound to receive strong feedback. Take it in stride.

    Shabbat Shalom. YG

  84. You know, I also saw the women’s Inspired video (and know a few of the women in it first hand – and can assure you that *at least* one of them has a house just as messy as mine). I was not left with the impression that these women left ‘perfect lives’. My sole impression was of how the small things that we as ‘the already frum’ – whether bt or ffb – do that made a difference in their choice to become frum. So many people *do* think that kiruv should be left to ‘kiruv professionals’. I do believe that many ffb’s think ‘why would someone with so many secular achievements be interested in anything I have to offer’. And here we were given living proof that they do! And the problem is….?

  85. One Nation Many Souls – I didn’t read Shayna’s post as disparaging any individuals. It was the collective portrayal, by the producers, of a group of people as leading seemingly perfect lives that was disconcerting. The picture painted did not seem to accurately reflect the day to day trials and tribulations that all human being go through as you yourself mentioned.

    I can certainly understand why the producers made the film that way, but in the truly Jewish spirit of discussion and debate, I don’t think it’s over the line to ask a question or make a point based on the portrayals in the film.

  86. I knew & know many of the men & women from the “Inspired” film. They, as well as all of us have had our own struggles. And after most issues, we look back on the situation & hopefully find the ways we overcame what we needed to a celebrate the positve in the challenge. These men & women are celebrating their life choices, struggles & pleasures with us & at risk with others. They graciously told of their stories. And these stories can now assist in doing kiruv rivokim and perhaps kiruv kirovim in a special talented way. Because one might view the “Inspired” lives with percieved solice is that a reason for animosity or difference to those who produced it. Is it the fault of those men & woemen who created or acted in the film?” Is balance in some one elese life a reason to feel uninspired? Might one suggest that if there are thoses who were not inspired , rather uninspired, by the documentary, perhaps look inside & have a heartfelt conversation (prayer) with Hashem about their life choices versus speaking or implying ill will about other yidden — our brothers & sisters. Ask, “Why was I uninspired?”. Ask “What was it that bothered me?”. Certaininly it was not becuase of someone elses story. Certainly ones discontent with how another person lives isnot the fault of theother person. The real life people on Inspired faced their challenges & overcame many of them, perhaps in a different way than most of us have.Or perhaps our struggles are all similar but their pespective is different. I know those who created Insired certainly did not intend it to bring about ill will,or dissonance amongst us, rather the opposite. By using Inspired or this website as a place to discuss ill will of other Yidden is not of benefit. Both forums were created to bring us together not apart. May all our challenges be recognized, and worked on, in a meningful productive way. And, please, may we find it with in ourselves to use this special shabos shira to see what is uniquely ours as individuals & a nation and truly be inspired.

  87. To be fair Shayna did write in the original post: “Maybe I should rate this entry: For Women Only, because I don’t want anyone to take me the wrong way.”

    Men/ Martians read and commentat your own risk

  88. Wow. Fascinating thread, ladies. Shayna, SephardiLady, Charnie, Chana, NT, LC and me, MRN — all of us are struggling as BT’s in an FFB world. Making our own seders, polishing our own silver, or buying fake so it runs through the dishwasher. The guys, rather than offering suggestions or comments other than “you should have married rich or inherited some money”, start exchanging recriminations about internet usage. It’s very enlightening.

  89. I think that if we portray Kiruv as a magic bullet designed to cure all of one’s spiritual questions that this is intellectually dishonest. On the other hand, when kiruv is shown as an approach and a way of life as opposed to a set of “take it or leave it style answers” including Codes and similar techniques, Torah( including those sugyos mentioned by R D Schwartz) have depthm, relevance and meaning to anyone because then you are showing someone that Torah has as much depth as the most complicated and sophisticated science and mathematics ( except that we call it lomdus).

  90. Shayna, I loved your post, because I truly could relate to it! Believe me, I couldn’t keep house before I became frum, and I still can’t, married and 3 kids later. “They” say orderliness skips generations, and I can believe that comparing my mother to myself. But people constantly tell me that I’m way too hard on myself, so I’ll continue to serve macaroni for dinner an additional night just to have a cleaning lady come on Fridays! I work FT, and I’m not 25, so it wouldn’t be easy regardless.

    When I saw the women’s Inspired (by the way, in my shul), my first reaction was “how come they didn’t ask me to be in it”. I have one of those strang kiruv stories, and secondly, and I believe, Shayna, this was your point also, I’m “just plain folk”. But you know something, my husband and I have been inspirations to others, by being just that, regular people like you meet on your job everyday, who sincerely love our lifestyle. And yes, we do joke around about all the vacations we’d be able to take if we didn’t have to pay yeshiva tuitions. But we wouldn’t trade that opportunity for anything, especially when we sit back and enjoy who our children are turning out to be.

    Want to see a few more rants about what we got ourselves into becoming frum? You will if they ever post my submission.

  91. Also, was there a heksher given to the filming of “Ushpizin”? It’s hard to conceive of why anyone would consider it assur? This was a truly INSPIRING film.

  92. I remember reading that the Novominsker Rav issued a firm assur on internet, saying this is the big sacanah of our generation. Does anyone else remember this? Also recently the Rav in Lakewood issued an assur. Unfortunately, when community members do get together to discuss this, the solutions offered is typically some filter or safe provider, or spy software to protect kids. I can say without hesitation that these devices are useless when matched by the computer sophistication of today’s kids. I think that if I was a BT with teenagers 15 years ago the treif that has entered my home through internet, DVDs and music venues would never have made it through my door. This is not only in my home. The testimonies are numerous, and from the most frum homes. There are probably untold dangers for adults as well, even like ourselves who use the internet only for healthy pursuits (!?). I am as guilty as anyone because I can conveniently pursue many Jewish venues on the internet. I would love to hear from other parents who are honestly dealing with this issue.

  93. I see their heterim in the fact they have websites themselves or at least openly allow their torah to be distributed on websites. star-k, aish hatorah, Rabbi Frand, ArtScroll etc. etc. I go back forth between being machmir and being meikel in this inyon.

  94. The Internet has not been assured in all of America by the gedolim although there have been guidelines and restrictions established for it’s usage in different communities.

    We are assuming that the people participating here are mature enough to ask a Rav where appropriate.

    As far as videos and movies, there are also differing community standards that apply and each individual should also ask a Rav where appropriate.

    Inspired was clearly made under the guidance of gedolim and to my knowledge was directed towards frum people.

  95. There is an interesting phenomenon with the Yetzer HaRah. When it comes to an issur, people want to know who assured it. And if it wasn’t their rav, in their community, then they ignore the issur.

    But when it comes to a heter, as long as someone said that they heard that it was ok, then people rely on it without asking further.

  96. One question nobody has raised is why are watching videos?

    Weren’t videos and movies assur’ed by the Gedolim?

    I thought the the inspired video was for non-frum people? Aren’t establish BT’s not supposed to watch videos and movies?

    If she had not seen the video we would not be having this discussion.

  97. After fourteen years of doing it by myself, I’m never quite prepared to answer the inevitable, “What are you doing for Pesach?”
    Hey, having married an FFB with ILs who are local, I *still* make sedarim at my house, have every year since we got married.

    OK, so my ILs usually come to us, (I’d rather prepare than deal with shlepping the kids home late and sleepy, and I like my own bed) and recently I’ve asked my MIL to check the lettuce for marror, but making your own seder is NOT solely a BT thing!

  98. Michoel, I think we have found some solid common ground:

    Kiruv in it’s various forms, has had many successes and we should collectively try to make it even more successful.

  99. Mark,
    Yes, I agree. But that doesn’t mean that we can put our finger on whether or not any specific circumstance is a success in Hashem’s eyes. I didn’t say nor mean to imply that kiruv movement is an overall failure. It can be more successful and we should try to make it so.

  100. Michoel, I think we do have some ideas of what Hashem considers a success as related in the Gemorra, Rishonim and Achronim. And it seems pretty clear that a successful life can include struggles and mistakes.

  101. Mark,
    I am defining success by my own terms exactly because I don’t know Hashem’s definition, and neither does anyone else.

  102. Michoel – How are you defining success? By your terms, societies or Hashem’s. And if it is by Hashem’s definition of success how do you know how he views the struggles of a given person.

  103. I’m really not such a nebach, everybody. In fact, I’m always hearing, “I’d never have known you’re a B.T.,” which comes uncomfortably close to, “Some of my best friends are Black!” My kids are well-adjusted and attend the most “yeshivish” schools and camps. I actually love to cook.

    However, along with the beauty and spirituality, this is a labor-intensive, stressful lifestyle. I’m not sure the FFBs really get what it’s like for the typical BT. (And “Inspired” certainly doesn’t help.) The FFBs I encountered along my way to frumkeit rely on lots of family support. After fourteen years of doing it by myself, I’m never quite prepared to answer the inevitable, “What are you doing for Pesach?”

    Many of you sound like you have Beaver Cleaver homelives. How do you do it?

  104. In my last line above, chas v’shalom I was not referring to Shayna. I hope it didn’t sound like that. She sounds like a great lady and Hashm will certainly bentch her with tremendous hatzlacha.

  105. Chaim,
    I agree. We need more great people to stand up and save klal Yisrael. I totally agree. What I personally think we need less of is baalei t’shuvah spending a few years in yeshiva and then making a life of kiruv themselves (with very limited exceptions). We also need less FFB kollel guys going into kiruv because that was the job they could find after kollel. (Most are very idealistic, and I don’t mean to say otherwise. We need people that are both idealistic and talented.)

    When we talk about the successes of the kiruv movement, we have to look at the entire picture and not just look to pat ourselves on the back. A divorced baalas t’shuvah with 3 young children is a failure of the kiruv movement. A 40 year old single man that has been looking for 12 years is a failure of the kiruv movement. A completed uninspired baales t’shuvah with way more kids than she can handle, and three of them with one foot off the derech is a failure of the kiruv movement because they should have told her that you are not your rebbetzin and you have many more challenges, internal and external.

  106. Mattisyahu,
    No. There is a mitzvah of Hocheach tochiach, there is a mitzvah of v’ahavta l’reacha. There is NOT a mitzvah of kiruv. The nafka mina is that when one is m’kaim hocheach tochiach and v’ahavta one, BY DEFINITION, will continue to be interested, and energetically involved with the baal t’shuvah that he is m’karev long after he is wearing a black hat and singing askinu seudasa with the correct havara because those mitzvos are not things that you are yotzei zein once and now we go vieter to the next case. They are life commitments. And another nafka mina is that I will be totally straight forward with someone when I know I am in for the long hall.

    No, I am not advocating disbanding the kiruv movement. I advocating stressing quality and honesty over quantity. I am interested in un-deprtmentalizing kiruv as a profession (as much as possible). And I am advocating people being excedingly honest with themselves as to why they are doing kiruv.

  107. “What FFB wouldn’t want to forge a relationship with one of these delightfully accomplished women?”

    I am pretty sure most of the FFBs take the videos with a grain of salt! The FFBs are probably just as intimated by these images of perfection as any BT would be.

  108. Shayna,

    I can definitely relate to your post. I’m an atrocious housekeeper. When I looked at those women on the “Inspired” screen in their gorgeous homes, I felt messy, too, and I’m including a psychological component as your post did.

    But I don’t think frumkeit has anything to do with it. I was one of the “difficult” types before, during, and after my teshuva. It’s just the peckel Hashem gave me, and all any of us can do is our best.

  109. I do not think the Inspired film was deceptive, nor was it meant to be. To portray real baalei teshuva who are also accomplished in many ways I think was meant to show FFB’s the longing of all Jews who have no Torah, and to show them what kind of talent could have been lost to Yiddishkeit forever, to sort of rouse them out of their sleep. Often frum from birth people envy a successful secular Jew! They think they have so much! To them, to hear an accomplished professional comment how much their lives were missing without Torah and mitzvos is a real shock! I have experienced this myself many times.
    Of course not every BT is a concert singer/pianist or TV news anchorwoman. It was making the point to people who do not/cannot relate to secular Jews as their brothers and sisters to wake up and see how people really long for meaning despite an outwardly successful persona. Also, interesting people make an interesting film.
    I understand how Shayna may have seen the film as a less-than-flattering comparison to her very busy, messy life, but I think she is wrong to be jealous or believe she suffers in comparison. I believe Shayna is using a secular yardstick to measure her worth against theirs. Does she know that the women featured wouldn’t trade their lives for hers if offered? Perhaps they married too late to have many messy, bratty children? Perhaps they are not yet married and are dying to find their bashert? Shayna is living the ideal Jewish life: building a home of G-d fearing Jews who hopefully will never take their Torah heritage for granted. Shayna has nothing to be jealous of.

  110. Having lived in a number of larger & smaller communities, I have definitely seen Hollywood kiruv, but I have been most moved by those rebbetzins who *didn’t* have it all together (and from my own experiences, they vastly outnumber the sleek ones). Misbehaving kids at the Shabbos table and crayon scribbles on the walls… Cockeyed snoods and foodstains on their shirts… Now that I’m at home myself, it’s those memories that give me strength, not the polished silver.

  111. During my growth process, my kiruv rabbi set my friend and me up every Shabbos at the most incredible “Inspired-type” families.

    One day my friend asked our kiruv rabbi how in the world could we ever be like those women who seem to have it all together?

    Our rabbi was so honest and reassuring in replying that of course he handpicks these families as models for us. He then assured us that Orthodox people are imperfect also and have struggles.

    We felt better knowing that we didn’t necessarily have to live up to these “ideal” families. Rather these families were indeed wonderful role models and so inspirational.

  112. There is a mitzvah of Kiruv. It is the mitzvah of “hochayach Tocheeach.” – the mitzvah of reproving others (Vayikra 19,17).

    Kiruv is essentially correcting others in a way which is most likely to be heard.

    One may fulfill the mitzvah “hochayach Tocheeach,” with words or actions.

  113. I’d like to repeat a comment I made in another post and that is how do we define Kiruv:
    1) Helping someone getting closer and gain a greater awareness of Hashem, which is sometime hard to quantify.
    2) Helping someone to become Shomer Shabbos, keep kosher and enter the observant community.

    Would we describe a parent who is not Shomer Shabbos, but keeps more mitzvos and is more aware of Hashem, because of their children, a kiruv sucess story?

    I think it is clear that there is a Mitzvos to help people come closer and gain a greater awareness of Hashem and it is something all of us can do. Do people think that the mitzvah is only fulfilled when the person becomse Shomer Shabbos?

  114. Michoel- Huh? Who said anything about not davening or denying s’yata dishmaya. Are you suggesting that we shut down the Kiruv movement since it’s all in HaShem’s hands anyway? I don’t deny that the movement has a smattering of ego-tripping people but for the vast majority it’s not about “kochi v’otzem yadi” but about “VaYigbah Leebo B’darchei HaShem”. We need more HaShem-reliant visionary dreamers and fighters, not less. As the first Slonimer said “Without His help I can’t make it over the threshold of my own home. With His help I can cross the oceans without a ship”

  115. Michoel,
    The nimshal here is not a fellow Jew, but rather the secular world which has a hold of a fellow jew. Yes the ‘frum’ world may not perfect because it is also may be lacking in matching Torah’s lofty ideals, but advertising the imperfections is placing an unnecessary obstacle.
    On the other hand I do not disagree with you that people must be warned to be careful of pitfalls which surround any change of lifestyle. It is a mitzvah to do so (removing the stumbling block before blind). I totally agree that rabbeim should stress financial responsibility, and dangers of doing too much too fast (I heard both stressed in public and in private) on the other hand how do we define financial responsibility from Torah perspective. How much emunah and betachon should one have in all areas of life. There are no simple answers. It is different for each person and a good rav would offer proper guidance.

  116. Chaim,
    Shalom. We say in Avinu Malkenu (and similar things in lots of other places) “v’hachzirenu b’tshuvah shleimah l’faneicha”. Hashem, You should inspire us to do t’shuvah. Hashem has the ability to help us do t’shuvah. Can anyone that has become frum claim that they did not see great syata dishmaya along the way? If a person exerts great effor to “make” someone frum (a terible but telling expresion) but they don’t daven three times a day “Hashem please help me to help this person have a relationship with you”, than they are believing too much in “kochi v’otzem yadi”. If a person doesn’t deeply value his own relationship with Hashem but yet is trying mightly to help others to have a relationship with Him, he is indulging in egoism. If a woman is frum only only because she believes the Torah says a, b and c about women, when if fact it says, d, e and f about women, then she is not frum. We have to live a Torah life properly. If not, what are we doing with kiruv? It has no p’shat.

  117. Max,
    “Be crooked with the crooked” has nothing to do with being crooked with a fellow Jew. Furthermore we are not Yakovs whose entire essence was truth and could behave in an externally crooked way without it effecting his pnimius. We have to be straight. That is the biggist kiddush Hashem and by far the best kiruv. Baalei t’shuvah by nature tend to be starry eyed. It is the kiruv community’s responsibility to make them more down to earth, not more starry eyed. Many of our parents grew up with stronger character, less TV, less coddeling and more responsibility. To merely follow in their paths’ of two or three normal children, holding down a job and not being a nasty person is a big achievment. What baalei t’shuvah are attemptimg is to do much, much more then their parents with less “human resources”. We have to be very honest when we are m’karev people. The greatness of a Torah life is that it is EMES! not that it is fun or fullfilling or spiritually uplifting. Hashem can make Jews frum. It is not our job to give the Torah a face lift or be in any way dishonest.

  118. Michoel-I don’t get “If we would realize that it is in Hashem’s hand to make people frum,” Isn’t it in the peoples’ own hands to ultimately choose whether or not to observe the Mitzvos HaTorah? Despite all the heartwarming stories of hashgacha pratis that are part and parcel of every BTs biography each and every one had to respond positively to the Divine stimulii. Almost all will tell you stories of freinds and realtives who chose not to. Didn’t the Rambam insert the doctrine of free will into the Laws of T’shuva?

    Don’t grasp your quote from The Klausenberger Rebbi either. Please flesh it out and give it more context. I know that Rabenu Yonah writes in the Gates of Repentance that the twentieth principle of T’shuva is “To turn as many as possible away from transgression”. King David was less dismissive of “doing Kiruv” than you when he wrote “Then I will teach offenders your ways and sinners will return to you” (Tehilim 51:15)

  119. Michoel in comment #23 wrote There is no mitzvah of “kiruv” in the Torah, and I wrote in comment #20 Is our job to “make everyone frum”? I know some people think so. I do not.

    I can’t speak for Michoel but I’d like to clarify what I wrote.

    There *IS* a Mitzvah to do kiruv that is beyond the general mitzvah of chessed. There is a commandment that we may not stand by and do nothing when our brother’s blood is being spilled. This mitzvah obligates us to do what we can to save our fellow Jew’s physical and spiritual lives.

    BUT… if we think that a quicky sales job is the answer (ie. just be mekarev them, get them married and committed, and if they have a hard time later, well at least we saved their souls), we have done them and the rest of our community a disservice. How many teens at-risk are a result of exactly this? How many unhappy marriages? Rabbi Yanky Horowitz, the expert on at risk youth has been behind this blog and other such help for baalei teshuva. Do you think that it’s a mere coincidence that the teen-at-risk expert is now looking into how to help baalei teshuvah? Perhaps there’s a corellation???

    So yes, we do have the obligation to try and be mekarev every Jew. But if the results of “salemanship” are that they feel deceived, without the community support they need, their children bail out, etc., what kind of kiruv was that in the long run? Better to be more forthright, have less successful kiruv statistics, and more stable new members of the community who understand fully what they are embarking on.

    There is a concept in the Torah of “Onehs Rachmana Patrei” (one is exempt from a Mitzvah if he is prevented from performing the Mitzvah). Sure we are obligated to do kiruv, but if the long term results of our accomplishments backfire, I would venture to say we need to think long and hard about what went wrong.

    Sometimes less is more…

  120. A few thoughts in response to very interesting post and comments above.
    First happiness and frum lifestyle. I think Torah actually commands a Jew to be happy in his Avodah. Are all of us happy? No. This is obviously a difficult issue to address in a few sentences, but to generalize two types of challanges steal our happiness and fullfillment. First are self-made challanges. Do we live our lives according to Halacha and what Hashem expects of us or are we trying to match someone else’s expectation. Things mentioned here such as child every 18 mo., learning in kollel, guests for Shabbos, even a neat home, are all wonderful things but they are not halahik requirements. So if you can’t do these, don’t, and stand up to whoever is pressuring you. If anybody is intersted how to do that well, I can put you in touch with my wonderful ezer k’negdo. Second are challanges from Hashem. If you are facing these you will need to learn how to deal with them in a way that your happiness is not impacted. Often it requires advise or ongoing support from a qualified spiritual mentor. (Important things many of us omit, acquire yourself a great rav)
    And now on to the other issues.
    Should we try to make every Jew frum? Yes. Otherwise the Jew or his children will intermarry and disappear. Does Hashem want his chosen children with potential to be his Holy Priests (Torah definition of a Jew) to disappear of wallow in tumah and ignorance. I don’t think so.
    Is it permited to decieve in some circumstances. May be it is not always advisable, but certainly sometimes permitted. There is a fascinating dialogue I just learned in Megilla 13B between Yaakov and Rachel, where Yaakov claims that he is capable of matching Lavan in deception and Rachel asks him who gave permission for a tzadik to decieve. Yaakov replies with a pasuk which basically means: “Be straight with straight and crooked with crooked”. So if you are trying to get someone out of a very crooked lifestyle, perhaps some marketing is permitted. But that is not the point.
    We might be happy or struggling to become happy about our Torah lifestyles, but after 120 we will have much naches from our happiness and our struggles today. The same can’t be said about all of our non-observant brothers and sisters. Eternity of naches is also something. So let’s do some kiruv. The question is not whether to decieve or not to decieve, the question is how to bring ourselves and other closer to Torah in an effective and permanent way.

  121. Just one thought–I’ve always wondered why a woman’s household chores get lumped together with child rearing? The chores are dull but necessary—the childrearing has phenomenal potential for both the child and the parent. I think there are many lessons to be gained from raising children, among them Humility, Patience, and Balance (between firmness & flexibility.) Children have a way of helping us to see our own flaws, and to correct ourselves because we want to meet their needs. They also have the ability to give us the most pleasure, when we see progress in the fruit of our labor. So housework has a lot of demands, but raising children is in a different category. I don’t much care if the kitchen floor shines, but it means a lot if my child’s eyes shine when they are learning from me. This doesn’t really have anything to do with the kiruv issue, except that as a frum person, the job of parenting is a “dual curriculum” as they say.

  122. Alter,
    Kiruv definitely does decieve. Don’t decieve yourself! (That’s a joke.) From skewed pshetlach in “shelo asani isha” to “nobody stands in the place of baalei t’shuvah” being applied in a superficial way with intent to flatter, deception is wide spread. The Klausenberger Rebbi once said that if people would just live Torah lives the way it was intended and not focus on “doing kiruv” all Jews would become frum. I agree with that outlook. If we would realize that it is in Hashem’s hand to make people frum, we would put less pressure on ourselves to make Torah life seem idealic. I didn’t see Inspired, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t for me. Could be we need less AJOP conventions, less kiruv websites and less begging. We need more quality in our own lives. There is no mitzvah of “kiruv” in the Torah. There is a mitzvah of v’ahavta l’reacha kamocha and that should be the stress. When I am not worried about achieving success in my relationship with a non-religious Jew, I can deal more honestly with him.

  123. Hi David,
    I plan to dedicate my blog mostly to financial issues. But, I don’t have all the answers! I have yet to figure out how to make $15,000 per child for tuition grow on a tree. All the rest is manageable.

    When you find the magic money tree, drop a note.

  124. So many people I talk to think this way, there must be truth to it.

    To be even more open if I may, in the FFB world too, isn’t it true that many young men and women are told not to worry too much about earning a living, but to throw themselves into a Kollel lifestyle, with the notion that it all works itself out financially.

    10 years later, a woman who was once inspired and idealistic, could write the identical post. And so could the young budding scholar, who may know much Torah but is now in great debt without a clue as to how he will send his kids to seminary, marry them off, etc. (Just last Thursday, an FFB neighbor walked over to me out of the blue and started a conversation that started with the words “The system is broken.” He went on to explain how his niece, pretty, upbeat, frum, is having a hard time finding a shidduch because of her parents’ financial limitations. She wants a kolle guy. THat’s what she’s been taught to want. But her family can’t fund it. Now what?…

    Yes, it’s true. We paint too rosey a picture. I for one, when speaking to people about Yidishkeit, am all for being very straight. Of course I don’t harp on this. If Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l was right when he said that the famous saying “shver sol zain a yid” (it’s hard to be a Jew) is what caused a generation to abandon their heritage, then a new variation f that same statement is certainly not going to attract newcomers. Is our job to “make everyone frum”? I know some peole think so. I do not. Our job is to present Judaism in all its beauty to all Jews. And to be ourselves, and to be available when possible for those we meet who we can help. Our job is not to be salesmen!

    One of my teachers once told me that were he to go into outreach, he wouldn’t have many students (because he would tell it like it is), but those talmidim would be real talmidim.

    So please kiruv colleagues, talk about what inspires you in Yiddishkeit. Talk about symbolism of Mitzvos. Talk about getting to know Hasem through davening and learning. Talk about having a wonderful community. But, be honest!!

  125. When considering “truth in packaging” ethics there is a consideration that is unique to Kiruv efforts. Unlike that pretender Coca Cola, The Torah is REALLY the real thing! It is the truth. When reaching and teaching the uninformed and the late beginner the fundamental question is not whether to sell Torah with lies and deception or with the truth and disclaimers. The real issue is, as Jack Nicholson famously responded to a character claiming that “I want / deserve the truth” “(You want the truth?) You can’t handle the truth.!” In other words; how much truth can the student handle?

    I heard this parable from Rabbi Jacobowitz of Michigan U. After the liberation of the Bergen Belsen by the British Army thousands more of the inmates perished. Many expired from a typhoid epidemic and others from starvation and exposure. But hundreds died on account of the kindness of the British soldiers. Moved by the sight of emaciated walking skeletons wandering the camp, they shared their K rations with the inmates. The famished prisoners depleted digestive tracts and immune systems couldn’t handle food in this quantity or quality and hundreds died from eating those K rations. It’s not that these K rations were tainted or lacked nutritional value. It’s just that they were “too much for the survivors”. Similarly despite the fact that Torah is the truth that nourishes the soul when a starving soul tries to ingest too much truth too rapidly, there are often dire consequences.

    Ben Sorrer Umoreh, Sotah, Eved K’naanee, M’kheeyas Amolek, Nigey Botim and Ir Haneedakhas are undeniably authentic Torah topics. Much insight inspiration and stimulus for t’shuva can and should be gleaned from any of them. But as a Kiruv Rabbi I would have to be an irresponsible fool to present them as a 6-week introductory course to beginners. (Knowing the wide-ranging readership of this blog I am even conflicted about listing them here.) Healthy paradigm shifts need to be slow and steady. There are many veteran BTs AND FFBs who are still unready to absorb these Torah lessons because they do not fit seamlessly with their own preconceived notions of ethics and morality. It takes a certain spiritual maturity and humility to stop recoiling from questions and to stop placing the Torah, rather than our own lifestyles, ethics and morals, on the defensive.

    I am not the spokesman for the producers of “Inspired” or any other Kiruv organization. As for myself I can say with a clear conscience that I have never willfully deceived anybody nor have I spread disinformation. What I am sensitive to is not volunteering too much unasked for information too soon. I don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the well-intentioned British liberators in Bergen Belsen.

  126. “What FFB wouldn’t want to forge a relationship with one of these delightfully accomplished women? They have as much to offer as to take. What a no-risk, feel-good prospect! But how many of us were really confused, demanding, provocative, difficult evolving BTs?”

    That’s precisely the point. “Many of us” still are. The film was intended to rouse the FFB community to do their part. As much as I feel the word “Kiruv PROFFESIONAL” corrupts the meaning of this specialized Torah teaching the fact is that Kiruv of the challenging evolving BTs that you describe should not be left to the casual dabbler in kiruv who,while well meaning, may irreparably bungle things.

    There are some beginners, who at least in the early stages of their developement are uncritical, starry eyed sponges. Other more experienced Ba’aley T’shuva relish the social aspects of their interaction with FFBs but will save their thornier questions for Rabbis, Rebbitsens and mentors better equipped to deal with them.

  127. Alter – These are the concepts that I take issue with that I feel you are implying: 1)People cannot live happy lives in the secular world. 2)Becoming frum will guarantee happiness.

    Look, you can quote me anecdotes and throw around statistics of divorce all you want. I can speak from life experience. I didn’t grow up frum – I have seen happy non-frum families and messed up frum ones.

    What about if you break things down, group by group. Do secular Jews have that same divorce rate, do deeply religious non-Jews? What about frum people who don’t get divorced because of the stigma? What about women who live in abusive marriages? Leading a frum life is no guarantee of happiness in this world. Misleading people into thinking becoming frum is a key to bliss in olam hazeh is just misleading.

  128. SephardiLady: I’m not exactly sure who we will hire to teach Money Management.

    From the looks of your website, the only answer I can offer is: You! Are you available? :)

  129. Whether observant or not, life has many challenges and hardships. Shayna, I take it that you became observant before you married and had a family. Whether you are living a torah lifestyle or not, raising a family is difficult.(Granted I have no idea what I am talking about-no experience). Kiruv individuals must present the positive aspects of Judasim and also just be themselves. People that are coming closer to Judaism do it for numerous reasons but they need to see the sincerity and reality of observant families. Also, families of the ba’alei tshuva will give enough of the negative aspects of a torah lifestyle so no need for the kiruv profesionals to do so too.

  130. >>Why not incorporate better management skills into the “kiruv process”? That would include time management, stress management, money mangement, etc.

    I’m not exactly sure who we will hire to teach Money Management.

  131. Dear Jack,
    Kiruv doesn’t deceive. Could there be people who lie? Of course. The people I have worked with from many organizations don’t lie to potential bt’s. We focus on what people need and want. Anyone who has been at my house for shabbos realise that my wife and I work very hard to prepare shabbos, mangage 5 kids bli ayin hara, and daven. They see stress but yet they still see the overall beauty. I don’t coverup anything. I am often asked what about the kids with problems, divorce, etc. I answer them the truth. We the frum world, have problems but compared to the secular world they are much smaller. I always use the phrase:” Hashem gave the Torah to man, not angels. We aren’t perfect”.
    Regarding the codes. Yes, take them or leave them. Our Judaism isn’t based on them. People find them fascinating. Nobody does Tseuvah just because of the codes. On top of it, whose to say they aren’t true? Some say yes, some say no.

    Regarding nobody stands in the place of BT’s and Gerrim. It is a true statement.It is what Hashem thinks about them. It isn’t saying that the frum world thinks that way. If people are bigoted, then they are wrong, but it doesn’t mean the statement is false.
    You make many generalizations that shidduchim, money=more important. Yes, there are some people that feel that way. However not everybody.There are always a few rotten apples that spoil the bunch. We should be very careful to qualify and quatify our statements.
    Divorce? Yes, the secular world has over a 50% divorce rate. Ours is much lower. I am sorry, that means more than half of America is unhappy with their spouse. I would call that a large percentage.In fact, most are then unhappy. I look around at the thousands of people I have come across in my life and definitely see the unhappiness(internally) of most people. All my students agree that most of their friends are unhappy but play the game anyway.

    Nobody pretends that life is a bowl of cherries. I think maybe potential bt’s see the good and avoid seeing the bad. There is a reason for that. They recognize that what they have been brought up to know is Shekar. They see truth in torah.
    I leave you with a quote from some newspaper discussing the american family, you be the judge:
    “MORSE BLUFF, NE—Although neighbors report that the Kenner family is “immensely troubled,” recently published statistics suggest they are more or less average, sources reported Monday. “Sure, the kids are upset that Doug and Tammy are splitting up because of Doug’s extramarital affairs, but that’s hardly unusual,” said analyst Doreen Fellows, who cited 2000 U.S. Census figures indicating that more than 60 percent of all American children are from divorced families. “Maybe the family would have fared better if not for Doreen’s drinking, but the situation is far from unusual. According to the American Medical Association, 72 percent of American homes harbor someone with an addiction.”

  132. I have a few opinions o the matter at hand:

    First, I don’t really think that bringing up potential difficulties/issues with those who are becoming religious is actually going to cause them to think twice. Generally speaking, those becoming religious will either poo-poo these issues or can’t actually appreciate their importance/difficulty since they haven’t experienced them.

    Second, (as Rishona pointed out) it should be a given that “nothing worthwhile is easy.” Meaning that if something like ballet or a higher academic degree obviously comes with difficulty, those difficulties won’t be a detterent to those who truly desire them.
    It has not been my experience that the majority of those individuals in “professional” kiruv actively present the case of: Become frum and all of your problems will be solved. On the other hand, that is clearly the perception that many young BTs have. I have heard time and again from friends and other fellow BTs that they reached a point of discenchantment where they first realized that not every frum individual, Rabbi, frum marriage, yeshiva/seminary , etc. is perfect. This is often a critical point in the spiritual life of a BT. Many become completely jaded and/or depressed. Others are hurt but eventually move on and chalk it up to their own naievete. In between, there is a world of nuance.

    Third, what is the solution? I don’t know!! But it seems to me that Ger Tzadik has a great point along the lines of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Why not incorporate better management skills into the “kiruv process”? That would include time management, stress management, money mangement, etc. That would take care of the problem that arises from the fact that warnings/advisements about future difficulties/issues will not be taken seriously, it would remove the disenchantment phase I discussed above and, perhaps most importantly, it will prepare BTs to practically address these issues when they actually face them.

    If someone’s still looking for How to Spend the Money, I advise them to hire Ger Tzadik!

  133. I think that real issue Shayna is touching upon is that of putting “The Superwoman” on a pedestal and making us believe that this is the way Jewish women are supposed to be.

    We are all supposed to make a living (to support our husband learning, of course, and to pay tuition). We should all have an open house full of guests. We should all be having children every 18 months. And on top of financially supporting our families and having a home full of guests, we should be able to give our husbands and children our full attention any time they need it.

    I think that we, as parents, should explain to our children that with every choice in life, there is something else that will take 2nd place. My parents always fought against the idea that one can “have it all.” I never have had the expectation that I could have everyhing that I dreamed of and, while I am sorry that I have had to let certain skills of mine go in exchange for being a mother, I haven’t had too much of a difficult time accepting the reality because my parents prepared me for it.

    Great piece.

  134. Not every female BT lives the life you live. (I hope things ease up for you and/or that you do become ‘inspired’ by your house chores, etc.) Some bt women have the mazal to have money themselves or to have married a wealthy man who can pay for more maid help so that the wife can pursue more meaningful accomplishments other than a clean floor.

    So, the female version of inspired may actually be true, even if it is not the life you are living.

  135. It’s funny, this past Motzaei Shabbos, while introducing Rabbi Lam, who mekareved us, I related the beginning of our first Shabbos experience, starting with the shock of the Mechitza on the Monsey bus, soon followed by my wife experiencing the extreme hectic-ness of pre-Shabbos with a bunch of young children running around as the last minute preparations were made.

    In fact the one of the things that stands out in my mind is how the Rabbi wisely discplined his three year old as he acted out during the meal. It didn’t need to be spelled out that someone leading a life of Torah faces many challenges, big and small. But it also became clear (and becomes clearer as time goes on) that the Torah provides a G-d given framework to deal with all of life challenges. And facing those challenges gives life purpose and meaning.

  136. I’m not sure it’s a matter of deception so much as taking the difficulties largely for granted.

    As opposed to kiruv, I get anti-kiruv, as is to be expected for a prospective convert. However, when I am being pushed away for all the various reasons, they never list the things I see and hear BT’s struggle with as part of the reason. My impression is, they don’t see that as a big detracting point.

    A sensible way to relate these issues would be to find a way to get people to think about these issues ahead of time, but in a postiive fashion. Do you know how to manage your time and money? If not, try and help people there before they get themselves into trouble. Give them the tools to succeed first.

  137. Alter – certain aspects of kiruv do possess an element of deception. I can speak from personal experience – how often do you see frum people talking about the “Torah Codes,” for example, when this is used as a popular kiruv method? What about the idea that no one stands in the place of a ba’al t’shuvah, when there is often a stigma against ba’alei t’shuvah among many frum people. What about the mitzvah to love Gerrim when there is often a stigma against gerrim as well? Or the idea that there is no conflict between Torah and science when people are burning Rav Slifkin’s books? Or that the shidduch system is so much less superficial than secular dating when money, looks, and yichus are often more important to frum people than character?

    I have many friends and family in the secular world. Are they all miserable people? Of course not, most of them are quite happy and many of them have successful marriages. In fact, any statistics that you speak of may be misleading – just because there is a lower rate of divorce, doesn’t mean frum people all have happy, successful marriages. Besides, I once spoke to a prominent Rosh Yeshiva who deals with gittin, that divorce has became much more common in recent years.

    The path of the Torah is the way to live a life of G-dliness and kedusha. Yet if you pretend that it will lead to a life of constant happiness and bliss, and everyone else lives in horrible darkness in the world, you are misleading the very people that you are trying to help. There are many misleading things that ba’alei t’shuva are told.

  138. While it is true that we don’t live in a story-book world where everyone achieves their heart’s content; you must admit that positive portrayals are need if we ever wish to better ourselves. For all the little girls who want to become ballerinas, does any dance school warn the parents about the years of dieting, broken ankles and aches and pains? Does any Law school linger on the fact that many first year students study 14 hours a day and live on Ramen noodles because the competition for clerkships/internships are that fierce? While any ballerina or lawyer probably will not lie about the “hardships” they endured to get where they are, they probably would not say it wasn’t worth it. The same goes for those of us who move into a Torah lifestyle. The hardships pale in comparision to the end resultant.

  139. >Are you permitted to mislead someone? There aren’t any easy answers to this question.

    Why isn’t there an easy answer? No, you aren’t permitted to mislead someone.

    Inventing a new translation for “shalom” doesn’t cut it either, because en le-davar sof(in reference to the idea that it is “mutar lo le-adam leshanot be-davar ha-shalom (Yevamot 65b)”).

  140. Shayna-
    Thank you for your wonderful, honest post. I felt similarly to you while watching “Inspired.” I think you are right in having to take it with a grain of salt and remind ourselves that it is probably a lot like you said in your post…propaganda for FFBs to start doing kiruv.

    I think that when potential BTs are shown that the torah is min haShomayim there need not be any proverbial wool to be pulled any potential BT’s eyes, for the mere discovery that G-d created the world and gave the torah to the Jews should be enough for any honest person to open up his or her ears to new ideas.

    If someone is not moved by this kind of discovery, I question the staying power of their tshuva.

  141. I beg to disagree strongly. I have worked in kiruv for 15 years. Not mentioning every single piece of dirt hidden under a rug is not called deception. Yes, there are many issues that need addressing in the frum world. However, compared to the secular world, the frum world wins hands down. Yes there are shalom bayis issues as well as others, however, statistically speaking, the frum world doesn’t come close to the numbers of people “in trouble” in the secular world. Also there is a tremendous cloud of unhapiness in the secular world. Not one of lack of the material but one of lack of the spiritual which is fulfilled in the frum world(depending on where you live and daven). People that become bt aren’t stupid. We all had images of frum people before we became frum and then realised after that not everyone is perfect. However, the torah world is striving for perfection and is reaching spiritual heights that are not possible to attain anywhere else. Yes, stress is everywhere. However, if we would follow the Torah, many of our own frum societies issues would be solved. That would mean nullifying some of our own desires, but it is for the sake of shamayim.

  142. What I love about blogging is finding out that there are so many people out there who think and feel the same way you do about things. This issue does bother me – what is considered lying in kiruv and what is just good PR? I actually wrote a post about this on my own blog Permission to Deceive? I don’t know the answer. Obviously, kiruv is the battle for Jewish souls. However, what are the appropriate weapons for this battle? Are you permitted to mislead someone? There aren’t any easy answers to this question.

  143. Wow.

    To answer your question at the end, I think there does need to be some honesty with kiruv. I was warned, albeit too little too late, about the fact that it wasn’t so simple as deciding to go back to being Reform if I wasn’t happy a year down the line. I never can be Reform again, ever. Not that I would want to be. But there are so many things that are troubling in my Orthodoxy [when my post goes up sometime this week{?} you can see part of what my issues are…]

    I don’t think my kirvers were trying to deceive me. They weren’t really so actively kiruving me beyond inviting me to things. They never once suggest I take on any mitzvah, ever. I chose it all myself. And when I asked other BTs what they thought about being women and “giving up” leading services and whatnot, they felt they weren’t giving up anything. Yet they never had the passion for leining or leading davening that I had, so of course it wouldn’t be such a big deal for them.
    I’m not going to go out and write an expose on the kiruv movement, but if someone who is close to me wants to become frum, I’m going to warn them to take it slow, and every so often think about what they believe.

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