10 Years of Beyond BT – The State of the Union

We started Beyond BT in December 2005 to offer friendship, support and advice to those who have committed to a Torah lifestyle. The main issues BTs face are still here, and that should be expected. Hashem wants us to grow, so he sends us challenges. Everybody I know, FFB and BT alike, has them. With that caveat, let’s take a quick look at the current State of the Union of the BT.

Demise of Blogs
Changes in Social Media, specifically the rise of Facebook, have lead to the decline in the use of blogs and their longer lasting discussions. That’s unfortunate, because there’s a lot to be gained from connecting and learning from other Torah Observant Jews in similar situations. On the plus side, it takes much less time to maintain BBT, so we’re planning to keep it going with a mix of posts and comments from the past along with new posts.

I may be wrong about this, but from my vantage point it seems like integration has become less of a problem for the typical BT. Perhaps this can be attributed to the growth of Torah communities in America and the ability to accommodate more diversity. This does not mean that BTs will find it easy in all communities and I would still recommend Far Rockaway, Passaic, Kew Gardens Hills and Baltimore as great places for a BT to live.

The Shidduch situation has become more difficult. I think the main reason is that there are a lot more Torah-centered and growth oriented girls than there are boys out there. Perhaps, that’s because the requirements, in terms of becoming less ego-centric, learning Torah and davening, coupled with the need for a good livelihood and man’s greater tendency towards distraction, make it more difficult for men than women to be growth oriented and Torah-centered.

Choosing a High School for boys who are not natural learners has become harder. This is an unintended consequence of the continual raising of the bar of Torah learning, which is a good thing for the community. My advice is to make sure that you choose a high school that does not damage the self-esteem of the B-class learner, and provide supplemental learning opportunities (specifically tutors) if you have a B-class student.

Keeping that growth candle burning is as hard as it ever was. There are no shortcuts and it’s not a communal issue. Chazal have given us the prescription, and it comes down to Torah, Avodah and Gemillas Chasdim/Middos. It’s hard to work on all those things, but they truly are requirements of being higher-level functioning Torah Observant Jews.

Organized Kiruv in America has declined noticeably in the last 10 years. I think that’s primarily because we’re still using the same playbook from 30 years ago–marketing “Torah as a better lifestyle”. After the successful harvesting of the low lying BT fruit, this message in no longer effective, although it’s certainly still true. I think the next stage of bringing Jews closer to Hashem and His Torah will require that we, as a community, BT and FFB together, markedly and noticeably improve our Torah-observant game. The ball is truly in our court.

Here’s to the next 10 years of Beyond BT. Lechaim!

9 comments on “10 Years of Beyond BT – The State of the Union

  1. Ironically, saw the link to this article on Facebook. I was one of the people who was fortunate to know about BBT at its inception. The Admins deserve a big Yasher Koach for coming up with this concept and staying with it through all these years. It’s become a reference guide to so many.

  2. Mazel Tov and a deep debt of gratitude for all the incredible work and mindfulness that you and David have invested in BBT.

    As far as organized kiruv declining
    A. It may be morphing into less recognizable forms than actually declining e.g. more shabbat.com less kiruv-through-shabbos-hospitality brick-and-mortar organizations.
    B. At the risk of sounding overly pessimistic perhaps the decline has less to do with outdated approaches and tactics and more to do with a rapidly closing window of opportunity. The offspring of those who might have been mekurav a generation plus 5 years ago … but were not are 30 years more halachically gentile, 30 years more alienated, 30 years more Jewishly ignorant, 30 years less emotionally tied to a somehwat observant bubby or zeidy, Israel and Judaism.

    Finally, through a toxic-brew of Jew-Judaism-Orthodoxy-Israel hatred and marginalization; fermented by the synergy of radical-left geopolitics on campus, the counterintuitive charisma of annihilationist Islamofascism and the mainstreaming of planks in the the eastern religions’ platform; Torah Judaism in 2015 is an infinitely harder sell than it was in 1985.

  3. Micha, I fully agree that our age of social messaging has brought thoughtful conversation and communication to the lowest level in history.
    It’s a shame, because technology increases the potential for connection.

  4. Bob, I think a comprehensive embrace of Torah and mitzvos is what’s needed. Here’s some examples in the for realms:
    Physically – eating for health during the week and with sensible pleasure on Shabbos and Yom Tov
    Emotionally – loving, connection and helping people and battling our ego-centric human tendencies
    Mentally – improving our mental facilities through learning and thinking deeply in life – let’s replace republican-ism and democrat-ism with Judaism
    Spiritually – davening and performing mitzvos with concentration and joy.

  5. If you think running a blog feels like you were left behind, try being the owner of an email list!

    And yet… Anything said on FB is gone in a few days. No one can accord to take time to think about a response, and the response window isn’t a size that particularly encourages anything more than a sound-bite. It’s not that FB is doing something wrong. It reflects a society that wants instant satisfaction to the point that real conversation is suffering, and I fear nuanced thought is soon to follow.

    And so, we live in a society where connection is ever more shallow, and critical thought is not really in style. Perhaps this is why kiruv is not growing as rapidly as we’re adding resources to it. It’s simply hard to reach people and get them to think about life.

    If I did not have faith that mashiach would be sent to bail us out before things became irreparably damaged, I would worry for the world our children will be living in. As it is, I am “merely” dismayed.

  6. “I think the next stage of bringing Jews closer to Hashem and His Torah will require that we, as a community, BT and FFB together, markedly and noticeably improve our Torah-observant game.”

    In everyday life overall, or in FFB-BT interactions specifically? Which qualitative or quantitative improvements to mitzvah observance strike you as the most essential now?

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