Sharing Details About Our Past

After a discussion with my FFB in-laws about “Inspired” and some griping here, David suggested I write about that perennial BT question: Should we or shouldn’t we share details about our old lives?

For those who missed that post, my in-law objected to “Inspired” because in her words, “Al pi halacha, you are not supposed to mention your past aveiros.”

I checked that “halacha” out with my Rov and learned that although there is a prohibition against asking BTs about the past, BTs are permitted to share as much or as little they like. Just like anything else which involves information about a person which could possibly damage them, what you share depends on your purpose. A film like “Inspired” seems to be the highest purpose I can think of for mentioning the past; the further removed the people were from Yiddishkeit, the more remarkable their teshuva seemed.
Read more Sharing Details About Our Past

Kashrus and the BT

As I said previously, as major as kashrus is, it was one of the last mitzvos I was able to embrace. The reason for that was that I couldn’t bear to hurt my mother. I was sure she would take my refusal to eat her food as a personal rejection.

My mother is not the only one who feels this way. I know a Stoliner family, all FFBs, whose daughter married a man from another Chassidus. The new husband was strict about eating meat from the hechsher of his Chassidus, so the mother had to buy the right meat if her daughter would be coming for Shabbos. The mother had no problem with this, but one of her friends asked in horror, “Aren’t you insulted?” If a frum woman, who ought to know that kashrus is simply a halachic issue and not an emotional one, still assumed her friend would feel insulted or rejected, how then would the average secular mother feel? After all, we mothers do put love into our cooking.

The way to bridge this gap is by being mentschlich. BTs cannot demand that their parents change their old ways to suit their new needs. Parents are masters of their home, and everything the BT does should be with this thought in mind.

I learned how to keep kosher within my mother’s non-kosher kitchen through intensive shiurim at my seminary. In addition to practical and detailed discussion about everything relating to food and cooking, we received advice about how to make the transition easier for our parents. One piece of advice was: Respectfully ask for exclusive use of one rear burner on the stovetop. By choosing only one rear burner, we would effectively show that we were not imposing our way on everybody.

Another piece of advice we received was to take responsibility for the family grocery shopping. This not only insured that we would get the kosher food we needed, it would relieve somebody of a chore. By being helpful, our observance of kashrus would no longer seem like an imposition to our parents.

There’s a wonderful book called Keeping Kosher in a Non-Kosher World by Rabbi Eliezer Wolff. It deals with the specific issue of keeping kosher in a non-kosher home, but the topic of eating out is covered as well.

Although the book is not well-known, I think it’s a must have for a BT. This link will take you to its actual contents, but I think the book version should be distributed at kiruv centers around the world. I also think it should be renamed Keeping Kosher in a Non-Kosher Home but that’s really a small thing.

Chabad also does wonderful work kashering people’s homes, but they can’t help when parents aren’t willing to make a complete change-over. But even BTs living with non-frum parents or roommates can find workable solutions. Keeping kosher in a non-kosher home is not simple, but it is possible. And I can say that with authority because I’ve done it.

Facebook, Transparency and the Next World

Like everybody and his old chum from 10th grade biology, I’m on Facebook. Thanks to Facebook, reconnecting with people from the past has never been easier. Type in the name of someone you knew at any phase of your life – elementary school, summer camp, your first job out of college – and quite likely, you’ll find a picture of that very person, all grown up with a whole life story to tell you. So when I saw the prompt about reconnecting with old friends, I decided not to address the issue per se, but to present what I call “my Facebook moshol.”

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that joining Facebook has made me reflect on my past and my present, who I used to be and who I’ve become. Sometimes recalling the past is just pure fun and nostalgia. Sometimes, the memories are more mixed. When I try and imagine myself from the point of view of people I haven’t seen in years and who might remember me in less than flattering ways, Facebook is not so pleasant. And therefore, I want to put forth the theory – and I mean no sacrilege – that Facebook is a foretaste of the Next World.

Most of what I know about the Next World, I learned from Rabbi B. Shafier of The Shmuz, specifically his three-part lecture “Life 101,” which is the basis for his new book, The Shmuz on Life. The only things we take to the Next World are our neshomas and our deeds. Our deeds become, as it were, the clothing for our neshomas. Our mitzvos will shine on us like jewelry, but our aveiros will look like rags. And worse, they’ll have holes in them that will expose what we’d prefer to keep covered. For those, we’ll suffer eternal shame. In the Next World, we’ll experience both the honor of Heaven and the shame of Hell at the very same time.

So what does that have to do with Facebook? The neshoma of everyone you’ve ever known will be there, as visible as a profile picture – except there’s no privacy option, no choice not to upload. We’ll all be there, and we’ll all see each other. It’s the ultimate transparency.

But even transparency has mitigating factors. In the words of computer culture expert David Weinberger, “An age of transparency must be an age of forgiveness.” If I can see your sins and you can see mine, we can sympathize with each other for being such imperfect human beings. And since I want my sins erased, how can I begrudge you the same?

But the most important mitigation comes from seeing our lives in broader context. In this world, we get a little of that with the passage of time, but in the Next World, we’ll be able to see much, much more. Yes, the good, the bad, and the ugly will be part of the picture, but so will Hashem’s intentions for us, our spiritual purpose, why x circumstance was not negative, but necessary. I suppose in this sense, my Facebook moshol falls short, but even still, I heard in the name of the Chofetz Chaim that every technological innovation hints to some parallel spiritual experience, and this age of reconnection and transparency might be a taste of those aspects of the World to Come.

Originally Published Feb 7, 2011

Finding My Place in Davening

Finding oneself completely baffled by davening is an experience many on us probably share. I personally had no familiarity with the siddur whatsoever when I first started, so I very quickly became a noodgy davener, always looking over my neighbor’s shoulder to find the page, and that was in a shul where it was frequently announced. Baruch Hashem, everyone was very considerate about it, and Rebbetzin Hadasa Carlebach gets an extra yasher koach for giving me my first tutorial in the siddur, later followed up by NJOP’s Hebrew Crash Courses I and II. Even after I gained familiarity and began stumbling through the Hebrew, I still always found myself falling behind everyone else. “Oh, well,” I thought. “Hashem will have to accept my inadequate prayers.”

After a year in sem, I finally did become very well-acquainted with the siddur, and Rebbetzin Marci Jablinowitz taught us what we as unmarried women ought to say daily. At that point, I became quite regular about davening, and could walk into any shul and daven with confidence.

Baruch Hashem, only a few years later, Hashem blessed me with the next monkey wrench to my davening: kids. There was no point in even starting Shemoneh Esrei when they were little. I was sure to be interrupted. I knew I was exempt for a valid reason, but I felt inadequate nevertheless.

Of course, I was wrong both times. One night, my husband baby-sat so I could go say Tehillim with the ladies on our block. Being a BT, my Hebrew was slower than everyone else’s and I managed to say only one book. But Hashem made sure I received the chelek of Tehillim that contained familiar words, words I’d practiced many times as I was struggling to learn the Pesukei D’zimra. It was then that I realized how far my early “inadequate” prayers had carried me. When I was feeling like the biggest idiot in shul, I never dreamed I’d really “make it,” that I’d someday be married and living as an integrated member of the frum world. Yet there I sat, reciting Tehillim with my neighbors and friends. And at the same time, it was clear to me that I was not justified in feeling guilty for my lack of consistent davening while my kids were so little. Hashem answered my early prayers in greater ways than I could imagine, and He would do the same for my irregular ones. Ultimately, Hashem wants our hearts, and as long as we’re giving Him that, whether in shul or at home, in a siddur or spontaneously, He will answer us.

Originally Published 1/10/2006

Cutting Connections – No More Web Browser In My Home

The Citi Field Asifa regarding the Internet was held last night, so we though it would be appropriate to repost this article that was originally published on May 30, 2006.

As everyone on this blog is aware, many, if not the majority, of gedolim are speaking out against the Internet. On Sunday, May 14 – Mother’s Day in the secular world – I attended what was advertised as an “historic asifa” on this very subject. My sons’ yeshiva sent home notes about it a month in advance, exhorting the parents about the importance of attending. They followed up with a personal phone call on the day of the asifa, and just in case the community hadn’t gotten the message, a car equipped with a loudspeaker drove around broadcasting: “Save our children! Attend the historic asifa!” Under such pressure, I attended.

I must admit, I was reluctant. In fact, when my ride there was delayed, I was happy to be late. But ultimately, I made it there and was persuaded to do something I never dreamed I had the strength to do: I disabled my browser.

The two speakers at the event were Rabbi Norman Lowenthal, a social worker with expertise in young people and Internet addiction, and Ha Rav Mattisyahu Solomon, Rosh Yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha. Both were extremely scary. Rabbi Lowenthal spoke about the predators on the Internet, who, with their smooth words, lure teens into the most exploitative of relationships. And even without those horrific stories, he described the easy access to porn, and obsessive behaviors like checking email and blog post responses up to twenty times a day. This last is probably the most benign of the things he described, but it fit me to a T, and that frightened me.
Read more Cutting Connections – No More Web Browser In My Home

Teshuva and Changing Politics

It’s been a long time since I posted here, but I was feeling kind of bad for Mark and David (who recently emailed out a request for posts) and I still remember the last question I was pondering for Beyond BT – a question that irked me so much, I found myself stymied. That question was: have your politics changed since you’ve done teshuva. And the answer is a very Jewish one – yes and no.

I was raised on liberal values. I attended the most integrated public schools in the most multicultural borough of New York City – Queens – and had friends of all races and ethnicities. In the summer, I attended a sleep-away camp with an international staff where we sang Pete Seeger songs and sent a “freeze the bomb” petition to President Reagan. In high school, I joined the student organization, the H.O.P.E. club, which stood for the Hillcrest Organization for Peace on Earth. Unfortunately, our faculty advisor was a communist, so that’s the “no” part of my answer. No, I am no longer a communist. But yes, I still retain my liberal values. Racism still offends me, and pacifism still appeals to me. I believe the government should spend money on social programs. And – don’t flame, please – though we don’t know how much of a friend he’ll be to Israel, I’m happy that President Obama won.

I know liberalism is unpopular in frum circles, and I know there are good reasons for it. Israel is number one, of course, but then there are matters like abortion and gay marriage. So I’ve learned to keep my politics to myself in the frum world. I was downright inspired when I came across the organization “Ayecha” a few years ago, a group dedicated to combating prejudice against Jews of color, but as far as I know, they’re not that active anymore.

So in a certain way, this isn’t a very happy post. I don’t like that I’ve had to keep part of myself in the closet all these years, and I think plenty of new and potential BTs would be turned off by the thought that they “have to” do the same. So here I am: out of the closet. Liberalism is a core value I learned in childhood. It didn’t die with my teshuva. And maybe, somehow, some way, I’ll figure out how to be a liberal activist in this participatory democracy while still maintaining my Torah lifestyle.

If the reaction to this post doesn’t get too nasty, there may be a Part 2 in which I’ll review President Obama’s Dreams from My Father. See you!

Small Steps and Big Jumps

It’s been ages that I’ve written here, so here’s something for Elul.

The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation has an excellent tape series called “Grasp the Gift of Teshuva.” One of the tapes contains the following true story which is also an amazing mashal for teshuva.

During World War II, the Rov of a certain town managed to smuggle a knife with him into the cattle car when he and his kehila were captured by the Nazis. Using the knife, he broke a hole into the cattle car and urged everyone to jump through it.

“It’s your chance at life!” he told the people. “You know where we’re going.”

But the cattle car was speeding along the tracks, and taking the jump meant risking serious injury and possibly death. The people were too scared, so only the Rov took the jump. And he was the only person from his town to survive the war.

The speaker on the tape applied the Rov’s lesson to abandoning the path of sin. We know where sin leads us, and sometimes, we have to take one big jump to get away from it. Doing it might be scary, but not doing it is certain doom. In the long run, the wiser thing is to take the jump.

Of course, every BT in the world knows what it is to take a big jump. We’ve redefined our whole lives. But every BT has also received the advice to go slow, not to take on too much too fast, because that often leads to backsliding. The same principle applies when we’re already frum. Teshuva lasts when taken on in small increments. Instead of working on kavannah in davening overall, we concentrate on one particular tefilla. Instead of going cold turkey on some pet aveira, we gradually wean ourselves from it.

I want to share with you my Elul of two years ago. I had a part-time secretarial job and was spending much of every work day online. When I started, it was just during the down times, but later, it became an addiction. I knew it was wrong, and I felt guilty about it, but I felt I was incapable of going cold turkey. So I decided that for Elul, I would resist any online activity at the office for 15 minutes a day. Very soon, I worked it up to 2 hours a day. And then, instead of visiting my favorite social sites, I began listening to online shiurim.

I’ve often said that Cheshvan is when we get our post-Yom Tov cheshbon. (Leave it to a BT with rudimentary Hebrew to come up with a vort like that.) That Cheshvan, despite these efforts at self-improvement, I was fired. It came as quite a blow because it felt like Hashem hadn’t accepted my little steps toward teshuva.

But teshuva is never worthless. The next job I got was ad writing for Rabbi Berel Wein’s Destiny Foundation. I actually got to earn my living by listening to shiurim – the very thing I was doing illegally at my previous job!

Of course, I still had further to go. I’d made little steps, but the big leap was still to come. And as many of you know, it came about six months later, during Sefirah, with Rabbi Solomon’s anti-Internet drasha. I needed a gadol to give me the push. I was too weak to do it on my own. But the entire experience has taught me a little about how Hashem runs the world. We make changes in Elul, daven for our future in Tishrei, and feel the effects of both the rest of the year. Those little steps toward teshuva in Elul sealed my fate for the big jump I was to make in May. Those little steps build up momentum toward one big, running leap.

May Hashem bless each of us with the strength we need for small steps and big jumps.

My Sister’s Wedding

Baruch Hashem, on Sunday, December 3 in a sunny loft in midtown Manhattan, I was zoche to take part in something very precious – a kosher chuppah between two irreligious Jews, my sister Nora and her new husband Jeff.

As has been discussed here many times before, family simchas come with shailos. Had Nora and Jeff chosen a Reform or Conservative ceremony, I would not have attended. Baruch Hashem, my sister loves me so much, she was willing to accept a Halachic ceremony, and Baruch Hashem, Jeff loves her so much, he was willing, too. But the biggest bracha of all is not that “they gave in to us,” but that in the process, they connected with their Yiddishkeit and they liked it. Jeff’s happy “Harei at mekudeshet li b’tabaat zu k’dat Moshe v’Yisroel” was an awesome moment. Talk about kavanah! His Hebrew school years never served him better.

Of course, most of the credit goes to the kiruv couple who became their mesader kadushin and kallah teacher. They guided my sister and her chosson with amazing wisdom and sensitivity, knowing when to be mekarev and when to let things slide. I couldn’t have done it. I’m too emotionally involved. (The Rabbi and Rebbetzin prefer to remain anonymous on this public forum, but they are available for other couples. Email me at

One of the “slide” areas was Jeff’s aufruf, held in Jeff’s father’s non-Orthodox shul. Jeff’s father told me that all the major life cycle events – the brissin and the bar mitzvahs – took place in that shul, and he was especially grateful that Jeff’s aufruf should be there, too. It was decidedly non-Traditional; my sister participated and got an aliyah with the chosson, but I don’t see how any Rabbi could possibly deny Jeff’s father the joy of celebrating his own son’s aufruf amongst his friends. You see, Jeff’s father is a Holocaust survivor. He is quite involved in educating young Jews about his experiences and speaks at youth groups regularly because, as he says, “in a few more years, there will be none of us left.” He asked permission to show my eldest son his number, and though my husband and I consented, my son shied away. So instead, I was the one to listen to his recollections. As a teenage boy, he was conscripted into hard labor, and he watched the Nazis line people up and shoot them dead, one after another. He was crying as he described it, and it occurred to me: this is zecher l’churban, a real breaking of the glass. But while on one hand, his memories and experiences temper the simcha, they also enhance it. Baruch Hashem, the Jewish people survived, and a wedding, of all celebrations, is a promise of our future.

Admittedly, the mixed dancing made for a sticky situation. After having insisted on a kosher chuppah and kosher catering, I felt it would have been too much of an imposition to insist on separate dancing also. After all, the kosher chuppah was performed so that Nora and Jeff could be married k’das Moshe v’Yisroel, which is to their benefit. Kosher catering – well, that’s a snap in New York City. But I couldn’t see depriving Jeff’s family of mixed dancing just because I can’t do it and my husband can’t see it.

While the wedding was in the planning stages, the mixed dancing compromise was probably the shailah that I discussed most with my own Rov. My “frummer than thou” issues popped up then, too, not so much with the Rov but with my friends. One BT friend didn’t bring her kids to her sister’s wedding specifically because of the mixed dancing. “Their neshamos can’t handle it,” she said. My very Chassidishe FFB neighbor advised me to speak to a chinuch expert for the very same reason. Well, I can’t be such a purist. My kids are very close to my sister, and they were excited about her wedding. Yes, they are far more exposed to outside influences than their schoolmates, but that’s just the slippery slope we BTs have to traverse.

Baruch Hashem, the layout of the hall worked in our favor. My husband and the kids sat in a place where they did not have to view any of the dancing. As for me, Nora and Jeff kindly asked that the first hora be in separate circles of men and women, so I sort of stepped-walked my way around the women’s circle. I did pull my sister aside for a private dance, and though I tried, I did not entirely escape the view of the men. But my sister told me it was one of her favorite moments of the wedding. May Hashem forgive me for that.

As to how to negotiate such simchas within your own families, I don’t feel I can offer much advice. The credit goes to Nora and Jeff for being open-minded enough to consider a Halachic ceremony and to the special Rabbi and Rebbetzin for striking a balance which made everybody happy. But I do have one idea, and we may just be the crowd to pull it off. I’m sure that many of us have single, freieh Jewish friends and relatives. Why don’t we pool our resources and add making shidduchim to the missions of Beyond BT? I know a very sweet woman of 36 or 37 who needs a nice, intelligent guy. Email me if you know anyone.

May Hashem continue to bring Yidden together for all kinds of simchas.

Frummer than Thou

As Mark so subtly pointed out in his last email, I haven’t posted here in a while. Part of the reason for that is that I haven’t been feeling especially enthused about the mitzvos lately. The Lebanon war really did propel me to a higher level, particularly in my davening, but then something happened over Sukkos that really got me down.

What happened essentially is this: Person A, whom I respect, said that Person B, who I also respect, has some incorrect hashkafos. The incident upset me on two counts. First, Person A probably would never have said that if not for my own poor choice of words in presenting Person B’s position. But even when I tried to amend my words, Person A cited an entire frum community to justify her statement. For me, that was the hardest part to take.

In my last post, I wrote about davening for strangers on the street as a means to healing the rift between Modern and Chareidi. I now think that’s the easy way out. Loving one’s fellow Yid is easy from that distance. Having a disagreement with someone makes ahavas Yisroel a lot more challenging. And when matters of hashkafa enter the picture, and the other person takes the “more frum” position, I feel an underlying personal criticism.
Read more Frummer than Thou

Modern and Charedi

I’m usually pretty slow about responding to the topics that the BBT admins suggest to the contributors here, but the one labeled “The War Between the Modern and Chareidi” really provoked me. After all, it’s not a war. What we saw in Eretz Yisroel and Lebanon was a war. People die in war. Modern and Chareidi Jews aren’t killing each other. We may not always be nice to each other, but calling it a war is over-dramatizing. I will, however, agree, that it’s not a very warm peace.

Aside from the wording, the topic caught me because of a conversation I recently had with my son. His day camp, along with several others, rented out a water park for the afternoon. I asked if Camp “Modern” would be going. My son’s camp uses their swimming facilities, so it seemed to me they might join for a trip. My son responded with a cynical, “Them?” and then said something disparaging which I am ashamed to repeat.

I was horrified. I reminded him of who is Bubby and Zaidy are. He loves them and does not look down on them for being non-observant. I also said, “You can’t make fun of people just because they’re modern.”

My son replied, “They make fun of me because I’m Chassidish.”

Ugh. What’s a parent to do? I’m sure my son told the truth. Probably a few kids said some things they shouldn’t have. And even if my son didn’t retaliate then and there, it didn’t help his ahavas Yisroel.

To my mind, there’s really only one solution: modeling ahavas Yisroel. And the only way to do that is to develop ahavas Yisroel. So here’s one small method I’m trying for myself.

I read in Rav Avigdor Miller Speaks that when you’re walking along the street, and you pass a store owned by another Yid – not necessarily someone you know personally – daven for that person to have success in his business. In turn, Hashem will bless you because as we know, whoever blesses the children of Avraham will be blessed as well.

In keeping with this advice, I’ve added my own twist. I daven especially when my first reaction to the other person is negative. Whether my negativity arises because the other person is more modern than I, more Chareidi than I, or because I feel slighted for some personal reason, I whisper a little tefillah, usually for nachas. It definitely changes my attitude for the better.

Now of course, this isn’t the only thing. Friendship between Modern and Chareidi is an even stronger thing. In fact, I would say that one of the major achievements of this blog is that it connects people from different kehillos. And I know it’s not the only place in the Jewish world where it goes on. B’ezras Hashem, one day I’ll post about the Ayecha Shabbaton, a Shabbos that really was a life changer for me.

But just for day to day, I’m davening. I may never see the results, but Hashem listens to tefillah, so perhaps my tiny whispered prayers are making a difference for Klal Yisroel.

Life without a Web Browser

For several weeks, Mark has been asking me to write a follow-up on my decision to disable my web browser, but I didn’t have anything deep or inspiring to say. All I could think of is that I miss it. This post will be nothing more than a dissertation on that theme, but at the moment I’m inspired to write, and I’m writing the way I would for my personal blog, which means I’m going to tell you about my day.

Today I worked until 5:00 pm, which is unusual for me. I work around my kids’ schedule, which means I usually have to be home by 3:30. Because it’s summer time, though, and because my husband took my kids on an outing, I was able to work like a full-timer today, and I must say, it’s exhausting.

But tonight I have a treat. My husband and kids will be out till very late, so I’m on my own and the house is quiet. Sure, I could catch up on my housework, but I could do that tomorrow, too. I thought of a better plan while walking home from work: I could go to the public library and use the Internet! With the kids home so much in the summer, I don’t have many opportunities to do so. I savored the idea on my half-hour walk home.
Read more Life without a Web Browser

A Tribute to My First Rabbi

Today is the yahrtzeit of my first rabbi, Rabbi Eliyahu Chaim Carlebach zt”l. Many people know of Reb Elya’s famous twin brother, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, zt”l. In fact, I also found Reb Elya through Reb Shlomo’s reputation, but it is Reb Elya who I will always consider my first rabbi.

Reb Elya and Reb Shlomo were born in Vienna in the late 1920’s to a prominent and wealthy rabbinic family. Their father, Rabbi Naftali Carlebach, moved the family to Germany for the sake of his sons’ education, but by the 1930s, they emigrated to America, early enough to have escaped the war. Rabbi Naftali Carlebach established a shul on West 79th Street in Manhattan which is now run by his great-grandson, Reb Elya’s grandson, Rabbi Naftali Citron.
Read more A Tribute to My First Rabbi

Materialism and Hiddur Mitzvah

Someone recently commented here that she was shocked by the level of materialism that exists in the frum world. I have also often felt that way, but I’ve recently come to the conclusion that it was an unfair judgment on my part, so I thought I’d share a bit about what caused me to change my attitude.

Many BTs start out with an anti-materialistic stance. That’s partly because we are spiritually inclined by nature and partly because we are reacting to the extreme materialism of the secular culture in which we were raised. I, for one, spent a great part of my teenage years proving to myself that I was not – please excuse my language – a J.A.P. I went so far as to attend far-left indoctrination meetings on a regular basis. The main thing I learned there was resentment toward the wealthy. That attitude stuck for years, well beyond my involvement with the Left.
Read more Materialism and Hiddur Mitzvah

Getting Your Money’s Worth

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that money is very often uppermost on my mind. Between basic living expenses, house expenses, two major yom tov seasons per year, and tuition, keeping up with the cost of Jewish living can be quite stressful. But Hashem does send chizuk in various forms, and I hope the following story will inspire you as much as it did me.

This year, my husband and I changed our children’s yeshiva to an excellent but rather pricey one. The Gemara in Beitzah 16a (thanks to my husband for finding the reference) tells us that all the money we spend on chinuch comes back to us. Besides this, we also receive the nachas of frum children. Clearly, schar limud is a worthwhile investment. But again, making those payments does not come easily, at least not for me.
Read more Getting Your Money’s Worth

Learning as a Mother

I was reluctant to post on the topic of learning because the obligation is so different for women. I’m pretty sure that that’s when Mark posted the topic “Practical Ideas to Increase Learning,” he was looking for men’s advice about how to arrange daily sedarim in their busy lives. I have no advice on the matter, so men, feel free to ignore this post. I’m gearing this toward women.

The teshuva process is as much intellectual as emotional. Most of us spend a few intense years attempting to make up for a religious education that FFB’s receive in twelve. And then, just like with tefilla, kids enter the picture and learning is by necessity pushed to the back burner. Some women might miss it immediately while others are too busy with new responsibilities to think of other things. Sooner or later, though, we all begin to miss learning. And while many women I know opt for babysitters and periodic shiurim, on a day-to-day basis, I live on Torah tapes.
Read more Learning as a Mother

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Many of you might remember the classic Spencer Tracy – Katharine Hepburn film of that title in which liberal, social activist parents are shocked by their daughter’s choice of fiancé, a black man played by Sidney Portier. The point of the film is the parents’ hypocrisy, but I’ve often said that the true test of liberal Jewish tolerance would not be a daughter’s choice to marry a black man but her choice to marry a black-hatted one. Baruch Hashem, my parents passed the test.
Read more Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Non Conformity

The issue of non-conformity was a rather big one in my high school days, and it was largely seen as a virtue. The teachers valued it, or so it seemed in English classes when we learned about Thoreau, the idealized American hero of non-conformity. Plenty of students, often the smarter ones, wanted to resist conformity, too, but the daily life of a high school student wasn’t quite as dramatic as Thoreau’s life, so non-conformity became more about making fashion statements. The punk rocker types with their spikey hair, black clothes, and combat boots were Non-Conformists Supreme. The worst put-down from one of them was, “You’re such a conformist.”

Amidst all this discussion in and out of class came one that had a particularly strong impact on me. My eleventh grade English teacher said that to be a non-conformist, you don’t have make a big deal of your non-conformity. Read more Non Conformity

Wearing the Label


First let me say that I am thrilled to be here. I have been looking at everyone’s posts, and I’m excited about delving into these issues. May Hashem help us that this group blog is truly in His service.

My name is Kressel. I began my teshuva process about 16 years ago, and IY”H my husband and I will soon celebrate our tenth anniversary. Ours is a mixed marriage. He’s an FFB Stoliner chossid.

Marrying a chossid seemed like a radical step when we were first introduced. I delayed our first date for month to consider it. But when we met, we progressed with lightning speed. We became engaged after three dates a la the Chassidishe formula. I considered my chasunah as a sort of BT graduation ceremony, and walked to my chuppah to Shlomo Carlebach’s “Pischu Li.” By entering the Chassidishe velt, I was sure I was entering the Gates of Righteousness.
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