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

Life Requires Balance

From Chava in the comments to Shayna’s post:

I think becoming a Baal Teshuva calls on us to balance ourselves in this area – yes, we need to be non-conformists with tremendous inner strength in order to move from our secular upbringing and towards a life of mitzvos – and we also need to balance it with a sensitivity to conforming to the Torah true parts of frum society. Being part of the klal, and the sense of achdus that engenders, is fundamental to Torah.

To Conform or Not to Conform that is the Question

As a Sephardi baal teshuva I am continually faced with this question. When I began my path of teshuva I couldn’t even find a Sephardi siddur or a book about Sephardi halacha. There was nothing to guide me on my quest. I approached the rabbis I knew, who of course were all Ashkenazi, and they suggested I daven Ashkenazi and adopt Ashkenazi minhagim since that would make things easier and simpler and since the majority of Jews in North America are Ashkenazi the likelihood is I’ll end up marrying an Ashkenazi boy. I took their advice and bought my first siddur, an artscroll. I davened from it for years.
Read more To Conform or Not to Conform that is the Question


It always struck me as interesting that BTs struggle with the issue of conformity. After all, the fact that we have become BTs means that we are non-conformists to start with. We have bucked the philosophies, mores, trends and fads that we were brought up with in a manner that is often jolting if not shocking to our parents and friends. Rabbi Tatz in addressing teens thinking about rebelling says that Avraham Avinu was the biggest rebel, it was him against the world. Yet, in order to assimilate into the frum society that we, on the whole, have much in common with we feel the need to conform.
Read more Conformity

Who I Am

Several years after taking the plunge into the observant lifestyle, including years of full-time study, I had an experience that capsulated for me this week’s issue: the conformity/non-conformity paradox.

I was interviewing for a job in a “modern orthodox yeshiva” teaching fifth graders.

“Well,” the elderly Rabbi interviewing me asked, “I think we have enough information to make a final decision. Do you have anything else you want to add about yourself?”
Read more Who I Am