What the Ba’alei Teshuva Do for Us

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13 Responses

  1. Harry Maryles says:

    It is an article like this that makes the current Agudah convention whose theme this year is Kiruv less satisfying than it could have been.

    Why did they not invite a spokesman from NCSY or Lubavitch to give their input? One does not have to agree entirely with their Hashkafos in order to benefit from their experience.

    The lessons that could have been learned from these two organizations could have been very valuable to all the Kiruv professionals who attneded and it would have been a wonderful display of Achdus on the part of Agudah as well.

  2. Barry Simon says:

    As this article points out “Most ba’alei teshuva enter the Torah world after having obtained a sophisticated secular education” so it is especially distressing that some parts of the Torah world have been pushing the notion that to believe the world is more than 6,000 years old makes one a heretic or makes one unsuited to be a dayan (see http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2007/11/conversion-and-age-of-universe.html).

    In the first place even those who believe this don’t regard this as a fundemental tenet of our religion and in the second historically, it is certainly clear that many gedolim held that the first chapter of Bereshit was not to be taken literally.

    Those with the ears of the current gedolim might try to convey to them that there is a disconnect between asserting that it is heresy to believe in an old universe and trying to reach out to those with a sophisiticated education.

    Barry Simon

  3. joel rich says:

    Most ba’alei teshuva enter the Torah world after having obtained a sophisticated secular education. Their questions are different than those who enter the Torah educational system at age six, and the level of the answers given them must be correspondingly higher as well.

    How true and how sad – it sounds like we protect our children by keeping them uninformed?


  4. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Note: This is about kiruv in general, rather than the impact of Ba’aley Teshuva on Orthodoxy. Please delete if you think this is irrelevant.

    Is the prohibition on seeking gerim, converts to Judaism, immutable Halacha? Is it a custom that made sense during a part of our history? I’m asking because you’re unlikely to reach Heterodox Jews without reaching everybody else in the culture:

    1. Heterodox communities include intermarried couples, and converts whom you would not consider Jewish.

    2. As lamented here, you’re unlikely to be able to reach us through our synagogues. The rest of the time, we’re part of the general culture, reading and watching the same things as our gentile friends. If you want to reach us, you’ll get them too.

    Think what you would do if you were seeking geirim to come accept the yoke of Torah. That is what you would need to do to seek Jews to come accept the same yoke.

  5. Chaim Davids says:

    I want to add an important point to this excellent article:

    The success of the Ba’alei Tshuvah was only made possible by the wonderful acceptance granted them by the born frum.

    It’s 100%. The born frum do not just accept Ba’alei Tshuvah, they respect them, they quote their divrei Torah, them marry their children into their families. They are terrific.

    That’s what gives the Ba’alei Tshuvah the opportunity to voice their opinions and be heard. The open arms of the born frum.

  6. Reb Yid says:

    Agreed with J. Rosenblum that those who were not born in the Orthodox world add much of value, qualitatively, to Orthodoxy.

    But on the quantitative end….while JR may have his personal observations, the data I have seen do not support his contention that those born non-Orthodox make up the bulk of Orthodox communities, whether “out of town” or elsewhere.

    There was a recent A. Shafran post on the sexual abuse article, noting the limitations of generalizing those findings to the Orthodox world as a whole. So, too, with J. Rosenblum’s piece–the value in this piece is on the qualitative end….

  7. joel rich says:

    It’s 100%. The born frum do not just accept Ba’alei Tshuvah, they respect them, they quote their divrei Torah, them marry their children into their families.
    Interesting, again no statistics available. I’ve been told by someone whose opinion I respect on such issues that “BT’s” are not viewed positively as shidduchim (1 reason – exposing their kids to nonfrum relatives)

  8. lacosta says:

    would the following observations be relevant?

    1— in an era when more occupations are in many circles no longer acceptable, especially anything involving college
    BTs are ‘grandfathered in’–allowed to do that which their FFB children and shul colleagues are not allowed

    2–they can then professionally show ‘i am modern and yet became a BT’
    which is both a kiddush hashem, and good hasbara for those who attack O as atavistic and anachronistic

    3– they can thus also influence jewish non-O colleagues to consider more traditional views of judaism

    4 and, show their non jewish coworkers that there are those who take their judaism very seriously and non-superficially….

  9. belle says:

    To answer Ori’s question: I am good friends with a long time kiruv couple, posted out in middle America. They ask sheilas often to rabbonim who deal w. kiruv situations as their focus of expertise. They encounter intermarried families often. They were told that while they don’t need to focus their energies on finding the intermarried, when a Jew who is already married to a non-Jew comes to their shul, or comes to learn, and especially when they have children, it is still a mitzvah to be mekarev the couple, with the hope that the non-Jew will convert. It is an exception to the rule of not teaching Torah to non-Jews. This is because a Jew’s life is at stake, and that of the children as well. They were also counseled not to encourage divorce in such situations, as it is more important that the children grow up in a stable family environment, given the devastation to a neshama that divorce can cause. Now, I am not a posek, and I am not saying that all rababonim will hold this way. This is what they said they were told. If someone w. more Torah knowledge than myself wishes to challenge this, I would be interested in hearing why.

  10. Harvey Belovski says:

    I read Rabbi Rosenblum’s article with consternation. I fear that the picture he paints of the world of outreach is out of touch with current reality.

    Having worked in outreach and especially with the students of Oxford University for many years, I detect a rather different picture.

    Campus outreach is commonly practiced with little attention to the needs of the individual, instead attempting to transform as many people as possible in the shortest time. It offers a simplistic and often misleading image of Jewish thought and the options for belief and practice within it, and pays scant attention to the very people whose lives it seeks to alter. This is fuelled by funding targets that demand numbers, not quality; filling plane-seats to Israel, rather than gently and stably transforming lives.

    ‘Kiruv’ of this sort is perforce crude and thus unattractive to the most intelligent and thoughtful students. My experience is that it often succeeds in attracting new recruits, but at the price of repelling some of the highest achievers. Their engagement with the type of outreach on offer at their campuses may lead them to conclude that Judaism is not just unsuitable for them, but shallow and even moronic. As these people will likely become the most influential members of society – captains of industry, top academics and the most accomplished professionals – this is nothing short of a disaster.

    Of course, some outreach is sensitive, appropriate and individualised. Yet the one-superficial-size-fits-all style of ‘kiruv’ is growing in popularity. The long-term results of this are awaited with trepidation.

  11. Bob Miller says:

    Rabbis Rosenblum and Belovski evidently live in two different worlds, and each faithfully reports what he has seen in his world. This points to the difficulty of making any accurate broad statements about such a large and multifaceted enterprise as kiruv.

  12. Eliyahu says:

    I can’t comment on Oxford U, having never been there. But from my personal experience with kiruv in two different Ivy League universities, it seems that it was mostly the high achievers who become baalei teshuva. In large part because of the availability of the individual attention/approach and non simplistic picture of Judaism. Secondly, shouldn’t we care about the numbers also? Just because someone is not a high achiever, he doesn’t have a neshama? Is the blood of the future captain of industry more red than that of an average accountant, or for that matter than the blood of three or four average accountants?

  13. E. F. Shaar says:

    I once heard a local politician lament that his constituents wants lots of services but don’t want higher taxes. “Everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die”.

    I see the same thing happening in the kiruv world: people talk about it as a good thing, but often on a person by person basis people are unable or disinclined to modify their behavior or attitude whatsoever to include new people into the congregation.

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