Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Creating A Monster

Wow. A couple of former Ba'alei Tshuvah (those who are brought into [lit. return to] Orthodox Judaism), "BT" and "Hanan", and possibly others later on, have begun a blog - Ba'al Tshuvas Anonymous. The blog site is actually, designed to catch the eyes of many. The blog began after many bloggers at the Godol Hador's blog suggested it, specifically throughout the comments to this post: Pushed off the Derech. This was continued in another post, Anti Kiruv? Moi?! Throughout the comments, many became curious as to the personal stories that led Hanan and the BT to where they are. They were kind enough to volunteer, and expressed the difficulties that ba'alei teshuva often face once they join the Orthodox world. This prompted the suggestions of many that this would make an excellent and interesting blog. After a little pushing, BT agreed. Hanan is still not sure, but hopefully he will join as well - he has much to talk about. Most likely, he will guest post.

Here is the official notification by BT:
I posted this on the wrong thread. This is where it all began:

Ok, I was encouraged to start this blog today, by Ezzie, Mis-nagid and S, et al. I'm hoping Hanan will contribute (don't worry, there's a spell checker, Hanan!)

The blog is called Ba'al T'shuvas Anonymous but since it's easier to type and more eye catching it's site is:

Thanks Godol for allowing the self-plug.
As I said in the comments:
I'm amazed, flattered, encouraged and appalled that I played a role in a blog called "Off The Derech" starting. I'm not sure if I should be happy or go run and say viduy. (I don't mean this in an offensive way BT, Hanan, or whomever...) I just hope and pray that good comes out of it, and perhaps there are those who will gain enough from the discussions to pursue a stronger form of Judaism.

No matter what, I'm sure it will be interesting.
B'hatzlacha - may you all find true happiness and everything else you are searching for.

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  1. I have no idea where this ugly rummor started that I can't spell came from, but I plan on putting an end to it ;)

  2. I think it started from rummor! :)

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  4. What?! Anon - never threaten bloggers as you have.

  5. LOL. I was thinking ala Frankenstein: Creating something which one has no idea what it will turn into.

  6. what did anon say? What did anon say? :)

  7. Wow, now this sure is a nice place you got here. Thanks for the reference.

    I want to respond to your sincere concern as to whether this blog will do any good, or better- more good than harm.

    My plan is to make something that saves a lot of potential BT's a lot of strife. To make it personal, I am glad I became a BT. It opened me to new sensitivities I am certain I would never have. It got me sooo much closer to my whole family, nuclear and others.

    On the other hand, the true harm came in my being cajoled and pushed into levels of observance. Why the rush? Why indeed. There are only so many kiruv rabbi's out there and a lot of prospects and not too much money. I think they want to push and get on to the next one.

    BT yeshivas provide the perfect solution- the rabbi's just give you cholent and kugel for a while, learn a shtickle torah with you while mainly playing psychological games on you. Then, they pass you off to yeshiva.

    I went to machon shlomo. It's a well known BT yeshiva with a reputation for smart guys. I won't tell if I went 1, 2 or more years for identity reasons. I will say that they have a 2 week summer program where the head rabbis come to the US and do a little road show, complete with BBQ's and science and torah lectures mixed in. The atmosphere is very laid back and the kiruv part gets ratcheted up by the end. You get tefillin and learn about tzitis, etc. You get Kelemen style lectures that are supposed to put aside your doubts. The rabbis are nice and smart and credible. You figure, it can't be all that bad.

    The yeshiva focuses on getting as many doctors, lawyers, scientists, mba's as possible to the yeshiva. The strategy is: get these guys whipped into shape in 2 years (they get you to agree to 1 year, then make you feel like a loser if you don't keep going) then married and off into the world. However, a lot of the guys there in recent years seem to be learning more and more after the 2 year period is up. The guys are in demand from single girls because of the rep for nice, smart well off educated guys. Not bad catches at all.

    I think they like to graduate these guys for another big reason: if someone sees a frum doctor or PhD or lawyer, it's great advertising for machon shlomo and yiddishkeit in general. People think, "if they got over their questions and became orthodox, hey then I can too!"

    However, questions are NOT part of the machon shlomo curriculum. In fact, guys are hand picked for their competitiveness and non-questioning nature. The rabbis know that the guys will hit the ground running and compete with each other to learn. They really hold the shidduch thing over their heads as well. Guys go there for 1 year thinking they'll get married. By the end of that year, they're socialized into another year. "Then," they are told- "you can be truly great!"

    There are divorces and unhappy marriages behind the scenes. There are unhappy guys. The place should tell potential BT's everything up front. Otherwise, it's a major stumbling block.

    Since machon shlomo and other places like it (aish and ohr someyaach) aren't straight with potential talmidim- just schmoozing them up to get them in- then my blog will do a lot of good by making sure there is something on the net for them to consider first.

    When I went, there was nothing on the net about OJ. The net was still young, and there certainly were no blogs!

    Hope that helps you sleep better tonight.

  8. Well, I was already asleep... :)

    [Though perhaps this is a topic for your blog...] I think a question the other way is how often what you've said happens vs. the other way around: Guys who are really quite happy with their new lifestyle. While I can't say I'm surprised that the marriage issue is placed out there, it makes a lot of sense. Someone at GH mentioned that they felt the social aspects are the best way to draw people in - and I mentioned that many people I know were drawn in specifically because they enjoyed the familial aspects.

    I'm also not surprised they focus on doctors, lawyers, and the like: For the reasons you mentioned and also because it makes a statement - "You can be successful and be frum." That seems to me to be good advertising more than anything. They probably also feel that they are answering lots of questions, and that they cater to that crowd - perhaps this is naivete on their part, but it makes sense.

    Either way, it's clear you are presenting the issues pretty fairly, and therefore I think your blog will be successful. It will address the concerns, but not from a hateful point of view, but rather a concerned one. My personal hope is that the BTs will heed your warnings and go anyway, knowing the issues that exist.

    Good luck!

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