Thursday, August 31, 2006

Response to "Fade to Black"

Ezzie is going to be sorry he left his blog unattended now...

Please read Soccer Dad's post below before reading this one. I was going to put this in the comments, but it just got too long.

David -

No offense taken, and I do appreciate your desire to explain where the author was coming from. I have to admit that I have not read either article in its entirety, due to the fact that I don't get the magazine it came from. However, I still disagree with Mrs. Radcliffe's perception of the BT mindset being possibly destructive to family.

You write that “The question is no doubt one that parents whether they are born frum (religious) or not deal with.” However, Mrs. Radcliffe makes no such claim. She specifically states (from Kallah Magazine’s post), “Without the model of one’s own frum parents, a baal teshuvah parent often errs…” and “nothing can replace the day-to-day ‘knowing’ that come with having been raised the way you want to raise you own children.” This seems to make the claim that being raised by frum parents is without flaw, which I dare to say is not the case in many situations. How many people from frum-from-birth families choose to live a different derech than that of their parents, whether that is to the right or left of how they were raised? I know of many such examples.

Additionally, I don’t think that being encouraged to be an independent thinker is necessarily a bad thing. Honestly, and I know many people would disagree with me on this, I would rather see my child choose to not be frum because they have honestly thought it out and truly believe in their convictions rather than follow the crowd blindly, without thinking about what they are doing. As an independent thinker myself (who according to Mrs. Radcliffe will probably lead my children in the wrong direction – there’s goes any shidduch possibilities I had left), I do want to encourage my children to believe in what they are doing, not just “fit in.” The Orthodox world would be much smaller without the incredible numbers of baalei teshuvah that have thought for themselves and rebelled against their upbringing in order to proclaim the wonder of Hashem and Torah.

This is not to say that I want my children to not be religious. Conversely, I hope to instill in them the reasons why I chose to become frum, to model my love of Judaism, and to lead them by example in a frum lifestyle, one in which they are taught that love of Hashem, and other people, comes before judging based on appearance. And I think many baalei teshuvah have that asset to offer their children that frum-from-birth children don’t – that passion and zeal of knowing that they specifically chose to live a religious life, rather than just continued in what they had always done, without giving a lot of thought to it. (I'm not saying that there are no frum-from-birth people with zeal and passion.)

Additionally, the fact that Mrs. Radcliffe states that the fact that many baalei teshuvah keep associations with non-frum relatives and friends as a problem still bothers me. I think the fact that baalei teshuvah can have such relationships with their non-frum family and friends serves again as a great model for children in many Torah values, such as Ahavas Yisrael (loving fellow Jews), and the model that you can associate with non-frum people and still uphold your own religious standards serves to strengthen one’s ability to get along in the world as an Orthodox Jew.

You quoted Mrs. Radcliffe in saying that “the children may also be individualistic not necessarily willing to follow their parents’ example in Torah living.” I think the important point that people should be focusing on is not that individualism, independent-thinking or being BT or FFB will make the difference. I think it’s the kind of example you show your children that does. And we all need to be aware of that.


  1. To try and break the ice a little bit, I invite you to see for yourself why FFBs hate BTs.

  2. Shoshana,
    I do not think that being independent minded is a bad thing, being the child of a Baal Teshuva is a bad thing, or that this was the point of the article if it was read fully in its context. All parents, bring to the table their background, whether in connection to frumkite, the place they live in, the type of family dynamic they exist in, etc. This is part of who you are. Children are products of influence of their parents personalities, their school, family dynamics, etc. Each of us brings assets from our backgrounds as well as things that we would rather not have as part of our lives or see in our children. This is a human nature issue and does not only apply to frumkite. I believe the author was just trying to point out to the parent that this is where her child is coming from. I happen to agree that I would like my children to be independent thinkers and to choose their lifestyle based on their own choices. Part of being a parent of any child is allowing this, and it is not only a Baal Teshuva that faces this. Soccer Dad and I are a "mixed marriage", bringing the FFB and the Baal Teshuva view to the table. So far, our older children are well adjusted, although very different then either of us in personality and Hashkafa. The most important thing is that they are happy, productive people.

    I really think that it is unfair to tear any author apart without fully reading the article. One person's interpretation is not necessarily anothers and I would encourage you to get a hold of the column.

  3. Interesting topic, both Soccer Dad and Shoshana. I don't know what kind of "science" went into these conclusions (I suspect NONE), but they are interesting points nonetheless.

    My own experience (I'm a BT, my wife's a FFB) is not that different. My children are very independent thinkers. So one potential possible explanation is that since I was independent enough to "reject" the lifestyle I was raised with, that I have passed some of these "rebellious" genes on to my offspring. Eh. People who know me won't exactly call me a rabble-rouser.

    Another explanation is that since it is clear that I've broken with my ancestry, that I've made it acceptible for my own children to view their own ancestors as fallible, and that would include their parents. So in a way I've justifed disobedience through my own past deeds, which I've held out as good. Weird, but I won't discount it.

    I will take issue with this increasingly prevalent attitude it the black frum community that maintaining ties with non-frum relatives is bad and will lead to our kids thinking that not being frum is OK for some people, and so why not themselves.

    I think this is beyond narishkeit. I'd like to see one scientific demographic study that shows this is the case. I'd like to see how showing disrespect and disdain for older relatives, grandparents, uncles, cousins, will cause our kids to develop more positive character traits.

    Aderabah (how do you like THAT aramaic)! I think it will lead to small-minded, impolite, arrogant kids whose only contact with their families will be to beg for money. Prove me wrong.

  4. Hehe. A little good, respectful debate is always a good thing... :)

    I'm also the child of a 'mixed marriage' - a BT mother and an FFB father.

    I wish I had my hands on the full article. However, even out of context, it's hard to explain certain portions of this article... while others seem perfectly reasonable.

    “Sometimes, baalei teshuva maintain close connections to non-frumrelatives and friends. Their youngsters are then exposed to alternative lifestyles modeled loving good people. This can cause identification with the values of the nonreligious world even when parents are careful to provide appropriate guidance and education.”

    I was about to rip this paragraph apart... but I realized exactly what the problem is in this article. It's not that it doesn't make valid or worthwhile points; it actually does - it is that it takes a completely one-sided look at each and every issue it discusses. It focuses only on the negative way in which the BT approach or past can impact their children. It ignores both the positive aspects of their approach and the negatives to the FFB approach to the same issues.

    Using the above paragraph as an example: BTs can show their children that even within a seemingly good, secular life, there are certain aspects that are lacking or that in a Jewish life, we have certain special aspects to our lives. Respect is something that always needs to be given, even to someone whose lifestyle is different. Etc. Meanwhile, FFBs approach to this teaches children to look down at those who are 'different', even if they're good people, and more importantly leads to danger: What happens when they finally spend some time with a non-frum person and see that they're actually happy, good, moral... They might think that 'hey, this isn't as bad as everyone says' and go OTD.

    My point is simply that the main problem with the article is that it simply looked at one side (negative) of one section (BT). That may help the one lady understand her teen a little better, but the way it comes out to anyone reading it is just plain old sick.

  5. I am also a product of a "mixed marriage" - FFB Mom and BT Dad, and I was similarly appalled by the remark about maintaining connections to non-frum relatives. My grandmother is still a loving, wonderful grandmother to her 12 frum grandchildren (that's right, all of her kids became BTs and ALL of her grandchildren are frum and married to [or will marry] Jews; not ONE of her friends can say that about their grandchildren) even though she is not religious. Why would her children have severed that?

  6. Ezzie,
    Not to belabor the point, but the mother was complaining that the child was interested in secular. You cannot expose your children to things and then be surprised when they incorporate it into their lives. If a child is exposed to the secular world, and I am not saying that is a bad thing, then they may become interested in certain aspects of that world. You cannot have it both ways. It does not mean that they will not be frum or good people. It just means that they may be more attracted to it then people who never are exposed. For example. my children are certainly more politically aware then many of their friends, because it is a constant presence in our home. I do not think it is a bad thing and it does not negatively effect them, nor am I surprised when they express similar views. The author of the original letter felt differently. I believe that Mrs. Radcliffe was responding to the letter and not necessarily expressing the viewpoint of the entire Charedi world towards Baalei Teshuva.

  7. One thing that I don't think was touched upon in any of these posts or comments ins the fact that the FFB world trains a BT to believe that everything they did in their past should be forgotten about and in a way be ashamed of the way they were brought up. This causes many problems. I am someone who was brought up in a non observant Conservative environment and through the Conservative movement I was able to develop my thought process and understanding of Judaism by myself without anyone telling me what to do. I would never change what was in my past because that made me who I am. I had a great time in camp USY, NCSY and every other group I wasn involved in. If I would forget these people or family and friends who are not religious, it would make the division between the orthodox and the non orthodox bigger. I have friends who turned frum overnight and stopped talking to their old friends and family because they weren't religious. This is how many in the FFB/Kiruv world tell their students how to act. I think once FFB people start to realize that non-orthodox people are not bad and that its OK to talk to them and be friends with them, then they will stop worrying about BTs and their children. These people should also concentrate on learning Torah instead of learning how to Label and judge.

  8. SM - But that's exactly the point. One can easily argue that not being exposed at all makes someone want it more: Look at all the FFBs who go OTD.

    The simple answer is that it all comes down to good parenting... and even then, it's a crapshoot.

    And I think that Mrs. Radcliffe's responsibility in publishing her answer is more than just to the one she's responding to. She could have simply sent her a letter if that were the case. She is presenting her answer as a response to this mother, but she is also presenting a viewpoint to the readers of the publication.

  9. Ezzie,
    At the end you wrote:
    My point is simply that the main problem with the article is that it simply looked at one side (negative) of one section (BT). That may help the one lady understand her teen a little better, but the way it comes out to anyone reading it is just plain old sick.

    But the lady asking the question didn't want to know the broader sociology here, she wanted to know why it was that her daughter was attracted to things that she (and apparently her husband) did all she/they could to prevent her from being exposed to.

    The answer addressed that and that alone. Mrs. Radcliffe was assuring the mother that she was doing nothing wrong and pointing out factors that made it difficult for the mother to have the control she would have liked. As my wife noted above, no one is immune to his/her surroundings.

    Could Mrs. Radcliffe have improved the response by writing that FFB parents often have the same challenges? Sure. But the mother was looking for an answer to a specific question and I think that Mrs. Radcliffe addressed that. And I really don't think that she meant her words to be judgmental in any way.

    If I have a chance Sunday night, I'll scan the article.

  10. Aishel -
    Will have to look at it later, not working on this computer.

    Soccermom -
    I apologize for "tearing the author apart without fully reading the article." You are correct that I probably should know the background before I spout off. However, I still think that a lot of what has been quoted, no matter what context, can be viewed as negative towards BTs in general.

    You say that children are products of influence of their parents - I counter that I don't think even a non-frum parent is necessarily a bad influence. My parents gave me a very strong Jewish identity, despite the fact that it wasn't an Orthodox one. And that, along with many of the attitudes they taught me, I would trade in for a Jewish education from birth for the world. As you say, your children are different than you, as I am different from my parents. I don't think it has anything to do with the fact that you are a BT, that I am, or that your children are FFB. I think it has to do with parenting in general.

    I think Ezzie sums it up the best when saying that it all comes down to good parenting. Whether FFB or BT, you can be a good or bad parent, being religious from birth unfortunately doesn't do a person any favors in the ways of parenting skills, as much as some would probably like to think it does.

    FrumWithQuestions -
    I completely agree with you, and don't attempt to hide the fact that I grew up in a non-Orthodox environment, because I don't think I would be as proud of being Jewish as I am had I grown up frum, and taken it for granted. Instead it was something that I had to work for, and that caused me stand out in the crowd. And when we work hard for something (as many BTs do to become frum) it often becomes more a part of who that person is, and something that we are willing to fight even harder in order to hold onto.

  11. You said:

    "Honestly, and I know many people would disagree with me on this, I would rather see my child choose to not be frum because they have honestly thought it out and truly believe in their convictions rather than follow the crowd blindly, without thinking about what they are doing. "

    Count me in as one of the many who would disagree with you.
    The ideal would be that you have a religious child and can think for for themselves, have the convictions, etc.
    But rather having a non-frum thinking child as opposed to a frum non-thinking child? That doesn't make sense.
    The fact of the matter is that being frum (and ehrlich as well) is the correct derech. I'm assuming you agree with this since you are frum as well. So, if a child "thought about it" but is on the wrong derech that is preferable to being on the right derech and "not thinking about it"?

  12. SD - The answer addressed that and that alone. ...

    Could Mrs. Radcliffe have improved the response by writing that FFB parents often have the same challenges? Sure. But the mother was looking for an answer to a specific question and I think that Mrs. Radcliffe addressed that. And I really don't think that she meant her words to be judgmental in any way.

    I'm not disagreeing with you. I'm simply saying that as a writer in a published paper/magazine, she *has* to present at least some segment of the other side, or say specifically that this is one way of looking at it, though there are other positives and/or that FFBs have their own issues in these subjects.

    Because she didn't, her words came across as judgmental when she (as you said) probably didn't mean it that way.

    Avrom - I'm going to mostly disagree with you. If it's a choice of non-thinking frum vs. non-thinking not, then of course, I'd rather have the frum kid. But as an example, let's take education. Is it better to lie, or even better, just not teach certain subjects/hide certain issues from students/present only one POV even if it's likely wrong all the way from Pre-K to after high school (and sometimes beyond) just so a child stays frum? Or is it better to educate properly, try and guide them into seeing God in everything, etc., and hope that they don't get drawn away?

    Put the same Q for kiruv: Is it better for kiruv professionals to try and push certain ideas that may or may not be correct on non-frum people in order that they become frum?

    You can pretty much guarantee a child 'stay frum' by educating them a certain way, bringing them up a certain way, exposing them only to certain parts of life, etc. But that's only true if the child is a complete non-thinker: They follow the crowd/masses, they have a certain (quite possibly wrong/improper) way of approaching Judaism, etc. IMO, I don't think it's possible for anyone to become great by approaching life this way.

    On a separate note, this is what I said to someone about this recently: It will be interesting to see if the very charedi world will have any true gedolim in the next generation or not... and where they come from. I don't think that you can have one who was never exposed to the 'outside world' and be expected to relate and/or pasken for those people... and someone who has no understanding of certain secular subjects is going to have an incredibly hard time. My (charedi Rosh Yeshiva) cousin told me once that "those who need to know, know" regarding science and science/Torah issues [and that most people can't handle it]. I wonder if that will still hold true when people like himself [who grew up Dati Leumi or BT] are no longer the ones who 'need to know' but it's the generation following.

  13. Shoshana - The video Aishel mentioned is the one that was on BeyondBT about a week ago.

  14. [quote]Shoshana - The video Aishel mentioned is the one that was on BeyondBT about a week ago.[/quote]

    Sorry, didn't realize it was a repost.

  15. Avrom -
    Well, Ezzie is doing a great job of answering for me today, so I guess I just will retiterate that I stand behind my statement. I want my kids to believe in what they practice. I chose my life because I questioned what I was brought up with, and I came to the conclusion that this way was best - for me. I don't pretend to tell anyone else what is best for them, though of course I will attempt to teach my children the ways I think are right. However, I will do that by encouraging them to ask questions and find answers. I would much rather they feel confident in who they are and how they live than lead double-lives and have doubts that they feel they cannot air publicly like many of the skeptic bloggers that are on the Internet today. I think it is extremely detrimental for anyone to not feel secure about they are, or feel that they must present one face to the world and hide how they really feel inside. If my children question what they do and where they come from, and can't justify their lives with the answers they get, then I want them to find the lives they feel comfortable in. Again, I hope that they will choose the frum lifestyle. I do. But leading a double or hidden life is not worth the cost to themselves, or the frum world.

  16. I think you have to be very, very generous to read the segments quoted in the KallahMagazine as neutral. To me they are clearly derogatory to BTs.

  17. Ezz and Shosh,

    My basic issue is with the part I quoted, the one that was expected that there would be disagreement over.

    It seems to me that that part is at odds with what is being discussed. You seem to be discussing how one SHOULD conduct themselves regarding raising kids etc.
    However, that quote seems to deal with end results, in other words, what would one PREFER if circumstances did not turn out the way they should.

    Now, it seems to me that anyone frum will want their children to be frum. That being the case, that should be preferable over being non frum, regardless of whether that frum person is "thinking about it" or not.
    In other words, there are four possibilities.
    - not ignorant and right
    - ignorant and right
    - not ignorant and wrong
    - ignorant and wrong
    You seem to imply that not ignorant and wrong is preferable over ignorant and right. I disagree with that implication and I am led to beleive that you didn't mean to imply it since you write at a later point that "This is not to say that I want my children to be not religious".
    Or put another way, do you want your son to be the Chacham, Tam, Aino l'daia lishol, or the rasha. Everybody obviously chooses the chacham, but what if you had to pick between the rasha and the other two?

  18. That's where we differ, I believe. To some extent, I would rather my kid be thinking, and not frum, than a frum ignoramus. If my kid decides he wants to be a non-thinker, that's fine. But I don't want my kid to be not educated properly and/or lied to so he'll stay frum. That's simply wrong, and I don't think that's really "frum".

    I also think that your choice is disingenuous. It's not a matter of rasha vs. tam or something like that. Firstly, many people will tell you that the worst one to be is not the rasha, but the she'aino yodeia lishol. But even forgetting that, someone who is not frum is not at all a rasha.

  19. Again, Ezzie took the words from my keyboard in regards to your offering of choices. Not frum does not equal rasha.

    The only thing I would like to do add is that you are going to have to do a better job of defining "right" and "wrong." To me, it's not "right" to keep Shabbos yet cheat on your taxes, speak lashon hara, act in a despicable manner in public, etc. Above everything else, I want my children to be menschen. Whether they keep Shabbos or not.

  20. just as a side note- what will happen when the kids will go out into the "real world" and have to be in school, and a work place, with not only secular Jews, but "o vey zmeer"- non- Jews. No respect for their peers and co- workers can get them fired Or are they not supposed to go out and work and just shnur money off the not frum relatives, thats real respectful and actually pretty two- faced.

    I personally think that the fact that we have a term Ba'al teshuvah" and "frum from birth", is in and of itself ridiculous. Many pelople who are FFB, dohnt stay that way, so wow! your frum from birth, do you want a reward for the fact that your grandparents didnt go through the war, and become non-secular, and you had to find your own way back. Or that Hashem did not make you born into a not frum family. And all people, especially those who are "FFB", are on a constant, daily, basis, "Ba'alei teshuvah", as we all sin, numerous times, daily and repent, do teshuvah and hopefully come back.

    I think the article itself is just an attempt by the author to justify why she isnt a BT, so as we all know when someone has a flaw in an area, they try to bash that flaw in others!

    Shabbat Shalom, to everyone, all JEWS together!

  21. Another thing I just thought of- have FFB's no confidence in themselves, that they think they will be brainwashed and turnnon- frum if they associate with secular Jews? Then their level of bitachon ain't that great, maybey they better go ask some BT's for advice on bitachon- oh wait- they cant talk to BT's, cus BT's are evil!

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