Well becoming a blogger may be less difficult than becoming a BT- but at some point in both you just have to log in and do it. Mark tells me blogs are better when typed from the heart, so unlike my own BT journey (more in future blogs) I will type right in with not much forethought.
What are the biggest challenges facing us BT’s today- that’s a pretty grand question. My gut reaction is that it depends where you live. Really? Yes. I think there are basically three places we live: (1) in-town, (2) Out-of-town, (3) Eretz Yisroel. Let’s start with the third as it’s easy for me- I have never lived in Eretz Yisroel, only visited, learned in Yeshiva (or other places in more Zionistic days, but that is also another story.
So let’s define “in town.” That’s anyplace within the radius of a circle whose center is Brooklyn (probably does not matter where in the borough for purposes of this classification), whose length reaches Monsey, or maybe Lakewood; I’m not sure about that. Withing the circle is “in town” and appraoches, attitudes, reactions, and most importantly who BT’s are treated are different from “out of town” which is everywhere else. At least, the rest of the USA- I don’t know about the rest of the world.
When living out-of-town, the BT is challenged by thoughts of “how am I doing?” Am I improving or not in my learning, davening, and avodas Hashem? Am I progressing faster or slower than someone else, is it right for me now, am I ready for that, etc.
In-town, it’s all about fitting in, or perhaps avoiding standing out. This has ramifications is learning for us, yeshivas for our children, shidduchim for BT singles, and for BBTs (B’nei baalei teshuva- I’m not sure our children are full fledged FFB’s- yet another topic for a future post), the shuls we daven in etc. There have been recent streams in which FFBs wonder if there is an end to kiruv- meaning why do BT’s tend to cling together? Fitting in can be challenging, and there is a lot of required conformity for success, and that might be a little against our grain.
For example, there’s one statement that menahelim dread- “When I was in Yeshiva……” (or maybe what’s with yeshivas these days…). I told the menahel of our cheder, “I promise you I will never say that since I was never in Yeshiva.” He laughed. But, if a BT comes forward with a comment, or worse, a complaint on the educational process you may get set up as a nail needing to be banged down (and can kindergarten school records be used in shidduchim??) I had the best education my parents could buy me, for which I am grateful, but this does not help you understand yeshivas! We learned very quickly that conformity is the answer to most issues in our children’s education (at least through middle school- past that I do not know yet). Not being a complainer means that when we want to address an issue, we can be heard. This is not easy- fitting in to a model that may or may not be me to help my children! And since we are BTs from out of town, we’re still working on figuring out the in-town model that we should conform to. Out-of-town we did not see that- acceptance and welcome were much more forthcoming, especially among the solid, long-term FFB families- maybe that’s the difference.
I’m not completely sure why, but I think in-town most things are more challenging for BT’s than out-of-town. Do you agree?