If you thought I was going to write about racism and frum Jews, you were wrong. My topic is should we integrate and “melt” or should we stick with our own and “stew”. I am a firm believer in not walking around with a shirt saying “kick me, I am a Baal Teshuva”.
After being involved in kiruv for a good number of years now, and being a BT myself, I have seen both sides of the argument. Overall, the integrator does better in his/her adapting to their new lifestyle and their children do better. They feel like they fit in. I believe part of it is a self confidence issue which should disappear with learning. A Baal Teshuva that ends up learning in the Mir or Chaim Berlin after getting their skills developed in one of the BT yeshivas, should be able to feel as part of the crowd at Vishnitz in Monsey or Shomer Shabbos in Brooklyn. Not that you want to be there but just that you should feel comfortable there (at least from the davening part).
Also, many of these boys and gals will and could then marry a FFB. You might ask what good is that? Well , frum family is a good start. On top of that, I think you would then feel like: “ I’ve made it”. I think that getting that self esteem booster will do wonders for your morale. Also, if one of you is FFB then you will have a stabilizing factor when dealing with your children and religious issues as opposed to getting deep anxious thoughts when your kid wants to watch TV at grandma’s and you have visions of him going off the derech because of the latest sponge bob episode.
What are you supposed to do if you aren’t married to an FFB? Learn like one. That really is the key. I have met many Baal Teshuvas that learn up a storm and they fit in much better (at least in my opinion).
It isn’t that simple. We’ve all been there. It is like any good salesperson. If you walk into your next client like you are Hashems gift to sales, you will probably walk out of there with a new sale. If you walk in like a nebech, you’ll walk out of there with pity. I don’t mean to say that we should forget our pasts and just conform. I mean we shouldn’t stick out like sore thumbs and we should give and contribute to our new “extended family” all the good that we have to offer.
Rabbi Alter Klein
Yeshivas Ohr Avraham – Bet Shemesh