Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

Dealing With Children and Non-Observant Parents

Posted on | July 10, 2007 | By Guest Contributor | 121 Comments

By “Nancy”

I have been lurking around on beyond bt for a little while, and am amazed by the amount of information and support that is provided. I am having an issue right now, and would like some advice from someone who has been doing this longer than I.

My parents and sister came to visit us from out of town. Right now, my father, mother, sister and young children are sitting around the dining room table enjoying dinner. (it is the 17th of tammuz) I am sitting on the couch, starving and trying to find some meaning. This situation just feels so wrong. I cannot explain why. I am not angry at my family for eating, growing up I did not know this fast day even existed, why would I expect them to fast?

I feel angry trying to explain to my 5 year old why mommy and daddy are not eating and everyone else is. It is easy to tell him he is a child, so he can eat… It was even easy to explain that when mommy was really sick on other fast days, I ate. But how can I explain why 3 healthy adults are sitting around enjoying their dinner? Why will my kids chose to fast when they are old enough, when they see that people they love and respect do not? Should I have forbidden people to eat in my house? Am I freaking out over nothing? Any advice would be appreciated.

Comments

121 Responses to “Dealing With Children and Non-Observant Parents”

  1. Jaded Topaz
    July 10th, 2007 @ 1:55 am

    Ummm, dont have any advice, but I think its exceedingly important that your kids respect and have a close connection with your parents and siblings.Whatever happened to derech eretz kadmah la-torah ?
    This reminds me of this must dress modest event I have to attend . I have this frum friend who’ll ill refer to as “Nice & Neurotic Nellie Tikvah” , her parents became religious later on in life, but various really close relatives have stayed clear of the light and have in no way been affected by any religious lighthouses. Shes in the process of preparing for some celebration in the narrowminded mopingly myopic holier than thou town she is raising her kids ( that are slowly but surely being ruined by local school ideologies) in.
    And she has this mandatory halacha dress code thing !!!!! Its definitely community pressure related .The schools/general audience/nosy neighbors in that particular town give a whole new dimension to the term holier than thou and i’m not exxagerating . Little kids are taught to look down in disdain at non-religious relatives,like umm grandparents and aunts/uncles !!!!!!! and I’ve heard this from quite a few hurting people whose kids or siblings have unfortunately married into that myopic mindset and state or town actually……Is this what they are teaching kids nowadays?Children dear, your disdain for your non-religious elders is not in vain, one day they will understand …….. distinctly disconcerting and dishearteningly so.

    Forcing secular guest to dress modestly and do things like cover their hair or dress in accordance to what they interpret halacha as ……. in order to attend a function is the perfect way to slap around that “welcome home” mat as opposed to just laying it out.Why dont they just put a little shingle out at their events “members only/ walk ins not welcome”.Its so much easier than, slapping that “welcome home” mat around pretending its just being laid out neatly on the front porch for welcoming.

    And avoiding contact with non-religious grandparents/ aunts /uncles is a lose/lose situation in the long run.

  2. Dovid
    July 10th, 2007 @ 7:45 am

    The previous comment should have ended after “I have no advise”. IMHO, Faded Topaz is mearly venting some pent up frustrations.

    Turbulent times call for appropriate measures.
    Each family has its own dynamics and sometimes it is necessary to take drastic measures if family members are openly negative or even show disgust with a BT, after choosing a life of Torah observance. There is no single perfect solution. We each must deal with our own daled amos.

    Do you let people speak with foul language around your children? How about discuss inappropriate topics? Dressing immodestly is no different. Our values as a socity are in the dumpster, and no one has to feel guilty about not allowing those values to invade their homes or neighborhoods. No, we can’t stop these values from rearing their ugly faces, but we can raise our children to know that some things are acceptable and others are not. This is very important in the chinuch of your children.

    One must be VERY sensitive with family and friends who are not familiar with your Torah lifestyle. But, once they’re familiar with how you live, they should accomodate you. It took years for that to happen in my family, but for the most part it has mostly panned out. My children are not “narrowminded mopingly myopic and holier than thou”. They DO have a keen sense of what it means to be modest, and are not confused if and when we should be in another “frum” community where the observance is on-the-halachic-edge. We don’t disdain the non-observant because we know their experience…we lived it, too.

  3. Bob Miller
    July 10th, 2007 @ 8:10 am

    Nancy,

    Some things have worked for some people, including what I’m listing below. Reasonable people often respond to a reasonable, unemotional approach. You know better than us what might set your own relatives off.

    1. Arrange future visits to not coincide with fast days.

    2. If that’s unavoidable, explain your predicament ahead of time and suggest one or more local restaurants for them to eat at. On the other hand, if you know they’ll eat nonkosher outside your house, they’re better off eating kosher inside your house.

    3. Sooner or later, your kids will have to know how to relate to relatives who are not religious. It’s possible to respect the relatives while realizing that they are not really aware of all the mitzvot.

    4. Jaded Topaz notwithstanding, if you have house rules about modest dress, make them known way ahead of time. It’s not your job to compromise on the essentials.

  4. Charnie
    July 10th, 2007 @ 8:25 am

    It’s not too often that I agree with JT, but in this case, I do. Nancy, since you’re, at this point dealing with a very young child, try addressing the issue on his level. What worked for us was telling our kids, when they were young, that their grandmothers never had the chance to learn about mitzvahs. Just make sure to emphasize all the good things your parents do, and how much they love their grandson, and that they’re very proud of all the mitzvahs he does.

    The idea of turning a child against a non-frum family member is repugnant. As an example, there are quite a few people (including on this blog) whose parents became anywhere from frum themselves to very tolerant. And this was because of love, not rejection. The people JT referred to are severely misguided.

  5. Cosmic X
    July 10th, 2007 @ 8:30 am

    “I feel angry trying to explain to my 5 year old why mommy and daddy are not eating and everyone else is.”

    There is nothing to be angry about here. And yes, you are freaking out over nothing. You can explain calmly, with a smile and without anger, that you were fortunate enough to discover the beauty of Torah and mitzvot, while your parents and sister haven’t yet.

    Remember that you are still required to honor and fear your parents. Think of all the good things that they have done for you since you were born. Show them that you appreciate them for who they are and what they have done. Your own children will learn from your example, and will treat you accordingly.

  6. Neil Harris
    July 10th, 2007 @ 8:48 am

    Tough issue. For a 5 yr old , you could simply say, “In our family we do…”
    or even let your children know that “Our family had an opportunity to learn about Torah and Mitzvos”

    This past Shabbos Rav Avraham Chaim Levine (Rosh Yeshiva at Teshe, Chicago) spoke at a father and son learning program to over 100 kids. He mentioned that all children should be proud of their Jewish education and thankful for it. He then told them that while growing up in Detroit, he had no choice but to attend public school until 7th grade.

    Showing our children that we are proud of what we do is a much better message, IMHO, than pointing out what others are not doing. Great post.

  7. belle
    July 10th, 2007 @ 8:57 am

    Personally, I would have explained (nicely of course) to my family that it is a fast day, and to please not eat in the house because it makes it difficult for us (they could go to any diner!). Long ago my husband and I decided that when the kids were young we did not want our parents to breach halacha in front of them –especially in our own homes. If we went to their house we could not compel them to behave according to our preferences, of course. So we went to their house infrequently. (My parents were always willing to go along, however, without much complaining, once they understood that we really meant it). Ironically, this increases the children’s respect for their grandparents.

    Making ground rules for behavior by visitors I believe is any couple’s perogative for their own home (think an ecologically green couple forbidding cigarettes or spray chemicals like “Off” in their home to protect their children).

    This has to be coupled by explanations that grandma and grandpa didn’t get to go to yeshiva and just don’t know halacha — the children would understand the concept that they were non-religious, but we didn’t think it was good to expose them to their non-halachic behavior.

    When the children get older, and they understand there is gray in the world, and not just black and white, then of course the children can witness breaches of halacha by their grandparents and not get shaken up.

    As for JT’s point about requiring modest dress at a function, I think that’s another basic perogative of the ba’al simcha. There is nothing rude about asking someone to dress modestly. It’s in the same category as asking diners to don jacket and tie in a fancy restaurant or requiring ladies to wear gowns at the opening night at the opera. It’s not insulting — it’s telling people what’s appropriate at this event.

  8. belle
    July 10th, 2007 @ 9:04 am

    PS- I would also like to add that now that I am a mother in law I can see that some of these challenges are in the category of parents’ letting go of their married siblings, just masked by religious issues. I don’t think parents would be too offended by polite requests to refrain from eating in the house on a fast day if they had a healthy attitude about letting the new couple build their own foundations in marriage. Intruding parents, or parents who still treat married children like children, are a whole nother problem. Don’t confuse them, thinking that this is just a religous problem for the BT!

  9. Albany Jew
    July 10th, 2007 @ 9:26 am

    Would an explanation that went along the lines that some people are good at some mitzvahs while others are good at different mitzvahs help? This could be followed by saying that “but we should try to do all the mitzvahs we can, right dear?”

    My six year old understands that she cannot eat everything in Grandma’s house even though Grandma does. She just seems to accept that Grandma is not so good at the mitzvah of Kosher. She knows her Mommy and Tatty are not perfect, so why should Grandma be?

  10. Martin Fleischer
    July 10th, 2007 @ 9:28 am

    Nancy,

    On my journey, I used to get upset that certain people in my family would not be on my level, as far as religious observance. I am more tolerant now, probably because of my involvement in this board. Everyone (even people within a family) are on different levels, and hopefully they will grow in their observance. But just because one is more observant, you can’t expect someone who is not at that time (whatever the mitzvah) to do the same mitzvah just because you are doing it. You just can’t say “it’s the 17th of Tammuz, you can’t eat because Jerusalem was attacked”. You can explain why you are doing what you are doing, but you can’t force it on people. As for explaining it to your children, the only thing I can think of is what I said before, that each person is on their own level of observance (even if they are not observant). That’s all you can do, I think.

    Marty

  11. Jaded Topaz
    July 10th, 2007 @ 9:35 am

    Dovid , not only is your opinion humble, its also spelled wrong in a lot of different ways, literally and figuretuvely speaking. And its
    always good to know your spelling when you knock other comments especially when spelling errors render quotes your quoting incomprehensible. (see heartwarming not so humble part where you suggest light editing)

    Also, when discussing disdain, I’m not referring to the enlightened parents who’ve seen it all. I’m talking about the kids who grow up thinking they are better and looking down that’s d as in disdain at their elders who are not religious.
    If I understood correctly Rabbi Wolbe says that one should not take upon stringencies that render him haughtier than thou. Çuz the root of all sin is haughtiness…….

    I’m sure everyone has been privy to haughiness gone haywire among our brethren around the world.

  12. Etana Hecht
    July 10th, 2007 @ 9:41 am

    As the daughter of two BT’s I grew up with very few religious extended family members. From a the age of chinuch my siblings and I were explained to clearly that Mommy and Abba became religious on their own when they were teenagers. It was always just a known fact that the grandparents and some uncles and cousins were not religious and did not do everything like we did. Growing up I literally thought that everyone in my parents generation were BT’s. I thought all my friends grandparents weren’t religious also, and now that I have a son, it’s weird to me that he has religious grandparents (But amazing, B”H!) Nancy, I truly believe that if you start explaining your family situation to you daughter now, at this crucial age, she will simply take it in and it will be a fact of her life. The way to explain it is that you were fortunate enough to learn about Torah from somewhere, but your family wasn’t so lucky and therefore don’t understand as much. Good luck!!

  13. Jaded Topaz
    July 10th, 2007 @ 9:51 am

    What’s even more fascinating is that my frum friend “nice but neurotic Nellie Tikvah” her parents became religious , but I believe she basically grew up religious but is still soo overly concerned about her grandparents and various relatives that are not religious. And how they affect her reputation in her smallminded community of haughtier than thou ers.
    Her kids give me mussar! And they are really young.

    Also my third haughtier is missing a t in my previous comment for humble purposes only.

  14. Dixie Yid
    July 10th, 2007 @ 10:20 am

    My children (ages 2-8) have four non-observant grandparents and when it comes to Shabbos or modesty, etc. we’ve explained multiple times when it comes up that they do not know about or keep the mitzvos because they were never taught about it. Other commenters mentioned this approach as well. It is working out nicely for us. My children understand that their grandparents are wonderful people and unfortunately don’t know any better when it comes to many mitzvos. This approach allows them to understand why we keep different standards than them, and it also ensures that they do not have less respect for them (since their non-observance is only because of a lack of halachic upbringing, and not because they are “bad people”).

    Hope that’s helpful.

    -Dixie Yid

  15. Menachem Lipkin
    July 10th, 2007 @ 11:08 am

    “I feel angry trying to explain to my 5 year old why mommy and daddy are not eating and everyone else is.”

    There really shouldn’t be any “anger” here. You many want to investigate where this anger is coming from. You don’t want your child sensing your anger toward your parents. That would be more damaging than the act you’re writing about here.

    “But how can I explain why 3 healthy adults are sitting around enjoying their dinner?”

    Just as others are saying. You and your husband have the benefit of learning Torah. Kids are smart, they’ll get it.

    “Why will my kids chose to fast when they are old enough, when they see that people they love and respect do not?”

    Do you really think this is the only example of such discrepancies they will be exposed to? On a daily basis they will see friends, rabbis, teachers, relatives and even you do or not do things in accordance with your teachings. Your personal example is most important and then that of the schools you choose.

    I don’t want to scare you, but it’s much easier to deal with this when the “perpetraters” aren’t “frum”.

    “Should I have forbidden people to eat in my house?”

    Depending on your relationship you can try to set some boundaries. We asked our parents not to show up during Shabbos. Of course sometimes they would take it very literally and drop in minutes after Shabbos. (Even though they lived 45 minutes away.) The kids picked up on that quickly.

    In the end, however I think it’s better to err on the side of being tolerant than to risk damaging your relationship with them.

    Am I freaking out over nothing?

    It’s not nothing, but it’s not as big of a deal as it appears to you now. We were much more “freaked out” about this issue when our eldest (Etana who commented above) was little than with the others. As the kids started to get older we realized that they were processing these issues very well and taking it in stride.

    In the “lemons to lemonaide” category I would offer that these experiences offer your kids a much greater opportunity to be tolerant, accepting and loving of all Jews. From a young age they will see it’s OK to be frum AND love and be loved by not so frum Jews.

  16. Michael
    July 10th, 2007 @ 11:23 am

    It’s the 17th of Tammuz, not Yom Kippur, when I think a different standard would be called for. Relax, and be happy they are eating in your house. It is easy to explain to them it is a fast day, you are not eating, they are not undermining you, and believe me your 5 year old will be fine. I would worry more about how they conduct themselves while eating, than the eating itself.

  17. Dovid
    July 10th, 2007 @ 11:33 am

    JT,

    Would you please elaborate on what you mean by stringencies? A few examples might help me better understand your comments.

    I apologize for not having had the forethought to check the spelling in my post. I was in a bit of rush and I guess the errors got past me. You, also, might want to join me in the extra effort. Considering your critique, I was quite amused at your punctuation, spelling and syntax as well…:) But let’s not hammer each other’s grammer. Let’s develop this conversation in a better way, to the benefit of all…

  18. "Nancy"
    July 10th, 2007 @ 1:12 pm

    Thank you everyone so much for your replies. Obviously, (on a full stomach) I am more calm about the issue at hand.

    There was a question raised about why I was angry… Reflecting on that (not using low blood sugar as an excuse), I think it was fear more than anger. We were audacious enough to reject our parent’s life styles, why wont our kids reject ours? Not only that, when I became frum, I was a kid myself (16). Other than NCSY buddies, I had no one. Being honest with myself here, my transformation was somewhat of a rebellion. I found something fun, not dangerous, and best of all it drove my parents nuts. What more could a teenager want. As the process went on it became more and more meaningful,but I would be fooling myself if I said it did not start out as simply a rebellion. But here I am, years later, terrified that my own kids will have my same rebellious nature. Only, I fear the rebellion wont be as difficult for them as it was for me at times, because they would fit right in with some of their own family members.

    Again, please don’t misunderstand me. My parents are wonderful people, overall have basic values somewhat consistent with Torah, and are for the most part understanding of my lifestyle. But, They are not shomar mitzvos.

    The bottom line is we not only want our kids to be wonderful people, but we want them to be shomar mitzvos. I don’t care what color shirt they wear, what kind of head covering they opt for, or even what their future wives will wear on their heads… But I do want them to consider themselves Torah observant Jews.

  19. Jacob Haller
    July 10th, 2007 @ 1:27 pm

    “This situation just feels so wrong. I cannot explain why.”

    Watching others (especially in one’s own family) chow down on a day that you fast IN YOUR OWN HOUSE could be the source of anger or of feeling violated.

    It’s not unreasonable to believe that when a BT who experiences unfortunate difficulties living in their parents home can look forward to building their own Bayin Ne’eman B’Yisroel and be able to call their own shots. It can be a source or irritation to have to relive the old days in one’s own home which was forseen as a spiritual fortress.

    That said, one of the commenters who mentioned about guidelines had it right. Also the “lemons to lemonade” advice is the best way to deal with what has already happened and hopefully you can find a path to keep your Bais Ne’eman the spiritual fortress you long for while keeping a positive relationship with your immediate family.

    “Derech Eretz Kedmah L’Torah” like all dictums has parameters. It’s important to keep things positive with your family but it doesn’t mean that anything goes anytime.

  20. "Nancy"
    July 10th, 2007 @ 1:46 pm

    “It can be a source or irritation to have to relive the old days in one’s own home which was forseen as a spiritual fortress.”

    EXACTLY!!!

  21. Chaya
    July 10th, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

    There is no reason that when it is a fast day in your house (and it does appear to be YOUR house) that you have to have a dinner party going on in your dining room. Yes, you feed your own children on such a day, but other adults? NOT – especially if they’d otherwise eat in a restaurant.

    They don’t need to fast, but neither should they be feasting in your dining room.

    Having said that, and not knowing exactly how they came to visit on that day, the ideal situation would be for them not to be there then. In the future, the ideal would be to schedule around the whole issue, or tell them in advance that there is no food service in your home that day for other than the children.

    As for the various modest dress issues (which are not part of the original post) – unless you’re talking ridiculous plunging necklines, micro-skirts or bikinis in your living room, I’d leave that one alone.

  22. Bob Miller
    July 10th, 2007 @ 1:58 pm

    An aside:

    As long as modern media stream in, it’s hard to keep the home a fortress.

  23. "Nancy"
    July 10th, 2007 @ 2:03 pm

    Bob-very true. But I cannot even try to think about how the media will damage my kids. It is too overwhelming. I think its more of the sensation of being a minority that I was reminded of. I did not expect I would feel that way in my own home.

  24. ChanaLeah
    July 10th, 2007 @ 2:53 pm

    Nancy: First, I want to say I admire your mesiras nefesh. Fasting is hard enough; fasting when surrounded by people eating is harder; when those eating are adults in your immediate family, the fasting is heroic.

    I agree with all the comments about explaining to the kids the lack of education/opportunity that the non-frum relatives had. But I have often wondered how that explanation is perceived by those non-frum relatives when they either hear it said, or have adorable small frum relatives who try to rectify the matter by teaching them basics. Do the adults find it embarrassing? Still, I can’t think of any better way to address the problem.

    Your insights about rebellious nature are very keen. In a sense becoming religious seems a rebellion for all BT’s. And you are right, kids pick up on their parents’ nature, even when parents think they no longer interact rebelliously. From personal experience my suggestion is strengthen tefilla; ask Hashem for help and work on midos improvement. I can tell you it’s not easy to change midos that have been part of the fabric of one’s personality for decades. I think it’s easier to do this, the younger you are.

  25. YM
    July 10th, 2007 @ 4:03 pm

    Nancy, you should have a Rav to advise you on this. I don’t agree with many of the comments here – I don’t think that non-frum relatives should be violating halacha in your house, except for a very good reason, which I don’t see here. Obviously, derech eretz and honoring ones parents are mitzvoth, but if your parents tell you to commit a sin, halacha does not allow you to listen to them. A Rav can really help you develop an approach that takes all of these parameters into account.

  26. anonagirl
    July 10th, 2007 @ 4:24 pm

    What happens to the children when they try to “teach” their non-observant relatives and those relatives still don’t change their behavior?

    I have a friend whose sister is a “hard” BT (lives in Lakewood, 7 kids, husband learns full-time etc.) My friend is not observant but is generally respectful of her sister’s observances. (It greatly disturbs her, however, that they grew up in a house full of books and her sister’s house has NO books except for religious tracts and a few childrens’ picture books. It would disturb me, too.)

    So they were (and I mean were) trying to plan their parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. BT sister insisted that it must be Kosher catered in a Kosher hall, which costs three times as much as non-Kosher options. She refused to bring her own food or even have meals from a Kosher caterer served to her and her family. And she expected my friend to pay the whole cost, because after all my friend is “making a lot of money” in the secular world, and “throwing it away” paying for two college tuitions for her kids. She seemed to expect my friend to yank her two college-age kids out of school for a year in order to pay for a party that meets BT sister’s requirements.

    Is my friend’s sister just rude, or does she have a leg to stand on? Last I heard, they’d canceled the party and were barely on speaking terms. Parents took my friend’s side, but are mostly just heartbroken that their two daughters are fighting.

  27. Leah Levenson
    July 10th, 2007 @ 4:37 pm

    Shalom Nancy,

    The adults should have refrained from eating out of respect for you. It’s as simple as that. It is your house.

    I frequently go to birthday gatherings at my family’s home and watch them eat their non-kosher cake, etc. I make a point of staying and watching, because a. I want to be part of the family celebration; b. Maybe they’ll be a tiny bit embarrassed for knowingly eating non-kosher.

    Either way, I don’t cause a fuss and I respect that it’s their home. If they will sometimes provide for me with a kosher cake, plastic utensils, etc., that’s nice, but it isn’t expected. I have on occasion brought something kosher with me, but not usually.

    As guests in *my* home, they WILL go by the rules. When my sister-in-law refused to wash al netilas yadayim (“my hands are already clean”) as a dinner guest one time, my brother made her do it out of respect for us, even though he is not observant.

    If they were guests in my home on a fast day, there would be no food available for them. They can hold off an hour or two. After all, they are adults aren’t they? Nancy, I’m not saying this is what happened in your situation. I don’t know the circumstances. I’m saying this is what my husband and I would do.

    I think it is fundamentally about respect, or lack thereof.

    My family ordered in a cheese and pepperoni (not the fake kind) pizza with bacon (not the fake kind) during the shiva for my father. The bacon was an enhancement for my benefit. It was to “in your face” me.

    One of them said to me, “Look — it’s a cheese and pepperoni pizza with BACON…!,” expecting me to blow a gasket. I just shrugged and said, “Hey, it’s not my problem. It’s G-d you should be worried about.”

    It says alot about people.

    As for the non-tsnius attire, when there are simchas at our shul, frequently non-observant relatives are in attendance. And the non-tsnius dressing can be quite surprising if not shocking, not to mention the purse-carrying and the driving up in cars and such. They simply don’t know better or ignored their relatives cautions to dress appropriately.

    I’ll tell you something though, sometimes their chattering is no worse or no better than the regular congregants, which opens up a whole other issue.

    The heart of the matter is good middos and good sense. It doesn’t make sense to have dinner in front of your fasting relatives. It doesn’t make sense to wear a plunging neckline in the home of your religious relatives or to a shul — ANY shul — on a Shabbos morning.

    LeahL

  28. Leah Levenson
    July 10th, 2007 @ 4:42 pm

    Shalom anonagirl,

    It doesn’t sound like she went about it in a very constructive way. She should have made it clear (without sounding like an ultimatum) that she would attend but wouldn’t partake of the meal if it wasn’t kosher, and then stuck by it if they refused to provide kosher.

    It would be a kiddush Hashem on her part, show her family she means business about kashruth, and maybe even get them thinking about their own lives.

    Or, told them she couldn’t attend if they didn’t provide a kosher meal, wished them well, and stuck by it. My bet is they would have worked a little harder to accommodate her.

    Or, offered to pay for part of it and organize the meal herself with a kosher caterer.

    Her whole attitude is highly suspect.

    LeahL

  29. Albany Jew
    July 10th, 2007 @ 4:50 pm

    It seems that your friend’s sister is certainly being unreasonable, but it is also possible you are missing something. Perhaps her sister is saying that she cannot pay for the affair if it isn’t kosher because then she would be providing non-kosher food to other Jews which is a big no no. If she is insisting that it be kosher and that she still won’t pay for any of it even if it is, that seems wrong (it also does not make any sense) It seems un believeable that she actually proposed taking her kids out of college for a year.

    It is also interesting that you say she respects her sister’s choice, while still saying that she finds it greatly disturbing that she does not have secular books (except the childrens books) That would indicate a LACK respect for her choice in a very strong way. Some people simply prefer Rashi to John Grisham

  30. Albany Jew
    July 10th, 2007 @ 4:54 pm

    Leah,

    What would you have done if your brother had not stepped in?

  31. belle
    July 10th, 2007 @ 5:29 pm

    Anonagirl:

    I agree with Albany Jew, that your friend’s perspective of the story might be a bit off. I also question your calling Jewish books “religious tracts” (or was that her words?). That’s the kind of language I would expect from those who don’t respect Torah at all. There is a very respected overall shita not to read secular literature. It may not be your philosophy, or mine, but I can certainly respect it because I understand it.

    I also understand her not wanting to participate in or host in any way a non-kosher event– serving non-kosher food to Jews is a serious breach, and insisting that it be traif is insulting to her – why should she eat airline food at her own parents’ party? There are ways to make a celebration kosher AND affordable if it is scaled down.

    If the encounter really did happen as you described, I would imagine that there was a lot of friction pre-dating this encounter. There is no justification for someone to accuse their own sister of “throwing their money away” on college educations. I think you got only one fraction of the whole story, which probably has been going on for a long time.

  32. anonagirl
    July 10th, 2007 @ 5:40 pm

    My friend offered to get Kosher meals for her sister and family. That wasn’t good enough. The payment issue was “I have no money because I have 5 kids in *required* religious school, but you have money because your kids are just going to sinful secular schools.”

    Her sister isn’t normally this hard-headed but my friend does say they have nothing in common anymore. They try to talk about their kids, but sister interrupts and refuses to listen if my friend is describing anything that isn’t “frum” like how well they are doing in school, because the school is public and therefore bad, or her daughter winning a sports competition (because it’s not a girls only sport with a women-only audience.)

    I should note that my friend was a BT for a while, but fell away when she figured out that there are many things she loves and *is* that would not be acceptable in a BT community.

    It’s hardest on their parents, who as I said hate it that their kids are fighting. The parents basically can’t have any sort of family gathering at this point, even in a Kosher venue. They see the BT daughter separately from the other daughter and their son.

    When you grow up surrounded by books of all sorts — NOT trashy books — it’s hard to imagine letting them all go. But I suppose that a really hardcore BT would think that all “secular” books are trashy.

  33. Leah Levenson
    July 10th, 2007 @ 5:41 pm

    AJ,

    Well it’s speculative, but I’m sure we wouldn’t have started a big fight by trying to force her. And, in hindsight, we’ve all come a long way since then. Most of my family is a lot more accepting of us, but they’ve also gone more farther to the left. My brother was somewhat supportive and sympathetic; now he’s much more adamant about his secular lifestyle — so it seems to me anyway.

    LeahL

  34. Leah Levenson
    July 10th, 2007 @ 5:44 pm

    Further thought AJ,

    It’s not the same situation as in original scenario. I can’t force someone to do something, but I can have them NOT do something, ie., if I have kosher food available — they’ll eat kosher food. If I have NO food available — they won’t eat.

    I would endeavour to explain why. You should never miss an opportunity to learn/teach something.

    Leahl

  35. belle
    July 10th, 2007 @ 6:08 pm

    Anonagirl:

    From your description, it sounds like your friend’s sister at the least has an unhealthy attitude toward her family and her past. While I support her position vis a vis the kosher food in the abstract, I cannot support the way she ostensible communicates it adn the way she cannot find it within herself to express love or interest in her sister’s life. While she doesn’t have to feign “tolerance” for something she doesn’t approve of (ie college), she also doesn’t have to voice every opinion and rub it in their faces, which is very insulting. Silence is also an option.

    I would guess she has not had much guidance from a rav experienced with BTs in how to relate to her family, and she is contributing to its destruction. It is sad.

  36. Albany Jew
    July 10th, 2007 @ 7:02 pm

    Thanks Leah! I was curious.

  37. Albany Jew
    July 10th, 2007 @ 7:07 pm

    Anonagirl,

    I just still get the impression that you are only getting one side of the story. Maybe I’m wrong but I just can’t believe she could be THAT unreasonable. Plus the fact that she is an ex-BT probably means she has negative experiences and carries them with her in her attitude with her sister.

  38. Steve Brizel
    July 10th, 2007 @ 9:56 pm

    I would suggest that you simply think of secular holidays where there is no subtext or pretext of religious observance that would overshadow a nice attempt to maintain a family relationship. IOW, think of Thanksgiving,Mother or Father’s Day as nice “parve” days to get together when everyone’s lifestyles are or should be irrelevant.

  39. anonagirl
    July 10th, 2007 @ 11:50 pm

    Well, of course I am only getting one side of the story. My friend (and she is really my best friend, other than my husband) is venting of course. She gets tired of being criticized or made to feel “less than” because she is not frum.

    BTW one of the reasons she left the Orthodox world: she went to a coed MO high school, and she and another girl were widely acknowledged as the best students at gemara, but then they were basically told that it “made the boys feel bad” that there were girls who were better at it than the boys, and gemara really wasn’t for girls anyway… so they should “pretend” they weren’t so good at it. This is a woman who *loves* learning of all kinds, and that turned her off big time so by the time she went to college, she’d left the BT world behind.

    I think her sister’s attitude towards her children really stings her. My friend’s kids are the sort that any parent, outside the religious world, would be proud of — they are polite, creative, smart, and thoughtful. People go to my friend and her husband all the time wanting to know what their “parenting secret” is. But the sister just dismisses their accomplishments.

  40. Jaded Topaz
    July 10th, 2007 @ 11:52 pm

    Dovid #17, lol do I sound like the kind of girl that practices what she preaches ? Sorry for pointing out spelling sins in polka dotted hypocrite laced english.It was the first thing I came up with when reading your critique like call for comment cutting. I should think before I blackberry comebacks especially on early morning commutes. Its harder to edit text on blackberries, but still no excuse.

    Regarding your question on stringencies, stringent is a subjective term when it comes to religion, for some hair covering after marriage is stringent for others 3 warm layers of cover is stringent.
    Using merriam webster’s definition as a basis “marked by rigor, strictness , or severity especially with regard to rule or standard” it seems like stringent would depend on what the individul considers to be initial mandatory halacha.

    Like the many common emotional side effects that are triggered by acts of extreme spiritual materialism in weather thats muggier than a mugger in winter woolens,or pick any flavor of stringency from eating only cholov yisroel to shomer negia… these acts of stringent spiritual materialism are generally marked with undertones and subtexts of the haughtyism and or related strains of holier than thou.

    Why else would someone stand the heat or discipline like that if not to be better ?
    Why would anyone become religious ? To be ummm better ……

    So the question really is, when does “better” border on and become “haughty”.

    When you teach kids that grandparents/uncles/aunts are doing stuff they shouldnt be doing then your implying that they (kids) are better then that. Results may vary but many little kids become preachers in diapers.
    Then, when they are fully trained and get older they start assuming they are just plain better and before you can say pull ups are not for grown ups, they start understanding that they are way better than the parents too. Thats where the fun usually begins.This time its the other way around though.

    Its a whole new “cast thy bread upon the water and it shall return” scenario.Only this time the bread thats resurfacing has lost its pas yisroel overly stringent status / its barely scraping moldy and high on sea weed and its comeback to packaged carefully baked better than white bread shelf life is not looking that good either.All those soggy pieces may stay soggy forever even though their pas yisroel parents tried to bake them perfectly. And shield them from those secular white bread loaf grandparents loafing around on saturdays at antique shows.And the frankly immodest frankfurter bun aunts and uncles living in the unhealthy fast lanes toasting themselves all saturday at the beach. Yeah the ferris wheel of life is not so fun when the kosher cotton candy runs out, winter sets in, kids grow up wrong and music starts playing all the wrong songs .
    And sometimes the only sound nutrition available are those tan/soggy hot dog buns, the buns that you didnt want your kids associating with cuz of their soggily immodest states.

    End of cast thy bread upon the water at the county fair metaphor……..

  41. Dovid
    July 11th, 2007 @ 7:44 am

    Thanks, JT. Wow. You’re quite the poet! :) I started to get hungry as I read your posting!

    I would think that, perhaps, those observances that you pointed out could be kept for all the wrong reasons, yes. Though most of my inner circle of friends do observe them (I couldn’t say about the 3 layers of cover), I would have to say that they don’t consider them to be stingencies. Nor do I see them as observances performed as a result of social pressures. We each choose our “uniform”, so to speak. That kosher “package” that our neshamas somehow connect to. I would venture to say that for many, including myself, we tend to follow in the pathways of our Rav. For those who choose to create their own derech without the advice of a Rav or someone who is at least in-the-know, social pressure can seem heavy and unfriendly. However, it is there for a reason, and it is a benefit to have it. Rav Miller wrote on this subject at length, and it is worth the read to gather some insights into the subject. Have a lovely day (and try to stay cool!)

  42. Menachem Lipkin
    July 11th, 2007 @ 8:04 am

    Leah,

    I see that you’re into the “tough love” approach. Not knowing your relationship with your family before or after you became and just taking your written words here at face value I can easily see how an attitude like:

    “As guests in *my* home, they WILL go by the rules.”

    Can generate a response like:

    “The bacon was an enhancement for my benefit. It was to “in your face” me.”

    Without more specifics of the scenario from Nancy we have to assume that her parents from “out of town” were staying at her house. Thus it’s possible that it wasn’t just that “they can hold off an hour or two”, it may have been breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even if just dinner, they may have been accustomed to eating at 5:00 and the fast was over after 9:00. This is just, to use your words, a fundamental lack of respect. Beyond that it may actually be a transgression of a biblical command.

    Then there is the law of unintended consequences. Following your advice of making sure “there would be no food available for them” would have caused Nancy’s parents to go out to eat. Do you think they’d go to Kosher Joe’s or Red Lobster? Is it better for Nancy’s 5 year old to see Nancy drive her parents from the house to eat shellfish or explain to her quietly that grandma and grandpa never really learned about this (minor) fast?

    What if your “my way or the highway” approach to having guests in your house causes your family to choose the “highway” and thus eat fewer Kosher meals, spend fewer “kosher” shabbatot, be exposed to fewer divrei Torah, etc.?

    You said that you “think it is fundamentally about respect, or lack thereof.” Respect is a two-way street. I just don’t see this approach engendering much respect.

  43. Bob Miller
    July 11th, 2007 @ 8:06 am

    Who am I to say what goes on in JT’s world? However, what she says is foreign to my own experiences.

  44. Charnie
    July 11th, 2007 @ 8:33 am

    Hindsight is foresight, and several points occured to me that no one here seems to have pointed out in our responses to Nancy.

    Firstly, I still hold from my original response that little kids can understand about their grandparents. I’ve seen it done first hand, not only with my own, but with my neices and nephew as well. And everyone turned out just fine, with lots of love and ultimate respect.

    OK, what Nancy never told us are some significant points.
    1) Do her parents drop by frequently, or was this a long planned visit? If it’s the former, she certainly could have asked them to refrain, but if they don’t see each other often, fahgetaboutit.
    2) Are they older people accustomed to eating at a particular time? And was this all taking place after chazot anyway? Nancy, this wasn’t Tisha B’av or Yom Kippur.

    I know I had a 3rd question, but can’t remember it right now (haven’t had enough coffee yet to wake up my brain cells).

    Leah, I hope you can encourage your brother to “chill” in the future. If the people who’d originally invited me for Shabbos come on like that, I would have walked out of the door immediately, and that might have been the end of my becoming frum, G-d forbid. Our approach has always been to ask guests, after they’ve seen the other people washing “would you like to wash?”.

    Anongirl, you are hearing one side, as we here are, but on the surface, it’s your friend’s sister who’s missing out on a lot.

  45. Bob Miller
    July 11th, 2007 @ 9:12 am

    Is “after chatzot” a consideration here at all?

  46. Menachem Lipkin
    July 11th, 2007 @ 9:18 am

    Steve,

    I think the secular holiday get-together is a good idea, but it really side-steps the main issue. Even on those days there will be issues of tznius, brachot, benching, davening, etc. This may eliminate some of the issues, but in general in raising our kids it’s something we have to deal with and in general not only do I think kids can handle but it makes them better people and Jews.

    Beyond your suggestions, I also think that Chanuka, Chol Hamoed Sukkot, and, depending on one’s interpretation of “Ad D’lo Yada”, Purim are good times to have these family members over.

  47. Leah Levenson
    July 11th, 2007 @ 2:38 pm

    Menachem,

    You may be right and you may be wrong. I’m not as mean and tough in my approach as you make it sound. I only know two things:

    1. Am I following halacha? Yes.

    2. Am I doing what I can to make sure my family does not violate halacha on my watch and in my territory? Yes.

    I know I have stood by and not partaking of their non-kosher offerings, and made them highly uncomfortable without a single word being said.

    Do you sit back and watch silently while your family (presuming they are non-observant) violates repeatedly halacha in front of you in your home? What does the Torah say about that?

    LeahL

  48. Leah Levenson
    July 11th, 2007 @ 3:04 pm

    Shalom Menachem,

    One further comment with respect to the pizza incident — it was my father’s shiva. I really didn’t have a choice to withdraw.

    You make a good point regarding your law of unintended consequences.

    LeahL

  49. I'mJewish
    July 11th, 2007 @ 3:58 pm

    “I know I have stood by and not partaking of their non-kosher offerings, and made them highly uncomfortable without a single word being said.”

    Is this a good or bad thing to make them feel highly uncomfortable, in your opinion? Has it had the desired effect of making them want to learn more about observance and halacha, or has it engendered negative feelings and in-your-face-I’ll-show-her behaviors?

  50. Albany Jew
    July 11th, 2007 @ 4:10 pm

    You gotta know when to hold ‘em (your words),
    Know when to scold them (your relatives),
    Know when to walk away,
    know when to run.

    the answer is consult your Rav!

    (I’m sincerely sorry for this post).

  51. Michalle
    July 11th, 2007 @ 4:33 pm

    Making them highly uncomfortable without saying anything sounds like a great way of associating Judaism with shame and guilt, which is unlikely to result in desirable consequences for anyone, even (especially?) yourself.

  52. Menachem Lipkin
    July 11th, 2007 @ 4:35 pm

    Leah,

    There is very little black and white halacha in this area. There are a lot of complicated issues which must always be discussed with a Rav who is specifically sensitive to BT issues.

    Are you following halacha? Given the above, not so clear.

    Are you doing what you can to make sure your family does not violate halacha on your watch in your territory? Well I have to take your word for it, but you can be sure that your approach is not bringing them an closer to not violating halacha when they are not under your scrutiny. In fact you mentioned that they’ve moved to the left. Maybe you helped nudge them in that direction?

    There is much latitude here, especially when Shalom Bayis is involved. So, yes in some circumstances and with some people it is well within halachic norms to not give rebuke, even in one’s own home.

    I’m not making you sound tough, I’m just quoting your words and frankly this statement of yours; “As guests in *my* home, they WILL go by the rules.” has worried me all day.

    I’m not going to get into the whole Chareidi issue now, but there are a subset of Chareidim in the neighborhood next to mine who are literally acting as terrorists.

    I can see a smooth progression from:

    “As guests in *my* home, they WILL go by the rules.”

    to:

    ‘As visitors in “my” neighborhood, they WILL go by the rules.”

    to:

    Yelling “Shabbos” at passing cars.

    to:

    Throwing rocks at people, buses and cars.

    I don’t imagine that you would ever do such things, but their behavior began with a fundamentalist, close-minded, black and white, my way or the highway mentality.

  53. Charnie
    July 11th, 2007 @ 4:51 pm

    Ok, Bob, I’m no Rav (or even a Rebbetzin), but yes, I think in the interest of Shalom Bayis, Chatzot is an issue. Assuming these people are older, and therefore, accustomed to eating at specific times, they would be permitted to eat after Chatzot if there are health considerations. We all know people who have been given heters from their Ravs because of health issues.

    Menachem, not that we’re voting here, but I’d definitely second all your aforementioned opinions, both to Leah and Nancy.

  54. Leah Levenson
    July 11th, 2007 @ 6:19 pm

    All,

    I have to wonder how dedicated you can truly be if you cuff my ears, and my husband’s in another thread, and anyone who tries to be Torah Jews in the face of enormous family opposition, for being SHOMER mitzvos. Emphasis on SHOMER.

    My family will, with G-d’s help, change one day. Maybe not. I won’t love them or care for them any less if they don’t.

    But I think it’s incumbent on me to WALK the TALK, not just TALK the TALK. I am GUARDING THE TORAH by my actions.

    In my humble opinion, you are directing your judgements and being highly critical of someone who is trying the best they can to do the right thing, and hopefully be a good example family whose neshomos are lost in the wilderness.

    I’ll take the blame for this. I’m obviously not explaining myself very well, and you are taking my words very literally and opining on them when there are about 1000 variables you can’t express in this medium. And you did the same to my husband, a mashgiach, in another thread.

    When are you going to stop being apologists and lightweights when it comes to your non-observant relatives????

    No one bashes anyone over the head. No one even raises issues. We just do our thing and PRAY they notice.

    My NON-OBSERVANT brother is the one that told his wife to wash that day — unprompted by either myself or my husband. We were both standing there at a loss for what to do when my sister-in-law refused to wash at our invitation (no directive or order), while her sons (my teenage nephews) and her husband (my brother) all went to wash.

    Are you getting the picture?

    No one is trying to force anyone to do anything. We are trying to follow the mitzvos as best we can and hope our families will one day follow suit.

    We are not evangelical about it. And G-d forbid we are not terrorists. WHAT A HORRIBLE ANALOGY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’m a little sick of this sitting on the sidelines and judging people. Every situation is different and every situation has to be handled differently.

    I know my family. You don’t.

    My sister tells me not to dress weird (where stockings in 90 degree whether).

    My mother tells my young nephew (currently in Israel on a birthright trip) not to come back religious.

    I keep my mouth shut.

    You should be giving us the benefit of the doubt. We are TORAH JEWS and we CHOSE TO BE THAT WAY — same as you.

    You have no idea how angry I am right now.

    LeahL

  55. Leah Levenson
    July 11th, 2007 @ 6:25 pm

    P.S.

    Is it a good thing to make them feel uncomfortable???

    Of course it is! This isn’t fun and games! We’re not playing charades!

    They should feel uncomfortable. They should know this is dead serious!

    Let ‘em have their pizza and bacon today. What about the world to come???? Do you guys not believe the stuff you espouse? Do you not have an obligation to help your families?

    LeahL

  56. Leah Levenson
    July 11th, 2007 @ 6:31 pm

    Menachem,

    - Maybe you helped nudge them in that direction? -

    Undoubtedly! The frummer we get, the longer we stay frum, the more they want to hold on to their coconut chips. Don’t you understand why they don’t want to even crack open a single sefer to find out what’s what? They don’t want to know! They don’t want to change a single scintilla of their lovely happy pizza-filled lives, and they’re worried they’ll find out something that will make them feel irrevocably guilty over it.

    I’ve had rip-roaring arguments with them over the author of the Torah.

    And I quote, “Why would I follow a bunch rules written by a bunch of little old men.”

    The ignorance is massive. And they like it like that.

    Really think about your words here.

    LeahL

  57. Ora
    July 11th, 2007 @ 6:38 pm

    Menachem–
    Your almost-neighbors may be misguided and violent, but I would never go so far as to say that they are “literally acting like terrorists.” They aren’t about to set off bombs in “regular” Beit Shemesh, chas v’chalilah.

    IMO calling someone a terrorist is this generation’s equivalant of calling them a nazi. It’s a comparison that Jews should avoid whenever possible.

    This is a great thread and it’s given me lots of thoughts, which I will hopefully express later when it’s not after 1:30AM.

  58. Ora
    July 11th, 2007 @ 6:46 pm

    Leah/About Leah

    OK one last comment before bed and I hope I won’t regret it–

    I think it’s great to debate kiruv tactics/ how to relate to family/ etc. Relating to non-frum family is one of the biggest BT issues there is. But we should really be careful about judging someone’s approach until we know details. There’s a reason that we should ask our LOCAL rabbis about these things, and not even the smartest Internet rabbi.

    Also, I don’t get the harsh criticism of Leah. She didn’t say why her family is uncomfortable with her watching them eat treif, and to me at least it doesn’t sound like she’s sitting there telling them they’re sinners. Leah, correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounded to me like they’re uncomforable simply because they feel weird eating around someone frum who they know thinks what they’re doing is wrong? If that’s the case, then for all of you who think she shouldn’t be “guilting” them, what do you think she should do? Act less frum so that they’ll feel just fine and dandy eating bacon in her presence? Seriously, what?

  59. Bob Miller
    July 11th, 2007 @ 6:56 pm

    Regarding “Menachem Lipkin July 11th, 2007 16:35 52″:

    Your slippery slope argument is bogus. Religious Jews have stood their ground about practices in their own homes for thousands of years but only a small fraction engage in street violence.

  60. Leah Levenson
    July 11th, 2007 @ 7:00 pm

    Shalom Ora,

    You are bang on re the discomfort! And it goes a little farther than that even.

    We were raised conservative, but we had separate dishes, utensils, pots, pans, etc., and the same for Pesach.

    We had Friday night Shabbos meals, and my mother always lit candles.

    We knew not to mix milk with meat.

    We had a fairly solid foundation of Jewish tradition, given that we were conservative and didn’t know all of the Aleph-Beis of halacha.

    My family KNOWS and KNEW better.

    The discomfort comes from the knowledge of doing the wrong thing, going against the way we were raised. And I happen to be the living testimony of it. And they don’t like it. And it makes them uncomfortable.

    Thank you for understanding this issue.

    Laila tov,

    LeahL

  61. Eliahu Levenson
    July 11th, 2007 @ 7:01 pm

    Shalom Menachem,

    In my home, and my home is Leah’s home, I guarantee you the guests will go by our rules. Outside of my home, and Leah’s home, I do not make this guarantee.

    Concerning this, you make an analogy using the words: “a fundamentalist, close-minded, black and white, my way or the highway mentality.”

    And then you made the comparison, using words of having rules in the home leading step by step to eventually throwing rocks at cars that drive on Shabbos.

    You were gracious enough to disclaim that this would likely not happen to my wife Leah, and I can personally guarantee this, but you still used the words, and made my wife’s incredibly caring and actively outreaching heart the subject of your words.

    You could bring your analogies to discussion without making people the subject of your analogies who would never behave in the manner you are suggesting.

    It is offensive, it removes one’s thoughts from the issues at hand, and it makes one feel they have to defend themselves from things they are not even being accused of.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I can tell you without any reservation that people here do not know any of the people I, or my wife Leah, deal with, not our families, not our friends, and not our acquaintances.

    The people here do not know US, or our history, other that the little you have read which is no more than book jacket clips of little worth in bringing a person to see the overall dimensions of what goes on in the way we conduct our lives, what we do, what we know, or what our effects on others are and have been.

    Bottom line: We, and this means all of us including myself, do not do a thoughful enough job in speaking with one another, a prerequisite to being truly effective in our desires to reach out where appropriate, in the best way, and at the right time.

    We must to do much better.

    Regards, Eliahu, Leah’s chosson.

  62. Leah Levenson
    July 11th, 2007 @ 7:10 pm

    All,

    I would ask everyone to do a small favour … go out and find the book called “Responsa from the Holocaust,” by Rabbi Ephraim Oshry (Judaica Press).

    Rabbi Oshry poskined in the Kovno ghetto in Lithuania for Jews who wanted with all their might to follow halacha, regardless of the dangers and despite the difficulties.

    The cover liner says: “… religious Jews were determined to observe, as much as this was humanly possible, the commandments and prohibitions of Jewish law.”

    Rabbi Oshry collected all of their questions and his answers in a tin can and buried it until after the war.

    Questions like, “If there is a corpse and he has on a coat, may I take the coat and wear it to keep me from freezing to death?”

    You should read this book. It is a very sobering reminder of what this is all about and why we are doing what we are doing.

    My sister-in-law’s father is not one of the ones who emerged from the war loving G-d. He hated G-d. He had been a bochur in Poland in a prestigious yeshiva when the war broke out. He was in the Warsaw ghetto and then in a camp. He left behind his entire family.

    He taught his daughter to hate G-d and the Torah too.

    Last week, they gave him a “second bar mitzvah” on his 83rd birthday, 70 years plus 13. He cried and they cried. He said it reminded him of his youth.

    For decades he refused to speak about the war. He refused to observe any of the laws and raised his children that way.

    That is what my family and my brother’s family is about.

    You can condemn me if you will. Just please read Rabbi Oshry’s book.

    LeahL

  63. Albany Jew
    July 11th, 2007 @ 7:27 pm

    Oy Vey,

    Just one point. Dealing with our non-observant families is probably one of the most sensitive and difficult issues we, as BTs, face. It is bound to bring up strong emotions and it has apparently here. Everyone has their own strategies to deal with the people we know best and G-d willing, we are guided by wise and understanding Ravs.

    Shalom to all!

  64. I'mJewish
    July 11th, 2007 @ 8:17 pm

    >>Is it a good thing to make them feel uncomfortable???
    Of course it is! This isn’t fun and games! We’re not playing charades!

    They should feel uncomfortable. They should know this is dead serious!>>

    Your strategy isn’t working, Leah, and if anything it appears to be driving them away. Making them feel uncomfortable isn’t getting them any closer to G-d, Torah, and halacha.

    Have you heard the old definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

    Have you considered an approach of just letting your happiness and contentment with what you have found radiate out from your soul, such that they can’t help but want to know what is making you so peaceful and contented?

    Because back in the days when I wasn’t observant, there was absolutely nothing that was “motivating” about being asked to do things that I (in my ignorance) thought were silly, archaic rules that my ancestors jettisoned the moment they left the shtetl. It wasn’t until those rules and lifestyle was tied to a meaningful benefit, that it became motivating.

    I wish you lots of luck in your family. I know it is not an easy task and I do not say these things to be harsh or condescending. I know you love them very much.

  65. M
    July 11th, 2007 @ 9:10 pm

    Menachem L.,

    Speaking of slippery slopes… Here is where you went off the rails:

    “I’m not going to get into the whole Chareidi issue now…”

    I hope we can all climb back up the slope and go back to respectful dialogue.

  66. Nancy
    July 11th, 2007 @ 10:07 pm

    Wow. This has sure sparked a lot of emotion. To be honest, it makes me feel better to know I am not alone, and obviously right or wrong, my feelings were justified. To answer Charnie’s questions:
    1) Do her parents drop by frequently, or was this a long planned visit? If it’s the former, she certainly could have asked them to refrain, but if they don’t see each other often, fahgetaboutit.
    My parents live about a 5 hour drive from me. They like to come in for my kids birthdays, and the 4th of July was my oldest’s. While I knew in the back of my mind there was a fast, I actually forgot about it when my parents told me when they were going to come in. In the past, just my mother has been in town on fasts days, and when she was the only one eating, I think she would just find stuff around the house, and eat it. It was never a formal thing. This visit was different because my father and sister were in town also, so we had 5 hungry people who wanted to eat dinner. In the future, I think I will be more clear and ask that meals not take place in my house. My husband, who is an ffb, was totally unfased by situation and saw nothing wrong with them eating. Interesting huh?

    2) Are they older people accustomed to eating at a particular time? And was this all taking place after chazot anyway? Nancy, this wasn’t Tisha B’av or Yom Kippur.
    My parents are only in their mid-late 50s, do not fast and it was after chatzot. In fact, I was feeling quite ill, and almost ate myself. But, if I had it would have been some water and maybe crackers… Is there a difference between that, and a full blown meal? I dont know.

    It is such a touchy situation… and so many issues were raised throughout the comments that I can relate to as well. During the same visit my sister got very mad at me because I asked her very nicely to not wear low cut shirts. Her response was “Im not going to pretend to be orthodox for you!” Such a touchy situation. I would never ask that she dress in the full garb… but hello my son was commenting on how he saw her “nurses”. It is rough, because what she wears is acceptable in society…but just by no one else my kids know. So, in the end I told her I dont care what she wears, but please let it not be low cut. Yikes.

  67. Leah Levenson
    July 11th, 2007 @ 10:10 pm

    I’m Jewish,

    Today I went out for brunch with my mother.

    Typically, I washed, made hamotzei, enjoyed my meal with her, and bentsched afterwards.

    After six years, she still sits back and watches me go through the same ritual.

    You’re right. My strategy isn’t working. Patiently waiting for one of them to say, please show me how, isn’t working.

    And you don’t get it. We should be far more aggressive than we are. We simply ask that when in Rome, you do as the Romans do (pardon the analogy).

    LeahL

  68. Jaded Topaz
    July 11th, 2007 @ 11:19 pm

    That slippery slope is region specific apparently and overtly overlooked in denial like fashion by pious tourists too bundled up in their misguided ideologies and wishful thinkings.
    The subtle art of deliberate denial = when misinformed mediums marry revisionist views and breed wholesome pollyana like ponderings and put downs.

    Can a slippery slope be fixed if everyone refuses to believe in the slippery slope phenomenon, that they exist in parts of different communities and that it is indeed slippery.Especially when the slope has multiple personality disorder and sometimes believes its actually Mt Sinai himself. And do they understand that when they cause others to fall its like placing a stumbling block and causing others to sin.
    A two for one slippery slope sinning lunch special.

    Bob Miller, why bogus ? Sad/ disconcerting/ disheartening/heartrending and not heartwarming maybe, but definitely not “bogus”.
    How would you explain riders on a bus owned by a religious bus company (not Israel)
    that berated a girl seated in a window seat in the WOMENS SECTION in the early dawn morning hours, that didnt want to give up her window seat when asked to move to another seat so an ultra religious individual did not have to sully his soul and sit next to a female.
    One bright guy piped up piously “kids these days” “your religious schooling is worth nothing” and then went back to his large volume of talmud for study.Another brighter lad, a lawyer no less clinically quippped “your just being difficult”. The bus audience was a mixed crowd from secular to ultra religious.
    The guys arguing for the girl to move were not all ultra frummies.They considered it a lack of respect for the “poor frummy” who would have stood instead of sitting next to a female.This is definitely a misguided sense of respect drunk on haughtiness and putting your pious needs in front of respect for others .

    This same girl was yelled at loudly in broken english by an irate individual who insisted that she remove herself from the front seat of the mens section, there were no other seats.
    Do you think this girl still respects religion.Is she religious even.was she ever.will she ever be.
    Please dont pretend that haughtiness gone haywire is an exception to the stringent rule.

    Derech Eretz Kadmah La-torah is not sung often enough sometimes.

    Slippery slopes do not only exist in the North Pole, near Santa’s sleigh.
    They are more common in certain climates though.

    Skiing anyone

  69. Eliahu Levenson
    July 11th, 2007 @ 11:21 pm

    Leah Dear,

    These people don’t know that your strategy isn’t working, and you don’t know if your strategy isn’t working either.

    Who can say how far removed your family would be today if you didn’t work your strategy?

    Who can say what is going to happen in the future because you worked your strategy?

    I don’t know the answers, but I can guarantee you that without your strategy your family would be different.

    Knowing your family as I do, I think you have had an impact. I’ll know better how much of an impact in 20 or 30 years, but I’ll never be able to understand the dynamic completely. There are too many other elements involved.

    We learn what we can learn and we do what we think is best…and we try to be good and considerate of one another.

    One thing we should be learning over time is how little we know. The more we learn the more we become aware of how little we know.

    May we merit to realize to ever greater degrees how little we know.

    b’Ahavah, Eliahu

  70. Kinneret
    July 11th, 2007 @ 11:59 pm

    Leah-

    While I can’t comment on the manner in which you related with your family, this is the second time you suggested the people who leave comments disagreeing with your (or your husband’s) methods are somehow not as dedicated to Torah as are you.

    I can understand why you would take issue with some of the comments, but suggesting those who disagree with you are somehow Torah-deficient is not the way to go about it.

  71. Leah Levenson
    July 12th, 2007 @ 12:17 am

    Kinneret,

    We are now in the three weeks. During this period, 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s talmidim died because they did not give proper kavod to one another.

    That is the lesson we’ve been hoping people would be learning, but somehow it doesn’t seem to be getting through.

    Thanks,

    LeahL

  72. Menachem Lipkin
    July 12th, 2007 @ 12:37 am

    You guys are probably all sleeping and I’m rushing off to Yeshiva, but I just need to write a quick note.

    Leah and Eliyahu it is clear that everything you both are doing is L’shem Shamayim. While I may disagree with your methodology, I apologize if I you feel that I was attacking you personally and I certainly don’t think for a moment that Leah is or will be a terrorist.

    More later…

  73. anonagirl
    July 12th, 2007 @ 1:26 am

    So Leah….

    What do you mean by “more aggressive”? Will you drag your mother to the wash basin and pour the water over her hands, make her repeat every word of your prayers? She is a grown woman who has made a choice to not be observant. If you have asked her to perform these rituals with you, and she has said no, you cannot make her.

    I often go to a Chinese kosher restaurant in my town. There is a wash basin for those who perform that ritual. I’ve been there many times and never have seen someone made to wash against their will (other than the occasional small child.) I have seen many large groups where some wash and some don’t, some say a bracha and some don’t, etc. but no one gets so mad about what the others are or are not doing!

    You just seem so steamed up about your relatives. And you’ve hinted that they have gotten “worse” since you became frum, which suggests that they are reacting negatively to how you are treating them.

    I am not Orthodox. I have had shabbos invites from a lot of people on the various Jewish blogs. G-d willing, I will someday be able to travel to make Shabbos with *some* of them. But not the “my way or the highway” sorts. I don’t want to go spend Shabbos with people who actively judge and criticize every “non frum” thing I do.

  74. Ora
    July 12th, 2007 @ 4:46 am

    I’mJewish–
    I don’t get what you’re recommending (to Leah). Leah’s already said that her very presence as a religious woman makes her family uncomfortable, nothing more. I don’t understand how “radiating contentment” will help (if she’s not doing that already). If her family is uncomfortable eating treif in front of a religious woman, they’ll be uncomfortable in front of a content religious woman as well.

    My family is nothing like Leah’s family. But I know plenty of Jewish families from my hometown who would be very uncomfortable if I didn’t eat their food (b/c in their minds I’m supposed to be the non-religious one, not them). The only way I could help them avoid that feeling would be to either 1) avoid them completely (b/c it’s not just treif/kosher, that was just an example) or 2) pretend that Jews blatantly violating the Torah is A-OK with me. Neither of those options is acceptable to me. Please note, I am not actually saying or doing anything to cause discomfort, I am merely avoiding saying anything like “Oh no, that’s ok! Please, enjoy your pepperoni pizza, to each their own!”

  75. Ora
    July 12th, 2007 @ 4:50 am

    Menachem–
    I realize that you weren’t calling Leah a terrorist, or implying that she was anywhere close. Ramat Beit Shemesh Beit residents don’t deserve the term either. Trust me, I am not a fan of theirs, I think their behavior is horrible and wrong and a massive hillul Hashem. But that word is just not one we should be using. I’m sorry to sound so uptight about this, and to criticize you on a public forum, b/c you seem like a very intelligent (much more so than me 99% of the time) person and I’m sure you didn’t mean it.

  76. Leah Levenson
    July 12th, 2007 @ 7:33 am

    Anongirl — Please go back and read all of my posts — with comprehension — before you attack me. No I wouldn’t do what you suggest to my mother, obviously. And no, I don’t act like you are assuming I do, based on your understanding of what I wrote. An apology would be welcome and appropriate. For the record, being “more aggressive” would be actually to SAY something to her like, “Would you like to wash?”, rather than passively sitting there doing my own thing, just as I am doing now. Part of living and loving Torah is wanting others to know that it is there for them as well. They need only ask.

    Menachem — I appreciate your qualification on your words, and certainly, we can disagree on methodology without being disagreeable. ;-D

    Ora — Your posts are very very much appreciated. I can see you completely understand where I’m coming from. Yasher koach to you!

    LeahL

  77. Leah Levenson
    July 12th, 2007 @ 7:48 am

    Anongirl,

    Also the record, I don’t see my family for months at a time (except for my mother) and my revolutionista sister. I don’t treat them negatively. They don’t move to the left because of me. They make that decision all on their own.

    If you were to go back and read the story of the handwashing re my SIL, you will see it was my brother that stepped in and told her to wash.

    If you were to go back and read the story of the handwashing re my mother, you will see that whenever I go out to a restaurant with her, I simply wash, I say hamotzei, and I bentsch. I do not say a word about it. I just do it. My point was, that in the last four years with perhaps 10 or so restaurant meals with her, she’s watched that whole process and never once asked me about it. So the passive showing happiness and my contentment with my life has done not one thing to move her towards any semblance of observance.

    I never make comment to them about a thing they do in their lives. I don’t cross my arms and tap my toes, and otherwise glare with disapproval. Not one little bit.

    But I do receive quite a lot of negative comments from my sister and my mother with respect to what *I* do, wear and say, so go figure. I don’t say anything about their lives, but they sure have no problem criticizing mine.

    Perhaps that’s why *I’ve* moved farther to the right.

    Interesting when you look at it through a different filter.

    LeahL

  78. Ora
    July 12th, 2007 @ 7:59 am

    anonagirl
    To be honest, I can definitely see where your friend’s sister is coming from. To her, kosher is not a choice, it is an absolute requirement. Imagine if she found a caterer who had been shut down by the health inspectors for 1/3 the price. Would your friend be happy if her sister then said “Well, if you insist on a legal place fine, but that’s your choice and I don’t have to pay for it”? I doubt it. I don’t expect you to agree with the analogy, but I do think that’s how it felt to the sister in question.

    As others said, this sounds like an ongoing situation. Just as your friend feels that her sister looks down on her, I’m guessing the sister feels that the friend looks down on her as “hardcore” (aka extremist, going too far, “dos,” etc), that the friend thinks her children aren’t getting decent reading material, that friend sees Torah books as “religious tracts” and apparently not really educational/mind-opening, etc, on the same level as a good secular education. And sister’s probably more than a bit frustrated to have to fight about kosher now, presumably decades after she became frum, with a sister who went to religious school. I’m guessing the issue has come up before, and if friend still suggests buying non-kosher, to the sister that probably feels deliberately provocative.

    Finally, to be honest, if my sister ends up with a bigger salary than mine, with a two-salary household to my + dh’s one salary, and with fewer children by a factor of more than 3 (and this could very easily be the situation in another 10/20 years), I would expect her to either pay more or accept that any family events will be done on my budget–aka bagels + creamcheese from the grocery store and a homemade fruit salad. If she wants catered, she’s going to have to pay for it. Fortunately, my sister is already thrilled at the fact that she’s going to be the rich one (relatively), and I don’t think she’ll mind.

    As for your friend’s other issues, I think it’s a shame that she encountered such negativity at school. On the other hand, there are bad apples in every bunch. I assume she’s willing to overlook the negative side of the secular world, which makes me think her decision was based more on her personal desire to not be religious than on anyone’s attitude.

    Mostly off topic: That same expectation that girls should dumb themselves down is still alive and well in many secular schools. I think its the coed thing. In girls/womens schools I’ve attended (secular and religious), being the first to “get it” is seen as really cool and enviable, while in the coed schools (even the really good universities) there are plenty of women who unfortunately feel the need to sound less intelligent than they are. 90% of the smart, well-educated women in my environmental science classes in a very good American school sounded like the stereotypical Valley Girl (“Um, so are you, like, saying that all countries should do, like, what Germany does with, you know, packaging materials? Because that sounds, like, really hard and stuff.”). Anyway. I am glad my daughter will do girls’ schools, I just hope we can find the right one for her when the time comes.

  79. Bob Miller
    July 12th, 2007 @ 7:59 am

    Regarding “Jaded Topaz
    July 11th, 2007 23:19″

    Thankfully, this is clear enough to critique. My comment that referred to a “slippery slope” argument was not about JT’s pet thing (frum Jews as bad neighbors) but about the connection between strictly upheld standards in the home and the street violence mentioned by Menachem Lipkin.

    Somehow, every single comment by JT comes back around to her favorite, basically anti-BT, theme.

  80. belle
    July 12th, 2007 @ 8:51 am

    I still think that Nancy’s, Anonagirl, and Leah’s common problems with their families, and mine, revolves around psychological/relationship issues and not religious ones. First of all, parents DO NOT LIKE 1) their children
    sounding/believing/implying that they know more than their parents IN ANY RESPECT. It’s just human nature (“what, does she think she knows it all when I’ve lived twice as long?!”)And this is all the more so when the child is espousing a truth-theory like Torah.
    2)Parents have a hard time letting go of their adult, and all the more so, their married children. It’s a learning curve for them. It’s just emotionally very difficult to accept that your “child” is an adult, who has the right to disagree/set her own rules in front of you.
    3) Parents can perceive neutral behaviors/statements in critical ways, esp. when the child has taken on a lifestyle very different than how he or she was raised. The lifestlye itself is a criticism/slap in the face (what, wasn’t your childhood home good enough that you need to change your home entirely?) So, when a child very nicely says, for example, “Would you like to wash?” which, even though Leah DIDN’T say that, would be perfectly polite and within reason to say, a parent may be so sensitive to the underlying feelings of rejection she perceives, she may feel it is a criticism.

    IN short, there are many unstated sensitivities that impact on how our parents react to our frumkeit.

    Therefore, most rabbonim with experience in kiruv say that a child should never try in any way to be mekareve one’s parents, even tho there is no one who cares more than the child. They always recommend setting them up with a third party: friend, rabbi, etc. for them to ask their questions to. It feels demeaning for a parent to ask their own child questions about the nature of life and truth, it is a reversal of roles. I was advised that the best we BTs can do for our families is to say that whatever enthusiasm we have for Judaism came from them, or if that cannot be true, find something that you have come to appreciate about their home and say it influenced you positively.

    Having said all this, I was advised by my rabbi and still maintain that we as adult BT’s have every right to make the rules in our own homes that impact on what our children see and hear (ie how our relatives dress) even if it makes them feel uncomfortable. I would force the issue of the low cut shirts and offer her a cover up if she wants to stay in the house. I would not in any way force them to do any ritual however.

    Do I make sense?

  81. Charnie
    July 12th, 2007 @ 9:21 am

    Wouldn’t the comments be far less interesting/amusing without JT’s fascinating usage of words?

    Leah, I’m sorry that you feel that we’re all attacking you, and certainly apologize for coming off as such. This is always a danger in reading someone else’s words. In fiction, we can put our own spin on an author’s words to enhance a story. But in writing about personal subjects, we really don’t know the tone of voice that the words were intended to convey. So, to me, and perhaps others here, you’re coming off as angry and somewhat self-righteous (a common condition suffered by many people when they’re still in the earlier stages of frumkeit). You have no idea what might be going on in your mother’s mind and heart when she sees you observing mitzvahs with sincerity, even if she herself is not doing them. As has been pointed out here before, there’s a practical reason why most kiruv is focused on reaching younger people – they’re much more flexible.

    So much of this reminds me of my dear mother’s initial reactions to my teshuva journey. She was adamant that I’d become part of a cult and that I was intolerant, not because I was telling her what to eat, but because I wouldn’t eat her cooked food anymore (later on I learned that I could easily kasher one of her burners when I’d visit, which was several times a year as she lived out-of-state from me).

    Just yesterday I had lunch with a woman I know for almost 20 years who isn’t frum – we met while pushing baby strollers many years ago. I washed etc. And then I had to defend the entire Orthodox world because her “very religious” boss had handled an employee situation in a less then compassionate way. Frankly, I’m glad that, although this friend has never moved one inch closer to frumkeit that I’m aware of, my very presence reminds her of her Jewishness. The only thing I’ve ever asked her to do is to try to make sure her college aged son doesn’t date “out”.

  82. Menachem Lipkin
    July 12th, 2007 @ 9:40 am

    Ora, Bob, and M,

    In the interests of minimizing misunderstanding and keeping this thread “on track” (as opposed to “off the rails”) I’m not going to pursue, what I see as a critical link between certain attitudes in the frum community and a growing problem of violent criminal acts committed (or threatened) against civilians by groups or persons for political or other ideological goals.

    This issue currently being discussed in two articles on Cross-Currents.

  83. Menachem Lipkin
    July 12th, 2007 @ 9:53 am

    Nancy,

    You probably deserve some kind of award for the best ratio of article size to number of comments.

    Your husband’s reaction to this is illustrative. I think that your concern about your daughter’s reaction, while understandable, reflects an insecurity that many BT’s feel in our ability to pass our self-discovered observance onto our children. For ffb’s it’s just natural.

    Often a BT’s fresh and unique outlook on Judaism is a healthy foil to the ffb’s more routine acceptance. In areas of our insecurity,however, it’s probably wise to defer to their instincts.

  84. M
    July 12th, 2007 @ 11:15 am

    Menachem L.,

    I think I may have misunderstood you when I wrote,

    “Speaking of slippery slopes… Here is where you went off the rails…I hope we can all climb back up the slope and go back to respectful dialogue.”

    I apologize for my comment.

  85. anonagirl
    July 12th, 2007 @ 11:36 am

    Leah,

    I do think I misinterpreted you, for which I apologize.

    Actually, if someone were to ask *me* if I wanted to go through the whole washing/bracha process, I’d say yes! I have done so before, and people have been very kind to me as I have stumbled through it. Very occasionally, I will even say a bracha on my own if I have a transliteration to use, and am eating kosher food. I’ve had group meals (usually for celebrating a bar/bat mitzvah or sheva brachot) and stumbled along through that, too.

    If someone does a ritual and they *don’t* ask me to join them, I usually don’t do it. But I have no idea how your mother would react if you asked her.

    Part of the problem is that I don’t know how much I need to do to make an observant Jew feel comfortable with me. My BT cousin, who I adore, has no problem with appearing in public with me wearing pants and not covering my hair, but he would have a problem with me wearing shorts or a low cut blouse. Another BT might think that what he is comfortable with is too lax. I try to guess — but at the same time I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I *am* Orthodox when I am not.

  86. Charnie
    July 12th, 2007 @ 12:07 pm

    Belle, thanks for pointing out a significant, and missing aspect of this whole discussion. In my case, my mom clearly saw my observance as a rejection of her values. Parent/child issues are highly complex in the best of situations.

  87. Kinneret
    July 12th, 2007 @ 12:14 pm

    Leah- you wrote: We are now in the three weeks. During this period, 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s talmidim died because they did not give proper kavod to one another.

    That is the lesson we’ve been hoping people would be learning, but somehow it doesn’t seem to be getting through.

    Declaring people are less dedicated to Torah than you because they disagree with something you (or your husband) wrote in this blog is not a good way to teach that lesson.

    Nancy- one of the contributors to this site is Azriela Jaffe. She wrote a very helpful book called What Do You Mean You Can’t Eat in My Home, written to help BTs smooth some of the rough patches which arise between BTs and their non-observant relatives. You might find this book helpful; it’s been recommended by other Beyond BT-ers.

  88. Leah Levenson
    July 12th, 2007 @ 12:56 pm

    Shalom anongirl,

    Apology accepted unequivocally, and I apologize for my extremely thin skin. I understand much better where you are coming from too, having read this post, so thank you for sharing.

    I’d like to respond to comments in your post:

    Anon: Actually, if someone were to ask *me* if I wanted to go through the whole washing/bracha process, I’d say yes!

    Leah: Such a wonderful attitude! You are open to learning, and that’s all I think most of us would want to see.

    Anon: I have done so before, and people have been very kind to me as I have stumbled through it.

    Leah: Oh sweetie, we’ve ALL stumbled through it. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, or why, for the longest time, just that I was mortified and embarrassed that I was doing it all wrong. To this day, I will say a brocha very quietly — even whispered to myself — for fear of saying something wrong. It isn’t that I don’t know, but it’s the brain lurch I mentioned in another thread. Call it performance anxiety. We just have to pick up our socks and keeping going.

    Anon: Very occasionally, I will even say a bracha on my own if I have a transliteration to use, and am eating kosher food.

    Leah: How beautiful that is. Every step is something to take great joy in. For each and every one of us, it was a step into the unknown. I used to think of it as taking a step at cliff, without having any clue how far it is down to the bottom and not knowing if there was a safety net there to catch you. It’s SCARY!

    Anon: I’ve had group meals (usually for celebrating a bar/bat mitzvah or sheva brachot) and stumbled along through that, too.

    Leah: Listen, one day, when you become as imperfect as me, you’ll know much you’ve accomplished just to get there! ;-D

    Anon: If someone does a ritual and they *don’t* ask me to join them, I usually don’t do it. But I have no idea how your mother would react if you asked her.

    Leah: (Re my mother, I don’t know. Maybe I should try next time!) I used to watch the ladies get up to daven mincha long before I had learned to daven mincha, and I felt so inadequate. They never said, Leah, come daven mincha. I just started it on my own one day, WHEN I WAS READY. Maybe it’s because I’m competitive, but I just didn’t want to be left behind, and I didn’t want to be seen as not knowing. So I learned — the hard way — on my own. It was exceedingly hard, and I stumbled over it incessantly til I finally got a handle on it. I still make bloopers. ’tis human. I’m reading in a foreign language. ;-D

    Anon: Part of the problem is that I don’t know how much I need to do to make an observant Jew feel comfortable with me.

    Leah: I’m so sorry that you have the feeling that you have to make them feel comfortable, and I apologize if I contributed to that. I think the key is YOU ARE TRYING, whereas my family has no interest whatsoever. No one can fault you for trying. You have to start somewhere…we all did.

    Anon: My BT cousin, who I adore, has no problem with appearing in public with me wearing pants and not covering my hair, but he would have a problem with me wearing shorts or a low cut blouse. Another BT might think that what he is comfortable with is too lax. I try to guess — but at the same time I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I *am* Orthodox when I am not.

    Leah: May I suggest you ask them about it? I feel guilty if I let a little too much hair peek through my hat, but it’s my hair and it’s my issue and it isn’t for anyone to take up but me. As I said in another thread, we have nothing to be ashamed of except two things: giving up and not trying at all.

    Anongirl, yasher koach, you are doing great! Why? Because whether you realize it or not, you are on your way.

    Remember when you were learning to drive a car? Remember the first little while where you felt like you were not really in control and that the car was driving you? And remember that point where you knew you finally were in control and that you were driving the car? It’s a little like that. One day, you’ll realize *you’ve got it* and that it’s really all about improving on it.

    I’m so happy you posted this.

    LeahL

  89. I'mJewish
    July 12th, 2007 @ 1:35 pm

    “Leah: (Re my mother, I don’t know. Maybe I should try next time!) I used to watch the ladies get up to daven mincha long before I had learned to daven mincha, and I felt so inadequate. They never said, Leah, come daven mincha. I just started it on my own one day, WHEN I WAS READY.”

    Maybe your mother (or the rest of your family) isn’t ready either. And just as you couldn’t be rushed but you had to discover things on your own timetable, perhaps they do too. Just a thought – not a dig in any way.

  90. Leah Levenson
    July 12th, 2007 @ 1:36 pm

    Last word on this to you Kinneret:

    If you can show me how I was “declaring people are less dedicated to Torah than you because they disagree with something you (or your husband) wrote in this blog is not a good way to teach that lesson,” I will happily apologize.

    Otherwise, you are simply twisting my words.

    Thanks,

    LeahL

  91. Leah Levenson
    July 12th, 2007 @ 1:37 pm

    I’m Jewish,

    Maybe or maybe not. I know what they say to me. They say I’m crazy, joined a cult and never would live their lives the way I do.

    I think it’s safe to say they’re not only not ready, they aren’t interested.

    But heck, what do I know?

    Thanks,

    LeahL

  92. Leah Levenson
    July 12th, 2007 @ 2:10 pm

    Charnie,

    I just saw your post #81 now, and I’ll respond to a few things.

    Charnie: So, to me, and perhaps others here, you’re coming off as angry and somewhat self-righteous (a common condition suffered by many people when they’re still in the earlier stages of frumkeit).

    Leah: I said I was angry very early on in this thread and a number of times on the thread involving my husband, because it doesn’t sit well to keep being told “you’re doing it wrong.” I much prefer the posts that say, “one size doesn’t fit all.” Self-righteous? Okay, maybe. I do know I react very negatively to the pretty tough communication that has gone on in this and my husband’s thread. I can take responsibility for my own reactions. I’m very disappointed that a few others aren’t being introspective enough to see how their posts come across to me.

    As for self-righteousness regarding my frumkeit, well, yanno, I do get self-righteous when I look around and see people with their backs turned to the open Aron and yakking away during laining. I do get self-righteous when I see that ahavas Ysroel seems to be a lost art. I didn’t go into this to become an expert tiddly winks player. I bought the whole concept of Klal Ysroel hook, line and sinker. Small wonder that I’m crushingly disappointed at the way we treat each other and to find we are can be just as hard and mean as the non-frum world.

    Charnie: You have no idea what might be going on in your mother’s mind and heart when she sees you observing mitzvahs with sincerity, even if she herself is not doing them.

    Leah: I have a very good idea of what she thinks as a rule, since she doesn’t mince words ever. Right now, at this point in time, she is not interested, makes faces when I do something overtly “frummy,” etc. etc. If I said to my mom, “Hey, I was just JOKING. Let’s go to RED LOBSTER!,” she’d be ecstatic.

    The root of it all is that I changed from what I was. I became something completely different from what I was, what they knew me as, and what they are. I’ve become a strange and foreign entity. They don’t like it. Heck, in their shoes, I wouldn’t like it either.

    But they shouldn’t condemn me for it, nor should they condemn something they know nothing about.

    And from where I sit, I have an obligation to at least let them see it up close and personal.

    Now, because I’ve come across so negatively to what seems like quite a number of you, I’m going to bow out from the thread. I’ve said all I can say, and you guys can only tell me so many times how wrong I am before I get the hint.

    Shalom and be well,

    LeahL

  93. Kinneret
    July 12th, 2007 @ 2:43 pm

    Leah: I was referring specifically to this statement: I have to wonder how dedicated you can truly be if you cuff my ears, and my husband’s in another thread, and anyone who tries to be Torah Jews in the face of enormous family opposition, for being SHOMER mitzvos. Emphasis on SHOMER.

    This calls into question the dedication of anyone who takes issue with your kiruv methods (no one has taken issue with anyone for being Torah Jews/shomer mitzvos, btw).

    Additionally, in the comment thread of the article written by your husband, you expressed your surprise anyone would take issue with your husband’s methods by saying: Maybe I misunderstood the audience here, but I thought we were all BTs who embraced Torah values…, implying those who disagreed with your husband’s methods weren’t BTs who embraced Torah values.

    Perhaps you didn’t mean for these comments to sound that way, but as written, they do. In fact, when I read your comment in the thread on your husband’s article, I assumed you hadn’t meant for it to sound the way it did. After the second comment, I’m not so sure. As I said, I understand why you would take issue with some of the comments, especially as family relationships are such very personal matters, but questioning the dedication of others to Torah is not an appropriate way to do it.

  94. Leah Levenson
    July 12th, 2007 @ 2:57 pm

    Kinneret,

    I apologize.

    Shalom and be well.

    LeahL

  95. Mark
    July 12th, 2007 @ 4:01 pm

    Thread highlights.

    - Almost every BT has to resolve conflicts with their parents, it is a normal process.

    - Obviously every parent and every situation is different, but it does need to be pointed out.

    - There is an emotional factor of rejection that the parent often feels when the BT chooses a (radically) different lifestyle.

    - There is also an implicit (and sometimes explicit) statement that what I’m doing is right and what you’re doing is wrong.

    - One general approach is to be as accommodating and accepting as possible and over the long term expose the relatives to the depth and beauty of Torah.

    - Another approach is to encourage mitzvos observance (positive and negative) whenever possible in a reasonable manner.

    - We generally should set the rules in on our own houses, but we should consider which rules to set and how to gently enforce them.

    - When our children are negatively effected by non-Torah behaviors we have to weigh that factor in heavily.

    - We need to internalize the truth that our non observant relatives are good people and impart that understanding to our children. Non-observance is generally due to a lack of knowledge in our generation.

    - If we focus on growing together, perhaps there will be less conflicts (oops, thats from the next Mussar post).

  96. MG
    July 12th, 2007 @ 6:44 pm

    Regarding Mark’s summary of the highlights (95), I would add:

    -BT conflicts with parents can be shalom bayis issues and a rav should be consulted.

  97. Philky001
    July 12th, 2007 @ 7:12 pm

    HI I have found this thread to be very moving and emotional for me in many ways.

    There is one point that I would like to add, I think it might help in your thinking about non-frum relatives in general.

    Many posts and ideas have been said here that
    we consider the non frum that they have not learnt about Mitzvos, that is why they eat on a Fast day, etc.

    This may be true in some cases, but on another level, many people have studies and thought alot about this issue and they believe that
    Frumkeit is mostly wrong, and anachronistic, that the laws were given by Man, and/or that they were needed in the past, for example, Kashrus was needed for hygienic reasons, women were not given roles in Shule because they did not know/study; now they do, etc.
    In many cases the non – frum are very srupulous about personal honesty in a way that we could learn from as well, and also in other areas.

    It can be a problem when 2 different belief systems collide, from both perspectives, each thinks that the other is very wrong.

    I like the approach that does respect everyone for their particular good qualities and beliefs, rather than having a superior outlook.

    The fear of children growing up to be not frum is a concern, but I think it happens more from friends who influence rather than from family members.

    Hatlacha,
    Phil

  98. David Linn
    July 12th, 2007 @ 11:41 pm

    Regarding Mark’s summary, we can’t forget:

    You gotta know when to hold ‘em (your words),Know when to scold them (your relatives),Know when to walk away,know when to run.
    the answer is consult your Rav!

  99. Tzvi
    July 13th, 2007 @ 12:28 am

    regarding post 55

    “Is it a good thing to make them feel uncomfortable??? Of course it is! This isn’t fun and games!”

    All agree that they _should_ feel uncomfortable, but YOU aren’t going to make them feel uncomfortable. v’ha’reia — they ordered bacon. If they felt uncomfortable, they would have tried to be respectful, but this would only happen if they were to stand in the presence of someone who they respect (e.g. someone they percieve to have authority in religious matters), and not a BT and/or close family member who is not looked at this way. YOU need to chill out, remind yourself that they have Jewish neshamas, and love them for, as the saying goes, “who they are”.

  100. Bob Miller
    July 13th, 2007 @ 8:17 am

    Mark said (July 12th, 2007 16:01),

    “We need to internalize the truth that our non observant relatives are good people and impart that understanding to our children. Non-observance is generally due to a lack of knowledge in our generation.”

    We can generalize like this, but every situation really is different.

    In some cases, one or more of these are the facts:

    1. Today, the non-frum relative is not a good person, the pintele Yid notwithstanding.
    2. The non-frum relative really does know about key mitzvot but passionately opposes religion in general or Torah Judaism and interprets all inputs and facts in that light.
    3. The frum person is overbearing or annoying, making the relative more resistant to change.
    4. The frum person has a shallow understanding of what he/she is talking about.
    5. The frum or non-frum person is mainly interested in imposing his/her will on the other.

    David Linn’s point (July 12th, 2007 23:41) is well taken, showing that country music can be transformed into a vehicle (a pickup truck with gun rack?) for teshuva.

  101. Albany Jew
    July 13th, 2007 @ 8:42 am

    Thanks David,

    People generally ignore it when I try to put some levity (and pop-culture from the old life) into a heated discussion, but I refuse to stop. We are a stiff-necked people.

  102. Charnie
    July 13th, 2007 @ 9:10 am

    And remember the biggest, most important word that summarizes this entire thread – tolerance! Even when, in response to hearing a D’var Torah about the Parsha, one’s mother says “isn’t that all fairy tales”. But eventually (sorry for being redundant here), my beloved mom saw the light of Torah through her grandchildren’s eyes. And my FIL became a genuine BT himself, inspired by his children.

    Thanks Admins for the Mussar, both delivered in your unique styles.

    Everyone, have a Gut Shabbos, see ya in Passaic I”H.

  103. David Linn
    July 13th, 2007 @ 10:14 am

    Bob:

    When you said:

    David Linn’s point (July 12th, 2007 23:41) is well taken, showing that country music can be transformed into a vehicle (a pickup truck with gun rack?) for teshuva.

    I was reminded of my brother’s response when someone complimented the first “Jewish” song he wrote, he said:

    It’s really H’s song, I’m just a truck driver.

  104. Bob Miller
    July 13th, 2007 @ 10:20 am

    I wonder if anyone could turn “Six Days on the Road” into a lesson about Shabbos. My favorite recorded version was done by Taj Mahal.

  105. David Linn
    July 13th, 2007 @ 11:04 am

    Oy, Boy, you’re such a BT! :)

  106. Bob Miller
    July 13th, 2007 @ 11:37 am

    Thank you David, I think.

    When I was a soph, the campus radio station had some kind of call-in contest and I won Taj Mahal’s first album. On a later album, he and his band did a blazing, bluesy version of this Dave Dudley song. Since you are a worthy BT, too, you can listen here

  107. Mark
    July 13th, 2007 @ 11:45 am

    Bob

    I’m going to have to disagree with you, I think knowledge is the key. When I say knowledge I’m talking about crystal clear internalized knowledge. This is a problem we all have, as Chazal say “A person does not sin until a spirit of insanity enters him (Sotah 3a).” Insanity is a lack of clarity and/or knowledge.

    I just spent a good some time dialoguing with some skeptical ex BTs recently and it has became clear that on the continuum of faith to belief to knowledge, we need to continually work on changing our beliefs about Torah into knowledge. With this deeper knowledge we will more consistenly act in line with the Torah.

    When we realize that we ourselves have knowledge deficiencies we will be able to accept and learn together with our fellow knowledge-deficient co-religionists. Why not become better Jews together?

  108. Bob Miller
    July 13th, 2007 @ 11:51 am

    Mark,

    Yes, knowledge really is the key. You could say that anyone who has enough of the right knowledge of Judaism is Orthodox and anyone else is something else, and that everbody at every level has more to learn.

    However, there are barriers to learning that need to be taken into account by people who want to influence others. Not every person has what it takes to influence every other person.

  109. Charnie
    July 13th, 2007 @ 12:06 pm

    Did anyone else notice this irony that this post came immediately following Michael Gros’ post “Planting a Seed”? It could almost serve as a summary to this entire discourse – basically, that there’s as “Pintele Yid” within every Jewish neshoma.

    You guys are so lucky (just ask my kids) that I don’t start quoting songs… Maybe you’ve been spared because the writen word doesn’t set off the same associations as spoken words.

  110. Mark
    July 13th, 2007 @ 12:10 pm

    Bob

    I totally agree that not every person has what it takes to influence every other person. It’s quite an understatement.

    My point about knowledge was in the context of seeing others positively, and viewing there lack of observance as significantly being influenced by their lack of knowledge in the broader sense of the word.

  111. Bob Miller
    July 13th, 2007 @ 12:20 pm

    Don’t tell anybody, Mark, but we agree on this whole issue. I was just pointing out some especially frustrating situations that can exist.

  112. Jaded Topaz
    July 13th, 2007 @ 2:11 pm

    Bob Miller – regarding your unmoderated comment #79
    I’m happy to read that my comments are (thank the good lord )clear enough for knocking.
    I was kind of worried about the recent decline in Bob Miller knockings on my “knockings and comebacks” comment report for June of 07. I almost began missing them, i’ve been Bob Miller knocked since way back like last year and even had the privilege of you knocking on my one and only real post’s very own thread.
    (yeah i’ve learnt alot too sometimes and thank you, but thats not the point of this particular comeback)

    I’m sure you’ve heard of the age old adage “dont judge your fellow blog thread hoggers until youve threaded along in their space”.Being that my space changes according to the seasons the weather and glitter sparke availability, im not so sure that “been in her space” is a reasonable claim or objective for anyone whining /opining with pins and or pining to judge jaded topaz’s comments.

    Cusa tip cutting / precise/ succint /conscise Bob Miller comebacking notwithstanding(have you ever considered becoming a neurosurgeon?),and as a neuroscience lover, I can appreciate your points, its just that when they cut my comments that dont need cutting its harder to appreciate.

    And a newly acquired taste for judging others favorably has started overriding my knee jerk comment reactions always readily available in jerky english.

    I would love it if you would join me in this noble effort of making mint julep, judging favorably flavored/ knock free jubilant jello shots out of judgingly flavored and condescendingly laced/ knocking/ jerking jello .
    It could work nicely for sabbath kiddushing too.

    Its ok to disagree with a concept or opine with pins or whine about happenings and other opinions like mine. But please dont go throwing wet woolen blankets that are mothbitten with untruths and false themes/claims,onto my comments or beliefs or even my way dealing with stuff for material comment image change.

  113. Bob Miller
    July 13th, 2007 @ 3:33 pm

    One time I was working in a Quality Control role and stamped the paperwork for a defective production lot of material as rejected. The manufacturing manager was not pleased; he swiped my rubber stamp and re-stamped the document. “Fred ” I asked, “what are you doing?” Fred replied triumphantly that he had rejected my rejection. Didn’t work though. The goods were substandard and couldn’t ship.

  114. Ora
    July 19th, 2007 @ 4:20 am

    Bob’s comment in #100 is exactly what I thought at the beginning of this thread. It’s easy to say “oh, they just didnt’ learn,” but the truth is, a lot of times non-frum relatives did have a chance to learn, at least enough to do more than they’re doing. Also, as Bob said, some people do things that are just bad.

    We can tell ourselves that they just didn’t fully internalize the knowledge, but that explanation is a bit esoteric for my taste, and I don’t think it would be very easy to explain to a young child.

    I think my favorite explanation from this thread has been from Albany Jew (#9). If a non-frum relative really does know better, maybe it’s easiest to say “Well yes, sweetie, Uncle J shouldn’t be driving on Shabbat, but nobody gets everything right. Uncle J isn’t so good at keeping Shabbat sometimes, but he’s very generous. (etc, etc)”

    However, sometimes it’s hard to think of a mitzva that the person is doing well. So maybe I would explain it as “It’s very hard for so-and-so to keep kosher because of …. He should be keeping kosher, but we have to realize it’s a very big nisayon. It’s not like for us, we’re lucky that keeping kosher is very easy here.” Or something like that.

    The thing is, I understand/accept that some very good family members who have a very strong Jewish identity and desire to be “good Jews” sometimes don’t keep fairly major things, but I usually know a lot of the circumstances behind it. Those circumstances would be very difficult to explain to a child, and in most cases it would be inappropriate for me to explain them to my children. For example, I can’t exactly say “Yes, it would be nice if aunt so-and-so wore more tznua clothes, but the thing is, she’s desperately seeking male attention as a way to compensate for her depression and low self-esteem.” Even if it’s true.

    And if a non-frum, or outwardly frum, relative is doing things that are truly awful, I would just say “well, Hashem gives us the freedom to choose, and unfortunately uncle T chose to be a bad person for now.” Because if the person is really acting badly, I’m not going to try to convince my kids to think well of him (/her). I’m going to be keeping my kids away from the bad relatives as much as I can, so I’m not worried about straining the relationship.

  115. Aharon Moshe
    July 19th, 2007 @ 10:39 am

    Response for advice request to Nancy.

    Nancy I read your piece “Dealing With Children and Non-Observant Parents” and I have a surprisingly simple response for you. You may have grown up hearing it “My house my rules!”

    Your words express the moral dilema most accurately the:

    “situation just feels so wrong”…”I feel angry trying to explain to my 5 year old”

    The issues you are having is not that your Parents and sister are not frum (that is a given which you already knew before they came to visit)and are not properly observing the 17th of tammuz, the issue is that you are frum and have allowed them to eat in your home on this day.

    I suppose someone could easily state that they feel honoring your parents trumps “it’s my home my rules” but if you consider that you are charged with the responsibility of raising your 5 yr old child, I would think you might agree that for the future, my advice is good advice.

    I would also state that while you welcome visitors especially family, that they will have to abide by your restrictions regarding the halachic standards which you abide by for the Yom Tovim, as well as shabbos.

    As a recent Baal Teshuva (BT2) I face ongoing issues with Kosher food and shabbos observance when my dauhter and I enter a secular jew’s home. However I truly believe that in one’s own household one needs to assert that food and other halachic observance will be adhered to according to your standards.

    PS: My jaw nearly dropped in dis-belief when I saw someone be attccked for spelling of all things,(yes I do sometimes do mispell words) what’s next punctuation and grammar? Also typos do occur as well come on, we have so much here that can be discussed why pick on a person’s spelling?

    Aharon Moshe S.
    Passaic NJ

  116. Albany Jew
    July 19th, 2007 @ 11:40 am

    Aharon Moshe,

    As you can see throughout this thread, the answer is not always that simple in all cases. “My house my rules!” (especially to those parents or siblings who have to travel to visit) could be a good way of saying “get out of my life forever!”, which you may not want to happen. Once again I say “ask your Rav for guidance!”

  117. Jaded Topaz
    July 19th, 2007 @ 12:55 pm

    Ahron moshe , please don’t drop your jaw or “attcck” others in disbelief over spelling sin discussing.
    If you paste everything neatly back into context it was just a friendly comeback in sarcastic like irony. Which was later apologized for. Please update your records accordingly.

    Also derech eretz kadmah latorah so respect for older people like parents aunts and uncles come before worrying about a kids halacha education.
    I’m definitely not one to talk about respecting elders and I don’t have kids but one would think that that kind of stuff comes way way before worrying about if a kid will have the right hashkafah on a minor fast day no even fasts on that day nowadays.whatever.

  118. Charnie
    July 19th, 2007 @ 1:09 pm

    Bottom line, as is often the case, there isn’t one good answer; a lot depends on various circumstances.

    Using Ora’s comment (#114) for instance, what if someone knows that the non-frum person in question really doesn’t know better. I’d unequivocally take that position with regards to my own mother, who came from a Reform home herself. And I’d never, except when talking about an outright rasha, refer to a person as “bad”. What they’re doing might be bad, but they themselves should not be construed as evil. It’s a lot like when our kids misbehave, we don’t tell them “you’re bad”, but rather “what you’re doing is bad”.

    Which is why (and we can’t emphasize this enough times, especially for those of you who are more newly frum) – find a Rav who is sensitive to where you’ve come from! Having not become frum through any particular kiruv organization, I’ve been lucky to have had the advice of wonderful Rebbeim. Shouldn’t a kiruv organization make sure that before they “release” someone back out there from yeshiva, or wherever, that they’ve either found a Rav in their community, or at least make sure they stay in touch with their kiruv Rebbeim to answer their questions?

    Re typos, I’m sure I could win the award for “most in this blog”. I’m a dreadful proofreader.

  119. Joshua Josephs
    July 22nd, 2007 @ 1:20 am

    I think that it is important to be extremely cautious when telling ones children that their relatives simply do not know any better or did not have the opportunity to learn. If that is in fact true then there is less danger, but far too often I have heard of such things getting back to the relatives who are rather insulted to be thought of in such ways. Far better, I think to have frank discussions with both a Rabbi and your family members before their arrival to try and plan for how to deal with such situations. This is a particular issue when the family member does have some Jewish knowledge. Above all the line here involves complex halachik issues and in all cases a LOR should be consulted especially if one is available with an expert in Kiruv.

  120. Charnie
    July 23rd, 2007 @ 8:49 am

    Joshua, going back to Nancy’s original post, it sounded to me (and certainly, I may be wrong, since I wasn’t there), that the eating took place sort of spontaneously. Given Nancy’s feelings, I doubt that she prepared a meal for them and set it out. Much more likely, they helped themselves to something.

    We often only have our own personal experiences as resources. In our case the explanation that my mother really didn’t know anything about halacha was fine. By the time her grandchildren had entered the picture, I believe she’d realized I had’t joined a cult. My in-laws, were B”H, BT’s themselves, inspired by my husband :)

  121. Yelena
    July 31st, 2007 @ 4:26 pm

    The best piece of advice I got from our Rav was “every time you do or say something think whether it will create a Kiddush Hashem or Chillul Hashem.”

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