It Takes a Village – Part 1

When I attend a wedding, Bar Mitzvah, or other simcha in the frum Jewish community, I am more than a guest. I am a researcher. I study all the details, always poignantly aware that I have no sister, mother, or Bubbe to guide me down the path of planning a simcha. While I look forward to these milestone events in our family’s future, B’ezras Hashem, they also terrify me. How will I know what to do? Even more importantly, what not to do? There are so many rules, so many accepted norms. I have no history dotted with family simchas to look back on, and no relatives to call with an urgent, “Is this the way to do it?” question. For this wisdom, I am counting on my friends and community. They will light the way for me, as if I am an orphan taken under their wing.

Hilary Rodham Clinton first coined the infamous expression: “It takes a village to raise a child.” For Robin Black, a bala’as teshuvah adult, it took a frum community to get her to the chuppah, and no less than 100 people were actively involved in setting Robin and her now husband, Dan, on the frum derech of chassan and kallah.

Robin relates how the frum community, (and too many special mentors to count), was instrumental in her journey:

When I looked around the wedding hall after the chuppah, the first thing I thought was, ‘all of these people got me here!

“I was living in Somerset NJ, and Hashem placed me in, of all things, a Masters in Speech Therapy program (where just a few frum students were attending!). I was Jewish, but not the least bit observant, married to a secular Jew, and the mother of a baby boy. I met my very special friend, Hadassa P. who was also a student in the program, an observant Jew from Monsey. I’m a very curious person by nature, and I started asking Hadassa random questions like, ‘why do you wear skirts all the time?’, and ‘why, during Chol Hamoed, Sukkos were there so many girls in the class who wouldn’t write?’ Then one day, she and I were in the bathroom at the end of the school day together and I saw her stop for a moment, mumble something to herself, and keep walking. I asked her if she was okay and she told me about Asher Yatzar. I was totally fascinated. Hadassa recommended that we became Partners in Torah, learning over the phone each week, and I very enthusiastically said, “Yes!”

“That was in February of 2004. I never stopped asking her questions, and I started my journey with one small step – I decided to take one hour out on Friday nights away from watching television! By July 2005, I had given up pork and shellfish and eating milk and meat together. And then, in August of 2005, my marriage fell apart. I didn’t want to be home on the weekend with my soon to be ex-husband, so Hadassa invited me to her house for Shabbos, and the next two Shabbosim, and by then I decided that Shabbos observance was a practice I wanted to keep.

“This is when the frum community really sprang into action. There were nine frum girls in my class, and I rotated between all of their houses and even their parents’ houses, never missing a Shabbos, and then the clocks changed and I had a problem. I was working in an internship and couldn’t get to Passaic, Brooklyn, or Lakewood before Shabbos began. This so-called problem was gam zu letovah.

“My friend, Hadassa was a mentor at Moodus, (now known as Sinai Retreats) which is a summertime kiruv program located near Lake George, NY for college students and professionals. She knew Rabbi Drucker, Rav of Agudath Israel of Highland Park, NJ from this program, and I called him on her recommendation. He set me up with the Feuers of Highland Park for Shabbos. The Feuers are pillars of the community, and my community rapidly started expanding. Zehava introduced me to many of her friends, who were very welcoming, so then I started rotating Shabbosim in Highland Park amongst her friends. When Zehava went to the country in the summer, she introduced me to Rikki Samel, a phenomenal sheitle machor in town who knows just about everyone. Rikki introduced me to a whole new set of friends, and then I met Adina Pruzansky, another well-connected member of the community and Adina introduced me to everyone she knew. My circle got wider, and wider, until it seems as if I was meeting, and eating by just about every frum family in Highland Park/Edison, NJ! How could I not commit to becoming a fully Shomer-Shabbos observant Jew with all of these wonderful people inspiring me?

“Chol Haomed Pesach of 2007, my divorce was final and I moved to my own apartment in Highland Park. The community did not rest until I met my bashert, Dan Black on December 4, 2007, and then we needed help with absolutely everything related to getting married, from planning a vort, to a wedding shower, to a wedding, to sheva brachas.

“My mother finally understood what I love so much about being frum, when she saw the love that the community poured all over Dan and me. One moment I will never forget: Under the chuppah, Rikki Samel saw that my mother was standing alone. She left her seat and went to stand next to my mother, to explain to her everything that was happening under the chuppah. Zehava Feuer, Hadassa, and a large group of women undertook every detail of my wedding day and Sheva Brachas – all Dan and I had to do is show up! When I looked around the wedding hall after the chuppah, the first thing I thought was, ‘all of these people got me here!

“Dan and me and my son, Zach now live in Highland Park as full-fledge frum members of the community. Dan has been as welcomed as much as I was. The community arranged for him to have the right seat in shul. The community helped offer guidance about my son’s educational choices, and they continue to feed us. We’ve been married for six months and I have yet to make a Shabbos lunch!”

Being a mentor doesn’t just involve the fun stuff. Making a shiva visit to an observant friend who is sitting together with non-observant family members is also a great opportunity to make a Kiddush Hashem. – and to help mend fences. (Rabbi Eli Gewirtz)

Robin’s story does not at all surprise Rabbi Eli Gewirtz, Founder and National Director of Partners in Torah, since 1993. Partners in Torah matches Jewish men and women who have an interest in Judaism but who lack the necessary foundation with a carefully selected frum mentor, for up to an hour a week of in-person or over-the-phone study and camaraderie. Their goal is to provide unaffiliated Jews with a personal connection to Judaism and to offer them the support or the space to decide how they want to incorporate their knowledge into practice. With13,000+ weekly participants now in action, and 30,000 Jewish adults from over 1,100 cities who have participated, not a week, or even a day, goes by without Rabbi Gewirtz hearing of a mentor’s involvement in their partner’s life in an expanded way beyond the hour-long commitment of Torah study. Rabbi Gewirtz explains:
“The needs of people who have become observant are quite different than those of a person in the learning process. Very often, it’s not a question of whether they should do this or that but ‘how am I going to manage?” FFB’s sometimes don’t understand the anxiety of coping, for example, with Pesach preparations or the psychological pain of spending Yom Tov alone. To say, “it’s not easy” to have no family to go to for Yom Tov is the understatement of the year. But worse than that is the situation where people who were falling all over them to invite them for Shabbos and Yom Tov before they became observant , now almost forget that they exist. It’s always a good idea to check in with baalei teshuva to make sure they’ve gotten their Yom Tov plans taken care of.

“More often than not, mentors get very involved with their Torah partners; some for many years after their formal learning comes to a close. Many treat their partners as extended family members – whether or not the person has become fully observant. I’ve been to numerous weddings, Sheva Brachos and Bar Mitzvos where I was introduced to a family member’s Torah partner who traveled a long distance to be at their mentor’s simcha. It’s a special thrill to see partners standing together in a family picture. I’ve actually been to a few “re-do” weddings (where they were previously married but not k’din) that were fully arranged by the mentor. One such wedding took place recently in Lakewood at the home of Avi and Tzippy Braude. Everything from the flowers, to the chuppah, to the music, to the meal was as elegant as it would have been in the fanciest hall. The whole community got involved. When partners go beyond the call of duty like this, it goes a long way in reassuring their previously non-observant partner that their mentor is their lifelong friend and that they have a community they can call ‘home’.

Rabbi Gewirtz continues with this warning: “A mentor’s involvement is undeniably essential with a simcha involving non-observant family, but it’s essential to be tuned in to the family dynamics. Family members may sometimes welcome your involvement; at other times it may be best to stay in the background. Adjusting to a daughter’s or brother’s newly observant lifestyle isn’t always easy. As strange it may sound, a wedding for some family members can be viewed as a tragedy. A wedding can as easily be seen as gaining a new son-in-law as it can be seen as losing a daughter. It’s incredibly important to be sensitive to this. The last thing they want is an outsider acting as if it’s their simcha.

“When it’s done well, the mentor meets the family, is introduced as a close friend, and expresses pleasure to meet the people he/she has heard so much about. The mentor might say: ‘I don’t know if you’ve previously been to an Orthodox wedding but there are many customs you may be unfamiliar with. If you’d like, I can go through the ceremony with you.’ The mentor may show them their own wedding pictures so that they can really get a feel for what to expect. This is almost always appreciated, but it’s important to first ask if they want or need your help.

Being a mentor doesn’t just involve the fun stuff. Making a shiva visit to an observant friend who is sitting together with non-observant family members is also a great opportunity to make a Kiddush Hashem. – and to help mend fences. Resentments sometimes felt by parents or siblings can melt away while people are grieving and experiencing life from a different lens.

“Explaining the Jewish approach to mourning and some of the minhagim is one way to help. In fact, Partners in Torah just launched a new website www.mykaddish.com to help such people acquire a deeper understanding of the Jewish way of mourning. Physically being there however, and getting them to talk about the niftar is even more important, and can permanently alter long-held resentment. In general, when the family sees that the mentor really cares, and that he or she is not trying to impose his or her halachos on the non observant family, their involvement is usually gratefully welcomed.”

Rabbi Gewirtz’s words ring true to me. Over the last seven years, I have learned with two partners in Torah mentors. Although I will always give PIT the credit for making the shidduch, long ago, I stopped thinking of these dear women as my PIT mentors, and started thinking of them as friends whom I hope will be a part of my life for many years to come. The title of “mentor” makes it sound as if one person is the teacher, and the other, the student. I can safely say, because my mentors have told me this, that on more than one occasion, I was a teacher for them as well. They know more halacha than me, and they have a longer history of being frum than I do, but we have discussed concerns as Jewish women, wives, and mothers, as equals, and as friends. I dare say they would tell you that I have helped them as much as they have helped me, and we now think of ourselves as friends who learn together, instead of mentor and mentee.

This article was originally published in Mishpacha, Family First, on 11/5/08. Part 2 will be published next week.

45 comments on “It Takes a Village – Part 1

  1. DY and YY, I agree with you both. I do appreciate how hard it is on the front line, been there myself. But I think the problem is that there is no tangible, this worldly, pay-off to the Kiruv worker for that. Although in saying this I can think of a few major Kiruv institutions that could probably fund a few full time positions if they made an effort to reach out and stay in touch with alumni. One, particular institution I know of is quick to get in touch when someone has come to town to raise money but does not even bother to send a short note of thanks for a donation and “by the way how are you and your family?”

    And I don’t want you to think I am an emotional black hole just searching for someone to pour out all of my psychosis on. It is just that both my wife and I are from that group of Ba’alei Teshuva that do not get much support or sympathy from our parents and just having a “surrogate” parent who would just call up on the phone for 5 minutes once or twice a year and say, “you are really doing a great job raising 6 beautiful Yiddishe Nashamas on your own.”

    I don’t want to get specific but there have been a number of times where we have made the effort to be in touch and just been brushed off or even worse.

    I once had a conversation with my Rebbi, Rav Nacmun Bulman, Z’tzl, where he spoke about these issues and I know this pain which he saw and dealt with in the hearts of so many of his talmidim troubled him very much. He saw it for what it was and made heroic efforts to be a father to the orphans. I know that he cried bitter tears over the suffering of Ba’alei Teshuvah and although he certainly believed that in the end we are all better off frum he was not satisfied with the support being given to BT’s.

  2. yy- i agree that it would be the menschliche thing to do to follow up once or twice a yr. but we both know that really isn’t enough, or neccessarily realistic anyway.

    the way i see it, many in the front lines lack the staying power needed for meaningful long-term support: real mature understanding and the stability to hang in there with people through thick and thin, rather than just subsisting on the more instant gratification of “wow! there goes another one off to EY!” this is a rare commodity and there unfortunately isn’t a substitute that works all that well.

  3. DY – I think you miss the point here. There is a profound sense that such “front-liners” CAN do more. MUST do more. Not necessarily in grandiose terms. But little, human gestures. Like following up once or twice a yr on mentorees.

    There’s no question to me that most ppl who actively engage in kiruv have many choices they are making about where to put their priorities. Such posts are bearing witness that they are often skewed.

  4. michael, it’s sad to hear this anguish which is shared by many people who were mekurav. the reality is, as much as it hurts,that the people who sent you off do not have the wherewithal to keep it up. they no doubt see themselves as front-line and hope that with time, you and the others whom they have helped will develop second-line resources to pick up where they regretfully had to leave off. it’s sort of a “i do as much as i can” kind of thing…

    may Hashem guide you to developing closer ties with people who are available, and that it be meaningful to you and your family.

  5. “it was all one way (…) I agree that the FFB world has big problems too. We are all on some level Orphans”

    Michael – may I cry with you too?

  6. “klall yisrael needs to cultivate the type of Rabbanim who can go the distance (…) many times a well-meaning friend or neighbor tells you how to do what they have done (…)we need to present consistent, solidly structured stuff that makes sense as a whole”

    DY – you’ve definately zoned in on the raw nerve we’re all trying to isolate in this post. The Torah world today, and in particular the BT aspect, is exposed to a very large world which traditional rabbinic training lags far behind. For better and worse.

    It’s a terribly compelling wound that cannot be plastered over, either from the side of tradition nor the modern counselor and sesnitive friend.

    As you say, giving advice from one’s personal experience is the pit that many fall into. This is supposed to be the major advantage of professional mental health / social work training: the ability to guide from the perspective of the THERAPEE’s need. Yet our Torah-true rabbonim, even the wisest and most sensitive, are generally far from capable of thinking outside of the do’s and don’ts of normative Torah behavior. I like to think of it as the last of the 4 levels of love mentioned in the Shma. They’re trained in “b’kol levavcha…naf’shecha…meod’echa”, But NOT the last: “AL levav’echa”, i.e. the reality of those who are struggling with competing realities in their lives that push that love very far out of their heart!

    The Torah speaks to them too, though that section of the Shulchan Aruch has yet to be written.

  7. There is so much to be said here ! Every time my wife and I read such articles we want to cry and ask ourselves what did we do wrong. We feel like if we disappeared tomorrow no one would notice ! The Kollel avreichim who sent me off to Israel and Yeshivah never once enquired how I got on ( 14 years later with a wife, 6 children and smicha under my belt ) And yes I did make an effort myself to keep in touch but it was all one way.

    On the other hand I agree that the FFB world has big problems too. We are all on some level Orphans.

    Oy Vey !

  8. Bob – IMHO the problem is both that the very human qualities that make a Rav do this mentoring well are hard to come by – AND that there is little training to do so.

    Think of it – your average talmid chacham who becomes a Rav isn’t neccessarily a people person, even – though many are. he knows halacha and has insight into p’sak. i believe it’s expecting too much of many Rabbanim to think that they can relate to the lives of people who are way different from them. some can do this – some, or maybe most, can’t do it well enough to be appropriate guides, IMO. and the type that can’t shouldn’t be faulted – that’s not what they signed on for. Factor in, too, the fact that some are just B”H way more sheltered than, um, the averge BT, no? – and there are many significant things that are pertinent which they just wouldn’t know because they lack exposure and experience.

    training would help – but i think it would be a hard sell to most, whose time is already squeezed beyond human endurance what with community obligations, personal counseling, piskei halacha, shiurim and, let’s not forget , their own families. most wouldn’t go for it and i don’t blame them.

    that being said, i think a few things need to happen:

    1- that BTs need to understand the limitations of the Rav at the corner shteeble or the nice carpool lady who is so generous with her time,

    2- that BTs take responsibility for seeking out appropriate mentors who may not neccessarily be on my corner, and

    3- that some sort of respectful awareness campaign sensitizing Rabbanim and local mechanchim to the needs of BTs be mobilized. at worst, even if we can’t think that their people skills will improve, or that they will suddenly be enlightened enough to understand extra-terrestrial life (read: beyond boro park), maybe they can at least understand that, should they be approached by a clueless person asking for eitzah, they can do them the biggest favor by referring them kindly elsewhere.

    4- somehow, klall yisrael needs to cultivate the type of Rabbanim who can go the distance – the rare individual who gets it, can do it, and wants to. how? i dunno. i know of a handful of people in this category myself – i’m sure there are more. maybe they can add yet another chore to their staggeringly full schedules by mentoring other young Rabbanim, who have the proper skill set, who are interested in going that extra mile for communities across the country. in my mind, this is the biggest impediment to the growth and flourishing of the BT community. it’s an exciting challenge to think of helping someone become frum. helping him stay frum, grow more comfortable, and raise a healthy frum family while moving forward is a task that just isn’t on the radar of anyone much to speak of.

    of course, eitzah need not only be given by a Rav. but whoever is giving it – if it is anything more complex than a recipe – has to have a certain understanding of the toal picture. many times a well-meaning friend or neighbor tells you how to do what they have done, without realizing that it may not be totally appropriate for you because you are starting from a different place. and then, too, shopping around – making kiddush like the neighbor’s minhag because it seems cool, and adopting something else from yet a totally opposite stream too leaves our kids no one they feel they can pattern themselves after. this is bad for them, bad for us, and ultimately a recipe for disaster. we need to present consistent, solidly structured stuff that makes sense as a whole – and hitting each acquaintance for whatever they can offer in terms of my dilemma of the day just doesn’t cut it.

  9. Psak without having a grip on the metzius or Rabbinic advice without the input of a mental health persppective can IMO be viewed as either not very helpful, at the least, or G-d forbid bordering on the useless or harmful.

  10. Who said exclusively? Can we agree that rabbinic advice is an essential type of advice in many situations?

  11. Why is the skill of giving “eitzos” perceived to be one that is exclusively or should be exclusively a rabbinical function? Since when is giving advice an exclusively halachic or hashkafic function ,especially where such advice should also consider the views of mental health professionals, etc in rendering an appropriate advice, etc?

  12. “there is a very real dearth of Rabbanim who can (…) really get in there and help much. this is the biggest issue…”

    …For FFBs too, as DY breaks ever so gently. This is the last part of ikvesa dimshicha (signs heralding the footsteps of moshiach as foretold in talmud): ואין לנו על מי להשען אלא על אבינו שבשמים (and we have nobody to lean on except our father in heaven).

  13. DY said:

    “there is a very real dearth of Rabbanim who can (…) really get in there and help much. this is the biggest issue (…) the need for ongoing and evolving guidance as people grow (…) this is something we need more of, and it can’t be faked.”

    FIIIIIInally!

    This is THE BT issue: How to cultivate / find bona fide Rabbonim to shepherd and EDUCATE individuals, as individuals.

  14. DY, is the problem too few Rabbonim with the human qualities to do this well, or too few who have been educated/trained/encouraged to do this?

  15. You wouldn’t believe how many chassidish ladies who grew up in yiddish-speaking homes write for yated, hamodia, binah, etc. That’s why you’ll find there queer anglicized yiddishisms, and mistakes like “a plush leather sofa” (kids’ story in yated). Is this due to ESL? you bet. Just look at my previous comments: “servers” instead of waiters, “English” instead of secular studies, “poor vocabulary” instead of limited vocabulary. I speak a rich and beautiful Yiddish, but my English is stilted and I forget common words. I’m not greatly embarrassed, though. IMO Yiddish is more important for Jews than English (as long as you know enough English to function successfully) and just second in importance to loshen kodesh.

  16. Mark – let me break it to you gently: FFB’s don’t have enough mentors, either. Specifically: though all of us would tout it as a fine and very important thing to have a Rav who really know where we are coming from – few actually work hard at finding that person and cultivating this relationship.

    not to blame anyone, though – a bigger truth yet is the fact that there simply are not enough people qualified to give eitzah. sure, i can tell you how to make scholent or where to order benchers for the wedding or how to explain the separate dancing – but there is a very real dearth of Rabbanim who can go beyond that and really get in there and help much. this is the biggest issue spoken of by kiruv professionals – the need for ongoing and evolving guidance as people grow, and it requires skills that are in short supply. there are yechidim who do it well and those who bask in their daled amos are well taken care of – the rest of us aren’t so lucky. this is something we need more of, and it can’t be faked.

  17. In my day school, secular studies were for half the day. The teachers of English were mostly quite good and it showed. They got the job done. Where the job isn’t done today, the main problem is often not ESL but rather the school’s low pay scale or its negative general attitude toward secular studies.

  18. Steve Brizel:

    Whoops-My last sentence should have read “never lets the reader forget that it is Charedi in orientation.”

    WHERE is that last sentence?

  19. Whoops-My last sentence should have read “never lets the reader forget that it is Charedi in orientation.”

  20. I tend to agree with Mark’s assessment of Mishpacha. There are some good columnists and writers as well as some fascinating interviews and articles. including the one that was the subject of this thread. OTOH, some of the content, especially in the “Family” section does border on “fluff” and pop psychology, except for the medical issue section. When one compares Mishpacha with Yated or Hamodia, Mishpacha is basically Charedi lite, but never lets the reader know that it is Charedi in orientation.

  21. Do we need to go to college to learn English vocabulary, grammar, and composition? That’s among the things K-12 education, no matter what the school or system, needs to impart. Schools that fail to do that, no matter what their rationale, do their students a disservice.

  22. “My comments here also sound unintelligent (at least to me) for the same reason. In my mama loshen I believe I can express myself much more intelligently.”

    Don’t worry, you’re doing fine.

  23. As for myself, this article really got me inspired (wow, maybe I can do it too!) while the negative comments here have turned me off completely (those hypercritical ingrates! don’t touch them with a ten-foot pole! One BT with such an attitude is enough to scare away ten mentors!). Smile and the world smiles with you; cry and you cry alone.

    Optimists don’t have it easier than pessimists. They just choose to focus on the whole picture. If 20 percent are nasty, unfriendly, unworldly, rude, why not focus on the other 80 percent? If 10 percent go off the derech r”l, why not focus on the 90 percent who stay? Of course we should address these problems, but don’t you fargin us a little pat on the back once in a blue moon?

    If you attended a typical haimish wedding with lively dancing, delicious food, warm conversations with friends and relatives etc., and someone asked you, “How was the wedding?” would you go on and on about the rudeness of the servers or the jostling of the crowd? Judging by some comments here, I’m afraid some people would.

    There is so much beauty, truth and goodness in the world of kiruv, and in the frum world in general. Are we allowed to talk only about the bad and the ugly?

    The challenges that BTs face are infinitely harder than those faced by FFBs, but FFBs don’t have it easy either. Some have to deal with poverty, others with abusive parents, teachers, spouses, families of 10-17 children, difficult middos, or all of the above. The only way we can survive is by focusing on the positive, like this author did.

    BTW I agree that Mishpacha is not on a high level. Please keep in mind, it’s mostly not written by, or meant for, college-educated people. Also, the translator(s) probably uses English as a second language, as apparent by the poor vocabulary. My comments here also sound unintelligent (at least to me) for the same reason. In my mama loshen I believe I can express myself much more intelligently.

  24. I don’t think that frum women are at all fluffy. Their lives are so very hectic and busy that at the end of the day they just want something light and kosher to read. I know sometimes my brain is on overload and I can’t handle something too heavy.

    As far as the article being so cheery and optimistic, I think that the author wants to show the frum olam what they can do for a BT and how it’s such a beautiful thing to help someone on their way to becoming a Torah Jew. It would be kind of depressing to write the story of a failure of a BT of finding anyone to help them, who wants to read that?

    I was actually interviewed for this article, and my mentor was so touched by the article (her kids recognized it was me and their mother right away and showed it to her).

    I think that a BT must make a very strong effort to have someone that can help them along. This week I have been frum B”H for thirty years, and I still need advice on things (as much as people think I am an old timer at this..)

  25. As for Mishpacha Magazine in general, I am a big fan. However, Azriella’s article was in its women’s mag, Family First. I have noticed that the theme of most frum women’s magazines is to be “upbeat” and “full of emunah and chessed.” True, they tackle topics of concern to women such as PPD, but mostly they are nauseatingly positive and do not assume a particularly intelligent readership.(Are frum women really so fluffy?) The general circulation Mishpacha, however (the male version?) is more neutral in tone and I think they do a fabulous job of writing interesting and in depth articles about a wide variety of topics. I think they are mostly very intelligent and assume their audience is also intelligent.

  26. Isn’t it ironic that on the same day this post appeared, I sent out emails to some of my husband’s FFB cousins to help me through another of life’s issues?

    In the “early days” there was a woman who was a kollel wife at the time who was absolutely my mentor. I couldn’t have made my wedding without her guiding me through so many steps. Unfortunately she moved away, we sort of lost touch as her family grew and mine started, and gosh, do I miss her! Yes, of course I can pick up a phone, and do sometimes (she’s extremely difficult to reach in the best of situations), but it’s not the same.

    It is the nature of frum society that some things that are very openly discussed in the secular world are very hush hush in ours.

  27. well, Bob, if you note the love-exchange that just occured between two commentors above, it makes you wonder…

  28. While mentors are nice to have if(!) available, another good thing is a circle of friends on your own wavelength but more advanced in the process. To some degree, Beyond BT fulfils this need, but there’s no total electronic substitute for in-person.

  29. Mark,

    I agree with many of your points as well as Belle’s points. Being critical of how an issue is being presented or handled is fair game. Attacking a publication and a choice to re-publish from it in a completely non-constructive manner, IMHO, deserves a quick, short rejoinder. This is perhaps even more important when the author of the piece is one of our own bloggers.

    PS I love you too but don’t tell DK.

  30. Belle, I would take your point a step further and say that the vast majority of BTs don’t have mentors and this is a major problem.

    We’ve mentored some people over the years and it takes a tremendous amount of time.

    So what are the potential paths to solutions?

    Can there be different levels of mentors with different time commitments and expertise?

    Can we get more people to be involved?

    Would monetary compensation help? Would people be willing to pay something? Many people help support their Rebbeim through supporting their shul.

  31. Excellent pt, Belle. Looking to expand and better apply the resources for BTs is a major reason for many of us to come here. To read abt beautific success stories in kiruv feels a tad treacherous.

  32. I love David, but I never liked the answer, “if you don’t like this don’t read it”, although I think there is some truth to that response.

    I generally find the Mishpacha articles on the light side, but I’m a big fan of regular columnists, Rabbi Horowitz, Rabbi Rosenblum and anything Azriela writes. And my kids get a lot of mileage out of the entire magazine.

    Anything released in the public is subject to criticism (including Beyond BT) and I believe the wise person, magazine or web site will listen to and try to truly hear the criticism and take it from there.

    Mishpacha started out as a magazine that was willing to tackle issues that other “chareidi” magazines wouldn’t, but it has gone lite as it’s gotten more popular.

    Kudos to Azriela for her article and her mention of Beyond BT (even though Mishpacha took out the URL of the website).

  33. As much as I usually like everything that Azriella writes, I found this article in Mishpacha to be so “upbeat” as to be wildly inaccurate. Although there are some BTs who are warmly accepted into communities with hundreds of mentors and friends, like Robin was, there are plenty who do not have that kind of communal outpouring and they were not mentioned. A more balanced article would have interviewed, or written about, those who do not know where to turn for advice and help along the way, and how they, and/or their children are suffering for it. (Perhaps she was edited?)

    Additionally, it is **extremely** common for BTs to have friends, but not mentors, who can understand and give insightful advice about their more unique issues. How to make a bar mitzva, although important, does not compare to advice about how, and whether, to attend an intermarriage of one’s brother, or how to give honor to one’s parents even as they are eating treif, (ie asking you to pass the trief potato salad) etc. and deal with the emotional toll family issues like these place on a family.

    To this day, after being frum 20 years, I B”H have had friends who have taught me what I didn’t know about the frum world, but I would say the only **mentors** I have for my uniquely BT issues are my original teachers from Jerusalem who do not really understand my daily life; however they are familiar enough w BT issues to be able to give good advice. One rebbitzen here whom I had wanted to get to know more because I felt she had the experience to really help me, basically let it be known that she was too busy to help any more people. And I am sure she was just being honest, there are so many BTs with needs and not enough older mentors and rebbitzens to go around.

    This article could easily lull the wider community into a sense of complacency since it seems the resources for BTs are so vast, which was the opposite of its intent, I believe.

  34. Tzirel Chana,

    If you don’t like the magazine, don’t read it. The article is relevant to most of the readers of this blog and makes some excellent points.

  35. Tzirel Chana-Think of a relative who is undergoingb surgery and who needs support and Rachmei Shamayim for a Refuah Shelemah. The article IMO superbly depicted the need for mentors for BTs and others similarly situated beyond their fervent tefilos for a Refuah Shelemah.

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