Unlikely Beginnings

Ken and Beth Broodo of Dallas were inspired on their religious journey by a pair of non Jews, and credit a Rabbi’s blessing with helping them to have children.

The Broodos were both raised in non-Orthodox Jewish homes. Ken is a lawyer by trade and years ago he and Beth ran a small business selling Amway products.

Amway recruits people in local communities to sell its products and provides them with ongoing training, sales seminars and self-improvement classes. Sales people are strongly encouraged to attend the seminars, which are always on Saturdays. The Broodos were not observant at the time, so they attended the events without qualm.

At one of the regional sales conferences, the Broodos attended a sales seminar by the motivational speaker Les Brown. One pithy comment hit home with them.

“One of his refrains was, ‘if you put G-d first, you’ll never come in second,’ ” Ken said.

The Broodos had not thought much about G-d outside of synagogue and the major holidays, and especially never thought about bringing Him into their business. But this one comment made them realize that there is a spiritual element to business success which they needed to explore.

At a later Amway event in Conroe, Texas, the Broodos had another epiphany, also from an unexpected source.

They had arranged a meeting with one of the top-selling Amway representatives at the time, a non-Jew from the Deep South. People flocked to meet him for his advice and guidance. He was in such high demand that the Broodos had to wait for hours to meet with him, and finally got a chance to sit down with him at 3:00 am in a local donut store.

The Broodos shmoozed with him about his successes, their business and life in general. One of his comments made a profound impression on them. Ken recounts the conversation:

“We were sitting there talking about G-d and G-d-type topics. Not Christianity, not Judaism, but just G-d. I said to him jokingly, ‘It’s like you’re becoming my Rabbi.’ His eyes got very big. He said, ‘No I’m not, and you need to go find one.’”

These two comments led the Broodos to start thinking introspectively about their life, their values and their religion. The comments by this man and Les Brown helped them to see that there was more to life than they thought. They beginning thinking that maybe they were missing something spiritual.

After returning home, Beth and Ken began checking out different non-Orthodox synagogues in their area.

“Nothing rang true. They all seemed superficial in their observance and service,” Ken said.

The Broodos continued their quest. One day they attended a seminar given by a local Jewish organization, the Dallas Area Torah Association (DATA). The seminar was about the upcoming holiday of Purim. The event presented ideas the Broodos had never heard before, about the hidden messages of the holiday and the spirituality of Judaism. The Broodos were especially impressed by one of the speakers, Rabbi Aryeh Feigenbaum.

Following the seminar, the Broodos began attending other DATA classes. They began hearing amazing truths of Judaism, and saw that it held the spiritual secrets that they were pursuing. The Amway speakers were correct – the Broodos needed to bring G-d into their life, and they realized that their Judaism was just the way to do it.

Over time the Broodos began spending Shabbat at the home of the Feigenbaums and other families in the community. They were attracted by the lifestyle and the values they were seeing. They wanted so much to become part of the community, but were intimidated by some of the religious practices. In particular they thought that Shabbas was an all-or-nothing thing, that they had to commit to keeping it in its complete entirety or to keeping none of it. Rabbi Feigenbaum showed them how they could take it on gradually.

Rabbi Feigenbaum gave them other practical suggestions. The Broodos followed his advice and began slowly taking on some of the observances of Shabbat. But it took them some time to grow into fully observing Shabbat.

The Broodos eventually moved close to an Orthodox synagogue in Dallas and later became fully observant. A new Orthodox synagogue called Ohr HaTorah was founded in their living room. The Broodos remain deeply involved in DATA and the synagogue to this day.

Ohr HaTorah had its first services in their home on Sunday morning, the 14th of Shevat, 1999. The day before, the Broodos attended the annual DATA Shabbat retreat. Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser was the guest speaker of the weekend, and the Broodos had many conversations with him.

In particular, they asked him for advice about a major source of sadness in their lives – after many years of marriage, they were unable to have children. Even repeated medical treatments and experimental therapies were unable to help. The Broodos literally cried on his shoulders asking him for guidance.

Rabbi Goldwasser had heard that Ohr HaTorah was planning to start in their home on the following day. He gave them a blessing that in the merit of the synagogue starting in their home, Hashem should grant them children.

Exactly one year later on the 14th of Shevat, 2000, the Broodos were blessed with twin girls whom they named Rachel and Leah Esther.

Rabbi Goldwasser’s blessing held true. DATA and the community had given so much to the Broodos, and they had given so much back. It was in that merit that their two beautiful daughters were born.

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What Do You Wish You Were Told?

A recent Torah-oriented email newsletter discussed the fact that BTs are often exposed to a beautiful life of harmonious family life, Tzinius dress and festive Shabbos meals but are not informed of the food, clothing, tuition and other costs involved.

What are the things you wish you were told?

And would knowing those things have affected the path you took?

In Defense of The B-Students!

New York – In a fiery speech, a respected Brooklyn Rabbi called for an all out war against yeshivos that throw talmidim out of their institutions.

Rabbi Aaron Krausz, a prominent chareidi Rov from Williamsburg, New York, and Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Shaar Hatalmid in Brooklyn, addressed the baalei batim during Shalosh Seudos in his Shul on Shabbos Parshas Lech Licha.

In an explosive speech, which was delivered in Yiddish after the z’man and was recorded, R’ Kraus screamed “Rabosai, there is a fire burning in the Jewish community! All those yeshivos who only take metzuyanim have blood on their hands! We have teens wandering the streets, thrown out because they don’t know a p’shat or a deep Rashba? Stop with the nonsense!” “oh, you wanna build “lomdim”. That’s your goal, right? Look around in shul. Show me all those lomdim you brought up with this system. Show me!!”

Rabbi Krausz continued his stern admonition, urging a financial boycott of all institutions that expel talmidim from their hallowed halls saying, “when they come for you for Tezdokah to support their yeshiva, make it clear to them. Tell them: “I will only support you if you accept everyone, if you care about ALL Talmidim.”

Read the whole article here.

Is It Hip to be Sefardi?

By Ilene Rosenblum

Rabbi Avraham Yosef, Chief Rabbi of Holon and the son of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, recently declared that all newly religious Jews should follow the Sefardi tradition, regardless of their heritage.

I’ve heard this one before. Eating kitniyot, legumes on Passover and jamming to music that doesn’t have the oy oy oy refrain at first sounds enticing. But that’s ignoring the full picture. While some Ashkenazim wait anywhere between one hour and six hours after eating meat before eating dairy products, I’m unaware of any Sefardi tradition to wait fewer than six. Sefardi men also wake up before dawn to say Selichot for the entire month of Elul. That’s a lot of sacrificed ice cream and sleep for some chummus on Pesach.

Maybe the Sefardim want to gain a little more ba’al teshuva clout. In my experience, there is much less outreach from Sefardi institutions, and should a person of Sefardi descent become more observant, they often find support from Chabad or get “streamlined” into a program that doesn’t teach Sefardi customs. But I don’t think that is what is at stake here.

What is interesting is that this comment referred to Jews becoming more observant — not converts. Why not encourage the Jew to connect to his or her Jewish roots but rather to plant new ones? Although I believe the argument is flawed and otherwise problematic, it’s one thing to suggest that converts adapt a certain set of customs, it’s another to have a Jew change.

According to an article in Ynet, the rabbi explained in the halachic responses section of the Jewish website Moreshet, that in Israel one must embrace Sephardic traditions. In order to reconcile the precept that one mustn’t abandon the tradition of one’s fathers “and do not forsake the teachings of your mother,” he ruled that those born to religious parents should follow their traditions, but if a Jew has no religious background, no family tradition in halachic matters, that person must accept the Sephardic tradition and laws.

What about for someone like me, who comes from a traditional household that was clearly Ashkenazi but not Shabbat-observant? It would seem an insult to the tradition brought over by my grandparents and great-grandparents — albeit watered down in the United States — to switch to something else rather than try to revive what I do have.

While the gaps between Ashkenazi and Sephardi observance are not always so wide, it has been difficult enough keeping up with the prayers and songs I have not understood, unfamiliar phrases, doing this and not that on Shabbat, and odd customs, that it would have been an undue emotional burden to distance myself from what may be familiar, including my family!

Besides, I can’t imagine expecting to get a real tan without turning red, downing hilbe or being able to properly shake my hips. Pass the whitefish.

Check out Ilene’s blog at www.ilenerosenblum.com/blog.

How Can We Provide BTs with More Support?

One of the reasons we started Beyond BT is because we felt that BTs needed more support and that we can provide some through this forum.

It has been a limited success given the limitations of an online community/forum and the limited available resources, but perhaps we can use today’s question to brainstorm how we can provide more support for BTs.

Here some common issues below and their obstacles.
Please suggest how perhaps we can overcome any of the mentioned obstacles.

Providing Classes of All Types for BTs.
Obstacles: Attendance is usually sparse.

Getting Mentors for BTs.
Obstacles: Good willing mentors are hard to find. There is no mechanism for BTs to request mentors. BTs are hesitant to request mentors.

Getting Rebbeim for BTs
Obstacles: Good BT-oriented Rebbeim are hard to find. Rebbeim are usually paid for their time through their shuls and there is no other normative structure to pay good Rebbeim for their time.

Providing Live Support Meetings for BTs
Obstacles: It does not seem that BTs want to get together to discuss their issues.

Overcoming the Fear of Being Insignificant

By Rucheli Manville

Shalom to everyone here at BeyondBT, my name is Rucheli. I’m a recent graduate of the University of Central Florida and I’m now spending the year at the Mayanot Seminary in Yerushalayim. Over the course of my time here, I hope to share some of the insights gained while at a school specifically designed for Baalet Teshuva, such as this one. Please leave your feedback and responses so that we can all learn and grow together!

The Mayanot girls were lucky enough on Sept. 28th to have Rabbi Shmuley Boteach join us for breakfast and Chassidus in the sukkah. Rabbi Boteach said a “quick 30 second thought” for about 30 minutes having to do with the root of all fears… the fear of being insignificant. It really hit home for a lot of us. His premise is that every true fear (not talking about phobias of spiders, etc.) that we have in life has to do with the fear of being insignificant. The fear of death, the fear of being alone, the fear of being poor; all of them stem from the insecurity generated by the fear of being insignificant.

The result of this fear is that we spend our entire lives trying to do something to prove our significance to the world. We work hard for good grades so that we can get into the best college to get the best degree to make the most money so that we can “be someone” in the financial world. We sacrifice our family lives in order to work extra hours for that promotion so that we can “be someone” in the company. We give up our own needs and wants to fulfill the needs and wants of others so that we can “be someone” that the people around us want us to be. We spend so much time doing things that we never actually get to just BE ourselves.

Something incredible happened when Rabbi Boteach was telling us all of this… a revelation of sorts about why I’m here. I worked in high school to get good grades and good SAT scores so that I could get a scholarship to go to college. I went to college on scholarship and worked hard to get good internships. I held leadership positions in countless extracurricular activities to boost my resume. I worked my butt off to get a great job when I graduated so that I could do something with my life.

The time came to graduate, and the job offer that I worked so hard to get came my way. And I turned it down.

People called me crazy. My family worried that I did so much to get to where I was and then I just let the offer sit there; they worried I would never use my degree. My friends couldn’t believe that I was turning down the kind of opportunity that we had all set our eyes on for the last five years of our lives… longer, 18 years of education! But I said “no thanks, I’m going to Israel.”

Maybe I’m crazy.

Or maybe I’m tired of doing, doing, doing.

So I bought a one way ticket to the other side of the world, to a place where I don’t have to DO anything. Here, I can just BE. I can be myself, I can return to my essential soul, to my natural state of existence. Yes, I’m still learning. Yes, I’m still “doing” things. But the reasons for my actions have changed entirely, because for once I’m not trying to do something in order to do something else in order to get something that society sees as a quintessential part of being significant. Instead, I just get to live.

I think that for the first time, I’ve finally realized what it means to be free.

Next time you’re busy doing, take a moment to think about what you need in order to just be who you really are. And if you’ve had that moment where you realize you are truly free to live your life, please share!

Originally posted here.

Quest over a Narrow Bridge: Asia, Harvard, and Shidduchim

By Ben Clayman

I wrote my last article on the day I graduated university last summer. A lot has happened since then and I thought that Hashem’s loving kindness in showing me new insights in my life could help others in their life journey towards growth.

The Talmud says that when a baby is born, the parents have a level of prophecy when choosing the baby’s name. Benjamin is the name of the famous Jewish traveller, Benjamin of Tudela, who went around the Jewish world during the Crusades almost 1000 years ago. He chronicled most of the major centers of Jewish life.

I also set out to see the state of Jewish people on my journey. Rashi comments at the beginning of Exodus (2:11) that “Moshe saw their [Israel’s] burdens”. He focused his eyes and heart to be distressed over them. The most important lesson from my trip is the status of the Jewish people is a tale of two cities, both the best of times and the worst of times. Me, with my beard, kippa, tzizis, went around the world without a single negative incident. There was kosher food available, helpful locals, and strong communities in the farthest corners of this world. I met many converts and people wanting to convert. I met Jews from all backgrounds strengthening their commitment to Judaism. I met an Israeli who met his New Zealander wife in Laos at Kiddush in Auckland. I learned with a Swedish yeshiva student who was just in Germany for the year in Kowloon, Hong Kong. On the flip side, I got to give a small present of kosher candy to a Jew in prison in Cambodia. I saw a neglected, weatherbeaten Jewish cemetery and dying smaller communities. I witnessed missionaries preying on needy and ignorant Jewish youth.

My Rebbe, Rav Noach Weinberg ztl, said to me, Never forget how amazing it is to simply be part of Am Israel. I once got in an argument with him over whether kiruv was really focused in the right place. I argued that in my generation it is exceedingly rare to find someone who is passionate, who cares at all. All this talk about saving the Jewish people would fall on deaf ears, instead the message should be solely personal enrichment by Jewish teachings. He told me, “Make sure you can make them passionate, get them to care.” Hillel blew the famous clarion call, “If not me, then who? If not now, when?” Rav Noah expected everyone to be on the front lines and to answer the call.

I met a Jew while skydiving near the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney, Australia who taught me that no matter where you come from, all that matters is where you are going. In Hong Kong and Sydney, I bumped into a doctor (three times across continents in grocery markets, what hashgacha pratis!) who invited me to meet his wonderful family for Shabbos in Melbourne. On my return from China in Los Angeles airport, I asked the guy sitting next to me what time it was. He responded with an Australian accent and so we started to schmooze. Turns out, he is a Jew in university who lived close to where I stayed with a warm Rabbi and his awesome family and we spoke about Jewish views on business. A few weeks after my return to America, I was on the subway heading towards Brooklyn and the guy next to me said a few words in Hebrew on his phone. We started to talk and it happened that he grew up with the Aish Rabbi of Melbourne I spent Shabbos with. The world is a tiny place, do not let the size fool you.

Then after the highs of traveling, I returned to America to decide what to do next. I turned 22 on March 7th while visiting my parents in Boca Raton and the next day I got accepted to Harvard for graduate school. I was soaring, my life was exactly on course to becoming what I always wanted to be. I went back to Eretz Israel for Pesach to be by my Rosh haYeshiva, Rav Hillel Weinberg shlita. If you have not yet met the new Rosh Yeshiva of Aish, he is a Talmud Hacham par excellence and who has profoundly influenced me with his middos, advice, and sensitivity. After a month in Israel (with stories involving ruach hakodesh that I witnessed with Rav David Abuchetzera shlita, of the Baba Sali’s family and receiving brachos from Rav Elyashiv shlita), we spoke about the direction of my life. I really thought about it and decided that what I needed was at least another year in yeshiva and that Harvard could wait. If you know of someone going through the same debate or your child decides to push off higher education, I would be honored to explain to you the pros and cons and relieve any parents fears.

Which leads us to a new chapter in my life: shidduchim. I started my search for my bashert quite unprepared, thinking this was like any other competition in my life. Oh was I naive! I have never gone through such a character building, soul searching, and emotionally charged experience so far. Before exploring this part of my life, if I could not quantify it on a balance sheet or a logical flow chart, I tried to ignore it. Getting in touch with my emotions, attempting to be sensitive and nurturing for another human being, willing to give all that I have for the betterment of another is an amazingly tough time. Yes shidduchim are tough, being rejected is not walk in the park (and far worse is saying no to someone else), feeling as though you are being judged, investigated for your past (especially as a BT), and having your life questioned are part of the process. But with the right attitude, it becomes a cleansing process where you start to appreciate who you are a lot more and also what you have to offer your future soulmate. However, I have never felt more close to Hashem, feeling His guidance in all of this. I have also never fully appreciated Jewish women until now, every girl I have met so far is a diamond. Shidduchim has had me go through a paradigm shift when looking at my fellow Jews. We are all one family, and like I always look at my mother as the most beautiful woman only out for my best, I started to see the girls I am meeting as such as well. They are kind, sweet, smart, tznius, yirei shamyim, and all around phenomenal people. Mi K’Amecha Israel, Who is like you Israel?

I continue to daven that everyone single find their zivug emes very soon. Bezras Hashem, we should merit quickly the reestablishment of Beis David, our majestic capital city of our hearts and souls, and this upcoming Tisha B’Av be a day of celebration and preparation for the Tu B’Av where everyone will find their bashert!

Ode to a BT-FFB “Intermarriage”

Heaven sent my wife to be my soul mate here on earth,
Although we grew up differently, ‘cause she’s a frum-from-birth.

Her father works in chinuch at a choshuv institution,
On Saturdays, my dad just reads his books on evolution.

Her kollel brother has written many seforim through the years,
My brother went to “Temple” once, but he was bored to tears.

Her sister tends to seven kids and runs a clothes gamach,
My sister cashiers at McDonald’s just around the block.

The list goes on, I’m sad to say, it really gets much worse,
The point is that I feel I’m from a different universe.

We have no shalom bayis problems, a great thing that I wish you,
But privately I really see an underlying issue.

It’s all bershert I didn’t choose a BT for my wife,
But naturally she can’t relate to things from my past life.

It’s challenging to talk with her, of course she’s not to blame,
But I wish someone would understand the things I overcame.

This websites nice, don’t get me wrong, I do have what to say,
But it’s not a substitute for what’s on my mind each day.

I wish more often I could find perhaps some validation,
For the feelings I have deep inside from my life situation.

A BT might come on Shabbos, we would schmooze way past the meal,
He would nod his head and say, “I know exactly how you feel…

My siblings all have married out, their words I’m always dreading,
‘Just because she’s not a Jew, you won’t come to my wedding?!’”

We’d laugh about the treif old songs, the kind that make you hiss,
But when I hear them in the mall, I like to reminisce.

It’s fun to exchange stories how we found our Yiddishkeit,
“Well, first I tried out India, but said, ‘This just ain’t right!’”

And silly comments come to mind, (I’ve made quite a few),
“Aharon’s name is Cohen, but his brother is Rabbeinu??”

And to this day I still goof up: “Kag Samayack!” I exclaimed,
But when my kids corrected me, I really felt ashamed.

I really feel quite fortunate, don’t mean to moan and groan,
But even with a family, sometimes I feel alone.

Perhaps I need to make more friends, to be a bit outgoing,
This is all just part of life, as long as I keep growing.

Dealing with Lack of Promised Kosher Food

Dear Beyond BT

I was wondering if anyone could share stories of the frustration of going to events at which they were previously told there would be kosher food for them only for it to turn out that there wasn’t.

For example

1) being told that an affair was kosher when in fact it is not
2) being promised separate kosher food that turns out to not be kosher
3) other kosher related issues

How did you or how would you handle the situation.


Leadership vs Isolationism

Rabbi Micah Segelman

The Orthodox community is poised to assume the mantle of Jewish leadership in America. Demographics attest to our continued growth both in absolute terms and as a portion of the overall Jewish community. We are the most passionate and knowledgeable about Judaism and Israel and are the most willing to give of our time and money for Jewish causes. We are the stewards of the Torah’s wisdom and thus have so much to share with other Jews. But are we thinking and acting like leaders?

Klal Yisroel’s mission as the chosen people is to lead the entire world in drawing closer to Hashem (1). “Thus it became necessary that one nation be introduced into the ranks of the nations which, through its history and life, should declare that G-d is the only creative cause of existence, and that the fulfillment of His will is the only goal of life (2).” This requires that we adhere to higher standards and that to a degree we separate ourselves from the world around us (1). “Such a mission imposed upon this people another duty, the duty of separation, of ethical and spiritual separateness (2).”

While separation is required it seems to me that total isolation from the world around us is incompatible with the leadership that the Torah demands of us. If we only have the ability to relate to people within the Torah camp then we’re not fulfilling our great mission. We can’t influence a world from which we have retreated.

Jewish interests are constantly threatened. We are faced with disproportionate criticism and inappropriate censure of Israel. We are confronted by secularism, materialism, and promiscuity. Our Orthodox interests are threatened by groups of Jews who oppose Torah study and observance and we are challenged by the extreme left wing of modern Orthodoxy. We must forcefully and honestly engage our antagonists and lay our rightful claim to the moral high ground. Yet in doing so we must display leadership and not succumb to narrow parochialism. When we show disdain for other viewpoints we antagonize people who are outside of our own community. We must use calm and compelling logic and not resort to strident and intolerant language. Instead of confident and reasoned arguments we sometimes resort to shrill tones and personal attacks. We are alienating those who could become our supporters.

A friend of mine grew up in a traditional but non-frum home and the children were enrolled in an elementary school Yeshiva. One day his brother’s Rebbe told the class that “Golda Meir is a rasha” (this story happened in the early 70’s). Largely as a result of this incident all of the children in my friend’s family were transferred to public school. My friend is a fine Ben Torah and Marbitz Torah. But none of his siblings are frum.

We can learn how to effectively lead from many of the recent responses to the issue of ordaining a woman to serve in a Rabbinical role. The statements from the Moetzes Gedolei Torah and the recent letter from HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky (3) were forceful but not strident. Many of the articles written (such as those by Rabbi Adlerstein, Rabbi Ginzberg, and Rabbi Shafan) also struck the right balance. Unfortunately, even a well formulated and constructive article written in a moderate tone can generate negativity when a few phrases are seen as unnecessarily harsh, especially when they are taken out of context (4). This too should be instructive for us.

If we fail to teach our children and students how to relate to people outside the Torah camp we are building a future Torah community incapable of leadership. We must set boundaries for our children and students in their interaction with the outside world. We correctly stress the dangers which the world around them presents. However, our ultimate intent is to equip them to make their way in the world as confident Bnei Torah. Our intent should be to prepare them to confront the outside world – not to paralyze their interaction with the world around them.

In discussing whether a ben Torah should go to college one of my Rebbeim said that he’s “Pro Torah” and not “Anti College.” This seems to me to be a much healthier message than telling people that college is “treif.” If we stigmatize secular education we are teaching people to be afraid of the outside world. Whether to pursue secular education is an individual decision to be made with great care and proper guidance. Furthermore, there are different valid Torah approaches to this issue.

However, I would hope that all agree that we can’t produce a generation of Bnei Torah who are thoroughly insulated from the world around them. This doesn’t require advanced secular education per se. But it requires a healthy attitude towards and the ability to understand and communicate effectively with the outside world.

I once returned home after being away in Yeshiva for a few months and came to shul for shacharis. Even to this day I often wear colored or striped shirts. However, on that particular day I was wearing a white shirt, dark pants, and a dark jacket. A man in shul whispered a derisive remark (which I unfortunately overheard) to the effect that, “Looks like they did a good job brainwashing him.” Clothing is fairly innocuous and yet it created a tremendous barrier, even for a person who is Orthodox. Imagine the barrier that would have been created if I truly came across as cloistered. And imagine if the other person was much further removed from Torah than my critic was.

Being comfortable in the outside world will be helpful to people in earning a living. But this isn’t the only motivation in engaging the world around us. Being overly restrictive carries the risk of alienating people who don’t want to live an isolated life. Cloistering ourselves makes us incapable of bringing other Jews closer to Torah. The inability to engage the outside world precludes us from advocating for causes that are important to us.

We have an opportunity to lead and to make a tremendous Kiddush Hashem. But are we up to the task?

(1)Seforno, Shemos 19:4-6
(2)Rav Hirsch, The Nineteen Letters (Spring Valley, NY 1988), Letter Four
(3)Five Towns Jewish Times, Letters to the Editor, July 8, 2010
(4)Jewish Week, ‘Rabba’ Appearance Stirs Up Controversy, June 30, 2010

All rights reserved. Permission is granted to reproduce this essay only in its entirety including this statement.

Sarah’s Place Retreat for Baalat Teshuva Women – October 31st

A recent BeyondBT post (“How Would You Help Fellow BT’s Transition?“) drew attention to many of the dilemmas facing today’s BT – particularly the female (baalat teshuvah) who often feels less connected to her new community.

Lacking the “networking” provided by daily minyan and various learning settings, the baalat teshuvah can often go days or longer without interplay with other BT’s or FFB’s.

Parenting concerns, relationship issues, and coping with Shabbos and Yom Tov preparation – just loved the recent 3-day Yom Tov preps didn’t you? – were but a few of the issues raised.

Many women expressed interest in boosting Hebrew reading skills and building basic vocabulary – “I want my kids to know more than me – but not in kindergarten!” And so many would simply like a chance to bond and network with other women who’ve gone thru similar transformations.

All of this has been taken into account in designing an upcoming mini immersion-retreat specifically for women who have transitioned into a Torah lifestyle.

The retreat is being hosted by Sarah’s Place, a new women’s learning and retreat center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Now before you question “Why Cincinnati?” (or maybe, “Where’s Cincinnati?”) we should note that many Midwestern cities (yes, there are Jews west of the Hudson) are within easy driving range of Cinci and lots of airlines fly to Cinci (CVG) and/or Dayton (DAY). And, grant money is available to offset some of the travel costs for those who cannot find reasonable fares to either one (Note: first-come-first-served).

Lisa Aiken, author of many great books including the Baal Teshuvah Survival Guide, will be scholar in residence for the two-day retreat which begins Sunday October 31.

Sarah’s Place provides comfortable lodging, a pleasant learning environment, and hands-on learning — it even features a brand new kitchen designed for Halachah and kosher cooking classes!

Thanks to a generous sponsor the highly subsidized retreat cost can be even further reduced upon need.

Please go to www.sarahsplacecincy.org for more information.

Do You Have Advice for a Wedding for a Child of a BT

A friend asked us to post the following:

She and her husband are making their first wedding for their son and they have no family support on their side.

The boy is marrying an FFB girl.

From a BT point of view, how have others handled the gashmius factor in frum weddings?

How have people cut costs?

What was “indispensible” (besides the obvious halachic requirements) and what wasn’t?

Are their any issues specific to BT/FFB chasuna?

Were there any surprises that arose due to not having been brought up attending frum chasunas?

Thanks in advance for your help.

I Really Have to Watch What I Say…

I haven’t been writing recently. Both here and my regular blog. There were several reasons, including the birth of my third daughter, things getting busy at work, getting very active in a new hobby, etc. But I think the one overwhelming reason was an incident I had just before Rosh Hashana last year.

A group I belong to has an email list, and we began sending each other “Shana Tova” greetings. One person sent out “Have an easy fast!” Now let me back up a little bit here. I’m sometimes a bit of a jokester. I like making people laugh, usually with light teasing, with emphasis on the light, I never try for mean humor, demeaning someone.

So I sent an e-mail out pointing out that Yom Kippur was in 10 days, and tonight (it was the day of Erev Rosh Hashana) “I plan to Feast, not Fast!” I had just meant it as a joke in the similarity between, yet totally opposite meanings of, the words ‘Feast’ and ‘Fast.’ However, while the group I belong to is a Jewish group, I’m the only observant member, and most of them know I became observant a few years ago (I was a member before I became observant).

My friend took my message not as a joke, but as if I was scolding him about not knowing the difference between the holidays, and also protested that because he was diabetic, he doesn’t fast as it causes medical problems for him. While his message wasn’t scathing, it was harsh enough that I knew I must have really hurt him and led him to think I was telling him he needed to fast. I quickly sent him an apology, and told him I was only joking, again, about the ‘fast’ and ‘feast’ thing, I knew about his medical issues, and that I was by no means telling him what he should or shouldn’t do, nor did I have any right or desire to do so. I worried about it all during the Yom Tov, and quickly checked my email after it was over. He had replied back that he understood, and probably took it the wrong way, and there were no hard feelings.

However, it still really struck me that a casual remark, meant to be a joke, brought such a reaction. I have tried very hard to be sure I was not judging others, not making them feel they should become more observant as well, etc. But I guess there’s always the underlying feeling that someone more observant is trying to force others to be as well.

Start the Parsha Earlier in the Week

The Yomim Tovim are past and it’s a good opportunity to increase our Torah learning. How many times are we rushing to finish the Parsha on Friday night or Shabbos morning?

Why not start early in the week so you can research some of the questions you have and do a better job of learning the Parsha.

Here’s Rabbi Rietti’s outline of Noach. You can purchase the entire outline of the Chumash here.

#6 Building Noach’s Ark
#7 The Flood
#8 Mt. Ararat
#9 Rainbow – Noach Drunk
#10 The Descendants of Shem, Cham & Yafet
#11 Tower of Bavel – 10 Generations of Noach

#6 Building Noach’s Ark
* Praise of Noach
* The Three Sons of Noach
* World corruption
* “Behold! I will destroy them utterly!”
* Build an ark
* Compartments
* 300 X 50 X 30 cubits
* Skylight – Slanted Roof – 3 Stories
* 1 Male – 1 Female of every animal – Store Food

#7 The Flood
* 7 pairs of kosher animals
* 2 pairs of non-kosher animals
* 7 pairs of birds
* Noach 600 years old when flood began (2nd month, 17th day)
* 40 days & 40 nights – 15 cubits above the highest mountain
* Total destruction
* 150 days

#8 Mt. Ararat
* 150 days till water receded
* 7th Month, 17th day, the Ark rested on Mt. Ararat
* 10th Month, 1st day mountain tops become visible
* Raven
* Dove #1, #2, #3
* 1st Tishrei Noach opened gate of Ark
* 2nd Month, 27th day, land was totally dry (exactly 365 days after the flood began).
* ‘Leave the Ark!’
* Noach built an Altar
* G-d appeased & promises never to flood the earth again
* Four seasons

#9 Rainbow – Noach Drunk
* Blessing to Noach “Be fruitful and Multiply!”
* All living creatures will fear you
* You can eat meat but not flesh from living animal
* Violation of suicide
* Death penalty for murder
* Command to be fruitful and multiply
* G-d promises never to flood entire world again
* Rainbow is sign of this promise
* Noach planted a vineyard
* Drunk
* Canaan cursed: slave of slaves to his brothers
* Blessed Shem and Yafet
* Noach died 950

#10 The Descendants of Noach
* Descendants of Yafet and Cham (Nimrod grandson of Cham & 1st world despot)
* Descendents of Canaan
* Descendants of Shem

#11 Tower of Bavel – 10 Generations of Shem
* One Language
* The Tower
* HaShem scattered them
* 10 Generations of Shem
* 11th Gen. Shem 600
* 12th Gen. Arpachshad 438
* 13th Gen. Shelach 433
* 14th Gen. Ever 464
* 15th Gen. Peleg 239
* 16th Gen. Re’oo 239
* 17th Gen. Serug 230
* 18th Gen. Nachor 248
* 19th Gen. Terach 205 – Avram-Nachor-Haran
* Haran – Lot – Milka & Yiska (Sarai). Haran dies in Ur Kasdim
* Avram marries Sarai
* Nachor marries Milka
* 20th Gen. Avram
* Terach leaves Ur Kasdim with Avram, grandson Lot & Sarai
* Terach dies in Charan