BBT Links for Week of June 28, 2012

With email’s efficiency and low cost, you have to be careful that your Shul does not alienate its members by becoming a Shul Spammer.

Pop Chassid, a Chabad Baal Teshuva, provides some insights on choosing a mentor and assuming responsibility for your choices.

R’ Gil Student and R’ Dovid Teitlebaum have produced a video with guidelines for safe Internet usage. Both Part 1 and Part 2 are available for viewing provided that your home’s safe Internet usage policy is not already blocking You Tube.

What Should The Goal of Kiruv Be?

What Should The Goal of Kiruv Be?

1) To help people become Shomer Shabbos over a period of time.

2) To help people connect to G-d without necessarily becoming Shomer Shabbos.

3) To teach people Torah without necessarily becoming Shomer Shabbos.

4) To encourage people to do more mitzvos without necessarily becoming Shomer Shabbos.

5) Something else.

Soy? Oy!

Copyright: HealthyJewishCooking.Com
By Chaya Rivka Zwolinski

How should I prepare tofu? That’s the question I probably hear the most often from you.

The answer? Don’t!

Well, unless you have specific nutrition needs. Then you can make it sometimes for a treat. Like steak.

Soy beans are one of the most difficult beans to digest and they contain powerful nutrients that may or may not be good for us. The truth is, no one is sure. But we do know that eating soy affects hormone production. We (meaning Western scientists) just don’t know if this is a good thing.

Another problem with soy is that it is highly allergenic. In fact, it is one of the most common allergies, especially in children. Corn, wheat, citrus, strawberries, dairy products, fish and of course peanuts and tree nuts are some other common allergenic foods. Because people don’t realize that the symptoms of allergies might actually be mild, they are often overlooked. A food allergy or intolerance with mild flare-ups may not discourage children (or even adults) from eating the offending food because the link goes unnoticed.
Read more Soy? Oy!

Considering Tzfat After Teshuva

By Simcha Cohen

The increase in aliyah from English-speaking countries over the past few years has considerably boosted the English-speaking population of Tzfat. Community leaders estimate that there are over 1000 English-speakers in Tzfat today out of a total population of 33,000.

New immigrants are drawn to Tzfat for a variety of reasons but the strong religious atmosphere is a big draw to many observant residents who are interested in living amongst a like-minded community of Jewishly-committed Anglos. Among these residents are many ba’alei teshuva who find the atmosphere in Tzfat to be a welcoming and accepting one for people who want to grow in their observance and commitment to Judaism.

Local institutions, including the Safed English Library, Livnot U’Lehibanot, the Ascent Institute, Lev U’Neshama and the Carlebach community along with communities such as Breslev, Chabad and Sanz provide information and assistance to newcomers. Two local e-newsletters, the Tzfat yahoogroup and the Tzfatline newsletter allow Anglos to trade information about subjects as diverse as available Torah classes, real estate offerings, car rides and homes for pets. These newsletters and self-help groups offer assistance to all, irregardless of community affiliation, and many ba’alei teshuva find this type of inclusiveness to be an attractive characteristic of Tzfat.

Anglos live in neighborhoods throughout Tzfat including the Old City and the Artist Quarter, the Darom, Cana’an, Ibikur, Biriya, Ramat Razim/Neve Oranim and Menachem Begin. The Chabad community’s center is in Cana’an, Breslev’s center is in Kiryat Breslev/Old City and the Sanz center is in the Old City. Many adherents of these groups, including ba’alei teshuva who are connected with these groups, look for housing near their community’s hub. However followers of these and other groups live in all areas of Tzfat. The Meor Chaim neighborhood is a “Haredi” — ultra-Orthodox — neighborhood comprised of Ashkanazim, Sepharadim, Hassidim, Litvaks and unaffiliated individuals. Apartments in this neighborhood are relatively low-cost.

Educational alternatives offer Tzfat residents a varied range of school options which present an array of options for newcomers who are planning their childrens’ schooling. Approximately 33% of the children in Tzfat attend Haredi schools and these range from Yiddish-speaking boys’ and girls’ schools to mainstream Beit Ya’akovs, Hassidic and Litvish cheders and Sepharadi Talmud Torahs. Another third of Tzfat’s schoolchildren attend national religious institutions. Alternatives include the Chabad school network with schools for boys and girls, a national religious boys’ Talmud Torah and state religious schools that meet all levels of a family’s observance. There are also several non-religious schools in Tzfat.

Can BTs Influence a More Positive Frum Culture?

A BT in the discovery phase is full of excitement, growth-orientation and optimism. However in the integration and Beyond BT phases the energy and continual improvement start to fade.

Perhaps the initial enthusiasm was unwarranted.
Or perhaps the community causes BTs to gravitate towards the norm of a status quo Judaism.

1) How have you been able to reignite the enthusiasm and optimism?

2) How can BTs bring a lasting positive influence to the Frum community?

Simcha: A Sign of the Times

R’ Jared Viders
Ohr Somayach Monsey

Now that Shavous is in the rear view mirror, the days seem somewhat amorphous in the unfolding drama of the Jewish calendar. Whereas other seasons carry distinct flavors – be it the Teshuva of Elul in preparation of Rosh Hashanah or the 49 days of the Omer in preparation to Shavous – it’s difficult to identify a particular theme in the weeks and months to come.

Interestingly, Rav Ovadiah Bartinera – one of the foremost commentaries on the Mishna – (1450-1510) labels the days between Shavous and Sukkos as “times of joy” – an appellation which immediately strikes us as misplaced in light of the more somber fast days that appear “next up” on our Jewish calendars.

Nevertheless, with simcha (“joy”) being the theme of these days, it is eminently appropriate and inestimably worthwhile to give some thought to the mechanics of the Torah’s view on “simcha” – its centrality to our lives and a recipe (or two) as to how to keep it vibrant.

The Chasam Sofer (1762-1839) writes “the very first mitzvah one should be fulfilled by a bar mitzvah boy upon his reaching his 13th year is to rejoice and be happy to accept the mitzvahs of Hashem; for being b’simcha is a positive mitzvah in the Torah, i.e., to serve with joyousness and good-heartedness emanating from all the goodness which has been bestowed upon you.” Several noted Torah sages over the centuries have all identified simcha as the coin of the realm in terms of one’s personal growth and religious fulfillment.

The Orchas Tzaddikim (a well-known Sefer anonymously written in the 15th century) offers a line which should be kept close to the heart of every Ba’al Teshuvah. In the “Gate of Happiness,” he writes, “the attribute of joy hinges on the positive commandment to see all that befalls a person as being just … for if after one does Teshuvah, he finds that matters are not as pleasant as they were beforehand, it is a mitzvah to think in one’s heart” that all the seeming “turbulence” is truly a gift from Heaven that is ultimately for own best interests. Over the centuries, this gem has provided strength and inspiration to many a Ba’al Teshuvah grappling with the changes in their lives and some of the disturbing repercussions – family, professional, social, etc. – that invariably come with the territory.

Practically speaking, the contemporary sefer Alei Shor (written by a master of character perfection Rav Shlomo Wolbe) suggests a relatively simple exercise to stimulate one’s simcha mindset. In two of our morning blessings – specifically when we thank G-d for (1) “providing me my every need” and (2) for “firming my footsteps” one should utter them with “abundant contemplation” and a “great strengthening of one’s emunah (belief).” This tiny exercise, the Alei Shur writes, can, over a period of several months instill in a person the true rejoicing and satisfaction with one’s lot in life which is the hallmark of true Jewish “simcha.”

May we merit to strive for an internalize true joyfulness in the days and weeks to come.

It’s Lonely in the Middle

First Published Dec 4, 2006

I’ve long been taken with the following quote from Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik: “All extremism, fanaticism, and obscurantism come from a lack of security. A person who is secure cannot be an extremist.”

Perhaps the quote has stuck so firmly in my mind because of the context in which I first saw it. Rabbi K., a prominent Modern Orthodox rabbi, invoked this quote in an article railing against the Chareidi world for its “intolerance,” castigating Chareidim again and again for their unwillingness to accept the validity of any expression of Torah observance other than their own.

It’s a pity Rabbi K. didn’t read his own article. The thick vitriolic brush with which he paints the entire Chareidi world would do any extremist proud.

Which doesn’t mean, of course, that he doesn’t have a point. The Chareidim do, too often and too typically, look down their noses at “less committed” communities within Orthodoxy. But this kind of disdain for anyone not like ME is hardly unique to men in black.

The problem of invalidating other hashkofos seems to have become far more common of late. George Carlin once said (or so I’m told) that everyone driving down the highway thinks that he is going at exactly the right speed, and that everyone else is either obstructing traffic or a reckless maniac. But is it possible that the rational middle really has come to represent fewer and fewer Torah Jews and Torah movements than ever before, so that every group condemns every other as either fanatical or heretical? Why have the Orthodox grown so insecure that we are all racing headlong toward one extreme or the other?

In a deeply thoughtful essay in Tradition Magazine (“Torah Without Ideology,” published in 2002), Professor Moshe Koppel offers an elegant explanation for the polarization within the Orthodox world. As a physical being striving for spirituality, as a spiritual being exiled in a physical world, every Jew is sentenced to a life of inevitable and irreconcilable tension. If he embraces the physical world, he may compromise his spiritual health. If he eschews the physical, he may endanger his physical well-being. How does he choose?

Professor Koppel observes that both the modern world and the Chareidi world make the same fundamental mistake, each in its own way. In their efforts to eliminate this spiritual-physical tension, Chareidim are inclined to reject any involvement with the physical, whereas Modern Orthodoxy is inclined to legitimize everything physical in the context of being a Torah Jew. In my own language, Chareidim tend toward forbidding everything not expressly permitted, while the Modern Orthodox tend toward permitting everything not expressly forbidden.

Of course, these are not the stated ideologies of either camp, but this is where many adherents end up. In practice, each camp frequently becomes a caricature of itself. Because the painstaking avodah of evaluating what to take and what not to take from the physical world produces such acute, chronic tension, we flee for the extremes instead of striving to find balance. And, on our way, we condemn everyone who has staked out a position different from ours, lest we face the tension of having to ask ourselves why they have engaged more or less of the physical world than we have.

I can’t say it any better than Moshe Koppel: “[Internalized values] are always full of tension between conflicting poles: between loyalty to Jews and loyalty to the values they embody, between the letter of halachah and its spirit, between conformity and individualism, and so on. This tension is a wonderful, healthy thing — it is the source of a person’s intellectual vitality and creativity. Living a Torah life means living with tension…”

But it’s not easy. Today’s extremism is no mere matter of right versus left. It is the unwillingness to acknowledge the legitimacy of other hashkofos within the bounds of halachah. It derives from a passionate desire to avoid tension, whether that tension comes from our uncertainty of how to synthesize the spiritual and the physical or from our insecurity that maybe someone else is doing a better job of it than we are. And the middle is that place where we can struggle with the tension of living as a Torah Jew, each in his own way, without resorting to the defamation of those who go about it differently.

The flight of so many Torah Jews from the middle testifies to just how hard it is. And it gets even harder for the few of us left in the middle when we find ourselves increasingly isolated from the growing community of observant Jews who refuse to accept that there is more than one kosher way to live as a kosher Jew.

What Are the Parameters of Responsible Internet Usage?

Many were disappointing that the last Asifa did not describe the parameters of responsible Internet usage.

Should a responsible Internet usage standard be defined?

If so, what elements should it include?

1) All Internet access should be filtered, preferably using whitelists, but minimally with filtered categories and blacklists

2) The use of Internet accountability software where a spouse, parent, or friend monitors your Internet activity

3) Attempts to minimize “time-wasting” on the Internet

4) Other

My Brother’s Big Fat Secular Wedding

Blast from the past, first posted on Nov 8, 2006.

We had asked our rabbi if we were even allowed to attend, and he told us since there is an assumption that Jewish weddings on the whole are at least kosher style that we were permitted to go but that, of course, we shouldn’t eat anything. I was relieved since I knew that telling my family, my mother in particular, that we wouldn’t be able to make it would be the start of World War Three. Besides, I had already rented the tux.

I was asked to speak and, as you might imagine, I was quite nervous. Besides trying to put feelings into words, which is especially hard for me, it was to be in front of an audience of three hundred or so secular Jews and I hoped that I would be a Kiddush Hashem. When I told another rabbi that I would be speaking he
advised me to try to convey some kind of positive Jewish message.

I spent the good part of two days trying to find the right things to say. I managed to borow a good line or two from a couple of speeches I had heard and to recycle a poignant d’var torah that I planned to give over. However, because of an incident, both tragic and sadly ironic, that occurred shortly before the big speech, much of my plan changed.

We listened to the father of the bride k’vell over his daughter and make the typical jokes about how he’d be paying for the wedding for the next twenty years. Then the bride’s sister spoke about the time she stole her sister’s sticker book and paid the price for it. The best man was very heartfelt as he congratulated the bride and groom, and then I, the brother of the groom, was summoned to speak.

I briefly acknowledged the presence of some of the more senior family members in attendance and related that it was an honor to be asked to say a few words. I swallowed hard and decided for sure, at that moment, that I was actually going to say the words I had concocted in my head, only a half-hour earlier as a result of that tragic and sadly ironic “pre-speech” incident. I continued, “I had prepared to say something very deep and meaningful about G-d and torah…” At this point I felt the collective breath of the crowd drop as they clearly had no desire to be bored by some religious guy talking about the one thing that they absolutely didn’t feel like listening to at that time. I continued “…but after one of the waiters offered me a scallop wrapped in bacon at the cocktail hour, I decided that maybe speaking about G-d and Torah wasn’t the way to go at this event.”

Would you believe me if I told you that the roar emanating from that reception hall was so loud and filled with laughter that it could wake a dead man? Well, it was.

Now I knew that the line was funny and ironic before I said it, but I guess I didn’t really comprehend its genius until I heard the crowd’s reaction. After that I could have gotten away with saying just about anything! It’s true! Chazal wasn’t kidding when they said that a person should open his speech with a joke! Good advice!

In the end, I did manage to discuss a Jewish concept, albeit very briefly, and with the response of a good deal of laughter from the crowd. I focused on the concept of breaking the glass underneath the chuppah. I related that Chazal instructed us to break a glass under the chuppah because at the time of our greatest joy we are to remember the great loss we suffered with the destruction of our holy Temple in Jerusalem. I emphasized, however, what was implicit in the words of Chazal, that this day is the time of the couple’s greatest joy, that indeed today, their wedding day, is the happiest day of their lives and that from this day forward….it would be all down hill. I was joking of course…and did they ever laugh! Who knew I was so funny?

May we all soon merit a time when we Jews witness the rebuilding of our holy Temple in Jerusalem and a time when Jews no longer serve scallops wrapped in bacon at their simchas!

I, Rabbi (Part Two)

Part One of this three-post series is here.

I found another rabbi to speak to about this question. Two, in fact. The first, very engaged in outreach, told me how he had wrestled with the issue of conducting wedding ceremonies for non-observant Jews. He acknowledged the serious halachic challenges, and responsibilities, implicated by doing so. But his mentor and rebbe had, when asked this question by him, all but laughed at him for asking it: “Two Jews want to get married in our day and age — you shouldn’t do everything possible to make this happen?” Well, that is how I had seen it. He gave me some tips.

The kashrus, he said, isn’t likely to be under your control, but you can’t agree to do this if they’re going to be serving “conspicuously treif” food; that just debases your involvement and could eventually come back to haunt you, rabbi, as well. You can say that the bride must go to the mikveh first. You can make sure the kesuvah is halachically competent. And because you have a relationship with the couple, you can sort of at least hope to “own” the “get issue” if it comes to that, which is a chief concern of those who are reluctant to get involved in such marriages. His words encouraged me.

The second rabbi was helpful in a completely complimentary fashion. He was in fact almost never referred to as a rabbi, and though people know he is learned, not too many people know that he was ordained by a major yeshiva as a young man decades ago. But not only is he ordained: He told me, when I recounted all this to him, that he could help with two of the missing pieces: Being witness number two at the chupa [“canopy,” i.e., the ceremony] (an easy one), and being recognized as ordained by the clerk of the City of New York — thus the official “officiant” for purposes of the law. He had one question — well, two. The first one was, “They’re getting proper glatt meals for people who want them?” Yes, I said. The second one was, “So they’ll give me dinner for this?” I laughed — of course dinner! (“Only half price!”)

Rabbi #2 also was very familiar with the precise halachic issues we’d have to nail down, and helped guide me through them. One of them involved the kesuvah. Assuming, correctly, that the couple would want to have an “art” kesuvah, he explained to me what the halachic issues, and controversies, were, and what wording I had to look for and look out for. Let’s just say that at the end of the day I prevailed on the couple to use whatever they wanted for their living room wall, but to privately allow me to use a standard, halachically valid kesuvah that they could keep in their filing cabinet “so your kids will always know it was done according to all opinions.” That was a formulation the first rabbi had suggested to me, and, used sparingly, it came in quite handy.

So I had my rabbinical advice, across the board. I had, eventually, cooperation from the couple, who agreed to the form of kesuvah, the mikveh (huge, right?) and pretty much everything that mattered. I, in turn, had to agree to come early; to be called “rabbi” by the staff; and, I decided, to forego dusting off my tuxedo in order to achieve the proper clerical decorum on that night. And I had to commit, of course, to actually take a hard look at the seder kedushin [the wedding ceremony], learn it, and be prepared to execute it! At my age, I don’t do new things every day. This turned out to be a simple matter, but, even for me, a little scary.

The happy ending, along with the nerves, the detours and the airline food, I will tell you about in Part 3, IY”H.

Ron Coleman is married to his everyday blog about intellectual property law. It’s called LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION®.

Clash of Cultures – A Torah Observant Wedding and Father’s Day

When we were planning the wedding of our daughter, we really didn’t think that having it on Father’s Day would cause a conflict. And so far it hasn’t, except for one exception… our secular friends.

We don’t have that many secular friends, but the response from those we did invite has been weak.

What did you think are the primary causes?

a) Father’s day is a big thing in the secular world, despite it being a minor event in Torah Observant society

b) Secular people think that they will feel uncomfortable at a Torah Observant wedding, so they often opt out

c) The Torah Observant lifestyle leaves little room to nurture secular friendships causing them to lose some of their luster

The Myth of the Plateau

Originally published Dec 26, 2005

What do you do when you start running out of mitzvot to take on? Do you just become more machmir on everything you’re already doing? Is it wrong to stop in a comfort zone and just stay there? What happens when you lose that good feeling you get every time you daven, and you stop feeling like Hashem cares about every mitzvah you do?

I don’t know if it would be accurate to call it a “plateau.” As Newton’s first law states, a body in motion stays in motion, and I think this applies to religious growth as well. But where does all this newfound spiritual energy go when you hit a dead end?

I’d call this the point where one backslides, where one can easily go off the derech. It’s when we realize that Orthodox Jews are human, too, and not some group of super-perfect beings whose every action is in line with Hashem’s Will. It’s probably the most dangerous time in one’s teshuva process.

If when you reach that plateau, which is really just a much slower incline, you’re happy religiously and stay that way the rest of your life, Baruch Hashem. I often imagine that’s how FFBs live life, never having to question their practices, and always feeling secure in their beliefs. Then there’s the rest of the BT world, who have to figure out what they need to do in order to continue on their spiritual journey.

And then a bigger question- is there just one point of decline, one hard struggle that you go through and then you learn how do deal with those times of religious dissatisfaction? Or do you keep on encountering them, again and again, when you least expect it? And then what?

As I’m writing this, I realize that I am not sounding very encouraging. Maybe it’s because I’m at one of those points right now, and I’ve been there for the past year. So I can’t say how long they last, or that people get over them (but they must, because pretty much every BT I’ve ever met has seemed inexplicably happy all the time) or that there’s a strategy for getting through them.

But I can say that you’re not alone, and you’re not a bad Jew, and you’re allowed to have periods of doubt. I can say that growth isn’t linear (and for those who think it is, watch out) and that everyone has their ups and downs. It’s kind of like a graph of the stock exchange. Your amount of faith or devotion may vary from year to year (or day to day) but overall it’s a trend upwards. Just don’t forget that Hashem cares about you, wants you to come closer to Him, and will help you when you need it the most.

Accepting Who You Are

By Elisheva Rabinowitz

Eight years ago, *Sara, a 30 year old woman, became a Baal Teshuvah (BT). She came into my office because she was still struggling with issues of feeling “less than” her neighbors. Her neighbor, Rivki, always looked put-together, with the latest shaitel and clothes from NY. Even though she had 12 children, her house was spotless, and her neat and clean children were (seemed) always well-behaved. Sara pined to look, act and be like Rivki. She asked, “How can she do always be put together, but at my house there are toys on the floor, dishes in the sink and everything doesn’t look “perfect”.

Sara is not alone in her struggles to fit in and be accepted by her peers. Many BTs desire to “fit-in” and be liked by others which can make the transition from a secular Jew to a BT a challenging one. How can Sara fit in, or does she need to? How can Sara learn to accept herself? How can Sara learn that it’s not emotionally healthy to compare herself to Rivki or anyone else? These questions are important to address, and as a licensed counselor, I try to help my clients find a place for themselves in the Frum world, and more importantly, a loving place within themselves.

The reason that it is important to learn ways to accept yourself is because HaShem wants you to focus on YOUR ROLE in Olam Hazeh (this world). When you focus on your role and yourself, then you will free yourself up to be closer to HaShem, have more time to fulfill your role and improve the rest of your life; instead of chasing the “Life would be easier if I was a FFB”; “If I could only be put together like____”; or “If we only knew all the mitzvot of shabbos automatically then life would be easier”.

I would like to make some simple suggestions on how to address this issue of accepting who you are (though you may need to address this issue on a deeper level):

1.Understanding Your Strengths-Who are you?
I want my clients to focus on and understand their strengths, so I ask them, “What makes you unique and special?”
If you are having some difficulty thinking of what makes you-you then here’s some suggestions
(Please use this list as a starting place, but not as a limitation):
Gentle,Prepared,Loving,Imaginative,Alert,A good listener

If the list above does not help you think of your positive attributes, then you might want to ask yourself, “If a friend was describing me, she would say I am _________.”

After you have thought of 3-5 words that describe you, then I encourage you to repeat those words to yourself to reinforce your strengths and talents. Sometimes people tell me that they feel “stupid” saying, “I am a _____ (positive attribute) person” because they don’t see the benefit of the activity. One client asked, “How will saying these statements make me feel better?”. The bottom line is that you need to believe in your inner worth; therefore, when you tell yourself positive messages you boost yourself self-esteem. Also, it is important to always remember you are Tzelem Elokim, made in G-d’s image, He loves you and you have many fine qualities. This exercise is meant to develop your awareness of your strengths, not to cause haughtiness. Your goal is to strengthen your image of yourself, but you should be cautious not to inflate or deflate your positive qualities.

2. Be Patient and Loving with Yourself
Sometimes BTs (generally speaking) can be so busy and focused on everyone else that they forget that HaShem loves them. For example, I’ve heard people make the following statements:

1. *Avi learns ___ blatt of Gemara a day and I only learned____;
2. I can’t juggle 3 carpools, but Sara has 5 carpools; or
3. I don’t know how to “speak the lingo”

These types of statements may make you feel “less than”, embarrassed, or angry, but you have many successes, and you continue to learn more things. BTs need to be reminded that He sees how much they’ve changed and how many steps they’ve taken to grow closer to Him. He loves them and He wants them to love themselves. I want to clarify that the above statements don’t mean that they are finished growing and learning, but BTs need to focus on their true abilities, strengths and their path of Teshuvah.

Recently, I made a recommendation to my client-be patient and loving with yourself and focus on your accomplishments. Certainly, my statement is easier said then done, but each step we take toward this goal the more emotionally healthier we become. A Frum from birth woman recently told me, “I don’t know if I grew up in the secular world, I would decide to become frum-it seems so hard”. She could not understand how someone could decide to change so many aspects of his/her life.

If you stop and think about it, you have made so many changes, such as where you eat, how you eat, how you spend your time, how you carry on a conversation… and that’s just the beginning. Therefore, I recommend you making a list of all the things you have changed-improvements you’ve made in your life (even if it was 10 years ago). Then, “pat yourself on the back” for each step you have taken and the many more steps that you will take. It may feel strange to “pat yourself on the back”, but through recognition that we are trying to integrate into a life that FFB have been familiar with all their lives can be challenging and a test. Therefore, take a moment and review all the steps you’ve taken, thank HaShem for lifting you up and carrying you toward Him.

On a daily basis, BTs need to navigate a sea of issues that can be challenging and impair their sense of well-being. Below is a short list of items that you may have experienced and some reactions (in parenthesis) I’ve heard about :
1. Dating (You met him when and now you’re getting married. Don’t you think you should date for a couple of years to make sure “He’s Mr. Right”.)
2.Shalom bayis (I thought 2 people get married and hope not to get divorced);
3. Having children (What is a pidyon haben?; Do you plan on having more kids?);
4. Pesach cleaning (What is that? How long does that take?);
5. Tisha B’Av (When is that? What is that? “Oh, it’s in the summer when we were on vacation, so we never paid attention to that day”);
6. Make Bar/Bas Mitzvahs (How will we explain to our families the difference between Frum Bas Mitzvah and what I had);
7. Kosher (What do you mean you can’t eat my cooking anymore); and
8. Sending our children off for Seminary or Bais Medrash (Your family asks, “Your sending your kids where and they are going to do what?” and then they add, “Don’t plan on staying there.”).
Therefore, a BT will be more able to address challenges more easily with a positive and strong sense of him or herself.

As Sara focused on what made her special and all of her accomplishments, she was able to focus less on everyone else’s perfect home (which in reality is only in fairy tale books). She learned to think positive about herself and others, and see HaShem’s loving kindness in her daily life. We have no guarantees in life, so live life to the fullest today!
*Name and information changed for privacy

For some BTs, these issues may be easy to handle, but other issues may be more challenging, such as how to handle family issues that arise or pressures of being a BT women or how to resolve issues from “my past”. If speaking to someone who is sensitive to the needs of the BT would be helpful, please feel free to contact me, Elisheva Rabinowitz at 410-736-8118.

Elisheva Rabinowitz received her MA in Clinical Psychology, and is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC). In her private practice, she works with adults and children who experienced traumatic events in their life, such as a death of a parent or abuse. In addition, she is sensitive to the needs of the Baalei Teshuvah. She has spoken for Chana, Counseling, Helpline and Aid Network for Abused Women, on the topic of domestic violence. Also, she has spoken for N’Shei Agudath about wellness and stress and anger. Currently, she in the owner of “BalancedBodies4Women” and specializes in: Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (abuse, stress and anger management, grief and loss issues), stress and anger issues and eating issues, such as emotional overeating. She is a member of Nefesh: The International Network of Orthodox Mental Health Professionals and American Counseling Association (ACA). She counsels clients pro bono for The Shofar Coalition.

In addition, Elisheva Rabinowitz holds several wellness certifications, such as Personal Trainer and Group Exercise (such as Pilates and Yoga). She helps her clients obtain a healthy and fit body, prevent serious illness, reduce stress levels, and increase their energy. In addition, she helps them overcome roadblocks and become accountable for their actions, making wellness part of their lifestyle, not just for a week, a month, or a year, but for a lifetime.

Elisheva Rabinowitz can be reached at 410-736-8118 or or