Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

I, Rabbi (Part Three – Conclusion)

Part One of this three-post series is here. Part Two is here. It was a nice wedding. Not a heimishe wedding, despite my best efforts in that direction, but nice all the same, and kosher, too. Well, the food wasn’t kosher. Oh, mine was, as was that of the other “special kosher” diners, but it […]

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 […]

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. […]

I, Rabbi (Part One)

I’m no rabbi. Except, in too many cases, compared to everyone else on the guest list. So in addition to “fielding questions,” as we all do, I’ve “done” or “presided over” or “conducted” too many unveilings, burials — pedestrian stuff, of course, but you have to be willing to stick your neck out and be, […]

Sharing the Joy of Others

We’ve recently discussed some of the generalities of which Shuls are right for which people. Perhaps a sometimes overlooked benefit is sharing in the joy of others and the positive character development that brings in its wake. There’s a nice story about a “Shlishi to Remember”, on Shul Politics in which shul members experience spontaneous […]

Upper West Side Story: My True Jewish Story

By Mr. Cohen It was approximately 1985, and in the summertime, on a Saturday night, that I saw her. We were in Manhattan’s Upper West Side neighborhood. She looked very lost. People of various races and ages passed her by, indifferent to her plight. I, as a native of New York City, wanted to help […]

Bronx Boy Takes His Talents to the Holy Land

While most of his classmates in the graduating class of 1986 headed west, south and north to Ivy League universities throughout the USA, Rabbi Daniel Travis traveled East to the land of Israel to explore his heritage and eventually built his life and his family there. After a number of years of graduate and postgraduate […]

The Hidden Hand – Day of Infamy

Beyond BT contributor, Yaakov Astor has just published his latest book, The Hidden Hand. Here is an excerpt. 1941, a week before Chanukah. Hitler’s armies are only twenty miles from the Kremlin and German soldiers even joke about catching a bus to see Stalin. Stalin, no friend of the Jews, is nevertheless vital to the […]

There Are No Coincidences

I was reviewing the Parsha Friday morning and I realized that I hadn’t informed my Partners in Torah chavrusa that it was a double parsha. My chavrusa loves to learn and each week he reads *every* Art Scroll note and translation on the parsha. I gave him a call around 10:15 to tell him. He […]

What’s in a Name?

When I began my journey of return six years ago, one of the first things I was encouraged to do was start using my Hebrew/Yiddish given names, Leah Hudis Esther, or at least Leah. Not only was it meant to be a new form of self-identification, reflecting my journey of teshuvah, but it also would […]

Music Lessons

As I was putting our seven year old to bed the other night, we were trying to decide what CD he should listen to. He was pushing for something lively (a Piamenta Band disc), but I put on something a bit more mellow instead (Jonathan Rimberg’s Kumzitz CD). When it started playing my son said, […]

The Man on the Street

Hungarians are not shy. At least during the year I spent teaching in their capital, Budapest, I never observed the slightest reticence among the city’s residents. No doubt I stood out a bit, riding the local trolley with my untrimmed beard and black fedora — a combination that had blended naturally into the scenery of […]

The Night Hashem Did the Rest

By Ruby Ginsberg My son had a Rebbe in first grade who used to tell the boys “You do your best and Hashem will do the rest”. At no time has this credo been more meaningful to my family and me than on one summer night three years ago. With the kids back from sleep […]

The Ratio of Cows to Grandchildren

I’ve recently picked up the book “The Kiruv Files” by Dovid Kaplan and Elimelich Meisels (Targum Press 2003). It’s quite a good read with chapters on many issues faced by newly minted BTs. It’s also pretty funny. Here is a particularly interesting excerpt: You may have heard of Yitz Greenbaum, one of the early Israeli […]

Confessions of a Bayou Jew

One of the great things about the internet (and this blog) is the ability to make friends with others that you probably would never have otherwise met. Through a comment here on the blog, I became friends with Amishav. Here, he shares the backstory of his “in progress” teshuvah path. -David Confessions of a Bayou […]

Nothing Just Happens

Although there were 74 mitzvos in the parsha this Shabbos, I said a Dvar Torah about Amalek and I happened to learn the piece in Strive for Truth about Amalek with my son. Both pieces emphasize the usage of the word Karcha (happened) and stress that Amalek’s philosophy is that things just happen, as opposed […]

A Picture of Pure Sacrifice

A friend once approached me in a professional capacity and asked me to represent him in some contract disputes. He was a very well renown photographer who had just become Shomer Shabbos. The problem was, he had 6-9 months worth of Shabbos affairs booked. He walked away from all of them and, in my estimation, […]

Bob Dylan and Me

A True Story St. Paul Minnesota is not a popular tourist attraction in winter, but there I was in December 1984, wandering around the lobby of Bais Chana. Perched atop a hill, in a monastic looking building situated amongst large sprawling suburban homes, would be the place where I would confront myself as a Jewess […]

The Spirit of Shabbat and My Car Alarm

In the community I was involved with in St. Louis in my pre-marriage days, a particular family hosted about 25 people each week for Shabbat dinner and I had the privilege to be their guest several times. It seemed to me that this family represented the epitome of the baal teshuvah experience: beautiful home filled […]

Whom to Thank

“Rabbi, is there a blessing to thank G-d for saving your life?” Rabbi Goodman absentmindedly muttered that this was an unusual question no one had ever asked him before. Peering at me from over his wire rimmed glasses he asked,” Are you a member of my congregation?” It was five in the afternoon and the […]

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