Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

18 Sivan 5766 - June 14, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Home and Family

Ba'alei Teshuvoh Parents

By Rebbetzin Nomi Travis


Dear Shadchanit,

I follow your columns and enjoy the fact that you raise issues that others ignore. I hope you will be able to handle another sensitive matter — call it a challenge . . .

My husband and I have been fully observant Torah Jews for over twenty years and we are now on the threshold of marrying off our children who are truly FFBs. The question of yichus comes up and we find ourselves at times very challenged (and hurt). We know that everyone has a right to their own priorities, yet I feel at times like echoing the words of my good friend, "Now, after all these years... l know what you really think of me..." I do not want to condemn others. I would like to be non-judgmental, I think that our community has come a long way, yet not far enough in opening itself up to "newcomers."

I understand that people like to marry their children off to someone from a matching or parallel background, and that there are many intricate issues involved in these decisions... But I still would hope that we, the veteran baalei Teshuvoh would be accepted in the warm and loving way as we were, when we first expressed an interest in self betterment and took the sometimes treacherous route of chozrim beTeshuvoh. We certainly had great help, love, and support then, which helped us overcome many obstacles. But now, at this point in our lives, we need help again.

Can you open this topic up for discussion in your column?

Thanking you in advance for your interest.

A Mother in Israel


A fresh baal tshuvah gets attention. They get warm invitations and praise for taking on mitzvah- observance. There is great joy in celebrating their gradual changes. I once overheard a neighbor telling a guest that angels are dancing in Heaven because she has taken on more mitzvos recently. (I was impressed with my neighbor's sensitivity and delighted at the beautiful smile the girl had.)

I wouldn't completely agree that BTs are not fully accepted. Nevertheless some are more successful in mainstreaming then others. Following the period of taking on mitzvah- observance and learning fundamental topics in Yidishkeit comes the harder period of adjustment. After the "high" of the first steps, eventually the reality and routine hits the newly observant. That's even when things don't naturally fall into place, they need to persevere and keep growing. Many will admit that despite being "in the fold" for many years, they haven't fully adapted yet.

It is understandable that they often prefer to build closer relationships with others from their own background. However, there is a healthy aspect of not only being part of their own BT community.

Sometimes the age in which they became frum and the extent of their contact with typical FFB families will have a lot to do with how integrated they become. Not everyone can exactly fit in accordance to general guidelines, but at least an effort should be made. For example, many insist on dressing in an eccentric fashion that might not be purposely against the dress code, but is certainly against the spirit of the law and makes them stand out, while others feel that they have changed so much that they cling to some remnants of their past life that aren't even that important for them anymore.

Undoubtly, BTs can greatly contribute to the frum society with their idealism and excitement. They usually don't take for granted spiritual values and have great appreciation for the better life they have chosen to follow. Although at times, the need to fit in leads to insecurities that can be transmitted to the children. In such cases they lack yishuv hadaas, so that their parenting might be overly strict or lenient, stressed, etc.

Someone recently told me they are looking for a boy from a family like the Cohens. And she enforced, "Therefore, not BTs". Interestingly enough, little does she know that I happen to be acquainted with Mrs. Cohen and I am aware that she is a BT, which most people don't realize, because she is so mainstreamed and truly fits into frum circles . . .

I have also met BTs that actually only look for children of FFBs. Precisely what they feel they didn't have, they want, as if to compensate. The question is whether the families will get along . . . The answer is not always positive, which could then be a high price to pay, above and beyond just simply wanting what is best for one's child.

Since the children often visit and keep close contact, one would want their children to marry into families similar to their own . . . Still, most would probably be hurt like you by being turned down. But what does pain my neighbor, which she asked me to address, is when BTs who are well adjusted and integrated have a hard time enrolling their children in chareidi institutions . . .

As you wrote, there are "many intricate issues." Family background is important but only one aspect of the many needs, preferences, expectations, etc. Unfortunately, often people get so caught on one of those aspects, something that could potentially be overlooked if minor, that they forget that nothing is more important then their child's happiness.

There are cases where one side doesn't want a particular type and somehow they end up not finding out that a suggestion might be in the unwanted category. Or they might surprise even themselves by being willing to compromise . . .

In a true story, a girl's family turned down, at least twice, a certain offer because the boy came from a BT family. The third time came from a different source and they didn't remember they had already said no. This time around they realized that they had met him many times, for he is indirectly related to a neighbor. They were impressed with what they saw and the inquiries only confirmed it. Only much later, they realized that they had turned it down in the past, and that his parents are BTs but then it didn't matter anymore!

In short, don't worry too much about what other people think or say. Families who would not want you, you would not want them either . . . Even if others don't appreciate your family, you have to feel good about yourself and proud of your accomplishments. You know your virtues, the great steps you took to build a wonderful household.

Hashem will orchestrate for your dear ones to meet their zivugim. If a shidduch is declined, it is because it is not meant to work out. We can want and want, but only what is truly bashert will crystallize.

Rebbetzin Travis has many years of experience and success in helping people through shidduchim. Please note that all names have been changed unless specified with the exception of well-known public figures like Gedolim and educators. Any comments, questions and stories can be sent to: or at (02) 656- 3111


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