Monday, March 21, 2016

Baalei teshuva on Pesach

Hey, rabbis!

Yeah, the ones who do kiruv. It is nice that you teach baalei teshuva how to be frum and even spend a few months (or years) inviting us into your home, until we get the mechanics down. It is nice that you stay in touch. It is also nice that you worry about who baalei teshuva are going to marry. Overwhelmingly, baalei teshuva will marry other baalei teshuva: common backgrounds, same kiruv institutions, similar idealism. It all works out, and once the chuppa is set up, and the sheitel and black hat buying is encouraged, it's rosily into the sunset, into happy observant ever after.

Then you drop baalei teshuva like a hot potato and move onto the next "project".

But when two baalei teshuva get married, you have two sets of non-observant in-laws. If lucky, there will be kosher dishes at parents' home and modicum of trust, respect, and understanding. If not, now the young couple is on their own.

Pesach is coming, and it is painfully obvious who are baalei teshuva, and who are not. No, it has nothing to do with observance. It has to do with what the holiday will be about. All those lucky to have frum parents flock back home. There are people out there with grown children who have never made a seder, never made Pesach, They always have two sets of parents to negotiate where to go for the first days, and where to go for the last. Oh, sure, it can be tricky to satisfy all, and I do not want to take away from your conflicts. But that is when everyone forgets about baalei teshuva. They have no parental house to go to for Pesach. Rather, they have a  parental house, but the struggle to convince parents to get rid of chametz, kasher everything, and then stick with the program for eight days is daunting, if not practically impossible. So they stay put and muddle through. Those kiruv rabbis conveniently get busy with their own families. But baalei teshuva are left behind.

It doesn't matter how many years one has been observant. It doesn't matter that Pesach comes every year, and, somehow, kitchens get converted, food gets made, and it all passes. Every year, there is the great divide between those who have family to flock to, and those who do not.

If your family makes Pesach, invite a a baalei teshuva family, the ones with many kids, the ones whose observance you don't doubt, the ones who do not need kiruv. Nobody else will.


  1. I love this and, as you know, my heart is breaking. I have said before, and stand by what I've written in the past, every baal tshuvah is an orphan. At least we make our own traditions, family gatherings, etc. Wish I could join you for your seader or that you could join me.

  2. This so touched me. I remember being newly married and feeling lost those first few years. Somewhere along the way I realized that I would have to create a family for my kids sake. Now I use Pesach to 'adopt' orphan families. Last year we had 2 families with 4 children each that were new to the community and a bond was made. The kids made our seder. We are hoping to have them again and hope to have another new family this year.
    Please take Ilana's advice and open your doors. You will receive more than you are giving!

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  4. I loved this, Ilana. So moving and personal. Wishing you all good things at Pesach.