Friday, December 30, 2005

Un-Inspired- A Response to Aish's Abuse of the Word "Truth."

I don't think the rabbis at Aish ("Dangerous Fire") as Un-orthodox Jew calls it, got the memo about lying. That is, the memo in the Torah that admonishes: "Distance yourself from sheker [a false matter]" (Exodus 23:7).

I've made it abundantly clear just what some of the sheker is at places like Aish, Ohr Someyach and McClone Shlomo in this post from November.

So, it's pretty clear that BT yeshivas and especially the kiruv monolith Aish/ Discovery, have no problem with lying. Perhaps they've consulted a rav and it's mutter to lie?

Apparently so, since many sources in the gemara hold the halachas pertaining to lying in the torah really only pertain to a judicial context (such as the primitive judicial system of the biblical times was with male witnesses only, and no circumstantial evidence, and the tremendous weight given to sworn testimony).

Something tells me that the Rabbis at Aish are holding by the following gemara which I quote from the "LyingPermissible" post on the JLaw.com site:

"The following involves a deception over a remedy (Babylonian Talmud, Avodah Zarah 28a) and deals with a considerably more complex ethical situation.

Rabbi Yochanan suffered from tzafdina [a dangerous disease of the gums or teeth] and went to a certain heathen lady who made a remedy for him to use on Thursday and Friday. He said to her: "What should I do tomorrow [the Sabbath]"? She replied: "You will not need the treatment." Rabbi Yochanan said: "But what if I do need it?" She replied: "Swear to me that you will not reveal the remedy to anyone." Rabbi Yochanan swore to her: "To the God of Israel I will not reveal it." She then disclosed the remedy to him and the next day he taught it in his public lecture.


"The Talmud asks: But did he not swear to her not to reveal it? The Talmud answers: He swore that he would not reveal it to the God of Israel, but to His people, Israel, he would reveal it. The Talmud asks: But is this not a profanation of the name of God? [when a Jew commits a misdeed, especially something as serious as swearing falsely, it causes people to denigrate Judaism and the Torah]. The Talmud answers: That from the beginning he revealed to her that his oath was not binding [and that he wanted to help the public]."


So, there you have it- when Aish Discovery lies about the existence of Bible Codes, makes fantastic claims about kabbala, presents Schroeder's lies that genesis works with the theory of relativity- all in the name of "kiruv"- it's fine! After all, they didn't take an oath that the claims were true and they're helping the public ("saving souls," except of course for the thousands they permanently innoculate against any jewish observance with their distastefully dishonest methods).

Note: This post was "inspired" by this post by an Aish Rabbi promoting Aish's latest movie, "In Spores" on the Beyond BT blog.

38 Comments:

Anonymous David Linn said...

BTA,

I'll try to refrane from the name calling and denigration you find necessary when posting on our blog and focus on your actual post.

I'm finding it difficult to discern what if anything about the Beyond BT post was a promotion of the movie Inspired. Anybody who actually read the post knows that it is addressed to the issue of how some BTs choose to conceal their past. Other than mentioning that the Rabbi discovered this issue while participating in the production of "Inspired",the movie is not even discussed.

It's interesting that first you state (in a previous comment to a post now removed from your site for obvious reasons) that you don't bother to read beyondbt.com. Then you base a whole post on something you saw there. Which one is it? Oh, now I see why your comment completely misconstrued the post. You look at beyondbt you just don't bother actually READING it.

12/30/2005 2:44 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"I'll try to refrane from the name calling and denigration you find necessary when posting on our blog and focus on your actual post."

Thanks, but I never called anyone names. Prove me wrong. I said that Aish lies to accomplish its kiruv/fundraising goals, and they do. I make my case here. You choose not to agree, or to attack the tone of my post, which is not a substantive attack.

Please address Aish's penchant for bible codes and schroeder nonsense.

"I'm finding it difficult to discern what if anything about the Beyond BT post was a promotion of the movie Inspired."

David- did *you* read the post?!
The title contains a reference to Inspired, and the first line of the post says this:

"Being involved in the filming of Inspired was truly a zechus for which I’m grateful to Hashem and a most enjoyable process from beginning to end."

The reference to Inspired is totally gratuitous and intended to drum up sales using your blog. If you don't mind, that's fine, but don't try to cover it up- the words are there to see.

Also, I've seen Aish taking a cue from Kenny Menken's site and is trying to use blogs to promote themselves. I've seen an Aish rabbi post a self-promoting comment about how many "Jewish souls" they "save" on Hirhurim as well. When Gil asked a question of the Rabbi, he was "poof" gone. He got his bit of "mindshare" to use the dotcom lingo for stealth ads on the web.

As for your statement about whether I read it or not, I really wasn't reading your site until I saw Kelsey's post about it and your statement that he wasn't banned and he could say whatever he wants. I though "hey, DL's lightened up," so I guess I can post straighforwardly as well.

Don't forget that when I posted a bit sharply in the first days of your blog, you politely asked me not to be so sharp about OJ. I stayed away, until recently.

If you can't take the Aish, get out of the kitchen. You can ban me, but at least admit you're banning me. And you can be cross-dress II.

Frankly, I think there's a basis for censorship on an OJ blog halachically.

But I don't think there's a basis for reading a blog that bans.

It's your call. But I never called anyone a name. I simply implied the truth- that Aish shamelessly self promotes and sells manifestly untrue things in the kiruv process.

Some of your readers no doubt benefit from a little circumspection about questionable kiruv practices.

One last point- my comment was not about your blog, it was about Aish. Why doesn't he respond? He doesn't need your help defending himself, does he? After all, he's got a PR department for that!

12/30/2005 3:02 PM  
Blogger David Kelsey said...

I would personally like to see more "Kiruv" types (not just former or disgruntled BT's) come out and say that what Aish and others do is NOT okay.

12/30/2005 3:26 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"I would personally like to see more "Kiruv" types (not just former or disgruntled BT's) come out and say that what Aish and others do is NOT okay."

And (unimaginable horror) even an Aish rabbi! I mean, can't any of them dissent about a particular practice? The whole Aish thing is so Scientology. I'm drawn to their 1 minute videos like a moth to a flame.

12/30/2005 3:34 PM  
Anonymous David Linn said...

Oh, I'm sorry there might not have been name calling. Maybe just once in the post calling cross-currents cross-dressing. Or was it twice, Dangerous Fire. Oh, yeah then there was McClone Shlomo. Almost forgot "In Spores". C'Mon who are we fooling?

As to the point of mentioning the movie in his post, didn't I say exactly what you did? I think that Aish with it's massive web presence doesn't need the promotion of an upstart blog.

As to Aish not responding to your criticisms, I'll leave that to them. I'm not here to defend them. I am involved in an effort to open the lines of communications so that the important issues of kiruv be discussed. Some of which you have to offer. At the same time, your rhetoric invites those you are confronting to ignore you. The result is that whatever valid points and criticism you may have are not addressed.

As to your accusations of banning and our prior email conversation, I invite you to post all of our emails here on your blog so that people can make their own decisions about what was said. I don't have access to them here but I distinctly remember you telling me: that you regretted your post on our blog, that my integrity was a credit to BTs and that we should delete your post. I also clearly recall telling you that our blog is not about deleting posts and that we welcome your input but to leave the venom and hyperbole (not using those precise words) for your blog. I also remember that even though you told us we could delete your post, we didn't. Did all of this happen with a different BTA?

Good Shabbos

12/30/2005 3:39 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"C'Mon who are we fooling?"

Well, of course I wasn't talking about my blog, which is manifestly 50% name calling. I was talking about the post.

"At the same time, your rhetoric invites those you are confronting to ignore you. The result is that whatever valid points and criticism you may have are not addressed."

True, but I suppose I never expected a reply. I'll be very impressed if you're able to do what you're trying (admireably) to do.

"As to your accusations of banning and our prior email conversation,"

Again, you are overstating- I never said you banned me! I said: "Don't forget that when I posted a bit sharply in the first days of your blog, you politely asked me not to be so sharp about OJ."

For the record, your entire depiction of our email conversation is accurate to my recollection.

My mention of "ban" was that you could ban me in the future and it would have certian implications credibility-wise. I even said, as I did in our emails that you'd have a legitimate halachic basis to do so.

I think you're a great guy, nothing's changed.

Good Shabbos.

12/30/2005 4:29 PM  
Blogger Shlomo said...

The woman felt that she had a proprietary claim on this remedy to ensure her income. This is not unlike any other artisan of the day who sought to protect his trade from being undercut by too much competition. Rabi Yochanan did not only LIE to her (outright chilul hashem), but by publicizing her cures, he ended up stealing from her that potential future income.

What an asshole.

Ty for the idea. I created a post for this on my own blog.

12/31/2005 12:40 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

follow up. Beyond BT deleted all my posts on their site. They are the new Cross-Dress.

Still, they're not annoying as mencken, since they don't write the stuff. But giving Aish free ad space, now that's a problem.

12/31/2005 9:43 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

I'm not sure what your objection is. Can nobody ever associate with anything from Aish? You seem to be conflicted on BeyondBT - happy with what they're doing, yet objecting primarily because one post referenced the movie Inspired. I've seen most of it - it's just a bunch of BT's telling their stories. There's no discussion of Bible codes or whatever else - just the story of how they became inspired to become frum. Meanwhile, BeyondBT is (as you and s/o else above noted) a perfect opportunity for you to contribute the issues you faced and how other BT's should be careful to watch out for it. Take advantage.

1/01/2006 1:26 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

I didn't think Inpired was about bible codes. I just try to point out that in the 1 minute clip they talk about how they learned about "truth" and how their lives were lies.

Meanwhile, Aish actively ropes in people with lies such as bible codes and schroeder.

I'm not even talking about the "kosher" lies like the oral law, divinely authored torah, watchmaker intelligent design argument, etc.

1/01/2006 3:32 AM  
Blogger David Kelsey said...

Ezzie,

Ohr Somayach and Aish have really bad reputations not just because the world is anti-fundamentalist but because many of us who spent time in their hallowed halls have told our survivor tales to the world. The irony is that it isn't just bitter former BT's who have issue with these places (like me) but even those who remained religious like BTA.

I went to YU afterwards, Ezzie, and while I did not like it one bit, and would NOT recommend that insitution to any BT, and would tell them to avoid it and go to a regular school instead, you will never hear me rail at them with the same level of rage.

YU is insensitive to those not of it's "mold." But they are not out to destroy you, nor is the administration or institution monolithic.

Fire Hazard and Dark Light are nasty,nasty pits of misery. Their main goal is to get you out of sin. They consider it pa'kuach nefesh, and as we all know, anything goes when it's pakuach nefesh.

This was my first and admittedly, most bitter and therefore least constructive post on the Unorthodox blog about why I hate these specific institutions:

http://unorthodoxjew.blogspot.com/2005/08/brutal-torquemadas-of-baal-tshuva.html

1/01/2006 11:32 AM  
Blogger Jak Black said...

-->I would personally like to see more "Kiruv" types (not just former or disgruntled BT's) come out and say that what Aish and others do is NOT okay.

Well, I'm not sure if you'd consider me a kiruv type - I'm just a rebbi in an American style yeshiva in Israel - but I'll certainly stand up and agree. I've seen Torah truth twisted in ways unimaginable by second generation kiruv punks, all in the name of kiruv.

And let's not forget a whole separate class of lies committed on behalf of the Torah - the society lies: how kiruv punks describe Orthodox life to potential BTs. How many of them forget to mention that they won't be able to marry off their children, find a shidduch, etc. etc.?

But certainly I'm not alone. R. Chaim Dov Keller of Chicago writes frequently and vociferously against what he calls the fifth stream of Judaism. The mainstream frum world (assuming such a beast even exists) is beginning to wake up to the reality that the kiruv masters have taken shocking liberties with the Torah and the truth.

And BTA, I can't help but poke you by adding that the kiruv joints even support guys like Slifkin! :)

1/02/2006 5:48 AM  
Blogger Jak Black said...

I'll just add that as far as change, don't expect any in the near, or possibly far, future. In a world of completely non-religious, Conservative, Chabad Messianism, etc. etc., the problems of Kiruv Judaism, great though they may be, are really small potatoes.

1/02/2006 5:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good for you for speaking the truth. In my opinion, Aish resorts to outright deception and lies. They are a disgrace. I feel that anyone inviting them to speak is abetting immoral behavior.

1/02/2006 7:12 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"In a world of completely non-religious, Conservative, Chabad Messianism, etc. etc., the problems of Kiruv Judaism, great though they may be, are really small potatoes."

Good point, Jak. But there's more to it than that even. Imagine the money that the BT's bring to OJ world.

Where I live, the BT parents seem to be the majority of those paying full tuition for their children. They enthusiastically start and fund charities at a rate that outstrips the FFBs per capita.

To take your example of Chabad. David Berger's thesis as to why the mainstream frum world ignores the problems of Chabad messianism is the money they provide and the fact that they "look" so frum.

I would borrow that thesis and apply it to Aish especially. Aish is a kiruv juggernaut and they "look real frum" (even deleted Slifkin's articles post-ban- while keeping Schroeder's, btw).

And for the record, I think Slifkin wasn't really a kiruv guy. His focus seemed more on "at risk" yeshiva guys who were letting skeptical questions show them the way out of OJ. He tried to show them that there were kosher answers to those questions. That's why I found the ban ironic, although I can see why they banned him.

But let's not digress into slifkin talk- I'm no great fan or foe of him.

1/02/2006 8:54 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"Good for you for speaking the truth. In my opinion, Aish resorts to outright deception and lies. They are a disgrace. I feel that anyone inviting them to speak is abetting immoral behavior."

Thanks, anon. I also find them to be very creepy. Take this, for example:

http://www.aish.com/a/JustJewIt.asp
http://www.aish.com/seminars/discovery/Info/failsafe.htm

1/02/2006 9:11 PM  
Blogger David Kelsey said...

I just want to take issue with what Jak Black said, as I disagree that:

"In a world of completely non-religious, Conservative, Chabad Messianism, etc. etc., the problems of Kiruv Judaism, great though they may be, are really small potatoes."

In fact, it is a huge problem.

As long as there is not a major kiruv group who seeks to invigorate and empower Jews with traditional Jewish education and commitment, and not demand a radical and unnecessarily amputative lifestyle change, and as long as the methods used are dishonest instead of truthful, suggesting that the path to Torah cannot be presented honestly but only though chicanery, the future of secular Jewry is horribly grim.

Fire Hazard, Dark Light, and McClone should be the biggest concerns of the Orthodox world, because the fact that they are the players in non-chassidic kiruv spells certain death in terms of potential of the percentage that can be engaged.

And no one cares.

1/02/2006 10:20 PM  
Blogger Jak Black said...

David said, "...the future of secular Jewry is horribly grim"

The future of secular Jewry is horribly grim regardless of what the kiruv pros are teaching. It's a fact that although the kiruv enterprise makes lots of noise (which helps the fund raising, of course), in solid fact they do very little to stem the tide of downspiraling religion and assimilation. I wish it were different, but that's the fact; the number of Jews lost each years vastly outnumbers the number the kiruv pros bring back.

My point is that regardless of how serious the problems are (and if you notice, I did say they were serious), they really are small potatoes *relative* to greater issues.

1/03/2006 3:40 PM  
Anonymous BT said...

Wow. Such bitterness. I am a BT, and I went through some really rough times myself. But I hardly recognize the allegations here: how do the BT yeshivas employ dishonesty and chicanery to persuade people to become frum? I can't really relate to that claim. And as far as marrying off children, I am marrying off mine with no problems so far...so I can't really relate to that. I met a lot of weirdos and strange and objectionable people along the way, but, hey, that is life...my main question here is what type of dishonesty are you referring to on the part of kiruv people?

1/04/2006 7:13 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

BT, first of all, you might want to use a different tag, as it's a bit confusing.

Second, you got religion a long time ago, I suppose, if your kids are already of marriagable age. Before kiruv became a big international business
.

Still, if you don't know what is false, there's much to choose from. Jak incidentally is a litvish Jerusalem rabbi and when he's talking about schools and marriage, he's talking about the "upper eschelons" of chareidi society. Your kids don't have a chance there, but you probably don't care. The point is that this is emblematic of how the "frummest of the frum" view BT's- as pariahs or at best to be tolerated. Chabad might be nice to BT's, but they also need recruits for moschiach Rebbe.

As for a much more stern view of the lies of kiruv, check out the 2 posts from 11/7 on my site:

http://offthederech.blogspot.com/2005_11_07_offthederech_archive.html

There are many more to choose from.

Or, remain in blissful ignorance. You seem happy and have been for a long time, so I'd say stick with it, no sense rocking the boat.

1/04/2006 11:00 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

here's the big biz link:
http://www.aish.com/aishint/overview.asp

1/04/2006 11:01 AM  
Blogger Jak Black said...

I said: I've seen Torah truth twisted in ways unimaginable by second generation kiruv punks, all in the name of kiruv

BTA said: Second, you got religion a long time ago, I suppose, if your kids are already of marriagable age.

BT, I was being careful when I mentioned the second generation. BTA should probably make a whole post about this, but there is a great difference between the first generation of kiruv pros, who themselves were (almost) all FFBs, and the second and especially the third generation who typically saw the inside of a yeshiva for a year or two before going out themselves to conquer the world.

1/04/2006 4:56 PM  
Anonymous BT said...

Look, I don't think I'm naive. I've met dozens of charlatan, b.s. artists, thieves, slimeballs, two-faced ignoramuses and phony losers in my career as a Ba'al tshuva. Yes, I came of age in the 1970's, in eretz yisrael. My first rosh yeshiva, I am sorry to say, was a money hungry exploiter of people. We've all been hurt, but this bitterness directed toward the rest of the Jewish world is uncalled for and self-defeating. What are waging a war against? If you don't want to be frum, then stop being frum and get over it. On the other hand, there are lots of wonderful people out there along with the charlatans and money grubbers. That's the human condition, and it is going to be found wherever you look for it, even in frum communities. Do I care that the Rosh Yeshiva doesn't want his son to marry my daughter? Nope, I don't. Because I have my own sense of self-worth, something you bitter people need to develop. The problem is within you, and if you are honest enough, you will admit it. Anybody can criticize; there are always things to be upset about. All you are doing is making yourself feel worse. Be strong in who you are, and you won't be so bothered by other people's deficiencies and you won't spend so much time feeling sorry for yourself and blaming them for your problems.

1/04/2006 7:10 PM  
Blogger David Kelsey said...

BT,

You are throwing a lot of generalities about why we should all be a bunch of accepting hippies, and I wil take that to heart -- once a year when I go to Carlebach on Simchas Torah.

Except for then, I would prefer to understand why the specifics of the problems of the wonderful fundamentalist world of Baal Tshuvah is not worth discussing or fighting.

These guys are out to ruin lives, and they call it saving souls. Are there other groups who do the same thing? Of course there are, but these guys are in the Jewish world and BTA, myself, and many others are angry at ourselves for having engaged un that world, and would like the nonsense to stop. BTA stayed frum, I did not, nor would I ever come near lving a Haredi lifestyle ever again.

No one is "strong" in who they are when they become a BT, in a BT yeshiva. This is a completely useless piece of advice for who and when we are concerning ourselves about.

1/04/2006 9:48 PM  
Anonymous BT said...

David Kelsey, you are certainly one of the most bitter people. I have read your bitter writings on the UOJ blog. Your bitterness is hurting mostly you, not others. Your claim that kiruv people are out to "ruin lives", as you put it, is a prime example of your bitter, self-pitying mind set. You know very well that these people are not out to ruin lives. You attack, attack, attack...the question is why? You are not shedding light, nor are you helping others. You are simply venting your internal unhappiness. If you examine yourself honestly, you will see that you were unhappy before you went through the ba'al tshuva experience. You were hoping religion would make you happy. You couldn't adjust, and now you blame your rebbes and advisors and other frum people for your unhappiness. David, this approach will never make you happy, though it may give you some temporary ability to find an excuse for yourself.

1/04/2006 10:05 PM  
Anonymous BT said...

Also, I never said anything about being an "accepting hippie". That is your phrase, and it is completely off base. It's another indication of your mind set.

1/04/2006 10:06 PM  
Blogger David Kelsey said...

BT,

You said,

"Your bitterness is hurting mostly you, not others."

I am not out to hurt people, so I don't mind if I am not accomplishing a goal you insist I am failing to accomplish.

You said,

"Your claim that kiruv people are out to "ruin lives", as you put it, is a prime example of your bitter, self-pitying mind set. You know very well that these people are not out to ruin lives."

Then we have different ideas about what is important. I consider socio-economic status important, and can give you examples that so do the Sages throughout the ages, and so does the Torah, beginning with Abraham, whom Hashem promised that he would not see a reduced reputation or wealth in his choice to leave his homeland and wander.

The Kiruv people are not concerned about this -- not one bit. They should be; they are not. I call that ruining lives. You tell me what I should I call it instead. Or do you believe that isn't the case, much of the time?

You wrote,

"If you examine yourself honestly, you will see that you were unhappy before you went through the ba'al tshuva experience."

I am not concerned with happiness, or demanding they provide it. I am concerned that this lifestyle prevents people from achieving what they would otherwise be able to achieve, and in fact, fears achievement in any meaningful secular way.

"You were hoping religion would make you happy."

I was hoping to make peace with my Judaism. I failed on that front. I don't see how anyone succeeds at it from a secular background, and go figure, most don't.

"You couldn't adjust, and now you blame your rebbes and advisors and other frum people for your unhappiness."

Damn straight I couldn't. But I blame certain Rabbis for very, very bad advice. Very, very bad advice that they give way too many poeple way too often.

And BTm if you or others think that you are going to win these conversations by using personal attacks and insults instead of discussing the issues and points of contention, you are going to find that these net fights are quite costly and revealing, and that your leaders understood what they were doing when they banned the Internet.

I would like to point out to anyone reading this back and forth that BT has chosen to attack people personally, and not address the specific issues at all. Look for a lot of this from anonymous defenders of Ultra-Orthodox apologists.

1/05/2006 12:52 AM  
Blogger David Kelsey said...

BT,

Now I remember you. I actually took your rebuke (and others) at the time, and subsequently wrote a more "constructive" and piece calling for 7 sepcific reforms at BT yeshivas.

1/05/2006 1:33 AM  
Anonymous BT said...

It's not a personal attack, David. I just think you are bitter in a very public and unproductive way. Listen, I agree with some of your general points. I also received bad advice from people, quite a few times. I was almost led into an absurd marriage. I was discouraged from higher education, but then advised to go to law school by another rav. I did and became a lawyer. Got a job on Wall Street right out of law school. Antoher rabbi had advised me to to sell luggage at flea markets to make a living . I knew it was bad advice and did not take it. It took me a long time to find my place in the Orthdox world, but I eventually did. It was a bit of an adventure, and it had plenty of ups and downs. But I got over it. Of course there is a big adjustment period. I am not "ultra Orthodox" or "haredi". I found my place. I guess the difference in based in learning. If you develop a love for Torah, then you get over the other stuff. You learn Jewish history, develop an appreciation for who the Jewish people are and what we are all about, what Torah is about, and you find your place. Being bitter and hostile and calling people "penguins" as you do (speaking of personal attacks) leads nowhere. I agree that BT yeshivas could use some "reforms". So be a leader and try to accomplish these changes. Ranting and raving and calling people names is not going to change a thing.

1/05/2006 4:35 AM  
Anonymous Shmarya said...

Lies are almost always destructive later when the BT realizes what happened. It is only because that realization often takes many years, that we have not seen a bigger backlash. But the Internet is speeding up the process. Information cannot be locked up anymore. And that is why I believe an exposion will happen sooner rather than later. All it will take is a prominent BT to go on Oprah and talk about the lies and the cult-like tactics used by Chabad, Aish, etc. And, believe me, it will happen.

1/05/2006 6:52 AM  
Anonymous BT said...

OK. All I have is my own experience. Perhaps other people did experience cult like tactics, etc. I attended Ohr Somayach in Israel in the 1970's and don't recall any cult stuff. It was straight learning from what I remember. But I did meet some weirdo Baal Tshuvas at other institutions, and who knows what they were experiencing. So, for the sake of being specific, could someone just make a list, point by point listing cult tactics they experienced. Thanks.

1/05/2006 9:04 AM  
Blogger David Kelsey said...

BT,

I wrote seven specific problems in the institutions I saw here: http://unorthodoxjew.blogspot.com/2005/09/seven-points-to-tshuva-for-baal-tshuva.html

Please address these issues, instead of telling me who I am bitter, or focusing on my rancor. Pelase address these seven specific criticisms.

1/05/2006 10:36 AM  
Anonymous BT said...

I would agree that it would be ideal if BT yeshivas had athletic programs. Not only BT yeshivas, but all yeshivas and all schools. The traditional European Jewish aversion to physical exercise is not healthy. Exercise is not a "bitul z'man" for 99% of people. Public schools, as well, have cut back on phys ed in recent years. The lack of athletic programs is not a BT Yeshiva problem as much as it is a universal problem afflicting a great number of educational institutions, of all varieties. As an adult, I work full time, but work out several times a week, play tennis and do martial arts in the evening. Being a BT has not prevented me from staying in shape.

1/06/2006 8:48 AM  
Anonymous BT said...

ON the issue of Hebrew language skills: I fully agree that some fundamental Hebrew language skills should be taught in the BT yeshivas. This stuff is not taught in the mainline yeshivas either. It was not always the case that Hebrew langauge skills were ignored in mainstream Orthodox education. During the period of the Geonim and the early Spanish rishonim, for instance, Hebrew language was emphasized. Piyyutim (Jewish poetry) were composed by Talmud scholars. I think this area of study became unpopular as a reaction to the maskilim. It is time to bring back Hebrew language skills as a formal educational program in yeshivas. I began my life as a BT without being able to read even the Hebrew alphabet. This has not prevented me from becoming fairly fluent with Hebrew texts such as the Mishna, Chumash, Nach, etc. I just plugged away on my own. When I started, we did not even have Artscroll....

1/06/2006 8:52 AM  
Anonymous BT said...

One year limit on studies: I see no reason for such a harsh restriction, but I do think that people should move from the BT yeshivas to the mainstream yeshivas as early as possible. There is a world of difference between the typical BT yeshiva and places like the Mir, Ner Yisroel, etc. The only problem is that adjustment to the mainstream yeshivas could be very very difficult for some people. I know. I did it, and it was tough, very tough. It was hard to feel "at home"; I felt surrounded by people that were very different in appearance and behavior to people I had grown up with. I adjusted over time, but it took a long time. People whose Jewish education are limited to the BT yeshivas get a weird orientation, in my opinion, that may leave them "half-baked" as religious Jews. This leads to a lot of misunderstanding and social ineptness. The hardest problem for BT's is that they lose their old way of looking at things, and unless a very solid new "system" of relating to the world in put in place, the BT can end up disoriented and confused. This is a real problem, in my opinion. That is why BT's should try to get to a mainstream yeshiva and stay there for at least a year...in order to "calm down". This will help them fit in better to the mainstream Orthodox world. No, it is not easy....

1/06/2006 8:57 AM  
Anonymous BT said...

Discourage poverty: I fully agree with this. It is very irresponsible and even reprehensible for teachers to suggest to students that they must accept a life of poverty in order to function fully as a religious Jew. I think this is one of the biggest scams going, and it applies across the board, not only in BT yeshivas. People with educations and and the ability to make a contribution should be encouraged to do so. I think the conflict lies in some concern that the person, once immersed again in the "outside" world, will lose the Torah orientation gained in the yeshiva. There should be more intelligent ways of dealing with this other than telling a new BT that he has to live a life of poverty. When I was in yeshiva, I heard both messages. The BT yeshiva I attended tried to convince me I was supposed to spend my life there...when I moved to a mainstream yeshiva, the rebbe told me to go to law school, and I did.

1/06/2006 9:01 AM  
Anonymous BT said...

Only college educated rebbes? Sorry, don't see the need for that. Social workers on the premises? Skilled counsellors are important, I agree. There are too many unqualified people giving really bad advice to BT's.

1/06/2006 9:02 AM  
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1/29/2006 5:39 PM  

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