The BT Expericnce - Part I
The student or prospective candiddate wants or yearns or aches to know more about Judaism. Throughout this study, we will use "he" for convenience, where either "he" or "she" is applicable. (Note from Rebeltzin: Why can't we use "she", it is just as convenient or are you too lazy too type an extra letter?)
From there, the candidate is romanced, courted with attention, enticed with Shabbos meals and shown the delights, the intellectual stimulation of yeshiva learning, the fascinating "proofs", and the life structure that frum life affords. In other words, as mentalblog has it, love bombing is the weapon of choice. And none of what is presented is untrue. Even the "proofs" work on a certain level. We've hooked him. Let's get him to a BT discovery or yeshiva program quickly.
The old addage goes that rich men and beautiful women never hear the truth. So let's assume that those are not factors in our case. The kiruv pro (KP, henceforth) pats himself on the back, job well done, NEXT! The BT gets the works, he is introduced to Torah learning, he is taught how to keep mitzvos, and he is taught simplistic defenses against the vast questions of hashkafa that we all know and love. In short, he is "brainwashed" with mystical approach and flimsy apologetics. By mystical approach here, I mean that our hashkafa affects our reality directly. If a Rav paskens that something is kosher, then that very psak will allow the animal to live 12 months. The Rebbes and gedolim become mythical supermen, secretly performing miracles and wonders at the blink of eye, and directing every aspect of our lives ex-cathedra. Their words become Torah and are therefore infallible. Flimsy apologetics refers to ... OK, you know what that refers to. He is fearful of life's difficulties, but the KP assures him that "G-d will help", perhaps bolstering it with some formula variety Chasidic stories.
Then, the BT is ready for shiduchim. Generally, mixed marraiges, BT and FFB families are not encouraged, though this is changing nowadays, in the U.S. And then comes life. And here is where "misled" enters the picture.
1) The BT will find himself at odds or with strained relations with his family. This is unavoidable. The BT has rejected the way that he was raised, and often has taken on a completely alien way of life. "Why so many kids?" "Why can't you go to cousin Jeffrey's wedding to Christina?" "Isn't she heroic having served the Peace Corp in her native town in Korea?" "Why won't you kiss your female relatives?" And even if they understand this, they certainly do not have the same priorities as he does. He will spend family celebrations in the little corner reserved for the Kosher relatives. He will leave uneasily as the female rabbi sings whatever new age song is in vogue. They will be uncomfortable and out of place at his simchas.
2) Then comes little Mendy. Little Mendy is struggling in Jewish studies and needs more one on one help than the Rebbi can provide. Hopefully, the BT has enough yeshiva to help him. Otherwise, little Mendy will probably have to go to tutoring besides, or go without, once the money runs out.
3) The BT is overpowered by expenses. They trusted in G-d, and after kid number 6, BT has achieved a high income. However, he is broke, because astronomical yeshiva costs, large enough house, large enough car, kosher food, tznius clothing, hat, sheitel, household help just to keep the dirt level down below the sights of DCS, support for children drive him to the brink and into the credit cards every single month. And that is just basics. Relatives wag heads and say "we told you so". It is hard to know whether the financial strain is the hard part or the lack of emotional chizuk from a family who supports what the BT is doing.
4) Marraige suffers under constant financial and daily stress level.
5) Along comes Sarale in the baby carraige. Mommy is in the hospital for two days and gets an infection. She will need bed rest. No relatives are coming to help. The house goes utterly hefker as the remaining healthy parent runs from job to day care, to school, to hospital, to home, to pharmacy. Hopefully, the community will pitch in.
6) Relatives come to visit. Mendy and Sarale wonder why Zeidi and Bubby drive on Shabbos and Tom Tov. Aren't they Jewish?
While the FFB will experience some of these conditions sometimes, the BT will almost invariably experience them all the time. This is the BT experience. Many FFBs will resent my saying this because they were not really part of the KP structure. These BTs are just competition to them, just more people coming to drain resources of the community and bitch about it the whole way. The BT wonders where the luster of life, the stories of Jewish achdus through thick and thin, the KP style expressions of heroism in their recounting of their lifestyle choice has brought him.
So where did this tale go wrong and how can it be righted? More to come. Plenty more.