The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Thousands of Ba'alei Teshuva

The current issue of the OU's Jewish Action (not yet online) has two articles about the apparent difficulties being encountered by children of ba'alei teshuva.

While I may write about the substance of the articles at another time (after they are posted on line), I was struck by a consistent thread in the two articles.

Rabbi Yaacov Haber writes:

The sixties and seventies were fascinating times; there was a surge of interest in the spiritual, the transcendent. Thousands of young people, disillusioned by the materialism of society were searching for a different way of life....They were seraching for utopia; they wanted to raise their families in a different kind of world.

Yiddishkeit promised them just that. Communities and rabbis reached out to beginners, and yeshivot were created for them. Newcomers encountered a deep and meaningful tradition. They found religious families full of warmth and homes that were open for Shabbat. Thousands signed up - the ba'al teshuvah movement was born. (emphsis added)
In the second article, Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky writes:

The teshuvah movement broke new ground over thirty years ago, bringing thousands of estranged Jews back to authentic Judaism.
Is it me or does anyone else wonder where the "thousands" of ba'alei teshuva are? There may be thousands of "ba'alei teshuva professionals" but I'm not sure I see "thousands" of ba'alei teshuva. This is more than semantics. Broad statements such as these that are taken at face value tend to justify the over allocation of Jewish charitable resources to the kiruv "movement."

Am I off base?


  • At 1:02 PM, Blogger NeshamaSearcher said…

    I think another interesting issue with bali tshuvot are their lack of recognition of the importance of their own searches. They did their spiritual search- but what about their kids? Do their kids get to do a spiritual search or do they just have to inherit the conclusions of their parents'?

  • At 10:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Although this is an old post, I thought I should correct your ideas about how many baalei teshuva exist. Although I dislike the sound of that name, I suppose I am one, and even though I'm only 17 and don't know a large number of people, I know a number of baalei teshuva from Gr. 12 of my school alone.(Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto CHAT) I also know a number of adults. I know a little over 10 "baalei teshuva." But since nobody likes being put into categories, very few are actually willing to regularly call themselves that. I estimate that there are over 10,000 Baalei Teshuva worldwide. There are probably 300-400 in toronto alone.

  • At 9:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Its very hard to tell from first glance who is and who isnt "Baalei teshuva". The is a gentleman I struck up conversation with in my shul who looked very chassidic with all black, and payot. During our conversation we realized that we were from the same city, and he remarked how great the italian food was there. Suddenly realizing he had just admitted to eating non-kosher food, he became very serious and made me promise not to tell anyone. People come in all shades and colors. Is someone who is raise observantly Conservative but later becomes a strict hassid baalei tishuva? What about a chassidic girl who sneaks off to the movies with her friends or changes to un-modest clothes when away from her community but later and life becomes very observantly modern orthodox. Is she baalei tishuva?


Post a Comment

<< Home