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

Thursday, July 01, 2004

More on Ba'alei Teshuva

I recently posted about the Ba'alei Teshuva movement, spurred by two articles that appear in the current issue of the OU's Jewish Action (not yet online).

Each of the articles, one by Rabbi Yaakov Haber and one by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky, refers to the "thousands" of ba'alei teshuva that have been brought back by the 'kiruv movement'.

I questioned in my post whether there actually were thousands of BTs and whether the Jewish community was allocation charitable resources properly. Specifically, I wondered whether we would not be better off spending our resources on Jewish education and other projects that are designed to keep within the tent those who already frum.

Most commentors believe that I am wrong and that there are indeed thousands of BTs. (For purposes of clarity, I am NOT talking about Chabad or Breslov BTs; I am talking about BTs coming out of the mainstream Kiruv infrastructure). I'm still not 100 per cent convinced but even if I concede this point, it doesn't change my view about relative resource allocation.

There were a couple of other statements in one of the Jewish Action articles that I found curious.

Rabbi Haber writes:

...[T]he ba'al teshuva movement quickly became a major factor in the growth of Orthodox Judaism.


The Orthodox community continued to respond to the flood of enthusiastic newcomers...Artscroll was born and introduced Chumashim and siddurim with modern English translations.
I think both these statements overreach. Major factor in the growth of Orthodox Judaism?? I don't think so. Artscroll? I think Artscroll was borne to address the needs of a couple of generations of dopes like me who went through the yeshiva day school and high school system barely knowing that Hebrew reads from right to left, to say nothing of how to read or understand a Rashi. I could be wrong but I would be surprised if it had anything to do with the needs of ba'alei teshuva. (Does anyone know?)

Why am I so hung up on this? I think these are examples of overstating the importance of the BT movement in the overall scheme of things.


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