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One Couple, Two Backgrounds

C. B. Gavant

How do you knit together two conflicting upbringings — one baal teshuvah, one frum from birth — into a harmonious whole? Several couples share their stories and secrets

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

In today’s shidduch system, FFBs are usually set up with FFBs, and BTs with BTs. This approach makes sense, says Rebbetzin Lea Feldman, who served as one of Neve Yerushalayim’s shadchaniyos for decades. When a couple comes from a similar background, they generally find it easier to understand each other. Yet a “mixed” marriage can be fine if the couple marries for the right reasons, she adds.

“If a person raised in a frum home marries a baal teshuvah because he or she wants to escape certain family problems, it can be a big danger,” Rebbetzin Feldman explains. “But if they’re doing it because they love the fire for Yiddishkeit, the excitement, the love for Hashem that baalei teshuvah often personify, it can be a wonderful shidduch. If there’s admiration and appreciation for where the other person is coming from, it’s wonderful.”

Seeking a life infused with meaning and truth — rather than the humdrum, lukewarm Judaism she’d been raised with — is what initially attracted Chani to her husband-to-be. “As a teenager, I was always questioning, always looking for something more authentic,” she says. “When I met someone with the same desire to search for emes, I was hooked. I wanted someone who would talk Torah at the Shabbos table, someone for whom ahavas Hashem and yiras Hashem were a part of his everyday conversation. I wanted someone whose Yiddishkeit was a real part of his life.”

For Leah, an FFB, it wasn’t much of a stretch to date a baal teshuvah. In fact, it was something that her mother even encouraged her to do. “My parents were baalei teshuvah, so to me it was 100 percent okay,” she says. “I have a lot of respect for where my parents are coming from. My husband is very balanced. When people meet him, they don’t always realize he’s a baal teshuvah. I appreciate the healthiness and balance he exudes, along with his love for Torah.”

Sometimes, a girl will look for a shidduch outside of her own circle because she’s interested in someone a little more open-minded than the average bochur. “If her parents realize that this is what’s best for her, and they find a boy who’s gone through the ranks in a baal teshuvah yeshivah and grown tremendously, I’d definitely encourage the shidduch,” says Rabbi Yosef Brown, a longtime seminary teacher in Eretz Yisrael.

It can be scary to go against the norm, yet taking the plunge has priceless payoffs. At 26, Penina was suggested her baal teshuvah husband by a community rav who knew them both well. “I was a bit nervous about it,” she admits, “but since the rav knew both of us, I agreed to try it, and I’m glad I did. Being married to a baal teshuvah has really stretched my mind. My husband has an openness to learning things from the source,” she says, by way of an example. “Sometimes we’ll come across something that I’ve done my whole life, but he’ll show me that there’s a better way of doing it.”


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