Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Shared Adventures, Same Direction

Barbara Bensoussan

You’ve changed your life around, transformed your inner self, and have embarked on the road to a mainstream Torah life. But who will understand you on the other side of the divide? Will those who have been religious all their lives even begin to relate? A community shul in Los Angeles carries baalei teshuvah to the next level, while keeping them on familiar territory.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The food is different. The clothing is hot. And no one gets your jokes. It’s the no-man’s-land between a secular lifestyle and full integration into a religious one. Even if you’re happy to have left your old life behind, it takes time to fully grasp the mores of your new environment. Even worse, if you don’t find people you can relate to, the loneliness and alienation may lead you to give up and just go back where you came from.

Rabbi Avraham Yechiel Hirschman, head of the Pico Bais Medrash in the Pico-Robertson area of Los Angeles, is deeply concerned by the fact that so many baalei teshuvah actually drop out after several years of being frum. “I would say between 20 and 40 percent of baalei teshuvah have thoughts of regressing to their old lifestyles,” he says.

Years ago, says Rabbi Hirschman, the teshuvah process was more drawn out. Today, young people are shuttled along the kiruv track at dizzying speeds.

Kiruv rabbis send people off to Eretz Yisrael to learn after six months, where they stay for a year or so, and then they return and get married,” he says. “Within two years they’ve transformed their lives, gotten married, and had children.”

These folks may look like everyone else, but underneath the black hats, their needs and struggles differ greatly from those of their FFB neighbors.

“They are not simply late starters,” he emphasizes.

Rabbi Hirschman, formerly of LA’s Merkaz HaTorah Kollel, now heads a shul that caters to mature baalei teshuvah: not college-age newbies, but married couples in their 20s and 30s who are raising families and trying to deal with the triple-header of commitment to Orthodox Judaism, marriage, and children. Rabbi Hirschman’s minyan on LA’s Pico Boulevard is one type of solution for dealing with second-stage support for the newly observant.

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

When Tragedy Strikes
Shoshana Friedman What are we giving and what are we getting?
One Nation, Divisible
Yonoson Rosenblum Israel isn’t yet suffocated by political correctness
What Am I, Chopped Liver?
Eytan Kobre Far more disturbing is the title’s unspoken implication
Not Just Politics
Yisroel Besser We’re fighting over something that means the world to us
Are We There Yet?
Alexandra Fleksher Seeing other models of avodas Hashem enriches our own
Top 5 Yeshivish Business Ventures
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Different answers to “So, what is it you do?”
Work/Life Solutions with Mois Navon
Moe Mernick “When you set a goal, it’s going to take lots of effort”
Were They Orthodox Jews?
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman This is why I asked, “What difference does it make?”
You Get What You Pay For
Jacob L. Freedman “Get me a real doctor from Harvard who speaks Persian!”
Tunes That Take Me Back, with Levy Falkowitz
Riki Goldstein “It’s amazing how strong music memories are”
All Rivers Wind Up in the Sea
Riki Goldstein Your heartbeat will slow down listening to the new album
Faigy Peritzman A name symbolizes the essence inherent within
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Inject positivity into your marriage to counter burnout
The Game of Life
Rebbetzin Suri Gibber Use your competitive spirit to score high in life
The Musician Part II
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer “It’s an integrative therapy approach. Not boot camp”