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.

What’s in a Name?
Shoshana Friedman “What does Writer X have to say this week?”
Atonement — Fake and Real
Yonoson Rosenblum White confessionals and faux rituals
Four Walls Coming Full Circle
Eytan Kobre All the while, there’s been a relationship in the offing...
And Yet We Smile
Yisroel Besser We are the nation that toils to be happy at all costs
Out of This World
Rabbi Henoch Plotnick Dirshu Hashem b’himatzo — we are in Hashem’s company now...
Steven and Jonathan Litton
Rachel Bachrach The co-owners of Litton Sukkah, based in Lawrence, NY
Tali Messing
Moe Mernick Tali Messing, engineering manager at Facebook Tel Aviv
Sick Note
Jacob L. Freedman “Of course, Dr. Freedman. Machul, machul, machul”
Avoiding Health Columns Can Be Good for You
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Only one reliable guide for good health: our Torah
Endnote: Side Notes
Riki Goldstein Most Jewish music industry entertainers have side profes...
Me, Myself, and Why
Faigy Peritzman Where there’s no heart and no love, there’s no point
Can’t Do It Without You
Sarah Chana Radcliffe When you step up to the plate, you build your home team
Eternal Joy
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz The joy of Succos is the fruit of spiritual victory
The Appraiser: Part III
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer Make sure your child knows his strengths
Hidden Special Needs
Rena Shechter You won’t see his special needs, but don’t deny them
Dear Wealthy Friend
Anonymous There’s no need for guilt. I am truly happy for you