Out of Town

We moved 1000 miles away from our friends and family and just had a new baby....

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Types of Ba''alei Teshuva

I want to start off this post saying that I hope noone finds this offensive. I have nothing against ba'alei teshuvas, as I, myself, was not raised frum. Also, I don't think one group or another is better or worse. These are just my observations.

Last night I was at a meeting for a women's group I belong to, and the subject of Ba'alei Teshuva came up. When I came home, I thought about the different types of ba'alei teshuva. I think there are three main types, and of these types, there are some differences between men and women.

1. Intellectual. Many people come to frumkeit through an intellectual approach. They are convinced either that HaShem must exist, therefore I must do mitzvot, or that if the Jews have survived for thousands of years by doing these mitzvot, there must be some basis in them, therefore, I should start doing mitzvot. These people enjoy the learning inherent in frum Judaism. They tend to go to yeshivas/seminaries. I would say at least 70% of the intellectual group are men. They are the types of men that Aish haTorah, Ohr Someyach, and Shapells are aiming for. They tend to become frum during or after college. The men tend to become RW Modern Orthodox or LW yeshivish. They are the men who spend many hours learning. They generally integrate very well into frum communities since they love to learn, are willing to put the effort into learning how to learn, and these things are obviously valued by the Orthodox communities. They may or may not dress the dress, although you won't be seeing most of these people hanging out in short and a t-shirt, they would not have a problem with wearing jeans on the weekend.

Women who are drawn to frumkeit for intellectual reasons sometimes have a harder time. They go to seminaries like Nishmat or Pardes. They want to learn seriously, and as they learn more, they sometimes become irritated that they can't have equal participation with men. Many of these women become very learned and I think tend to become LW MO or fewer RW MO. These are some of the women you might see leading women's Megilla-reading groups or agitating for women to be allowed to dance with the Torah on Simchas Torah. They genenrally will not wear a sheitel, instead opting for a hat, scarf, or snood, feeling that those hair coverings are more keeping with the spirit of halacha. They will dress modestly, but might not feel the need to wear stockings and will definately wear jean skirts.

2. Social. This group is the opposite of the intellectal group in Men vs. Women. I would say about 70% of this group is women. These are often the women that Aish haTorah attracts. They see Judaism as a beautiful way to live, to raise a family, to have a strong marraige. The Mitzvot have allowed Jews to create a beautiful society, survive for 1000s of years, therefore, HaShem exists and I want a family like this too and so I will keep mitzvot. The women go to seminaries like She'arim, Neve Yerushalayim, or Aish. They start dressing, talking, and acting frum asap. They want to get married as soon as they can so they can start their frum families. These women tend to be yeshivish (LW or RW) or some RW MO. They will be in sheitels, stockings, and no slits in their skirts. Many of these ladies join the "chumra of the month club."

Men who become frum for social reasons might learn for a while in a yeshiva, but many don't feel the need. They dress in the black hat, white shirt, black pants uniform. Because they haven't learned as much as the ffbs, they are likely to join the "chumra of the month clubs." They will usually find a rav and follow him blindly. These men tend to become RW UO. On the other hand, some men would rather join the kiddush club. They also are frum from social reasons and will end up LW MO.

For both men and women who fall into this category, their overarching goal is to blend into ffb society. They will not want to rock the boat and many feel the need to be frummer than everyone else. They tend to become frum young, in high school through NCSY, or in college through Aish or JAM.

3. Emotional. Many people, both men and women, become frum because they feel they are missing something in their lives. Maybe they had a hard childhood, or they are unemployed, or they are needing friends. They go to their local Chabad House (most of these people are attracted to Chabad) and they feel accepted and loved and decide they want to be like these nice people. They will start keeping kosher and Shabbat and will have a community. They are attracted to charismatic leaders (Chabad shluchim, the Rebbe, Shlomo Carlebach, Kabbalah Center (l'havdil)).

Some of these people actually become totally frum, generally some type of Chasidish, and become part of the mainstream community. But more will become partially observant while their spouse does not. These are people who may become frum very fast and then realize they didn't know what they were getting into. These people tend to be a little older for the most part, often they are already married with children. This can cause a lot of grief when one parent suddenly wants to become frum, while the other parent and children don't see the appeal, since they don't have the emotional connection.

4. Mixes. Obviously, many people are mixture of these groups. I think the most successfull ba'alei teshuvas (meaning people who stay with it, are happy, secure, and blend into the overal Orthodox community) are a little of all of these.

So, what do you guys think? Am I crazy? Let me know.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Lag B'Omer Mini-Meme

This is the first meme I've been tagged with. Thanks JH. We are supposed to list the first song we listened to on Lag B'Omer. I am sad to admit it, but I haven't listened to any music yet. I am just not a big music person and I don't miss it that much. I have, of course, listened to Uncle Moishy and to the Marvelous Middos Machine, but that does NOT count as music. I think I will go remedy this right now and listen to some Bob Dylan.

I tag Esther and Cool Yiddishe Mama.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sports Radio

When I married my husband, I did not enjoy sports. I didn't mind playing sports, but I definately didn't watch or listen to professional sports. And I definately didn't want to talk about sports. I used to listen to general talk radio. I liked Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Larry Elder (sometimes) and even Sean Hannity (I know, pathetic). Then we moved, and I had to find new radio stations.

I can still listen to Dennis Prager, and occassionally I still do. Michael Medved is on here at 12 midnight, so that is out. Larry Elder isn't played in this market and he gets on my nerves anyway. And don't even get me started about Sean Hannity. I really think he just reads, verbatim, the emails and faxes he gets from the White House. He does not have an original thought, ever.

My husband, throughout our marriage, has listened to Sports Talk. I used to hate it. Who cares about all these teams, and the people who would call in, ugh. Just freaking out about some crazy college basketball team. Lately, however, I have been caught in the the grips of sports talk. You still can't get me to listen to local sports talk. Those shows are dominated by callers who are obsessed with a team and just want to talk about it ad infinitem. But ESPN Radio, is actually entertaining.

The show that pulled me in was "The Herd". It is on from 8 to 11 Pacific time. If you want to get your wife/girlfriend/daughter into Sports Radio, have her listen to this show. At least 1/2 the time, he isn't talking about sports. He will talk about pop culture, the differences between men and women, all sorts of craziness. Last week, he was talking about how his wife was out of town, so he could eat whatever he wanted for dinner. Count Chocula cereal and Hi-C. He had a segement last year about how all men who drive corvettes have moustaches.

Once I started listening to the Herd, I started to know more about sports (maybe way too much, but that is another question). Once you know all the issues, it makes it way more fun to listen to people fight about it. So now I end up listening to Dan Patrick and sometimes even Game Night. I have officially become a freak....It has come to the point that I would rather listen to sports radio than Dennis Prager!

This is rather embarassing to me, but my husband loves it. He wants to tell all his friends. He thinks it is great and he tells me that all his friends will think I am the best wife ever. The problem is that their wives will think I am a freak :).

Monday, May 08, 2006

Tuition Crisis

Everywhere in the J-bloggisphere, you can read about the current tuition crisis, and I would like to add my two cents. As residents of a smaller community, I think our issues may be slightly different, but still close enough to resonate even with those who are living in big cities.

My husband and I have been talking a lot lately about how we can help the schools in our community. Our oldest son will be starting school next fall, and the school he will be attending in notorious for not paying teachers on time and not having enough money to run. It is also a school that caters to large families who are working in chinuch and/or kollel and don't have a lot of money.

That being said, I think there needs to be some changes. I am outlining a proposal and I would love comments on what to keep and what to change. I am not an expert, just a parent, but I sincerely want to help the school get to a good place financially.

1. I would like the school to make the books open. I think they should send some sort of financial statement to the parents each year. I don't think parents should be told specific salaries, but I would like to see a statement with expenses, broken down by salaries (administrative, teaching (kodesh), teaching (chol), janitorial), facility upkeep (repair, electric bills, etc), supplies. And income broken down by source (tuition, dinner, outside fundraising, raffle, federation, etc.)

2. Create an application process that doesn't embarrass anyone, but makes people accountable for how much they pay. On the application for admission to the school (not a scholarship application) parents should self-report how much they think they can afford for school. If tuition costs $8000 per year, any parent who reports they can pay $5000 or above per student should be believed and allowed to pay that amount. A parent who reports they can pay some amount less than that, should be given a scholarship application. Obviously, when deciding how much need based scholarship money can be given to a parent, income has to be taken into consideration. However, I think it should be up to the parent to provide whatever documentation they chose to make their case as to how much they can afford. I don't think schoools should demand income tax returns, although they can be used by the parents to make their case.

3. The scholarship applications, along with any evidence or additional information the parents chose to supply, should be reviewed by a scholarship committee that should be made up of an administrator (probably the pricipal), a teacher, a board member, and a parent. The people selected to be on this committee should be chosen based on their sensitivity and outstanding middos and inclusion on this committee should not be public knowledge.

4. The scholarship committee should determine the amount of tuition the parent should pay, with no parent paying less than $2500 per student. That is $250 per month per child, certainly much less expensive than a babysitter.

5. Payment of tuition, whatever the total should be made either in one payment at the beginning of the year, or monthly by post-dated checks, or by credit card that is kept on file and charged monthly.

6. If people cannot pay the minimum tuition, they should be given a chance to make up the difference by offering their services to the school, either in the office, as a teacher's aide, doing custodial work, or maintenance work. The debt to the school could be paid off by working for the school at a rate of $10 per hour.

7. Teachers at the school should also pay the minimum tuition for their children, and be given the option of having that tuition deducted from their salary pre-tax. If a teacher cannot afford the tuition for their children, they also should be given the opportunity to make up the difference in service to the school. Since they have a valueable skill, I would ask them to tutor children at a rate of $20 per hour. This tutoring could take place before school, during lunch, or afterschool, but not, obviously, during limudei chol.

8. Anyone who is going to work to make up the tuition cost must sign up for the hours and jobs they will be doing in advance. For example, in order to work for September's tuition, a parent must sign up for the work they will be doing by August 15th. For October's tuition, they must sign up by Sept 15th. This will allow the school to save money on administrative and custodial staff.

Although the school may not take in signficantly more money this way, the school will improve. The students will have access to free tutoring, the parents will be more invested in the school. Of course, anyone who doesn't want to volunteer would be welcome to ask their parents/grandparents/relatives for the money, the school would not be in the business of asking about the financial situtation of any distant relatives.

I know that some people will think I am being too harsh and that many people will be unable to afford to pay 2500 per student when some people have 5 or more kids in school, but I don't see how the school will be able to remain open if we aren't paying tuition.

My Cutie Pie

Ok. Here is a picture of Sima from last week. She is getting really big. Yesterday we weighed her, and she is almost 11 lbs! I can't beleive it. Aryeh was always really skinny as a baby, so this is pretty exciting for me, to have a little chubster.

It has been too long since I put a picture up of her, so here it is.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Finding a Middle Path

Today is Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel's Independance Day. In our community, there are two orthodox day schools, one that is affiliated with Torah U'Mesorah and one that proclaims itself Modern Zionist. As you can probably guess, these schools react completely differently to Yom HaAtzmaut. At the former, they pretend that today does not exist. They don't mention it, they don't do anything special, they act as though there is not even such a day as Israel Independance Day. At the latter school, they act as though this is the most important day of the year. They are having a special assembly. They are having a dinner tonight for the community. The kids have been practicing for a performance they are going to give tonight. You can bet they said Hallel this morning, and all the kids will be singing Hatikva today, probably more than once.

So which of these approaches do I take? Neither. We are Zionists. We beleive that the state of Israel is a huge bracha for Am Israel. The state is what keeps us safe. We all know, in the backs of our minds, that if need be, we can go to Israel. There can never be another Holocaust. At least in theory. We may disagree with the government. We may think they are somewhat spineless. However, we can't deny that the mere existance of the state makes all of us in galut a little safer.

I wish that the two schools could find a middle ground that was a little more sane. The right wing school should teach the kids about Israel today, about the founding, about the UN vote, about the war for Indpendance. They don't have to say Hallel, they certainly shouldn't make today on par with a yom tov from the Torah, but they should set aside a day to talk about Israel.

The Modern school, on the other hand, neeeds to remember that Yom HaAtzmaut is not THE most important holdiay of the year. They spent as much energy, if not more, preparing for this day thean for Pesach. A child could easily be confused that Zionism is Judaism, or is at lesat the equivilent. If they are going to make an assembly for this holiday, they should certainly make one for the holdiays given to us by Hashem in the Torah.

I know there are objections to having a big public celebration today, during the Omer. And it is also true that there were and are many non-religious Jews running the state who are hostile toward frum people. But that doesn't mean the yeshivish/charedi community should pretend that today does not exist. And I know also that Eretz Yisrael is very important to frum Jews, but that doesn't mean there is nothing equal or even more imporant. Torah needs to be emphasised as well.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Historical Fiction

I just finished reading Rashi's Daughters, Book 1: Joheved. It was enjoyable and a quick read. It was an interesting enough story and was, I think, fairly accurate. I have been wanting to find out more about how Jews lived in the middle ages and this book certainly covered that topic. I don't know how accurate all the little details are, but it seems to me that the author did a lot of research before she wrote this book.

However, I do have a complaint. Why do women who write historical fiction feel the need to include so many love scenes. Sometimes, these scenes make sense, but in this book, I thought they were totally gratuitous.

The author also clearly wanted to show her mastery of Talmud, and included a lot of quotes to show her proficiency. A large part of the plot was Rashi teaching his daughters Gemara, so some quoting was necessary, but at certain points, it felt like the story was simply being used to allow her to show her knowledge.

Overall, it was a fun book. Although the inclusion of so many love scenes reminded me a little of the Red Tent, this was not nearly as audatious as that book. It was respectful toward the characters and entertaining. A good Shabbos read.