This post by Toby Katz mirrors my experience: "In all the articles and comments about whether Ba’alei Teshuva are fully accepted in Frum from Birth communities, one major factor I haven’t seen mentioned is the character of the individual BT. This applies also to gerim (converts). I know a convert who is a sweet, outgoing, pleasant, talented, easy-going person, and she finds the charedi community to be delightful and wonderful. Everyone is good, warm, intelligent, altogether admirable. I know another convert who is sour, dour, prickly and altogether a difficult person, and she finds the Orthodox community to be cold, unwelcoming, uncaring and exclusionary. And both of these women formed their impressions while living in the same neighborhood! Fancy that."
Ironically, albeit for different reasons, some FFB’s may also see BT’s as threatening. An article in the Sivan issue of the Jewish Voice and Opinion, pgs. 28-33 is one of the most disturbing I have read in months. It claims that FFB’s often keep BT’s in a state of dhimmitude – out of their schools and away from their children, both in Israel and in the US. FFB’s often look down upon BT’s, regarding their non-standard behavior as “harryish.” (Since much of the more extreme content of the article was gleaned from blogs, readers should be skeptical of how typical are the vignettes. Clearly, it is not universal. The two most haredi schools in Los Angeles, including the chassidishe cheder, are absolutely open and inviting to ba’alei teshuvah.)
One of the most telling testimonies came from the more than respectable haredi weekly Mishpacha:
“Advocates of the schools’ strict exclusionary policy cited the BTs’ secular relatives, expressing the fear that even second-hand encounters with non-religious people could do irremediable damage to the spiritual health of tender impressionable haredi children…. BT children had to be kept out of mainstream haredi schools because the newly observant tend to meet with their non-religious rela¬tives and the children are exposed to their relatives’ culture, their speech patterns, music, body language, and concepts…. The haredi community has enough troubles with its own young people without importing trouble’ from outside.”
BT’s should be shunned, according to this person – or at least held at bay – because of the risk of infection. BT’s pollute, as surely as secondary cigarette smoke, by exhaling the contaminants they breathe in from their past, and from their unavoidable ongoing contact with associates from their previous lives.
Those who believe this are hopelessly oblivious to the ways in which ba’alei teshuvah positively and sometimes crucially impact upon the mainstream.
First and foremost, they have kept us honest. They have made us think through important issues that the rest of us take for granted. They give us no respite until we can explain what needs explaining. They have buoyed us with their spirit and enthusiasm.
1. "Kiruv” encompasses many different approaches under one tired title. How can one compare Aish and NCSY? NCSY is a legitimate organization which teaches mainstream Torah Orthodoxy, runs legitimate Israel programs, and is (at least at this time) is monitored by established Orthodox congregations. Aish is more problematic. Their reliance on manipulative approaches, so-called Torah codes (neither Torah nor codes), charismatic leaders, separate minyanim not directly affiliated with mainstream shuls, is in fact problematic. The Orthodox community for many many years has condoned all sorts of things because “they are good for kiruv”. There was the Lanner episode, which fortunately was resolved without damage to the legitimate aims of NCSY, but there was JPSY with Gafni- that was a different story. Or what passed for Kiruv in Israel, leading to the abuse of autistic children, Uzi Meshullam, NaNachs, etc. (we won’t even approach the case of Chabad v’hamaskil yidom). Kiruv programs need to stand or fall on a case by case basis, much like universities, and this circling of the wagons on every case of critique is probably not expedient overall.
2. It is too late to worry about BT infection of FFBhood. Artscroll translations, which were once condoned as "good for kiruv" are now the official sanctioned mark of Orthodoxy, and what current FFBs are weaned upon.