Blogger Harry Maryles has written a post titled Three Questions for the Ger and Baal Teshuva on the blog Emes Ve-Emunah. He asks three questions:
Of course, each of us would answer those questions differently. A lot of people have shared their answers in the comments following the entry, if you're curious to learn about other people's processes!
- What inspired you to become frum/Jewish?
- How have your family and friends accepted you becoming observant/Jewish? I would also ask this question somewhat in reverse. How do you deal with your family and friends?
- The Shidduch question: how does a Baal Teshuva or a Ger find a marriage partner?
In case you're curious about my Great Thoughts, here are my answers, in short-and-sweet form:
What inspired you to become frum/Jewish?
It was right for me, and I believe that it's true. And being a type-A, practical, psychologically-inclined person, I love how the Torah doesn't hide the faults of the Patriarchs/Matriarchs and other Torah personalities, and Jewish law also "takes us where we are." The goal is locating where you are now and where you want to go, and then Jewish law/thought gives you methods for growth in that direction.
How have your family and friends accepted you becoming observant/Jewish? I would also ask this question somewhat in reverse. How do you deal with your family and friends?
The beauty of America is that 90% of Americans have been so influenced by Christianity that they think, "So...you say you want to be Jewish. I guess that means you are now." That "magic phrase of change" mentality means that my family thought of me as Jewish for years before I ever got off the convert-or-don't-convert fence. Also, since I've taken such a long time, they've been able to adjust at their own pace. Granted, they see themselves as respectful and open-minded people, and that kind of self-vision is half the battle because it commits them to act in accordance with how they see themselves. There's your pop psychology for the day! It also helps that they aren't fire-and-brimstone Christians (while I grew up in an atheist home, my step-family is Episcopalian).
On the other hand, it's my secular/liberal Jewish friends that have been the most difficult as I've become more observant. I would say those are the only friends I've lost, and I'm very sorry for that. However, I can't blame them: Most of them have had friends "frum out" and effectively become pushy Jewish missionaries. Why should they expect me to be any different? The non-Jewish friends (or the friends who are only vaguely-connected Jewishly) have generally been curious and respectful. They've given me many opportunities to try to explain halacha and Jewish life quickly and simply, and it's a lot easier to have that practice with a sympathetic audience! It makes explaining these issues to a professor, employer, and stranger a lot easier because I've gotten to do my "market research," so to speak.
The Shidduch question: how does a Baal Teshuva or a Ger find a marriage partner?
Depends on each person. I think the shadchan (matchmaker) route is MUCH less successful for converts, and to some extent, also for BTs. This is exponentially more true in the case of Jews of color: Shadchans have a terrible reputation for matching JoCs based solely on skin color. "You're black, they're black. Of course that's more likely to produce a better marriage because that person will understand you better than some FFB Lithuanian!" However, the right shadchan (or a friend acting as an informal shadchan) can be worth his or her weight in gold.