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The Next Generation – Tablet Magazine

The Next Generation – Tablet Magazine

When the hippie tradition of the late 1960s prompted a handful of younger Israelis to seek for which means past a bourgeois 9-to-5 existence, many discovered the reply in Judaism. Thus started the chazara b’teshuvah motion; the time period refers to secular Jews who’ve “returned” to their religion with a newly observant dedication to strict Orthodoxy, and is interchangeable with the time period baal teshuvah, used extra extensively in america.

Within the ’70s, after the Yom Kippur Warfare, the development in Israel grew. After a number of celebrities, like filmmaker Uri Zohar, and some outstanding scientists, reminiscent of chemistry professor Doron Aurbach and mathematician Eliyahu Rips, turned ultra-Orthodox, it turned a flood. Hundreds extra Israelis turned chozrim b’teshuvah within the late 1970s and early ’80s. Most on this first wave joined closed-off Haredi communities, believing that the sunshine shines brightest on the planet of the ultra-Orthodox.

Now, their oldest youngsters are grown-up and have youngsters of their very own, and may testify to the truth that for a lot of, their cultural, monetary, and social assimilation into the Haredi world could be deemed a failure. Most of the youngsters of the unique chozrim b’teshuvah have since left the Haredi communities the place they have been raised. And whereas their mother and father have, by and enormous, not returned to the secular world, many have modified their relationship to the Haredi world.

A captivating new Israeli documentary referred to as Mirrored Mild takes a tough take a look at the id disaster of second-generation chozrim b’teshuvah. One of many topics of the movie is Moti Barlev, a 36-year-old tour information from Jerusalem who left the Haredi world about 15 years in the past. His mother and father are chozrim b’teshuvah and he grew up in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhood. His excursions present guests the lifetime of Haredim and chozrim b’teshuvah, and emphasize the intricate behavioral and exterior codes which might be on the root of the problem many chozrim b’teshuvah have assimilating into this society. Barlev additionally runs two Fb teams: one in every of second-generation chozrim b’teshuvah and one that gives a chance for dialogue between first and second generations. “The biggest problem the second generation faces is lack of identity,” Barlev advised me. “We don’t belong to the Haredi world and we don’t belong elsewhere, either. We grew up with a sense of shame and humiliation from a very early age. We were second-class citizens.”


I traveled to Jerusalem to satisfy Barlev and Rabbi Mordechai Vardi, the movie’s director, producer, and screenwriter, in Vardi’s spartan workplace at Ma’aleh Faculty of Tv, Movie, and the Arts, the place he serves as head of the screenwriting division. Vardi is a Dati Leumi—which means “National Religious,” Orthodox however non-Haredi Jews—who found the plight of the second era after being uncovered to a chozrim b’teshuvah journal referred to as Aderaba. Barlev, and different second era chozrim b’teshuvah, shared with Vardi their experiences being born into the Haredi world that they felt by no means accepted them.

“The Haredi society is tribal,” Barlev advised me. “What matters is what family you’re from. Second-generation chozrim b’teshuvah don’t belong to any tribe, they have no status in the Haredi society. You can’t become Haredi, you are born one.”

A lot of the troubled youth in Haredi areas are second-generation chozrim b’teshuvah, in response to Vardi, Barlev, and a volunteer from ELEM-Youth in Misery who seems in Mirrored Mild. “There are problems with drugs, conflicts within the home, even homelessness,” Vardi advised me. One of many causes is the communication barrier between chozrim b’teshuvah and their youngsters. “Baalei teshuvah have to hide parts of their soul from their children,” Vardi stated. “If they don’t want their children to know what they did when they were secular, they have to hide not only their biography but also parts of their soul.”

One more reason is lack of parental authority. “Often the parental authority of the chozer b’teshuvah is broken,” Barlev stated. “Children of baalei teshuvah are in an interesting position, not dissimilar to that of immigrants. Often children of chozrim b’teshuvah know the dress code of the Haredi world better than their parents. Children sense their parent’s cluelessness and clumsiness. It is hard to have parental authority when your children don’t respect you.”

“Rabbi Oded Nitzani calls this ‘the shoelace-tying syndrome,’” stated Vardi, referring to the rabbi who established the chozrim b’teshuvah group Sde Tzofim in Maalot. “The Halacha states how one must tie their shoelaces. First you put on your right shoe, then your left shoe, then you tie your left shoe and then your right shoe. A chozer b’teshuvah realizes he doesn’t know how to tie his own shoes. And if he doesn’t know how to tie his own shoes, what does he know? The moment someone enters the Haredi world they don’t know anything. Chozrim b’teshuvah parents lack confidence and experience and naturally make many mistakes. They weren’t brought up this way and don’t have the guidance of the extended family. For example, if a child plays hooky from the yeshiva and comes home because he missed his family, a chozer b’teshuvah father thinks this is the end of the world. He doesn’t know that Haredi kids do this, too. He doesn’t know what is serious and what isn’t.”

“This is a classic problem of immigrants,” agreed Ilan Kosman, CEO of Shlavim, a Haredi group designed to help chozrim b’teshuvah—with recommendation, coaching, and even loans—when it comes to schooling and employment.

“This is why it’s important to give chozrim b’teshuvah parents guidance on how to communicate with their children, which is one of the things we do. It’s also important that these families have ties to Haredi families so they can learn from them.”

Kosman’s group, and others just like it, have been working for the previous 10 or 15 years. Nevertheless, even within the days when the lifetime of chozrim b’teshuvah was exceptionally troublesome—earlier than that they had their very own communities and help system—only a few of these within the first era returned to the secular world. “They have found the light. This is a very powerful psychological experience and commitment that you don’t turn your back to,” Barlev stated. “My parents’ generation was willing to live a life of poverty and broken families in the belief that they will get their reward in the afterlife. Unlike our parents, we as second generation can’t experience enlightenment. Enlightenment is a very individualistic experience, which is something you don’t experience in the Haredi society.”

Vardi echoed this sentiment: “Enlightenment comes from a great thirst, from lack of spiritually in your life. Second-generation baalei teshuvah don’t feel this thirst,” he stated. “Their parents are so afraid they will leave religion behind that they force-feed them with it.”

Whereas most chozrim b’teshuvah don’t flip their backs on the sunshine, lots of their youngsters do. “I can safely say that every household of chozrim b’teshuvah from my generation had children that left the Haredi community,” stated Barlev. “Some might become secular but many become some form of light-Orthodox.”

Rabbi Oded Nitzani (in foreground) and Moti Barlev in a nonetheless from ‘Reflected Light.’ (Photograph: Raaya Vardi Teboule)

And when the second era begins asking itself questions, stated Barlev, many occasions their mother and father comply with go well with: “Traditionally, in the first 10 years baalei teshuvah close themselves off in order to break away from the secular dogmatism and try to assimilate into the Haredi dogmatism. They strangle themselves trying to become something they can never become. After many years they can start to look at the world with curiosity and with critical eyes again—the same eyes that led them to religion in the first place. Many chozrim b’teshuvah parents are influenced by their children and begin to see the Haredi society for what it is, but it has taken them years to deal with the trauma and to get to this point. At some point, many of them start to differentiate between religion and being Haredi. Some start understanding that being Haredi is an ethnic and ritualistic identity and has nothing to do with religion.”

“They say that it takes chozrim b’teshuvah around 15 years to start asking themselves, where did we come to? Why did we throw away our culture, philosophy, literature, music?” Vardi continued. Lots of them begin a means of self examination—many occasions influenced by their very own youngsters—and begin discovering their true id. They begin understanding that they’ll by no means be capable of be Haredi and that their true id is that of baalei teshuvah.”

One of many main issues chozrim b’teshuvah face is problem getting their youngsters and grandchildren accepted into the Haredi instructional system. “Some yeshivot or seminars don’t want to hurt their prestige and therefore have a quota of children of baalei teshuvah they accept,” Vardi stated. “They also check the children’s body language and appearance to check if they stand out. If you come from a baalei teshuvah family with money or if your dad is a lawyer, it will be easier for you to get accepted.”

It doesn’t assist that many chozrim b’teshuvah endure from poverty. “Nowadays when someone finds religion, he is warned not to leave his job,” Vardi stated. “Traditionally baalei teshuvah left their jobs in order to study all day like Haredim. The difference is that the Haredi population gets by financially even though many men aren’t employed. They have ways to get by.” These methods embrace household and social networks, donations from philanthropists, and free-loan societies referred to as gemachim. “Baalei teshuvah,” stated Vardi, “aren’t part of this loop.”

Kosman doesn’t assume the rationale youngsters aren’t accepted into the Haredi instructional system has something particularly to do with the truth that their mother and father are chozrim b’teshuvah. “My kids didn’t get accepted into some schools I wanted them to get into either, and I was born Haredi,” he informed me. “Haredi schools that care about their Haredi identity want people who are like them. A cheder of Gerer Hasidim wouldn’t accept a child of Belzer Hasidim either. I don’t think that nowadays baalei teshuvah are considered second-class citizens. They are in a category of their own. They are their own movement.” Thus, Kosman sees the truth that second-generation chozrim b’teshuvah marry one another as a constructive factor (“they speak the same language”). Others nonetheless understand the truth that second-generation chozrim b’teshuvah aren’t provided born-Haredis as a shidduch as an indication of their inferior social standing.

These days it’s estimated that there are near one million Haredim in Israel, and that chozrim b’teshuvah (and their offspring) make up greater than 20 % of them. There are numerous totally different actions of chozrim b’teshuvah, and right now lots of them belong to new communities of chozrim b’teshuvah which have been popping up within the final 20 years or so. “These communities have their own synagogues, schools and leaders, and they are a fantastic solution,” stated Barlev. “I have seen children of baalei teshuvah in these places and I saw happy well adjusted children—a million years removed from how I was at that age. I was scared and closed off. They talk openly about things, they do sports, they learn English.”

Kosman can also be very a lot in favor of chozrim b’teshuvah communities and faculties, and strives to raised these faculties. “Children of chozrim b’teshuvah have different needs to Haredi kids,” he stated. “These schools need to teach their children how to deal with their secular cousins, and to define their identity in a manner that will give them self-confidence. The fact that they teach English is also very important. Baalei teshuvah schools tend to the second generation’s needs as well as bestow upon these children the essence and principles of baalei teshuvah, like enthusiasm and devotion to your beliefs and principles.”

Kosman believes that a greater instructional system for second era chozrim b’teshuvah may also assist them when it comes to employment and monetary stability: “Chozrim b’teshuvah have huge earning potential and I believe the state needs to help them, just as it helps olim hadashim,” individuals who have just lately made aliyah.

Barlev concluded: “I can’t promise baalei teshuvah who join these communities that their children will stay religious, but at least they won’t grow up broken and traumatized.”


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