Welcome to BT finishing school. Most of you are here because your friends, family or in some cases Rabbeim have paid for your tuition. They feel you are ready to integrate into normal frum society. Many Baalei Teshuvos like yourselves have been frum for many years. Your peers feel that you need that little bit of extra knowledge. They are, in most cases, too nice to tell you to your face that in order to fit in you may need more than just the black hat and dark suit. Touro College is proud to welcome you all into our Baal Teshuva Finishing School.
At Touro’s BT Finishing School we will teach you how to blend in to frum society. Nobody wants to be labeled a flaming BT, but many of you are here for that precise reason. We will teach you what it is you are doing wrong, how to fix it and how to acclimatize to regular frum life.
One of the problems we have encountered with past graduates is that many of them thought all Jewish communities were like theirs. We found that many baalei Teshuva had become religious through a community kollel or kiruv rabbi and that once they left the area for more diverse Jewish offerings they were shocked to find that everyone didn’t have such an uplifting Friday night meal, spiritual davening or neighborliness. Many BT’s came back disappointed at being labeled a BT and felt lesser as Jews, even though they weren’t. In select cases, shul members would approach the newly transplanted BT and tell them not to shuckel so violently because it disturbed other members and one woman told us that she was asked not to attend shul on Friday nights because the men who came late to shul used the women’s section and that was the minhag of the town.
All of our teachers have recovered from flaming BT syndrome and are now widely accepted members of their respective communities. All of our teachers went through the same experiences that you find yourselves going through today. They were flaming Baal Teshuvas and with a little help and practice they were able to fit right in. The only way you can tell any of our teachers were once a baal teshuva is based on the fact they give firm handshakes, look you in the eye when conversing and can carry on a conversation without the usage of Jewish Geography.
The only way an FFB should be able to tell you come from a non-religious back round is from the manners you obtained growing up outside of the frum community and your coolness factor. Many FFBs acknowledge the fact that baalei teshuvas will always be cooler, more interesting and better equipped for interesting conversation than the FFB. We can use this to our advantage, although many FFBs refuse to marry BTs. If we are able to blend in well enough, while maintaining our coolness, we will be able to secure the best matches for ourselves and our children.
Here is a list of some of the different classes you will be taking throughout the semester:
Dress: Khakis and a sport coat just don’t cut it – we teach you how to dress for your respective community. When it comes to being a full fledged non-flaming member of the frum community – dress is most important. Unlike the BT community, the FFB community will judge you on everything from your socks to your thong.
Religious Garb: Learn how to wear you tzitzis properly, the dos and don’t of yarmulke wearing and the history of black hats. We also teach you about the gray, blue and straw hat wearers. How to properly don a tallis, what color your tallis should be and how to wrap tefillin without being too obvious a BT. Ladies will learn all about the colors black, gray and navy blue.
Body Language: Did you know that women aren’t supposed to shuckel too quickly for it may turn other women and men on? Did you know that bowing too far, fast or slowly for modiim is a dead giveaway? What about shuckeling like you are on speed or clopping selach lanu with enough force to start your dying heart? These are all very important in your development from flamer to FFB look alike.
Jewish Geography: At some point you will have to engage people who have no personality in the frum community. These people invented a game called Jewish Geography so they can have full fledged conversations without any content. You must engage these people. Just nod and smile and they will never be able to tell that you don’t actually know any of their friends. Be wary of anyone stopping you on the street and saying things like “you look familiar” or calling you by the name of “reb yid.” These people are usually quite militant and will demand your entire frumming out history once they realize you are an infiltrator.
Required Reading: To really understand the FFB you must read the FFB. We recommend a variety of websites and blogs for you to read and on which to report. Many of your rabbis do not want you to know the true nature of the frum community outside of your little town – you need to be exposed and you need to have uninformed opinions. Being informed and not just jumping on the right wing bandwagon is part of being an FFB. Before you come to class you will be required to read Foreskin’s Lament. We do not recommend reading the Baal Teshuvas Survival Guide before attending class.