David Kelsey has been one of our regulars for quite a while and has a blog called The Kvetcher. He often speaks out on his blog against some of the aggressive recruitment practices among certain Ultra-Orthodox groups such as Aish or yeshivas such as Ohr Sameyach who conscript and then educate secular and Modern Orthodox youths and young adults into and within their fold.
Generally, his remarks point to aggressive recruiting practices that might, for example, push students away from mainstream universities and into yeshivas or less respected universities where there may be a greater opportunity to live religiously. He also points to the the lack of information provided to the recruit by many of these groups during the recruitment and early post-“conversion” stages (generally the recruit is called a ba’al teshuvah – literally, “possessor of answer” – an unfortunate term since it indicates the rest of us are wanting for answers), and perhaps relatives as well, thus often pushing people into situations that are challenging both in the short and long runs.
Recently, another blogger, Ron Coleman, has openly criticized bloggers and individuals such as Kelsey for simply being bitter ex-ba’alei teshuvah who are using their blogs to disseminate their bitterness. Kelsey has written an eloquent and strong response on his blog, In Defense of the Bitter Ex-BT Blogs, which I encourage our readers to read. In part he writes:
In the haredi BT world, you are frequently discouraged from checking under the hood. All too often, you are sent to the races, and encouraged to drive quite fast and reckless. And sometimesâ€”go figure–you end up in a few fender benders, and get dizzy, and feel like you are going nowhere except in circles. Then when you announce you don’t like this race anymore, people start changing. No one in the racetrack wants to help you, especially the referees on the side wearing the black and white outfits of authority. They all just start screaming at you that you’re messed up for riding off the racetrack. If you’re luckyâ€”very luckyâ€”someone might secretly whisper in your ear that it’s okay if you stop racing like you have been. But almost everyone at the racetrack just tries to get you to race some more. And then things get kinda ugly. Cause you want to reclaim your car, and some people don’t approve of paint jobs and changing brakes, or adding gas. Definitely not adding gas.
So you go outside, and you stay kinda quiet. And you don’t tell people about your racing days. Only a couple of people know. But then you see that they are opening more racetracks, and adding bleachers to the old ones, always recruiting new racers. And you see that the referees were the same ones who were there when you used to race, and are making the tracks even more dangerous in accordance with management’s new rules for still better racing.
And you feel a sense of solidarity for the new racers, especially the young ones. You want to tell them what you know about racing. And make sure they do check the oil, and make sure they don’t drive too fast, that they get enough gas, and quite frankly, not to trust that the referees are on their side. Because they are not. They are simply there first and foremost to make people race as fast as they can make them, in accordance with management’s wishes.