Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Social Stratification in the Orthodox Jewish Community: FFBs, BTs, and Geirim

I thought that I would write about a subject that is often dealt with on other blogs: social stratification in the Orthodox community. There is stratification based on community (Ashkenazi, Sefardi etc.), and ideology (Hasidim, Mitnagdim, National Religious, Modern Orthodox, etc.). I may touch upon these, however the main focus of this post (and some upcoming ones) will be stratification that is a manifestation of when you "joined the club." Here we have three main groups:

1) FFBs ("Frum From Birth"): These are people who were born into Orthodox Jewish families and have been practicing Jews all their lives. These are they guys that don't know what bacon tastes like.
2) BTs ("Balei Teshuva"): People who were born Jewish but were born into families where Torah observance was weak (i.e. they did not keep the Sabbath, dietary laws, etc.). Later on in life these people embraced Orthodox Judaism. I belong to this group.
3) Geirim (converts). People that were not born Jewish but out of their own free will converted to Judaism according to Jewish law.

I think that most reasonable Orthodox Jews will admit that stratification based on the three groups mentioned above does exist. It has different manifestations, particularly but not limited to the shiduchim that one is offered. However, the degree of stratification varies depending on which community one belongs to. What is true in the Modern Orthodox community in Kew Garden Hills is not necessarily true for the National Religious community if Ofra, or by the Vizhnitz Hasidim in Haifa.

How should one deal with the above mentioned social stratification? Personally, I do not believe in waging wars against windmills. What's more, I am not convinced that the phenomenon is always negative.

I hope to give examples of what I mean in future posts.

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