if they are baalei teshuvah, what does that make us?
over the weekend, while at the nhc's chesapeake retreat i went to a very interesting workshop facilitated by BZ on framing using george lakoff's framework to think about the way these issues play out in jewish dialogue. anyways, it reminded me about how frustrating the language is that is used to refer to people who have switched from being progressive jews to any of a variety of more "orthodox" approaches.
lots of people use the term baal teshuvah (pl. baalei teshuvah).
practically speaking, a baal teshuvah (BT) is someone who grew up with minimal jewish education, or in some cases significant non-orthodox education, and has since chosen to become orthodox.
the term is made up of two words baal and teshuvah.
baal: a master.
teshuvah: repentence, a very popular hebrew word around the high holidays.
if we as progressive jews label people who have chosen to abandon simialr ideologies and practices as repentant, it is not a stretch to conclude that we are labeling ourselves as in need of repentence. i certainly believe my ideology is legitamite and absolutely feel no need to repent for it.
that's why i try to avoid using the term BT.
i am thinking through alternatives. two seperate terms would be useful one for people who have switched from progressive judaism to orthodox judaism (the significance of "orthodox" is meat for another post).
what should we call people who were orthodox and are now progressive jews? perhaps baalei tzedek (masters of justice)? that may be to glib, many of our brothers and sisters are orthodox and are pretty serious about a variety of economic and environmental justice issues.
i am not even vaguely clear on what would constitute a viable alternative to BT. the most descriptive forms are way too long. for instance: person-who-was-formerly-a-progressive-or -liberal-jew-but-whose-practice-and-ideology-are-currently-better-labeled-as-orthodox -->pretty rediculous. there has to be some reasonable medium between the offensive BT and this PWWFAPOLJBWPAIACBLAO alternative. what is a good alternative?