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Hostility, rudeness, and Ahavas Yisroel

I’ve already spoken about this on Discord, but it’s still bothering me; I find when things keep bothering me the best thing is to talk about them more.

I am BT since about 2014 – my mother and grandmother weren’t religious or even culturally Jewish, so I’m a bit of a black sheep.

We have a mainstream shul here but it’s rapidly falling into disuse after Covid, and I’ve never really enjoyed going there anyway. Instead, I daven by the main shul across the river in a somewhat large community of Litvish haredim. I have done since 2014, but moved away during Covid so didn’t resume doing so until this year when I moved back.

It has always been an odd kind of place, you (or I) get the sterotypical ‘stone cold Litvak’ stare as someone people don’t know, and they are naturally very protective – both of their community’s way of life and from a security perspective.

I’ve always fitted in, in a superficial way – I wear a suit, black yarmulke, tzitzis, and a black bent-down hat… or did, until very recently when I started dressing more chassidish on weekdays (I always did on Shabbos).

There was an incident one Shabbos when I had went home after shacharis and somehow put my phone in my pocket before returning for mincha; I felt something as I was outside shul, and took it out – a look of horror swept across my face. I was of course not the only one to notice, and soon the gossip spread. Later in the week I was asked if I was actually Jewish because I was seen with a phone on Shabbos, and I explained what happened, and explained my background. I was encouraged to find a kesubah because I would need one if I am to marry or pursue education there. I had already been meeting with a Chabad Rabbi who holds the fort at the mainstream shul, but there’s not much he can do for me other than offer his support (and, for geirus, a character witness).

In light of this, and to hopefully put people’s minds at ease, I wrote a letter to the Kehillah office explaining my situation, that if I didn’t find a kesubah I had already acknowledged I would have to go through geirus (I’ve already been in contact with the Beis Din), and that I was interested in moving into the area, closer to the shul.

So, a couple of weeks went by without incident – I daven mincha & maariv there daily, and everything on Shabbos.

Tisha B’Av came along, I really love Tisha B’Av even though it’s such a sad time. I had just wrapped tefillin for mincha, and was working through korbanos. A gentleman came over and stood in front of me… “can you talk?”, he asked. I continued a couple of lines then paused. “Yes”, I smiled.

“I want you to know that there are a number of people here who aren’t happy about your being here.”

“Oh, erm, why?”, I asked.

“Are you the guy who wrote to the kehalliah office recently?”

“Erm, I did… yes. Is there something wrong?”, I responded.

“Well we phoned they Beis Din and there’s no file with your name on it and that’s a red line. You shouldn’t be here.”

I started trying to explain things, and how they may have me down under my former name (which I included in the letter), before he kept interrupting questioning my status and raising his voice. By the point, the entire shul was staring and listening. I asked if we could chat about it after mincha and he said he didn’t have time, and began almost shouting at me.

“Should I leave then?”, I asked.,

“Well, that’s up to you but there are A NUMBER of people here who aren’t happy about you being here including me!”

My heart sank, I began unwrapping my tefillin, packed up and left. I messaged one of the few friendly faces I know in the kehillah to tell him what happened and he told me to be defiant, to go back and daven – so I did. My friends on Discord said the same, that I should keep going… but now when I get those ‘stoney-faced’ looks from people all I can think of is the number of people who don’t want me there.

Apparently the guy who pulled me during mincha is a committee member, but he has no authority to tell anyone to leave like that – but the damage is done. Every time I go to the town and see Litvaks my emotions are a mixture of fear, anger, and perhaps even resentment. I hoped it would pass, but it hasn’t.

I mention they are litvaks because other than bochurim who visit, there are visibly no other chassidic people there – so when they all went home for the summer holidays I was left looking very obvious and very out of place.

The symbolism of this taking place of Tisha B’Av doesn’t elude me, and I feel that people like this are why the temple was destroyed in the first place. I’m fatigued. I was already self-conscious and shy, and now I just dread going there – it has destroyed me.

There are other minyans, but people tend to move around quite a lot so it’s all the same people.

Incidentally, I have submitted a formal geirus application now as there’s a black hole between my great-great-grandparents and my great grand parents — I’ve been unable to find evidence to connect them as they came from Ukraine during the pogroms and things seem a bit messy… the Rabbi and Dayanim are in recess over the summer anyway, but now I really don’t know if I feel Jewish or feel like I should make the effort anymore.

I realise one must take the bad with the good, and there are some very good people out there… but this has ruined me. I’m still so upset about it, even though I thought I was over it – because it really hurts deep. I tried so hard to fit in here (recent chassidish weekday clothing aside!) and it seems to be all for nothing. There are no other communities.

My Chabad Rabbi believes if I do have to do geirus it would be best in another city such as Manchester or London where people aren’t as uptight, and I do love Manchester… but relocating isn’t an option right now.

Thanks for allowing me to rant <3

submitted by /u/DaniBenAmi
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