How family dynamics change…

BOSTON — In a country in which Jewish leaders mourn their people's assimilation — and the high intermarriage rate — one issue that tends to be overlooked is that of children who become more religious than their parents. But this trend, which is far from obscure, does not always cause unadulterated happiness in the family. Just as a child who abandons his faith may irk his parents, so, too, when a child becomes frum, or fervently religious, he or she can also create conflict in the family.

Sources of tension range from the concrete — differing observations of kashrut, Shabbat and holidays, and the child's changes in dress — to the existential, including feelings of a rejection of instilled values.

In effect, the potential for "myriad conflicts" between children and their parents can be strong, according to Donna Lupatkin, a social worker in private practice in Brookline, Mass., who is experienced in handling such cases. The reason is that each family possesses its own style and level of religious observance.

One source of tension Lupatkin frequently observes occurs when a child will not eat in the parents' home because it is not kosher enough. In such cases, and indeed in general, Lupatkin advises that the child's rabbi participate in the discussions, explaining to parents the halachic basis for the child's behavior. She advocates communication, tact and understanding.

It is not necessarily previously unaffiliated Jews who "discover" their heritage and turn to a ba'al t'shuvah life. Rather, sometimes people of Conservative backgrounds, who grew up with strong Jewish identities, often enter the Orthodox movements in adulthood. They often attended day schools or Hebrew schools and were active in the community. Yet after leaving their parents' homes, an event or experience inspires them to exceed the level of observance they knew in childhood.

Those interviewed for this article conveyed that one motivation for them was the discovery that Orthodoxy allows for the most personally satisfying integration of spirituality and practice. A 35-year-old Chassidic woman in Brighton, Mass., who spoke on condition of anonymity, was brought up in a traditional home, but at around the age of 18, having discovered that she believed in God, embarked on an "intense spiritual search."

Inspiration came when she heard a visiting rabbi discuss "lights" and "vessels." He characterized "lights" as people concerned with spirituality but who shun ritual, and "vessels" as those who value form, or ritual, over spirituality. His assertion that both the light and the vessel are necessary for completeness was to this woman the first compelling justification for keeping the mitzvot.

Rabbi Shmuel Posner of Chabad House of Greater Boston detects a trend in the turning toward religion, which he calls "returning to Judaism": "It's a movement, and a very strong movement," he said, adding that the younger generation is becoming more observant than its predecessor. He believes the reason is that young people are "looking for a