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But these young, American baalei teshuva are offering their own spin on the concept.
But the choices they’ve made about how to live—like keeping kosher homes, largely observing the rules of the Sabbath, and moving into homes within walking distance of a synagogue—define the patterns of their days and weeks and years.
A lot of Jewish life in Houston is mediated through institutions, particularly when it comes to programs for young people: The Jewish Community Center runs Mishpacha & Me, a program for families with small children; Houston Hillel, which serves multiple college campuses and hosts city-wide events, runs a program called “Jewston,” which coordinates social outings for 20-somethings.
There aren’t a lot of grassroots, independent groups, especially not for prayer, said Elise Passy, who until recently was the coordinator of an organization called Big Tent Judaism.
But a small portion are baalei teshuva, a Jewish concept drawn from the Hebrew word for “return”: it denotes those who have become Orthodox as a way of “returning” to God.
Like the rest of their generation, they are largely nonconformists—just traditionally minded, rule-bound nonconformists.But in a few Houston homes, Jews in their 20s and 30s have opted to fill these evenings with a different kind of obligation: strictly observing Shabbat, or the Jewish Sabbath.