Diary of a BT


Beryl Tritel, LMSW

It starts with the introduction. The usual, “My name is. . . And, yours?” kind of thing.

I don’t wear a big “I am a baalas teshuvah,” sign on my forehead. I dress like most of the working moms that I know (except for my love of color – which happens to be “in” now anyway).

When it gets obvious is when people ask me my name, and quickly follow up my answer with an-oh-so-polite-not-very-subtle-response of:

“Beryl? For a woman?”

Followed one of the following variations: “My uncle/brother/nephew/father/best friend from cheder was/is named Beryl,” or, for those more to-the-point type of people, “How’d you get that name?”

Besides the obvious, “My parents named me,” – duh! – people want to know more. It so happens that my parents chose it because of its meaning. It does, after all, mean “jewel.” That is kinda pretty, no?

But, then, people wonder how my parents could name me a man’s name. So, I explain that I am a baalas teshuvah.

That is why people usually know pretty quickly that I was not privileged to grow up among the frum. My friends are all used to it by now. And, I doubt that most of the people in my neighborhood even bat an eyelash when they hear my name.

When I was in shidduchim it almost prevented me from meeting my husband. When he heard my name, he was quick to put my name on the “maybe not” pile. After all, whoever heard of a woman named Beryl? Even though he liked what he had heard about me, the very thought of the potential bentchers at our wedding gave him pause. (To which his friend responded, “Moshe, you’ve been dating four years, what are the chances you are going to marry her, anyway?”)

On that sage advice alone, we met. And, not only did he have to worry about the bentchers, but – as he is fond of saying – he was probably the first guy in klal yisrael to ask if he was allowed to marry someone with the same name as his rebbi. (Even today, almost two decades into married life, he STILL thinks it’s funny. I do not.)

However, he has not gotten the last laugh, One day, we received a letter from an organization addressed to “HaRav Beryl Tritel, shlita.” I never knew becoming chashuve and getting smicha could be so easy! (I STILL think it’s funny. He does not.)

There was the other time my husband met someone on the bus who worked for a seminary. The menahel told him that they were looking for a therapist to work with some of the students. My husband told him that his wife was a therapist, and, perhaps, I should contact the school. Since they really needed someone, he happily gave my husband the email address of the secretary who was in charge of these types of things. My husband gave me the information, encouraging me to contact her right away.

I emailed her that day and waited for a response.

And waited.

And waited.

By the end of the week, I was beginning to wonder why I hadn’t heard a response. So, I emailed again.

And waited.

A few days later, I got a response. Fully expecting to be asked to come in for an interview, I opened the email.

“Thank you for your inquiry. But, we do not allow male therapists to work with our students.”


I wrote back and explained that I was a female. But, I never heard back. Maybe she was too embarrassed?

That’s when I changed my signature on my email to Mrs. Beryl Tritel.

So, would my life be simpler if I was a Rifky, Tamar, or the slightly more exotic, Penina?


But, then, I wouldn’t be me. My name is a big part of who I am. It reminds me of my roots. And, how I hope to live up to my name’s meaning: to be seen as a jewel in Hashem’s crown.

Beryl Tritel, LMSW is an individual and marriage therapist, specializing in the full range of Women’s Life Issues. She has offices in Ramat Bet Shemesh and at The Place in Jerusalem. She also sees clients all over the world over via Skype. She can be reached at 011-972-58-9454 or at beryltritel@gmail.com