Friday March 15, 2013

MARK E. RONDEAU

County News Editor

BENNINGTON -- BJ Rosenfeld of Clifton Park, N.Y., will speak at Congregation Beth El on Saturday at 7 p.m.; her focus will be on helping parents cope with their adult children’s life choices.

The talk is open to the publlic.

Rosenfeld is the author of "The Chameleon in the Closet," the story of her two sons converting from conservative Judaism to Orthodox Judaism, a choice both Rosenfeld and her husband found hard to accept.

In Rosenfeld’s stream of Judaism there are just the 10 commandments said to have been given to Moses on Mount Sinai, but with Orthodoxy there are 613 commandments, she said.

When her eldest son -- who attended Princeton University and is now in his 30s -- wanted to work at a Jewish summer camp, he had to take a course on Judaism. The course was taught by an Orthodox rabbi, even though the camp was not itself Orthodox. Her son began spending more and more time with the rabbi.

"I had always felt close to my older son. When he was growing up, he shared his hopes and dreams with me," she said. "But there is no guarantee that our children will grow up to be the adults we want them to be.

"I have always kept a kosher kitchen in my home. So when my older son told me that my kitchen was no longer kosher for him, I got angry," Rosenfeld said. "How dare he tell me what to do? I was the one who had taught him the right way to do things.


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Rosenfeld’s other son is three years younger than his brother. "His older brother’s choices probably made a difference. But a teen trip to Israel the summer before his senior year in high school had the greatest impact on my younger son becoming Orthodox," she said.

Rosenfeld said that the more she and her older son argued, the more she realized they were becoming strangers to each other.

"That was something I didn’t ever want to happen. Nothing was going to make me stop loving either of my sons," she said. "So I started to ask him questions. I was curious and was willing to learn from him."

Rosenfeld does not name her sons in the book. The older son lives in Israel and has nine children; her younger son lives in the U.S. and has three children. She sees them both frequently.

The title "The Chameleon in the Closet" comes from the two wardrobes in Rosenfeld’s closet.

"The ‘non-kosher’ one includes shorts, slacks and sleeveless tops for my everyday world," she said "The ‘kosher’ one contains long skirts and long-sleeved blouses for the world of my religiously observant sons and their families."

Rosenfeld said there may be a sequel to her first book.

"At the moment I’m enjoying helping people through my speaking presentations. I help parents of children over 21 because that’s when the fun begins," she said. "I believe in helping parents to get their children to love and include them no matter what because no one should die alone."

Rabbi Saul Strosberg, of Congregation Sherith Israel, Nashville, Tenn., offers a glowing testimonial of Rosenfeld’s presentation.

"BJ’s one-of-a-kind presentation on good parenting and raising children who turn out to be different than one imagined was the most engaging, inspiring, and empowering talk we’ve had in a long time," he said. "She is a must-have for any family where differences have the potential to cause friction. Her story is real, and comes straight from the heart."

Copies of "The Chameleon in the Closet" will be available at the event, Rosenfeld will be happy to sign them. It can also be ordered from local bookstores or from Amazon as an e-book and in the print version.

Rosenfeld is the past president of Hadassah and serves on the board of Women’s Philanthropies and the Hudson Valley Writer’s Guild. Before starting her career as a speaker, she taught French, Spanish and remedial reading.

Contact Mark Rondeau at mrondeau@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @banner_religion