baal teshuva


baal teshuva (bahl CHOO-vuh) listen


  • n. A Jew from a secular background (or who has stopped practicing) who then becomes observant.

Example Sentences

  • "What can I tell you about Fran? Well, she's married to a baal teshuva and she lives in Jerusalem and she has four kids..." (Glinert)

  • "Now that he's a baal teshuva, it's only a matter of time before he goes to study in a yeshivah in Israel." (JPS)

  • "Gabby falls into the common baal teshuvah pattern of wanting to take on all obligations at once, with the strictest interpretations feeling most authentic."

  • "Rebecca is a bal tshuvah; she started keeping kosher and Shabbos when she was 17."

Languages of Origin

  • Textual Hebrew
  • Yiddish


  • בעל תשובה ba'al teshuva, lit. 'master of repentance' > Y בעל־תּשובֿה bal-tshuve

    • Who Uses This

      • Religious: Jews who are engaged in religious observance and have some Jewish education
      • Orthodox: Jews who identify as Orthodox and observe halacha (Jewish law)


      • North America
      • Great Britain
      • South Africa
      • Australia / New Zealand


      • The JPS Dictionary of Jewish Words, by Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic, (Philadelphia, 2001).
      • The Joys of Hebrew, by Lewis Glinert (New York, 1992).
      • Dictionary of Jewish Usage: A Popular Guide to the Use of Jewish Terms, by Sol Steinmetz (Lanham, MD, 2005).

      Alternative Spellings

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  • The abbreviation "BT" is sometimes used.

    "The 1970s and 1980s saw a big wave of baaley teshuva, typically students from well-to-do homes in the United States and Israel who felt that they had grown up with an empty lifestyle and wanted to find their Jewish roots. This meant going to men's or women's yeshiva (seminary) to study the classic Jewish sources and the observances." (Glinert)

    The original meaning is someone who transgresses and repents.

    masculine plural: 'baalei-teshuva'
    feminine: 'baalat (baalas)-teshuva'
    feminine plural: 'baaltot-teshuva'

    An alternative term is chozer b'teshuva.

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