|Deception. Never a good thing.*|
On the other side of this can be found the parents and families of those who are either secular or are members of the more liberal Jewish denominations (such as Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, etc.) As a parent (and as someone who has parents,) I think that probably most of these parents want to support their children's decisions, whether they are choosing a major in college, finding a suitable career path, or even pursuing their own spiritual journey. However, what happens when parents find that their college-age child has gotten so involved with a Jewish group on campus that he or she has begun to distance him/herself from the family that has always been supportive?
Let's toss in a few facts:
1. Orthodox observance requires strict adherence to certain set rules.
2. Many on/off-campus Jewish groups are funded by and/or affiliated with ultra-orthodox factions.
3. While strict observance isn't pushed upon initial contact with students, those who seem interested are pushed into other programs in which ultra-orthodox thought and practice are taught. These programs may be offered by the "campus rabbi" and his staff or they may be programs run by the larger organization with which his group is affiliated. They may be innocently billed as a fun-filled spring break in Florida or Israel or New York with touring and learning about Jewish culture/heritage. These trips may seem cheaper because organizations may offer subsidies for interested students.
By the time parents realize that the kid they sent away to school in September is slowly being indoctrinated into an orthodox lifestyle, it's often already too late. The kid they thought was "just learning Hebrew" with the self-appointed "campus rabbi" is now refusing to come home for a weekend because he/she is spending every Shabbat with either the rabbi and his family or with religious families he/she is set up with. The kid they expected to come back for Passover seders now feels that he/she really should go to an orthodox family for the holiday to further his/her religious learning. There is often a degree of guilt felt by students in this situation--they feel obligated to the rabbi and his family (or organization) for meals, classes, etc., and when they are offered an opportunity to have holiday meals/observance organized, they feel like they can't say no. It's easier to brush off their parents with excuses than it is to brush off the rabbi and his organization, because by now, the group is a large part of the student's campus life.
In the beginning of this post, I mentioned why some orthodox communities think that orthodox Jews leave the fold, in addition to actual reasons why many choose to leave (often with great personal ramifications.) What I've found is that when non-orthodox parents realize that their kids have been scooped up and alienated from them by ultra-orthodox organizations, similar excuses are made by the orthodox community as to why this has happened: the baal teshuvah (newly religious person, who I will now refer to as BT) came from an abusive family; the BT comes from an unstable family environment; the family lacks morality and/or Jewish education. Not only are non-orthodox Jews unaware of the deceptive nature (and often, existence) of kiruv/outreach, but many of those within orthodox communities are also often lacking an understanding of the deceptive nature of ultra-orthodox kiruv. The more I read about this and the more personal stories I hear, the more it seems that many college-age BTs and those in their 20s, seem not to have made a conscious decision to become ultra orthodox, but rather, through a series of well-orchestrated moves by kiruv/outreach professionals, have found themselves in high-pressure situations in which guilt, seclusion, and separation are used in order to enforce conformity to a culture that may not necessarily have been their choice.
*image from http://lumen.nd.edu/2005_07/images/self_deception_lumen.gif