Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Response to Criticism

     About a week and a half ago, I received my very first piece of email condemning this blog. I read it and responded, and even received a response back. I debated whether or not to write about it here, but  I finally decided to address certain points in the letters, since they are typical of the pro-kiruv ultra-orthodox mindset, and I believe that they can be used as a teaching tool. Out of respect for my detractor's privacy, I am not including any (non-general) identifying information, and I am not including her emails in their entirety. I do appreciate the fact that she took the time to email me and I also appreciate her willingness to stand behind her views. I recognize that it takes a lot of courage to do so, and even though she and I disagree, opening up a healthy dialogue is a positive step in understanding each other.

Text Excerpts from First Email (Spelling and grammar have not been corrected.)
 "The teachers and Rabbis and all the people doing the kiruv to help young people to come back to their roots and their heritage are not Ultra Orthodox.  They are normal orthodox Jewish people who live what they teach.  If you don't believe what Kiruv teaches and think that it is some marketing strategy or sales ploy, think again."
"Stop trying to take beautiful Jewish neshamos [souls, italics added] away from a priceless heritage that was given to them by Hashem." 
"You are bringing darkness into the world.  I don't usually take the time out of my day to speak to people like you, but maybe you need to question what you are doing and question where you come from and who you really are."

"Also remember that Hashem watches us.  Everything we do and say.  You are  not in charge.  Hashem runs the world not you.  If you are born Jewish, to a Jewish mother.  Wake up.  Open your eyes.  The Torah is instructions for how to live our lives.  This is not your purpose in life to destroy lives.  Hashem wants all his children to come back.  Everyday a person should say to themselves what am I living for ? What can I change?  Words from Rabbi Noah Weinberg.  A man we hold close to our hearts.  He lived his life for the sake of saving the Jewish nation.  You are causing damage that is all you are doing.  It is the same as murder, to take Jewish people away from Torah."

"One thing you need to understand is when you said that it should sell itself and not be used as "marketing strategy"  What are you doing to change some ones life for the better?  Sometimes it is necessary when it comes to young people especially, to give them glitz and glamour to help them to understand.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Nothing to do with marketing."

"Don't carry on with what you are doing or you might have many regrets later on."

Text Excerpts from Second Email
(Spelling and grammar have not been corrected.)

"I don't want to get into too much details of the Torah because it is very difficult to convince a sceptic of the Torah, about the beauty of it and the depth of it.  It also will be very difficult for you to understand at this point in your life, because you are not in that space of spirituality.  and Yes I do believe that the only kind of spirituality is that  of the Torah.  Saying that Hashem runs the world is not a claim of mine, its the Truth and hopefully one day in time, in the right time you will see it.  The reason why I say you are destroying lives is because Kiruv helps to stop assimilation.  Your mission is not going to help Jews to come back to their heritage, but to take them away and help them assimilate ie marry non Jews.  The Torah is a blue Print of the world, is a guide to help us live our lives properly and the way Hashem intended.  Good luck with your mission." 

"We all come into this life to do something important.  I can tell you that what you are doing by telling people that kiruv is a scam.  That's not the job you came to the earth for.  A person needs to delve into and learn Torah  with a qualified teacher in order to understand its essence.  You cannot just pull out parts of it that you see fit to criticize without seeing the overall picture and understanding the overall picture in depth.  Only Hashem knows and understands all things and knows and understands why he created the Torah.  Everything else is an illusion."

My Thoughts
  • The writer of this email admits to believing that there is only one kind of spirituality and it's from the Torah. So right there, whatever you believe has already been crossed out of existence. You cannot possibly claim any spirituality unless it's from an orthodox perspective of the Torah. You think you're spiritual? Nope, sorry! This way of thinking is very arrogant. A good teacher learns from his/her students, but this black and white thinking is prevalent in kiruv. Ultra-orthodox Jewish outreach assumes that whatever you're doing, if it's not orthodox, then it's wrong.
  • The writer claims that kiruv/outreach is not about marketing, but later claims that "sometimes it is necessary when it comes to young people especially, to give them glitz and glamour to help them to understand." Of course, we are all aware that this is marketing, however, the "glitz and glamour" is there to attract potential recruits and keep them interested. Never mind that much of what is used to attract, such as Torah Codes and other pseudo-science, have been disproven and criticized.
  • The email writer claims that God is in charge of all things, but then accuses me of trying to lead  Jewish souls to assimilation, of bringing darkness to the world, and of being like a murderer. Later, she claims that "Hashem runs the world." If we go with her feeling that God runs the world, then I'm sure he's well aware of what I'm doing (assuming we are working within a belief system that allow for the existence of a higher power) so then it's really between this god and myself. Enter in the Jewish claim that people were given free will, despite God running the world, thus taking some of the onus off of God. However, God is supposedly aware of what I'm going to do, prior to me actually doing it (again, assuming that one believes in God in the first place.) Warning me of possible regret makes no sense here, because if she believes in God, then it's already written how this will pan out. (I'm noticing that this is so strange here, because of the cyclical nature of the argument itself: you have free will to do what God already knows you're going to do. I'm not saying this to offend believers, but even this argument, used in many kiruv discussions that I've attended, really seems only to confuse the focus of the new recruit, as do many of the other topics often discussed.) Back to the original point of this bulleted statement: if God is in charge of all things, then supposedly, what I am doing is part of this "all things."
  • She claims that my mission won't help Jews come back to their roots, but will lead them to assimilation and/or intermarriage. All of ultra-orthodox kiruv believes that which is not orthodox outreach will cause assimilation and intermarriage. It doesn't matter if you are an active member of a liberal Jewish denomination or background (Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Humanist, etc.) whatever it is that you are doing, unless it is orthodox, is leading to the demise of the Jewish people.
  • She claims that "Hashem wants his children to come back." She later claims that "only Hashem knows and understands all things and knows and understands why he created the Torah.  Everything else is an illusion." If only God knows and understands, then that should tell us right there that nobody else can not possibly understand God, his reasons, nor his actions. When tragedy occurs, orthodox people often say "baruch dayan ha-emet," meaning that God is the true judge and whatever he has done, it is for the best and we, as humans, don't have to understand it, nor his reasons. (This is often comforting to people in mourning.) In that case, the writer of this letter cannot claim that God wants Jews to be orthodox or to "come back." (We can assume, based on her other statements, that she doesn't want Jews to be Reform.) If only God understands and knows all things, then orthodox kiruv, in its very essence, is presumptuous, as it works only on the presumption that only orthodox interpretation and adherence are what is expected of Jews. 
  • The last point that I want to address is about this line: "You are causing damage that is all you are doing." The damage I am causing--if any at all--is to those who may now think twice about Jewish outreach, its underlying messages, its goals, its supporters, and its motivation. A savvy person wouldn't take a hundred thousand dollars and invest it in the first business opportunity that presents itself, no matter how exciting the package. Instead, a smart person would research different investment opportunities, and educate him/herself before making any long term decisions that could affect his/her future and financial security. Ultra orthodox outreach often works on the premise that kiruv professionals will be able to "wow" people and turn them on to orthodoxy, maybe even send them on an outreach trip, and transform people's lives before they can arm themselves with the other side of the story. If, by providing information, I am causing damage to the kiruv industry, then I know that my efforts are not wasted.
     I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, even we disagree. Feel free to post in the comments section. And thanks to all of you who have been reading this blog and driving up my reader stats. The few minutes you spend here is greatly appreciated.

44 comments:

  1. People who are certain that they have the Truth are maddening. They’re right and everyone else was wrong. Yet I was told, again and again, that I was arrogant for thinking that my questions were valid.

    The content of the letters is a little dizzying, given the poor sentence structure and the numerous unjustified assumptions.

    > maybe you need to question what you are doing and question where you come from and who you really are."

    This is so ironic.

    > You are not in charge. Hashem runs the world not you.

    What’s the relevance? When did you claim or imply that you run the world?

    > If you are born Jewish, to a Jewish mother.

    And if you’re non-Jewish, then Hashem doesn’t run the world?

    > This is not your purpose in life to destroy lives.

    Even assuming that what you’re doing destroys lives, how does she know this isn’t your purpose?

    > Everyday a person should say to themselves what am I living for ? What can I change?

    As indeed you are, trying to change the damage that Kiruv can cause.

    > It is the same as murder, to take Jewish people away from Torah.

    No, it’s not. Besides, what you’re doing is anti-kiruv. This isn’t one of those evil skeptic blogs (like mine).

    > It also will be very difficult for you to understand at this point in your life, because you are not in that space of spirituality.

    See, it’s your fault for not having sufficiently magical thinking!

    > Saying that Hashem runs the world is not a claim of mine, its the Truth

    It’s a “Truth” that she is claiming here, regardless of who may have made the same claim. Is this line in response to something you said?

    > The reason why I say you are destroying lives is because Kiruv helps to stop assimilation.

    Why is stopping assimilation a worthwhile goal?

    > We all come into this life to do something important.

    How grandiose! We are born by chance, for no purpose other than perpetuating our genes. Depressingly pointless, perhaps, but the world is at it is.


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    1. G*3, I have to say, while I always enjoy reading your comments, I especially enjoyed this one! And I can't agree more with your first statement, regarding how maddening people who think they know the truth can be. Especially when we're talking about things like spirituality and god and religion. I tend to wonder about the idea of all things in moderation, and how it flies out the window when religion is involved. By all means, those who believe should believe, but who gave them the right to choke others with their beliefs?

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  2. really? you need to make a power point presentation showing that an uneducated, credulous frum person is wrong?

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    1. Technically, no. :)
      But in attempting to reach those who may unwittingly become victims of kiruv (especially college students, high school students, and young professionals,) it's important to show the mindset of the people recruiting them. I can preach anti-kiruv, but this is a prime example of frumthink.

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  3. You gotta love evangelical, Bible banging Jews. Unlike the ridiculous Baptists and Christians standing on street corners peddling their religious wares, ultra Orthodox Jews know the REAL truth! They might mislead you to help you find their truth, but it's for your own good; you just don't know it. You aren't spiritual enough to "get it." Oh wait, that's Landmark Education. I'm confused, which group knows the path to true spirituality? Well, it's not like those Jews are trying to make you a Moonie or something, so that makes it OK. Right?

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  4. I think you are quite right about the character of many existing kiruv organizations. I do not, however, believe that this is the only way that kiruv can be approached. Furthermore, I think that non-orthodox Jewish denominations have very much let the ball drop here. Part of the reason orthodox kiruv can be as successful as it has been is that non-orthodox denominations have -- for one reason or another -- left many of their young people in a spiritual vacuume. Were they to do their job better, the orthodox would have a far weaker position to argue from (however tenuous their arguments often are, which emphasizes the point even more: people must be quite desperate if they drink the kool aid on the basis of the sorts of arguments you describe).

    In short, the kiruv organizations you describe can only be successful if they respond to a need. They will not go anywhere until other, hopefully better, organizations or organizational forms take their place in meeting it.

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    1. I STRONGLY disagree with the Anonymous poster of June 4th. The answer to deceptive, sneaky, ultra orthodox kiruv is NOT more kiruv! Not even by other branches of Judaism. June 4th, made the erroneous assumption that young people who are not involved with some form of religion are in a spiritual vacuum. How dare you say that about young people! Do you seriously believe that religious "spirituality," or any kind of spirituality for that matter, makes the difference between good and bad young people, lest they be sucked into some dreaded vacuum? The world does not need more rabbis proselytizing about nebulous, airy fairy, intangible "spiritual" ghosts. Try a dose of reasonable thinking, June 4th, and give up on trying to scare us with "spiritual vacuums."

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    2. I guess she's chabadnik,
      Btw Rebecca, you know what I think about reform ! Lol

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  5. I have a hard time accepting the idea that Jews should not study Torah with other Jews. Having said that, I totally agree with your critique of Professional Kiruv. The question anyone needs to ask themselves before they get involved in any type of education, especially one having to do with Religion or theology, is "What is my motivation?" If your motivation is anything other than responding to a desire to study on the part of the other person, don't do it. Deep down, Kiruv is about either saving the Jewish people, or bringing the Messiah. While those may be lovely things, that motivation is not sufficient to entitle you to meddle in someone else's life.
    I am Orthodox, and have worked in Kiruv. When confronted with colleagues who felt their job was needed to "make people "frum", my response was always the same. "Your job is to teach Torah. If you have to "make someone from", not only are you doing a bad job, but you are engaging in dishonesty. "

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    1. Thank you, Anonymous, for your thoughtful comment.It is exactly those colleagues you mention--"who felt their job was needed to 'make people "frum'"--whose actions I criticize, and I thank you for recognizing that.I have no problem with the rabbi (usually modern orthodox, in my experience,) who is available for questions and further learning at the request of the student. Unfortunately, too many individuals and organizations see that one question as an invitation to change a person's life, usually after engaging in dishonest tactics to attract people in the first place. If I may ask, within the kiruv world is there any backlash against those kiruv workers specifically targeting people to make them frum?
      It saddens me that teaching Jewish culture and religion has become the huge industry that it is, and that even a simple question regarding whether or not a group is orthodox often elicits the response "we welcome all Jews," rather than being honest about the group's denomination and goals.

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  6. (Note to reader: It is sometimes common that sarcasm is misunderstood through the written word, and many find it where it was never intended. Just for clarification, I am in no way being sarcastic at all in this post)

    I find this all truly fascinating. Being a Rabbi on a University campus boasting thousands of Jews, obviously I am biased. No doubt, the very reason why I am here is to try to be "mekarev" Jews; to bring them "close" to the culture, belief, practice, ritual, history, and heritage of their ancestors. Clearly, then, I am not a "fan" of your message, although I am inspired by your enthusiasm. I see you even host your own "anti-kiruv" speaking engagements, where you are "trying to help people to understand the TRUTH of kiruv". I am not being patronizing in the slightest when I say that I don't see so much of a difference between you and I. Except for one thing. I am not condemning you. I believe that any "way of life" is chosen freely based on emotional experiences and logical deductions. I say let people choose for themselves if traditionally observant Judaism is a lifestyle that they want to embrace or appreciate in any way. But, to make a choice, people must be knowledgeable about the intricacies of different options. Enter you and me. Just as you feel compelled to reach out and help others to not be confused by kiruv, I feel compelled to reach out and help others to not be confused by Judaism. Yes, there are those who have been "turned off" by the Aish approach. But for each one of them, there is at least another who has found so much joy in understanding hitherto confusing or misunderstood messages about traditional Judaism. I hear on a daily basis the thank yous from students (and many times their parents!) for recruiting them, (whether through a bbq, Israel trip, or a weekly free dinner) befriending them and teaching them about Judaism. My wife spends hours a week with these young women, inspiring them by her behavior alone, to rethink their relationships and their own self worth as women. I think our young adults are wise enough to make their own decisions and do not need our protection from too much "exposure" to a way of life that was once shared by all of our great grandparents. I agree, if only they would show up on their own and ask questions. But, like we read in the Hagadah on Passover about the child who does not yet know how to ask, many in our times do not even realize that there is anything worth researching in their tradition. So yes, we bring them in, and show them that they have a tremendous amount yet to learn before they can reject living as tradition instructs.

    The sages of old say that words that emanate from the heart, penetrate the heart. I hope my words are humble and sincere enough to be considered. Be blessed.

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    1. If you are not using any deceptive tactics, I doubt that Bec has any issue with you or your methodology. Realize, however, that you are more likely to be an exception to the rule.

      Same for me: it's an open marketplace of ideas and that is totally OK.

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    2. Genuine thanks for your reply. It sounds like you and your wife are extremely dedicated to your work, and that's commendable. I'm sure that you also really believe in what you do, and knowing that it's the beginning of the semester and a busy time before the chagim, I also appreciate the time that you took to post a response.
      I have to disagree with you on a major point. While both of our goals have to do with educating to some degree, I don't actively go out searching for people to educate. My sidebar comment about speaking engagements was actually put up after this blog was started, in response to people asking me via email if I would be available to address small groups. However, I don't advertise, nor do I set up shop on college campuses with the intent of discouraging other points of view. I write this blog with the understanding that people are free to choose whatever religious practice suits them, but I believe strongly that in order to make an informed choice, they should have a clear understanding of the goals of the organization(s) in which they're getting involved.
      As Jewish Rebel stated above, "If you are not using any deceptive tactics, I doubt that Bec has any issue with you or your methodology." He's exactly right.
      In your comment above, you state that "So yes, we bring them in, and show them that they have a tremendous amount yet to learn before they can reject living as tradition instructs." I have a few honest questions. What methods do you employ to bring students in? How do you, or how does your organization, measure your success rate? And what is considered "success" by you or your organization?
      A drop off topic, but regarding that same statement: Christian or other non-Jewish missionaries can make the same argument. "C'mon, how can you reject our teachings before knowing anything about them?" Both of you (the general you, not "you" personally,) believe that you have in mind the best interests of the people you engage. Both of you are looking to transform the person in front of you into something else. Your response (I assume, and I hope, otherwise we're back to the joke I made at the beginning about finding a different profession,) should be "well, yeah, but even if that person cuts out of college for a year or two and sits in yeshiva or seminary, gets married, and never goes back to school, they're still Jewish." Yes, but at what cost? Are you/your organization and/or kiruv in general, promoting responsible Jewish learning? Are you giving kids who become "inspired" towards orthodoxy the whole picture? Even, as I point out in other posts, blogs like Beyond BT talk about the not-so-great side of becoming a baal teshuva, but often people don't realize this until they're already several years invested in the lifestyle. Are you promoting an idealized version of orthodox Judaism when maybe you should be promoting something more like sustainable Judaism that encourages higher education, financially responsible living options, and that doesn't cause massive family upheaval?
      Also, I noticed your use of the term "traditional Judaism." Exactly what is "traditional Judaism?" Is that just a better phrase so as not to scare people off with the actual term "orthodox Judaism?"
      (My intention here isn't to come off as rude with all of these questions, so my apologies if they read this way.)
      And again, thank you for posting a response and I hope that you'll post again.
      May you have a meaningful Elul.

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  7. Excuse me, I can't sit quietly while this charlatan prattles on with visions of sugar plums - I mean culture, belief, practice, ritual, history and heritage.

    It sounds warm & fuzzy, but the goal of kiruv is to make people ultra orthodox. The problem is that they do not tell them that up front, and that is not OK.

    August 27th said: I believe that any "way of life" is chosen freely based on emotional experiences and logical deductions.

    If only college students who kiruv rabbis go after had the opportunity to freely decide whether or not to be ultra orthodox. Instead, these decisions are based on emotional experiences, such as love bombing, and the logical deductions one comes to when only given information carefully selected to impress. It's not much different from a used car salesman impressing a kid with the idea of freedom, girls and machismo, while simultaneously pointing out the new paint, leather seats and awesome sound system - without mentioning that the car was under four feet of water during Hurricane Katrina.

    August 27 said: I think our young adults are wise enough to make their own decisions and do not need our protection from too much "exposure" to a way of life that was once shared by all of our great grandparents.

    This statement is simply not true. Today's college students have great grandparents who died, roughly, between the 1960's & 1980's. Repeating the assertion that all Jews of that generation lived and practiced Judaism the way ultra orthodox kiruv Jews do now, does not make that assertion true. It makes it a ridiculous fantasy. The fact is, most of those Jews were secular and living nothing like the image that kiruv workers present.

    Many of us have good reasons to post anonymously. We might be trying to escape the ultra orthodox world, or have jobs or relationships to risk by posting under our real names. For the life of me, I can't figure out why a kiruv worker who feels he is doing nothing wrong posts anonymously.

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  8. Holy brothers and sisters, fear not Aug. 27th is back. Here are my thoughts on the above: (Once again, I am just answering as truly and clearly I can, I am not attacking or poking fun at anyone, except where they deserve it lol)

    1. Reaching out. First off I never discourage other points of view, I only clarify the Jewish point of view from a Traditional perspective. Maimonides writes in the Book of Mitzvot that included in the Mitzvah to love one's Creator is the idea that one usually wants to share what he loves with others. If one loves the Creator, he says, then he should want the Creator to be beloved among others, and he should actively try to encourage others to do so. This is not revisionist kiruv reading, it is exactly what he writes, about 900 years ago.

    2. Deceptive methods. They are no more deceptive than a woman wearing make up or a hotel showing a picture of the presidential suite when advertising rooms available. Nobody thinks that is how she looks first thing out of bed or that every room in the hotel has a Jacuzzi,sauna, cigar lounge, or 1000 sq. ft balcony. Everyone puts their best foot forward and tries to represent themselves or their business in the best light. Its not lying or deceptive, it is highlighting the BEST parts of what you truly have. Since I represent Traditional Judaism on campus, I would like to show the best of what it has to offer.

    3. Measuring Success - It's exactly the same as you would measure success for your children. Each one according to his own abilities and motivation. There is no blanket rule that applies to every person. The only thing that I always encourage/prevail upon students to do is to be driven always to learn more and consider things with an open mind.

    4. Am I just a Jewish Missionary? I don't know. What I do know is that I have no problem with missionaries. If we don't educate our children about what Judaism means, for real, and why its relevant to every moment of life then its our fault not the missionaries. I'm all for people competing for ideas. May the best man or woman win!

    5. Responsible learning. My job is to encourage people to learn more about Judaism. I believe learning more is always responsible. If people are irresponsible people then chances are that they will make irresponsible decisions. I find it ironic that parents who had no qualms with (or never did enough research to know about) their daughters or sons multiple weekly sexual partners, binge drinking and regular illegal substance abuse, cry party foul when they take some time off to focus on personal development and Jewish literacy. And all the more so when usually the students are funding Yeshiva or Seminary by themselves when their parents were knowingly paying for weed money and spring break in Cancun. Thats true chutzpa!


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  9. Aug 27th cont.

    6. The whole picture? Does anyone ever get the whole picture. Do I lie to any students. No. Do I tell them that maybe if they decide to come for a shabbos meal they may enjoy it and end up one day wanting to be frum and then feeling conflicted about their sister marrying her black Babtist boyfriend and that may make their parents feel akward and then they won't have the picture perfect multi culteral always comfortable life that they thought they would have when they were 16. No I do not. (Ok that was sarcastic, but cmon' just because not everyone always has a happily ever after BT story doesn't mean that they are lied to.) The vast majority of students who get involved choose not to ever be more observant because they do not like the picture that they see. No one is fooling them. The ones who end up becoming observant are usually the ones who were interested specifically because of the differences/advantages between a religious vs secular lifesytle.

    7. Orthodox v. Traditional. I'm surprised that for all of the comments about people "avoiding" the words orthodox Judaism you never looked them up. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Orthodox Judaism as: A Religion of Jews who adhere strictly to traditional beliefs and practices. They are synonymous. The reason why I use traditional is because so many parents brainwash their children that anything orthodox is horrible, backwards, sexist, racist, etc. so it has negative connotations. Not from within but from without. Students know that we are orthodox and that we believe it to be the most authentic representation of the Torah.

    8. Charlatan. No comment.

    9. Emotional convincing. I believe in free choice. If people like Shabbos, Yom tov, learning and davening then so be it. I'm sorry that Judaism can be more attractive than secular society sometimes. I know it bothers you but again, just because you don't like that they actually like it and decide freely to change their lifestyle, doesn't mean they are fooled or tricked.

    10. Great grandparents. I wasn't being uber-literal. Change it to great, great, great.

    11. And last and least. Just as you have reasons for anonymity, so do I. I am doing lots of things wrong in my life, it happens to be that Kiruv is one of the things that I am trying hard to do right!

    Thanks for all the comments and a Shana Tova U'metuka to all!

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  10. Btw I'm posting as Shira. I chose a random name.

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  11. In response to Shira, aka August 27th,

    2. Deceptive methods. They are no more deceptive than a woman wearing make up or a hotel showing a picture of the presidential suite when advertising rooms available. Nobody thinks that is how she looks first thing out of bed or that every room in the hotel has a Jacuzzi,sauna, cigar lounge, or 1000 sq. ft balcony. Everyone puts their best foot forward and tries to represent themselves or their business in the best light. Its not lying or deceptive, it is highlighting the BEST parts of what you truly have. Since I represent Traditional Judaism on campus, I would like to show the best of what it has to offer.

    Reality check! What you do is infinitely more deceptive than a woman wearing makeup or a hotel showing a picture of the Presidential suite. Putting your best foot forward and showing yourself in the best light is fine, blatant fraud is not. Kiruv rabbis intentionally withhold the truth for the purpose persuading students to join a cult like group. The position of trust that most people afford to rabbis makes this practice especially heinous. That kiruv rabbis hang around college campuses pretending to be affiliated with those schools when they are not, and keeping up the charade because that's where young people are, is utterly despicable. Kiruv rabbis should be ashamed of the predatory way in which they conduct business. They prey on a young, naïve, vulnerable population. They are vultures.

    3. Measuring Success - It's exactly the same as you would measure success for your children.

    I don't have a goal of sending other people's kids to Israel. I don't have a goal of inserting my religious beliefs into other people's lives. Kiruv rabbis do. Your idea of success and mine are not alike.


    4. Am I just a Jewish Missionary? I'm all for people competing for ideas. May the best man or woman win!

    Really? Really? How would you feel if patriotic Americans were hanging around your child's campus, and you didn't know it, and they were being really friendly toward your child? Maybe they'd love bomb your kid as an organized group. What if they showed your child just the good part of being a patriotic American and brought him to a retreat or two where they made flint fire starters, went fishing & practiced living off the land for the weekend? What if a few weeks or months later you learned that these patriotic Americans were actually white supremacists? Would your ideal of "may the best man or woman win" still hold true?


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  12. 5. Responsible learning. My job is to encourage people to learn more about Judaism. I believe learning more is always responsible. If people are irresponsible people then chances are that they will make irresponsible decisions. I find it ironic that parents who had no qualms with (or never did enough research to know about) their daughters or sons multiple weekly sexual partners, binge drinking and regular illegal substance abuse, cry party foul when they take some time off to focus on personal development and Jewish literacy. And all the more so when usually the students are funding Yeshiva or Seminary by themselves when their parents were knowingly paying for weed money and spring break in Cancun. Thats true chutzpa!


    "If people are irresponsible people then chances are that they will make irresponsible decisions." So according to the rules of kiruv that you present, if an impressionable college student makes the irresponsible decision to follow a kiruv rabbi, it's his own fault.

    What you see as "personal development and Jewish literacy" is repulsive to many parents. No matter what those parents' views of sexual freedom and substance abuse is, it is not a license for kiruv rabbis to hijack their children's lives. Don't mix the problems. "Personal development and Jewish literacy" ala kiruv, is it's own, separate, enormous problem just as substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases are. How arrogant of you to condemn parents for raising children to believe differently than you! And how offensive to present kiruv Judaism as a preferable alternative.


    6. The whole picture? Does anyone ever get the whole picture. Do I lie to any students. No.

    This entire blog is about the deceptive nature of kiruv. It's about kiruv lies. It's about presenting the whole picture. You of course would have us believe that you are nothing like the vast majority of deceptive, lying kiruv rabbis trawling around college campuses. I should trust your word on that, right? After all, you claim to be a rabbi.


    7. Orthodox v. Traditional. I'm surprised that for all of the comments about people "avoiding" the words orthodox Judaism you never looked them up. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Orthodox Judaism as: A Religion of Jews who adhere strictly to traditional beliefs and practices. They are synonymous. The reason why I use traditional is because so many parents brainwash their children that anything orthodox is horrible, backwards, sexist, racist, etc. so it has negative connotations. Not from within but from without. Students know that we are orthodox and that we believe it to be the most authentic representation of the Torah.

    That was confusing. I know you're not Modern Orthodox, and you're not Orthodox like my grandfather's neighbor was. I guess that leaves Fundamentalist Ultra Orthodox Extremist. As much as you try to play down the extreme nature of kiruv Judaism, it remains extreme. And please, students do NOT know you are Fundamentalist Ultra Orthodox Extremists, because you make a huge effort to present yourself as just Jewish, "like your great grandparents."

    ReplyDelete
  13. 8. Charlatan. No comment.

    Good then, we agree. Here's the definition for the benefit of other readers: A charlatan (also called swindler or mountebank) is a person practicing quackery or some similar confidence trick in order to obtain money, fame or other advantages via some form of pretense or deception.



    9. Emotional convincing. I believe in free choice. If people like Shabbos, Yom tov, learning and davening then so be it. I'm sorry that Judaism can be more attractive than secular society sometimes. I know it bothers you but again, just because you don't like that they actually like it and decide freely to change their lifestyle, doesn't mean they are fooled or tricked.

    You don't seem to listen well. The entire problem with kiruv is that students are tricked into changing their lifestyles rather than given enough information to make a clear headed decision to adopt it of their own free will. Kiruv employs cult like recruiting tactics, and that is not OK.



    10. Great grandparents. I wasn't being uber-literal. Change it to great, great, great.

    I see, great grandparents didn't work so now it's great, great, great. You're still inventing history. Today's college students' g-g-g-grandparents died roughly in the 1930's & 1940's. By the mid 1930's my own family members alive at that time were second, third and fourth generation Americans. On one side they were Reform, on the other they were Reform & Conservative. They were not fallen Ultra Orthodox OTD-ers. These proud men and women were active in their Temples and Synagogues as officers, trustees, financial board members, cemetery committee organizers, fundraising and hospital group leaders, and more. I am in a better position to argue this fallacy than most because I have my family's paper trail complete with newspaper articles, photos, vital records, and references to them in two books to prove this.

    Do you just assume that most people will keep their mouths shut because they don't really know their own family history & can't definitively argue the point? Then, having slid that piece of fiction past them, you launch into a full blown fantasy about the shtetl in the old country and how all Jews lived this way? It's well documented that Jews never practiced religion alike or lived the same lifestyle, and they certainly did not all live or practice religion as kiruv Jews do today. You're presenting a fairy tale. You most certainly do lie to people, rabbi.

    11. And last and least. Just as you have reasons for anonymity, so do I. I am doing lots of things wrong in my life,

    Finally, you said something that I believe.

    ReplyDelete
  14. To Anonymous,

    I do not trick, deceive, lie, coerce, or pretend to be affiliated with the University as more than a valid student org (which we are). Nor do I "insert my beliefs into others lives". I present a case for Traditional Jewish practice. Questions are welcomed, individuality and strong family ties are encouraged and changes in lifestyle that are not consistent with a strong and rooted knowledge base are discouraged. Furthermore, I PURPOSELY push students away that are emotionally unstable and/or are likely to act without properly thinking things through.

    Ofcourse we believe that the Torah and Rabbinic Masorah are true. And Muslims believe what they believe, and Christians believe what they believe. And NONE of us are cults. Believing something and sharing it with others is not illegal and/or brainwash.

    And lastly, please stop referring to college students as children!! They are between the ages of 18-22 and are old enough to vote, have sex, smoke, die in war, get married, buy marijuana where its legal, (and some of them) drink, gamble, and solicit prostitution. Most importantly of all they are old enough to think for themselves.

    Gmar Chatima Tova,

    Shira/Aug27

    Oh, and btw I am not ultra-orthodox, or ultra anything for that matter. I don't follow a dress code or have visible peyos. I study subjects outside of Judaism. I am integrated in the world around me.I don't insist on any extra kashrut stringencies. I support the state of Israel and I do not follow any one leader dogmatically.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Shira/Aug 27,


    I wish you could hear yourself. To someone outside your sect you sound ridiculous. And therein lies the problem. To the indoctrinated believers, all of this sounds perfectly reasonable. Perhaps you've lost the ability to connect to the rest of the world.


    1. Without knowing the group you are employed by, Campus Kiruv DOES trick, deceive, lie, coerce and pretend to be affiliated with Universities. Omissions, half truths, telling students just the good stuff, love bombing are but a few examples. Kiruv workers worm their way onto campuses under the guise of supporting a student club, and turn that STUDENT club, into their evangelical stomping ground. What is a Paid Professional who is not affiliated with a University doing running a student club? Couldn't get in the front door so you sneak in the back?


    2. "I present a case for Traditional Jewish practice." You don't own the word "Traditional," and you don't get to invent a new definition for it. Again, it is well known by anyone who studied the history of Judaism that practically no Jews ever lived the kiruv lifestyle. This statement attempts to pull the wool over the eyes of kids who don't know any better. It's misleading.


    3. "Nor do I "insert my beliefs into others lives"." Yes, you do. You work on kids and little by little you insert your beliefs into their lives. It's deliberate, intentional and premeditated.


    4. "individuality and strong family ties are encouraged and changes in lifestyle that are not consistent with a strong and rooted knowledge base are discouraged." Blogs such as Imamother and BeyondBT are filled with stories of BT's who gave up relationships with their own families. It's like a badge of honor. I think what you really mean is you encourage strong family ties as long as they're ultra orthodox ones.


    5. How would you know if a student is emotionally unstable or likely to act without properly thinking things through? Are you a psychiatrist? Psycologist? Have I caught you in another lie?


    6. With the exception of Chabad, it's true that most kiruv organizations are not considered full blown cults, although some claim that campus kiruv rabbis & their wives fill the role of charismatic leaders and therefore ARE cults. The problem is with the recruiting tactics which are cult-like.


    7. Just because a student is of legal age does not give a rabbi license to mess with their head. They are young and inexperienced. To swoop in during a vulnerable time in their lives, when they are away from home for the first time, feeling pressure in an unfamiliar new surrounding, is contemptible, vile and predatory.


    8. You are most definitely Ultra Orthodox. There may be sects more strict than your own, such as the Burka women, but make no mistake, you are Ultra Orthodox.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Anonymous,

    Do you seriously think that you have earned the right to decide what is truly reasonable or not? You throw around accusatory cult vocabulary and expect people to be intimidated into accepting your version of the truth without stating any facts whatsoever.

    You have never met me nor are you familiar with my organization. You make blanket, prejudice statements and then when all else fails you resort to sarcasm.

    Here are some FACTS and a few questions for YOU

    Kiruv is not a cult, or a lifestyle. It is a Mitzvah. That means a commandment. That means something that every Jew must do to the best of their ability. This should be done by example or by persuasion (Yalkut Shimoni 1:837. Rambam Sefer Hamitzvot Positive commandment 3, Chinuch 418, Sefer Chasidim 14, Sh'nei Luchot Habrit, BeAsarah Maamarot 1:79b, Mesilat Yesharim 19)

    No Jews lived a "kiruv lifestyle" because todays phenomenon of a vast majority of Jews having little to zero Jewish education did not exist. These students don't know the abc's of Judaism and they admit it. They keep coming back because they want to know. There is no mitzvah to be mekarev properly educated Jews who rebel. In the past there were only two groups. Observant Jews, or (insert any group/people that tried to re-define Judaism over the past 3,300 years starting with the Korach rebellion and most recently Jews for Jesus or Messianic Chabad movements; all of whom wanted to design a Judaism that was more palatable to their taste)

    If by "insert my beliefs into their life" you mean intellectually challenge what they believe. Yes I do that. Seriously, what is wrong with telling them what I believe about the world and challenging them to think about what they believe? Are your kids so naive that they just believe whatever you tell them to? Would you actually cry foul because someone is making them think about life and its purpose? Get a life

    You have some real nerve. Who else but their Rabbi teaches these kids about respecting their parents and honoring them? Parents FUND us. GET THAT THROUGH YOUR HEAD. Some people are wise enough to realize when someone actually cares about their kids and sacrifices their own life to be there for their kids. 99% percent of the students that come through our org do NOT leave it orthodox. And of the 1% that do, the only ones who have issues with their parents or anyone else are the ones who's parents will not except that their children have made life choices that they did not want. Its out of selfish concerns, nothing more.

    ReplyDelete
  17. cont.

    Whether you like it or not, these kids know what you don't, that we love them like family. They talk to us. I know who deals drugs, who is depressed, whose parents are abusive etc. And my wife knows which girls have been emotionally destroyed by frat guys and which ones struggle with eating issues. We help them get help. The really bad cases are obvious. It's easy to tell when someone is not all there. You don't need to be a psychologist to spot a socially or emotionally handicapped student.

    6. Cult leader. That would be fun, but no, not really. You have seriously reached a new level of paranoia and conspiracy theory. Maybe we are actually just looking for students for sexual rendezvous?!Maybe our main funders are running underground slave trades in cambodia and need fresh worker?! What will you think of next?

    Where do you get off deciding what I am. Let's play this game. You must have been raised somewhat jewish culturally, then abused badly. Then you looked to religion to find solace, someone was mekarev you, you eventually couldnt deal with the fact that you were unable to mantain a healthy religious life or someone religious upset you, so you rebelled and now are some sort of reform/conservative feminist wannabe defender of the younger generation of yourself. No no, don't argue, I said that is you, so everyone on this blog MUST believe me.

    I hope that Rebecca M. Ross is smart enough to help her readers differentiate between those who want to have civilized conversation and those who want to pick a fight. The bottom line is, as angry as you are, when it comes seething through your words, you are accomplishing less than when you remain silent. I have the utmost respect for people who are genuinely concerned, out of Ahavas Yisrael for our young generation and question the motives/methods of people whom they believe are putting young Jews in danger. For you, I have very little patience, let alone respect.

    Shira

    ReplyDelete
  18. The amazing thing about Kiruv is that all the Torah and mitvot do is hide the fact that you have impoverished followers giving tzedekah money for charity to multi millionaire rabbis. You are taking money and food from orphans for an organized crime syndicate.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I have seen more people decimated by rabbinical lies than I ever saw decimated by drugs. And it's much more thorough.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Wow.
    I think that what's important to remember here is that we all come to the table with very different experiences, and we all have our own unique perspective based on those experiences.
    That said, there are countless blog posts, articles, and conversations on online forums in which kiruv and kiruv methods are challenged--sometimes by people who were hurt by kiruv, sometimes by people who are interested in kiruv for other reasons (that would be people like me,) but sometimes--and I found this surprising--by people who are involved in kiruv to some degree or another, either as rabbis, teachers, or outreach volunteers. While nobody comes out and admits to personally using deceptive methods, folks in kiruv admit that it is done, and that while everyone may not be doing it, it is wrong.
    (Shira, that's not to say that your methods are deceptive--I don't know you personally,nor how you personally handle issues that arise or questions that are asked. I don't know how you handle recruitment for programs or the classes you teach, or even what organization you're affiliated with, etc.)
    I understand that it is said that "if you save one life, it is as if you saved the world," but, for the sake of discussion, let's say that only a tiny fraction of people who go through campus kiruv eventually become frum. And let's say that of that fraction, there is a tinier fraction who end up cutting all ties with their families, heading off to yeshiva, taking a BT spouse,and having children, and within the span of a few years go off the derech. Only problem is that now, there are other lives involved, and relationships that have been destroyed. (Again, I am not talking about Shira, just kiruv in general.) Which lives were saved here? Which were destroyed? Who is responsible?
    When we have people within orthodoxy agreeing that some kiruv can be destructive and deceptive, (I am planning a post on this and, as usual, there will be sources,) I tend to wonder how this is being addressed within the world of outreach, and what training (if any) is given to help those in kiruv make sure that they are acting responsibly.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Shira - the problem is that you assume many things about these individuals. You assume their lives are empty. You assume their exposure to Judaism has been wrong and/or meaningless. You think you are offering them the Right Way To Do Things.

    But you're not. Your way is no more authentic than anyone else's practice of Judaism. Chareidim have innovated as much at Reform or Reconstructionist (albeit in somewhat different areas)only the chareidi world has spawned communities of OCD the likes of which Moshe (if he really existed) would cringe at. And you peddle this OCD as "authentic" Judaism.

    When you meet with young women and want to help them with their self-worth, does it occur to you that they already value themselves perhaps along a different paradigm? It's damaging to them to teach them that, to be holy, they must cover their bodies. But you couch it in sweet "women are special - women are different" language and because they have never encountered this type of apologetic, some buy into it. They are barely out of high school, these girls, encountering the world and you are there waiting to receive them and teach them the Right Way to Be a Jew. Lucky them.

    There are big problems with what you do and with the life you lead. It's certainly your right to lead it, but leave the rest of us the hell alone.

    --- Someone who fell for the kiruv shtick and recently got out

    ReplyDelete
  22. If you get fundamentally down to it, I don't really believe that kiruv is about bringing people closer to God or to deepening spirituality. It is about making money and providing jobs for the growing body of Orthodox Rabbaim. The beautiful, mystical spiritual and authentic life you can live being frum is the product that they push, but it is about locking you into a life of supporting kiruv programs and rabbaim through tzedakah, paying a premium for kosher products, putting out for exorbitant private school fees, and a myriad of other ways of emptying your wallet, bank account, and often running up debts. Like most cults they tell you that you're special and wonderful, so long as you do what they want, they separate you from your friends and family, and they make you identify as part of the collective and not as an individual.

    I used to hang out at the Krishna centre as a teen with my friends for free meals, and got a good understanding of the tricks and techniques that they used to try and get us to join their cult. Much of what they did wasn't so different than I ran into with the Rabbi who m'karived me. What gets me was that I didn't see it happening, because I really wanted to believe that what I was being told was true.

    I am now free of the frumkeit mishegas, and cannot believe how much happier and full of optimism and possibility I am. My life has ceased to be about what I cannot do and is now about all that I can.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Multi millionare rabbis - I wish. If you would only know how many of these Rabbis live, it is far less than middle class.

    Kiruv worse than drugs - To anyone who has gone through drug rehab that is just simply insulting. Have you even seen a teenager sell themselves for sex because of kiruv, or how about people living in sewage or rat infested basements becasue they spent all their money on seminary? I doubt it.

    Bec - By now you know that I believe you are mostly sincere (given the amount of time I have dedicated to this blog) but I do still question some of your own methods. If in fact you are just trying to prevent damage done in kiruv, maybe "stopkiruvnow" is not exactly the best title. Perhaps. "As a loving, tight knit community we must ban together to try and bring people closer to Hashem and faith in appropriate rather than deceptive, dishonest methods"

    Chananechama - "I" never ever said their lives are empty. 3,300 years of Judaism says so (not including the last 150 years where the majority of Jews have glorified a mostly secular Jew-ish lifestyle) I agree that many things about modern Chareidi Jewry are diversions from standard tradition. Then again so was chassidism. However it is the TORAH that says that to be holy a woman must cover the parts of her body that are provocative. Trust me I have spent MANY years researching Judaism and yes some things are minority opinions blown up to create ideologies and some things are standard Torah ideas. Anyone who can honestly and truly study Judaism from its inception to today - its literature, history, customs - and believe that Reform, conservative or reconstructionism is 100% authentic Jewish ideology and practice is either a fool, or even worse, completely lying to themselves.

    Shira

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Bec - By now you know that I believe you are mostly sincere (given the amount of time I have dedicated to this blog) but I do still question some of your own methods. If in fact you are just trying to prevent damage done in kiruv, maybe "stopkiruvnow" is not exactly the best title. Perhaps. "As a loving, tight knit community we must ban together to try and bring people closer to Hashem and faith in appropriate rather than deceptive, dishonest methods""

      Good point. Let me explain.
      "StopKiruvNow"isn't actually the blog's title. It's just the URL. The actual title is "Jewish Outreach: What Your Rabbi Isn't Telling You." However, in wanting to have a simpler web address, and at the same time wanting to put the term "kiruv" in there so this blog would come up in searches, I needed something catchy and easy to remember. I joked with someone recently that more in line with this blog's purpose might have been "ReformKiruvNow" but then people would think I wanted the Reform to practice kiruv immediately.

      Delete
  24. Shira - Wait, what? Where in the *Torah* does it say what body parts a woman must cover? And where does "3,300 year of Judaism" say that non-Orthodox Jews' lives are empty?

    My husband and I tried for years and years to find the authentic beauty in real Orthodoxy (i.e. what you get after you've been mekarev'd) and we finally gave up. Our current, selectively-observant lives are beautiful and meaningful and soul-nourishing.

    But I don't expect you to agree with me. Jewish culture and tradition can be beautiful things once you realize that the unbroken mesorah is a myth and physical Torah mi Sinai is, too. As such, why does it make sense for BTs to torture their families by refusing to eat at their parents' tables? By refusing to attend family events on Shabbat? I can tell you that, once you reach a certain age, you realize that blood - true, familial blood - is thicker than water and your allegiance shifts back to where it always belonged.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Shira,

    In response to your comment "Kiruv worse than drugs - To anyone who has gone through drug rehab that is just simply insulting. Have you even seen a teenager sell themselves for sex because of kiruv, or how about people living in sewage or rat infested basements becasue they spent all their money on seminary? I doubt it."

    You are missing the people with relatively high-paying jobs who live close to the poverty line in order to send their children to yeshiva or seminary, because they've been sold the kiruv lies.

    Young men and women on college campuses get pushed into marriages to avoid intermarriage, which could be paralleled to selling sex to support kiruv. A secular woman I work with lamented to me about the incredible pressure being put on her 19 year old daughter to hurry up and get married by the local Aish kiruv rabbi and rebbetzin.

    Respectfully,

    Mordy the Realist

    ReplyDelete
  26. Chananechama,

    As chazal say, "this world is like a corridor leading to the next" and "today (this world) is to do them (mitzvot) and tomorrow (the next world) is to get reward for them. If one doesn't come to terms with the idea that Mitzvot are meant to challenge us morally, mentally, emotionally, physically and psychologically, and that the consequences for them are reaped primarily in the spiritual world, then we are speaking about two different Judaisms indeed. Deciding which mitsvot inspire and speak to us and which do not and then developing a religious practice by that standard is like going on a diet in which one only eats what they enjoy, never refrains from fatty foods, and does not exercise. You may feel that the diet is "beautiful and meaningful" but lose weight, you will not.

    It is truly unfortunate that you and your husband may not have had enough Torah background and knowledge to understand what about the Mesorah is unbroken and what Torah M'sinai actually means as opposed to what most people think it means. Most BT's (and some ffb's) never actually gain the tools to be able to delve into these topics thoroughly and adequately and therefore they build imaginary castles in their mind. Once these crumble, so does their faith.

    As far as blood being thicker than water, sadly, from a Jewish perspective, you are mistaken. Avraham and Yishmael. Yitzchak and Eisav. The torah goes out of its way many times to show us that "At the end, when all is heard, you should be in awe of Hashem and keep his commands for this is all of man". It is not always easy to follow what Hashem demands, especially when it is those closest to our hearts who wish us not to. But, it is, according to basic Jewish philosophy (see Ramchal Derech Hashem and Messilat Yesharim) the very purpose of life.

    With regard to BT's adopting stringenies that strain family ties you are correct. The proper guidance for them to recieve would be to become knowledgeable enough to know what is the letter of the law and what is not, and to never be more strict than neccesary. "Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths (are) peace". The Mitzvot are meant to uplift individuals together, not divide them. In my experience when one receives proper guidance, this balance can be achieved. Of course, allegiance to Hashem and his Word must come first, but respect for ones parents, even if they are unaware of the importance of Torah must be preserved as much as possible.

    I think the bottom line is this though. If we start from a certain point of view, then look for specific "truths" any result can be justified. Torah is vast and deep and therefore leaves room for a multitude of understandings and explanations. Not all of them however, will be true. For that, one needs absolute sincerity and the confidence that his methods of understanding are legitimate. I fear that (and I am guilty of this myself all the time) there may be a certain result that you would like, and the Torah is being used (in the words of the sages) as a "cardum lachfor bo" a shovel to dig with i.e. a tool to help solidify your personal beliefs.

    Although we may all be guilty of this, we must be careful not to allow our own feelings to influence others negatively. The greatest kiddush and chilul Hashem is with our fellow Jews.

    ReplyDelete
  27. cont.

    As far as your first question goes if you do not accept any valid tradition of how to understand psukim i.e. Midrashic Literature, the 13 ways of analyzing Torah etc. then there is no source. There is no posuk that says "Ladies, cover your thighs please".

    With regards to empty lives it is plain and simple. In Judaism there are certain definites. 1. There is a Creator to all that exists, therefore everything we see was made purposely and life itself implies purpose and meaning. 2. The Creator communicated that purpose to us through messengers called prophets. 3. The main messenger, Moshe (from the tribe of Levi) transcribed the thrust of his prophesy as the Torah and spent 40 years teaching it in detail to a Nation of runaway slaves and their offspring. 4. These teachings encompass a complete way of life for every human being, and especially for the people of Israel, as a nation with a covenant with the Creator. 5. To live life based on those instructions is our purpose in life. 6. Therefore, any other "perceived" purpose is at best sadly mistaken and at worst idolatrous.

    The last thing is, it is important not to argue over symantics. When I say Orthodox or traditional I do not mean a black hat, peyos, yiddish, although they certainly are orthodox. I mean commited to a lifestyle within the confines of the Code of Jewish Law (as they are understood by scholars fluent in Torah, Mishna, Talmud, Midrash, and who studied under great scholars before them) and within the theological confines of any Jewish thinker who himself lived by that same Jewish Law. Any thinker who put himself outside of Halacha cannot be considered Traditional, for his lifestyle has broken with Tradition.

    Shira

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    Replies
    1. > The main messenger, Moshe (from the tribe of Levi) transcribed the thrust of his prophesy as the Torah

      One of the ikkarai emunah is that Moshe was acting as God's secretary, writing down God's exact words, not "the thrust."

      Be that as it may, how do you deal with biblical scholarship? There must be some students who have read Gilgamesh in a lit class, or learned about the parallels between ANE myth cycles and Tanach in a history of religion class.

      > Any thinker who put himself outside of Halacha cannot be considered Traditional, for his lifestyle has broken with Tradition.

      Except that halacha as we know it is the legacy of the Perushim, who broke with the "traditional" Tzeduki temple cult to create a populist version of Judaism, then vilified the Tzedukim in the gemara hundreds of years later.

      Delete
  28. "Kiruv is not a cult, or a lifestyle. It is a Mitzvah. That means a commandment. That means something that every Jew must do to the best of their ability. This should be done by example or by persuasion."

    Shira (Rabbi or Rabba??): I can decide for myself I 'must' do. It is the (subconscious?) condescending mentality.

    How do you define persuasion? Would whitewashing be persuasion? Emotional manipulation? Where are the limits?

    ReplyDelete
  29. " If one doesn't come to terms with the idea that Mitzvot are meant to challenge us morally, mentally, emotionally, physically and psychologically, and that the consequences for them are reaped primarily in the spiritual world, then we are speaking about two different Judaisms indeed."

    I agree with the part that Mitzvos are challenging us morally (they go against commonly accepted values and sensitivities - like allowing slavery but condemning homosexuality), mentally (they can make you go mmental - like forbidding masturbation or giving you a guilt trip like if you drink on Yom Kippur), emotionally (they can emotionally mess you up), physically (they can make you poor e.g. Jewish education) and psychologically (see emotionally).

    ReplyDelete
  30. JRebel,

    Rabbi, I just chose a female name. If its random, Why not?

    Judaism's claim is that you cannot, in fact,decide what you must do, for the Creator has decided that for you. Of course you can choose not to do what you are obliged to do, but that it not the valid choice.

    Persuasion: As much persuasion as to not cross the line into the other persons free choice. (Although according to the Talmud and Halacha there is a strong case to be made that we can and SHOULD force people to do the right thing.[eg. shatnez, one is obligated to tear it off someone who is wearing it, even if it might embarass them publicly.]) Teaching them something beautiful about a certain Mitzvah (assuming the teaching is true) is a means of persuasion perhaps, although it is not manipulation. I have discussed the "whitewashing" claim before. The dictionary definition of whitewashing (in this context) is:

    a deliberate attempt to conceal unpleasant facts about a person or organization.

    There are 613 Mitzvot. I don't think beginning to teach about the ones that people can relate to the easiest is whitewashing. If it is, then this blog should be doing a lot more accusing of more modern sects of Judaism. They just chuck anything and everything that they don't relate to and ONLY teach what they do, ever!!

    ReplyDelete
  31. JRebel,

    K'shmo Kein Hu! Like your name you certainly are. I wish you the best of luck. However I think you are confused, this blog is not an anti Judaism blog, just an anti kiruv blog. For anti Judaism please see the blogs made by the other bitter, formerly molested cheder boys. And fyi, in the case of abused children perhaps homosexuality and or masturbation would be permitted as part of a healing process.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Holy cow, Rabbi Shira. Do you realize that your arguments are straight out of Cults 101? Your response to me boils down to "you were doing it wrong and that's why you didn't get the desired results." Yeah. "Torah mi Sinai doesn't mean what you think it means. Ok, so if it doesn't (in the context of O Judaism) mean that we physically believe Hashem gave Moshe the Torah on Har Sinai (both written and oral) , then please explain to me what you mean.

    And that you lashed out at JRebel as "just another boy who was abused in cheder"...that was really unacceptable. What I'm trying to get you to understand is that there is a world of beauty and light out there that has little to do with the minutae of Orthodoxy. You have only to walk into a 12 step meeting room to see people encountering God daily without the rigamarole. You have condemned those of us who are selectively observant essentially as "going to hell." Right. You didn't use those words but that was your implication. So I guess we're done here. You've played your last trump card and no one finds it compelling.

    Whta I understand bec is doing on this blog is this: she thinks kiruv does more harm than good. It harms families. It harms individuals' self-perception and it deceives them into thinking they are doing what God wants. I get that you believe wholeheartedly that you ARE doing what God wants but there are plenty who disagree. Please stop causing pain to families. Please stop assuming you have the last say on Truth. If OCD Orthodoxy does it for you, go and practice in peace. Raise up your children to do the same if that's what you want. But leave others alone.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Rabbi/Shira,

    If you truly had the strength of your convictions you would post under your real name, rather than creating deceptive pseudonyms. Instead you choose to hide and lob attacks the people here. Your cowardice undermines everything you say here, and is quite pitiful. As Chananechama says above, you're drawing on techniques used by cults everywhere, which kiruv Judaism definitely is.

    I am saddened and disgusted by your actions.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Rabbi/Shira

    In one of your responses you stated:
    It is truly unfortunate that you and your husband may not have had enough Torah background and knowledge to understand what about the Mesorah is unbroken and what Torah M'sinai actually means as opposed to what most people think it means. Most BT's (and some ffb's) never actually gain the tools to be able to delve into these topics thoroughly and adequately and therefore they build imaginary castles in their mind. Once these crumble, so does their faith.

    If the Torah is truly supposed to be something for all of the Jewish people, then your statement above has no legs to stand on. It should in that case be available and a knowable truth, instead of a some perverse Twister mat that separates one from the world we live in, as it is put forward in Orthodox Judaism.

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  35. To Shira/Rabbi/Aug 27th, or whoever you are,

    1. "Kiruv is not a cult, or a lifestyle." I did not claim that kiruv is a true cult. I assert that campus kiruv rabbis, especially Chabad, Aish and Meor, use cult like practices to recruit new members and to retain them.

    2. "That means a commandment." Right, you're commanded by God to mess with people's lives. So was Mark David Chapman when he shot John Lennon.

    3. "They keep coming back because they want to know." They keep coming back because you're love bombing them. You assign mentors to them, organize follow up phone calls and don't let them out of your sight.

    4. "If by "insert my beliefs into their life" you mean intellectually challenge what they believe." I mean deliberately mess with their heads and their lives, leading them along in a prescribed fashion and never giving them the full story. Kiruv wraps its brand of religion around kids until they're strangled and then have no idea how it even happened. How about introducing yourself and telling kids that you're pushing a religion that encourages dressing like the 1850's, not eating with secular parents, missing family weddings unless they're "orthodox," giving up Christmas, dumping friends from home and high school, telling kids how the sidduch system works, and that married frummies can look forward to having a rabbi control their reproductive health? We both know that your goal is anything but to "intellectually challenge" them.

    5. "Who else but their Rabbi teaches these kids about respecting their parents and honoring them?" Their parents teach them this. Kiruv rabbis systematically damage or destroy bonds between kids and parents. They meddle. They convince kids that the Bible or Torah or that they themselves are more important than lifelong relationships developed between children and their parents. They teach kids that they don't have to have relationships with their parents if those parents oppose an ultra orthodox lifestyle.

    6. "Whether you like it or not, these kids know what you don't, that we love them like family." Yes, you move right in on them and BECOME their family, to the exclusion of their real families. You are a negative and destructive force on existing family relationships.

    7. "Maybe we are actually just looking for students for sexual rendezvous?" Well, are you? How many students have you seduced? How many students have you teased or led on?

    8. "You must have been raised somewhat jewish culturally, then abused badly." What if I was? Would that make my points about the deceptive nature of kiruv invalid?

    9. "The bottom line is, as angry as you are, when it comes seething through your words, you are accomplishing less than when you remain silent." Oh, I don't know. I seem to have you fairly pissed off. And, rabbi, your position isn't looking very strong right now. Thanks for the friendly advice, but I'm going to keep speaking my mind.

    10. "For you, I have very little patience, let alone respect." I think it's clear that you have very little respect for anyone who doesn't fall in line with your Ultra Orthodox shtick.

    Sincerely,

    Anonymous who still wonders why you won't tell us who you are.

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Your respectful comments are welcome.