In researching campus kiruv/outreach a while back, I stumbled upon this letter on a site named "Parents of Meor Kids" and realized that I needed to look more into Meor.
|Parents of Meor Kids. https://sites.google.com/site/parentsofmeorkids/ (click to enlarge)|
Trips and retreats are a premier attraction for many of the mitnagdic outreach groups. That’s how the Maimonides Leaders Fellowship program got started. The MLF is an offshoot of the University Heritage Society, which runs “Heritage Retreats” of a week or longer at California ranches.(Aish HaTorah is one of the largest outreach/kiruv centers currently in existence. Not only do their programs turn out ba'al teshuvas (newly religious people,) they also turn out kiruv rabbis--rabbis specially trained to recruit people into an orthodox lifestyle. Aish HaTorah's Beis Medrash Program's webpage proclaims that "our programs have produced hundreds of dedicated, qualified leaders, serving in positions throughout the world in kiruv, rabbinics, and other important Jewish leadership roles, as well as proud "rank and file" Jews to whom commitment to Jews and Judaism is uppermost in their lives."3)
The MLF also invites student applicants to participate in a semester-long program of Orthodox education and immersion, with a cash stipend as incentive. Students meet every week for classes in Jewish leadership and literacy, and for breakout discussion groups focusing on such issues as “dealing with relationships with family, with girlfriends,” according to the program’s founder, Rabbi Mordechai Kreitenberg. The students also spend weekends in Orthodox communities as part of the program.
The MLF’s Web site, where students can apply, shows no indications of the program’s Orthodox foundation. Indeed, it serves a population that is almost entirely non-Orthodox on entrance. But that isn’t to say that these students aren’t Orthodox when they leave the program. The MLF maintains statistics based on student surveys, in which 77.4% of last year’s graduates said they have taken or have plans to take “steps to increase your personal observance,” and 38% “attended programs in Israel or the United States that allowed them to further explore their Judaism,” such as those provided by Aish HaTorah.2
Meor's websites are beautifully made and filled with information, even going as far as to create several in-depth FAQ pages. So prepared is Meor for the inevitable questions from parents that they even provide a FAQ page specifically made in order to allay parents' concerns. Strangely, one of the questions they answer is this:
Does MEOR pressure students to become more observant?No. MEOR’s approach is to explain the “why” of Jewish traditions and practices, encouraging students to ask questions and think for themselves. For example, students interested in social justice discover the foundational concepts in Jewish philosophy, ethics, Torah and tradition that are relevant to tikkun olam. Students who want to learn more about why someone might choose to keep kosher have the opportunity to explore the meaning of kashrut and issues relevant to contemporary life.4