Friday, September 13, 2013

Project Inspire's Yom Kippur Make Them Orthodox Fundraiser!

     This afternoon, the following Yom Kippur fundraising appeal from Project Inspire graced my inbox. I've taken the liberty of highlighting a few noteworthy phrases.
PI_YK13_email_header 2
Dear Friends,

During these days of Tishrei . . . you and I joyously proclaim and coronate Hashem as King of the entire world . . . but 90% of the Jewish people have no idea what that means. Please join Project Inspire’s unique mission of thousands of committed Jews bringing back our 5 million swiftly vanishing brothers and sisters to Avinu Shebashamayim.

With your help, Project Inspire will reach out to the masses of our brothers and sisters. PLEASE CLICK ON THE AMOUNTS BELOW TO DONATE:

  • $54      One on One Learning – enables a frum person to learn
                 b’chavrusa with a secular Jew

  • $250   Series of Inspiration - after work networking event with dinner
                 and Torah speaker

  • $500   Shabbat Retreat – connect hundreds of less-affiliated Jews with
                 frum families and communities

  • $1,000 J-Inspire Life Changing Trips to Israelsend hundreds of
                 secular women to Israel with our trained and motivated lay frum
With your support . . .
  •  Hundreds of not yet observant women will go on a life-changing 10 day trip to Israel accompanied by (anything but) ordinary frum women who through J-Inspire recruit and take responsibility to follow up with the women so that they in turn may influence their entire families to increased Jewish commitment.
  • Our Community Kiruv Shabbatons in frum neighborhoods will host a thousand-plus marginally affiliated students, singles and families for an unforgettable Shabbos.
  • Project Inspire’s “already observant” population will experience the joy, inspiration and z’chus of reaching out to the Almighty’s children AND THEREBY strengthen themselves, their families and often at-risk teens and adults that they know . . . or what’s known as Chizuk and Kiruv Kerovim.
  • Hundreds of less observant Jews will be matched to study Torah one on one with Project Inspire participants.
  • Monthly Evenings of Inspiration in Manhattan restaurants and offices host 50 professionals, less connected Jews invited by Project Inspire participants, to connect with each other and learn about Judaism
  • Thousands of less connected Jews will receive Holiday gifts and inspiring cards from frum neighbors, co-workers and relatives to connect them to Judaism and Jews.
When we stand before Hashem, let us declare that we have done all that we could to connect our fellow Jews to the Melech al kol ha-aretz.  May our Kiruv actions hasten the Bias HaMoshiach, bimheira vyameinu.  Thank you for your contribution to Project Inspire.

Best wishes for a Gmar Chasimah Tovah,

Rabbi Chaim Sampson                                                        
Director, Project Inspire                                       

Rabbi Mordechai Tropp
Executive Liaison

P.S. To donate by mail, please mail your check to Project Inspire 5774 Campaign at the address below.

    Before I get to the more serious part of this post, I'd like to thank Project Inspire for taking the time to try to keep us non-orthodox Jews from vanishing. *Poof* I hate when that happens. Unfortunately, Project Inspire's methodology in keeping Jews from disappearing en masse, is to make them all orthodox.
     Once again, understand the problems inherent in Project Inspire's message to its supporters, and bear in mind that Project Inspire is affiliated with Aish International (Aish HaTorah,) a major outreach organization. There is a huge lack of respect for non-orthodox Jews, evidenced by the very words they use to describe those who are not orthodox: "less connected Jews," "less observant Jews,""marginally affiliated,""less affiliated," and my personal favorite, "not yet observant." Project Inspire is making gross assumptions about other Jews,  all the while convincing their orthodox supporters, or as they call them the "already orthodox population," that non-orthodox Jews are somehow inferior, non-practicing, lacking in knowledge, spirituality, and/or a connection to the Jewish community. Project Inspire also believes, based on their wording, that it is their responsibility to change those they meet.
     Project Inspire doesn't try to hide that their goal is to churn out newly orthodox Jews. The use of the phrase "not yet observant" makes this exceedingly clear. Not yet implies that something hasn't happened by the present time, but it is expected to happen at some point in the future. While that should be obvious, it still should be considered closely. Further proof of this is in Project Inspire's  use of the term "already orthodox," implying that this orthodoxy has happened to a certain portion of the population by the current time.
     Of the kiruv rabbis and former kiruv rabbis I've encountered, and from blogs, comments, and opinion pieces I've read, it seems that a lot of people in kiruv are quick to deny that their goal is to make anyone orthodox. And yet, Project Inspire, which bills itself as "A Program of Aish International" and has a copyright, is very open about trying to make non-orthodox people frum--at least when it comes to attempting to attract donors for  their fundraiser. But I wonder, are they this honest about their intentions when meeting with the "not yet observant?"


  1. Wow wow wow. That's something else. You get the impression that they are trying to feed starving children in Africa. Hey, I'm "less-affiliated" and I'm not starving - neither in reality nor metaphorically!!

    I hate condescension.

  2. The irony here is that they are right. In 100 years, they will be the only Jews left. I'm not sure if that's good or bad but it seems to be a fact. We can call them what we want: extreme, ultra, fundamentalist, cult followers... but if history repeats itself (which it usually does) most of the people on this blogs great great grandchildren won't even be concerned with kiruv problems because they won't know they are Jewish :(

    I grew up basically american with lots of traditional jewish overtones and beliefs, but almost everyone I grew up with is either intermarried or not interested in Judaism at all.

    I have read through a lot of this blog, and my only consistent thought seems to be, what about the big picture? Maybe all these kiruv people are actually doing a good thing even from "our" perspective. If they stop, "their" grandchildren will most likely still care deeply about being Jewish, but many of "our" grandchildren may not. Even if we don't agree with their form of Judaism completely, isn't it better than no Judaism?

    And maybe that's not the point, I mean, why is it their business to "convert" the less fortunate? But even that argument is hard for me to swallow sometimes. Shouldn't the fact that that they will spend so much time, money, hours or prayer, business acumen, and self sacrifice to "help" us mean something even if we don't feel we want their help?

    Just a few things on my mind

    Sincerely, just wondering

    1. Thanks for your comment, Just Wondering.
      You stated that "even if we don't agree with their form of Judaism completely, isn't it better than no Judaism?" I disagree, but let me explain why. I don't think we'll ever not have Judaism, despite kiruv professionals using statistics that seem to be used more often as scare-tactics. I have no problem with people practicing what they practice, even if I choose not to practice that way. I have no problem with people making informed choices to practice orthodox Judaism. My problem is with deceptive proselytizing. You mentioned the time and money commitment that people in outreach make. It's obviously important enough to them to invest so much time, money, prayer, self-sacrifice to help others who feel their "help" isn't needed, but that doesn't mean that just because they spend that much time and energy that it must be good. It really just means they believe in their own cause very strongly. After all, look how much time was devoted to the Crusades to spread Christianity. It didn't make their actions right for those they killed and/or those they converted.

    2. > The irony here is that they are right. In 100 years, they will be the only Jews left.

      The Reform movement is 200 years old, and their members aren't all or even mostly former Orthodox Jews.

      > Even if we don't agree with their form of Judaism completely, isn't it better than no Judaism?

      Why does it matter is there is any form of Judaism? Why is Judaism something valuable in and of itself, that it is worth preserving in some form?

      > Shouldn't the fact that that they will spend so much time, money, hours or prayer, business acumen, and self sacrifice to "help" us mean something even if we don't feel we want their help?

      It's noble, from a certain point of view, but these are the same people who will vilify Christian missionaries for trying to convert Jews, so apparently they don't agree that the time, money, etc. means something in itself.

    3. All of the original Reform Movement Jews were previously Orthodox --only then it was just called Judaism. (There was no orthodoxy until the reform came about in the 1850's--which is only about 160 years ago--not 200)
      And I think your statement below is very important "Why does it matter is there is any form of Judaism? Why is Judaism something valuable in and of itself, that it is worth preserving in some form?' -the only reason to have a site like this, would be because it has a value--if you feel it has no value--then why do you care whether the people pushing an agenda are pushing Orthodox, Conservative or Reform--I believe Bec's issue is that they are pushing what she believes is a concealed/hidden agenda. However, she has no problem that they are pushing Jewish things--just that they are only pushing one view point.

    4. then why do you care whether the people pushing an agenda are pushing Orthodox, Conservative or Reform

      Because the people pushing it are presenting a form of Orthodoxy that is only about a century old. Haredism - "ultra-Orthodoxy" - is based upon the teachings of a handful of far right rabbis of the late 19th and early 20th centuries who were reacting negatively to modernity. Young people are told that Haredi practices go back to Sinai, which simply isn't true. Young people are strongly discouraged from attending or completing college, rendering them unable largely unemployable outside of the Haredi world (which is growing increasingly unable to provide for its irresponsibly increasing numbers), while told they are obligated to have as many children as they can. It is a lifestyle that champions ignorance, repression, poverty and subjugation of individual conscience and critical discernment.

      What is today called "Orthodoxy" is not the Orthodoxy of 200 years ago, or even 60 years ago. As the Haredim have increased dramatically in number, they've intimidated and overwhelmed the Modern Orthodox, comandeered all of the support infrastructure (kashrut organizations, batei din, mikvot, etc.) and essentially taken over the franchise. The outradch organizations have played upon the Jewish community's nostalgia to convince them they represent a living link to the past, and that the Judaism they practice is somehow more "authentic". That simply isn't the case.

      And even if it were, merely because something is practiced for a long time, that doesn't mean it's worth preserving. Religions, like languages and civilizations, evolve. That was the basis, 2,000 years ago, for Rabbinic Judaism.

  3. In 100 years they will be the only Jews left....pardon my French, but that is serious bullshit scare tactic propaganda used by Jewish organizations to keep people from intermarrying and assimilating and is not grounded in any statistical or mathematical principle that I'm aware of.

    1. I agree so completely about statistics used as scare tactics that I mentioned it above before even reading your comment. Sorry! And thanks. :)

    2. Right. That's why I have friends whose relatives have been Reform Jews in the US for more than 100 years who have no idea they're Jewish...wait, *yes they do*. The scare tactics are BS.

      And there's also something to the idea that our bloodlines haven't always been pure. There are plenty of people out there who affiliate as Jewish (converts, children of converts, etc.)who may not measure up to the chareidi standards of purity. I consider those people as Jewish as anyone else and so do most Jews in North America.

  4. According to the NJPS as of 2001 (def. higher by now) the intermarriage rate in the U.S. was 47% with only 33% of the children of those marriages being raised Jewish. So it goes like this. If there are 5.5 million Jews in the U.S today and 2.7 of them marry non Jews then only 900,000 of those are raised as Jews. In the next generation its only 150,000 being raised as Jews. By the third generation its 25,000. You get the point. Now take the other 2.7 million. 30% of those are already orthodox. With the birthrates it actually makes lots of statistical sense that in 100 years the vast majority of Jews will be orthodox

  5. Also, don't forget that in Europe most practicing Jews are affiliated orthodox and in Israel that is definitely the case. It seems that whether we like it or not by the year 6,000 all remaining Jews will be Orthodox.

    Does this not make sense?

    1. No.

      In Israel most practicing Jews are "traditional", by about 50% to 20% Haredi and Dati.


  6. If I only stuck with the math that I learned in yeshiva, (i.e. none at all,) I might say that you're right. However, I chose to drop out of yeshiva, frei out, and study mathematics in a goyishe academic setting.

    As an applied mathematician, I can now claim that you're misinterpreting the data, your model stinks, and your conclusions are highly flawed.

    Also, it's possible to be a highly-observant Jew without being an orthofreak, so even your definitions are not mathematical in nature.

    Two can play at the numbers game, but one will always win.

    1. I don't understand why you and others who have such confidant criticism against the data, can't prove anything otherwise. It's pretty well known and proven that with the current trend, the Orthodox are the only ones with a flying chance. Why don't you actually apply your credentials and crunch the numbers accurately if you are so sure it is flawed? Lots of talk but I don't see any wisdom here, sorry :(

    2. Of course. It's been the same bullshit with you people for 200 years: "You'll assimilate out of existence! Your grandchildren won't be Jewish!" Meanwhile, it's two centuries later, and we're all still here.

      However, Orthodoxy has reached a watershed. The Haredim now comprise the vast majority of Orthodox, and their world is collapsing; it's succumbing to pressure from without and deteriorating from within. They can no longer provide for their irresponsibly growing numbers, and they refuse, for the most part, to educate their children in a manner that would allow them to function outside of their cloistered, xenophobic subculture.

      Orthodoxy has very little time left. Some of your leaders now realize it, and it terrifies them, but most of you will just keep repeating the same tired nonsense, because it's what your holy rebbaim keep telling you, and because you want so desperately to believe it. Fundamentalists of all traditions have this in common: they think that if one says something over and over, that makes it true.

  7. it seems that a lot of people in kiruv are quick to deny that their goal is to make anyone orthodox.

    My young cousin in Chabad pushes that bullsh*t: "We aren't trying to make people frum; we're only trying to get them to perform mitzvos!" It's such a load of crap.

    And I agree with one of the earlier commenters - it's the condescension that infuriates me the most. People who are terrified of modernity, who wall themselves up in a mental ghetto and disavow centuries of intellectual and cultural achievement and who are afraid to go the bathroom without first asking their rebbe's permission have the gall to feel sorry for people with college educations who can function in society.

    I no longer have the ability to express the depth of my contempt. The tragedy is that they've been able to convince so many, including the majority of the Modern Orthodox, that they are a living link to the "alter heim" and therefore represent a Judaism that is somehow more "authentic". We've all been sold a bill of goods.

  8. Thank you for your blog! I live in an eruv where I am barely tolerated. Those who recognize me as Jewish think of me as as misinformed and non-religious. I am neither; but neither am I Orthodox.

    These people are fabulous at simultaneously shunning me and asking me to contribute financially to their causes.

    You're right, though. Of all the things I hate about my address, it's people who are condescending who aggravate me more than the out-and-out shunners.

    I grew up in the South among Christians and the most surprising thing to me is how much of Orthodoxy looks like Christianity to me. Everything from the pictures of rebbes in people's homes; the messianism of some in Chabad; the shunning of those who don't conform; the lack of accountability to a wider community; the sense of offering an opportunity for some kind of conversion experience; and finally the implication that those who don't start undertaking all the mitzvot will somehow not have a share in the world to come.

    1. You're very welcome. And thanks for commenting!

  9. I grew up in the South among Christians and the most surprising thing to me is how much of Orthodoxy looks like Christianity to me.

    Take the rhetoric of a Haredi rabbi, throw in the word "Jesus" liberally and it becomes indistinguishable from the rantings of a televangelist or radical imam. Fundamentalists are all tiresomely the same.

  10. I can't speak about any of the other programs, but I know several women who have been on the Jewish Women's Renaissance Project trip to Israel (which I assume is what Project Inspire is discussing), and it was pretty clear to these women that it was affiliated with Aish and that was an Orthodox outreach effort.

  11. Re scary statistics:

    Yes, I've seen the charts.

    On on hand - yes, groups with higher birthrates and lower rates of intermarriage/assimilation and higher involvement rates of involvement in Jewish education and outreach are going to increase at a faster rate than other Jewish groups.

    On the other hand, these scary charts project 4 generations and make the assumption that current factors will continue to hold. Is that a valid assumption though? If you look BACK 4 generations, things were entirely different. It wasn't that long ago that Orthodoxy was seen as an old-fashioned remnant of Europe, destined to die out. 50 years ago, someone could have made a chart based on the trends at the time, and it would have been completely wrong.

    Nobody predicted that the Pill would change the birth rates between the denominations so radically. Nobody predicted the effects of Jewish outreach. Prior to that, nobody predicted the Holocaust, or the State of Israel, or the fact that Jews would leave Arab countries, or the modern multicultural welfare state, or the collapse of the Soviet Union, and nobody saw how these things would alter the demographics of the Jewish community.

  12. Hi,
    As a former religion major, who studied quite a bit of Jewish History, unless I'm mistaken about 200 years ago, practically speaking almost all Jews were Orthodox? To have a problem with their claim of legitimacy is rather silly. They are the more authentic form of Judaism. Furthermore, they are the only group who says their beliefs come from God. Both the Conservative and the Reform believe their bible was man-made. So I don't understand the complaints about Orthodox Jews referring to themselves as the traditional/authentic Judaism. And since that makes sense, then it would make sense that they are trying return those jews who are no longer that way--because 150 years ago, the great-great-great-grandfather of post of us was likely an Orthodox Jew.

    1. You begin by saying "unless I'm mistaken", but immediately declare the Orthodox claim to legitimacy as valid and any challenge to it as "silly". You appear to have an agenda, and in any case, you apparently didn't study as much Jewish history as you think you did.

      The European Jewish world prior to the 20th century, to which the Haredim - the "ultra-Orthodox" - claim to represent a living link, was far more varied than they would have anyone believe. It contained Jews across the spectrum of practice and belief.

      Moreover, the Orthodoxy of today is not the Orthodoxy of centuries past. Orthodoxy has been comandeered by the Haredim, who are practicing a form of extremism based upon the teachings of a few far-right rabbis of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who were reacting to modernity in much the same way as were many of their Christian counterparts.

      They are not merely trying to "return" Jews to a "traditional" form of Judaism. The outreach organizations target naive young people of high school and college age, and, using what can only be termed lies and propaganda, manipulate them into committing themselves to lives of poverty (they're discouraged from attending college), ignorance and repression. They're also infantilized, told they must abandon all personal autonomy and are made subject to the whims of their rabbis.

      For a very different perspective (certainly different from whatever you were told as a religion major):

    2. I would only add that targets are not limited to "naive young people of high school and college age". I live in a kiruv neighborhood populated by much older people who did not grow up Orthodox and who may not have raised their own children as Orthodox Jews. I wouldn't call this set of people especially naive, but rather vulnerable. They make easy prey and because they're not poor, they also make fabulous donors to the cause. Everybody wins.

    3. I completely agree. Chabad does this. They are actually funded completely by donations, and are excellent fundraisers. Donors have the option of making a one time donation, recurring donations (in which their credit card is billed monthly,) or they can contact their local Chabad for other giving options, including writing them into their wills. Chabad's in-house outreach books even talk about the importance of developing relationships and friendships, specifically to raise funds because, according to their literature, "When a contributor feels that you genuinely care for him, his response will be reciprocal." (Shlichus: Meeting the Outreach Challenge. Nshei Chabad. Brooklyn. 1991. p. 237.) The goal is to get donations while further getting people involved, and then rewarding them with board positions, serving on committees, etc. in order to get him/her more involved. The more involved a donor is, the more he/she will keep giving--supposedly.

    4. These are excellent points, but in these cases, the kiruv organization merely milks them for donations. When they get hold of young people, they ruin their lives.

    5. No, they can ruin an older person's life, too. Or try. Take my story as an example. My spouse and I are both Jewish, but after some disappointments in late middle age, my husband discovered kiruv professionals. He was depressed and no match for them.

    6. It's a bit of a myth that haredi Judaism today is simply continuing a long tradition going back to the shtetl.

      In Eastern European shtetlach, you had a mix: the new Hasidic movement going against the Mitnagdim, those involved with the Haskalah (Enlightenment), those who opposed the czar and became revolutionaries, etc. They produced folks who, given the opportunity, would leave the shtetl and make new lives in new countries.

      Haredi Judaism (and the term "Orthodox" in general) came about as a REACTION to more liberal forms of Judaism. They do not necessarily represent "what everybody's zaida did".

  13. Oh no, September 17th 10:48 - Did your husband find a way out of the kiruv machine?

    Cipher, I want to thank you for posting. You have a really good handle on the facts & I appreciate that you're speaking up. I feel battered & bruised fighting kiruv sometimes. I just want to encourage you to keep voicing your opinion.

    September 17 12:39 who wrote:
    -because 150 years ago, the great-great-great-grandfather of post of us was likely an Orthodox Jew

    You're full of it, and you're wrong. They were not likely Orthodox Jews. I have documentation of my family's history. They were big time Reform Jews.

    Stop spreading lies about people's family histories based on the assumption that most people don't know their family history. It's a cheap gimmick & we're on it.

    For the record, the g-g-g-grandparents of a person in their mid 20's today would have died roughly between 1900 & 1925. A whole big bunch of them lived in the US. Their lifestyle was nothing like a Russian shettyl, and they practiced Judaism in ways that were nothing like the fairy tale that kiruv spins today.

    1. I wish I could say my husband was completely cured of his kiruv phase, but that may take more time and a physical move when we're able.

      I would like to thank you for calling kiruv a "fairy tale". It is. They sell an ideal life style, but when you look closely, nothing seems ideal. Sure, shabbos dinner is great and most of the guests are just like you, so why wouldn't the conversation range over a wide variety of current topics? Talk one on one with the rabbi, though, and you hear ideas which many Americans haven't entertained for 50 years.

      And I'd also like to thank Cipher for his clear thought and Bec for running the website. Believe me when I say it has helped me.

    2. Thank you so much, Anonymous (Sept. 18, 2013, 7:49AM) for your comments. My heart goes out to you--I can only imagine how hard it must be to be in a relationship in which something so personal as religious practice/belief is challenged and/or influenced by an outside party--especially later in life when your lifestyle is usually already well-established.
      I've seen this happen with interfaith couples: enter the local kiruv organization who "wows" the Jewish spouse who then spends a good amount of down-time with the outreach rabbi and his family, slowly becoming more and more observant while the family is left out. Whether the intention is to cause a big enough rift to break up an already established marriage, or to solicit donations, or to ultimately convert the family members who are not Jewish, I don't know. What I do know is that when I witnessed such a thing years ago--back when I was an orthodox Jew--I found it appalling. Now I find it even more appalling, especially since I understand more about what is actually happening.
      I wish you the greatest of luck and I hope that you'll continue to comment. If you ever want to write a guest post (anonymously is fine,) feel free to email me at stopkiruvnow (at) gmail . com.

    3. There is a difference between Orthodoxy as a religion and what people practice. I do believe its an accurate statement to say most jews went to Orthodox Synagogues 100-150 years ago, as there were not many non-orthodox synagogues. however, that doesnt' necessarily mean most jews were observing Orthodox customs. However, the basic jewish law (not the extreme practices of not going to college or not workign) But the basic Jewish law is pretty much identical now as it was 400 years ago. Whereas Reform and conservative law is ever changing. I think some people like the idea of progressive change over time--whereas others like the fact that the law is older-and thus maybe feels more authentic. However, for those challenging the authenticity of Orthodox Jewish law, I would love some examples because I have looked for some and can't find any, and it would be helpful in arguments. Thanks.

  14. the college campus kiruv people have a point. are there reform jews that are "jewish"? yes, there are. but 90% of the jewish population on any American college campus don't have a clue. and showing them what a Shabbos is, or what sukkot is - allowing them to reconnect with their traditions and heritage, is not the great scam, or brainwashing you claim it is.

  15. Well, as someone raised Reform, I wouldn't agree that liberal Jews don't know about Shabbos or Sukkot. Or that they haven't experienced these holidays in some meaningful ways. I'd bet quite a few of those kids have been to summer camp; participated in youth groups; been to religious school, including Hebrew school. They may very well have experienced Judaism as beautiful, practical, and ethical. Perhaps all they really want to do is up the level of their Jewish participation or to study Judaism more deeply.
    What really happens is that the campus kiruv people engage these kids deceptively. Yes, it's Shabbos and the table talk is engaging and the songs enchanting, but does everybody understand the actual beliefs of the kiruv organizers? I doubt it.
    Just from my own experience as an older adult, I can say the following about the kiruv people I met:
    1. They do not value liberal Jewish experiences as authentically Jewish. They're not one bit shy about saying this either. They even encourage couples who have been married for a long time to marry again within an Orthodox context; other Jewish wedding ceremonies are invalid. Or, as a well-regarded professional woman said to me about her own long-ago wedding ceremony, "We just didn't know any better." She wasn't the least bit offended, but I was taken aback.
    2. In a kiruv class in which I was an unwitting participant a lady was warned against continued contributions to the local ballet organization. Direct charity to torah organizations; not gentile ones.
    3. Another woman asked if she could still pray for her non-Jewish neighbor. Thankfully, the LOR agreed she could, but why would it occur to anyone that you pray only for Jews?
    4. In the same class, homosexuals who were interested in participating in a more rigorously Orthodox lifestyle felt they had to be completely quiet about this part of their lives.
    4. Class members were encouraged to show up for a neighborhood 4th of July parade because gentiles would be watching to see if Jews participated. This one really floored me. I had never known American Jews who weren't completely on board with the 4th. Later, when I moved into the eruv I understood a little bit more. Many holidays I'd taken for granted were considered completely non-kosher. I didn't know that Thanksgiving wasn't for Jews. Silly me. I thought of it as singularly American and something we could all gratefully get behind.
    5. It was never a good idea to propose any idea which questioned the accuracy of the events in the bible.
    Mostly, I wondered about the women. How could a woman who has held the torah proudly and most likely even read a portion of it in public in mixed company think something like the voice of a woman was evil?

  16. ksil: I think in my prior response I was unclear and wordy. Let me rephrase more succintly. It drives me nuts that the kiruv people think they have a lock on Judaism. They don't. I wouldn't agree that the college kids from liberal backgrounds are simply nominal Jews, uninformed Jews, or disinterested Jews. They're just not Orthodox!

    If there's any fault to be found among liberal Jews, I'd say it's that they sometimes tend to buy the line that Orthodox Judaism is more authentic and therefore give Orthodox Jews more respect than Orthodox Jews accord liberal Jews. That's my experience. And you can tell from my comments that I was wounded by my kiruv experience.

    1. The word Authentic has been thrown around a lot here. I think most orthodox jews believe that their teachings of torah and lifestyle (based on their understanding of torah) is Authentic. Whereas, reform or conservative judaism has more modern origins, and therefore its not as authentic. However, even if thats true, does something being older/more authentic make it better? I don't know but I think everyone has to concede that orthodox judaism is older and more closely resembles judaism of 500, 1000 or 2000 years ago than either the Reform or Conservative movement. Is that a good thing? Thats for everyone to figure out for themselves--but to argue that the Judaism Kiruv people are offering is no more or less authentic than Reform or Conservative, seems to be a poor argument. The argument should be that modern judaism is the way to go--that you want a judaism to fit your society you live in today--not that you want something old from a previous generation

    2. "It drives me nuts that the kiruv people think they have a lock on Judaism"

      I think you are reaching here. My experience tells me that these campus kiruv folks would like to show these students who (90%) are completely unaffiliated and have no exposure to what keeping shabbos, kosher or other laws entails. allowing these kids to see and experience a little bit of their own heritage, the way theior grandparents and great grandparents knew it is not the scam and brainwashing that you claim. sorry.

  17. Sorry. I think we often use "authentic" to mean "genuine" or "real". I don't think Orthodoxy is any more "genuine" or "real" than other forms of Judaism. The people I met in Kiruv did indeed think it was more genuine.

    So, every time I said, "authentic" understand I meant "genuine". I'm uncomfortable arguing.

  18. I don't think the "authentic judaism" practiced by ultra orthodox kiruv types is what Jews practiced 150 years ago. Kiruv and ultra orthodoxy is becoming more conservative by the day and is morphing into a fundamentalist cult like group. Chabad already is a cult and the others aren't far behind. Kiruv and ultra orthodoxy is making Reform & Conservative Jews look like the old religion.

    1. "i dont think the "authentic judaism" practiced by ultra orthodox kiruv types is what Jews practiced 150 years ago."

      its pretty darn close. yea, they have some extra weird stuff, but the basics are in tact. shabbos, mikva, kosher, yuntif, etc.

  19. AnonymousSeptember 25, 2013 at 1:31 AM---can you explain why Orthodoxy is not more authentic? They follow rather strange laws like not mixing wool and linen, they live in sukkats for a week, they wear talit strings on their clothes--none of these practices is new or recent--i think its important to differentiate between the practices they do that are based on custom vs jewish law. While customs may not all be 100's of years old--i think the stuff they do straight out of the bible is clearly very old----

  20. I am one of those people who you demonize. I work in kiruv. In fact I am one of the more successful ones, if I might add. I am truly proud to be devoting my life to teaching minds and touching souls of all levels of religiosity. I am absolutely not ashamed to say that I believe that all Jews should be striving to grow in their Jewish education and commitment in whatever way they can. Including me. And you, I might add. Judaism was the inspiration major religions of the world, can it not inspire it's own people? But I can't take the credit for my work because I grew up in a family of educated (college, oh dear) professionals who also committed so much of their lives to outreach, as did my husband. We don't know anything different. My father, who has a Phd, and a successful businessman used to bring home Jews from all backgrounds to our Shabbas table. My mother who has a warm and intelligent personality (uh oh, also college educated, sorry) would make them feel welcome with her chicken soup and non-judgmental attitude. There are dozens of people who are living various lifestyles, but all growing in their Judaism, that will attribute the jumpstart of their growth to my parents. But they didn't start the trend in the family. It was my grandparents who are holocaust survivors (sorry, not college educated but not super religious either so that's ok, right?), and saw the post-war needs of the generation and began to reach out. Shlomo Carlebach would frequent their house and of course he came along with all sorts of Jews. They are both still alive, thank G-d, and are so proud that they have a legacy of intelligent and hard-working children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, all who are committed to the kiruv cause that you disdain so much. You are a passionate writer, and it is such a shame that you are using your writing talent to spread such false perceptions of Orthodoxy and the kiruv movements. I feel sorry that you have made this your life's mission. Goodness, do you honestly think that everyone who classifies themselves as Orthodox is poor and uneducated? What planet are you living in?! There are thousands of Orthodox communities across the globe that are populated with people who are committed to Jewish law, and have successful professions, supporting their families adequately, with a bit left over for charity. Miami, Chicago, Passaic, Los Angelos, Atlanta, Seattle, Baltimore, all over New York, and the list gets even longer if you step out of the U.S. Also, there is no question that every organization, whether it is religiously affiliated, or is about saving the whales, is going to have fundraising techniques. I am not quite sure why you have such a problem with that. It is not like kiruv rabbis are all buying vacation homes with the cash. Every single penny we raise goes toward Jewish education and experience. And do we use clever tactics to get Jews into our events? Yes, of course! That's called marketing! Not quite sure why there is a problem with that either. I am very involved in Project Inspire, and I can see how their campaign might have used poor choices in wording but nevertheless, it is based on the good principles. The fact is a significant portion of Jews ARE completely uneducated about, and disconnected from religion. This is not a negotiable point, this is fact. And I think being a part of, and supporting a cause that educates, inspires and commits people, is noble. Might I add, that I myself grew up religious, went "off the derech", and then slowly came back to Orthodoxy in adulthood. In fact, there are quite a lot like me, but we are much less known, as we don't spend our lives blogging about it.

    1. Thanks, Anonymous, for your heartfelt comment.
      First of all, this blog is about the problems inherent in kiruv, something which even kiruv workers and orthodox people have recognized. I know this is true because I get a significant amount of email from rabbis and volunteers who work in kiruv who don't agree with all tactics used by all kiruv organizations. Some, like your family, possess college degrees. Some don't.
      I think that in your rush to berate me, you neglected to consider that your response will reach many, many people, who will read your response and make a snap judgement about those you are representing, such as those involved in Project Inspire.
      I do think you've missed the point of this blog and certainly this blog post. You seem to think I'm against orthodoxy (I'm not,) or Jewish learning (it's up to individuals to make the choice if they'd like to do so,) and you seem to think that I believe orthodox Jews are uneducated. (I went to Brooklyn College. Try again.) You are making a lot of untrue assumptions, as is your right, I suppose, but for the record, this blog is about deceptive kiruv practices and showing the not-so-warm and fuzzy side of kiruv. You even admitted that the wording was poorly chosen. That's the point. Not who has a PhD. Not who went to Yale. And not whether the rabbi is saving whales. Talk about deceptive marketing. Talk about not giving the whole story. And address whether the non-orthodox Jews who get involved with Project Inspire's many initiatives know the actual goal of your organization, and if they know that your organization doesn't think of the ramifications of using such poorly chosen words to address the very people it wishes to "inspire."
      I wonder why your response was so filled with anger. But once you are over the anger, use your energy to make positive change. Encourage better wording. Encourage more transparency and honesty.
      Have a beautiful Shabbos.


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