Sunday, October 20, 2013

Recruiting "Friends" Just for You!

     A university student received the following email from a frum (orthodox) student and passed it on to me. (I have removed any identifying information.) Basically, the outreach rabbi on campus is holding a Shabbos event, and wants to get orthodox students and families involved to take these non-orthodox students under their wings for the purpose of outreach. Notice how the student sending the email describes the rabbi as "the kiruv
Rabbi at University of XXX." That is the function of this rabbi and the reason why he is on this campus. As stated within the body of the letter, these kiruv volunteers will "create relationships" from this "amazing kiruv opportunity." And you thought they genuinely wanted to be your friend! The sad truth is that this whole experience is contrived.


Hi everyone,
For those that don't know Rabbi XXX  is the kiruv Rabbi at University of XXX. He is arranging a Shabbaton on XX/XX/2013, for the secular Jewish students that come to his classes. He is having around 25 students come into the  XXXX area for the Shabbos. I am working with him to have the religious students together with any wives/husbands come and join them for the Shabbaton. This is an amazing kiruv opportunity to create relationships with the other students that will hopefully last throughout your time in college and beyond.
We are in the planning stages right now and in order to plan accordingly we need to know who would be able to join us and for which meals. Please email me if you can come for Friday night and Shalosh Seuodos meals if its free, if it costs a nominal fee or if you can only make it for one of the 2 meals. For anyone not in the XXXX area we can try to find hosts for you if needed.
If you notice any frum jews I missed in this email list feel free to forward them this email or to let me know.
Please try to respond asap so we can plan accordingly.

Thank you,
Looking forward to spending a Shabbos together,
XXXX

     This is the other side of the story. Sure, people who get involved as volunteers in kiruv genuinely believe they're doing a good thing and believe that they're influencing their guests in a positive way. But so do cultists, and missionaries, and the salespeople who give out free dinners in order to get you to buy a timeshare in Florida. None of them are making the invitation because they think you'll make a great friend. They simply think you'll make a great recruit.

185 comments:

  1. But the difference between you, the recruit, and you the prospective buyer of a timeshare in Florida is that you have no illusions about the timeshare salesman. Ditto the Christian missionaries who invite you to accept Jesus. But the kiruv people, why that's another story. It's about Judaism, OK, but Jewish done one single way. The last thing they care about is you. Sadly. Please, please keep writing.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I agree completely. I think that there are also many people out there who see "Jewish" and think that the group has their best interests in mind. What's sad is that they make no allowances for different expressions of Judaism.

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    2. Because Judaism isn't about opinion, it's about fact. If you want to express your own way of Judaism call it something else so to not confuse it. This whole thread is so stupid. Kiruv isn't an indoctrination as your making it out to be. They do not "target" people. They're there for people who have interest in becoming more orthodox but don't know how.

      Calling it anything with extremism is as comparable to what you're doing. Perhaps singling out people, or their religion without having all the facts and trying to basically start a cult of your own. With a website titled what it is you can't say I'm wrong.

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    3. Is this something that you would say to the Conservative or Reform parents of a student who is being convinced to go to an orthodox yeshiva? That they should call their Judaism something else? You seem to be singling out people who are not orthodox.
      I've written in other posts how interesting it is that when a Jew criticizes kiruv or orthodoxy, or even Judaism in general, he/she is met with accusations of being self-hating, or anti-Semitic. Calling someone with differing views an extremist is a bit far-fetched as well. Please elaborate more on this "cult" you think is being started. I'm very curious about that.

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    4. @Anonymous: With a website titled what it is you can't say I'm wrong.

      I'm saying it: you're wrong. You don't know what you're talking about. You belong to a cult and have been brainwashed, Your belief system does not descend unchanged from Sinai, but is the invention of a handful of far right extremist rabbis of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Your holy rebbaim have lied to you.

      Because Judaism isn't about opinion, it's about fact.

      The term "fact" doesn't mean what you think it does. It does NOT mean "stuff my rebbe told me".

      Also, what is the deal with frum people and the use of the term "Anonymous"? With all of the purported superior intellectual abilities we're constantly told are fostered by a yeshiva education, you can't come up with a name?

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  2. It is about time for OTD types, atheists & agnostics to begin recruiting people just like religions do. Why not have meetings, meal events, rallies on campuses exposing why fundamentalist religions of all kinds are very likely false.

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    1. Q is - do you believe there is a mitzvah to love every Jew and do chesed? If not, why bother? Just MYOB and get on with your life. But if you believe in such mitzvoth, and you believe that the Torah contains invaluable wisdom for living, then if you don't reach out to fellow Jews and offer them a taste of Torah, you are not living up to your values. I think the key to the letter is the highlighted sentence - "to create relationships ... that will hopefully last throughout your time in college and beyond". A relationship by definition (my definition) is meaningful, not superficial. So unlike many cults that do indeed seem to care more about numbers than people, most kiruv rabbis that I have met (hundreds) are genuinely interested in people and real relationships. Very un-cultish.

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    2. When hundreds of students are sent from various sources to BT yeshivas in Israel, I seriously have to wonder how many meaningful and lasting relationships are being formed with kiruv professionals. Especially when Big Kiruv has addressed the problematic lack of follow-up prevalent in the orthodox world for BTs. Even sites like Beyond BT have discussed this issue.

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    3. A few things to say to Anonymous:
      1. I believe (and most world religions believe) that it is important to be honest and caring towards fellow human beings, regardless of nationality. There can be an answer to "why bother" that has nothing to do with being/not being Jewish.
      2. Many people involved in kiruv are genuine, and genuinely care about their students. BUT, in general they tend to only tell about the attractive parts about the frum world (like shabbat dinners), and a lot of new BTs are totally unprepared for what might happen to them (radical lifestyle change, distance from family, difficulty finding a spouse, discrimination from FFBs and the Israeli government, etc). Also, I know a lot of people who sign up for these trips to Israel thinking they are going on a second Birthright, and they end up in some seminary with a lot of rules and biases that they were never expecting.
      If Orthodox Judaism is really so great - and there are things that I think it does well that I really miss - kiruv rabbis/groups should be able to tell the whole truth without being afraid of losing people. It's not fair to ask someone to radically change their life without giving them all the information.

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    4. To Alter Kocker:
      Just a friendly reminder that not everyone who goes OTD ends up being "atheist/agnostic"...sometimes I think the OTD community (or at least the online part of it) forgets about the rest of us who believe in God but not what Judaism says about Him.
      I am, btw, totally in favor of opposing religious whackos who recruit.

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    5. Well said, Hana Shandaleh.
      I've met many wonderful rabbis involved in kiruv (and some not so wonderful rabbis,) and several who, if they were close by, I wouldn't hesitate to go to for a Shabbos meal (as long as I could drive home. :) ) But you're absolutely right--it's the lack of information and the deception that is the problem.

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    6. In reply to Hana's comment from 9:55PM, that's another good point. People shouldn't think that just because someone is OTD, that he/she stops believing. Some do. Some don't. They just choose not to live their lives according to orthodox doctrine.

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  3. Back before I went completely OTD and was trying to be frum and a college student at the same time, I used to get a lot of emails like this. At first I thought the kiruv rabbis must be really modern to expose frum young people to secular people socially. It took me awhile to realize that I wasn't just going to connect with other Jews and discuss religion with other people who were interested (and a lot of them legitimately were curious). I was supposed to be a salesperson. Once I started being honest about the good and bad in Orthodoxy, I was no longer welcome. The last time I attended an event like this, I told another student that not all frum women are feminists, and the rabbi kicked me out.
    It was good for me as far as being able to "let go" of the frum world, but I'm not sure how much the frum people realize they are being used by Big Kiruv to make their lies more believable. A lot of what gets said at events like this would never be allowed in these frum people's homes.

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  4. Hana,

    I am the person who received the email. I am openly OTD, so I was somewhat surprised to receive it. The student who sent out the email apparently didn't check his list carefully enough, since it was clearly intended to only be sent to frum students. My guess is that my name got on the list due to once attending a learning session directed towards frum students. It was two years ago, but I guess I am still on the list.

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  5. My experience is that "Kiruv Rabbis" are extremely genuine people with much integrity. They are trying to bridge gaps between the frum world and the non-frum world in order to try to bring some Jewish unity because they care about the Jewish people, unlike this blogger whose platform is all about hate and dividing the Jewish people. Most Kiruv Rabbis don't push Orthodoxy at all. They teach classes on how to improve relationships, overcome struggles and strive for greatness based on Torah principles. They also offer Shabbat meals that are beautiful, and participants on their own are interested in pursuing their learning on their own. Some become Orthodox. Some not. The Rabbis never turn away or break ties with any of their students even if they never become Orthodox.

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    1. Why do you think my platform is "all about hate and dividing the Jewish people?" Is it because you disagree with my opinion?

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    2. You spread your opinion like fact, when in reality you most likely just had a bad experience with 1 person and decided to generalize.

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    3. It sounds like you're spreading your opinion like fact in your answer, but your assumptions couldn't be more wrong. If you take the time to read this blog, you'll find that my posts are based on legitimate information from quoted (and footnoted) sources that you can check. Your original comment is vague, provides no evidence to back up your claims, and, if I'm not mistaken, was written as an emotional reply to counter claims that you find offensive. Even people within orthodoxy have criticized kiruv. I mean no disrespect, but it seems like your view is clouded by your emotions.

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    4. I agree with bec on this. If the kiruv Rabbi's intention was to "bridge gaps between the frum world and the non-frum world in order to try to bring some Jewish unity," then he should have made that clear in the email invitation. It is pretty clear that he would like to be makarev (reach out) to the non-orthodox Jews and bring them closer to Orthodox Judaism.
      However, I do disagree with bec on whether or not that is problem. If there are missionaries and cultists, etc on campuses, why can't there be a kiruv Rabbi? And there is nothing wrong with him trying to push his agenda of getting more Jews to become Orthodox. The student should use his head to engage and discover. And the Rabbi should do his best to be convincing. If the student chooses to become orthodox - great! And if not - also great! That is the student's choice. Don't blame the Rabbi for doing what he thinks is right.

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    5. You spread your opinion like fact, when in reality you most likely just had a bad experience with 1 person and decided to generalize.

      It's far more likely the stories here are forcing you to confront your own doubts, which you are desperately trying to deny.

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    6. If there are missionaries and cultists, etc on campuses, why can't there be a kiruv Rabbi?

      Because kiruv is, by its very nature, a dishonest enterprise. The proselytizer isn't really trying to convince you; he's trying desperately to convince himself. If he can convince you he's right, then, he reasons, he must actually BE right, and can stave off for a little while longer the nagging doubts that threaten constantly to overtake him.

      There is also the fact that kiruv rabbis invariably go after vulnerable young people who are away from home for the first time and don't have adequate defense mechanisms or bullshit detectors, and seduce them into lives of ignorance, poverty and repression. I don't know of any kiruv victims who've gone on to become Modern Orthodox academics or professionals. They always end up with a black hat or sheitl and fifteen kids. (The MO have become complicit, however; their campus organizations have, in recent years, been funneling kids into Haredi yeshivot.)

      Kiruv should be illegal. I'd love to see a large group of parents whose children have been ripped from them initiate a class action suit against the Haredi world. Kiruv is an abomination, and must be stopped.

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    7. While I do know some people who have ultimately become MO, they had come to orthodoxy on their own and sought out rabbis to help them in that transition. Unfortunately, when kids get sent off to study in Israel from their college campuses, nobody is giving them the option of Modern Orthodoxy. They're placed in outreach yeshivas that set them up for a Haredi lifestyle.
      Thanks, Cipher, for your comments.

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  6. Bec is not alone, Anon Oct 23 at 9:11 PM. I am also anti-kiruv. Anon Oct 23 at 5:07 (Jebus, would you people grow up and post with a username? Any username?) said "Most Kiruv Rabbis don't push Orthodoxy at all. They teach classes on how to improve relationships, overcome struggles and strive for greatness based on Torah principles. "

    They also urge students to keep kosher - to become a member of the "frum" club. That this may damage the student's relationship with his/her family is irrelevant to them. Kibud av v'em, which so many students seem to find such an enlightening concept - I know, I was there once - takes a back seat to kashrut observance.

    Becoming Orthodox has a price - a very steep price in some cases. I was raised liberal Protestant and I can honestly say that the general Torah values kiruv rabbis teach are universal. Nearly every religion has the good stuff. But, Orthodoxy today comes with a whole suitcase full of inauthentic baggage that promotes OCD and division within the family of the prospective BT.

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  7. I posted this just a few minutes ago in your piece about Project Inspire, but if I may, I would like to repost it here as well, with a few important additions:
    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 behind major religions of the world, can it not inspire it's own people?
    But I can't take the credit for what I do 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. The discussion around the table was energetic and always centered around Torah, current events, politics, etc. There are dozens of people who are living various lifestyles, but all growing in their Judaism, that will attribute the jump-start of their growth to my parents.
    But my parents 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 with him. My Bubbie and Zaydie 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. (to be continued in next comment)

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    1. (comment continued from above)
      You are a such 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.
      And being heavily entrenched in the baal teshuva world (not a fan of labels like that but, if we must...), I can attest to the fact that the vast majority have healthy and loving relationships with their parents and families. They had to learn how to balance their differences respectfully? Yes of course, things like keeping kosher in a nonkosher home might take a bit of time to master. But hey, are you saying that all kids have to eat what their parents eat? My mother is gluten free and she has tried to "convert" me to healthy eating for ages but I will persevere with my white pasta and chocolate bars! This might cause a bit of tension at times, but the love and respect is always there, despite the difference in food preference.
      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 somewhat involved in Project Inspire, and I can see how their campaign might have had poor choice in wording but nevertheless, it is based on 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.

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    2. Since we're playing comment-tag, I'll follow your lead and post this here as well:
      (and I'll refrain from adding in the snarky response to your comment about how I blog about kiruv once a week or once every two weeks, hardly "spend[ing] [my] life blogging about it." That would be akin to someone suggesting that those who are shomer Shabbos spend their lives only keeping Shabbos. But I understand that you're upset and I don't hold it against you.)
      Here's my original response:
      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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    3. Not sure I wrote out of anger but definitely have a hard time wrapping my head around why you would want to invest so much of yourself in a kiruv- smearing blog instead of actually working for a kiruv organization and trying to change policy from within. Start your own kiruv organization if you believe in Jewish education and growth, and do it better! I have worked in medical research, and several business before I went into Kiruv and there is no question that no company or charity is perfect. There is always junk going on behind the scenes that we aren't proud about because everyone is human and has limitations. That doesn't make the whole business or organization worthy of smearing. To be honest, you have so many people commenting on your website who endorse you that have repeatedly mentioned that we convince people to become religious, not to go to college and be poor their whole lives. Other comments mentioned that Orthodoxy promotes OCD and is nothing what Judaism used to look like a few hundred years ago. Statements such as these are utterly preposterous, and you know that, but why didn't you correct them as you are so eager correcting me? If you are about exposing the truth, then Rebecca, then that should include ALL truth. Generalizations are so dangerous and if you want to stand for truth, then be consistent. Good Shabbas to you as well.

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    4. What about this guy who spends a lot of time making incredibly dangerous and inaccurate generalizations: "You belong to a cult and have been brainwashed, Your belief system does not descend unchanged from Sinai, but is the invention of a handful of far right extremist rabbis of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Your holy rebbaim have lied to you." Really? Everything we do is completely made up recently and has NO footing in ancient Jewish History or Mount Sinai? The mikvahs that they find in excavations are all fabricated lies? The whole kosher thing is just a recent fad? Rebecca, why don't you correct him? Expose the truth, please?

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    5. Actually, Anonymous, if you would read James Kugel or Israel Finkelstein, you will see that the Torah is, in fact, most likely a collection of legend with perhaps only a glancing basis in truth. Why do camels appear in Bereishit (I believe Abraham is dated according to Torah sources to have lived around 1800 BCE) when camels weren't used domestically in that region until after 1000BCE? Why is there no archaeological or historical evidence for a claimed exodus of 1 million + people from Egypt? And further, at the time when the Jews were supposed to be fleeing from Egypt, the Egyptians ruled Canaan - so thye would have been fleeing from Egypt straigh into Egyptian arms...

      You can see that when one doesn't believe that Matan Torah happened exactly as we were taught, the whole facade crumbles.

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    6. Food for thought: James Kugel considers himself to be orthodox, and Israel Finkelstein is a formidable Archaeologist, however, no body of Archaeology has crowned him king of biblical knowledge and as a matter of fact, he is one of the most controversial voices on the Biblical scene.

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  8. What about this completely inaccurate comment? "A fully Orthodox Jew has little place in the world outside an isolated Jewish community." Why not set this one straight?

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    1. Why are you lying? Even a MO person cannot live fully in the rest of the world. Go fix your own leadership, crooked violent and hateful as they are, forcing battered women into impoverished agunot status, abusing children in the most disgusting ways, all the corruption with the kosher industry, the disgusting hijacking of peace talks in Israel with blackmail saying no peace if we dont get to force every single woman in the back of our "kosher" busses. You kiruv crooks have caused more suffering and anguish.....why dont you tell the women you bring in that the shadchans lie about men who have records of domestic violence, and then she will be an impoverished agunah with her children taken away.....there is a special place for you folks in hell. Yasir Arafat, Rantisi, Ahmed Yassin, they sit in that cell in hell waiting for their new roommates from kiruv.

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  9. Rebecca- I believe that anonymous has truly put you to task. I think that she has challenged you to explain and justify this type of blog, why you yourself have not tried to create your own outreach organization that is void of all the problems you mention, and to respond to and correct all comments made from both sides of this debate (if the record needs to be set straight).
    Shabbat shalom, from a Jew in Yerushalayim

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    1. Thanks for posting. I think that both you and Anonymous miss the point here. There are problems in kiruv that need to be addressed so that people who might get involved in one of these organizations can have all of the information available. Then, they can make informed choices about their belief system, and how they choose to express their religious belief. Telling me that instead of pointing out the problems in existing organizations, I should start my own kiruv organization is like telling people who are critical of clergy members molesting children that rather than educate people that this is occurring and how to change things, that they should, instead, become members of the clergy.

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    2. why should she created an outreach group at all? people should decide on their own weather they should subject them selves to Judaism. there is no need for outreach at all. let a hashem worry about it. it seems to me kiruv people just want more jews to vote for jewish causes and spend more money on jewish things

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  10. what none of you realize is that all of this kiruv, missionary work, and any other fantasy religions you people engage your feeble minds in, are all just an illusion of denial of the inevitable fate that we will all suffer. you are all lying to yourselves with your little fantasies, sucking each other up with your lies, but you do not see the futility of your little hobbies. whatever horrors you may perceive in this world, they are all like paradise when compared to the true underlying reality that Cthulhu lies dead but dreaming in rl'yeh. the Elder Gods will rise up and eat us all!

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  11. I had a hard time understanding this blog at first, and I sort of understand what the author's issue is with Kiruv: it fosters false friendships that are dependent on religious ritual, and not as reaching out, human to human, to help people grow as people, and show true support and friendship during ups and downs of life.
    This particular email note I did not find disturbing at all, especially since the author specifies that the relationship would be with the college student beyond college, a mutually-agreed upon mentorship, and that is all. Perhaps the blog author can clarify what bothered her about the email.

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  12. Every organization does outreach, you are right, and at it's heart what they are seeking is a certain action, whether it be donations, allegiance to a certain community and lifestyle, and they try to convince you to give of your time and money and energy by painting an idealized picture of what they stand for. On the other hand, there are counter organizations that have opposing views and see the danger inherent in the original organization and seek to point out the flaws in that organization, so people will not be mislead. The author of this blog is doing counter kiruv, because she disagrees with the information being given as to what Judaism is and she disagrees with the notion that becoming orthodox is the best or only expression of Judaism. When kiruv professionals present their point of view it is important for those who disagree with that point of view to present the other side, that those who are learning about Judaism through kiruv are not getting. The methods used by kiruv professionals are in fact key, because they often play to emotions and the desire to belong to a group, rather than educating simply from a rational point of view. In this way those getting involved in judaism through these means are not doing so with a fully open mind as to why they are engaging in Jewish practice.

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  13. I will take a bow for authoring: A fully Orthodox Jew has little place in the world outside an isolated Jewish community."
    Why not set this one straight? The reason you don’t “set me straight” is because you know that what I wrote is true. A freshly minted BT cannot circulate in the secular world because rabbis discourage him from hanging around “hostile, anti-religious, intolerant” types. That includes families of BT’s.
    Even the Project Inspire acolyte posted: They had to learn how to balance their differences respectfully? Yes of course, things like keeping kosher in a nonkosher home might take a bit of time to master. But hey, are you saying that all kids have to eat what their parents eat?
    Kids may not like what their parents cook, but that is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the rifts that ultra orthodoxy creates in the relationships of new followers.
    Any group or organization that is known to create problems in the relationships between children and their parents is a DESTRUCTIVE one.
    Any group that presents itself as merely wanting to educate college kids about Judiasm, but whose undisclosed goal is for those kids to adopt an entirely new Ultra Orthodox lifestyle including strict diet & dress codes, radically changed & usually dumbed down life goals, and vastly different political views, to name a few – is DECEPTIVE.
    Why not tell those BT’s during their first Friday night dinner that your sect of Judaism practices arranged marriage? Why not tell prospective BT’s that the Ultra Orthodox world considers an engagement after three dates or three weeks of dating in the sidduch system completely normal? Why keep that a dirty little secret a secret during the recruiting process? Is it because you’re DECEPTIVE?
    And while we’re on the subject of marriage, when do you tell curious college kids that if they follow you down the path to Ultra Orthodoxy they will have virtually no say in their own reproductive health? When do you tell the girls about head shaving & wigs and those little white cloths?
    When do you tell them that it will take special permission for them to attend their own sibling’s wedding to a non Jew, or to attend a non Jewish relative’s funeral?
    When do you tell them that you are part of a sect that doesn’t go to the movies on Saturday nights, or swim in the co-ed pool with their cousins in Florida, or that they can’t really be an astronaut or President of the United States because they’d have to work on Saturdays? Do these things come before or after the BRAINWASHING?

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    1. I'm sorry but this post is just laughable. Shaved heads....no say in reproductive health... clearly you have no knowledge in Jewish law. I have smicha (rabbinic ordination) and i believe you should study a bit more and talk to people who know what they are talking about before you immaturely post online. good luck!

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    2. Are you denying that women shave their heads?

      I've heard that asking for birth control is unthinkable in the frum world. You mean frum couples don't have to consult rabbis before deciding whether to use birth control? No pressure or shame about using birth control?

      And the humiliating practice of displaying a cloth with the discharge from a woman's vagina for a rabbi to inspect and determine whether she is "clean" enough for sex certainly puts a third party in charge of her sex life.

      Just as Jewish law says that a husband is not supposed to engage in domestic abuse - well, we know that theory and practice can be worlds apart. I assert that women have little if any control over their own reproductive health.

      Do you think I'm impressed or intimidated because you hold simcha? I am not. In fact, by boasting about it you sound like the Great and Powerful Oz. Merely saying that women are free to make their own reproductive choices, or that they do not shave their heads, does not make these things true.

      I have spoken with many, many formerly orthodox Jews. I have it on good authority that there is nothing unusual about shaved heads or the lack of reproductive freedom in the ultra orthodox world. You are delusional if you believe there is no pressure on women to procreate.

      My understanding about head shaving is that it’s done for two reasons; to relieve discomfort and itching from a wig, or the belief that a shaved head on a woman is “modest.”

      Is attacking me with snippets such as “you immaturely post online” your best defense of kiruv? I suggest you worry less about my maturity and more about the destructive and deceptive recruiting practices that kiruv professionals engage in.

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    3. (Different anonymous person here)

      You are the one not being honest here.

      I don't believe that you have smicha and are not aware that head shaving is common in some circles of Orthodoxy, and that in any community to the right of Modern Orthodoxy you have to get rabbinic permission to use birth control, and that the permission can be hard to get, particularly for those who have not fulfilled pru urvu (at least one boy and one girl)

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    4. Do the research yourself. Head shaving is strictly in Chassidic circles which is NOT interchangeable with Orthodox at all. Vast majority of people claiming to be Orthodox are actually not chassidic. Chassidic women shave their heads not for itchiness or modesty reasons (why would it be modest to shave a head??) but for mikvah reasons. This is not Torah law at all. It is going above and beyond the Torah law just like Chassidim do with their peyos, etc. I am not chassidic and I really don't agree with a lot of Chassidic practice and community standards, but would still never speak about them unless I did thorough research. Research is not asking a few off- the -derech friends. Research is asking knowledgeable people well-versed in Torah Law. Has this blog turned into a free-for-all forum for Orthodox-bashing without any corrections for the moderator as to what is true and what isn't?

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    5. What a relief to hear that campus kiruv clowns aren't like those crazy head shaving Chassids. It makes the other fundamentalist aspects of this sect so much more palatable.

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    6. To Anonymous at 9:17AM,
      Keep in mind that while head shaving is not part of all orthodox circles, there are many baal teshuvas, who, in their excitement to become "fully orthodox" often take on chumra after chumra, to either fit in or prove their piety, while believing these things to be necessary. I know former female Chabad baalei teshuva who opted to shave their heads, even though this is not a requirement for women of that sect.

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  14. Thank you, Anonymous. I would also like to say why not be honest about the oral torah? I think many biblical scholars have been honest about the Hebrew bible, where it came from and how to read it as a modern so that it improves your life. So why not tell the truth about the oral torah? Nothing shocked me more than to hear a kiruv rabbi say that the message of the prophets was "just rhetoric" and that the only thing that counted were the frozen-in-amber truths of the oral torah.
    Thank you Bec. Thank you Cipher. And thank you to the anonymous kiruv worker who made all of Bec's points.
    I wish I didn't have to be anonymous, but I'm not up to using any other identity. The shunning I experience now is enough . . . but I'm deeply grateful for this blog.

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  15. I would just like to say one thing. I am a "Mekarev" on a campus. I don't care much for the title or the tactics. I also can care less about politics and denominations. There is a lot of BS in this job, and there is also a lot of beauty. Of course, I am orthodox. I don't apologize for it, and I don't side step or lie about it. All the students that know me know that I did not grow up orthodox, I chose it because I wanted something more disciplined and demanding from my spirituality. They know that I have lots of questions, and they know that I even have a few (what I believe to be) good answers. They also know that I am here to teach Judaism from the Orthodox perspective to anyone who wants to hear it. In my mind I have two jobs. One, to host Jewish students for cultural and religious ceremonies. Secondly, to teach people about Orthodox Judaism. They know that my wife and I were engaged after a few weeks. They also know that I would divorce her if she shaved her head for religious reasons. My style of kiruv is to treat people like adults and be confrontational and challenging. I don't validate their opinions if I disagree. I just disagree. I do it with a smile, but I tell it to them straight up. I don't expect everyone to like it, just like everyone doesn't like rap music or Vietnamese food. What's my point in all this? Just to say that I get the point of this blog and I like it! I would love for a student to come in with this ammo, it would make for an interesting discussion, and we'd both probably learn a lot. So, to my fellow "kiruv people": who cares what some woman and her cyber friends think about your job? And to the bloggers: keep fighting you're fight, and we'll keep fighting ours. In the end, these two sides are never going to agree and personally, I think that's fine.

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    1. If you're as honest as you say (and I have no reason to believe otherwise,) then I have no problem with what you do. It's when deception is involved that I take issue. I have found that people who may be engaging in deceptive practice tend to get more defensive regarding what I have to say, and that's fine. (I remember being the same way when caught lying about my whereabouts when I was a teenager. :) ) Teaching about Judaism is fine, being available for spiritual needs is fine, provided you are not misleading people. Even if people become orthodox--but choose it while being presented with information (as opposed to having information withheld,) that's fine. As you said, my words shouldn't be an issue for people in kiruv. My guess is that they only are an issue when the kiruv being practiced is less than honest.
      For the record, I'm not "fighting," I'm just giving a critical perspective. Judaism has weathered far worse than my opinions.
      Kol Tov.

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    2. To the rabbi who said: In the end, these two sides are never going to agree and personally, I think that's fine.

      When you seduce and indoctrinate secular college kids, cause major sometimes irreversible problems between them and their families, and follow it up with statements like the one above, you really just prove the accusation that you are a cult like group whose goal is to seek new members at any cost.

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    3. Bec - would that mean that nobody is "really" making any free choices until 30 because they havent fully developed. What if they steal? or punch someone in the face? or impregnate a 15 year old? Are those decisions or can we blame the store, the punchee or the child mother to be?

      Anon - again, please focus. You have to explain why something is unreasonable, not just say that it is. Otherwise, we can have this circular discussion forever. How is it not a 19 yr old's (not a "kid", unless it's normal for "kids" to be going abroad for 6 months alone) responsibility to think critically about new information being presented?

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  16. To cipher, my experience with campus kiruv rabbis is different than yours. This is how I would describe it: college kids and campuses are fun, but lack meaning and fulfillment. that is just fine for some, but many people do yearn for meaning and spirituality in their lives (especially during formative years of 18-22). the college campus today is filled with sexual promiscuity, drugs, alcohol - the party life. I would also add, that most if not all the jews in said college know nothing of their heritage or very little at best. maybe they had a bar or bat mitzvah, but that about it. the kiruv rabbi I know just wants to show these kids what Judaism (as he understands it) looks like, show them what a Shabbos is, with time out from technology, family bonding, and friends. he wants to teach them a little of their heritage, show them what a davening is like and teach them a little about the parsha. wants to show them that you can live a meaningful life, and still be part of the world. he shows them what a large family looks like, how siblings bond with eachother, he wants them to know the come from a rich heritage, and while nobody ever took the time to teach them about it, it is wonderful and they can come and look at it and appreciate it. its not too late. he has no fangs, he has no quotas, he is not trying to hit numbers, or get people frum. its much simpler than that, and I for one do appreciate what he does. and that is coming from someone that doesn't believe!

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    1. I see a lot of emphasis placed on intangible goals such as finding meaning, spiritual awakening and personal fulfillment, and I am greatly disturbed by this. I have no issue with simply teaching kids about Judaism or Hebrew. However, when kiruv professionals co-mingle Jewish and Hebrew lessons with ideals that deeply affect the student's psyche and world view, and even proclaim that they are that student's spiritual leader, there is a serious problem.

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    2. can you be more specific with what you think the problem is? (I do not know what you mean by "ideals that deeply affect the student's psyche and world view" or "proclaim that they are that student's spiritual leader")

      my experience with these folks is they invite students over to their house for a Shabbat meal. and if the student shows interest, they would teach them about being frum and about their heritage.

      and by the way, these are ADULTS we are talking about here.

      If you had issues with some of the NCSY stuff that goes on (with elementary and high school aged kids), I would probably tend to agree. but teaching adults about their own heritage (and generally not being pushy at all ) seems fine.

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    3. I personally have written about NCSY, but obviously, your comment is not directed at me.
      While I do agree that college students are adults, they are still gaining valuable life experience. Groups such as Chabad, who are also on college campuses, have stated in their literature (you can find a pdf of "Shlichus: Meeting the Outreach Challenge" online) that they are more than just the friendly campus rabbi inviting kids to supper. In the chapter "The Campus Approach," they actually discuss why college kids are better targets (my words, not theirs,) and how their campus work can influence these students. They even give detailed directions for campus rabbis on how to get students to work with them so as to attract other students to their programs. If you read that chapter, you'll also see very "interesting" word choices, that make the whole "business" seem sketchy. They want other students "to perceive that the involved students are thinking for themselves." (p114.) Look this book up, you'll find it free online. It's not as innocent as it appears.

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    4. Ksil, college freshmen are barely 18 years old, they are hardly full fledged adults. Ideals that deeply affect a student's psyche include persuading them to become frum. One example is when students respect their parents not because they love & respect their parents, but because the Torah instructs them to. That creates a stiff, unnatural & contrived relationship between children & parents.

      I have heard of kiruv rabbis telling parents they are their child's rabbi.

      Luring students with love bombing, alcohol and an organized system of follow up phone calls, and presenting that as a kid showing interest in his "heritage" is the equivalent of lipstick on a pig.

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    5. Good point, Anonymous. I just thought about it and I started college at 17.

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    6. I think college students are low hanging fruit for kiruv professionals. Many are away from home for the first time, many have a hard time finding their niche if partying isn't their thing.

      I think campus kiruv is predatory. I understand that they think they are selling what's right and good but the fact of the matter is that people in emotionally vulnerable situations (away from home, new environment) are particularly susceptible to cults and their messages. Campus kiruv workers know this.

      Oh well. All I can say is that ultimately frumkeit did me a favor. I spent 13 years on the inside thinking that the secular world was devoid of spirituality, morals, and meaning. How pleasantly surprised I was once I opened my eyes and started to question. Life outside of frumkeit is more fulfilling in every single possible way. It's a shame I put my family through the torture and stress of wondering how far we were going to frum out and what kind of relationship they would have with their grandkids. It's a shame my grandma died before I could have a chance to apologize for being too good to eat her food. It's a shame that I created so much awkwardness at the family events I did attend because I insisted on eating my own food that I brought. It's a shame that I didn't have the help I needed when my babies were born because my family didn't know how to operate in my kitchen.

      To all the kiruv workers out there I say: leave families alone. Leave college students alone. Donate to Hillel to provide a spectrum of Jewish life and Shabbos meals to students. You think you are doing their Jewish neshamas a favor but in reality you are not. You are teaching the women that it's their role to be oppressed (though you have special lectures and flowery apologetics about how Orthodox Jews are the true feminists because you understand the nature of women through the Torah) and you are teaching men that it's their role to daven and learn and daven and learn some more while their wife is home making Shabbos and Yom Tov and having more and more children...

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  17. Bec, It's the Mekarev. I have a few straight forward questions. Do you accept the legitimacy of someone spending their time trying to teach people about (what they believe to be is) the real Jewish approach? If not, then I am confused. Would you accept any Rabbi of any community, anywhere, teaching about Judaism from their perspective? If yes, what then would be the "correct" approach to doing so. Obviously, Jews are Jews at any age, so there should be no problem with creating communities on college campuses while they are away for four years. Is there a legitimate way to teach people about orthodoxy? I know that someone like cipher seems to dislike much of orthodox doctrine and ritual so he might say that orthodoxy is wrong, bad, misogynistic, antiquated and imperialistic. If that is one's opinion then it's not Kiruv that is the problem, rather the entire orthodox perspective on Judaism is the problem. You, however, said:

    "Even if people become orthodox--but choose it while being presented with information (as opposed to having information withheld,) that's fine. As you said, my words shouldn't be an issue for people in kiruv. My guess is that they only are an issue when the kiruv being practiced is less than honest"

    So, how exactly can it be practiced "honestly"? Is there an order that it must be taught in? Does one have to teach about Kol Isha before, let's say, halachos of returning lost objects? Do I have to teach them about Nidah before I mention esoteric ideas of marriage? Am I allowed to show them that Shabbos done "right" is beautiful, or do I have to first tell them that some people throw rocks at people who don't keep Shabbos?

    It seems to be a catch 22. On one hand I am "allowed to be open and teach about orthodoxy", but not in a way that might present it as a positive thing. So really, all I can do is teach them about why a secular, westernized, liberal minded person would hate orthodoxy. Do you see how it seems very skewed?

    I

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    1. You raise a very valid point, Anonymous Mekarev, and I can certainly see how it does sound like a catch-22.
      If a person is presenting orthodoxy, perhaps being honest that this is just one form of orthodox Judaism, and just one expression of Judaism on the spectrum of all types of Judaism would be a good start. Inviting people to a Shabbos meal, but also explaining how this can be incorporated into one's life without having to "go all the way" to orthodoxy to have the meals, the zmiros, and the friends and family. I'm not saying that a person with orthodox values should teach other forms of Judaism, just as it would be silly for me to start a kiruv organization (as others have suggested.) A huge problem is when people with little or no experience with Judaism are presented with orthodoxy as being the only valid expression of Judaism. Sure, to the orthodox rabbi, this may be true. But it is not true to the world at large, nor is it true to all Jews. That is the problem that exists before the issues of bedikah cloths, yeshiva costs, and BTs feeling alienated from communities of FFBs comes up. Just as there are many types of orthodox Jews, there are also many types of non-orthodox Jews, and not all should be orthodox.
      But just to go into deception for a second. Deception isn't just as narrow as not telling someone that some people don't wash their clothing during the nine days, or that people often refrain from showering on three day yuntifs. It's also withholding info about the organization--who the organization is affiliated with, who sponsors certain organizations, where the money is funneled from or to, and what the point of the organization is.
      Going back to your first questions--"Do you accept the legitimacy of someone spending their time trying to teach people about (what they believe to be is) the real Jewish approach? If not, then I am confused. Would you accept any Rabbi of any community, anywhere, teaching about Judaism from their perspective?"
      If I'm reading your question correctly, I'm fine with people teaching their version of Judaism as long as they're honest about what that version is. I would expect that a "campus rabbi" who is Reform, to be honest about his/her affiliation, and what his/her purpose was for being on campus just as I would an Orthodox rabbi.
      I hope I answered your questions. I do think that certain organizations are more honest than others, and some of that has more to do with the people sitting in their headquarters than those dealing with people. But I know that isn't true in all cases either.

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  18. Bec,

    Thank you for your clarifications. Two points to ponder. The Bostoner Rebbe was once asked about the definition of "Orthodoxy", meaning what defines a person as such, or more pertinently, how would one is becoming orthodox know when they have proverbially "arrived"? He answered that Orthodoxy is practically determined by fundamental beliefs about the world (existence of creator, divinity of the Torah, and accuracy of it's transmission). If one has those beliefs, he is practically orthodox. Practice he said, clearly is not a determining factor, since nobody keeps 613 mitzvos (only a few hundred are even possible today for anyone and certainly not everyone). Also, each individual has a different nature as well as nurture and therefore will be challenged by varying things in his or her life. Clearly this doesn't give legal license to "do whatever you want" as far as practice. The understanding is that generally ones practices stem from their beliefs, and so the natural progression for a newcomer to any system of practice would be to first understand the idea, and then change behaviors. This is true even of FFB's, once they begin to think for themselves, they will again be challenged in many areas of practice that they once performed out of chinuch alone.

    We all know that the Rebbe's definition here must be the only accurate one, for if not, would a person be "not orthodox" each time he spoke lashon hara? Would a teenager who kept a sports illustrated magazine under his mattress be actually not religious? Obviously not. You defined the ideal approach as:

    "Inviting people to a Shabbos meal, but also explaining how this can be incorporated into one's life without having to "go all the way" to orthodoxy to have the meals, the zmiros, and the friends and family"

    This is in fact EXACTLY what I say! What I do not say is: "Shabbos is just made up anyways. Thousands of years ago this is what they did, today we can do it however we want." That, in my opinion is clearly a false belief. Another example is that I ask them not to use their phones because I am orthodox and I don't use mine on Shabbos, and since they are in my home, I would appreciate them respecting my Shabbos atmosphere. Here they clearly know that I believe it is inappropriate to use a phone on Shabbos, yet they also know that clearly that is because I am orthodox.

    Secondly, not only have I introduced many students to some of our donors and partners (who are all orthodox) but they have spent time in their homes and gotten to know why many of these donors donate. The students know that there are orthodox Jews all over the world who would like Jews of every affiliation to be inspired to learn more and practice more. Would the donors like for every student to realize through learning and experiencing Judaism that orthodoxy is correct? Yes of course! But none of them stop donating even though 99% do not become orthodox. Why? Because that is NOT their goal. It is an IDEAL, but a real goal, is that students should at least be exposed to legitimate, classical Judaism. Every Jew deserves the chance to make an informed decision, and trust me, their reform or conservative synagogues are NOT giving them the orthodox side, so who will?

    Sincerely, Anon Mekarev

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    1. What do you mean "not giving them the Orthodox side"? If a person at the Reform temple is interested in Conservative Judaism, she can show up at their services or take some classes through the shul. If a person at the Conservative shul is interested in Orthodoxy, there are certainly many venues for them to pursue. Every Jew can definitely make his/her own decision but it should be a sought-out experience and not one to which they've been recruited on a college campus.

      And, WADR, the Orthodoxy promoted by Aish, Chabad, etc. is classical Judaism of a certain time and place. It's not the classical Judaism of my friend's Syrian family nor is it the classical Judaism of the Portuguese community nor of countless others.

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    2. Chana Nechama,

      Do you really mean that? Let's be honest here, I grew up around Reform camps and Conservative Sunday school, none of my friends or their parents ventured into an orthodox synagogue to ask questions, or take classes. We were taught that they were the past and that we were the future. If I hadn't been "recruited" by NCSY and had my father not been raised with a very strong Sephardic (will get to that in a minute) heritage, I never would have even considered it. I don't believe that I was lied to by Rabbis or teachers - they were 100% genuine. Unfortunately, they were also 99% ignorant about anything Jewish before the enlightenment. They also sold a product that very few people I knew would ever be interested in buying. Sure they would go to services twice a year and LIVE for Jewish summer camps, but a real, living belief and practice - that was for Rabbis only.

      As for the statement about pluralism, I can't agree more. My father wears a long, arabic kaftan to the seder and laughs at the word "Shabbos", while I prefer herring and a Rebbe's tisch, but don't for a second try to convince me that his Judaism is closer to Reform or Conservative than it is to Meah Shearim or Bnei Brak. He would be truly insulted. His family may not have been raised Halachically observant but I can tell you that they don't entertain for a second a "progressive" attitude towards their heritage. If anything the Syrian and Portuguese communities (as well as Iraqi, Morrocan, and Lebanese) are the MOST traditionally inclined.

      The truth, which unfortunately is hard to find unless real research is done, is that most of the Yeshivot and Sems in Israel DO NOT push Ultra-Orthodoxy but a Yeshiva flavoured centrist attitude. Meaning, they encourage people to be regular Orthodox, in any type or stripe, only that inevitably, people also fall in love with the "learning" culture that pervades the Israeli Yeshiva world. The overwhelming majority of people who have become orthodox from my campus have not become Ultra-orthodox, or Chareidi, or even Yeshivish. They are American Orthodox, which is what I consider myself to be. Also, given recent census reports and sociological predictions, in a few generations, the only identifiable Jews left in America will be orthodox, so practically, we are just encouraging them to be Jewish. By identifying as orthodox - or even just experiencing a community where Judaism is the lens by which we view the world - they are becoming part of the Judaism of the future, one that is always evolving, yet remains the same in essence. The door is always open for you to join as well.

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    3. To the poster who wrote: The overwhelming majority of people who have become orthodox from my campus have not become Ultra-orthodox, or Chareidi, or even Yeshivish. They are American Orthodox, which is what I consider myself to be.

      You may consider yourself to be American Orthodox or simply Jewish and not Ultra Orthodox, but to the friends and family of BT's, especially the secular ones who you recruit, you are most definitely Ultra Orthodox. You promote anything BUT a mainstream religion. You represent a fundamentalist faction of Judaism. Calling yourself anything else is the first big lie you promote.

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    4. The fact is that most families of BT's would consider even most forms of Modern Orthodoxy to be Ultra Orthodox, because any changes to ones activities on Shabbat or in one eats would be considered a massive change. However, the fact remains that most BTs are not modern orthodox, whether or not their family views them that way or not. The key hear is that families have a problem when their children make decisions that they disagree with. Whether it be marrying a person of a different race or religion, or of the same gender. However, its not PC or socially acceptable to complain about those things in this day in age. But it is still okay to complain about kids becoming Orthodox.

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    5. Of course it is PC to complain about kids becoming Orthodox, abandoning their friends, family and life goals. They aren't making decisions, they are being coerced and brainwashed into these "decisions." In fact, they are not decisions at all. They are the ways that people involved in cult like groups act. Don't try to play the anti semite card to defend the actions of kiruv, it makes you look even uglier than you already do.

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    6. So its not possible for someone to make a decision to become Orthodox, unless they are being brainwashed?

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    7. It is possible for people to become Orthodox without being brainwashed. When it happens over a very short period of time, to a young person, away from home & their parents for the first time, possibly in another state, immediately after an event such as breaking up with a girlfriend, without conversations about it with parents, relatives and others concerned about the welfare of that student, I'd call it cult like brainwashing.

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    8. Is over several years of college a short period of time or a long period of time?

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  19. And to the writer who said: Secondly, not only have I introduced many students to some of our donors and partners (who are all orthodox) but they have spent time in their homes and gotten to know why many of these donors donate. The students know that there are orthodox Jews all over the world who would like Jews of every affiliation to be inspired to learn more and practice more. Would the donors like for every student to realize through learning and experiencing Judaism that orthodoxy is correct? Yes of course!

    Meor Maimonides REQUIRES students to spend a weekend or two or three with these donors in one on one brainwashing sessions in order to collect the $400 that they were lured into the program with by a kiruv rabbi on a college campus.

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    1. Maimonides requires the students to spend Shabbos in a community. It does not require them to visit donors. Its not brainwashing. Its spending shabbos with 25 other students in their program, which they voluntarily signed up for. If it were spending a weekend building a home with a church group in the inner city, would you call that brainwashing? The fact that the moderator Bec wants to claim this to be a non-biased blog but allows such blatant anti-orthodox bashing only proves that she has a very clear anti-orthodoxy agenda

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    2. Read your own literature, and it very much IS brainwashing.

      SHABBAT AND HOSPITALITY. Weekly Shabbat dinners and special Shabbaton experiences introduce students to the beauty and warmth of Shabbat. Whether in the home of a MEOR rabbi, at a MEOR center near campus or in the homes of generous MEOR supporters, students are welcomed by families who are living Jewish lives and observing the enduring traditions of the Jewish people.

      And again, drop the "poor persecuted Jew" act.

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    3. Thanks for calling me out on my responsibilities as "moderator," Anonymous (2:09 PM.) I usually defend my point of view, not everyone else's, whether they agree with me or not. I'm also the blog author, not the moderator. My moderator quit when I was unable to raise enough funds to pay him. He's now overseeing Habitat for Humanity sites in northern Idaho.
      Also, never once have I ever claimed this blog to be "non-biased." It's obvious that I'm biased against deceptive kiruv. (If that's not obvious, I'll try harder to get that point out, I guess.) I'm not sure I see "orthodox-bashing" here to the extent that you claim. Perhaps, if you feel that people are misrepresenting orthodoxy, you should educate them on this matter. I'm providing the anti-kiruv articles. Also, I'm not sure which posts are yours, Anonymous. It seems that you share the same name as many of those commenting. Maybe you should be clear on what you find to be "bashing." Discussing the fact that many BTs often end up way over their heads in orthodoxy, and take on chumra after chumra (I think I stated this in another comment earlier) is a reality. Another reality is that to those families affected by these sudden changes in their kids, this is brainwashing. If you look at the tactics used by many of these kiruv organizations, they mimic the tactics used by cults and missionaries.
      Anonymous, you're claiming I'm anti-orthodox because of what other people have to say? That's like me claiming that you're anti-Israel because you're not stopping the Neturei Karta from voicing their opinions. It's obvious, based on that premise, that you're anti-Zionist, anti-Israel, and therefore, a self-hating Jew. Ridiculous, eh? I thought so.

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    4. Bec you are correct, your not anti-orthodox for allowing others to post anti-orthodox things on your webpage. However, you are creating an environment open to orthodox bashing. Its a natural bi-product of your website and as the creator, its up to you to decide if you are okay with that. The fact is that you could choose to take greater control of things or at least comment when you think the bashing has gone to far. (Ex: When people refer to belief in Torah or G-d as a fairy tale, delusion and the like) Much like most German and Polish non-Jewish Citizens were not Nazis, but rather passive people who let attacks on Jews happen without opening their mouths, so too, you sit back and allow these attacks to happen without saying anything. Its not the same as being anti-Orthodox but its definitely not a truly neutral or balanced position.

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    5. Hang on--if a person says that the bible or belief in God is a fairytale, that's orthodox bashing? So then are you saying that people who are Atheists are not welcome to voice their opinions? Are people who don't believe in a deity not worthy of posting here? Not everyone here believes the same thing, in the same god/gods, or has the same religious experiences. Not everyone here believes that the Torah is divine in origin. Should I silence their voices, just as those who disagreed with the Nazis were silenced? (See, I can play the Godwin's Law game too. ;) ) I don't see disagreeing with whether or not the Torah is true as "bashing."

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    6. I will concede, however, that there are people here who may come off as angry regarding kiruv. But don't think of yourself as a victim of their anger. Perhaps try to understand why they might be angry. In fact, I'm willing to bet that some of these people who are angry about kiruv have been victims of deceptive kiruv and that has now colored their opinions about orthodoxy. Just a thought to ponder.

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    7. German and Polish citizens did not enjoy free speech during WWII. My how tables have turned - now Orthodox Jews want free speech stifled!

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    8. If Free Speech is okay, then whats the problem with Kiruv? The fact remains that these are adults that are making decisions to become Orthodox as a result of what they are learning from these Kiruv Rabbis. If one's child comes home from a college campus now a Homosexual, do we blame the Gay people on campus for making them gay and not explaining all the negatives that come a result? I just don't understand where/how you draw lines. Please give me a system that can be applied to all cases and experiences. Many things affect one's involvement with their family. Their BFs/GFs and spouses, their political beliefs, their social beliefs and their religious beliefs. Please develop a standard/test that can be applied in all cases regardless of what the belief is, and show me how it works.

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    9. Based on your reply, I'm guessing that you're okay with Jews for Jesus missionaries wearing tzitzis hanging around yeshivas, and proselytizing students there. I started college at seventeen. Seventeen year olds are not adults. Legally, one is an adult at 18 but psychosocially, 18-21 year olds are not fully fully mature. You might consider reading this article. http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2009/10/teen-maturity.aspx
      "There were no differences among the youngest four age groups (10-11, 12-13, 14-15 and 16-17) on the measures of psychosocial maturity. But significant differences in maturity, favoring adults, were found between the 16- to 17-year-olds and those 22 years and older, and between the 18- to 21-year-olds and those 26 and older. Results were the same for males and females, the authors said." Also, just because one has the ability to reason as an adult doesn't mean that one is adept at making adult decisions or even thinking rationally at all times. Cults recruit at all ages. But even Chabad makes a point in their in-house literature for shluchim that they prey on college students because they're unencumbered by adult responsibility and can easily change their lives.

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    10. Kiruv is not engaging in free speech, it's engaging in deceptive speech, not unlike what Hitler did.

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    11. Anonymous 8:07PM said "If one's child comes home from a college campus now a Homosexual, do we blame the Gay people on campus for making them gay and not explaining all the negatives that come a result?"

      Do you have a problem with people being gay? Because I certainly don't. You have shown your intolerance for Atheists already. Now you're showing your intolerance and ignorance further. Being gay isn't a choice. But nice try. You do realize that non-orthodox people are reading your comments and coming to their own conclusions about orthodox people based on your comments. Way to create your very own chilul Hashem! Certainly you're not making the argument for kiruv if you're willing to turn off the very liberal and progressive people you would otherwise try to recruit if they were on campus.

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    12. And just to add to my comments, these attitudes are the very attitudes that I try to expose on this blog. It's that attitude of wanting to do kiruv without respecting the individuals, their beliefs, and their families and their beliefs, that I find problematic. On campus, you'll happily pretend to accept all Jews in order to draw them in, but behind closed doors, or while posting anonymously online, you let your true feelings emerge. That is deception. You have more than adequately proven the point of this blog. Thank you.

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    13. And to reiterate what bec has said: The "Orthodox" position is that homosexual acts are an abomination. Do you lead with that at Shabbos dinner? Because it's a pretty big damn deal in today's world. My kids are growing up with friends who have two moms or two dads. They don't question love. When they hit university, you're really gonna try to recruit them to observe a "Torah true" lifestyle (I disagree that all of Orthodoxy is Torah true but whatever) and have them slowly realize that their friends' parents are deserving of God's wrath? I predict the demise of campus kiruv in the next 20 years.

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    14. Why is following the law of G-d "a choice" and homosexuality not a choice? The flaw in your reasoning always comes back to the same point, which I have seen on here a few times. I know G-d and Torah are true. Therefore, I am just doing what G-d requires of me. It is not a choice or a decision, its a fact. You don't know that G-d and Torah are true, therefore, in your mind, my decision to be Orthodox, is a choice. You can know argue what it means to know something. However, ultimately belief is the issue we will come down to. However for me and other Orthodox Jews, its a simple issue of knowing it to be true. There is no choice.

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    15. Anonymous, you're talking like a crazy person. You choose to be nuts, fine. When you drag my friends and family along on your delusional ride I have a BIG problem. You are choosing to live in an ancient world with an ancient mindset. Homosexuality is recognized by scientific community, medical community and psychological community as not a choice. Wake up! To simplify my points: 1. Homosexuality is NOT a choice. 2. Religion IS a choice.

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    16. Bec or anyone else, Why is religion a choice? Pretend for a second to take the understanding of an Orthodox Jew--G-d is real. Torah is real. Therefore its no longer a choice. Why can't you objectively understand the view of an Orthodox Jew? (And FYI is the scientific community really the basis for things? They don't believe G-d exists-therefore you should have a problem with all forms of religion--so basically its just varying degrees of crazy to you-the reform Jew is only a tiny bit crazy, the hasidic jew is institutional and everyone else is in between?

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    17. I didn't say that all religion is crazy. I said YOU sound like a crazy person. Yes, the scientific, medical and psychological world is the basis for understanding sexual preferences. I understand that you believe God exists and that the torah is infallible. Go for it! Just don't recruit my friends and family to ride along on your crazy train.

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  20. I didn't compare Sephardism to Reform. I'm sorry if that wasn't clear. When Chabad started a program here sending packages to people for Shabbat, they stated that noodle kugel is the official food of Shabbos. That's promoting a very specific brand of Judaism that isn't authentic to many people.

    Before I go further, it all fell apart for me after I read James Kugel and Israel Finkelstein and realized that Matan Torah is probably part historical legend and certainly part historical creation. So I'm speaking from a point of view where I'm certain God doesn't care what I eat or when I sleep with my husband.

    Wanna know why I left American Orthodoxy (as you put it)? It was too divisive to my family. After 13 years I was sick and tired of dealing with the stress of separate food at family gatherings. I was and tired of having to make crazy arrangements to attend family events that happened on Shabbat. You can blame me or my family for not being suave and accommodating enough to balance it all. It's a classic cult tactic to blame those who have left for "not doing it right" or "not trying hard enough". If our families were Orthodox, we probably would've stayed Orthoprax because I think that if your family is functional, the most satisfying life is to uphold family tradition (within reason). but that's not our reality.

    The other reason I left is that I got sick of waiting for the Orthodox world to evolve to be more inclusive to women. Go ahead and tell me how happy your wife is. What a great job she has and how you are the one in your family who bakes the challah. That's awesome. But does she dance with the Torah on Simchat Torah? Will your daughter get an aliyah or leyn haftarah on her bat mitzvah?

    Women are excluded from the fundamentals of Jewish worship and I just couldn't stomach it any more. The religious ecstasy belongs to the men. The women set up the refreshments for afterward. It's archaic and it has no place in the way I'm raising my children.

    I've spoken to many women who want to leave Orthodoxy - they became idealistic BTs and only afterward realized how limiting American Orthodoxy is to women. I think they'd probably be happy if they had opportunities like those available at Yeshivat Maharat or Drisha and if the communities they lived in supported that type of education for women. But most of the communities don't. Their husbands are happy in American Orthodoxy because it's a man's world and they are not interested in leaving. My husband only became interested in leaving when our daughter was born and he realized what we were facing passing on to our kids. The nice Shabbat traditions and the sweet holiday observances come with a lot of BS. So we chucked the BS and have kept what we like and what makes sense for us.

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    1. I want to point out here that in the (great for kiruv!) book "One Love United," the BT's wife disappears from the narrative once they fully take on orthodoxy. Suddenly, he's the one going to the all night learning sessions, the rabbi's table, and dancing on Mt. Meron. Where is his wife? I'm guessing that she's at home with their children, making sure there's hot food on the table. Sure, she's a BT also, and possibly very happy. But she becomes invisible to the reader. Not every woman wants that life, and not every woman getting involved realizes that they will be relegated to certain gender-specific roles. Some will be happy, but that doesn't mean that all will be happy.. Some will happily take on this role. Others will wonder how they ended up in that position.

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    2. (One Love United was written by Avraham Novick, published by JSIC, 1997.)

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    3. chananechama--Had your family been more accepting and worked with you more to help you be able to participate in family functions would that have helped? Also, were you brainwashed and coerced? or was it rather simply that you no longer had the same beliefs 13 years later? Did you ever have those beliefs?

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    4. No. Life where I live was just too hard as a frum Jew. When I believed in Torah mi Sinai, we were willing to suffer for the sake of truth. When I learned that the truth was, in fact, different, to continue to live with the hardship seemed foolish. If I had retained my belief that the Torah was emes, we wouldn't be having this conversation. As I said before, we're keeping what we like and refusing to be martyrs to the fake cause any longer.

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    5. Can I ask by what you mean, where you lived, life was too hard? It was a geographic issue?

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    6. It was difficult to get kosher meat and the meat we could get was expensive and substandard. But that is skirting the issue. The issue is that none of it is true and so to go on spending $$$$ for unnecessary crap was insane.

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  21. My last comment is addressed to AnonymousOctober 29, 2013 at 4:39 AM though it somehow didn't appear in order.

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  22. Why don't kiruv professionals at college campuses simply get teaching certificates and teach for-credit or non-credit classes on campuses? Kiruv professionals might at once enjoy the endorsement of Universities and silence accusations of unethical recruiting. Is there a reason that Judaism as interpreted by kiruv professionals is not taught on college campuses?

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    1. I was a religions major at a top 20 University, and there were several Orthodox teachers who taught classes on Judaism, however one of them said to me the biggest difficulty he had was teaching Reform and Conservative Jewish views on things, since he did not believe in them. He prefaced the beginning of each class with his overall views on things and then barely mentioned Reform or Conservative view points, except to say they existed without going into any detail. He never said what their views were or explained how they differed. He would simply comment they existed. Would that be sufficient?

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  23. I just want to say that I'm glad I found this blog. I read a lot of the arguments here that I hear from my campus kiruv rabbi. He always talks me into agreeing with him even if I don't agree with him at first. I guess it's true what they say about going with your gut. I didn't know that Judaism was weird like this. I don't know much about Judaism though except for a few of my friends Bar Mitzvahs.

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    1. Yes, it's a shell game.

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    2. Not all Judaism is kiruv Judaism. But if you think that people are "talking you into" believing things that don't sit well with you, and you feel that you don't have a good counter-argument, that'd be a good sign to walk away. In college and grad school, I learned to always question. If the answers you're receiving don't work for you, don't feel pressured to accept them. Thanks for commenting.

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  24. Hey Bec, your friendly anon Mekarev again,

    I think you unjustifiably freaked out on someone before about the whole homosexual thing. I'm not sure that's what they meant. It's not about judgement, right or wrong. It's a simple question: If your child goes off to college and decides to start smoking, cross dressing, join the army, convert to Islam or w/e else it may be that you may not like (for w/e reason you don't like it, justified or not), do you blame his friends who peer pressured him into smoking? Or do you say, why son, did YOU start smoking? Do you call up the US army and demand they stop putting ads in magazines or on TV glorifying the military? Or do you say, why my son are YOU joining the army? The point was clearly not about comparing homosexuality to orthodoxy, it was only giving an example of an extreme lifestyle change (in the eyes of a parent).

    Personally, I would be embarrassed as a parent to assume that my 19 year old son is so immature that he is not held responsible for his own decisions. Smoking weed is glorified in college. I only know a handful of guys who don't smoke weed ever. Yet, if my sons grades plummeted and his life was out of control because he was high all the time, I would place the onus of responsibility on him. I wouldn't care if his friends or roommates were gangbangers or drug dealers, I would tell him that he is a fool for having such friends and a bigger fool for following them. Parenting is about teaching children responsibility, not blaming the world for "ruining" them. Also, he can vote, I assume we gave him that right because we think that he too, can make a mature decision, just like we came to that conclusion about black people and women. Unless you disagree...

    Moreover, from "my" Jewish perspective, my opinion is the opposite. The proof that college students CAN decide for themselves is that many of them learn about a Judaism that was never known to their parents, or (in my experience) even their Rabbis, and despite the many hardships, they make a choice, and they change their lifestyles! Do you honestly think that one Rabbi and his wife can brainwash a college student more than 40,000 liberal, "freethinking", yolo advicating college students? Trust me, if it were that "easy" you would see tens of thousands of students on campuses around the country becoming crazed frummies, when really the numbers are barely in the hundreds, less than 1% of American Jews in University (and trust me, these are the real numbers). Rather, the truth is that the Torah is a covenant with a people, for a purpose. In some generations more than others it is a difficult cause to champion, and therefore, the vast majority are not interested in it. The ones who are, are usually quite unique and always very brave.

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  25. Paragraph 1: Your examples either are not a choice (homosexuality), not lifelong (joining the army), or not likely to come between the student and his family (smoking weed). Becoming frum is theoretically all of those things. The only fair comparison you listed is conversion to Islam and I personally am opposed to any religion missionizing to college students in a vulnerable position.

    Paragraph 2: This is a fair point. They are legally adults. Can you really deny that paying a secular student to learn Torah and spend Shabbos in the frum community are fair ways to missionize to them? I know you probably think the ends justify the means but it just feels creepy to me. They aren't familiar with the kollel system - the idea of getting paid to learn is not native to them. It's yucky.

    Paragraph 3 - You said, "The proof that college students CAN decide for themselves is that many of them learn about a Judaism that was never known to their parents, or (in my experience) even their Rabbis," This is a very tired trope in the Orthodox community - that the rabbis in the other movements just don't know about "real" Judaism. Please stop it.

    We're at an impasse. You think you have God's given truth and that it's your duty to spread it. I think the brand of Orthodoxy you're peddling has too many flaws (even if one accepts that tradition is enough reason to maintain a lifestyle based fundamentally on legend rather that truth). You aren't doing the young women you mekarev any favours by encouraging them to submit to the gender-roles espoused by the community.

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    1. 1) Everything is a choice. There is a distinct difference between genetic predisposition and genetic determinism. They are not the same.
      2) Why are you speaking for them? Many of them like it. They hated being forced to go to Hebrew school, they like that they are rewarded for Jewish things (and so do their parents!) Sorry but "yucky" to you is not a determining moral factor.
      3) I used Parentheses for a reason, i.e. to state that the following statement was "in my experience". By "my" I meant, not everyone's, or more clearly, "what I am about to say is not a fact or a substantiated belief, only my experience"
      4)Not exactly. Personally I just think that they will have a better, more meaningful life. If there is a next world and I'm right, so hey, another bonus!

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    2. You think Orthodox women live more meaningful lives? Based on what I've seen at imamother, that appears largely untrue. And, as someone who has experienced years of life as an Orthodox woman raising children, I can tell you that I far and away prefer to be secular.

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    3. >>"You said, "The proof that college students CAN decide for themselves is that many of them learn about a Judaism that was never known to their parents, or (in my experience) even their Rabbis," This is a very tired trope in the Orthodox community - that the rabbis in the other movements just don't know about "real" Judaism." No, it happens to be true, however inconvenient. I was raised to be "American" and "pass" to be a genuine member of the restricted neighborhood-ivy league educated-upper middle class. Yiddish was forbidden. Going to our cousins for Pesach was not to be talked about. Bat mitzvah? Don't be ridiculous. Nonetheless, as an adult I elected to belong to a Conservative synagogue whose rabbi was wonderful (and the reason I was there)...in time, a new rabbi came in who preached that orthodox Judaism was a "cult" and that it "recruited" vulnerable, stupid people who didn't know better, etc.....I was stunned. If I wanted to hear hate and denigration of other Jews, I could sit in a Catholic church and hear it---but in a synagogue?!! Anyway, we (as a family) ended up at Chabad and it was the best decision we ever made for our family. I don't say that orthodox Judaism is "real" Judaism but my experience (can't speak to yours) is that orthodox Judaism has real learning, real meaning and people live it as opposed to being a Saturday country club experience largely devoid of meaning but good for schmoozing. Maybe kiruv is awful for some people--it wasn't for us, and like other commenters here, I believe people should be allowed to explore and make choices, whether that choice is to become frum or to leave the frum world. No guilt.

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  26. Anon Mekarev,

    When kids come out as gay or lesbian they do not change their diets, dress, ambitions, life goals, cut off their friends and family, move to an isolated community, start speaking as if English is their second language, or ask permission from a gay leader to attend family weddings & funerals that aren't gay enough. Comparing the decision to come out to being recruited into Judaism is absurd.

    Rapid changes in lifestyle, plummeting grades, withdrawing from relationships with friends and family . . . that sounds like a few kids I know who got involved with kiruv groups. Those are also signs of cult involvement - (and drug addiction).

    So, let me get this straight: kiruv creates havoc in the lives of college kids and their families, but parents should not complain about this. Instead they should feel embarrassed because they are not allowing their kids to experience personal responsibility. I don't think this is the time for "tough love," but nice try Anon.

    You must be running out of defensible points or you never would have asked this: Do you honestly think that one Rabbi and his wife can brainwash a college student more than 40,000 liberal, "freethinking", yolo advicating college students? Kiruv organizations send rabbis out to trawl campuses for fresh recruits. Did you think we didn't know?

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    1. 1) Some do, some don't. Not all BT's do those things either.
      2)Depends. If the lifestyle and relationships were unhealthy before and now they have changed, then we both agree that is not a "cult tendency" unless you define any change to be cultish. If their lifestyle and friendships were healthy before, why should they change them?
      3) They can complain all they want, it's the new way of problem solving! However, they should probably aim their complaints at their "foolish, immature, cult-minded, naive", children, not people who openly say "Hey want to learn about and experience a different approach to Judaism?" Maybe these students shouldn't leave home if they have not yet developed their critical thinking faculties. My parents sent me away from home for high school, they were not concerned that I would follow every whim or get sucked up by Jews for Jesus. Also, saying "nice try", even in 2013, is not enough of a rebuttal to a point.
      4)Great vocab with trawl, I haven't seen that word used in a while. I don't see what your question is though, yes some Rabbis walk around campus and recruit new students (personally I prefer networking), how does that refute my point?

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    2. Scientists studying the brain have found that "The late phase of myelin formation, occurring in teenagers, provides a neural basis for assuming that teens are less blameworthy for criminal acts that adults are, Gur says. There's no way to say whether, for example, an individual 17-year-old possesses a fully mature brain. But the biological age of maturity generally falls around age 21 or 22, in Gur's view.... Although gray matter volume generally declines beginning around age 7, it steadily increases until age 30 in a temporal-lobe region associated with language comprehension.

      Such findings underscore the lack of any sharp transition in brain development that signals maturity, according to neuroscientist William T. Greenough of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Definitions of adulthood change depending on social circumstances, Greenough points out. Only 200 years ago, Western societies regarded 16-year-olds as adults." http://www.phschool.com/science/science_news/articles/teen_brains_trial.html
      This is the second article I'm pointing readers here to that discuss that 18-21 year old's brains are not fully developed. There's a reason why college kids are known for doing crazy stuff that, when they get past that age range, they generally stop doing.
      But let's take this further because it's true: a person can be brainwashed at any age.
      Was Jews for Jesus freely recruiting on your high school campus? If not, why not?
      Most parents aren't concerned that kids will get sucked up by every cult when they send their kids away to college--that's why deceptive kiruv is disconcerting. Jewish leaders, for years, have been concerned about missionaries. That's why there are counter-missionary organizations run by orthodox organizations. Why do these organizations have a problem with cults and missionaries, but still find it acceptable to used the very same tactics with non-orthodox students? Because they happen to have a Jewish mother, it's therefore okay to look to change their lives dishonestly and without giving them the full picture?

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    3. Kiruv professionals recruit kids, mess up their lives and claim it's the kids' fault. There is plenty wrong with that. I realize that you can't see it, but to any reasonable person what you are doing is morally and ethically wrong.

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    4. Bec - would that mean that nobody is "really" making any free choices until 30 because they havent fully developed. What if they steal? or punch someone in the face? or impregnate a 15 year old? Are those decisions or can we blame the store, the punchee or the child mother to be?

      Anon - again, please focus. You have to explain why something is unreasonable, not just say that it is. Otherwise, we can have this circular discussion forever. How is it not a 19 yr old's (not a "kid", unless it's normal for "kids" to be going abroad for 6 months alone) responsibility to think critically about new information being presented?

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    5. Also in general, it seems that bec is the only one on here who can even acknowledge that a good point has been raised either in favor of, or at least in defense of kiruv/orthodoxy. Everyone else seems to glance over questions and comments, pick out what they can harp on, and fire away. What they cannot refute, they leave behind to go unnoticed, so that the dozens of great points that have been brought up have never been addressed or recognized. I agree that I am biased, but one thing that living on a college campus has taught me is how to think from a different perspective. People, lets try to be honest here. If the goal really is to "stop DECEPTIVE Kiruv" then we have to keep ourselves focused and not just make everything about whose (pardon me) proverbial penis is bigger.

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  27. What it means is that the brain is still developing. Legally they are adults. We've already agreed on that. If a student's birthday is in December, he/she starts college at 17. Do kiruv agents not target those with late birthdays until they hit 18? Is 18 a magic number for maturity? I'm sure you've known people who were very mature at 18 and others who didn't seem to fully mature til 23. Or maybe you haven't.
    Regardless, I'm sure you've read Aryeh Kaplan's "The Real Messiah." Why does that book exist? Do you not believe that Jews are targeted by missionaries? And if Jews are targeted, why should there not be literature to counter missionaries? This blog exists to counter missionaries also.

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    1. 1) True and actually often I will wait years before speaking to a student about further learning opportunities. ( I never have suggested to a student that they should take on any observance that they had not already expressed an interest in observing but I will suggest learning initiatives that promote observance in general - which is clear from the outset)
      2) I believe in Missionaries rights to free speech as well as mine and yours. Knowledge is power baby! Furthermore I believe that their tactics are acceptable as long as they don't outright lie about what Judaism believes. Obviously, many do. But then again, so do many professors. They don't do it intentionally, they just don't know what they are talking about.

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    2. The problem--as I see it--is that some in kiruv use deceptive tactics. I hope it's been clear that I'm not shooting down the nice Yeshivish family who summers here and invites my family for dinner because we've become friendly. And I'm not railing against my very good friend in Yerushalayim (who might love for me to be frum, but is just happy for me to be happy, I think :) ) who knows that if I ever find myself in her neighborhood, that I will gladly keep Shabbos at her house if invited.
      I agree with you on free speech. I also agree with you regarding knowledge. I'm going to go back to my original argument--if a person in kiruv isn't engaging in deception (again, this also goes for those on the organizational level/staff, etc.) then there isn't a problem. I do believe that there are people in kiruv who are honest and who are upfront about their expectations. I've spoken to people in kiruv who have said that they don't believe that everyone should be orthodox and that orthodoxy isn't for everyone. And that's fine and honest, and even better if people understand that.
      While I'd prefer not to be proselytized by anyone, I agree with you. People have the freedom of speech. So I exercise that by showing the other side of kiruv that I perceive as deceptive. I never expected to have such a huge number of emails and comments from people who have said "yes! that happened to me! I thought the same thing!" (I also get a fair share of hate mail, and regular anti-this blog email, to put things in perspective.)
      In terms of people lying, it happens all over the spectrum. But I should accept that campus kiruv is fine and falls under free speech, then it should also be accepted that there will be people who find problems within these organizations that push this type of outreach, and who want people to be aware of these problems. (That would be me.)

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    3. To Anonymous Oct 30, 7:35 AM - you said:

      . . . often I will wait years before speaking to a student about further learning opportunities.

      That is also known as GROOMING. It's a term used to describe sexual predators, cult recruiters, con artists and others who wait and wait before jumping in for the kill, or in the case of kiruv, before sending them off to a yeshiva in Israel.

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    4. Your response reminds me of Biblical criticism. If one assumes that the Torah was written by different men over a period of time, THEN it is easy to point to many places that could corroborate this theory. However, using those verses to PROVE biblical criticism is obviously circular logic. You need the assumption first, and then the belief becomes "justified". (For this same reason you cannot "prove" that there is a God because you have to first assume there is a God to then claim that certain phenomena prove it. Perhaps that is why although Jewish tradition claims that Avraham logically came to the conclusion of one God, we still see that the Torah only tells about his "experiencing" God, because there is no "logic" that can assure Gods existence)

      Your argument is the same. If you assume that Kiruv is a cult, then you can apply all the terminology to it, and presto, a "complete theory". Think about this critically anon 3:21, I said that I purposely wait and do not offer programming to students who are not interested. Is it possible that your theory is incorrect? Here are my reasons: (1) because I respect them, and their views, beliefs, and choices, therefore I do not want to send them somewhere that they would not want to be, or (2) they may very much want to be there but they may not be mature enough to avoid becoming swept away and act irresponsibly. 19 year old college students may be rash and cling to something in order to feel a sense of belonging.( As a matter of fact this happens all the time to students who join fraternities/sororities and only build up the courage to leave after a year or two)

      You see, once you make an assumption about Kiruv being cultish, you have colored your entire picture of the thing, therefore you will read "subliminal messages" in everything. This is a classic sign of a conspiracy theory.

      People sharing their beliefs to those who willingly come to hear them is not in any way a cult. No one is mutilating their genitals or poisoning themselves to death in order to join their Kiruv Rabbi on a spaceship ride through the Universe. They are just learning Torah.

      I want them to become more observant, YES. And as a matter of fact, I tell them that STRAIGHT UP. And you know what is marvelous, they don't run! They ask questions, and discuss ideas. Kiruv (engaging Jews through Judaism) like anything else, can be deceptive and self-serving, it can also be honest and enlightening.

      Sincerely, AM

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    5. Biblical crit doesn’t assume many authors over many years. After a century of study they mainly find many authors over many years, not one author all at once. It doesn’t address the idea of G-d at all – just whether one author at one time.

      Also, there are a lot of nice cults that don’t tell you to take space ship rides. The hare krishnas are a cult. They don’t give people a hard time who want to leave.

      Cults have a tendency to fear dialogue with outside voices. All information is supposed to filter through the cult, lest you wobble in your devotion to the cult’s ideals. OJ has these principles. If it did not, it would not have such high walls around it. It cannot afford a sustained, unflinching encounter with outside voices (even though it says it has the ultimate truth.) No evaluating allowed. That’s its only real flaw. It is afraid of listening to outside information.

      Tuvia

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    6. Tuvia,

      1) That's exactly the point. When you assume that the Torah was written by man, and you treat it like ANY other book, then you WILL find that it doesn't follow the pattern of books written by a single, human author. However, if it WAS dictated by God, then why SHOULD IT follow the pattern of a book written by a single man? The rules logically would NOT necessarily apply. Therefore, again, we are left at an impasse by which whatever you assume ipso facto will create the pattern by which you judge the evidence.

      2) What are you talking about? Have you ever read Maimonides' Guide to the Perplexed or anything modern written by Rabbi Lopez-Cadozo, Lord Jonathan Sacks, Yeshayahu Leibowitz or any other Orthodox Jewish Philosopher? They all are open to sustained encounters with outside voices, as are the many many Orthodox biologists, physicists, mathematicians and logicians. Your comment is on the boundary of NOT EVEN stupid - rather racist and prejudice. "No evaluating allowed?". I'm not sure what kind of Orthodoxy you are denigrating. Perhaps one that exists in the mind of those who are hellbent on criticizing all conservative opinions.

      I wonder, have you ever had a sustained encounter with a knowledgeable orthodox voice?

      Sincerely, AM

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    7. Part I

      AM:

      Regarding sustained exposure to outside voices, or dialogue with outside voices -- you can’t be correct. If you were, orthodox kids could learn secular subjects same as ordinary kids. And there would be no need for orthodox apologetics.

      So, for instance, evolutionary biologists think they have evidence for evolution. They can show it to you, discuss it with you, answer your questions.

      Other scientists can tell you the reasons, evidence why science has concluded the world and universe is old.

      Other scientists from different disciplines can show you why they see no evidence for a global flood, and how other cultures were carrying on through this Bronze Age story without sign of being extinguished.

      There are academic with beards and black velvet kippahs who can show you the converging evidence from different disciplines in favor of the Torah being written over hundreds of years. Some of it is archaeological, some textual, some historical, some pretty ingenious.

      These are men who pray three times a day – but happen to think the evidence is powerful and shows a long time frame for what resulted in the Torah.

      There are other black velvet kippah men who are academics who can show direct evidence for the masorah being concocted to strengthen belief, and not being historically accurate record of Jewish history – which itself shows many signs of being inaccurately stated from the traditional Jewish perspective.

      Why are so few orthodox shown these perspectives? Why can't an academic come in and be given a chance to show the evidence for doc hypothesis, concocted masorah, evolution, or old universe? Why is it a closed system?

      Tuvia
      Part I of II

      Delete
    8. Part II of II - response to AM

      Even on cursory examination – we have a tradition handed down from generation to generation of Torah from Mt. Sinai. However, in the beis din such evidence is considered hearsay and is not considered reliable on the face of it. A Jewish beis din would throw it out as hearsay.

      Even one generation away makes it unreliable to a beis din. You seem to accept it -- why? What does a Jewish beis din know that it is not telling you?

      Another problem is that many rabbis say that we have an “unbroken chain of transmission” back to Sinai. But even the goyim understand this is on the face of it not reliable – in secular courts they protect evidence in a chain of transmission whereby no interested party ever gets to handle the evidence.

      So the defendant and the prosecution are not permitted to touch evidence or control evidence. If there is reason to believe the evidence got out of the the control of disinterested third party – it is tainted and thrown out as no longer reliable.

      If we asked the defendant to hold the evidence against him for safe keeping until the trial. Such evidence could not be admitted.

      Rabbis are not considered a disinterested third party. Even the goyim know that this kind of transmission from generation to generation is not deemed reliable.

      My only point is not that you should not be religious – but don’t build in on the same system as communist Russia, or a show trial.

      In the old days, in Soviet Union, they would say “communism is obviously superior and the truth, and the West is decadent and classist and materialistic.”

      Only if you were in Russia you were not permitted to travel abroad to see for yourself. And you could not evaluate what they were saying because all outside newspapers, tv, radio, books were not permitted in. And if you didn’t agree that communism was obviously superior and the truth, you were subjected to interment in a forced labor camp.

      Compare the Soviet Union to the West. In America you come and go as you please. You can argue and talk and learn it all. We have an explosion of different media sources. You can go in to any bookstore and read anything from Ayn Rand to Das Kapital. Or got business school and learn all about capitalism or the social science courses and learn all about Marxism. You can believe as you wish (we even have communists in the US – they are welcome to their beliefs.)

      All I’m saying is, orthodoxy should follow the model of our society. Open inquiry. Dialogue. Outside voices let in. Listening to all points of view.

      The walls are very high around the orthodox community in terms of outside information. You know why.

      Kol Tuv,

      Tuvia

      Part II of II

      Delete
  28. I just want to say that there are so many Anonymous's--if that's your *real* name, that I am not always sure who made which points. So I apologize if I inadvertently ascribe points to the wrong people. Although, how would anyone really know if we're all anonymous? :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good point. I will end my comments with AM - anonymous mekarev, from now on

      Delete
    2. Thanks. I wasn't sure if that was you, and I appreciate the effort.

      Delete
  29. Kiruv workers go after secular Jewish kids like they are a commodity up for grabs to the most charming missionary. That is a vile and disgusting practice.

    ReplyDelete
  30. i am sorry, you guys are really blowing this campus kiruv way out of proportion. there is no brainwashing going on, 99% of the kids that have contact with the kiruv family are older than 18, usually much older. there is nothing sexy about going to the rabbi's house for a friday night dinner, most of the college kids would be out partying, lets be honest. so the kids that actually do go are generally looking/seeking for something more than the crap that goes on in college (dont be naive). and typically there is no pressure or brain washing, its just getting these kids, who have had zero exposure to their heritage, to see what its like. to show them that there is a beauty to leading a life with meaning and purpose and family, and the world is not only filled with the narishkeit they see on college campuses. nothing more, nothing less. the proof is that so few of these kids actually become frum!

    p.s. to those who claim that orthodox women are living unfulfilled lives or are opressed, you are generally speaking...WRONG. most normal orthodox women (not the hassidic sects, etc) are well educated, usually college degree, are working, havcing children, raising families, are happy, and content and have purpose and meaning to their lives. are some not happy? annoyed? unfulfilled? of course! every community has that (and my experience is that those unhappy ones would most likely be unhappy where ever they are...just their disposition)

    ReplyDelete
  31. Let me ask you this, ksil, will YOUR orthodox daughters have college degrees?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll answer for him ... sure they will, because you can't get into speech therapy school without at least a piece of paper from a degree mill.

      Delete
  32. Chana Nechama, Its AM. Did you see this anon post

    "Food for thought: James Kugel considers himself to be orthodox, and Israel Finkelstein is a formidable Archaeologist, however, no body of Archaeology has crowned him king of biblical knowledge and as a matter of fact, he is one of the most controversial voices on the Biblical scene"

    Did you ever read any critical reviews in archaeological journals or elsewhere of Kugel or Finkelstein? I believe there a quite a few

    ReplyDelete
  33. Of course I've read what their detractors have to say. I hold everything up and look at it from all sides I can think of. I'm not saying either of them is 100% correct in everything they've ever said/done. But what I've read by them and others is enough to cast a ton of doubt on all of it.

    And James Kugel basically states at the end of his book and elsewhere that he has remained Orthodox because this is how Jews have lived for millenia. If I had his family history, I would totally have stayed also.

    ReplyDelete
  34. ETA: And by "all of it" I mean the Torah and the concept of unbroken mesorah.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Chana Nechama,

    1) I agree with you, it does cast a lot of doubt. One of my inspirations, Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopez-Cardozo has this to say about living Jewishly when in doubt:

    Halakha is the practical upshot of un-finalized beliefs, a practical way of life while remaining in theological suspense. In matters of the spirit and the quest to find God, it is not possible to come to final conclusions. The quest for God must remain open-ended to enable the human spirit to find its way through trial and discovery. As such, Judaism has no catechism. It has an inherent aversion to dogma. Although it includes strong beliefs, they are not susceptible to formulation in any kind of authoritative system.

    Basically, he says that "halacha" is not and was never meant to be "The absolute truth of how to live, always" but rather, our human response to living with theological doubts and struggles. It provides the structure for the search.

    2)Well, until a few (maybe 2 maybe 4 or even 5) generations ago you had the same family history. I'm not trying to be Mekarev you don't worry. I'm only presenting an argument for why perhaps your choice to no longer be observant should not necessitate a distaste for all things Orthodox, especially if you spread that distaste to others who are genuinely searching. Your decision was based on personal doubts, not proven fact, and many people who have your same doubts, come to different pragmatic solutions.

    Sincerely, AM

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't CN the commenter who said she was raised liberal Protestant?

      Delete
    2. AM, I really hate to be so blunt, but you're full of @#$$%. Kiruv con artists like you keep spinning the tired tale about how we were all one big beautiful family until just two or three or even five generations ago, and it is simply NOT TRUE. I can prove this in my own family, (and there's a good chance I could do it in yours too), by tracing my family's ancestry. My ancestors five generations back died between 1903 and 1934. I have vital records, newspaper articles, photographs, and two published biographies about the maternal line of my family, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that they were NOT practicing Ultra orthodox Judaism. They were Reform Jews. They sat on Reform Synagogue boards, cemetery committees, were active in their communities, and had nothing to do with orthodox, never mind ultra orthodox Judaism. They were no anomaly, they were part of a large thriving Reform Jewish community. Incidentally, the paternal side of my mother's line was also Reform. I am sick and tired of charlatans like yourself repeating the lie over and over again about how back in the days of our grandparents all Jews practiced alike. The fact is, Jews never, ever practiced alike, and you know it. There were ALWAYS sects in Judaism, just like there are now.

      Delete
    3. I *love* Rabbi Cardozo. I try to read his stuff regularly.

      Yes, I was raised liberal Protestant. O conversion.

      Delete
  36. Anon,

    I'm sorry, perhaps I wasn't clear. Of course there were/are sects. Judaism is extremely pluralistic and has always been (Sefardic, Germanic, Chassidic, Mystic, Naturalistic etc.) I was referring to CN's comment about family history. I hadn't realized that she was a convert, that changes my point entirely. Had she been born into a Jewish family, she would've had in her family - yes maybe many many generations back - Jews who were halachically observant. I was not making an argument for everyone having always been orthodox. However, it is crucial to point out that no Jewish movement that denies the (very) few fundamental Jewish beliefs (Belief in an Ultimate Being and that He dictated an eternally obligating Torah - its written teachings and oral explanations, respectively) has survived as "Judaism" for more than a few hundred years. The rest, I agree, has been up for fierce debate and should be. If you scratch those as official beliefs though, you will fall off the Jewish map eventually. Case in point, I have never seen anywhere Jewish denominations listed as: Reform, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, KARRAITE, etc. Karraites may still "exist" but aside from their own certainty that they are the "real" Jews (another famous historical claim), even non-Jews wouldn't consider them so. As movements, I believe this will sadly happen to those modern movements as well that deny/do not require these beliefs. It doesn't make those fundamentals beliefs correct, but based on history, it is a recipe for extinction as a valid Jewish movement.

    As an aside, notice that I have never name called or insulted anyone. I have approached each comment with respect. Had I been the one to say some of the things that are said to me on this blog, I think many would be up in arms. Just food for thought.

    Sincerely, AM

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AM,
      You're right, and you have my apologies. Just because we're not all in agreement does not make it right to hurl insults at each other. I'm sorry that I've been absent the past few days from this specific comment thread, and again, we're never going to get anywhere without respect.

      -bec

      Delete
  37. CN,

    I discovered Rabbi Cardozo a while back. He is a hero to many of us for daring to go where others are too afraid, yet doing it without hate or anger, and still remaining true to Halacha. Of course, anyone who takes truth as seriously as he does will have a field day with practically every area of Halacha, especially as it is found in the Haredi world today. However, as someone who has spent many years learning and discussing Halacha, while spending many more than that mulling over questions of belief in Judaism, I have found Rabbi Cardozo's perspective to be a game-changing element of surprise. I am amazed that I never saw it before it is so obvious! Halacha is LITERALLY a response to not having the ability to know enough truth to act properly in every situation. It is a struggle to make real beliefs, practically real. It creates a "waiting room" culture - traditions and rituals that bind people together, as we wait for the answers of the future.

    I feel it is a beautiful approach, and more importantly, much closer to the truth.

    Sincerely,
    AM

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    Replies
    1. His is a very beautiful approach. If I could shut my eyes to the misogyny practiced in the parts of the frum world which are holding back the innovations of Open Orthodoxy (you'll forgive me if I'm really wrong in thinking that Rabbi Cardozo and the Open O kehilla share some common elements), perhaps I would feel more comfortable about Jewish practice in absence of belief.

      As of now, I'm so revolted that we are still dealing with the concept of mamzerim as a way of keeping women chained to abusive husbands, that I can't get beyond it. The very idea of mamzerim canNOT come from God. It just can't. And if it does, I want nothing to do with such a God. It must be manmade. Like the rest. Let's get rid of the junk (and there's a lot of it) and keep the beautiful bits.

      Delete
    2. And, in the mean time, let's stop chareidi kiruv organizations from promoting their brand of anti-woman Judaism.

      Delete
  38. CN,

    I genuinely don't understand why you believe that. My wife went to one of the "frummest" Beis Yaakov high schools around and she has never felt that Chareidi Judaism is anti-woman. Today we may not be exactly "Chareidi" but that is in no way because of the way women are treated. I have spoken to her about it very honestly, and she really doesn't feel that way. Mamzerus is a "spiritual condition" that one is born with as a result of the conditions under which he/she was conceived, it is not a judgement about a person. I think the main issue for you possibly is this:

    "The very idea of mamzerim canNOT come from God. And if it does, I want nothing to do with such a God."

    Two points. First of all, good for you. Avraham also disagreed with God's decisions. So did Moshe. However, they were willing to accept that if after all the disagreement and dislike, God did in fact say "X", then "X" it must be. If not where would we be as humans?
    If God has rules that I don't like then there is no God? If my parents have rules that I don't like do they cease to exist? A God that is confined to my standards is in fact, more of an created Idol then a God.

    Sincerely, AM

    ReplyDelete
  39. Ask your wife if she's ever learned Yoreh Deah 252:8. You know, the part of the shulchan aruch that commands we save drowning males over drowning females. I'm going to guess that no, she hasn't learned that. Halachic judaism treats women as second class citizens.

    ReplyDelete
  40. 1) Most parents with common sense don't make rules that stifle and oppress entire groups of people (in spite of what some teenagers might claim).
    2) I believe in God, but I believe Judaism is wrong about It. The ideas of spiritual tuma are merely relics of ancient belief structures which allowed people to keep hope alive in very trying times - there were rituals they could do to be "better" and hope that their redemption would come. The idea of mamzerim controlled women's bodies. If a husband did not want to divorce a wife, he could punish her with withholding the get. She wouldn't dare risk another relationship which bring tainted, spiritually deformed children into the world. She was trapped so she could be controlled. The concept of agunah/gittin is one of the biggest anti-women portions of chareidi society. At least many MO rabonim have worked long and hard to find ways around the system for agunot.
    3) The chareidi world's preoccupation with tzniyut is bordering on OCD. Everything is blamed on the way women dress and women are constantly urged to cover more and more. It's complete and utter misogyny. Have you ever tried to tend a toddler in a skirt? Hike in the woods in a skirt? Have any kind of active fun in a skirt? It's not easy at all. Many women manage for whatever reason but many also prefer a nice pair of jeans.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Salwar kameez--the best of both worlds. Used by women world-wide.

      Delete
  41. MP,

    This is a lose-lose for me. If I say she doesn't know about that, that you will feel that you are right. If I say the truth that she actually does and is not bothered, then you will say she is brainwashed. So, no comment.

    CN,

    1) lol thats EXACTLY the point. You are the teenager who thinks they are stifling. God is the parent telling you they are what you need to be successful.

    2) I understand the position. I disagree. I believe Torah is from God even when we don't like it. I truly wonder how many frum people you really know, inside and out. I didn't grow up this way and I can tell you, that as much as you paint the Torah out to be monstrous, it is the most beautiful lifestyle that I have ever seen. The marriages ARE better than most. The friendships are DEEPER. Why do you think people become frum and are willing to deal with all the hell they get for it from so many people? They want to have what they see in people that they know. You are right, there may be many frum people that aren't any better than what they have seen. But what they see in the good frum ones THEY HAVE NEVER SEEN in anyone else ever! And these bt's are from great families and strong communities. I could tell you stories for years on end of feats of human greatness achieved by frum people that are so far beyond imaginable in a secular world. The same familiarity that you seem to have with halacha should be applied to all the "beautiful"examples as well. Did you know that the Rabbis of the Talmud 2,000 years ago were concerned with how not to deceive idolaters, even in cases where there was no loss to them at all? Who else at a time when Romans were feeding people to animals for sport would think along those lines? How about the Halacha that you cannot kill an innocent person even to save your own or your children's lives, because how can a human being make an evaluation of the worth of one life compared to another!? How about that a husband HAS to divorce his wife if he no longer wants to be with her. Do you know what women were considered by the whole world until recently? Property. Not by the Torah though. No, the Torah says that a women has to be valued as a person. She has to be treasured and taken care of, and if you are not willing to do that, then you have to give her documentation that you are not willing to do such, so she can find someone who does want to respect her and care for her needs. Does a ksuba make ANY demands on a woman? NONE. Your bias is SO one sided it is painful to read. Let's both be honest. The Torah has strict demands and social structures, some of which are outstandingly beautiful to the modern "moral mind" and some of which are outstandingly horrible to the modern "moral mind". That doesn't make either one of them more or less the word of God.

    Sincerely,

    AM

    ReplyDelete
  42. AM, I was frum for 13 years in different communities. What you are saying just doesn't hold up at all to my experience - not in the frum world and not in the secular world.

    I think your response to MP really says it all - there are parts of the Gemara - and indeed the Torah - which are indefensible. How do I teach that to my daughter - that the Gemara says to save her brother over her? You are cherry-picking your data as much as we are.

    I really feel for you. It must be frustrating to be certain and satisfied in your life and yet be confronted with an ugly side to it. And I'm not trying to be sarcastic or snarky.

    ReplyDelete
  43. CN,

    I genuinely do not find it indefensible at all to tell my daughter that we would save her brother. Every created thing has a different purpose on this earth, some fulfill it by remaining longer, some by remaining shorter. If the Torah tells us something, it is defining for us the reality. If a doctor told you that your son had a gene that would cure cancer and save millions, would you not save him as well? If God says that his life is more neccesary, should it be different? I am not cherry picking at all. I agree with you 100% that if you define morality by the most recently popular opinion of it then you are most certainly right, the Torah may indeed be, "immoral".

    As I have told you, I am only certain of one thing, that I do not know everything and that I will never know everything. Therefore, I weigh the options and then "believe" what I feel is the most accurate description of reality that I know of. Doubt is my friend, belief is my best friend.

    ReplyDelete
  44. (I almost forgot)

    Sincerely,

    AM

    ReplyDelete
  45. "I genuinely do not find it indefensible at all to tell my daughter that we would save her brother. Every created thing has a different purpose on this earth, some fulfill it by remaining longer, some by remaining shorter." Gonna use that one in your next kiruv talk? ;)

    ReplyDelete
  46. Actually I would! I will tell you something beautiful. I had a few friends in Yeshiva who had a classmate who passed away in their senior year of high school. Of course, it was a traumatic experience for everyone involved. A Rabbi who was very close to the family got up to speak. He said one thing.

    "Summer Friday afternoons are longer, and winter ones are shorter, but those who care about Shabbos, always manage to be ready. Some lives are like a summer Erev Shabbos, and some are like a short, winter one. Mikey, your life was a winter Erev Shabbos, but you were more prepared for your eternal Shabbos then many of us might ever be. We will miss you"

    My friends told me that the Rabbi's words were the only ones that could provide any consolation.

    (as an aside, I think you may be warming up to me :-P)

    Sincerely,

    AM

    ReplyDelete
  47. I would be interested to see the reactions among your college students...as a student in a kiruv environment during grad school, that message may have put me off frumkeit entirely.

    The example you give about the rabbi's words for your classmate's lost friend are after-the-fact, though., as beautiful as they are. Yes, we need to accept what is. We don't have to predispose people to "what is" based on their sexual characteristics. Essentially what this passage in the Gemara is saying is that a girl's life is worth less than a boy's life. I'm really not ok with that as a decision-making paradigm.

    As for modern morality, I think it's every bit as legitimate as an ancient moral code. I'm short on time and I have more to say on this topic but I'll leave it here for now.

    ReplyDelete
  48. 1) Everyone connects spiritually to different ideas. I have found that what might turn one person off completely, will be extremely thought provoking and inspiring to another.

    2) The same Torah that gave us a prohibition against ever min hachai, deceiving people, and taught us the equal value of life in murder situations, tells us this law, irrespective of the " I " you speak of.

    3) It all goes back to whether or not morals are relative. I would not want to live in a world where they were. (Thank God, or perhaps thank our ancestors, that at least half the world today believes that morals are not, in fact, relative)

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  49. Glad I came across this blog because I am in the middle of this with my child. These people are going to continue doing what they do and they will continue to present it as benign to both parents and students. The only solution is for parents and other loved ones to ask tough questions about their children's life on campus and not be afraid to get involved and take a stand.

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    1. I agree with you completely and I'm sorry that you're going through this. I'm glad that you're online researching. Don't be afraid to ask those tough questions and to press for real answers. Many answers that are given are often meant to appease. Get involved, take a stand, and share your concerns with people on campus. I wish you the best of luck.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous, I went through and continue to go through this nightmare with my child. Kiruv is slick. It's well rehearsed. They have all the answers, and they're probably better at recruiting than you are at deflecting.

      If I could do it again I'd pull my child out of college at the first sign of kiruv. My kid is brilliant & at a top 25 University. S/he went from honest, reliable & a top student to evasive, robotic & nearly flunking out of school in a matter of two months. This is serious & you may need an army of support to get your child out of this.

      My advice is to rally the troops. Speak openly about this to your family, friends, anyone who can help support you. If you are secular your head is probably spinning. I am, and mine still is. If you are Reform or Conservative you might find support with your rabbi. Or not. Don't expect help from your child's University. Someone pretty much has to die before they'll ban a group. If your child is involved with Chabad there is a strong argument that it's a cult. If your child was recruited by Aish or Meor they are "only" considered cult-like. The difference is Schneerson, the charismatic leader. The recruiting practices employed by both groups is cult like.

      You have my deepest sympathy. This is a long hard road for parents. Some of us lose our kids forever to these groups. Some do not.

      Delete
    3. Woah Anonymous Dec 6th! Slow down...what? I have been a campus rabbi for a while now and I have never seen:

      S/he went from honest, reliable & a top student to evasive, robotic & nearly flunking out of school in a matter of two months.

      Maybe there are organizations where that has happened, but with us, the most change I have ever seen in 2 months is a once a week study commitment and Shabbat meals every Friday night. Why should your son/daughter be evasive and flunking out of school? What rabbi has that much time to even spend with one student? I don't mean to be insulting and this is not deflecting, I am asking seriously, is it possible that your child has some issues with emotionally instability in general? I do know that being introduced to ideas in Judaism that one never knew can be jolting. When I started learning Torah it definitely caused deep soul searching that made it hard to just "live normally" so to speak, but there is a vast difference between that and what you are describing.

      Pretend for a minute though, that I am your child's rabbi on campus. Now, I can't win because you will read everything I write as being a slick answer, which is why (no offence bec) this blog is not helping. If you could meet me, look into my eyes, see that I care about your kid because they are a fellow brother or sister and I want to give them a chance to live a fuller Jewish life (yes fuller! there is SO much beauty in simple sayings of the sages that they can use towards a wiser outlook, not to mention developing a stronger relationship to the Almighty - the purpose of the Torah) while retaining everything that is beautiful and healthy about their life already (including their family bonds!), then it would be harder to look at me like a brainwashed manipulator vying for your kid's soul. And if I could see your eyes, and your love and worry for your child, then I would realize all the more that your kid is not just another college student, or another "not yet religious" young adult, but a beloved son or daughter, who has a strong sense of Jewish values and morals - without being orthodox - and is searching for a deeper sense of self, not necessarily a complete lifestyle overhaul. But instead we type away, judging each other unfavorably and both believing that if the other one "wins" then your child will lose out a truly joyous and deeply meaningful life.

      That's the difference between you and your child though. Your child DOES know me. S/he has looked into my eyes and felt that, and that's why s/he is put off when you are so skeptical and judging. S/he doesn't understand what you are so worried about, if anything, s/he may start to suspect that you are the one who seems to be controlling and manipulative. Why would you have such a negative outlook towards a person of the rabbinate who teaches Judaism to those who know less of it than they? Why can't you believe that his wife is sincere and welcomes people into her home and life in the spirit of our forefather and mother Abraham and Sarah? I'll give you some friendly advice if I may. If you want your child to listen to you when you are trying to be reasonable with them, then listen to them when they are trying to be reasonable with you. You may find that they are just hurt that you are not applauding their interest in Judaism when their whole life you pushed it on them. Just open your ears and your heart and you may be surprised to find out that they are not looking to abandon you for hare krishna but rather to strengthen their identity as a Jew and a person. Perhaps if your community back home was deeply concerned with the issue they might consider sending out their own rabbis to help us. For now, we are alone, and so when your child is looking to connect, it's only an orthodox Jew that will be there to fan that flame.

      Sincerely,

      AM

      Delete
    4. AM,
      This blog is helping in that it gives legitimacy to the other side of the argument. When parents are faced with their child all of a sudden refusing to come home for holidays and telling them that their lifestyle no longer allows them to eat at grandma's house, they have questions. Having a nice Shabbat meal with the rabbi, his family, and twenty other kids is fine, and shelling out a donation here and there is great, but how do you expect non-orthodox parents to react when their kid tells them that they're taking some time off to attend yeshiva or seminary in Israel, and then comes home a totally different person?
      One of the problems with orthodox kiruv is that it pushes people to an extreme. Are kiruv rabbis telling kids that it's okay to be anything other than orthodox? Are they telling kids that even within orthodoxy, that there are other, more liberal avenues to explore (such as modern orthodoxy?) They're not.
      When concerned parents go to the internet to find information on the group their child is involved with, they should be able to find information presenting differing views. I find it interesting how many people in kiruv have gotten annoyed that this blog is up and that these views are being presented. Not directed at you personally, AM, but I do believe that there is a fear that people will see this information and start talking and stop funding kiruv initiatives. Or start asking questions that perhaps kiruv professionals don't want to have to answer. I'm just speculating. I think that putting dissenting information out there is important.

      Delete
    5. Hi, AM. Missed you ;)

      It's great that you encourage students to study the words of our sages. There certainly is a lot of wisdom to be gained - especially from Nach. But the problem is when students start drawing boundaries with people in their former lives - as bec mentioned, no longer eating at Grandma's house, not attending a family event on Shabbos, etc. That's the kind of thing that sets off alarm bells in parents. As much as you want to believe that trefe food is "spiritual poison", putting up barriers between family members is much more harmful, IMO. If kiruv organizations would encourage students to take less of a hardline stance - really actively encourage it - I would have less of a problem. But I know your halacha wouldn't allow you to do that.

      My mother did her best to conform to my beliefs. I kept dishes/pots there sealed in a box (resisting the urge to make a snarky comment about "goyishe" cooties here) and she took a deep breath and let me do what I needed to do. She sat in substandard, overpriced kosher restaurants and changed the starting time of their anniversary party so I could go after Shabbos. But all these concessions on her part (and practically none on my own - Shabbos and Kashrus were more important than my mother's feelings, after all!!) kept a huge amount of tension in our relationship for years.

      When I had kids after being frum for 6 years already, imagine the pain she had knowing that my kids would never be able to easily travel to spend a week with her? She couldn't cook for them. Shabbos would be a problem. What kind of relationship would she be able to have with them? These are very real problems that both my parents revealed to me later that they cried over. My father almost cancelled his trip to me my firstborn because he was so hurt imagining the limited relationship he would have with this child.

      But, you say, there are ways to overcome these problems! Yes, there are, if the people involved are superhuman. Alas, we are not in my family. We are normal humans who do our best but often get it wrong. And so the tension remained until this past summer when my 86 year old grandfather came thousands of miles to visit us (I may have mentioned this upthread but it bears repeating). My Opa. His way to "treat" our family was always to go out for a nice meal together. So when Opa wanted to take my husband and I out for a meal in a nice restaurant (no kosher restaurants here), it seemed like the dumbest thing in the world not to go. So we went. And it still makes me cry to think about my grandmother, A"H, who tolerated everything lovingly but who was secretly baffled and hurt by my lifestyle change.

      And I'm not blaming anyone here. I converted of my own free will but I was college age when I started becoming frum and I had no idea what the consequences would look like further down the line. Thank God my husband and I are of like mind on this issue. I know plenty of couples whose marriage suffers when one no longer wants to be religious and the other (often the man, but not always - why is that?) wants to maintain observance.

      So, teach people about their heritage. That is laudable. But I wish you would encourage them to put family first before anything instead of sacrificing themselves on the kiruv alter for the alleged "good" of their children (and we've already discussed why I think chareidi Judaism is horrible especially for girls)..

      Delete
  50. Thank you for that smug, patronizing and well rehearsed missive. Good job blaming the victim too. I would expect nothing less from a slick cult leader.

    One thing though, I don't feel shamed into silence after your little talking-to. Was that really your best effort?

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  51. Thank you, Bec, for this blog and for giving voice to those of us who are harmed by kiruv. I used to shrink after the kind of post that the kiruv rabbi above just spit out. Thanks to the encouragement and support of anti cult and OTD groups, and this blog, I've found my voice and am better equipped to stand up to bullying kiruv workers.

    There is so much work to be done to educate secular & non practicing Jews about the kiruv machine. This blog is one of the two best sources of information about kiruv on the internet. It is making a difference, and the world is a better placer for it.

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  52. Haha, you guys are hilarious sometimes. Why whenever I say anything intelligent or critical it must be a smug, patronizing, well rehearsed talking to spit out by a slick, bullying cult leader (lol I still can't stop laughing)? Bec, remember how I pointed out a few weeks ago that I never name call or insult people but it's seems only fair to insult me? Why do many people here seem to be so scarred that instead of addressing issues they lower themselves to personal attacks? (at someone they have never met!). It's actually funny.

    Thank God there is some humor on this blog though, it lightens things up.

    Sincerely,

    AM

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    Replies
    1. "Why do many people here seem to be so scarred that instead of addressing issues they lower themselves to personal attacks? "

      Did you really mean scarred? Or was it a typo for scared? Because I think scarred is the truth. :(

      As an aside, did you read Rabbi Cardozo last week? Secular morality vs religious morality? I think he really phoned that one in and I was pretty surprised since his stuff usually has much more depth. Strawmen are annoying.

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    2. Yes I meant scarred. My point was that we have to be able to separate our emotions from our reason when having an open discussion about real life issues. If one cannot, he/she should consider not saying anything at all.

      (You asked why men usually "hold out" longer before going OTD, I believe this is the issue there as well. It is harder for men to react purely to the emotional difficulties of being frum i.e. challenges in familial relationships because generally speaking men feel more strongly accountable to reason than emotions. This is sometimes negative, sometimes positive. As a total aside I will suggest you consider the opposite case, someone whose entire family is Chassidish but no longer believes in Judaism. Should he not "follow his beliefs" because emotionally he will put a strain on the family dynamics? Should he be set up with a girl, marry her, live near by, go to kollel, not shave, have to keep shabbos etc. for his whole life just to please them or make it easier for his parents to be with his children. Maybe you believe he should, I do not)

      Yes I read Rabbi Cardozo last week. It did feel it to be a bit strained. However, I have found him to be quite wise so I didn't write it off right away. I need more time to think about it. As a first thought, I think it is much more theoretical than practical. Nobody secular constructs as high of a moral wall as he describes, for the simple reason that secular morality is based on moral relativism. Therefore, I cannot imagine any secular community being truly freed by 613 structural rules as apposed to "thousands". Also, if someone is truly secular than how much more so would they not accept a "lowering of their moral code" and accept religion. That would be the equivalent of being immoral in the name of God, something no rational person could do if they do not believe in God, and maybe even if they do! Either way it is difficult to fathom. I will wait a week and read it again and reconsider.

      Missed you too and wishing you well,

      AM

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  53. OK, AM, I will address you seriously and without humor:

    I have heard the kiruv spiel and I find it offensive. I think that you talk a good talk and that you are full of, well, lies.

    1. I have heard the arguments that you gave from other kiruvniks. That is why I call what you said well rehearsed.

    2. Presuming that someone "will lose out a truly joyous and deeply meaningful life" without religion, specifically your version of it, is smug. And arrogant.

    3. The tone of your reply was indeed most patronizing. Saying that you look into my child's eyes and that my child knows you is disturbing for three reasons: a. It implies that I have a poor relationship with my child and you have a good one, even though you have never met my child; b. it suggests some kind of power you hold over my child and over me by association; and c. it conjures up disturbing images of an inappropriate, if not illegal, sexual relationship. Describing power you hold over another person and saying it nicely is patronizing. Look it up.

    3. As I said, I find kiruv offensive. I could have described your reply as venomous, hateful, or as a ridiculous fantasy, but I chose to describe your reply as spit out. Like a computer spits out answers. Like a kiruvnik spits out answers. Would you have preferred I said eloquently delivered verbiage?

    4. I stick to my description of your answers as slick. That you would easily blame the victim of kiruv and the undesirable change in their personality as some kind of mental instability while simultaneously accepting no responsibility or or even acknowledging the harm that kiruv causes, is slick. It's neat, tidy, absolves kiruv of any wrong doing, and if you're lucky it shuts up the person your speaking to. I'll also add that it's immoral, especially coming from someone who society generally puts in a position of trust. Today isn't your lucky day because I will not be shut up.

    5. Your style of bullying is the soft type, but it's bullying nonetheless. Blaming a victim is a form of bullying. Making light of and ridiculing my reply to you is a form of bullying.

    6. You never insult people? Claiming that you "know" my child and the disturbing images that suggests is insulting to any parent. Making light of and ridiculing my reply to you is insulting. Trying to invalidate my position against kiruv by describing me as "scarred" is insulting. Blaming victims is insulting. Trying to bamboozle me and others with well rehearsed kiruv lines is insulting.

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  54. 1. If I ask three people what 1+1 is and they answer 2, does that make their answers a rehearsed conspiracy of lies, or perhaps that is the greatest sign that they are true?

    2. Please re-read what I wrote. We BOTH believe that about your child. You believe that if they become "fanatically orthodox" then they will lose out on a truly joyous life. So you are as patronizing as I.

    3. Are you actually sick? I am talking about a friendship. A sincere relationship where two people feel they can trust each other. I'm sorry that when you hear someone describe a friendship you here sexual innuendos and power struggles. I don't know how you got to implications that you have a poor relationship with your child. I challenge anyone objective outsider to read what I wrote and come to that conclusion.

    4. I would prefer if you give another human being basic respect and the benefit of the doubt.

    5. I'm not trying to "shut you up". I never blamed the "victim" (your language choice belies your agenda), rather I said that I have never seen such extreme changes in such a short time. I aknowlegded that it COULD happen. I absolved MYSELF or responsibility because It never happened near me and I never heard about it. (Not true, it did happen once. It was in 6 months and the student admitted that it was NOT due to anything done by kiruv rabbis but rather to his/her own mental state at the time. I questioned them because we were nervous that we were doing something wrong. He/she insisted that we were not and that they were running from something else in life and tried to use Orthodoxy to escape. I encouraged them to get help and take time away from the orthodox world). Perhaps the truth here is that the changes are only being perceived as so extreme by you because they are unwanted in any way, or that there really is something else going on. It is POSSIBLE that it is all the kiruv rabbi's fault, but it seems unlikely based on my experience.

    6. I ridiculed a ridiculous reply. Don't play the beaten child here, you were insulting and snarky. I have NEVER been anything less than respectful to sincere comments. Ask bec, or read up.

    6. You never insult people? Claiming that you "know" my child and the disturbing images that suggests is insulting to any parent. Making light of and ridiculing my reply to you is insulting. Trying to invalidate my position against kiruv by describing me as "scarred" is insulting. Blaming victims is insulting. Trying to bamboozle me and others with well rehearsed kiruv lines is insulting.

    7. Would you be insulted if a friend, teacher, reform rabbi, doctor, psychologist, cousin, etc. claimed to know your child? Or only an Orthodox rabbi? I am not invalidating your position, only the way you expressed it earlier. I am not trying to cheat you of anything.

    I think the most appropriate thing I can think of to say here is that although you are fully entitled to your own opinions (which I respect when stated respectfully), you are not entitled to your own facts about me.

    My wife recently asked me why I "waste my time" on this blog when I know that nobody will consider changing their mind because they have made it up already. My answer: I may be wrong but I have a greater opinion of people, I believe some people are interested in truth. If you are one of them, then let's drop the fuming anger and speak openly and respectfully.

    Sincerely,

    AM

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    Replies
    1. Only replying to one issue. I also felt that the larger comment a few comments ago from AM was condescending. Whether it was meant to be or not, it actually reads that way. I asked a neutral party (a friend who knows very little about kiruv and probably doesn't care much about it) for her opinion and she felt it was also belittling.

      Delete
    2. 1. It means that your story is a coordinated one. 1+1=2 is a mathematical argument that has nothing to do with this conversation and only serves to divert attention away from my point.

      2. I stand by what I wrote. You said they will miss out on a truly joyous and meaningful life without religion. I say that's hogwash and a come on to pull people into a cult like religious group.

      3. I am not sick, but I wonder if you are? The tone of your speech is disturbing, inappropriate and patronizing.

      4. I don't give used car salesmen the benefit of the doubt and I do not give slick kiruv recruiters the benefit of the doubt.

      5. Putting people down is a form of bullying, as is blaming victims, whether you think they deserve it or not.

      6. I would be concerned if any doctor, member of the clergy, psychologist, or teacher claimed to know my child the way you claim to know my child after never meeting my child, or after only knowing him/her for a short period of time. Anyone with a Svengali hold over another person should be shut down.

      7. I will tell you why I think you waste your time on this blog, (your words, not mine). I think you're scared out of your mind about people disclosing the dark side of kiruv. I think you don't want people to have easy access to non-supportive discussions about kiruv on the internet because it will make it harder, if not impossible, for you to recruit fresh "souls." I think you are nervous about the money train from new recruits drying up and losing your job. I think you're trying your hardest to dismiss, cast doubt upon, and to do away with valid arguments presented on this blog.

      8. I suggest you read the many posts on BeyondBT and ask your wife to read the ones on imamother from BT's who felt pushed and pressured into becoming frum, and who now regret that. Rather than feeling joy from a "meaningful" and "spiritual" life, the descriptions these women give is of a trapped, unhappy and overwhelmed life.

      There is a dark side to kiruv and the public deserves - rather, is Entitled to hear it.

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    3. Anon parent,

      You said:

      "4. I don't give used car salesmen the benefit of the doubt and I do not give slick kiruv recruiters the benefit of the doubt."

      Enough said. This is why I won't continue the conversation with you.

      I wish you well,

      AM

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    4. I think that maybe look at this situation not from the perspective of a kiruv rabbi, but this way. Imagine you sent your kid off to yeshiva in Brooklyn. Instead of sitting in school like you expect him to, he starts questioning his upbringing. Pretty soon, he begins living a double life that you don't know about. He's eating cheese burgers at McDonald's and sneaking out of his dorm to party in the East Village at night. When he can't get back into the dorm, he spends the nights at his non-Jewish girlfriend's place, and shows up to shacharis late, hungover, the next morning. Of course, his rabbi is angry. You receive a call that he's being sent home. So you arrange for his return. Except that instead of going to LaGuardia for his flight, he decides to stay with his buddies. You don't hear from him for a while and when you finally manage to find a friend of his that he's still in contact with, and you get his new cell number, you barely recognize your son's voice and inflections. Somehow you convince him to come home because, after all, you love your kid and will always love him. But the boy you sent off to yeshiva and the young man who walks through your door are two totally different people. Trying to have an honest conversation with your son is difficult. He keeps talking about Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins and why the Torah, in his opinion, is nonsense. You go to bed early and upset. He leaves the house.
      The next morning when you get up, you find dirty dishes in the meat sink and a box from Gino's Pizzeria sitting in the recycling bin with a check mark through the box marked "sausage."
      No amount of reasoning can convince your kid that your way of life is the right way of life and that he's making a horrible choice. You're concerned for him, his reputation, the possibility of him now never making a good shidduch or getting back into a good yeshiva. You're concerned about what this will mean to you as a kiruv rabbi, and how this will affect your other children, and how they will fare in the shidduch system and the yeshiva system. You're concerned that if this gets out, your own students will begin to question how the campus rabbi's son could leave this "wonderful" lifestyle for a more secular life.
      When you bring the pizza issue up to your son and tell him that he will NEVER bring non-kosher food into your house again, he tells you to eff off, grabs his backpack, and leaves the house, slamming the door behind him.
      Four years later, you receive an engagement announcement in the mail. A sloppily scrawled note at the back tells you that he's finishing a degree in biological anthropology and marrying a wonderful young woman. By the way, she's not Jewish.

      Now, think about how you'd feel, as a parent, if presented with this scenario. It's probably very similar to how those with children who've been scooped up by kiruv feel. Except the difference is that nobody is coming in and scooping kids up to go off the derech in this way. Changing one's life to leave orthodoxy is usually an independent decision. In kiruv, people are on campus with the sole purpose of bringing people to orthodoxy.

      Delete
    5. Bec,

      I put a lot of thought into this and then spoke to my wife. Here's what she had to say.

      "I am truly sorry that the parents feel that way. It would be really hard for me to go through that scenario with my child. I would probably not be able to sleep at night and I would daven for them all the time. But after having respectful conversations with my adult son and trying to convince him how he is mistaken in his beliefs and behavior, I would do my best to keep up a relationship with him because I love him and because he is entitled to his beliefs. I would hope that he would be more respectful than what you portrayed, because respect should be given regardless of beliefs. Would I be upset with those who influenced him? Probably. Would I try to stop them from influencing him further? Maybe. Am I upset at the parents on this blog for wanting to stop me? No. I understand them, they are hurt, as I would be. But I would hope that they realize that we all have our beliefs, and I am not going to stop expressing mine and trying to convince others of them if I believe their lives will be bettered, just as they have the right to do the same on this blog."

      And that, in my opinion, is the bottom line at the end of the day. We believe we are not only sincere, but right. We are here to share what we know and love with others. If they don't want it, so be it. But for those who do, we cannot be dissuaded by the fact that not everyone will be happy about it. Avraham smashed his parents idols, some modern day Jews may have to do the same in their search for truth.

      Respectfully,

      AM

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    6. Rabbi AM - Do the ends justify the means? Is saving one Jewish soul by bringing him into Judaism worth the suffering of his entire family when that child cuts them off? Complete alienation does not always happen, but new BT's nearly always experience strained family relationships. Some work through them, however many do not. Is the risk of alienating a child from his family in the pursuit of Judaism even an acceptable Jewish value?

      Delete
    7. That is a very thoughtful and poignant question. Thank you for it.

      As much as we all want to feel completely autonomous, we are - alas - responsible to our Creator. I have often wondered how lonely Abraham must have felt, leaving his parents, friends, fellow tribesmen behind in the quest for God. How could he do it? I believe at some point we all have a moment of sublime choice where we can choose to follow the voice within - towards our Source, or not. Perhaps this voice will lead us away from the ways of our parents or friends? Perhaps. Or perhaps it will bring them closer. Perhaps it will get them to question their own lives. Perhaps that is the reason for their animosity. Or maybe not. Perhaps the voice is a lie. Perhaps it is a selfish need for greatness and a warm feeling of patronizing holier-than-thou-ness. Maybe. But it is such a Jewish trait for sure. To be rebellious, to chart your own path, to follow the voice within. It is a messy enterprise this whole soul searching business, but it is necessary if we can ever even hope to reach our God given potential. I both encourage people to engage the journey and I try to minimize the collateral damage. There is no good answer to your question.

      Sincerely,

      AM

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    8. AM, I didn't follow what you were saying, except the part about minimizing collateral damage. It sounds as if alienating children from their families in the pursuit of Judaism is acceptable collateral damage. Is that right?

      Delete
    9. Purposely alienating children from their families in the pursuit of anything (unless the parents are abusive) is always wrong. However, exposing young adults to Orthodox people and practice with the hope that they will strengthen their own commitment to Halacha is not wrong - even if by them choosing to live a Halachic life they may feel or cause some discomfort to others. We can only choose how we act, we cannot control how others will respond. I have said it before and I will re-iterate it now. There is no reason why anyone should lose a relationship with their parents because of a lifestyle choice unless the parents do not accept their child for who they are/want to be. This happens in the Orthodox world too when young adults decide that they no longer want to be religious. If the parents are willing to love them as they are, the relationship will stay healthy, if not, not.

      Sincerely,

      AM

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    10. I'm hearing a lot of anger and blaming here for kiruv breaking up Jewish families....who is cutting off who, exactly? Do your children simply refuse to come home, or do you make them unwelcome with pressure and nasty comments? Do they refuse to eat with you, or do you insist on serving ham for dinner? I ask, because I've talked to a few women who've chosen a frum lifestyle, and heard from their parents that their child's choice has "cut them off from their family" -- but when I talk to the girls, it seems the parents are unwilling to accept their child's frum lifestyle, and unwilling to compromise. As soon as my mother understood we were actually celebrating Shabbat with a family dinner every Friday, complete with candle-lighting (this was while we were members of our Conservative synagogue, and not keeping kosher) she promptly invited us over for dinner one weekend---and made a point of serving ham. (We chose not to eat). When we joined Chabad, we had already been hosting the entire family for Thanksgiving for several years--and continued to do so for three more years until my mother found out we were keeping kosher. "This isn't a Butterball turkey?!!" she shrieked. She stormed out of our home and refused to ever eat at our house again. A few years later, when I said we'd love to see her on her birthday, she refused unless we agreed to eat at a non-kosher restaurant (my offer to cook a celebratory meal was declined). Shortly after that, she refused to come to our home at all, and when I offered to drive her only grandchild over to her house for a visit, she refused unless I drove on a Saturday. So excuse me if I'm a bit skeptical about kiruv being the reason for "alienating children from their families" when I can point to countless examples among my own friends and family of the alienation coming from extremely intolerant secular/Reform/Conservative parents who are horrified that their children are observant and will pull out all the stops to derail that.

      Delete
  55. AM, Do you have a problem with Jews For Jesus, Westboro Baptist Church, The Unification Church, or Charles Manson? They are people who believe they are right too.

    Would it bother you if you learned those groups used methods to recruit your son that were rehearsed and proven successful in recruiting members? What if you learned that your son's very close friend who was also a member of that group was actually assigned to him help keep your son inspired?

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  56. "Would it bother you if you learned those groups used methods...."

    If they succeeded, yes, because I don't want that for my son, not because they did something wrong. I would not be any more upset than my son or daughter being inundated by Calvin Klein or Victoria Secret ads that tell them how someone successful or beautiful should look or than Pepsi saying "play now, pay later". What organization, whether YMCA or AIPAC would use recruitment methods that are not proven to be successful? I don't blame them for that, whether or not I like the results of their actions. That is the price I pay for living in a Western democracy, and not in a religious enclave.

    Sincerely,
    AM

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    Replies
    1. Am I correct that your position is that kids are fair game along with any means used to recruit them?

      Delete
  57. No. I don't like the words "fair game" either. They are people. Anything that is against the laws of the state or the Torah are unacceptable means. Anything else (advertising, free food, classes etc.) is as fine for us as it is the LGBT club on campus (they also use the same recruiting tools).

    Sincerely,
    AM

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  58. I don't know the laws of the Torah. Is misrepresenting one's intentions against the laws of the Torah?

    ReplyDelete
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    1. In overly simplistic terms....

      No matter what anyone says, the justification for kiruv is that it's okay because it's to help Jewish souls and they believe that God wants people to do kiruv.
      Because kiruv professionals believe the Torah is right, and orthodoxy is right, they are, therefore, right.
      Kiruv professionals are following God. They believe that God is right and their faith dictates that they follow.

      The problem seems to be this: if those of us who were against deceptive kiruv were orthodox/believed in God/believed in the divine origin of the Torah/or any number of beliefs that would cause us to agree that yes, kiruv is important, we'd have no problem with any of the explanations about kiruv. Because we'd believe it to be correct. But to those of us who may not hold to any/all of the beliefs I mentioned, kiruv groups are just like any other missionary group that might try to recruit our children.

      Delete
    2. Very well said, Bec. I'd like to add that most missionary groups, (the non cult like ones), are straight forward about what they want. They want to bring Jesus Christ into your life, save your soul, show you the WAY, bring the glory of God to your sinning life, get you Baptized, sing the praises of the lord, etc. As they speak they sometimes become excited & you can almost see holy spirits oozing from their pores. You can take it or leave it, your choice. If you take it you know what you're getting into.

      Jewish kiruv isn't like that though. Kiruv workers deliberately withhold information from potential recruits. If those recruits knew what they were getting into they'd probably run away. A friendly shabbos dinner is light years away from the reality of rabbis checking vaginal secretions, or the likelihood that a student will have strained, if not broken, relationships with his family. The problem with kiruv, as opposed to most missionary groups, is that kiruv lies by omission, by skewing facts, and sometimes they lie because (as the poster above suggested), the ends justify the means.

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  59. Obviously you are both right. I guess the only way to satisfy both sides would be if kiruv rabbis moved onto campuses and advertised that they were orthodox Jews looking to educate college students about Orthodoxy and encourage Orthodox observance. Then they would wait to see if anyone showed up, rather than recruiting students to seemingly innocuous "Jewish" events and slowly, emotionally grooming them.

    I suppose the reason why they do not do this is because it would not work as well. And therein lies the rub. If they believe that they have a God given right, or more, obligation to reach out to non-orthodox Jews, then they would feel forced to take more drastic measures and adopt a "whatever it takes" mentality. That would be the difference between a friendly Shabbat meal and kiruv. I have actually looked into this and there are sources - old ones - that dictate that one must as a religious imperative try to share the "Love of God" with those who do not posses it. The question becomes then, how far can one go to do this and how should those of us who do not believe in it react to those efforts?

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  60. The part about orthodox rabbis advertising that they are there to encourage orthodox observance would be a start. However, the word "encourage" minimizes their mission. They are really there to recruit. Kiruv is a business, and if quotas are not met funding is lost.

    I wonder how God feels about rabbis using trickery and deceit to meet quotas?

    How should those of us who do not believe in kiruv react? We are being lied to. Worse though, is that college kids are being lied to from a person in a position of trust.

    Thinking that you have orders from God to spread religion is arrogant and delusional. Nobody can claim "God made me do it," and absolve themselves of responsibility for the chaos and damage they wreak in people's lives.

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  61. Hi it's AM:

    A delusion is defined by the Webster-Merriam dictionary as: a persistent false psychotic belief regarding the self or persons or objects outside the self that is maintained despite indisputable evidence to the contrary.

    We can all debate whether or not God exists, gave the Torah, cares about peoples sexual proclivities and rewards good deeds in this life or the next. But to claim that those beliefs are psychotic and that there is indisputable evidence to the contrary is false and insulting.

    Nobody claimed that Kiruv rabbis do not recruit. In fact, we elicit students to help us recruit other students! As bec has posted on her most recent thread, we have very specific methods of recruiting and fostering relationships with people whom we hope to be Mekarev (lit. bring close) to Judaism. [ No, we do not consider Reform, Renewal or Conservative Judaism to be valid expressions of the Torah inasmuch as they do not conform to Jewish law, although they may be totally sincere expressions of Jews wanting to connect to God. Therefore, we are in fact bringing them close to something they are quite far from].

    Do you really believe that you are being lied to? Or perhaps you are being told the direct truth, as straight as can be, but you can't believe it? In case things are still ambivalent I will make it clear (although I have done this numerous times).

    1. It is the firm position of Halachic Judaism that all Jews have a responsibility to influence others to the realization that there is a creator of the world and that there is a correct code of conduct for human beings in general and Jews (as His reps to the world) in particular.

    2. We are to do this by any peaceful means including persuasion because we are held responsible for others' actions and welfare to the amount that we can influence them for the better. We have a moral obligation to educate people about this code of conduct who - through no fault of their own - do not yet understand what is incumbent upon them being born as Jews.

    3. Certain people within the Halachic community are more prepared to undertake certain sacrifices in order to do this (i.e. living outside major centers of orthodox life, hosting many people every Shabbat and Holidays, seperating from their spouses and/or children to go to Israel with students a few times a year etc.) or are more equipped to do so. Those people usually take the brunt of the communal responsibility of Kiruv while others support them financially (not unlike teachers, mohalim who perfom brit milah, and communal rabbis).

    Now that that is clear...

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    1. ... It is (sad but) true that these Mekarvim are judged according to quotas. This is to ensure that they are properly making use of every dollar the community is spending ( the same way one might evaluate teachers based on matriculation exam scores). In a perfect world this would not be necessary.

      The one issue we shall never get around (although working hard to understand each other might help a great deal) is the damage wreaked in peoples lives. I truly believe (being a child of loving parents) that parents want what is best for their children and have a way in which they envision their children's lives playing out. Most parents do not have much room for deviation from their plan. Of course if they dreamed of a doctor and got a lawyer they may not be too derailed. But what if they dreamed of a doctor with a husband, two kids a dog and living down the block, and they got a lesbian musician who doesn't want kids and lives in China with her black partner, who runs an online porn site? But she is happy, healthy, and loves her parents. She also visits once a year. Of course she is strictly vegan, cannot stand their Western proclivities (although she doesn't tell them what to do) and spends one day a week in a monastery nearby to clear her head. Most middle class Jewish parents would not be thrilled, yet even this would not be as bad as becoming Orthodox. You see, the damage is because their lifestyle choice is unwanted and unacceptable to the parents. That's not to say it isn't real. It is real to them, very real. But it is as much in their hands as it is in their child's. I can take responsibility for the challenges the recent BT will have in learning to walk in religious shoes (this is part of my responsibilities as a teacher), but I cannot take responsibility for how others who may feel hostile towards certain lifestyles will react.

      Sincerely,

      AM

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    2. AM, I may be quoting you in my next blog post. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I'm going to address your comments as well, and I apologize for the delay.

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