Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Kiruv Debate: A Response to "La Responsa"

     One of the amazing things about the internet is that it gives people the opportunity to connect with each other in ways that we never could before. It gives us the opportunity to look at ideas critically, write about those ideas, and, if we're lucky, receive a response.  My last post, Kiruv Professional Writes about Recruiting Jews on Campus, received a blog post in response. (You can read the original here, but I do want to request that if you do comment on Rachel Eden's post on her blog site, to please feel free to agree or disagree--but be respectful.) I will be referencing her article in pieces in order to respond fairly.
     Rachel begins by writing
Amazing what adrenaline can do. I was hoping for an early night. Just half an hour ago, I was lying in bed (half-asleep) and ready to turn in. I decided that I’d let the blog go for the evening or the week but, by-the-by, found an article in the blogosphere that took my article (this one) out of context to promote different and oppositional ideas so now…I’m awake.  I’d rather not draw anyone’s attention to this blog because I don’t agree with the writer at all but I would like to acknowledge the style of the writer’s (Rebecca’s) article. Rebecca didn’t attack me in any way or at least I don’t feel attacked by Rebecca personally but some of my writing was misinterpreted to fit with her agenda which I don’t love. Rebecca- we’re women- so let’s put it all out there. You’re my Jewish sister. Let’s get real. Really real. Therefore, friends, I give you: La Responsa.
I do sincerely hope that Rachel got a good night's sleep afterwards. For the record, I do try to be very respectful of those I criticize. Just because we disagree doesn't mean that we're not each deserving of respectful dialogue. I want to thank Rachel for recognizing that I wasn't attacking her personally. She continues:

1. In my article “Blowing the Head Off Of Campus Outreach”, the goal for most kiruv professionals is to help a student feel more connected to Judaism, God, other Jews, and to develop (from that connection) a stronger commitment to Judaism. Most kiruv professionals that I’ve spoken to (and I talk to the most fanatic!) do not want carbon copies of themselves or even to force a student into an “orthodox lifestyle” (her words). A the goal for most kiruv professionals is to help a student feel more connected to Judaism, God, other Jews, and to develop (from that connection) a stronger commitment to Judaism. to reflect that connection is not the same thing as forcing someone into a little cookie-cutter mold called “orthodox”.  True story.
     I have to agree and disagree here. I do agree that "the goal for most kiruv professionals is to help a student feel more connected to Judaism, God, other Jews, and to develop (from that connection) a stronger commitment to Judaism." However, it's what those words mean that I find troubling. For a Jewish student connected to a non-orthodox yet Jewish lifestyle, "stronger commitment" means increasing levels of observance. Because the outreach worker happens to be orthodox by default, that person will be emphasizing "a stronger commitment to Judaism," but through orthodox practice. Because orthodox Judaism doesn't recognize the more liberal factions of Judaism to be valid expressions of Judaism, kiruv workers will not be encouraging students to practice Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, or Humanist Judaism. Ms. Eden suggests that encouraging students "to reflect that connection [a student's stronger commitment to Judaism] is not the same thing as forcing  someone into a little cookie-cutter mold called "orthodox."" However, she then appears to contradict herself in her second statement:
2. My “brazen” (her words) mention of students needing inner-strength to live a more Jewish life even when friends and, at times, family take exception…Where to start? We all (should) make choices at some point that don’t sit well or even threaten others. Whenever I go on a diet, I inevitably encounter people who are threatened by my new choices and I need to fortify myself to eat healthy and exercise in the face of such people. OK, not quite. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a real diet but the principle is there. It is  hard for certain types of people (usually the insecure types) to feel comfortable when someone else is making choices to live a healthier, happier life (I’m not just talking  about Jews). The idea is that those who truly love us will be happy we’re happy and support us. If not immediately, then eventually. Rebecca: Why fear change? Change can be good! In that vein, why fear questioning? The definition of “brainwash” is to adopt radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible pressure. The ability to question is a person’s only chance NOT to get brainwashed and I certainly hope you aren’t trying to brainwash your readers, Rebecca ;) STRONG people QUESTION. WEAK people bury their heads in the sand.
     Let's go back. Ms. Eden said before she doesn't believe in forcing people into orthodox Judaism. Let's give the benefit of the doubt here, and get rid of the word "forcing." (To clarify, I don't believe that people are "forced," but are rather completely misled to believe that orthodox Judaism--the only type of Judaism being peddled by kiruv professionals--is the only valid expression of Judaism.) I see this second statement as contradicting her first statement. If students aren't being pushed or influenced towards orthodox Judaism, then the following should be unnecessary: "We all (should) make choices at some point that don’t sit well or even threaten others....It is  hard for certain types of people (usually the insecure types) to feel comfortable when someone else is making choices to live a healthier, happier life (I’m not just talking  about Jews)." What choices would these students be making that aren't sitting well with others? Is she talking about a move towards ... wait for it ... orthodox Judaism? Ms. Eden suggests that I "fear change." Again, what change would that be? If nobody is pushing orthodoxy, then there is no change. Except that's not true. As I've said before, I have no problem with people coming to orthodoxy by their own volition. The problem I have is when people are willfully misled by kiruv workers who teach that the all-encompassing cozy blanket is "just Judaism." It is not "just Judaism." It is specifically an Ashkenazi brand of orthodox Judaism.
     I do agree that it is very important to give people the ability to question. Of course, this goes both ways. In kiruv, outreach workers encourage their students to question their own non-orthodox lives in order to change their lives. In the real orthodox world, students who question orthodox doctrine, who question orthodoxy, who question their parents and their teachers, are often alienated from the community, rather than given the room to explore other expressions of Judaism, education, and personal satisfaction.
     Since we're talking about allowing people the option of questioning, this seems like a good time to point out this line from Ms. Eden's first paragraph: "I’d rather not draw anyone’s attention to this blog because I don’t agree with the writer at all." By not providing a link  to my blog (which is the writer's prerogative,) and by not providing even the title of the blog, nor the title of the post, Ms. Eden has robbed her own readers of their right to view and question a view that opposes her own. I don't fear questioning at all. The reason I started this blog was specifically for people who are looking for information and who are questioning. By providing information that is often left out by people in kiruv, it helps those who may not want to be steered towards orthodoxy to understand the underlying goal of outreach. This brings us to Ms. Eden's third point:
3. My step-to-step guide of how a kiruv professional develops a relationship with students does sound contrived and, in fact, is contrived. I’m not being facetious when I tell you that I’m not naturally sociable and don’t enjoy socializing, per se. The result of these steps is actually an organic relationship. Proof? My husband and I were “set up” on a blind date that led to a (short) series of dates before our engagement. The whole process was forced, contrived. However, my marriage is anything but contrived. It is very real. One can go through a premeditated series of steps and the outcome of the connection between those two people will depend on those two people- not the steps that got them there. My best friend is dating a guy who had a crush on her for two years and used the pretense of friendship to solidify a bond with her. Was he being dishonest? Honesty isn’t even in the equation. The honesty was his intention to connect and whether they’d end up together was up to their chemistry. Same with my relationships with students. Either we end up having a deep and long-lasting friendship or the chemistry isn’t right.
     The steps are contrived. Regardless of the outcome, the steps themselves are in place to form a relationship that otherwise would not exist. Whether the relationship is good or bad as an end result really isn't the issue at all. Here's an example: A woman is raped. As a result of that rape, she ends up pregnant. For her own personal reasons, she decides not to have an abortion. She decides to keep the baby and the child gives her joy throughout her life. The fact that she loves her child more than anything does not suddenly make rape acceptable. These are two separate issues. Part A--rape is wrong, no matter what the outcome. Part B--the woman has a child whom she loves. In the case of kiruv, Part A is also separated from Part B. The relationship is contrived with a specific goal in mind. If the relationship works out for both parties, that's wonderful, but it doesn't negate Part A.
Let's look at the fourth point.

4. Rebecca seems overly concerned with families who “try to figure out how to relate to their children and how to weather the growing pains of the baal teshuvah”. To me, a healthy and loving family views a member’s growing devotion to Judaism as a positive thing and accommodates the family member’s request for, say, kosher food. If my children ask me to serve them food that is more “kosher” than I’m accustomed to eating, I would be happy that they want to strive for a stronger commitment. I would commend my own parenting efforts because, after all, I taught them the importance of being Jewish which led to this self-discovery. I don’t want my kids to follow my path in Judaism. I want them to follow theirs. Abraham was happy to have Isaac and not another Abraham. Those two were different and had very different paths towards God. Both were good. Neither one should be judged. Abraham wasn’t preoccupied (I assume) with the fact that Isaac didn’t embrace the kindness of hospitality the way he did. Rather, he was proud that Isaac developed the trait of self-restraint and discipline.
     Let's look at this scenario through a different lens, but let's start with Rachel's statement, "I don’t want my kids to follow my path in Judaism. I want them to follow theirs." If Ms. Eden's children were to decide that they no longer believed that orthodox Judaism was the way to go, and instead, opted to live as Humanist Jews, would Ms. Eden be as accommodating to their needs as she expects non-orthodox parents should be to the needs of their BT children? Let's assume that her children are simply following their own path in Judaism. Would she "commend [her] own parenting efforts because, after all, [she] taught them the importance of being Jewish which led to this self-discovery?" If we are expected to understand that "Abraham and Isaac ... were different and had very different paths towards God" then we should understand that all Jews are different and have different pathways in life, making kiruv unnecessary. But that's not the case. A kiruv rabbi who has been commenting on this blog as anonymous but signs off as "AM" ("Anonymous Mekarev") states that:
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. (AnonymousDecember 17, 2013 at 4:28 AM)
 These statements actually disprove the idea that the orthodox kiruv worker believes all Jews to have different pathways in life. Sure, maybe in the non-spiritual realm of their lives, but as far as their spiritual lives, outreach professionals believe that those pathways need to be paved with halachic Judaism as defined by orthodoxy. Based on this, it is my belief that while Ms. Eden thinks that non-orthodox parents should be happy to change their own lives to meet the new needs of their grown children, she would not necessarily be quite as happy to do this in the opposite situation.
     Ms. Eden ends her response with number five:

5. Finally, Rebecca’s (and her commenters’) plea for more transparency in campus outreach. I can only speak for myself and my husband when I say that our prayer for our students is a heightened awareness and connection with Judaism. We never made any other claim. Those students that I’m closest with (and are probably reading this) know I bust their chops about dating non-Jewish people because I love them and feel close enough to discuss my opinions openly with them. In return, they discuss their honest opinions with me. I’ve debated some extremely opinionated students in my day and one girl (who I feel very close to) has, indeed, left me changed. I believe she has made me a more open and less judgmental person. I hope I have made her more proud of her Judaism. How much more transparent can I get?
If you have an opinion – whether you agree with me or you don’t- I’d love to hear it.
Rebecca- whoever you are, wherever you are- I love you girl. Before you judge, how about listening with an open heart? You may be surprised there are no devil horns beneath my wig. 
     I will admit that I did chuckle at Rachel's last sentence. Many of my friends on Facebook probably saw my 2013 Halloween picture, in which I sported a pair of purple devil horns. I wear mine openly. Although I will admit that I gave up the wig years ago.
     Let me just take a quick moment to thank Rachel Eden, and my commenter AM, as well as any other kiruv professionals who have read and taken the time to respond to this blog--either as a whole, or in part. While we may not all agree on kiruv (my issue is deceptive kiruv,) I really hope that we can all continue to engage in a mutually respectful dialogue. I recognize that coming out to counter my posts may be daunting, but it shows that you are dedicated to your work. And even if I am not a fan of your work, I do admire your devotion to it. I've said in private conversations that we may disagree on this issue, but that doesn't mean that we disagree on all issues. As a rule, I attack the issue and I don't condone personal attacks. After all, we're not family. (That's a joke.) There are many people who comment on my blog who have suffered greatly because of deceptive practices, so understand that sensitivities often run high. For many, kiruv is a very emotional issue.
     I also want to thank those of you who have supported this blog by commenting, by reading, and by sharing these posts with your friends, family, and/or followers. I want to thank those of you who have reached out via email and Facebook to share your very personal stories with me. I am humbled by your willingness to open up to me, a total stranger. You folks are the reason I'm still writing about kiruv.
     I hope that by providing this side of the story, all of us--regardless of what side of the issue we support--can learn from each other.

Except for the material referenced within the body of the post written by anonymous poster AM, all quoted/indented text is from:
Eden, Rachel. "La Responsa." This Way to Eden. December 17, 2013.


  1. What a well thought out and well written post. Again. I might have written the same thing except that 1). I'm not a writer and 2). Kiruv recruiters destroyed my family I and really don't think they deserve anyone's respect. These people are as deceptive and dangerous as David Koresh, the Reverend Moon and Warren Jeffs; they are the same black sheep in different clothing.

    1. Can I ask what you mean by Kiruv recruiters destroyed your family? I have heard this line a few times from people and they usually mean that either a) a family member become Orthodox--and that automatically destroys the family, because that member cannot participate in any family activities or b) that the family member who became Orthodox, then adopted what can be best described as radical orthodox views--and that member removed themselves from the family? I have a family member who became Orthodox and they did a very good job of doing their best to do work with our family to stay very involved. (We were required to buy kosher food when we ate together, and double wrap the food to cook it in our oven) but in the overall scheme of things, the actual things we needed to do to make it work, were quite minimal. (And yes, they are unable to join us for events on Friday Night or Saturday, but we make it work) and they are happy, which makes us happy

  2. I take issue with her astonishment that the parents of her students aren't all thrilled when their kids want to become Orthodox (and stop eating in Mom's non-kosher kitchen). She makes a big assumption there that all Jewish parents either want their kids to become Orthodox (secretly?) or that they are just too ignorant to understand what "real" Judaism is. Is this what you really believe, Rachel?

    Also, to nitpick, once one is already keeping kosher, taking on additional chumras is not "growth". It's change and often masquerades as growth in chareidi communities (see "Keeping up with the Cohens") but placing yourself on a pedestal above others in your community is not growth.

    Rachel, enjoy your brand of Judaism. I happen to think it's damaging - especially to girls - the way the Aish, etc crowd practices it. I would hope that my children will have enough respect for their cultural tradition and for the social justice acted on by the more liberal denominations that Orthodoxy as it currently stands won't hold any sway for them when they hit university. When women have an equal role in public religious life and gay couples are welcomed in all shuls, then I'll look at coming back and will encourage my kids to do the same.

    1. I have to admit, I was also puzzled by the assumption that Jewish parents wouldn't want their kids to become orthodox. One of the things that kiruv is guilty of, from my perspective, is pushing their specific brand of orthodoxy. A Chabadnik or Aish rabbi isn't going to tell a potential recruit to just be Modern Orthodox, even if that might be a much better fit. So, parents who may be supportive of a kid keeping shabbat and kosher, may find it troubling that the cheese marked "OU" is suddenly off limits because there's this additional need to keep chalav yisroel.

  3. I appreciate the effort to be cordial from both parties. It's a nice breath of fresh air in online debates.
    I was kiruved from MO to UO. I once considered going into kiruv myself (Now I do a different sort of sharing of my position). So I think I understand where they are coming from as you quoted from AM. Their intentions aren't evil. They are taught if you see someone you care about about to swallow poison, of course the right thing to do is to stop them even if the methods are crude, such as shouting or shoving. They genuinely believe there is only one right way and any other way is wrong and will hurt the afterlife (or God's feelings).
    They don't talk about other streams of Judaism because of this. All of this is just to explain why I don't think kiruv people are evil. they may be very caring. But they are misguided. They are misinformed. They lack awareness of certain things. My guess is they don't care about emotions being hurt since eternity is on the line.
    People who understand the reality differently would appreciate more humility on the part of Kiruv workers. Don't assume your conclusions are necessarily true. People of all sorts of different and zany beliefs have the same confidence in their beliefs. If you want to share the OJ perspective you can but encourage the person to do their own research, to apply critical thinking, and be trusted to make their own decisions. Also, to be intellectually honest you should make the student aware that they are particularly susceptible to believe things for more emotional reasons due to their age. If I was confident in my position I would have no trouble doing these things. There may be some Kiruv workers who do this. My advice is to those who don't.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Your advice to kiruv workers is right on the money, especially this line: "If you want to share the OJ perspective you can but encourage the person to do their own research, to apply critical thinking, and be trusted to make their own decisions." If this was being done, kiruv professionals would have no problem with the existence of this blog.

  4. Rachel,
    My school area is chock full of new refugees. These days many of the refugees arrive here as Hindus and Muslims and they are immediately "befriended" by a group of well-meaning young Christian missionaries who live among them in the substandard apartments in which they are placed. They goal of the missionary work isn't just to help the refugees through culture shock and resettlement but to convert them.
    Rachel, sadly, you sound just like them at least to me.
    I have heard them speak of "transparency", too. The trouble is, they are "transparent" to me but not to the desperate people they reach out to.
    Ditto this line: "Rebecca- whoever you are, wherever you are- I love you girl." It's always about love but not exactly unconditional love. There is something brutally triumphant about the entire enterprise. When kiruv is deceptive, it's harmful no matter who engages in it.

    1. I actually left this comment on Ms. Eden's blog the other day, but I'll repost it here:
      Rebecca M. Ross on December 21, 2013 at 8:40 pm said:

      I plan on writing a full response to your post but I wanted to comment on your comment:

      “I will say this to my paranoid contingency (I’m looking at you Chatzkaleh, Motti, Rebecca): In regards to the implication that the love is feigned (wikipedia says that critics define “love bombing” as feigned love falsely fronted to manipulate), from my standpoint, having devoted my adult life to trying to connect Jewish people with Judaism and developing deep and long-lasting relationships with those people- this couldn’t be more false (or offensive). When the average person in kiruv takes steps to create a relationship with a student- that’s coming from true love for this person. Why else bother to devote oneself to enriching Jews’ lives if not for love?”

      I’m not sure which “paranoid contingency” you’re talking about, unless you believe that those of us who believe in providing information that kiruv workers leave out are “paranoid.” In that case, any group that is concerned with non-Jewish missionaries missionizing our children and provides counter-missionary information would also be considered a “paranoid contingency.” Not wanting my children to become recruited by any missionary–Jewish or otherwise–doesn’t make me paranoid. It makes me a parent concerned for my child’s well-being. Just as you most likely would take offense to a representative for Jews from Jesus seeking your child out while in seminary in Jerusalem, many of us take offense to Jewish missionaries doing the same to our children while on college campuses.

      I don’t doubt your sincerity in believing you love every Jew, and I do believe that it’s a very nice sentiment. But I don’t believe that it is what you think it is. You love Judaism, and as an extension of that love for your religion, you believe that you have the obligation to “bring people back” to that which you practice. In thinking that you love every Jew, it’s only because you believe that you have an obligation to seek them out and “help” them, in order to further your own personal relationship with God. Sure, you believe that it helps them because you’re viewing this from an orthodox kiruv perspective. I know that you find the idea that you might be love bombing to be offensive. But the love from any missionary is contingent on a potential recruit or a new recruit accepting your words and following the examples you set. Once they start challenging you openly or their views begin to pose a threat to the work you’re doing, you’re going to drop them for damage control. You are not showing “true love” for people–you are showing true love for your own way of life, your own values, and for the work of kiruv. Everyone else is just another potential warm body.

    2. Thank you for your blog.
      I am no expert on kiruv and even less of an expert on Christianity or Orthodox Judaism. I am a Jewish native of the Bible Belt and have been approached by Christian missionaries all my life. Kiruv love seems more like agape love, which is the love I associate with Christian evangelism. Kiruv love doesn't seem much like hesed to me.

  5. As my Jewish father says regarding kashrut: "How can there be several types of kosher? Either it's kosher or not kosher.".

    I think an important aspect to mention about kiruv is the money. It's no secret kiruv organizations make big bucks out of their businesses; basically they are selling their product, they want profit and this means they need to market themselves as to stand out from the competition. After all, these different types of more or less stringent kosher is just for profit, just as marketing "your Judaism as the way" is just for profit.

    1. I'm slightly confused as to what money there is in this "kiruv business". MOst of the people in Kiruv barely make enough to live on. They subsist mainly off of donations from Orthodox Jewish Donors, such as Wolfson, Horn, etc.. Its Orthodox Jews who are funding this with their own money

  6. I have a point of view on this that may differ from yours – but I want to include it here.

    I think kiruv is actually ok – as long as it is handled honestly.

    The idea that Torah is perfect or from G-d is an idea – one cherished by those who call themselves orthodox. I don’t mind their sharing their ideas with students – as long as other voices can be heard.

    That is, as long as this “search for truth” is really a search for truth and not a way to convince kids that the last thing they want to do is actually search or question anything.

    The claims made in kiruv are shaky. They cannot afford a sustained encounter with outside ideas presented by outsiders.

    So I think as long as Jews for Jesus, an academic view of the Bible (presented by academics – at least some of whom are observant Jews and have reasons why the Torah is likely put together over hundreds of years), and anti-kiruv arguments are part of the mix – fine.

    Have it all in there and debate it all. Have people who are Jewish and observant and have reasons why they think the Torah is a composite document there to make presentations, have Jews for Jesus there to show how the New Testament is the natural follow on to the old, and how their proofs are better than the Jewish proofs.

    Make it a debate, a discussion, and bring in outsiders to make their case.

    Otherwise you are not doing anything but manipulating people, indoctrinating them. Missionaries of all stripes do this. It is a disgusting approach to dealing with other people. It is disrespectful. Jews should walk away from it – run away from it. It is not about ideas, it is about tugging at your heartstrings. They can’t deal with your conscious mind, only your unconscious. If Jews for Jesus were doing this, they would scream bloody murder. They are all to be treated as the enemy for not permitting open inquiry and frank discussions with those who have diametrically different approaches.

    Do not let anyone do this to – even if you love and respect them. It is manipulative from any quarter. It is not an honest approach to educating yourself, choosing ideas to abide or question or reject. It is missionary seduction. A nearly sexual kind of approach. Shame on them. Fear. Fear. Fear. Manipulation. No good.

    Stop them. Keep writing. They are terrible people with good hearts and true believers – but terrible techniques. Terrible manipulators. Horrible horrible middos at the root of this. Keep up the pressure.


    1. I actually agree with you, Tuvia. Just as you stated in the beginning:
      "I think kiruv is actually ok – as long as it is handled honestly."
      That says it all right there. You've said in those thirteen words what I've spent almost a year writing about. Thank you for such an impassioned response.

    2. I don't agree with the "marketplace of ideas" approach. Kiruv "professionals" routinely target young people away from home for the first time. They're alone, vulnerable and unable to stand up to the kiruvnks' aggressive tactics. It's nothing short of predatory, and it should be illegal.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. I think you may be giving the Kiruv worker too much leniency in throwing up straw men to defend herself. We aren't newbies. Stuff those cheap shots!

    For instance, the issue of forced - this is a classic red herring. Critics are not accusing Big Kiruv is not that they "force" people to become religious, so when the Kiruvnik brings that up, it is irrelevant.

    Brainwashing - this is not something most of us accuse Big Kiruv of doing, because that is a minority opinion, especially when dealing with adults. Don't let the Kiruvnik bring up straw man arguments!

    Remember, the Kriuvnik does not want to defend their behavior, so they prefer to defend that which they do not believe they do. Focus on that which we can prove they do.

    Lastly, be aware, in the off chance that Rachel is typical of the Kiruvnik, and feels you are winning the debate, she will find a reason to get OFFENDED! Your rape analogy is quite solid in terms of proving your point, but Rachel may choose to get offended in order to try to get you to APOLOGIZE or at least, shut the conversation down.

    Don't apologize if she pulls that stunt.

    1. Thanks, DK. You're right. I could have called her on a lot more than I did. Thanks for taking the time to make the points that I neglected!

  9. Bec,

    I hope that all is well with you. Thank you for your "shout out" and your kind words. I'm starting to get to know you better. When I read Mrs. Eden's "La Responsa" I took mental notes on how I thought you would respond, and I was pretty close! We may be on the opposing side of this discussion but I'd like to think that we are on the same team.....sort of ;)

    The one point that I would like to clarify is a nuanced one, but crucial to the discussion. Kiruv is not the raison d'etre of Orthodox (inc. UO, MO, Sefardic, or "just" Orthodox) Jewry. Our life is about trying to perfect our hearts and deeds according to God's will, as is expressed in the Torah and explained by the great thinkers and personalities of Jewish history. We study, we pray, we argue, we sing, we dance, we laugh, and we cry - and we make lots of mistakes and misjudgments along the way. We're not perfect, but we are trying to be. We don't accept that people "are the way they are". Yes, we come from different backrounds, and we are all put in the world in a certain unique situation. But we can all reach higher. The secular Jew, reform Jew, orthodox Jew and all people of the world. We can all work hard to make ourselves and the world a place more fitting for God's presence. That's what OJ is about.

    Now here is the main point. Part - PART - of this idea is spreading those concepts with the world. Most of that is done inadvertently, through just living a Torah life in the public sphere. Some of it is done purposelessly, meaning by Orthodox people reaching out to friends and neighbors - not unlike our patriarch Abraham. Then there is "Professional Kiruv". The goal of professional kiruv is to show our way of life to people who have never seen it. We move into their neighborhoods. We invite them to join us - to learn with us, to celebrate Shabbos with us, to come with us to Israel so they can see it through our eyes. We are just living our lives in their proximity and looking for ways to get them in the door so they can see it for themselves.

    Kiruv is a natural part of our lifestyle whether it's intended or accidental since we are always concerned with making a Kiddush Hashem (in public and hopefully in private as well).

    Sincerely, as always,


  10. The goal of professional kiruv is to show our way of life to people who have never seen it.

    No, the goal of professional kiruv is to convert others to your way of life.

    We are just living our lives in their proximity and looking for ways to get them in the door so they can see it for themselves.

    Which presupposes they haven't already seen it for themselves, because if they had, they'd already be frum, right? No one ever examines your belief system, disagrees with its foundational premises and walks away.

    Here's an idea - why not just go about your own lives and leave other people's souls alone?

  11. AM:
    I am nonorthodox by choice. I do not see how your approach is any different from evangelical Christianity--especially lifestyle evangelism and personal evangelism and the friendship evangelism that a previous correspondent mentioned. Thank you Cipher and Bec.

  12. AM:

    More likely the Kiddush hashem you make around secular Jews is very helpful to you – makes you feel great and inspired. More likely YOU need the kiruv experience to validate your own lifestyle, and have others watch you and see how wonderful you are.

    Kiruv is actually very self serving. You get to be the central actors on stage as others marvel at your goodness, your chesed, your family.

    Guess who else tells us and shows us how wonderful, good, feeling, sensitive and G-dly they are? Evangelical Christians, Messianic Jews, Hare Krishnas and Buddhists. Believe it or not (but you should believe it) the draw and attraction of Nazism was to the heart and the head: we are descended from the divine, we CAN’T mix blood with others as we are naturally a master race, we will have a thousand year reign, and we need more land for the natural growth of the Aryan race. C’mon Germans – you know you’re better!

    Every movement uses loving-kindness to make its way in the world.

    The problem with kiruv – lying. Omission, suppression, distortion. The problem with orthodoxy is the filtering and processing of outside information.

    You know it’s true. You know you can’t have a Christian missionary in the room to explain to us how the Bible Codes reveal the New Testament to be divine (they can) and how their proofs of their religion show Christianity to be more true than Judaism, and its natural successor (they can.)

    You know you can’t have a modern biblical critic (some of whom wear white shirts and black velvet kippas) in to the room to explain why they see the Torah as written over hundreds of years and influenced by many hands. You know you can’t have them trotting out their evidence over six months to a year in your kiruv center. You know you need to control the room. You know they can’t be there.

    And you know that if you are going to present a kiruv proof, or do a little love bombing, or be a good friend to a young Jew away from home for the first time – the last thing you want is someone to undo your lame proof, or remind everyone that cults use love bombing very effectively and explain how it works, or explain that everyone is young and impressionable and that’s why kiruv is here for them to begin with.

    You know this is about doing things on your turf and in a way that appears to be educating, but is really indoctrinating. That appears to be about open inquiry but really, G-d forbid. That appears to be about questioning, but let’s focus on inspiring – not on, G-d forbid, questioning and using your rational faculty to G-d forbid, evaluate all perspectives, all evidence, all religions, everything you say you want the kiruv experience to be.

    It’s a ruse. But it makes you feel good this kiruv. It gets you where you need to get to stay religious yourself. G-d forbid you would use your energies to fight for the silent, mistreated, mass in the poor ghettos of Israel. G-d forbid you would point out the contradictions, the baloney, the garbage, the nonsense, the misery, the trapped wives, the trapped molested, the fearful and weak, and silent and broken and impoverished sucking away at the teat of public money as their family planning plan for building huge, loving families, who don’t work much and don’t value money (baruch hashem! Wait. Except of course for taxpayer money, which they value terribly.)

    And I almost forgot – I love you too. I love you so much. And yes, we are on the same side! You go girl! I feel much better now, this kiruv stuff is fun! I feel empowered! Let’s go greet Jews coming out of dining hall! Baruch hashem! Love, love, love. You do have a mamash amazing neshama, did you know that? Really. I do feel better now. We should chat more. We understand each other. Smile. You are part of an am kodesh. You know it’s true! I LOVE you.

    And yes, I really do love you. Bi emet.


    1. Excellent answer again, Tuvya :)

    2. Tuvia, you said everything I was thinking but better and more humorously.
      Thank you

  13. I think it would help a lot if people stopped using the word 'kiruv' which sounds like a Jewish concept and replace it with 'missionary work'.

    There. Clarity is gained.


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