Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Continuation of the Great Kiruv Debate

     The other day, I responded to kiruv professional Rachel Eden's rebuttal of my article about her blog post. As things were left, it was her turn.  For those just tuning in now, here's a brief summary. Ms. Eden's initial post outlined how she approaches and selects appropriate students who might be good targets for her work as a Jewish outreach professional. I criticized her techniques. She wrote defending her actions. I wrote a response, countering the points that she made in her refutation. Her latest response, "Playing Defense in a War that Need Not Exist," can be found on her blog. As always, I just want to mention that I'm not personally attacking Ms. Eden's character, just the ideas on this issue that she's putting out there.
     When I read Rachel's latest response, I have to admit, I was a bit turned off to our debate. Not because she said anything that I found odd or disturbing, but because what had started off as a point by point discourse in previous postings, was turned into a general attack of my blog and comments garnered, instead of actually addressing the valid and respectful points and questions I had made in my previous post. Rather than address my refutations of her points, she instead states "Rebecca makes a couple [of] outrageous comments and points that are too ridiculous and off-the-wall to address." I hope that Ms. Eden will share with the readers these "outrageous comments and points that are too ridiculous and off-the-wall to address" that she claims I made while refuting her points. How are they "outrageous" and "ridiculous" and "off the wall?" Why shut the dialogue down by dismissing the points I made? Furthermore, by straying from the initial points that I made (all based on Ms. Eden's previously posted statements,) Ms. Eden never actually defends her arguments, but instead attempts to change the subject. Whether this is done to confuse readers, or because she really has no legitimate defense of her claims, or for whatever reason, it is not a tactic unfamiliar with people dealing with kiruv professionals. I'm sure that I'm not the first person who has had dealings with kiruv workers, both online and in real life, who have danced around real questions and thrown out straw men in an effort to obfuscate the original issue being discussed. Part of this is the feeling on the part of the kiruv professionals that just because a person has questions, doesn't mean that they are questions that justify answers.
     As expected, Ms. Eden once again gives her readers no way of reading the original posts in which I criticize and discuss her points. There are no links (other than one posted by someone in her comments section,) no blog title, and no post titles so that her readers can even read what it is she is spending valuable time writing about. Her readers are never given the opportunity to see both sides of the debate--only the side that she is presenting. That reeks of intellectual dishonesty.
     In a select few instances, the matter of kiruv is actually discussed, and so I'll address those few moments here. Ms. Eden states:
YES, I do hope that students who’ve joined me for a cup of coffee at the Starbucks near campus will observe Shabbat more wholly, invest time into their relationship with God, identify more strongly as a Jew, be a more dignified and modest person, feel more connected to other Jews, honor their parents, opt to raise a Jewish family, celebrate Jewish holidays, the list goes on and on and on. I too hope to change for the better from these experiences and there’s no question in my mind that the list I just wrote above would enhance any Jew’s life. 
How does Ms. Eden expect these students to celebrate/observe these things? Is she alright with students attending synagogue and then heading out for dinner at the local Peruvian restaurant? Will she settle for students opting for egalitarian services in which a woman cantor and rabbi lead the services? Maybe the real question is whether Ms. Eden is teaching students from a Reform, Conservative, Humanist, Reconstructionist, or other liberal Jewish perspective? Or is she only teaching them from an Ashkenazi-based orthodox perspective? And if she's only teaching from an Ashkenazi-based orthodox perspective, how is she addressing the needs and differences in cultural practice of those of Sephardi heritage? Does she tell Jews of Middle Eastern ancestry that they have a distinct cultural flavor that differs drastically from those of European descent? Rachel Eden states that "the point of my presence [as an outreach worker on campus] is to create a Jewish student community and enhance their observance of Mitzvot." Ms. Eden, how is this not to be interpreted as grooming students for orthodoxy? Are you encouraging students to also seek other Jewish options (such as Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Humanist, and other liberal factions,) outside of orthodoxy?

Because I want Ms. Eden to respond to the points in my previous post, I am not going to cover each and every off-topic remark made in her latest post. Doing so takes away the legitimacy of the debate itself, and since this is in writing, it should be easy enough to refute the points made, and certainly easy enough to go back for reference. I do however, want to address this line: "But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water." This is a stock phrase that is used by almost everyone in kiruv at one time or another. The thought process is that if a particular brand of orthodoxy didn't work out for you, compassionate kiruv workers understand. Their brand is the real thing. Their brand is really the most inspiring form of Judaism (not the other one you were unfortunately sold on that other time!) and they want to show it to you. "The Toyota didn't work out for you? That's because what you really need is a Mercedes. And I have a Mercedes, and because you're a close friend, I'm going to let you drive mine for a while. Trust me. Whatever you do, you don't want to ride a bike. My Mercedes is the way to go." The "don't throw the baby out with the bathwater" thought process fails to take into account that people have legitimate reasons for not choosing whichever form of Judaism they've rejected. That approach fails to see people as human, and reduces them to social experiments at the hands of the kiruv professional.
     Ms. Eden writes:
But let’s get a few things straight:
  1. I don’t care about the color of your yarmulke.
  2. I don’t mind if you like classical music or jazz or Jewish.
  3. I do think Jews shouldn’t eat pig or lobster but if you want to be a vegetarian-  go for it- I’ll happily accommodate you at dinner.
  4. How you choose to express your creativity is totally up to you within the confines of the Torah (obviously).
Be YOU. And YES> Be Jewish. (sic)
This sounds great on paper. However, while Ms. Eden doesn't care about your yarmulke's color, she assumes that you'll be wearing one. She doesn't "mind" what type of music you like. Whether or not she'll try to influence you to not engage in mixed dancing, or discourage women from singing in front of men is another story. She'll accommodate your vegetarianism, provided you're requesting kosher food at her table. And she's happy for you to be creative "within the confines of the Torah (obviously.)" Whose interpretation of the Torah are we following here? Is this an orthodox interpretation? Or can students follow the Reform version? Will she be supportive of that version? Or the Conservative, or Reconstructionist, or Humanist interpretations? Or is it only a particular brand of Ashkenazi orthodoxy's version that Ms. Eden will support?
     Ms. Eden says "Be YOU. And YES>Be Jewish."(sic) And so I wonder, when orthodox Judaism doesn't sit well with Ms. Eden's students, does she refer them to the local non-orthodox synagogue? When her female students express a desire to become rabbis, does she try to discourage them with talk of how women have separate roles within Judaism, or does she tell them that they can be ordained in liberal Jewish schools, such as Hebrew Union College and the Jewish Theological Seminary? If she is not advising these other ways of "saving the baby," then she is effectively throwing out the Jewish babies as well, unless they follow her orthodox teachings.
     I do sincerely hope that Ms. Eden will address the points in my previous post, and answer the questions in both this and the last post. Discussing Jewish outreach is very interesting, but I wonder if Ms. Eden's own followers are curious as to why she is not addressing the points that are being made, and answering the questions, as well as why she is withholding information pertinent to having a balanced view of the discussion. Tennis is a great game to observe, but it's really not much fun to watch if you are only allowed to see one side of the court.

All quoted material from:
Eden, Rachel. "Playing Defense in a War that Need Not Exist." This Way to Eden. December 25, 2013.


  1. Ms. Eden is exhibiting all the signs of a person who knows she is wrong on the facts, wrong on logic and is afraid of being shown to be wrong. That is why she has started issuing attacks on your character and on the blog in general and is afraid of people seeing your words. I fully expect more tone-trolling and followed by increasingly shrill distortions of your actual words ending with a self-righteous declaration that she has better things to do than waster her time on you.

    1. Hey Dan, Just call me Rachel! We're all old friends by now. I'm not afraid and don't think I'm wrong. Sorry you didn't like my post. I don't consider talking to Rebecca (or you) a waste of my time at all. If you have a question for me, I'm all ears.

  2. Hi everyone! I think my most recent post has hit a nerve since I've never received this level of angry messages in my inbox. If my post was insensitive to you at all, I'm very sorry. Rebecca- I don't think I tried to trash your character AT ALL. I've said repeatedly that you have been really nice and respectful and I so appreciate that. The blog I am indeed against and I realize that's not fun to hear since you have invested so much in it and believe in it deeply.

    I genuinely thought I addressed what I called your "core issues". If I haven't - can you please just give me the bottom line of what the issue is? Is this the issue:

    Kiruv people only want their students to embody an Ashekenazi orthodox lifestyle and entertain nothing else?

    If this is so, please tell me. If I missed something, please tell me. If this is not so, please tell what is.

    Thank you!

    1. I feel that you attacked the blog as a whole as opposed to the points in my post. I'm not upset that you don't like the blog (I mean, hey, if you did, then that might be a conflict of interests, ;) ) but that several points I made and questions I posed went unaddressed. And as for not liking the blog--believe me, I'm used to that reception. You wouldn't believe some of the emails that have graced my inbox.
      Going back to my last post:
      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."
      "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?""
      Within the last post, I also posted claims made by another person in kiruv which seem to contradict your claims. I was hoping you could address that as well as other points made.
      While yes, there are key issues within the blog as a whole, it was my understanding that we were actually discussing specific points we were each making within the body of discussion.
      I'm also really curious to know about these "outrageous comments and points that are too ridiculous and off-the-wall to address." I've also asked a lot of other questions within the latest post.
      It's true, this is the nicest debate I've ever been part of! :)

  3. part I of II

    Very long and rambling – apologies.

    Kiruv is a fundamentally dishonest profession. I don’t think there is an way out of this. It has at its core a model of life that is inviolable and proceeds from there. It has attached to it a number of assumptions.

    It is really no different than any mass movement. All mass movements operate using inspirational talk, a kind of spiritual rewards and punishments system (even civil religions like communism), the omitting, distorting or suppressing of outside voices, and often a prestigious identity conferred on the member.

    It could be the US Marine Corp, Hare Krishnas, Scientologists, Othodox Jews, etc.

    The thing is: all of these help some people, which is why they thrive. A good example is Mormonism – which is a very fast growing religion. It also has a truly wild and unbelievable genesis story. Yet it works, and people buy in quite seriously to it.

    The problem in modern society is it can be difficult and meaningless. Even though it provides a way better legal system than OJ, even though it is fairer to all than OJ, even though OJ takes heavily from its ideas and imports them and calls them Torah – the Enlightenment has largely failed to address the issue of meaning in life, and people can feel it acutely in College and really throughout life.

    OJ is trying to fill a gap – it will basically do anything to give the impression it can create meaning for a Jew. It wants to provide ultimate answers.

    What can we say? It is a fundamentally dishonest approach to a serious modern problem.

    One day the West will find an answer to the meaning issue, or we will continue to see powerful movements and religious forces influence people in large ways.

    I think the best we can do is let Jews know that all religions suffer from reliability issues: we realized in the Enlightenment that belief, tradition, prophecy and revelation were unreliable guides to truth. We opted for natural rights, and “self evident” truths. The US – which obligates people to not abridge the rights of others – is the most successful and safe and sane society in the world as a result. It has pioneered the values in our system of world governance; other nations are envious of our Bill of Rights. The founding fathers like Jefferson and thinkers like Thomas Paine did everything they humanly could to keep G-d out, and give people their rights regardless of their beliefs.

    It was a home run. The values are better than any religious values.

  4. Part II of II

    On the matter of meaning, we need to keep working on that. As a busy, modern, alienating society – we are going to find some people drawn to the sweetness of the promise of fundamentalist religion. We need to remind them that where strong belief starts, thinking stops. And strong belief can get you anywhere – to being a Hare Krishna, an OJ, a Mormon, a member of the KKK.

    We need to keep people thinking. Was the Torah REALLY given at Mt. Sinai – or was it built over time and by many hands? More and more scholars with observant lifestyles say the evidence points to the later.

    It’s not about convincing people of that – it’s about letting that view (recently articulated by kippah wearing Professor Wright at Emory and fully orthodox yadin yadin Zev Farber of YCT as well as Rabbi David Steinberg of the Mir, Bnei Brak, and Aish) be a part of the conversation.

    No one should control the conversation; no one’s view or feelings should be left out. The orthodox are good at making people disappear – they create communities that demand compliance or an exit – but if they want to talk, we all get to talk. No holds barred. They are not the boss of ideas. They are not the only participant in the conversation. They get to hear the pain of others, the views, the outright dissent, even the hostility (of gay folks, women, all people) to the Torah ideas – many of which do not measure up.

    I want to be Jewish – I don’t want anyone telling me I need to stop thinking to do that. I don’t accept it – no one should have to. Anyone tells you that is not your friend. You know that deep down.

    Don’t let them win. Don’t let them get away with that trick of dominating things just because they are super kind, super cool, and super family oriented. We are all real people and deserve respect. I love many kiruv people – I just disagree, think they are dishonest in their discussions, and think they cannot afford a sustained encounter with an outside voice. Well, that is their problem. Let em know nothing but real dialogue counts. The rest is fun, but it’s a seduction. It’s one that can work on a student – which is where strength of character must come in. College kids particularly are weak and want love – but not at the cost they are demanding. Not at the cost of honest and real talk. You matter too much.

    It is tricky – part of me wants to say walk away, don’t look back. It’s that bad dealing with a cult. A mass movement. Cults are seductive and work, and often give guidance and purpose to life – and it is a terrible mess.

    But I am a Jew and will engage these Jews. I will try at least. We all should. But be prepared to walk away and steer your own course. They will try to keep you – and it will work much of the time. But remember that you matter more than the love you are getting from those who seek to seduce you with their honest love, caring, and their somewhat more cynical notch-on-the-belt kiruv impulse.

    Honestly, I don’t think we can beat these guys with every candidate – because the need for love and acceptance is universal as is the desire for guidance, purpose, and a special identity. And many of us are damaged and searching in one way or another.

    But…stay strong!! You can find beauty in the world outside of OJ too. And purpose and love and ethics and people to admire. Even traditions to admire.


  5. Eden is painting a very pretty picture. The only problem is that it doesn't actually exist. She is very aware that her ultimate goal is for Jewish college students to leave college, join a yeshiva or seminary, get married, and churn out as many babies as possible. As far as honoring parents, being refined, etc.. those are code words- what they really mean is- ignore your parents, they are Torah-ignorant and will come around once the grandkids are born (hopefully with checkbook in hand for her organization) refined is code for being remade in the orthodox image.

    The funniest part of all this is that if you visit her shul and community what you will see is lots of kids running wild, who are called "chutzpakdik", meaning they treat their parents and everyone else with complete disrespect, without any parental supervision, lots of junk food, obesity, and lack of any secular education, no job prospects (except for kiruv). It may open your eyes as to why she is doing what she is doing.

    1. Anonymous,
      I don't think you want a response to this but I need to comment that if you interpret my words to fit your agenda, what's the point of this conversation? It's only if we're both open and honest enough to listen to one another that this discussion serves a purpose other than hearing the clicking of our keyboard.

      To point out the obvious, you don't know my shul and I assure you what you described is not it. I probably would be a misfit in such a shul- at least I hope I would be.

      If you ever want to talk- and listen- I'm here.

  6. Rachel wrote, "As for the second point (misleading students) – I agree to a point."

    She says that, but will she attack any org that is blatantly deceptive? That blatantly lies about their agenda? Like NCSY's JSU? Like the JEC in Manhattan (

    Some Modern Orthodox NON-Kiruvnik Jews WILL condemn them (see this post: . But the Kiruvnik will not. Rachel does not.

    Also, I would note that we already know Rachel is black hat because she doesn't link to your blog. Modern Orthodox Jews -- even right-wing Modern Orthodox Jews -- will link to their opponent. It is a heimeshe kup to not link.

    In the end, I predict this woman will not just shut down the debate, she will shut down her blog.

    1. Hi DK,

      Thanks for your prediction- thankfully you're not a navi. (joking!)

      You're right. I wouldn't call myself Modern Orthodox and I'm not sure what a "heimeshe kup" entails but I do pride myself on being heimish so I'll take it.

      I don't think NCSY, for example, is deceptive at all. Could you explain how it is please? Excuse my heimeshe kup....maybe you can dumb things down for me (joking again- I'm sorry I can't resist!!!)

  7. Bec, I have 3 questions after reading your posts on here: 1) Your complaint is that Kiruv teachers should teach non-Orthodox view points? Does any other group of Judaism truly teach other view points? Kiruv teachers never deny teaching Traditional Judaism - (by Traditional I mean Judaism that involves Kashrut and Shabbat Observance according to the Torah) The Conservative and Reform movements have evolved on their observance to fit the modern world--so its quite hard to call their observance Traditional. So your first complaint would be nullified if Kiruv workers said they were doing Kiruv from an Orthodox viewpoint? (As I stated above, I think they are stating Traditional, as the word Orthodoxy was a negative word assigned to Traditional Jews around the end of the 19th Century, as a way to identify them. There was Judaism. Then there was Reform Judaism. Then the reform movement made the people they broke off from the Orthodox Movement. By using the words Traditional Judaism or Judaism, any Kiruv person, is merely using the label that they apply to themselves. But even after all of that, if Kiruv Teachers referred to their teachings as Orthodox Judaism, would that remove a significant part of your anger? 2) You argue that Kiruv attacks "young people". I believe the overwhelming majority of Kiruv occurs on college campuses and in young professional scenarios. These people are 18-25 years old. They are free from their parents and able to make decisions on their own for the first time. These decisions involve voting, use of drugs, alcohol, joining the military, sexually experimenting, finding a career, dropping out of college, committing a crime, figuring out one's religious beliefs, etc… -- do you have a problem with 18-25 year olds doing all of those other things as well--because each of those things will dramatically impact oneself and their family. What I'm saying is that life decisions start in college--so why is it only with regard to Kiruv do yo have a problem? Lastly, with regard to kiruv in HS, and groups like NCSY--I think they are pretty clear on their website, who they are and what they do- "ith the vision of Harold and Enid Boxer a”h, the Orthodox Union founded NCSY in 1954 to provide Jewish teens with an opportunity to build a strong connection to their Jewish roots through inspiration and leadership skills". How much does one have to say to no longer be deceptive? If the information is known and out there, is that sufficient? How far does one have to go?

    1. 1. My complaint is that orthodox kiruv does not even allow for the possibility of other liberal factions of Judaism. This is because they do not accept liberal Judaism as legitimate expressions of Judaism. That means that what kiruv professionals label "just Judaism" is really whatever brand of orthodox-centric Judaism they are peddling. They are not giving any other options. Very often you'll find that Reform and Conservative synagogues offer courses and lectures that delve into other forms of Judaism. One of the local non-orthodox synagogues near me offered a lecture on Chasidus, and in order to convert in some Reform congregations, potential converts need to experience other forms of Judaism (such as attending a few services in an orthodox synagogue.) Liberal branches of Judaism accept orthodox Judaism as another valid expression of Judaism. For the record, I am not at all angry. The term "traditional" is not accurate here. There are many Conservative synagogues that refer to themselves as "traditional," such as the one I grew up attending. When orthodox kiruv professionals use the term "traditional" they are misleading the people they are trying to reach. If "orthodox" is a dirty word, then there's no reason why Orthodox Jews should be using it to define themselves. Where is the movement to remove that label? This is just semantics.
      2. I've never said that "kiruv attacks young people." To answer your question, most students who grow up in the secular world are well-schooled about the effects of drugs, alcohol, un-safe sex, the military's expectations of those who join, etc., by the time they hit the 18-25 year mark. Nobody withholds the fact that if a person wishes to work as a toll booth attendant, they may have an increased risk of certain carcinogens entering their bloodstream. Children are taught from a very young age the risks of committing crimes. None of this information is left out. It is only within orthodox kiruv that students are not given the full picture of what to expect within orthodoxy and what an orthodox life for a baal teshuva entails. We all know that the army recruiter has a table on campus to recruit students into the army. Why is it that kiruv professionals on campus aren't telling people that their presence exists on campus to recruit people to orthodox Judaism?
      With regards to NCSY/JSU I keep wondering why they are/were even allowed to set up student clubs in public schools under the guise of Jewish culture clubs. That seems so unethical.

    2. Just to followup on my first question. Practically its not possible for an Orthodox Jew to offer/teach non-orthodox Judaism or even offer those as options, because they view 1 as Truth and the other falsehood. So would you be okay if they simply were clear they were offering courses only from an Orthodox View? Or Does the singular view point itself bother you?

    3. I would hope that orthodox kiruv professionals would admit that they are only teaching from an orthodox perspective for the purpose of bringing people to orthodoxy specifically (since they don't accept other forms of Judaism.) For added clarity, I'd want them to be upfront as to their stance on other forms of Judaism, and stop the habit using false/misleading phrases like "we see all Jews as equal/we believe people are just Jewish/we don't believe in denominations" in order to evade questions about that topic.

    4. Does any other group of Judaism truly teach other view points?

      They do, in fact, but more to the point - no one in Orthodoxy ever considers any form of alternative for the seeker. When someone shows up at a kiruv organization and says "I want in", they throw the door open wide. There is no intake process, no psychological evaluation (which is often desperately needed, because these organizations, like their Christian fundamentalist counterparts, tend to attract fringe personalities - but that would be relying upon goysche science, chos v'sholem). No Chabad shliach has ever said, "This isn't the right fit for you. I think you'd be better off with one of other Hasidic sects." No one in Aish ever sends anyone to Ohr Someyach - and of course, forget about the liberal denominations: "Feh! Treyf! Assur! You'd be better off niftar!"

      The day I hear a kiruv person say, "Orthodoxy isn't for everyone, and that is perfectly okay" will be the day I might have found a kiruv person with whom I'd be willing to have a conversation.

    5. Cipher, I disagree with your statement that other groups teach other Jewish points of view. I would love an example of this? What normally happens is that either the Reform Rabbi, briefly mentions the other denominations but since he/she isn't part of them, he/she doesn't explain properly. Or alternatively, someone who isn't part of any denomination teaches about them. But I don't blame anyone for this--it happens in every college in America as well. Professors teach from their viewpoint/methodology and don't necessarily teach from other methodologies. I think Bec has a point that maybe Kiruv teachers should be more clear that they are teaching from only 1 perspective. But even if they did that, I have a feeling that most commenters on here would still be upset. What I find ironic though is that the Reform and Conservative Movements are actually starting to copy the Orthodox outreach model.

    6. Teachers in the liberal denominations frequently draw upon Orthodox material, especially with the renewed interest in Hasidism that has come about in recent years (an interest of which I do not approve, as that world has been romanticized beyond recognition). Yes, they teach it from their perspective - but would anyone in the frum world (with the exception of those on the leftmost fringe, the Open Orthodox) use any materials from the liberal denominations? Of course not; the very suggestion would be spat upon.

      And they most certainly are NOT copying the Orthodox model. They don't forbid young people to pursue higher education. They don't tell them, "Our way is the only way." They don't tear young people away from their families. They don't tell people that their friends and family members who aren't part of the fold will spend eternity in gehinnom.

      However, leaving all of that aside - you conveniently ignored the rest of my comment.

    7. I'll also throw in that recently, Avi Weiss' organization sponsored an event in which rabbis from JTS and Hebrew Union were invited to engage in a panel discussion with Orthodox rabbis. The Agudath, as you may be aware, threw a fit. They actually seemed to be more upset over the fact that Avi was recognizing liberal rabbis than they are over the fact that he's been ordaining women.

  8. I can’t respond easily on R Eden’s blog for some reason. I just want to comment here.

    I want to apologize for the tone of my remarks to R Eden.

    Now I want to say that I don’t believe she understands (I was probably very unclear) my problem with her viewpoint.

    I would like to honestly ask Ms. Eden how she would feel about sending her eldest child to Jesus Camp for a couple of months next summer? There he or she would learn how utterly amazing the idea of grace through Jesus is. They would hear all about how loving Jesus is a way to connect to G-d, and how this is the emes (and how it will keep them from burning in hell.)

    In addition, they will make lifelong friends, have amazing talks, bond with people who have a true love of G-d. They will learn about the beauty of sex in marriage, the beauty of Jesus, the beauty of Christianity.

    I guarantee your eldest will never be the same! The songs they will sing! The love they will feel. May just devote their life to Christ.

    Now Ms. Eden – are you comfortable with this idea?

    No? Why?

    OK – now – we are not comfortable with kiruv for the same reason.

    I know you can understand – if you really want to.

    Best, and again: apologies for my anger. But would Jesus Camp scare/anger you? Think of kiruv as a kind of Jesus Camp. Amazing, beautiful, full of memorable haimish times, warm times, amazing memories.

    But something about Jesus Camp upsets you – once you can answer that question, you will understand the discomfort with kiruv.


  9. Tuvia,

    thanks for the nice note!

    Yes - you're right- I would hate sending my kid to Jesus camp.

    If you feel about orthodox Judaism the way I feel about my little sweet Jewish boy going for Jesus then I do understand.

    So I guess that leads me to another question altogether....

    What's your beef with Judaism?

    1. The problem isn't with Judaism, it's with the assumption that "Judaism" means "Orthodox Judaism."

    2. What's your beef with Orthodox Judaism?

    3. I've got a few, mostly to do with its tenuous relationship with reality, but that's beside the point.

      "Judaism" has meant different things in different times and places. UOJ like to pretend - and many sincerely believe - that the way they practice is more or less the way it's always been, and any Jew from any era would be pretty comfortable in their shul.

      The truth is that Orthodox Judaism is just one of many, many forms that Judaism has taken over the millenia, and it has no more (or less) of a claim to being the definitive version than any other. Yet the frum world demands a belief that the way they practice is what was dictated to Moshe on Har Sina.

      There are many Jews who express their Judaism and Jewishness in ways different from those of Orthodoxy. To them, Orthodoxy is as strange and unnecessary, even as disturbing as Christianity is to you. Becoming Orthodox is not becoming *more* Jewish or closer to Judaism, it would be changing the way they relate to Judaism, and in the opinion of many people, not for the better.

      Now, obviously, you disagree, and you believe that it is a change for the better. Who knows, maybe God even agrees with you. But for most Jews, OJ is just strange and full of restrictions and rituals of questionable value.

    4. My guess at your revulsion to jesus camp is simply that it is not emes. Well those who think Orthodox Judaism is not emes feel the same way.
      (You seem to be having trouble understanding this because you can't entertain the idea that you might be wrong.)

    5. What's your beef with Orthodox Judaism?

      What's your beef with Christianity? You see, it works both ways - but I'm quite certain you're unable to understand that.

  10. Shabbos at my house, everybody! c'mon it'll be fun! at least there will be lively conversation!

  11. Before Shabbos comes in...please read if you have time! :)

    1. I read your post. I'm sorry to say your tone seems rather patronizing and self righteous. I don't mean to make an ad hominem attack, only to recommend a more respectful tone so your points can be more easily heard.
      Why is a disagreement over ideas mean there is hate going on? I'll try to be dan lekaf zchus and understand you are not being literal and just trying to be funny, using a known phrase. Anyway I don't hate you or even your ideas. I'm just interested in sharing thoughts and ideas and even learning from others' viewpoints and thoughts. The goal is to reach some clarity about an issue, not to win. I hope you are at least going into the discussion with an understanding that you might have what to learn from it rather than just defend your position.
      Why if someone is anonymous are the ideas not worthy of consideration? The thoughts are thoughts to be judged as to their merit regardless of who says them.

  12. Did anyone here ever watch the documentary, Jesus Camp? It's actually quite fascinating.

    That being said, Rebecca, your posts always make me think. You bring up very good points, but at the same time, I don't think that all kiruv professionals have an insidious ulterior motive to their work. Would their ultimate wish be that the Jews they encounter become religious? Yes. Are they up front with that wish? Usually not.

    However, some kiruv organizations really do just want to introduce young people to their heritage (yes, from an Orthodox perspective) and their ultimate goal is that those young Jews will eventually marry other Jews and continue the Jewish people. Personally, I don't think those are bad basic goals.

    Many kiruv workers are products of kiruv organizations themselves. Many are young marrieds who have yet to feel the full impact of living an orthodox life - the large family, the high cost of living, the differences in attitudes between the more liberal world view they may have been raised with as secular Jews and the far more conservative world view that permeates most orthodox communities - to name but a few things. My point is, it's not necessarily that kiruv workers are being dishonest, it's just that they themselves haven't experienced all of the potential pitfalls yet, are still in the "honeymoon" stage of BTness, and are simply sharing the joys of orthodox life as they truly see it.

    That's just one possible scenario.

    1. I completely agree with you. Having known several very young, newly married, BT kiruv workers--some of whom inspired me to frumkeit years ago, that's very true. They never went through what the non-kiruv worker BT may eventually face in the orthodox world and possibly have no idea that people will have these issues. That's certainly a perspective that hadn't occurred to me. It's dishonest in several ways--they're not lying or omitting information--they have no idea that there is anything beyond the rosy glow of newly found observance. The information left out is information they don't have. In some ways, they are also be victims of the same system. And who better to recruit than a new recruit?
      I also agree that not all kiruv people may be coming at non-orthodox people from the angle of making them orthodox. The slick and aggressive marketing and leaving out important details or bending the truth to fit the situation is problematic to me. If it's not deceptive, it's fine. One of the issues with kiruv organizations is that they are linked and will keep referring people to other organizations within their networks. I see this as very different from the friendly orthodox neighbors who invite the people down the street for a shabbos meal.

  13. I just reblogged something that is relevant to this post:

  14. Why shut the dialogue down by dismissing the points I made?

    There is no dialogue. You're speaking different languages.

    Bec, do you happen to know to which kiruv organization Rachel belongs? I assume it isn't Chabad.

    1. I don't know, but I keep thinking possibly Aish or an Aish affiliate.


Your respectful comments are welcome.