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:
- I don’t care about the color of your yarmulke.
- I don’t mind if you like classical music or jazz or Jewish.
- 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.
- 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.