First of all, "willfully misled" means "deliberately misled." "Willfully misled" is definitely not an oxymoron.She Asks: 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 Answer: Rebecca makes an interesting point. The Torah – written and oral law was given thousands of years ago. In the early 19th century, the reform movement was created and as a reaction to that, in around 1850, the conservative movement began. Most non-orthodox practicing Jews are practicing a relatively new form of Judaism that doesn’t match up with the authentic tradition given over in 2448. That original version of Judaism is “just Judaism”. I am absolutely pointing Sephardi Jews towards experts in Sephardi customs and Sephardi groups. I have no intention of dictating customs. There is, however, a basic list of expectations Jews observe and then beyond that minimal set of laws- it’s up to the person how they want to practice. I always tell my students to be true to themselves (they should also be true to Judaism). Side-note: “Willfully misled”? Isn’t that an oxymoron?
Secondly, it seems to me that the only Judaism that's probably mostly unchanged by chumras and reinterpretations, and that may be closest to what used to be practiced is the Judaism practiced by the Middle Eastern Jews, thus making Aish Judaism not very "traditional." [Updated here to add this: I was reminded by an acquaintance a few moments ago that perhaps the most "traditional" Judaism would be that which was practiced by the Ethiopian Jews.] Would you let your child marry a person who keeps shabbos, taharat hamishpacha (family purity laws,) and kosher? What if they're actually Conservative but keep these things?
I'm going to interject here. Ms. Eden says that "Just Be You" is facetious? So she doesn't want people to be themselves? I took her at her word and didn't ascribe any sarcasm that phrase, and I didn't assume she was just using that cliche facetiously. That suddenly clarifies a lot. She doesn't want you to "just be you" at all.She Asks: 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?I Answer: Another nice point, Bec. The above image “Just Be You” is me being facetious. I’m not typically one of those facebook posters who paste a cliche into their status bar. If you are, no judgement- sometimes I even enjoy reading them.
Interjecting again. Note the "God forbid" here in use and the lack of capitalization for the proper noun--it's the name of a specific movement-- "Humanist Jews." Perhaps readers here feel that "God forbid their children should become orthodox." If we said that, we'd be labeled "haterz." Why the double standard?If my children, God forbid, decided to live as “humanist Jews” that wouldn’t be self-expression.
The more we dissect this, the less healthy it sounds. You can do what you want, as long as you do what I want first. For someone who loves and welcomes all Jews, this seems very disrespectful to all Jews who are not orthodox. I hope that if Ms. Eden's children ever go off the derech (off the path of orthodox Judaism,) that she doesn't toss them to the curb like yesterday's trash. And I sincerely hope that she will respect their life choices and love them unconditionally.Let me explain. I believe God created the Torah as a guide to living for all Jews in every generation. Just like when my husband and I married, we created an understood exchange of expectations (ex/ we come home every evening, know for the most part each other’s whereabouts, pool our money together, are faithful to one another, etc). My children also know I have expectations of them (speak respectfully, eat health food usually, clean up after playtime). God created expectations for our benefit – and our benefit alone. Hashem doesn’t need us to do this stuff- this stuff is how we keep spiritually healthy. After we do everything we need to do to keep spiritually healthy, we can start to consider self-discovery, creativity, more spiritual outlets.
This isn't about a Torah-observant life being healthy or unhealthy. It is about doing deceptive outreach to students under the guise of genuine friendship.But there’s a minimum standard as I said before. I’m happy to accommodate my children as long as they’re being healthy. If there are parents who think practicing a Torah-observant life is unhealthy, I’d like to hear why please.
In short, the answer to my question is no. Ms. Eden believes, as a kiruv professional, that a non-orthodox lifestyle is not a spiritually healthy lifestyle. This explains why, if her children left orthodoxy, their lifestyles would not be acceptable to her. This also justifies her outreach work. Does she tell her students that non-orthodox Judaism is spiritually unhealthy when she sits down with them for coffee for the first (or second, or third, or fifteenth) time? Does she tell this to their parents when they sign checks for donations to her organization? OR are these forms of Judaism only spiritually unhealthy for her own children?
She Asks: Within the last post, I also posted claims made by another (anonymous) person in kiruv which seem to contradict your claims. ”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.I Answer: Firstly, I’m one of those annoying people that don’t enjoy reading anonymous posts. I just don’t see why a person gets to state an opinion and not stand behind it proudly. That said, I’ll oblige since Bec and I now go way back.
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.
I never considered kiruv a responsibility though maybe that’s bad. I feel really fortunate to have investigated Judaism at a time in my life when I could create a home and family on the basis of my conclusions. I feel fortunate to be born into a religious with a built in infrastructure for how to live life to its fullest and grow every day. I feel so fortunate that it seems wrong not to share what I benefit so much from with others.
I don’t agree with Anonymous’ point here at all. “We are to do this by any peaceful means”? “We are held responsible for others’ actions”? No and no. There are boundaries. There are lines. There are no-nos. Anonymous needs to back up what s/he is accusing – a dangerous accusation- with some evidence and there’s not a shred of it. My husband and I would never manipulate anyone or pressure someone to be a frum Jew. Before our desire to educate people about Judaism is our obligation to be upright people. Anonymous sounds like a rabble rouser and I’m suspicious of this person’s credibility.
To address the issue of anonymous posters on my blog: I have had many people in kiruv contact me personally. Some I've even spoken with on the phone. However, many have expressed a sincere need to maintain anonymity due to their positions within their organizations, and for the privacy that they desire but often lack as public figures, or as people of influence within their respective communities. That said, these are ideas that we're discussing, not people. A valid opinion is a valid opinion. This differs from purposely hiding the identity of someone with whom you disagree because you don't want other people to access information being provided.
While I'm not sure who the Anonymous Mekarev is, his words sound vaguely like they were influenced by Project Inspire, an Aish HaTorah affiliate. At the same time, they remind me of something I read in Aish HaTorah's "The Eye of A Needle: Aish HaTorah's Kiruv Primer." While AM and I don't see eye to eye on kiruv, he generally makes well-thought out points that seem to be based on familiar and accepted work in the kiruv field.
She Comments: 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 React: If there are specific points to address, I’m game. However, my guess is there are a couple underlying themes that once we identify we can cut right to the chase. For example, now that I’ve had so many interactions with your readership I now have the hunch that these anti-kiruv people are actually anti-orthodox.It's sad to see this in print because I've had this "argument" tossed at me too many times to count and I really thought that Ms. Eden was above this cheap shot. I've even written posts about these words. It seems to me that whenever there is disagreement between Jews, and the non-orthodox Jew has ideas that the other may disagree with, instead of putting up a valid argument, the discussion turns to "well, you must be anti-orthodox/anti-semitic/a self-hating Jew." I've seen this online, I've received private emails about it, I've seen this on online forums, and I've seen it in local politics. It's an interesting way of shutting down and dismissing points that may be valid but the other party would prefer not to address. While I don't personally know all of the people who comment on this blog, I can speak for some who are not anti-orthodox, but anti-deceptive proselytizing. I believe that it is your freedom to practice your religion, but don't push it on me or my children, especially when you're doing it deceptively.
She Comments: I’m also really curious to know about these “outrageous comments and points that are too ridiculous and off-the-wall to address.”
I React: One example is when you paralleled my work in Jewish outreach with rape. For starters.I actually thought that my example was fabulous. Here it is again for reference.
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.*It shouldn't need to be explained here that my point is and remains, that regardless of the outcome, the initial steps taken were wrong. Deception is wrong. But that's coming from me--someone who believes that a person's spirituality (or lack thereof) is personal, and who doesn't believe that orthodoxy (in whatever form) is the only way to express one's Judaism or spirituality, and who doesn't believe that missionary tactics are acceptable. I believe that we all have the right to practice our religion in a way that doesn't harm others. From what I've seen of kiruv, that which is practiced deceptively is both harmful and unethical.