"...Chabad.org is often the deciding factor in the life of a troubled teenager, a lonely college student, or a "regular" family in some forlorn corner of the world with no Jewish community or friends."I'd like to know what the decision is that these people are trying to make. What are they deciding between? I'd also like to point out that Chabad emissaries don't only set up camp in "some forlorn corner of the world with no Jewish community." If you look around the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut tri-state area, you'll find many existing Jewish communities with Reform and Conservative populations into which Chabad emissaries have inserted themselves and set up Chabad centers. While they may say that they are not in competition with local synagogues, it is my opinion that this assertion is not entirely true. Through fundraising, they are able to greatly offset the cost of things like Hebrew School, holiday and shabbat services, and social programming, thus enabling them to offer little or no-cost (Chabad-centric, nicely packaged orthodox) Judaism to local Jews. The problem here is that this hugely subsidized programming serves to compete with the more liberal synagogues in existence, thus compromising temple membership for the more liberal factions. So, while they may not be directly in competition, the competition still exists. (This is not taking into account competing holiday programs, Purim parties, Hanukah celebrations, etc. that may occur at the same time.)
I am also curious about the "troubled teenager" they are trying to reach and how exactly my money is going to help this person. How is he/she troubled? If there is preexisting knowledge that someone is indeed "troubled" then I would think that there are some ethical issues to be considered. Are parents being contacted? What is being done? And what's the story with this "lonely college student?" Will money be given to the college's Student Union to help fund a new campus club? (This is a good time to remember specifically that missionaries, regardless of affiliation, regularly prey on people who may be more vulnerable and searching for belonging and meaning.) Is Chabad telling us that money that goes to the Chabad.org website will magically change people's lives? And tell us more about the ""regular" family." Why is "regular" in quotes in the email? Is that code for ... secular? And if they're secular, why exactly is this a problem?
Let's also address the other line I underlined.
"We must continue to share and innovate until every last Jew has the opportunity to learn about his or her heritage."The use of the word "must" conveys a sense of urgency in reaching "every last Jew" in order to give them this opportunity. Donors are paying Chabad.org to help them find every last Jew. I believe it was in Sue Fishkoff's book The Rebbe’s Army: Inside the World of Chabad-Lubavitch (Schocken Books, 2003) in which we learn that Chabad missionaries new to an area will often use the phone book as a guide to locating local Jewish families. I guess that's part of the effort to make sure that "every last Jew has the opportunity to learn about his or her heritage."Chabad is known for their mitzvah tanks, their street-corner kiruv, and their more aggressive outreach efforts in attempting to reach people. It's no surprise that this is Chabad's modus operandi. They're good at what they do and they have many hands willing to do the work, research, article writing, and website maintenance to make sure they can approach "every last Jew."
As a quick note, I know that for many people reading, none of this is a surprise. Some of you may have even received the same email. The reason I periodically post letters from outreach organizations is because I find the language to be very interesting when looked at critically. Most of us barely skim fundraising letters. But when we read into them, they really just leave a lot of questions unanswered.