Friday, January 31, 2014

Kollel Wives and Kiruv'd College Kids

     I recently read a post on one of many forums for orthodox women that addressed a woman's concern that her post-high school stint at seminary (most likely in Israel) served to mislead her about the type of life she'd ultimately be living. She asked the group if seminary brainwashing jeopardized their marriage, and the discussion grew to about 14 pages by the time I'd finished reading. Many of the issues raised in this thread by this very insightful group of women, who range from Modern Orthodox to Hasidic with various levels of education and who live all over the world, are issues that I've often raised on this blog.
     Those who felt that they'd been "brainwashed" in seminary, talked about how they were only seventeen and eighteen years old (college-age) and just out of high school with no real world experience. They were convinced by educators whom they'd trusted that they should marry a guy in kollel (who learns Torah full-time, or for the first five years of their marriage,) and weren't taught to plan for the future. They discussed how men, upon leaving the kollel yeshiva, weren't prepared to make a living, and this burden often fell on the shoulders of the wives, who had to work to support a growing family as well as a husband who studied all day. Several mentioned that financial responsibility for the couple and their children was shared by their own parents or in-laws. The women questioned why the yeshivas were encouraging financial dependency, and criticized the fact that they were taught to look derisively upon those studying in college for a career. They pointed out that men who learned well into their thirties and beyond, were then too old to start a career at the bottom--by then they had large families to support. Some women felt that their educators had overstepped their bounds and had given advice that was detrimental to the lives of the very impressionable college-age seminary students they were encouraging.
     I know that many of the women on this particular forum do not agree with my stance on what I tend to call "deceptive kiruv," mostly because many believe that kiruv is a meritorious pursuit. But if we divorce the main issues--kiruv and kollel wives--we have several overlapping factors: young, impressionable high school graduates; young people away from home and away from daily interactions with family to whom they can relay anything they may find questionable; skilled educators pushing a certain agenda and undermining parents; lack of experience in the wider world; youthful idealism without the wisdom to be more skeptical about what it is they're learning.
     An argument that I've often heard to counter my issues with kiruv on the college level is that if kids are over 18, or old enough to fend for themselves, then they're fair game for kiruv workers, and they should be able to recognize such "brainwashing" for what it is. I don't agree with this argument at all. But now, married orthodox women are bringing up the very same issues regarding people of the same age group. Deceptive kiruv is not isolated from the rest of the orthodox world. It is an issue that must be addressed on many different levels because it affects many different people, often for life.


  1. Great post, bec.

  2. Could you link to website that had the discussion on it?

    Very difficult to fight the loving embrace of kiruv. I have cousins in kiruv and I keep trying to get through to them that they are deceiving people. They don’t care.

    For most Jews in chinuch, there is a very deep feeling of (maybe sexual?) satisfaction they get from shaping and turning a kid. I really believe it just feels too darn good to have an honest discussion replace the seduction and indoctrination.

    We have to keep fighting it of course. Liars can’t win if we keep fighting. But they have the advantage of actually enjoying the work they do, and they won’t give it up. Lying kiruv is an addiction for some BT Jews and their clones in the frum community.


    1. Registered users on the Imamother forum should be able to do a quick search in order to view the original conversation there. I don't want to jeopardize people's privacy by directly linking in this case, and I don't think the link would work without a user name. I love that these women are thinking critically about their own experiences. It takes a lot of courage to question what they've been taught, and I applaud them.
      It's hard to fight kiruv because people in kiruv usually believe what they are doing is for a greater good. It's hard to convince people who believe that this is what their god wants them to do, especially when they have community-based support to do their work. That's a major reason why I started this blog--to provide some information from the other side.

  3. I think things are changing, slowly, although the change doesn't really stop deceptive kiruv but it will change the community of frum families......first, there is an older generation of ultra-O moms who are telling their daughters not to rush into marriage, get a career; there are also a lot more ultra-O young wives who are getting law degrees, working in hi-tech---and guess what? When you make that kind of money, you get to make the rules....their husbands are discovering that they need to be partners and not "head of household" dictators, or they're out the door on their tush, divorced. This is still a minority, but it's already having an effect---more and more "new chareidi" guys are opting to attend the HU "hareidi track" of mechina, get the math and science and go on to the orthodox college here so they can work FT in law or hi-tech themselves....I think soon there will be two kinds of chareidi families: those stuck in poverty from the traditional system, and those who have broken out so both partners have careers....and as the government support continues to collapse for the old system, hopefully more will opt for education and careers. The real motivator according to one guy: "I don't want my kids to grow up in the poverty I grew up in." Amen!

    1. The problem is how to stop deceptive kiruv from ruining the lives of secular kids? It's great that people with 20/20 hindsight see problems within kiruv and ultra orthodoxy, but that doesn't protect new recruits from being sucked in. Will any of those women who resent the lies they were told step up or intervene to protect a new recruit from believing those same lies? I think not, and how Jewish is that?

  4. I agree that marriage isn't presented realistically in Orthodox circles, but I know nothing about kiruv as an FFB, so I don't know if there is as strong a parallel as you suggest.

    For Real

    1. Really? People who are FFB know nothing about kiruv? Don't FFB people live in the same communities as BT's?

  5. Educated and financially indepent people are a threat to controlling leaders.

    1. Actually, that's who they prey on. Educated people tend to be more open minded and if their education lacked religion, which pretty much describes secular college kids, they're vulnerable and ripe for the picking.

  6. Parents need to inject a dose of realism. They are the ones funding this lifestyle, although some are reluctant. At some point, you need to sit your kids down and show them how to make a budget.

    There also needs to be an "emperor has no clothes" moment. I've seen some statements that remind me of that story: declarations that of course, the system makes no sense on paper, but the fact that many kollel families make it is somehow a sign of continuous miracles, and that it is possible to do....if you only have faith and believe. This flip side of this message is that those who face the reality that large families actually need to eat can feel like they failed the test of faith.

    Those who promote the system can sound increasingly strident, because the system IS under attack - not because folks are malicious, but because the system itself cannot be sustained.

    1. really, little orthodox kids dying of malnutrition/starvation is a small price to pay for the continuation of a pure yiddishkeit...little kids told to just deal with it when they are molested by a reputable rabbi are nothing in the scheme of things. have you no faith Law mom? emunah, bitichon, kavanah...these are the hallmark of the good Jewish woman!

      no wonder klal yisrael is suffering..thankfully moshiach will come soon and raise the righteous dead of all generation.

      then you'll get your true belief back! pity...


  7. This isn't a Kiruv problem, it's a chareidi/Bais Yaakov problem.

    My parents, a prominent orthodox rabbi/rebbetzin couple, have brought many previously unaffiliated Jews to Orthodox Judaism. Virtually every one of these ba'alei teshuva works for a living and supports his/her family with hard-earned income (or is married to a spouse who works full time while he/she tends to the home). My parents do not--and never have--advocated the kollel lifestyle to potential ba'alei teshuva. Study in Israel for a year or two? Sure! But never have they advocated relying on one's parents for financial support in perpetuity or forcing a wife to work two jobs and raise a brood of kids while the husband learns all day. And my parents are not an anomaly; many kiruv professionals share this attitude.

    In addition, you should know that the majority of kollel wives are FFB's (including modern Orthodox girls who were brainwashed in seminary), NOT ba'alei teshuva.

    While I agree with you that the "kollel for every Tom, Dick, and Harry" mentality is dangerous and destructive (as well as contravening halacha), your frustration with the "system" is misdirected. This is a chareidi hashkafah issue, not a Kiruv issue.

    1. I am sorry that you grew up in kiruv home. I hope that one day you find a way to leave.

    2. I am not saying that this is a kiruv issue, Anonymous. I'm saying that the issues raised in a post I read (which I summarized) are similar to issues within kiruv.

  8. Directing people at all can be problematic. Can a beis yakov girl learn about modern biblical criticism (from someone other than her rabbis, who have a bias?) No. Can she have prolonged exposure to the cadre of white shirt/ black velvet kippah academics who have put onto paper why they think the Torah was written over hundreds of years by many hands? No.

    The elephant in the room is always going to be indoctrination. The good kind in your eyes has people “choosing” orthodox Judaism (or being manipulated to choose it since they only ever hear one side of every argument), the bad kind of indoctrination has everyone choosing a kollel lifestyle.

    It’s the cart before the horse. Why believe the Torah was given at Mt. Sinai? It’s a good question. And there are lots of different perspectives, and evidence, and proofs – some for it, many against it. You let the beis jacov girls gain exposure to all the perspectives (again, not all taught by the same biased rabbi) and I will give money to that system! (I’m secular.) What they choose in the end does not concern me. How they get there concerns me a lot.

    So your parents do kiruv – to me, this is the equivalent of saying my parents are manipulate people to “save” their souls. Happy days.

    It’s all built on lies of omission, distortion, suppression…


    1. I'd like to point out that BT's almost never "choose" to become BT's. They are led in little by little, using deception, coercion and tricks until they "agree." BT's are targeted by kiruv professionals. That is not free choice.

    2. "What they choose in the end does not concern me. How they get there concerns me a lot." <<Exactly.

  9. Some well raised points in this post. However one crucial thing is missing. One that is so vital it is like writing an article on health and leaving out exercise. That thing is the primacy of Torah. You may call it brainwashing but the main point of all of this seminary education is to teach girls the importance of having a home of Torah. A home where the husband is serious about learning and ruchnious is a home that will have the best chance to pass this on to the next generation. Obviously no system is perfect and there will be some bad apples in the bunch but the majority of people who are idealistic and truly believe in the incredible life giving force of learning Torah and striving for a real relationship with the One Above, will see great fruits of all the hard work that they invest. It requires great sacrifice and mesirus nefesh. But those that but the hard work in will be the ones who will see generations of holy Yidden that spring forth from them-people of truth, holy children and grandchildren. When they are old they will sit at their Pesach seder and see a huge table full of G-d fearing children, grandchildren, great grandchildren.

    Is there any greater pleasure in the world greater than that?

    I am writing from the perspective of one who has seen all sides. I see the friends of my own parents who are not frum. They have very few grandchildren. A few of my parents friends have kids who have even fallen for the Gay lie. No grandchildren, no nachas. Secular old miserable people who spend their senior years playing cards in Century Village in beautiful Boca Raton but still no one comes to visit because they have at most a few grandchildren....I visited Century Village a few years ago and the only happy people I met were the Orthodox Jews who live there. I literally went around and studied the situation. They have a vibrant life of getting out three times a day for davening, learning, shiurim. The women are still involved with all sorts of chesed projects, shiurim etc... The secular Jews sit all day watching TV. Oprah and Ellen are very popular with 80 year old nana's.

    We have to look to the future and not be shortsighted. Obviously b'derech hateva it might look unnatural this kollel system. However when a family grows in the atmosphere of the primacy of Torah they stand the best chance of succeeding in this world and the next. The entire existence of klal yisroel is above the natural world. We have never done what looks "normal". And we are still here and BH growing. A modern day miracle that we cannot become complacent about.

    1. Mitch, try to wrap your mind around the fact that it is not the goal of every human being to have "God fearing" grandchildren. It is also not the goal of every Jew to have a Pesach seder when they are old. You also miss the point that secular girls go to seminaries become frum and cast off their secular families. I do not think it's OK to destroy a secular family to create a frum one, especially when it's by deception.

    2. A small suggestion first - if you are posting a comment on an English language blog with a mixed audience, it's helpful to use English words. You can say spirituality, self-sacrifice, Jews, according to the laws of nature, etc.

      As for the rest of your post......

      I'm quite familiar with Century Village, since my parents are in the Deerfield one, and I was there for Passover last year.

      You are echoing some common lines, painting religious and secular Jews as forming 2 completely separate societies, and imagining that each sprung forth from separate lines.

      The truth is a bit different. Let me describe How I Spent My Passover.

      Our family all met up in Florida. You'd consider my sister's family "frei", or secular...unless you happened to have a disabled child or a family member with mental health issues or a senior citizen. You see, my BIL has spent most of his career putting on a kippah every morning to work for Jewish organizations serving children and young adults with special needs, while my sister works with both Jewish seniors and with those struggling with mental health issues. Both are passionate about what they do, and about their belief that every human being is created in the divine image, regardless of ability or special needs.

      We stayed with my parents. My father's paternal grandfather was a religious Jew who spent his days in studying and davening in shul. Some of his descendents are religious, some are not. My father has told me that his father resented the time that the grandfather spent in shul.

      My parents were founding members of a Conservative shul. Both of their children identify as Jewish today, although my sister and I practice it in different ways.

      My parents are also too busy to watch daytime TV. They have friends close by, they get involved in things, and they are very happy. One neighbor is a former member of their synagogue, with 4 kids. One is yeshivish, one is basically Modern Orthodox attending a Chabad shul, one is fairly secular, one is gay. Different branches, but the same tree. All 4 attend family celebrations together.

      My family is currently Modern Orthodox/Chabad. We spent time with friends from the shuls down there. One friend, with the black hat and beard, has a son who is gay. Another has one child who is Hasidic, and one child who is fairly secular.

      My parents sometimes visit my dad's cousin. They both talk about time spent with their maternal grandfather. He ran a farm, rented out shacks to Jewish families for the summer. They remember how the fathers would bring up kosher food each weekend, and how the shochet (ritual slaughterer) would come up to kill chickens and the occasional cow so they'd have meat. They all had fond memories of the place. Some are religious today, some are not.

      In fact, if you follow the family trees back for 100 to 150 years in most Jewish families, I'm willing to bet that you'd see something similar. Most of those kollel families didn't have grandparents and great-grandparents in kollel - it's largely a modern, post-war phenomenon except for a few elite. Most religious Jews will discover that they have secular cousins, even though the family may have originally been religious.

      And yes, religious families also have gay kids. The only difference that I'd seen between families is how easily the parents acknowledge this fact, and how easily the children disclose it to their families. My parents have a neighbor in Century Village whose rabbi at her Reform synagogue is a lesbian. We know the rabbi and her family. Her parents, who are observant but not Orthodox Jews, have nachas (pride and joy) from their daughter and her children. We also know a guy that went to Jewish day school with my husband. He got married and had children, just as his family expected him to....and now he and his ex-wife sit on opposite sides of the room during school events, since she discovered that he was secretly meeting up with other men.

    3. Mitch,
      Not everyone wants to be, or should be, an orthodox Jew. Not everyone finds joy and meaning in studying Torah, just as not everyone finds joy and meaning in studying Milton and Chaucer.
      The point of my original post was to point out that orthodox women are feeling like they've been coerced into marrying kollel guys, and living lives that they wouldn't have chosen if they'd had more life experience and less "brainwashing" at seminary (their word, not mine.)
      It is a shame that you can only see in black and white terms here. You view orthodoxy as good and non-orthodoxy as bad. You keep making it a point to insult gays. It is obvious that we don't all have the same values. You have your values, which you believe to be influenced by a more orthodox view of Judaism, and we have our views. Yet, you seem to think that we are all playing by the same rules. We're not.
      You say "But those that but the hard work in will be the ones who will see generations of holy Yidden that spring forth from them-people of truth, holy children and grandchildren. When they are old they will sit at their Pesach seder and see a huge table full of G-d fearing children, grandchildren, great grandchildren. Is there any greater pleasure in the world greater than that?"
      So let me answer. To you, no, there is probably no greater pleasure than that. To me, and to many others, yes, there are many greater pleasures than your example, and they don't all necessarily include god, Torah, Passover seders, and intolerance.

    4. bec,
      I've been following your blog for a while, and regularly find myself agreeing with a lot of what you say, but yelling at you for the places (albeit sometimes rather subtle places) where I disagree. In the interest of (anonymously) full disclosure, I'm a BT now Chareidi, and have worked in Kiruv for many many years.

      For Mtch's benefit, I also believe in the absolute truth of Torah, and even would go so far as to say that I believe that everyone SHOULD observe it. But I also understand that many (if not most) WON'T observe it, and that does not detract from their value as human beings, nor as Jews. I don't see anything wrong with disagreeing with the choice someone makes, while at the same time acknowledging and respecting them, and their God-given right to make that choice. I don't believe that Relativeism requires that I don't believe anything is true, or even that I think that all truth is relative. I'm not sure what's objectionable in passionately believing that my perspective is true, while at the same time understanding that you, just as passionately, think that I am wrong and that something else is true.

      And I think that this is the crux of what I perceive as my disagreement with you. If truth is completely relative, then we've relegated it from truth to opinion, in which case you're correct that I'm overstepping my bounds in coercing you to believe in my opinion. Why would I do that if my opinion has no more legitimacy than yours.

      But, if we can accept a situation wherein my belief that my position is true and yours is not, does not obviate your right to the opposite belief, and we can respect each other despite that, then my advocation for my beliefs, or my promotion of my beliefs, is completely legitimate. It isn't coercive unless I somehow disable you from accessing resources that would present a counter argument. The fact that I disagree with arguments that run counter to my belief is somewhat inherent in the fact that I believe it.

      Similarly, I don't see why I must give equal time to beliefs I disagree with. Again, we're not talking about depriving the student of the ability to know about such beliefs, nor their ability to access them. The question is whether I can legitimately present my belief, and even advocate for its truth, without having to give equal time to beliefs I don't agree with. Is that coercive or manipulative?

      In the specific issue you're presenting here, there is a certain amount of consideration that must be taken into account due to the youth of the students, and therefore their impressionability. But don't forget, when we're talking about gap-year seminaries for kids raised frum, we're dealing with a decision that the child and his/her parents made together about where to go. And everyone knows very well the philosophies of the different schools, and what type of lifestyle in this area will be advocated by the school. The 19 year old seminary girl in a Bais Yaakov seminary in Israel, that's hearing from her teacher that the only "kosher" home is one where the husband learns all day and the wife works full-time to support him, while at the same time, taking care of everything around the house, and raising all of her kids without (Ch'V) leaving them to a babysitter (wait while I remove my tongue from my cheek), has had ample time in her parents' home to hear their opinions about this issue, and probably has formed opinions about it herself. She's going to discuss it with friends, she (or her friends) have older siblings who are living (or choosing not to live) that lifestyle, and she'll go home and spend time talking to her parents etc about it before she starts going out.

      I'm not denying the many social and communal pressures that are placed on these young adults in this regard. But to simplify the issue down to their having been coerced by teachers in Sem is really not understanding the full picture.

    5. JK-
      You make some good points. And I'm going to admit that "coerce" was a poor choice of words on my part. I will say that based on the thread I read, maybe "pressure" would have been a better word. And yes, I think I see what you're saying--it's not only the seminary that is responsible for pushing a particular choice--there is also a degree of community and parental pressure involved as well. In that case, that aspect differs from the kiruv relationship. I guess also, after having read your comment, that in the case of the seminary/student relationship (and, please, correct me if my assumptions here are wrong,) that we're also dealing with students who go in already believing what they are taught to be truth; it's not as if they're coming from a place where a kollel marriage is as bizarre as moving to the moon for five years. They already know it's a possibility. Of course, this doesn't change the fact that women felt that the truth about the challenges of such a lifestyle were hidden, and that women on the thread discussed that they were made to believe that husbands who worked were inferior to those who learned all day. But yes, I do agree. There is definitely more to this. Thanks for pointing that out.

    6. bec,
      Your response, and your openness to hearing another point of view, says a lot about you, and is probably one of the reasons I enjoy reading your blog and find myself agreeing with you so frequently.

      I think that, for the most part, the girls that are hearing this type of message in Seminary, were looking for that type of environment, where that is the message, and that's why they are there. That said, it only moves the "issue" back a couple years, and forces us to look at the communal messages (and pressures) that they are exposed to in high school and before. There's no question that within certain segments of the Chareidi community, the pressure to marry THAT type of guy, and to build THAT type of life, is huge. There's also no question that this tide is turning somewhat, and many more parents are giving their daughters a 'reality check" when they return from seminary, and forcing them to think long and hard about the lives they want to lead, finances, family, pressures, etc; and many girls are choosing to look for guys that can "bring Torah into their home" in a way that better jives with the Torah's admonition to learn Torah AND study a profession, because setting up a life to intentionally rely on communal charity is an inappropriate way to live.

      But in one area, I do think that this is similar to the discussions you have about Kiruv. That is that, ultimately, it is the responsibility of every young adult to THINK about what they are being told and taught - to question and challenge - and to come to their own conclusions. I've certainly raised my own kids that way (or at least I've tried to), and I venture to guess that none of them will come out looking like me. Some may be "more" frum, and some "less," but that will be the choices they make. While I completely agree with you about some of the problems that exist in the Kiruv world today (as I will try to point out in future posts), I do think that the individuals themselves need to take some part of the responsibility for not thinking more critically, looking up conflicting ideas, and not allowing themselves to follow like sheep. I'm saying that as a Kiruv guy, who does teach people about Torah and Mitzvos and observance... I don't see that as being a contradiction and I'm not sure why more people haven't pointed that out.

    7. Mitch,
      By this logic every person in the world should convert to Judaism in order to have a rich life as a senior, no? You're not talking about fulfillment as a Jew, but any person from any kind of background. and you're saying the only people who have fulfilling lives as seniors are orthodox Jews - the only people of all people everywhere.

      seems to me if you are saying monotheistic religions provide the elements of an enriched life for seniors, than any can do the trick.

      there are more Jews in churches on sunday than in synagogue on Saturday. I guess they are likely to have nice lives in their golden years.


  10. Ok. I apologize for giving you the benefit of the doubt that you were a believing Orthodox Jew. Since you have decided not to be an Orthodox Jew why do you care so much about what Orthodox Jews do? Would not a blog about the String Cheese Incident or Phish be more in line with your interests? Seriously. I would prefer that.

    Yes there are many things that I see in black and white. I believe in absolutes. I believe in absolute truth. The Torah is an absolute truth. Therefore that is my perspective. I realize if you don't subscribe to that understanding than whatever I say will not make sense to you. I do not believe there are other types of Judaism. I don't even typically use the word Orthodox as it is meaningless. I just call myself a Jew. Jews have certain responsibilities, laws, concepts and a lifestyle given to us by the Master of the Universe. We have to do our best to serve that Master. That's all I am. Nothing too new. We've been at this for 3500 years.If you want to call it Orthodox. I don't care. Beats being called an Orthodontist.

    If you have other takes on the whole situation, I realize that I will sound quite odd or mean or insensitive. (to the non Torah agenda) However, I think its best that I put the truth on the table so you will know where I am coming from. I don't mind you hurling arrows at me as one of my goals is to be one of the first Jews who comments on blog who actually loves Torah and Yiddishkeit.

    1. Why does it bother you that I blog about the problems in kiruv? Why does it bother you that I see an obvious parallel here between how young (orthodox) women in seminary are taught, and how young (non-orthodox) people recruited by kiruv are taught? And why do you assume so much about my interests? Perhaps you are only a one-dimensional creature, but many of us are deeper and more complex than that, and have a multitude of interests. Stop trying to assign roles to people you know nothing about. It doesn't help your argument.
      Why do you assume that there is a "non-Torah" agenda? Just like you, many of us don't want our children recruited by missionaries who make false promises. Your truth is your truth, but it is not necessarily everyone else's truth. There are several people who comment on this blog who are Torah-observant orthodox Jews, but they seem to naturally practice tolerance. If you are supposed to be representing orthodox Judaism, then you're doing a fine job of turning people off. Please continue to comment here. It's always a pleasure, and definitely a learning experience.

    2. Mitch:

      People that believe in absolute truths can do terrible things to people that don't share that belief or are not even considered people by the "absolute truthers."

      the inquisition, crusades, pogroms, the holocaust -- all built on belief as absolute truth.

      please reconsider - read about the Enlightenment - which led to natural rights, the bill of rights, inalienable rights, equal rights, self evident truths.

      It is the best thing that ever happened to black folks, women, the elderly, children, the disabled and every religious minority, us included.


  11. The reason why I do not like to see you blogging about problems in Kiruv is simply because I believe the best thing for all Jews is to keep all of G-ds commands. We are told numerous times in the Torah of what happens when we keep the Torah and when G-d forbid we do not. Obviously since I believe the Torah expresses the will of the Master and Creator of the Universe, I take that very seriously. If you think the Torah is just another "book" and some might prefer lehavdil Chaucer or Milton than that would mean nothing to you. And if that is the case why in the first place do you even care about the Jews?

    As far as Kiruv is concerned the main problem is that not enough frum Jews actively try and bring other Jews closer to the Torah. There is nowhere even near enough kiruv going on as there should be. We should be standing in Malls and on the streets handing out pamphlets about Intelligent Design, we should be openly fighting the immorality agenda both in the US and for sure in Eretz Yisroel. (may G-d protect us).
    We should be inviting every non frum person for Shabbos and YomTov. We should try and convince as many parents as possible to take their kids out of the dirty sewers of public school and send them to yeshiva.There is no end to all that we can and should be doing. Therefore since you are trying to stop the tiny minuscule bit of kiruv that is actually done, it really sounds like you have a fair deal of the self hating Jew in you.

    All I can say is that if I am correct and the Torah is actually true. I would not want to be in your shoes in this world and certainly not the next.

    Here is a small sampling of those who agree with me. If you deem yourself wiser, I would suggest switching medications:
    Rabbi Akiva
    Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi
    Rabbi Yosef Caro
    The Maharal of Prague
    Chasam Sofer
    Chofetz Chaim
    The Lubavitcher Rebbe (s)
    All the Chassidic Rebbes
    Rav Moshe Feinstein
    99.9% of today's leading Torah scholars.

    You will really have to work very hard to claim you know more than these people.

    All of them were very interested in making all the Jews as you call it "Orthodox"

    1. No disrespect intended, but I keep thinking how interesting and ironic it would be if you're actually also against deceptive kiruv, but you put up inflammatory posts just to turn people off to orthodox Judaism.

    2. Moses agrees with you, Mitch? Did the two of you have a little tete a tete?

  12. Law Mom-you owe me lunch.I just almost puked mine up after reading your post.
    I think you need serious help if you are not disgusted by what you wrote.

    1. Once again, Mitch, comments like this and like the one above, in which you are condescending, make me think you're not actually orthodox at all. I can't imagine that someone who claims to represent orthodoxy would actually exercise such a lack of humility in speaking about those historical figures you supposedly respect. So, since you're obviously trying to get people to reject orthodoxy by playing the part of an unfortunate stereotype, I'm going to have to ask you, out of respect for the legitimately orthodox people who choose to comment here, to please refrain from being so disrespectful in your (mis)representation of them. If you are actually orthodox, then you are doing a disservice to yourself, and those of your community, and showing people here a lot of ugliness.

  13. Bec,

    Here's an ironic twist (coming from me). I don't think Mitch is playing a game at all. Oh how I wish he were, but unfortunately there are many of us (in this case I am not happy to be part of the club) who do think as he does. They are so to speak, fighting the War of Hashem (in their own minds). Anything that stands in their way must be anti-Torah, God, Holiness and all else good. I spent years in the Chareidi world and I can tell you that I used to think that way as well. It's not indoctrination by those who know that it's not true and are just trying to keep people in. The leaders also believe it. This may sound akward but they just love God and Torah so much that anything that is not in favor of (their conception of) those things, to them must be viciously God-hating and satanical. Being in Kiruv has actually helped me so much to see things differently. I have found that most people are sweet, good and loving. They just want to live their lives happily and meaningfully. The things that they disagree with when it comes to orthodoxy are things that to them are offensive or wrong. They do not hate God or Torah or me or anything of the sort. I know it sounds incredulous that I had to "learn" this, but UO has been living reactionary Judaism for so long that defensiveness is part and parcel of the culture. It's part of its greatness as well. It creates passion and solidarity that is hard to come by naturally. It has left the UO world feeling like an innocent CIA agent who is framed and now has to save the world with both hands tied behind his back and everyone rooting against him. To realize that people disagreeing with you is not a hate crime is in fact very liberating and joyous. However, at the same time, it deflates the personal feelings of supremacy which can take away some of the passion. This revelation can be an interesting fringe benefit of Kiruv in the long run perhaps - breaking down barriers in more than one direction.

    Just food for thought,


    1. I've sometimes wondered about how those in kiruv are influenced by those around them. Thanks for the input.

  14. To Bec--I really do not see anything in my posts that is inflammatory or condescending. Since when is stating what one believes called "inflammatory"? Is anyone who disagrees with you automatically called "inflammatory"? Really. Please explain one thing I said that is "inflammatory".

    In terms of the historical figures I mentioned, I agree, that I did make an error in saying "they agree with me". I really meant to say "I agree with them". There is nothing of what I have ever written on your blog that any of those figures would disagree with. The only thing they would say is why are you wasting so much time on this blog. To that I have no great answer except I am certain that if anyone ponders deeply what I have written it will be hard to honestly disagree intellectually but only emotionally. At the end of the day its all emotion over here.

    As for Anonymous-what you just wrote was well stated and I agree with your take on the humility and growth that kiruv work can cause. I myself worked for many years in outreach--I don't call it "kiruv" (bringing close) because that word in and of itself is total arrogance and it only Hashem who actually brings someone close.

    I have had hundreds of people at my shabbos/yom tov table of all backgrounds and takes on Jewish life. I have never once minced or sweetened up any of the Torah's hashkofas. I try to be as sincere as possible and just be myself. Many have thanked me and continually keep coming (although the food is also great BH!),

    None of that diminishes the fact that after all the warmth and love I give to them, there are still rights and wrongs in this world. There is truth and there are lies.

    My steadfast beliefs are traditional and not subject to the zeitgeist or pop culture of the era we live in. I realize that I will offend those who feel warmly towards modern liberal American values but there is nothing I can do about it. The Torah is the exact opposite of western secular culture and to hide that away from people and make excuses does nothing positive in the long run. That is the only deceptive "kiruv: that I agree is misguided and deceptive. However, if gets people in the door and then hopefully they will move on to higher levels of learning that is also very good.

  15. Mitch,

    I don't know your background. There are many things that you have written here that are offensive. Let me explain. True, if you believe that Torah is Truth then you will believe things that might be offensive (i.e. Homosexuality is always illegitimate, Halacha is binding even in cases of tremendous personal difficulty etc.). However, that is very different than expressing those things in an offensive way. People can hear an argument for a different approach. When you point fingers and are patronizing, they will not. Why attack anyone who has an opinion that is not yours? What do you gain? I can tell you what you lose. Respect. As a person who is claiming to represent Torah, you cannot afford to lose respect. You have a responsibility to what you represent. Look at any Rabbi who is a public figure and study how they conduct themselves. I don't mean someone who is a public figure to only those who agree with everything he says. I mean someone who represents Judaism to the masses - Jews, non-Jews, governments, religious leaders etc. Study the history of the British Chief Rabbinate and you will see what I mean. Lord Jonathan Saks perhaps has made the biggest public Kiddush Hashem in centuries. How? By always being respectful. Does everyone always do the same towards him? No. But this is not a playground fight. It doesn't have to be fair. The Torah demands we do what is right, not demand it from others first. On another topic, I suggest you spend more time reading. Some of the beliefs you claim to be upholding for 3500 years are in fact not so. A student of history will realize that although we can claim that Halacha is a binding system of thousands of years of Law - and that just as someone who rejects American Law loses the rights given to him by the Constitution so too someone who rejects Jewish Law can lose certain rights as a Jew - we cannot claim that every belief or practice that the Frum world has today is untouched and pristine from Sinai. No intelligent person can. Just look at the Rambam's Tefillah liturgy and you will see what I mean. Things change over time. Yes certain basic things are the same. That Tefillin are black boxes with at least the Shema in them is very old indeed. That Shabbos has many restrictions and has been kept for millenniums, of course. That there are rules to changing Jewish Law, agreed. Many other things though - even the belief that God is a total spiritual entity without any physical parts or limitations - are not nearly as old. Advocating that giving up on Jewish Law, practice and ideals is a tragedy for Jews and society is one thing. Claiming that anyone who doesn't agree with all Frum behaviors and beliefs has no chance in this world or the next just makes you look ignorant. Just realize that the way you see many people here - ignorant, nebuch, they don't know the Truth, they are brainwashed by their society - is the exact same way they may see you. Only when you can actually internalize that and keep it in mind when you write will you have any chance of having people be open to you.

    This is coming from someone who is Torah observant, spent many years in well known Yeshivos, and loves Judaism. Not everyone who challenges Judaism, hates it or wants to see it destroyed.



    1. Thank you, AM. If I had time right now, I'd take this further, but I just want to say that everything about your comment was perfect. Thank you.

    2. I appreciate your somewhat wise words. However I believe you are an "am ha'aretz". This site is against Yiddishkeit. It is against Torah. It is pure laitzonous. There is nothing to be gained by speaking respectfully here. It is not a kiruv site. Its an anti kiruv site. Do you realize how utterly disgusting the words "stop kiruv" are?

      I do not care if you learned in yeshivos. You can still be hijacked by the yetzer hara like anyone else. Many people can go through the entire Talmud, but does the Talmud go through them?

      If you are as righteous and kind as you sound with your writing, I would like to challenge you to publicly ask the owner of this site to pull it down. If you really love Torah and Judaism, would that not be the kindest, most righteous thing you can do? Who knows how many potential yeray Shomayim are being turned off by this site of pure hate.

      If you are not willing to request that this site be taken down, you are a total fraud. I challenge you and hope that you will rise to the occasion and make a kiddush Hashem.

    3. PS-Anonymous. Just re read your post. you did not even answer the question and tell me what you thought was offensive or inflammatory. You danced around the kasha.

    4. Hey Mitch, are you a born again Jew?

    5. Mitch,
      With all due respect, this paragraph of yours made me laugh:
      "If you are as righteous and kind as you sound with your writing, I would like to challenge you to publicly ask the owner of this site to pull it down. If you really love Torah and Judaism, would that not be the kindest, most righteous thing you can do? Who knows how many potential yeray Shomayim are being turned off by this site of pure hate."
      It's funny because you are telling someone else to request that I pull this site down, yet you have never made that request of me. It makes me think that perhaps you don't love Torah and Judaism as much as you claim, since rather than make the request yourself, you'll try to convince others to do your dirty work for you.
      As for people being turned off by "pure hate," you should be aware that it is your own hate-filled rants that are turning people off.
      Mitch, you also stated "If you are not willing to request that this site be taken down, you are a total fraud." Since you have never requested that this site be taken down, this makes you the only fraud here. What was that you said about doing a kiddush Hashem?

  16. Mitch,

    You have just joined our party here. Spend some time back reading on this blog and you will see that I have expressed my opinions very clearly and strongly. You will find that I have questioned Bec's motives and approach in addressing these issues. I have told her that I wish she did not have such a blog because it can ruin peoples appreciation of all things Orthodox even though that is not her intention and because Kiruv is an expression of love. We [Bec and I] know where each other stands. However, my conclusion so far has been that her issue is with "deceptive" kiruv.

    There are two issues here. One, is there deception in Kiruv? Two, is it justified because the ends justify the means? Bec would answer yes to one, no to two. I would answer the same. The question is, where is the line between deception (or holding back information and intentions) and starting with the positives of observant practice. I get paid - well - to do kiruv. I also do not use (what I believe to be) deceptive methods. Many mekarvim do. So here's the bottom line. If you would answer no to one and therefore n/a to two, then Bec is not reffering to you or to Kiruv that you know. If you would answer Yes and Yes, then that is the debate here.

    I have stated many times (emphatically) that it is clearly part of Jewish tradition to try and encourage observance of Mitzvos among the Jewish people and the observance of Torah based morality among all peoples. Kiruv is according to many traditional sources, a great Mitzvah. However, not everyone agrees. Many see holes in Judaism too deep to climb out of, and even bigger holes in the modern Frum world. They feel that if people are joining such world they should have eyes wide open, so that they can make a real choice. Although I don't see bigger holes in Orthodox Judaism than in a secular worldview, I do agree that people should know what they are choosing, and why.

    As far as being offensive, I am sure that you do not see how you are being so. That is the nature of being offensive to others. When dealing with other people, it is their definition of offensive that matters because it is they who feel that way. So, you have to speak in a way that is not offensive to them, not only what is not offensive to you. Imagine being in Japan and meeting an important person. Imagine not bowing. Imagine them feeling offended. Would you say "You are quite stupid sir, because not bowing is not offensive to me, so how can you be offended?" I think you would bow. In my opinion, that's how we should all act. You can still express your opinions. For example, you can say "I know that not everyone shares my view, and that is their free choice. However I believe that living a Torah life is a truly meaningful and exalted way of living. In fact, I believe that it is the way man was intended to live on this planet. Therefore, I believe that encouraging others to do so is meritorious and an act of brotherly love and kindness. I wish everyone would share my view, I think it would benefit the world greatly." Do you see how that is different from " I feel bad for you in this world and the next. If you disagree, change your medication" and "You are an am ha'aretz"?

    Of course you can speak however you like. We can all always do that. The question is, do you want anybody to listen, or do you just want to speak?



  17. I agree that more of a gentle and sensitive approach is always best. In fact that is my usual approach. However here you are dealing with another one of the dime a dozen off the D angry bloggers who are trying to make a career complaining about the Jews and the Torah lifestyle. There is a whole subculture of these unemployed reincarnations of Shalom Aleichem, Bialik, the Yiddishists, the Bund etc.... and other pre-Holocaust Europe off the D's who helped lead our people into the gas chambers.

    Our host here seems to specialize in writing negative prose, plays and whatever else that can defame our holy community and way of life. This is nothing new. Its been happening since Korach. BH we have many holy Yidden, great talmedei Chachomim, Yeray Shomayim in this generation to counter these folks. However they don't take the time to write blogs so people like Ross and Deen and the other angry bloggers get prime time online.

    That being the case, those that publicly defame the Am HaKodesh and the Torah are outside the bonds of love that unite us and therefore there is no need to speak softly and gently. The wicked son? Blunt his teeth.

    Yes of course I would like to see this blog taken down, Bec. In fact, I extend my challenge to you to take down this blog and replace it with a blog that shows the great, loving and wondrous Torah life one can lead. That would be a first step towards teshuva. I know that you can do that.

    I would like to see you use your excellent writing skills in more life enhancing, loving and peaceful ways. Ways that cause love and fear of G-d, appreciation for His endlessly deep and life giving Torah and love of His holy nation, Am Yisroel. That is all we are here for on this planet. Everything else is just background noise.

    Bec: You have a gift. Use it wisely.

    1. c'mon Mitch, the Torah was likely written over time. Ask Zev Farber (orthodox, yadin yadin), David Steinberg (orthodox, former Aish, the Mir, Bnei Brak), James Kugel (orthodox, Bar Ilan U, formerly Harvard), Jacob Wright (orthodox, Emory U).

      Spend a few years studying the evidence from different fields that all points in the same direction. Know what these guys say, and why they say it.

      Then you can get back on your soapbox dude. Otherwise, you sound like some child demanding that everyone do what he says.


    2. > There is a whole subculture of these unemployed reincarnations of Shalom Aleichem, Bialik, the Yiddishists, the Bund etc.... and other pre-Holocaust Europe off the D's who helped lead our people into the gas chambers.

      You don’t see how you’re being offensive? Really?!

      1. What makes you think that the bloggers are unemployed?
      2. Do you think that calling people the “reincarnation of Shalom Aleichem” is an insult? The man was a brilliant and successful writer.
      3. Trying to come up with a reason for the Holocaust – other than the historical interplay of movements and politics – is inherently offensive. Inevitably, you end up blaming the victims.
      4. The “off the D's” in Europe pre-WWII if they were leading people anywhere, were encouraging emigration to Palestine. It was the gedolim who railed against America and against the Zionists, the gedolim who encouraged people to stay in Europe and not to flee the Nazi threat.
      > BH we have many holy Yidden, great talmedei Chachomim, Yeray Shomayim in this generation to counter these folks.

      No you don’t. Everything I’ve read on theology from the frum community is laughable. Some of the writers seem like really nice, intelligent, well intentioned people, but their attempts to defend Judaism, particularly Orthodox Judaism, come up short.

      > The wicked son? Blunt his teeth.

      One of the funniest videos I’ve seen on YouTube is a guy calling up atheist talk show and trying to convince the hosts that God is real, Jesus is His son, etc. After a few minutes of back and forth, during which the hosts pull apart the caller’s arguments, the caller gets very upset and shouts, “I ought to come down there and punch you for Jesus!”

      That’s the level you’re operating at. If someone disagrees with you, there’s no need for you to be nice, to understand that people can reach conclusions different than your own. Just punch them until they stop making you have to think.

  18. Mitch - Maybe you need to be challenged to write your own blog instead of highjacking the blogs of those you don't agree with. Bec is writing from her own experience and any kiruv worker worth their salt would be smart to read here. It's a wonderful lesson in what NOT to do in kiruv work.

    I personally think that kiruv can be a beautiful thing - but without the deception. I don't think the end ever justifies the means when it comes to lying about what orthodox life entails and the sacrifices and extreme lifestyle changes required. I feel like any kiruv worker, like yourself, who is so afraid of Bec's blog that they would go so far as to ask her to remove it - isn't very convinced of their own truth.

    Take her evidence and contradict it with your own if you don't agree. Platitudes and listing the names of Chazal who you believe would agree with you is pomposity at its best. Listen and learn. Learn what not to do in your own kiruv efforts. Honesty is always the best policy if you want to bring Jews closer to yiddishkeit and help them stay close.

  19. All of you kiruv workers really need to get a grip on life. Most Jew, myself included, are not orthodox or ultra orthodox or frum, and we do not wish to become that way. You may think you're doing a mitzvah by making someone like me frum, but from my perspective you are as extreme and off the wall as David Koresh or any other cult leader. This is not what we want. Why embarrass yourself by pushing the subject and inserting yourself into other people's lives? Pushing kiruv on people without telling them that's what you are doing is no more moral or ethical than me inviting you over for dinner and lacing your soup with LSD. Normal people just don't do this. When you push Judaism on people, especially when you do it without telling them, there is fallout. Me, for instance. You may have Jewnapped my child, but you will have to deal with one ferociously angry mother. My goal is to turn more people off to Judaism than you can ever recruit. Now tell me, was it worth it?

  20. Ah. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and soup. That's what I call entertainment. Minestrone for me please. The Beatles dropped down from Heaven to teach us humans a few things about music. They did better kiruv than many "kiruv" workers.

  21. Women and girls.Come and be inspired by the amazing World that we live in and get to know about Who created this awesome place and how to live in a way that works.Coming soon!
    Come one come all!

  22. I'm very grateful to a kiruv organization who will remain nameless who introduced me to torah. Because of them, I have a higher degree of religiosity, however because I don't fit the mold 100% mainly in customs and the fact that I didn't get married at 25 and I'm a woman, means that I'm an outcast. It's a horrible feeling to be treated as if you are less because you are not 100% the orhtodox vision that they intended for you. These organizations are great but they could be even better if they had a better attitude towards people who don't 100% fit the mold once going through their system. They turn a lot of people off the progress that they've made when they are so rejecting. They need to welcome and be kind to people who don't fit the mold 100%. They should look at how they have influenced these people to become more religious without only focusing on externals. You have no idea what someone's religious level is and to judge that just be dress is deceptive. Kiruv organizations should view the glass half full instead of half empty and be kind to people who they've brought closer even if they don't 100% fit the mold. That would make the world a better place and would diminish the comments of people calling them "cults" and it would attract more people to their organizations. I am grateful that these organizations exist regardless as they do a lot of good and more good than bad but this could be improved on. I see them as a "glass half full" instead of a "glass half empty" and it would be nice if they could see people who might not be exactly religious in the way they want as "half full" too. Nobody wants pity.

  23. Would you say they sold you a false bill of goods? They got you into religion, maybe turned your life upside down in the process, and now it isn't like you were led to believe it would be?


Your respectful comments are welcome.