Friday, January 10, 2014

Unconditionally Jewish, With A Few Exceptions

     I'm always willing to engage in intelligent discussion and debate regarding kiruv. However, I am not willing to tolerate intolerance. As humans, we've come a long way and still have far to go. But we will never evolve if we practice and preach intolerance of others. While all kiruv professionals don't always give voice to their prejudices, here is an exchange in which one does. Let me share an email exchange I recently had with someone who read this blog and chose to contact me via email. I have taken the liberty of removing "MC"'s full name and email, so that he can avoid further shame.



Why? Inbox
3:01 PM (16 hours ago) to me

Why would you be against furthering observance of Torah by Modern Orthodox Jews? Is that not a noble goal? I am all for furthering observance of all Jews, reform, conservative, orthodox, chassidic. We ALL need to grow and improve. Whatever it takes to get us there is fine. I would love to be deceived into higher levels of yeras Shomayim. If you know anyone who can deceive me please let me know. I need much more Yeras Shomayim and I will take from wherever I can get it!!
What are you afraid of?

-- MC

 MC,
Thanks for your email. Before I can answer your questions, we need to settle something. You talk about "furthering observance of Torah." But we'd have to agree on a definition of that terminology. Do you mean that Reform and Conservative Jews should be the best Reform and Conservative Jews that they can be? Do you mean that Humanist Jews should be the best Humanist Jews that they can be? Atheist and Secular and Non-Practicing Jews should be the best Atheist, Secular, and Non-Practicing Jews that they can be? In what context do you mean this "furthering observance of Torah?" What makes you think I'm afraid?
Have a beautiful evening.

-Rebecca


MC 10:16 PM (9 hours ago) to me

I don't really believe in labels. All Jews are responsible to serve G-d and guard the commandments of the Torah as best as they can. There is no such thing as reform, conservative, atheist secular or orthodox Jews. Everyone acts like all of the above at certain moments in their lives. Those are modern, shallow labels that mean nothing. All people have to come closer to G-d to love and fear Him as best as they can.

Anything that furthers this endeavor is positive and should be encouraged. Anything that discourages this endeavor should be avoided.
Again my question remains, what is so bad about improving levels of observance of the so called "modern" Orthodox Jews?
We can all use a boost, why not them?
Are you afraid increased levels of G-d consciousness will harm these people?

Thanks
  MC


MC,

Do you not believe in labels because ultra-orthodoxy rejects all other types of Judaism as not actual Judaism? In my experience, it seems that many ultra-orthodox kiruv professionals are instructed to "reject labels" in an effort to create a sense that we're all equal as Jews, when in fact they really believe that all other factions are not legitimate Judaism. Is there a reason why you feel that Modern Orthodox Jews must be "improved?" What exactly is wrong with their observance? Does it not meet a specific criteria? Please explain.
-Rebecca


MC 5:43 AM (1 hour ago) to me

Of course what you call modern orthodox needs to be improved. Chassidim also need improvement. Kollel men as well. Each group has its strengths and weaknesses. Thats all I am referrring to.

There is no group that has perfect shlaimus and G-d consciousness. Lets say a person keeps shabbos to the letter of the law but after shabbos watches films that cause him to transgress commandments of the Torah such as lo sasuru. Lets say a persons wife wears two head coverings and very thick stockings but if you do business with this person you notice that he is dishonest. Lets say a Jew gives thousands of dollars per year to Chai Lifeline or another fine organization but also marches in the NYC toivah marraige [gay marriage, ed.] parade wearing womens clothing.
So you can seevwe all need serious help!!
Whatever gives clarity and resolve to grow into better Jews we should grab onto and hold on tight. Its a lifeline. If someone is drowning and someone throws you a rope you dont say sorry but I dont take ropes from guys who wear black hats or guys who wearing no hats.
Thats my point. No agenda except to help Jews come closer to Hashem.
We have so much to be thankful for as Jews that to worry about labels and modern orthodox or right wings or left wings is so silly and counterproductive. Lets just love Hashem and smile.
Give someone a big hug.
MC


 MC,
You state: "Lets say a Jew gives thousands of dollars per year to Chai Lifeline or another fine organization but also marches in the NYC toivah marraige  parade wearing womens clothing." This is what you consider "having problems?"
Yes, you're right.
Anyone who would have a problem with this has problems. Let me explain. Your concern for someone's sexuality is a big problem. I support equal rights and marriage equality. As a Jew, my people have been denied equal rights, and so, I support equal rights for others. That is a Jewish value. It is a problem when people put their so-called "religious" values ahead of people. Why do you have a problem with this? Who are you to judge? Perhaps you should focus on bettering yourself before you set out to "better" others. I think you may inadvertently end up alienating a lot of people in your quest to make people "improved" Jews. I wonder if Chai Lifeline is in the habit of denying much needed donations because some donors may support Gay Marriage. Maybe you should ask them
-Rebecca


M C 8:35 AM (1 minute ago) to me

I threw in the example of the parade just to find out where you were holding. I now know where you are holding and now that I see you aree on the side of the immoral gay rights crowd there's nothing left to talk about. You are not even at The level of moral clarity of regular decent non-Jews.
I hope that in the future you will convert back to judaism and then we could have a discussion about some of the issues you brought up. I wish you well. I wish you clarity to accept the Moral values of your grandparents great grandparents all the way back to Mount Sinai.
MC
Let's look at this series of emails critically to see what MC is really about. Remember, MC has taken it upon himself to represent kiruv and orthodoxy. It is easy to be outraged here, but let's see where MC gets it wrong.
  1.  MC does not represent Modern Orthodoxy and makes it clear that the Modern Orthodox need to "further their observance." He covers himself by suggesting that everyone needs to further their observance. 
  2. MC seems to take offense that I "label" Jews when I asked him to clarify if he wants non-orthodox Jews to be the best non-orthodox Jews they can be. Suddenly he states "Everyone acts like all of the above [Reform, Conservative, Humanist, Atheist, Secular, etc.] at certain moments in their lives. Those are modern, shallow labels that mean nothing. All people have to come closer to G-d to love and fear Him as best as they can."
  3. Notice how warm and fuzzy MC is when he suggests that we just "love Hashem and smile" and advises me to "give someone a hug." And then notice how quickly he turns on me when I call him out on his intolerance of gay rights. I can understand people disagreeing, but the amount of disrespect and vitriol are disproportionate to the issue at hand.
  4. MC initially asks me "What are you so afraid of?" He is trying to make the argument that by opposing kiruv, I must therefore be "afraid" that people will become orthodox. Unfortunately, MC doesn't realize that I am opposed to deceptive tactics and opposed to deceptive recruitment. A person's religious observance is their personal choice.
  5. As soon as I call MC out on his intolerance for a group of people, he denounces me as "not even at The level of moral clarity of regular decent non-Jews." Well, that just shows the world that MC has a superiority complex when it comes to people who are not Jewish. I find it frustrating how MC feeds into the stereotype that Jews think they're better than others. He is not being "a light unto nations" and by coming out with a morally superior attitude, he serves to turn people off to orthodoxy (and, quite possibly, Jews in general.) Remember, in MC's previous email to me, he was all warm and fuzzy about the love we should all have for each other. He quite adequately illustrates how often within outreach, when a person who has become a "kiruv project" fails to conform to the standards of the kiruv professional, the same kiruv professional will completely turn on the person he/she was trying to reach. Perhaps they believe that by rebuking someone, they will suddenly guilt them into getting involved. Or maybe they believe that it's their God-given right to rebuke. (To get into it for a second, assuming a person believes in what the Torah says, here it is: "You shall surely rebuke your fellow man" [Kedoshim 19:17] But for the record, a rebuke coming from someone who has already demonstrated intolerance for his neighbor and fellow man really means nothing in the great scheme of things.)
  6. Because I defended equality, MC has deemed me not Jewish and states "I hope that in the future you will convert back to judaism." If MC, someone who staunchly defended kiruv in his earlier emails, believes that I am not Jewish because of my beliefs, then how does he view the very people he wants to "further their observance?" Perhaps to MC and others of his ilk, people who are not just like him and who don't espouse the same beliefs that he holds at his core, aren't Jewish. 
  7. Ironically, MC states "Its a lifeline. If someone is drowning and someone throws you a rope you dont say sorry but I dont take ropes from guys who wear black hats or guys who wearing no hats," yet has a problem with someone donating lots of money to Chai Lifeline (an organization that provides support to families with gravely ill children suffering from serious pediatric diseases) who also supports gay marriage. I thought he just made a whole analogy about drowning people not discriminating against those providing help.
  8. MC says "Lets say a persons wife wears two head coverings and very thick stockings but if you do business with this person you notice that he is dishonest." What does this man's wife's level of tznius (religiously sanctioned modesty) have to do with his own honesty in business? Why are his business partners (and MC) judging this man by how much skin his wife doesn't show? From which business model is this thought process taken?
  9. MC writes "I wish you clarity to accept the Moral values of your grandparents great grandparents all the way back to Mount Sinai." First of all, MC is assuming an awful lot here. He's assuming that 1. my grandparents were "moral" people; 2. my grandparents' code of morality is equivalent to what he considers an acceptable code of morality; 3. my grandparents would agree with him. He also makes a classic kiruv mistake. The mistake is in thinking that the current generation has/had orthodox grandparents and/or orthodox great grandparents. This type of kiruv tactic relies on being able to prove somehow that if you go back far enough, the potential recruit had orthodox family who would want the potential recruit to become orthodox. Kiruv professionals who use this tactic also employ guilt and work on people's emotions in order to bring them to orthodoxy. In fact, we don't know what our ancestors would have wanted. They may have been miserable. Another interesting point is that the ultra-orthodoxy of today is radically different from our observant ancestors in a variety of ways. For one, young people used to be skilled in a trade or in some way to be able to earn a living. (Okay, that was a low blow. But it's an issue that shouldn't be ignored.) 
  10. MC asks "Are you afraid increased levels of G-d consciousness will harm these people?" If "increased levels of God consciousness" means becoming a hate-filled, morally superior, anti-human person, then yes. I fear for all of us, especially those at the hands of kiruv professionals who are looking for new recruits. 
  11. Notice in the last email, MC brags about throwing in the example of marriage equality to trick me in order to find out my beliefs. He says "I threw in the example of the parade just to find out where you were holding." This is a blog that deals mostly with deceptive kiruv. MC admits to using deceptive tactics to get information. In what other ways does MC, or other kiruv workers, employ deceptive tactics? He's just shown us that yes, deception is definitely at work.
     History has long since proven that ignoring problems rarely makes them go away. It is only when we face the issues head-on that we can enact change. This is why I have chosen to publish this email exchange. MC's attitude, unfortunately, isn't unique. It is prevalent in the ultra-orthodox world of deceptive kiruv. Complaints that this blog focuses on negativity and not on a way to positively deal with kiruv mean little. Nothing will change until people realize that there is a problem. In the case of deceptive kiruv, the problem isn't that people aren't becoming orthodox; the problem is that kiruv professionals and others feel that they must actively deceive and manipulate people into becoming carbon copies of themselves.

25 comments:

  1. His assumption that more-chareidi=more God-conscious is a fallacy. It's a shame that he buys into what the patriarchy tells him - that being a frum Jew (or a "devout" Noahide for non-Jews we can safely assume) is the only way to serve God. One only has to open's one's eyes to the modern world to see people worshiping in a variety of ways. These people are certainly conscious of a Higher Power whether or not he chooses to believe it.

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  2. I am Jewish and I am ashamed that a homophobe such as MC is a member of my religion.

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    1. Sorry you feel that way. I am also a chometz phobe, an eating on Yom Kippur phobe and a beastiality phobe. I am filled with phobias and proud of them.

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  3. "No Labels" unless you support Gay Marriages. What a Hypocrite!!

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  4. I see you have met my "friend." So sorry to have inadvertently made the introduction.

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    1. 40 lashes with a wet noodle to KBE!!! ;) Shabbat Shalom!

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    2. All good, KBE!!! Keep up the great blogging on your end!!!!!

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    3. Jewish outreach needs some serious improvement. In most communities you are nobody unless you can give a lot of money to your Shul and your life is free of "hardships and.calamities". You are automatically judged, regardless of whether the synagogue is religious, conservative or reformed. People will approach you and ask way too many questions (especially in orthodox circles). The sad part is, the questions are being asked out of suspicion, not concern. I've been searching for my place within klal Yisroel for over two decades. Unfortunately, I'm not undesirable. I am poor, have tattoos but I'm very intelligent. I'm not the droids they're looking for. My family was orthodox for seven years, but the community shunned us and rejected my family. I'm not sure way, but I chalk it up to us being unconventional and too eager. They didn't like that very much. They verbally abused our children in the yeshiva and criticized our every move, no matter how hard we tried. Today is Shavout and I am typing this blog on my smart phone. It's safe to say that I don't feel like a Jew. I don't feel the unity. I see orthodox rabbis using tzedaka for their own personal gain. I don't see many orthodox people who have the guts to do real.outreach, so their outreach consists of visiting people who give generously to the Shul.They are clearly afraid to put themselves in a real position of outreach out of fear of being corrupted by us heretics. Perhaps it's their inability to combat the sitra achra. Perhaps their animal soul is worse than mine. It doesn't matter any way. We are a stiffnecked people. This garbage won't change until moshiach comes and kicks all of our asses. I'm sick of being looked down upon by my own people, so now I don't affiliate myself with any Shul. For those of us that are poor, abused and are fighting real battles for Judaism (I.e. the kink, Arabs and Nazis) there is no relief, just grief and pretentious, condescending, words. Can't wait for this world to end Moshiach now!

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  5. Wow. I'm a lesbian who was raised chassidic, left Judaism completely because of the hypocrisy I saw growing up and actually refused to admit I was Jewish because I was so embarrassed to be compare to or associated with anything or anyone even remotely like MC.
    It wasn't until, around 21 years after I left, I met my current partner who converted to reform Judaism (which, of course, MC would see as an unkosher conversion, that i realized that there was a different "brand" of Judaism out there that is all inclusive, accepting, loving, warm and welcoming, and she literally saved my Jewish soul. My parents had disowned me...I might add. They have never met my child. Nor do they have any interest in doing so.

    So if that's what ultra frum and chasidishe people are like...I'm totally okay with them not wanting me around cuz I don't want to be around them either. They can call me a shiksa or a klavta, or a heretic. I feel that my observance may not be at their level...but why would I want it to ve? I don't think G-d approves of all of this hate and judgment. I would be fine with their beliefs and observance if hatred and ostracism was not a factor.

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    1. Hey, I'm sorry you had that awful experience. I'm from SF, support gay marriage, and frum and I just want you and your partner to know that not every Odox person is like this idiot, and if you're ever in Jerusalem for the Gay Pride Parade, I'd love to have you both over for dinner or to stay by us for Shabbat. :-)

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    2. Thanks, Sarah. I know that not all ortho people are like that...but I'm guessing you are probably not chassidish. Generalization is just that...A generalization. It means the majority...not the one in many...or the few in many. And it doesn't help very much when those who do accept me barely know me...When the ones who will never accept me are the ones who brought me into this world.
      I would love to meet you sometime just because you seem genuine...I like genuine.

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  6. I could not get past one of MC first statements and left. He does not believe in labels. But that is just about the only thing Orthodox Judaism does is to label. The whole Torah is about bifurcation and labeling - clean vs not clean, idol worship or not idol worship...

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  7. Very illuminating exchange, and I agree with your analysis.

    Again, this is another case of kiruv folks confusing "higher level" with "different path".

    [Ironically, Orthodox Judaism does recognize that there are legitimate differences that can exist - for example, it's fine for an Iraqi Jew to eat rice on Passover, and nobody would expect a follower of Rav A to automatically follow a ruling of Rav B.]

    Modern Orthodox (or any other group) doesn't mean lesser. It means following a very specific religious philosophy, and with MO, it does so within the range of Jewish law.

    BTW, that was one of the clumsier attempts to pull the grandparent card that I've seen. Yes, I know that appealing to the memory of a grandparent may have been successful at some point, for some kiruv folks, but it's time to give it a rest. My grandparents were not homophobic. On one side, they were very decent traditional Jews who showed strong moral values that happened to include tolerance. On the other side, they were Jewish socialists who had absolutely no use for crap like this. BTW, if you follow the grandparent logic, shouldn't I be reading Marx and chain smoking like my bubby?

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    1. You don't need to explain. Really.
      Your earlier comments truly just say it all.

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    2. Ah, the angry mob gangs up on the Rabbi. That is a sign that I touched the pintele Yid in everyone here.

      No, it's a sign that you're a douche.

      I have true intellectual and historical justifications for everything that I have said.

      The tragedy is that I'm sure you believe this.

      You're mentally ill. Get help.

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    1. No disrespect intended, Mitch, but is there a reason why you cannot "engage intellectually" in the comments section? Your quoted emails in the body of the blog post are a bit of a turn-off to people.

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    1. Lots of things strike me as disgusting. I won't eat tongue or pitcha or that gefilte fish jelly that comes from cooking it in fish heads. I don't really want to picture certain heterosexual couples in bed. I don't enjoy changing diapers with explosive poop, or being around people with boogers, or especially noxious farts.

      None of these things, though, are illegal, nor should they be. I don't really want to make basic rights depend on my personal likes and dislikes.

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  12. MC though I am a Frei jew, in no way shape or form would I vote for a liberal lunatic (though a lot of welfare receiving ultra orthodox do). I am a conservative constitutional libertarian, thank you very much.

    My grandparents and great-grandparents were very orthodox but nothing reminiscent of todays ortodoxy: they were moral, nive people, not focussed on externals or appearances and sexuality, nor did they have the desire to mekarev every one around them. They accepted every one for who they were. Including gays, non orthodox jews and non jews.

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  13. I didn't expect to be commenting on this post again, but I found this link to a site in which I was given some great compliments on having taken MC down a few notches. Figured I'd share as a #TBT comment.
    This is from the FSTDT site which states that it is "an archive of the most hilarious, bizarre, ignorant, bigoted, and terrifying quotes from fundies all over the internet! The FSTDT archive is the largest collection of fundie quotes on the planet."
    Here's the link if you're interested: http://www.fstdt.com/Top100.aspx

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Your respectful comments are welcome.