When someone suggests that you never speak of something, the first thing you should ask is "why are these topics forbidden?" Let's take a brief minute to go through each forbidden topic.From Rabbi Klatzko - Suggestions for Hosting guests at your Shabbos Table
1- NEVER speak about these four things:
1- Women's issues- eg. agunah, [married woman whose husband refuses to grant a religious divorce, despite her request for a divorce,] mechitza, [separation of men and women at synagogue]
2- avoid speaking about denominations (reform, conservative, etc.)
3- don't speak about homosexuality
4- don't speak about Chareidim [ultra-orthodox Jews] and the army
Why shouldn't ultra-orthodox hosts discuss women's issues? This leads to dangerous territory for kiruv professionals. Modern educated women and men are not going to be happy when they learn that women's separation is about women being a distraction, about women being possibly considered impure if they are menstruating, and about women being held captive by husbands who refuse them a get (a Jewish divorce) that will permit them to remarry within observant Judaism.
Why shouldn't Shabbos hosts discuss non-orthodox denominations of Judaism? Ultra-orthodox Judaism does not accept non-orthodox denominations of Judaism as legitimate Jewish practice. Notice how the text says "about denominations" and not "about denominations of Judaism." Why not speak about these denominations of Judaism? Perhaps because they want to avoid having to denounce them, and thus turn off non-orthodox Jews. Let them find out later how you really feel, after you've hooked them.
Why shouldn't Shabbos hosts discuss homosexuality? Ultra-orthodox Jews believe that homosexuality is wrong (the term "abomination" is often tossed around casually,) and some have pushed gay people into programs such as JONAH, which attempt to make gay people straight. Obviously, a discussion of how the Torah claims that homosexuals should be stoned to death is not something they want to discuss at the Shabbos table with people of various backgrounds.
Why not discuss Chareidim and the army? Non-orthodox Jews who may or may not be Zionists might find it a bit odd that ultra-orthodox Jews get a free pass from the Israeli army, while non-(ultra) orthodox Jews are risking their own lives for the safety of ALL who live in Israel. Regardless of one's position on Israel, most people would probably find this to be extremely unbalanced.
Number two starts off fair. No matter who you are, it's a bad idea to bully and belittle your guests. I hope this is common knowledge everywhere. The fact that he has to remind people of this makes me wary of how well the hosts on this site are screened before people are sent off to their homes. My only real issue with this section is this line: "Stay away from stories that are difficult to believe! They can't relate to them." In the secular world, many stories that are difficult to believe require the suspension of disbelief. We usually refer to those as fiction.
2- General Rule- NEVER GO NEGATIVE
people don't remember arguments- they remember IMPRESSIONS
were you disparaging, bullying.
- don't assume people have preconceived notions about being frum
- Stay in your element- don't try too hard, be yourself- don't put on a show
- Stay away from stories that are difficult to believe! They can't relate to them.
Speak about moral ideas- how to have compassion, how to treat others, etc
Suggested reading: Zelig Pliskin- "Love Your Neighbor" - moral in each parsha
3- Things that make big impressions:
This section leads me to believe that it's assumed that men are not helping their wives out on Shabbos. Otherwise, why the need to suggest that they do? Is it because in many modern households there's a pretty even division of labor that may not necessarily exist in ultra-orthodox homes?- seeing the husband helping out- eg setting or clearing the table
- wife should thank husband for buying flowers OUT LOUD
- Thanks to guests for coming AND thanks to your wife for making the shabbos
In suggestion 2, Klatzko allegedly states "Stay in your element- don't try too hard, be yourself- don't put on a show," so then why the need to stress that the "wife should thank husband for buying flowers OUT LOUD" and that the husband should thank his wife for making Shabbos? Are these simple expressions of gratitude a foreign concept in these homes when impressionable
Again, let me mention the point about not putting on a show. This sounds very much like a scripted production.
4- Everything you do on shabbos should be done with PURPOSE and JOY
sing with feeling, say kiddush with feeling; make them feel comfortable.
I appreciate number five. However, I believe it should always be like this. Accept people for who they are without the need to deceive them (by avoiding topics that may be uncomfortable or emotional.)
5- Don't flinch if they do something against halacha. They are not chayav for aveiros- [guilty of transgressing/breaking Jewish law] should they turn on a light, use cell phone, let it go
Are the real zmiros really that bad? In all seriousness, this makes sense. Without accepting non-orthodox Jewish denominations, Klatzko allegedly accepts that guests may have familiarity with some of the songs and prayers. I wonder if women are allowed to sing or if women aren't informed until much later that their voices shouldn't be heard.6- Don't sing your usual zemiros [Shabbos songs]- they will tune out. Choose a popular Hebrew song,
eg. Oseh Shalom, Haveinu Shalom Aleichem, David Melech Yisroel,
Ushavtem Mayim Bsason, Moshiah Molshiah aya ya ya ya yae,
Lo yisah goi el goi cherev, Adon Olam, Hava Nageela, Hine ma Tov,
Siman tov umazel tov, Am yisrael Chai, Etz Chaim Hi....
OR: Teach them a new song without words, hum along.
Last but not least, number seven. The second point tries to sell Judaism as a "vision of peace." I keep thinking of the Amalek--the group that Jews are commanded by the Torah to smite in every generation--and how anti-Zionists have made claims that Zionists are also the Amalek. I am also reminded of the infighting within orthodoxy and I really have to wonder.2- what is the ultimate vision of our religion for the world. Judaism- vision of peace
7- Goal is that they should want to incorporate this experience - yahadus-into their lives:
People choose religion because of:
1- who our heroes are (Rev Moshe Feinstein, gedolim in Eretz Yisrael)
3- they look at the user experience- are people enjoying practicing their religion
4- do ideas translate into action- the proof is in the pudding- does it work?
5- people are looking for truth- Judiasm is emes [truth.] If you don't know an answer to their question, be honest- say you will find out. But only give honest answers.
The list of suggestions mentions "user experience--are people enjoying practicing their religion?" The fact that just a few sentences ago, people were instructed that "everything you do on shabbos should be done with PURPOSE and JOY, sing with feeling, say kiddush with feeling" makes me think that perhaps people are not enjoying the practice, otherwise, why the need to remind them to be joyful? Usually, when people enjoy something, they don't need to be reminded to exhibit the joy. It comes naturally.
The question is raised that "ideas translate into actions--the proof is in the pudding--does it work?" Does what work? What does this refer to?
Finally, number five. Judaism is only truth to those who believe it is truth. I like the idea that honest answers should be given, however, that's after manipulating the conversation to avoid certain topics that Klatzko allegedly doesn't want you to talk about.
Here's my question to kiruv professionals and ultra-orthodox hosts. Why not be honest in the beginning? Why not discuss the difficult topics? Is it that you're afraid of turning people off to Judaism? Or is it that you fear that you may discover certain truths that might taint your personal vision of ultra-orthodox Judaism?
I was recently contacted twice by Rabbi Benzion Klatzko, once via Facebook and once as a comment on this blog. Since the comment thread is very long, I've chosen to
|Comment from Rabbi Benzion Klatzko.|
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As those of you who have been reading this blog from its inception are aware, I believe very strongly in integrity. I stand behind my words and I won't write anything that I wouldn't say in person. Additionally, I cite my sources and post screen shots when available.
In his response, Rabbi Klatzko states that "This was NOT an email sent to "kiruv people" [sic] This was a phone conference that someone eves [sic] dropped [sic] on and then "summarized" for the OTD [off the derech--people who've left orthodoxy] crowd on a different website."
I admit to being curious as to why he might blame someone for disseminating this information to the OTD crowd, why he'd assume said person "eavesdropped," and what would motivate him to lay blame so casually. But then I moved on to the body of the comment. I want to express my gratitude to Rabbi Klatzko for taking some of his valuable time to write up a response to this post addressing words that he claims were written by an eavesdropper for the OTD community. Except that there's a problem here and it's not with Klatzko's explanation of his host suggestions. The problem is that I was recently sent the exact same "summary" in an email that came from the Far Rockaway, New York synagogue Agudah of Bayswater on October 23, 2014 at 9:40:18 AM EDT.
Someone should inform Agudah of Bayswater that the information that was sent out by them was actually taken verbatim from an eavesdropper for the OTD community, based on Klatzko's comment. I don't know Rabbi Benzion Klatzko from a hole in the wall (although I'm guessing he's the one with legs) and so I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt here. I can't imagine that Rabbi Klatzko, a rabbi and head of a huge kiruv organization, would lie in a comment on a public blog (in which he references a message he sent previously in his name) about this information. And yet, here are screen shots of emails received.
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