Monday, July 21, 2008

Kiruv X - Criticism - Appropriate response to real and phoney criticism

In this post RaP overreacts to my rejection of the JPOST article Aish'd. Instead of understanding that not all criticism is a signal for soul searching, he assumes that if there is smoke and mirrors there must be fire. The other article - which I found on the internet and published in "Kiruv IX - Aish HaTorah as viewed by secular Jewis... - does in fact bear serious study and response. In sum, there are legitimate and well founded questions regarding kiruv goals and techniques. However kiruv is not a shameful business that is hostile to criticism - from within or without. Not everyone who shoots off his/her mouth in badmouthing kiruv should be viewed as a bas kol that is delivering a Divine message. I think it is ludicrous to accuse myself or those who participate on this blog or even those just lurking - as being ostriches hiding from reality. I think it is just as legitimate to point out when critics throw stink bombs as it is to acknowledge when they have a point. Finally if you are making these accusations of the kiruv organizations themselves - please cite some evidence that they are in fact hostile or oblivious to criticism.
Recipients and Publicity comment to "Kiruv IX - Aish HaTorah as viewed by secular Jewis...":


This "Are young, thinking Jews being targeted by a new Jewish fundamentalism?" is an excellent article and makes valid points because the notion of "making people frum without regard to the costs or at any cost" needs to be understood like a piece of mussar which Aish never gives itself.

Sometimes when one's critics open up and say things that may seem hurtful and with which we disagree they are nevertheless holding up a mirror to us and it behooves us to take note and decide if the criticism is valid or not. And often times while it may not agree with our goals yet it contains many dollops of important truths and lessons to be learned to help us correct our trajectory and goals. Like getting customer feedback from the field, you may not like, and indeed do not expect to like, what you will hear, but you must listen in order to understand how you fit into things or else face greater problems that will keep hitting you in the face -- hopefully not leading to a "Jonestown cool aid" ("...a cult from California led by Jim Jones. It became internationally notorious in November 1978, when 918 people died in the settlement...") or the results of a "Pied Piper" situation ("The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a legend about the abduction of many children from the town of Hamelin...") .

After all, we are now in the period of the Three Weeks and anyone who has studied the sources of the events of how Nevuchadnezar and Babylon were directed by God Himself in a stage by stage process to tighten the screws and then eventually attack Judah, lay siege to Jerusalem and take it captive let alone destroy it (something never done before and which had previously resulted in the downfall of Assyria) yet Nevuchadenezar could pull it off because he had been given the green light by God to go ahead and pull the plug on corruption and wickedness among the Jewish people (the three cardinal sins of idolatry, sexual immorality, and murder) and it was all part of GOD's plan and not just the outgrowths of Nebuchadnezar's cruel mind. It was God who was sending the message via Nebuchadnezar as his messenger and likewise in our times when Orthodox, Haredi and Hasidic leaders and institutions have cocooned themselves and instituted a "code of silence" (as in the Mafia's code of "omerta" amounting to prohibition of talking out on pain of excommunication bordering on death)and the demand of deference to their corporate will by inventing concepts like "da'as Torah" to suit their own power retention needs and thereby stifle and block all opan and critical debate, much like as if it were a case of "to remain Catholic one cannot criticise the Pope but must rather accept that he is "infallible'" is just plain anti-Torah and is more descriptive of pre-World War Two European TOTALITARIANISM as in Czarism, Fascism and Communism than to a kind and caring and accepting Jewish life that was the hallmark of the shtetles and the kehillas of Europe.

At any rate, rather than freaking out at this well-researched and very trenchant article, as well as the "You've been Aishe'd" article, and by the way, both articles make use of this phrase so it's well-worth noting that it has coinage and has traction out there in the world, there is no need to start jumping up and down and yelling back, but see what it is that they are saying and try to answer POINT BY POINT (that is, categorically) logically and calmly, with counter arguments, proofs and citations, and see if something can be learned here rather than throwing out and ignoring these valuable pieces of unconventional God-sent mussar which your local Orthodox and kiruv rabbi won't give you (how could they when all they want from you is to give them a really huge donation!)

Since when was becoming frum meant to mean that everyone should turn into a colony of ostriches sticking their heads in the sand when told that not everyone loves what they are doing and the way that they are doing it?

To be continued...

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