Friday, July 18, 2008

Kiruv II - Paradigm change for outreach workers

So far I am just nodding my head in agreement - very cogent articles

Recipients and Publicity has left a new comment on your post "Kiruv - The end of kiruv as we know it!":


It would NOT be an exaggeration to say that all Orthodox kiruv rabbis and workers deal with either students who are either the children of intermarriages or who are themselves intermarried, perhaps multiple times.

In a way there was a paradox that for about thirty years, from the 1950s through the 1980s, while society was in turmoil, that the turmoil of the world was itself a cause for the rise of the revolutionary Baal Teshuva Movement when tens of thousands of mostly young Jews from all walks of life began the trek back to Orthodox life and abandoning their secular/Reform/Conservative/
traditionalist roots, and to their parents' dismay openly followed Haredi and Hasidic rabbis with long beards much like others around followed gurus and swamis. But they were MOSTLY Jewish kids with a Jewish mother AND a Jewish father.

But the last 25 years have been different, from the 1980s until the present the numbers of Halachic non-Jewish who thought they were Jews, with most not understanding the ins and outs of the Halachic points, started to be part of all outreach programs and it could not be avoided.

Anyone who reads the statistics of intermarriage knows that outside of the Orthodox world intermarriage now stands at about 90% and it is a miracle if one Jew marries another Jew, whereas 25 years ago the official intermarriage rate was "52%" (what is "2%" in terms of numbers here?, I am not sure).

While the local rabbis and busy kiruv workers know this from reality now, that they must deal with intertwined issues of kiriv and geurus (outreach and conversion) the "higher ups" have developed "grand strategies" of sorts, and that is why the example of Rabbi Leib Tropper is so fascinating, and what he is doing is not unique to him.

Rabbi Tropper is a purist who wants only the highest standards of Yidishkeit. He started out in kiruv as Rebbe in the original Ohr Somayach in Israel when it had the purist (and some would say simplistic goal) of turning intellectual Baalei Teshuva into regular yeshivishe lamdonim, but Ohr Somaych split four, perhaps ven five, ways over this issue:

1) Rabbis Nota Schiller and Mendel Weinbach moderated the original fervor and opted for a slower yet serious pace for the curriculum (remember, Baal Teshuva yeshivas were a new invention at that time).

2) Rabbi Noach Weinberg (the original founder of Ohr Somayach) set out to establish the Aish HaTorah that was not based on Ohr Somayach's intensity, easing up on the atmosphere, and as can be seen on Halachic standards when it comes to having non-Jews in their programs online and off.

3) Rabbi Leib Tropper went in the other direction, feeling that both Ohr Somaych and Aish HaTorah had lost sight of their main mandate of basing everying ONLY on intense Gemora learning and rapid paced transformation to being a Ben Torah (not a bad goal but not as attractive to the nasses as Aish HaTorah's appeal, as is evident.)

4) Rabbi Rosenberg broke from Ohr Somayach and founded Machon Shlomo as an elitist Baal teshuva yeshiva.

5) Ohr Somyach franchised out its name and in turn branched out to Canada, South Africa, the USA where its Monsey NY namesake became a broad-based institution encourging gradautes to mostly go to work as do most yeshivas in America but not like Rabbi Tropper's Kol Yaakov yeshiva also in Monsey that stresses only the learning element, even though it does have an outrecah "Horizons" program.

There were and are other yeshivas but while in the past almost all students came from Halachically Jewish mothers, matters are now much cloudier and its harder to know which boys will turn out to be non-Halachic Jews. The same goes for girls' kiruv programs.

Rabbi Tropper is a venturer because with his EJF program to welcome in by doing outreach the non-Jewish spouses of interfaith couples under "strict" Beth Din auspices (actually fueling the flames of the process, as it were) he is doing a classical juggling act, that on the one hand he is trying to preempt and ward off attacks from the Haredi world he admires and respects and needs but at the the same time he is caving in to the interfaith flood at the gate and in this he is no different to ALL other Kiruv workers out there today trying to cope with the flood tide of interfaith students (meaning students from mixed marriages or intermarrieds themseleves, or those with non-Halachic conversions), and instead of calling a spade a spade and seeing the writing on the wall, that THE AGE OF KIRUV AS WE KNOW IT IS OVER and maybe even walking away from it, he tries to to finesse it (Dr. Tom Kaplan has lots of money and what else is there to do for a living if not helping millionares find solutions to their intermarried problems?), and that is why he was slapped by the BADATS who then sent out letters of warning to all those Recipients and asking for Publicity that Rabbi Tropper's agenda and methods were not part of the solution but were more part of the problem.

Ditto for Chabd out there in the field and ditto for Aish HaTorah and even Ohr Somaych who, like Nero fiddle while "Rome" burns, in the name of "saving" the Jewish people, when they are undermining them instead with the hanky panky, not-so-secret welcoming of non-Jews into the arms of Yiddishkeit and then think that that they are doing a great Mitzva. Tricky stuff indeed.

To be continued...



    The US economy is very bad. Anti Semites the world over are blaming the Jews (and Israel) for rising fuel and food prices.

    Lately everywhere I go, I see swastikas and hateful grafitti toward Jews (ie gas station, bank, clothing store, synagogues, schools, bus benches etc).

    Anti Semitism is definitely on the rise in the US as evidenced by the growing numbers of cemetery desecrations and synagogue vandalisms and arsons throughout the US.

    While I CERTAINLY do not welcome increased anti Semitism, it does tend to solve the problem of non Jews who want to be Jews filling up kiruv programs.

    Not only have I noticed that many of the outreach synagogues have emptied out lately, but I think that this may unfortunately include many Jews who would rather just "blend".

    I predict that Klal Yisrael is not going to have to worry about legions of Gentiles who want to be Jewish. We have to instead focus on retaining and inspiring our own children to want to continue to live according to Jewish tradition and to marry other Jews.

    Yeshiva education is averaging, at I believe 16k per child this year, I think that it is time to stop providing tuition assistance to non Jews in hopes that they will want to convert and instead use the resources of the Jewish community to address the tremendous responsibility of educating Jewish children.

  2. "
    Ditto for Chabd out there in the field and ditto for Aish HaTorah and even Ohr Somaych who, like Nero fiddle while "Rome" burns, in the name of "saving" the Jewish people, when they are undermining them instead with the hanky panky, not-so-secret welcoming of non-Jews into the arms of Yiddishkeit and then think that that they are doing a great Mitzva. Tricky stuff indeed."

    Why tricky stuff? There is a big difference between targeting intermarried couples with expensive vacation getaway seminars and making non-Jewish spouses feel welcome in a Kiruv setting or shul. The only tricky thing about it is to educate both parties of there status according to the view of halacha. It is up to them to make to make their own decisions. However overly stressing the conversion option is a big no no. But for the sake of the Jews involved in those relationships and their children (in cases where they are halachically Jewish) it is better to keep them close to the fold than rejecting them.

    The truth is that I do not know what I am talking about. Perhaps the moderator of this blog is right. We are rapidly approaching a time where most Jews will be intermarried and running a seminars will be an impossible joke.


    And hence, that is why kiruv is so different to formal religious life and ritual and can be so successful as it introduces people to Yiddishkeit without stressing them BUT ALSO can become the subject of abuse for a lessening of Halachic standards. Kiruv is thus a two-edged sword and it takes great skill and responsisbility to be used correctly and for the correct aims and results that will lead to a Kevod Shomayim and not to a Chillul Hashem.

    To Jersey girl, kiruv/outreach never was and still is not based on "outreach synagogues" when in fact as any kiruv professional knows synagogues, of any denomination, are the LAST place you want to send someone that needs all the initial stages of kiruv/outreach work! And that is why in kiruv it is the outreach CENTER, in the form of PROGRAMS and SEMINARS, preferably in board rooms, (hopefully NOT bedrooms!), hotels, seminars that may or may not use the SOCIAL HALLS of synagogues such as NCSY programs.

    The most successful kiruv program in America is run by Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald's National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP) with its highly succesful "Crash Course in Judaism" and "Crash Course in Hebrew Reading" each in five or six one and half hour lessons only.

    In 20 years NJOP has been at the forefront of Orthodox kiruv, and with that as the symbol of the controversy about how Orthodox kiruv rabbis should deal with the decline in Halachic standards by others around them, as will be explained below.

    NJOP's official posek is the well-known and popular American posek, Rabbi Dovid Cohen who is the Morah De’asrah of Gvul Yaavetz in Brooklyn. He is also the posek of Aish HaTorah in America as well as the shoel umeshiv of AJOP conventions, the Association for Jewish Outreach Professionals (now "Programs") and of OHEL. In a well-documented effort, with the help of Rav Dovid Cohen, Rabbi Buchwald was able to obtain a "heter" for NJOP to run its programs in Reform and Conservative synagogues even though Rabbi Buchwald and NJOP are under (Modern) Orthodox auspices, and even though in 1997 the Agudas HaRabbonim went balistic and made a public declaration that Reform and Conservative are NOT Judaism, clearly aimed at NJOP's ploy, yet because Rav Cohen obtained the signature of Rav Zelik Epstein of the Shaarei Torah yeshiva in Queens NY one of America's senior Rosh Yeshivas, NJOP has been able to keep up its alliance with Reform and Conservative synagogues on the condition that they not run religious services in them and just host meals to "celebrate" Shabbat in the "Shabbat Across America" programs.

    The problem runs far deeper because there have been many cases of issues relating to conversion that result from this form of "outreach" and the consequences are still ongoing. The matter has not received the serious attention it deserves.

    Bottom line, unlike Jersey girl's assertions, kiruv of all shapes and sizes as well as increased interest in Judaism and demand for conversions is on the rise, and the role of anti-Semitism in America is very small at this time.

    Jews are too-well cocooned to feel any real hate towards them. They are in a fool's paradise as usual...

    To be continued.

  4. Sure NJOP has a Psak from Reb Dovid Cohen.

    But the psak says "meals only" for Shabbat Across America" not prayer services. Jyst take a loom at REform programming foe Shabbat Across America--they all have services


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