Monday, July 21, 2008

Kiruv VII - Aish HaTorah - what makes it tick?

Recipients and Publicity commented on "Kiruv VI - an embarrassingly shoddy attack on Aish...":


While Aish HaTorah is arguably the most successful young adult kiruv program in the world (not inclusive of Chabad, or of NCSY with is for teens), starting from a handful of students in the mid-1970s its empire has been built up by its founder, guide and rosh yeshiva, Rav Noach Weinberg, from a dream he had and a handful of students to a worldwide multi-multi-million empire that has recruited billionaires, and the likes of Hollywood directors and moguls like Steven Spielberg and has spawned programs that have promoted the likes of Margaret Thatcher, Bibi Netanyahu and Micheil Gorbachev and many others.

It is well known that in the USA, Rav Elya Svei, the rosh yeshiva of the Philadelphia yeshiva, had often levelled public criticism's of them and that it was part of a rivalry of Hashkofas between the very yeshivish Rav Elya Svei and Rav Noach's brother and Aish's mentor the more eclectic Rav Yaakov Weinberg, late rosh yeshiva of Ner Israel in Baltimore MD.

The Haredi world in America is never sure what to make of Aish HaTorah and how to react to them.

Essentially Aish stays clear of all major yeshivas and their leadership in America.

They have there own internal leadership system with the most successful Aish rabbis (meaning those who have raised the most millions or better yet, tens of millions each for Aish) and they answer to no one but Rav Noach Weinberg and a few carefully chosen close assistants that act like a "ruling council" based mostly in Aish Jerusalem. All Aish rabbis have their own internal conference in Jerusalem at least once a year and they all the skills and tools of the modern technological and business age.

The Aish HaTorah phenomenon ties in with the second phase of the age of kiruv in the world. The first Golden Phase of Kiruv from the early 1950s to the 1980s was an idealistic age with Baalei Teshuva returning for idealistic reasons and few old-time Aish rabbis come from that time, but they are a tiny minority.

Most Aish rabbis were hand-picked and groomed from the 1980s onwards, they are Yuppies - with a "Y" - (short for "young urban professional" or "young upwardly-mobile professional") Generations X-ers (a term used to describe generations in many countries around the world born from 1965 to around 1982) who are "operators" and businessmen with the attitudes of investment bankers and hedge fund speculators, products of the rise of the age of the "Masters of the Universe" types, as described in the Tom Wolf novel "The Bonfire of the Vanities" when Wall Street greed and materialism were the order of the day and the age of the Hippies (with an "H") was finally buried.

Aish HaTorah understands the age of materialism and the shallowness that is the outcome of the comfortable lifestyle and it has adjusted its calling card and signal to that frequency and thereby gets its audience's attention, but at the same time, many of its cadre of activist rabbis also come from this same milieu and while that may make them superb kiruv professionals, but to some looking in from the outside they can come across and are seen for the shallow, power hungry, manipulative and GREEDY lot that they often are.

So that rather than knocking the writer of this article and saying "well there go the secular again" try to stop a minute, take what it says with a grain of salt and not get so self-righteously upset that only looks like a smokescreen for honest debate and analysis, and tune in to the inner core of what is being said and it is not a flattering picture because the truth in this case is not flattering.

Now of course making people frum is a great thing and it is what kiruv is ultimately all about, but it is known among all reliable kiruv circles that Aish HaTorah plays loose with lots and lots of things to achieve its own goals and it is well-known in the kiruv world that Aish will facilitate with shady conversions if they have to, and it cannot be otherwise because they are so connected to the intermarried young generation X-ers and many of them are just not Halachic Jews. Like for Chabad, and for Rabbi Leib Tropper and his EJF, it's tough for Aish because so much BIG money, prestige, power and jobs are at stake!

So it's a tough call for them and for the frum world that is expecting positive fruits from all this kiruv activity and hallabaloo, but to resort to knee-jerk defenses of Aish on this blog is not required because Aish has it's own websites and propaganda machines that are supported by tens of millions of dollars that are meant to go to kiruv and "outreach" so let's see how they react it and not shed crocodile tears for them.

There is much more to be said about Aish and how it has both helped and corrupted the world of kiruv. They want to have their cake and eat it so that sometimes that can lead to indigestion and vomit.

To be continued...

No comments :

Post a Comment

please use either your real name or a pseudonym.