Thursday, July 24, 2008

Kiruv XIII - Entering the final closing stage of kiruv

Recipients and Publicity wrote:








I am not disputing Dr. Eidensohn's craving for sources and I will be glad to read all the sources he can come up with. But the following comments relate to something more serious than searching for sources (somewhat like looking for a flight data recorder "black-box" after a catastrophic plane crash) when analyzing the flight, what went wrong, why the crash took place and how to help any survivors if there are any is very beneficial.

The small comment by Tzurah that: FFB's have an attitude that "...In fact, they were always taught not to proselytize, so kiruv looks like it might be a little assur (esp. if one might end up teaching Torah, even inadvertently, to actual non-Jews). Also, one has to go out into the non-frum world and expose oneself to myriad spiritual dangers. If it might be assur, and it might endanger your neshama, why take the chance? ..."

The problem is in fact far deeper than it seems. One thing to note is the success to which kiruv rechokim has been "mainstreamed" and has won a lot of recognition in the frum world. Much of it lip-service but impressive nevertheless. Even the Reform and Conservative movements have launched "keruv" (with an "e") drives aping the Orthodox and Haredi "kiruv" (with and "i").

But as has been stated and reported in earlier posts on this blog, kindly posted by Dr. Eidensohn for which I give him a big public thank you!, the first age of Kiruv, from about the 1950s to the 1980s is over.

It was a type of golden age with all the excitement of something new coming out of the social dislocation of the 1950s and 1960s and the remorse of the Holocaust on many people's mind.

And in those days the MAJORITY of Jews were not intermarried so most youth and young adults who joined Orthodoxy and some of its earliest outreach programs came from reliably Halachicly Jewish backgrounds with a Jewish mother and Jewish father.

However, symbolically and practically with the Reform movement's official acceptance of patrilineal descent, meaning a Jewish mother was not required to be called a Jew and just having a Jewish father was enough, and with the vast majority of Jews remaining secular and unaffiliated and slipping into mass assimilation, intermarriage and even apostasy to Christianity (hundreds of thousands of them joining the new so-called "Messianic movements"), as proven by the USA National Jewish Population Surveys of 1990 and 2000 the MAJORITY of those born from the 1980s onwards are coming from interfaith unions and many people who think they are Jewish, born as they are from only Jewish fathers or converted by Reform and Conservative, are not Jewish Halachicly, and this then creates our present TROUBLED AGE OF KIRUV from the 1980s to the present times, with so many people in kiruv programs not being Halachicly Jewish and the numbers keep on growing EVEN CREATING A LARGE DEMAND AND MARKET FOR ALL SORTS OF QUESTIONABLE CONVERSION, so that kiruv efforts fuel demands for conversion.

Thus in a span of roughly sixty years, since after the Holocaust, the KIRUV MOVEMENT HAS EXPERIENCED TWO STAGES: A GOLDEN AGE FROM THE 1950s TO THE 1980s AND A TROUBLED AGE FROM THE 1980s TO THE 2000s.

What do I mean by this?

Basically that the Baal Teshuva Movement that started after the Holocaust and took off in the 1950s and 1960s surprised EVERYONE because the religious world was as surprised as the secular world that it was happening at all. Very few took it seriously at first and many thought it was a passing craze, like the hula-hoop or bell-bottoms. And very few would have imagined or dared to say that it was a fulfilment of ancient Jewish prophecies in the Tanach that one day the Jewish people would return to BOTH its land in Zion and to its Torah heritage and then some. But it was all dream like.

In the early days Chabad rabbis rabbis were welcomed guest-speakers in Reform and conservative synagogues to talk about "Hasidism" and "Kabbalah" but when synagogue members took them seriously and the Lubavitchers had the audacity to then set up their own Chabad shuls next door all hell broke loose and they were banned from the Reform and Conservative places. The same thing happened to the Aish HaTorah people when they played their Discovery seminars at Reform and Conservative places to packed houses in the 1980s until they started influencing too many people and then they too were banned.

The point is there was so much SPONTANEOUS success with people becoming frum, with real professional kiruv workers being trained and encouraged to do it, that few realized that this would all change with new circumstances. Incidentally, many who would become leaders of the Baal Teshuva movement were themselves Baalei Teshuva from the Golden Age of Kiruv.

But then things changed and the with more assimilation and intermarriage there were less real Halachic Jews then there had been BUT that did not stop people, all people including gentiles and non-Halachic Jews, from wanting to learn more, and here is where a GREAT PARADOX kicks in, that in the newer TROUBLED AGE OF KIRUV the Halachic questions went deeper than ever before, that KIRUV WENT BIG TIME "CORPORATE", and it was no longer a case of lone ranger Chabad rabbis and a handful of NCSY rabbis doing kiruv, in their place arose KIRUV CONGLOMERATE BEHEMOTHS WITH HUGE FUNDS AND PRACTICED METHODS with all this experience, and organization and funding being poured into kiruv rechokim at a time when the texture and make-up of the rechokim had changed from a majority who came from two Halachic Jewish parents to a majority who came from intermarried homes or were intermarried themselves. (That is why Rabbi Leib Tropper's EJF efforts are so cutting edge, because he is showing that he understands, and is working with, the new "kiruv paradigm" and why he was also shot down by the BADATZ who sent out letters to rabbis who were Recipients and making Publicity that such as Rabbi Tropper and the EJF planned, was not to be done nor encouraged, and THAT KIRUV PROGRAMS MUST NOW DISCOURAGE GENTILES FROM JOINING THEIR PROGRAMS AND CERTAINLY FROM WANTING TO CONVERT TO JUDAISM.

So it is again the tides of society and history that are forcing the hands of some leading rabbis, leading to a literal "mekarev beyemin umerachek besmol" ("bring close with your right hand and reject with your left hand") situation.

And that is why there is presently so much confusion in the field and in general, that while some talk rosily and dreamily about "kiruv" in our times, it is not related to reality and the facts on the ground, since they think or assume conditions are like it was in the Golden Age of Kiruv in its first sate from the 1950s to the 1980s when it is NOT

Or maybe some resort to the false logic that "the more people who are married to gentiles the more kiruv must be done", which is a dangerous game to play, because what will be done with those gentiles if they are brought into Jewish communities, and it is reported that in some Reform temples the majority of board members are not Halachic Jews!

While others are confused why there are these protests by other rabbis who object to "reaching out" to Jews when they are objecting to those who are gentiles according to Halacha from being brought into Judaism for the wrong reasons.

It is a very confusing and unsettling situation that will clarify itself in time, as people choose to go into one direction or another over the next generation or two.

It will probably not take more than another 30 years to accomplish the FINAL STAGE OF KIRUV once the Kiruv workers can get it through their heads that the gates are closing quickly and only those Halachicly Jewish should be mekareved.

That will take another 30 years or so and then the total span of the kiruv era will be over, having lasted no more than about 100 years (one hundred years) stretching from the 1950s into about the middle of the 21st century, that will be marked and recalled as unique era in Jewish and Torah history!

To be continued...


  1. "It will probably not take more than another 30 years to accomplish the FINAL STAGE OF KIRUV once the Kiruv workers can get it through their heads that the gates are closing quickly and only those Halachicly Jewish should be mekareved."

    I think that everyone has gotten "it" except for Chabad.

    I am seeing changes in many Kiruv yeshivas, in that they are being more careful about the children they will accept. The end result of this is that they now have enrollment shortages rather than waiting lists.

    Also with the exception of Chabad, I have heard RCA affiliated Rabbis say that they can no longer do conversions to permit intermarriage or to convert the Gentile children of intermarried men.

    I have heard of Rabbis who will no longer perform marriages for the children of women converted to permit intermarriages unless those conversions are endorsed by the RCA.

    More than one shadchan has joked that "Kohanim are the only ones who can get married these days".

  2. It's a shame our numbers are so awful...but if what you offer is ultra-Orthodoxy, it is still better that kiruv stop. As someone who experienced the B'nai Torah trajectory as offered by the RWUO BT places (it was Ohr Somayach for me) I can say that I would prefer my descendants to be Unitarian gentiles rather than hardline black hatters.

    Most secular and liberal Jews would agree. It just isn't worth staying Jewish if you have to reject scientific method, historiography, and look at gentiles in such a contemptuous fashion.

  3. dk said "It just isn't worth staying Jewish if you have to reject scientific method, historiography, and look at gentiles in such a contemptuous fashion."

    Judaism does not reject the scientific method, historiography and does not look at gentiles in a contemptuous fashion.

    Sadly, there are Jews who take the views you mention. Please don't make the mistake of judging the Jewish religion by the views and behavior of the Jewish people.

  4. I think DK is right in a sense -- Jews intermarry today and feel relieved that their children will not be subjected to the indoctrination of a beleaguered religion.

    People demand open inquiry, not show trials on why evolution is false.

    People are unafraid of sustained, unflinching encounter with academic understandings of where the Torah came from. Looking at the evidence, the reasoning.

    This is not something the orthodox world can afford to do - so they trot out a rabbi who wrongly describes the Documentary Hypothesis in two minutes, and then spends ten minutes on why the traditional view is correct. "You see?" he says, "you heard both views and the traditional view obviously wins!"

    It just won't wash as education. It is indoctrination. It is not informing people, it is manipulating them. All outside information in the OJ world is either suppressed, omitted, or distorted.

    Why are you OK with that Mel?



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