I was reading the section of last week’s Hamodia on Rav Steinman and the Gerrer Rebbe’s trip to the US, Canada, & South America. One of the many interesting responses R. Steinman made to shailas was concerning whether it is OK to distort or water down Torah for the benefit of non-religious Jews (kiruv). His response was firmly NO. He said we should not change Torah in any way when we represent it to non-religious Jews, and if that means they become disinterested, so be it; maybe they will become interested later.
I understand this as I think it is morally correct to represent Torah honestly, it is not Kavodik to do otherwise. Also, it is misleading and many baalei teshuva have complained about this. I know of a few schools that tried this approach, (stressing mainly the fun that a frum person can have) and later abandoned it.
Our family has had difficulty in certain areas of frum life, but the lifestyle was never represented to us in any false manner. Actually, we were mekareved by Hashem Himself–that is, we never heard of Aish or other kiruv organizations until we were frum for many years, and we also never had an individual who set out to be mekarev to us. B”H, there were friends who took an interest in the various places we have lived. Still, we came to believe a higher standard of behavior would be found in certain religious institutions, and were very dismayed to find this not to be the case. Our children quickly sensed strong inconsistencies and reacted strongly. I don’t know what we would have done if someone had, in fact, warned us about the hard facts ahead of time.
I suppose Rav Steinman’s position leads to a critical look at the strategies of kiruv. It seems OK to try to interest an otherwise disinterested person, but without minimizing the real demands and struggles. On the other hand for people like us, who were self-motivated, maybe a kind of “Intervention kiruv” is necessary, one that will bring to light the realities of frum life which the highly motivated but naive newcomer may miss, and stumble on later……..