Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

It’s Mashgiach, Not Moshiach

Posted on | June 17, 2007 | By Eliahu Levenson | 103 Comments

Among my regular Jewish activities, I work as a mashgiach. I thank Hashem for the opportunity to work within the needs of the Jewish community, and I involve myself with a considerable amount of kiruv. I’ll give you some examples.

This Shabbos I oversaw a luncheon in a non-observant (conservative in this case) temple. Here I want the people to notice that I will attend to the kashrus of their center, but they will never see me in their sanctuary during a service (that’s also kiruv). When I’m asked by the curious, “How do they conduct a bar (or bas) mitzvah at this conservative temple,” I reply that since I won’t enter their sanctuary during a service, I don’t know the answer to their question.”

While working such an event, I consider it one of my personal missions in life to help the Jewish attendees realize that Jews are to wash “al netilas yadayim” before eating bread. In this vein I make sure the caterer always prepares a complete and noticable washing station. I also place an easy-to-read sign that I made on my computer that contains the rules and brachos (in Hebrew, English, and transliteration) for washing.

At most conservative events, usually very people wash, and sometimes nobody washes at all, but at least people see the washing station, can read the informative sign, and can wonder about it all (that’s kiruv too).

At this particular Shabbos event no one at all was washing. I was disappointed. I actually get a thrill when I see a non-observant Jew wash before bread. That may not be YOUR definition of excitement, but for me it’s as good as a Disneyland adventure.

So no one is washing on this day, when suddenly a young girl, 12 or 13, began walking in a beeline toward the washing station. I was impressed with this young lady, as she was even carrying HER OWN empty cup. I observed from across the room as she stopped at the washing station, peered at the sign, took the water pitcher, and filled the cup she was carrying. Then she lifted the cup to her mouth, took a drink, and walked away. I was devastated.

Another of my favorite mashgiach activity, when in conservative temples, takes place with most Saturday lunches. The host or hostess of an event will usually ask the caterer to pack up any unused food for them to take home. They expect that they will put the food into their cars as soon as the event is over and drive it home.

NOT on my watch however. They are welcome to whatever food the caterer wants to give to them, but that food is not leaving the building until SHABBOS (not the event) is over. If the people want that food, they’ll have to come back for it.

Sometimes they become somewhat angry. That’s okay. To me, it’s a Kiddush Hashem, as well as an important teaching opportunity. The hosts might say, “Why are you letting us take the flowers home if you won’t let us take the food?” I answer, “I don’t have any control over the flowers, I only have control over the food. If I could stop you from taking the flowers, I’d do that also.” Or I might have occasion to say it somewhat akin to: “If you wish to violate Jewish law, that’s your personal choice, but I’m not going to participate in that choice by allowing you to take that food before Shabbos is over.”

I remember once someone called the headquarters of the kashrus agency where I work to complain about me. When informed of the complaint I asked, “So what did I do this time?”

“They said you helped their grandfather make the bracha over washing and motzi and he was greatly embarrassed that he needed the help.”

Well, I realize that it is a big aveira to embarrass a Jew, and I do attempt to be low key and tactful when I try to assist, but somehow I just don’t think this is the kind of embarrassment Hashem had in mind by this prohibition. (See Vayikra 19:17)

I also practice kiruv to the orthodox. It is my own opinion, perhaps the only such opinion in the world, that orthodox Jews need kiruv as much or more than non-observant Jews, and that includes the so-called FFBs.

I remember requiring at an orthodox event that a group of orthodox men desist from opening or using Canadian Club Premium scotch whisky. Oh they were MAD at me, but I stood my ground and they yielded…begrudgingly.

“All scotch is kosher,” they would say.

“Canadian Club Premium is a blend. Single malt is just scotch, but a blend has addititives, and in this case part of the additives include non-kosher wine,” I would respond.

“But Rabbi Moshe Feinstein allows up to 20% of non-kosher wine in a mix,” one man retorted (these are orthodox Jews remember, and much better equipped to look for argumentative ways to try and defeat me).

“Rabbi Moshe Feinstein made that teshuva about a mix of water containing up to 20% non-kosher wine. If you want to substitute scotch for water, then you had better ask Rabbi Feinstein, because I think it’s a stretch…unless there is more to the teshuva I am not aware of. Water damages the taste of wine which I believe is the basis for its Rabbi Feinstein’s bedieved acceptance. Do you really think that the scotch also damages the taste of the wine, or might the scotch even improve the taste?”

Do not now go out trying to figure ways to drink non-kosher wine. Halacha is a very technical field only to be decided by the experts. Consult your rabbi first and I hope he chews you out.

These guys weren’t finished with me yet. After all, Jews are a stiff-necked people. They named another kosher certifying agency that they said ALLOWS ALL SCOTCH, even when blended with non-kosher wine.

Here’s what I answered: “Gentlemen, whether that is true or not, this synagogue is not under the hashgacha of the certifying agency you are mentioning. This synagogue is under a different hashgasha that DOES NOT
permit such a blend.”

One of the main areas (not the only area) where kiruv is desperately needed amongst even orthodox Jews is that of accepting authority. Often we are too zealous to challenge rulings we don’t like. Rulings can be investigated and studied, but there is a process, and Jews need to be patient and pursue their ideas in a correct fashion, and swallow their pride if they don’t get their way.

All of this brings me to the one person who needs kiruv the most, in my humble opinion. It isn’t the non-observant, and it isn’t the observant, it’s ME, just ME. I’m always feeling inadequate in my Judaism and I know I need to search for ways to improve. My wife, Leah Hudis Esther, is tactful, but not shy in letting me know if she thinks I could or should be improving in one way or another. That is my definition of looking out for me, and I like her for that. I’d like to think that others are looking out for me in that way as well. That’s kiruv.

Let me make myself the subject of scrutiny for the sake of understanding. I think I am sometimes in danger of getting a swelled head (what, ME?). I think it’s fair to say that I usually (not always) have the upper hand when debating and discussing much due to the knowledge and experiences I have gained over the years. Although fair to say, it also places me at risk of being arrogant, condescending, and lacking in proper humility.

Hashem also does kiruv. It is no accident that I am a mashgiach. I am fully aware of Hashem’s guiding hand hidden in the background. Occasionally, I find myself washing and checking lettuce for bugs. For a mashgiach, it goes with the territory. Deep inside me however, I have an awareness that I consider this kind of work to be beneath me. It isn’t beneath me, and that’s the point. I feel it is, but I know it’s not, and this part of the job is a great help in reminding me that I am nothing more than a humble servant before Hashem. I cannot stress how important it is for us to understand this.

When I realize how valuable this activity is for my personal development I smile and thank Hashem for HIS kiruv.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Let’s switch gears for a minute, because I think this is a topic you would like to hear about. Checking lettuce has had other effects on me as well. When my wife, and/or myself, prepare a head of romain lettuce, we wash and agitate the lettuce in water with soap. We then rinse each individual leaf thoroughly, both front and back. Finally we check each leaf, againfront and back, very carefully, over a Logan Futura light box that we keep in our kitchen. You see, I have learned first hand that there are bugs in lettuce…often lots of them. You wouldn’t even know many of them were there if you didn’t know what you were looking for.

Knowing about the bugs in lettuce and what it takes to get rid of them has changed our lives in other ways as well. When friends invite us over for a meal, where kashrus is not in question, we will go to the meal. We will eat their main courses and their desserts. My wife and I however will not eat their salad, unless, we know that they know how to properly eliminate the bugs. (Note: Straight iceberg lettuce in bags that have a reliable hechsure would not be a problem.)

End of tangent.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Finally, whilst still on the subject of kiruv, I don’t want to leave out the non-Jewish world. Non-Jews need kiruv too. Call it Noachide kiruv, but it is kiruv nonetheless. Everybody needs kiruv.

BTW, to all those non-Jewish chefs and non-Jewish catering and service people, please be apprised when you are speaking to me that the word is MASHGIACH, not MOSHIACH!

Comments

103 Responses to “It’s Mashgiach, Not Moshiach”

  1. Jaded Topaz
    June 18th, 2007 @ 1:57 am

    Uh Eliahu , me thinks your blanket embarrass on an as needed basis for halacha violations heter has a few mothbitten holes (not to be confused with loopholes). Änd is begging for a little second guessing.
    I’m sure ure familiar with the eloquently quaint quote regarding embarrassing others in public, “hamalbim penei chaveiro berabim….. There is no space in heaven allocated to those kinds of folks. Whether they function as teachers, preachers, dreamers, watchers, lighthouse keepers, seekers,
    druggists, druggies, kiruv lovers, bloggers ór floggers.

    Änd if your goin to focus on the public versus private point, well embarrasing a sinner does not usually breed results of the repentance persuasion.
    Do you really think that poor grandfather is goin to recite his blessings with all the corrections ànd negative embarrassment imagery associated with those corrections.

    This kind of hardcore halacha enforcing ór loudly correcting ànd subsequent overriding human hurt ànd pain just breeds so many warped ànd crooked prespectives. Ànd threads its leechy,snakey ànd crooked ways into mainstream halacha from ägunah regulations to modesty rules.

    Why does halacha hurt sometimes? Does it always have to ?

  2. Eliahu Levenson
    June 18th, 2007 @ 6:46 am

    Shalom Jaded,

    I spoke with him quietly, not publicly.

    Regards, Eliahu

  3. Tal Benschar
    June 18th, 2007 @ 6:56 am

    [B]ut somehow I just don’t think this is the kind of embarrassment Hashem had in mind by this prohibition.

    Do not now go out trying to figure ways to drink non-kosher wine. Halacha is a very technical field only to be decided by the experts. Consult your rabbi first and I hope he chews you out.

    Do you see a disconnect here? When it comes to embarassing someone else, you pasking the shailo by what you think Hashem had in mind. (You’ll forgive me if I note that this sounds like Conservative Judaism.) But kashrus of scotch is “a very technical field only to be decided by the experts.”

    How about asking a Rov. Malbin pnei chaveiro is a deoraysa; stam yaynam is a derabbanan. Seems to me the former deserves as much “techncial” advice by “experts” as the latter.

    Maybe masgichim need kiruv too.

  4. Eliahu Levenson
    June 18th, 2007 @ 8:20 am

    Shalom Tal,

    The kashrus organization that employs me does not permit these wines, in fact, they expressly forbid them. Any shul, restaurant, caterer, and so forth, that uses this agency for their hashgacha must follow the rules of their certifying agency.

    Regards, Eliahu

  5. Bob Miller
    June 18th, 2007 @ 8:49 am

    Regarding Tal’s comment and Eliahu’s article above:

    1. Eliahu did not say that any form of embarrassment was actually intended or anticipated. At worst, he tried to minimize the blame for an action that had let to an unanticipated negative result.

    If the mashgiach can’t exercise any independent judgment at all as an event unfolds, what is he there for? In his job there is no guarantee that he’ll be infallible, but he has to go with the best he thinks he can do on the spot unless time permits some consultation.

    Howver, one could ask about the advisability of a mashgiach attempting kiruv while on duty. That depends a lot on his knowledge of the group at the event and their likely response to his efforts. Some might like his attention and some might be offended.

    Some cases might call for a more passive approach (such as what Eliahu did in labeling the washing station). If guests volunteer questions, that’s the time to talk with them appropriately about the answers.

    2. The whisky incident shows that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, if Jews egotistically assume that they know more than a qualified rabbi. However, other incidents can happen when halachic authorities really do differ on some point and followers of the opposing authorities attend the same event. The paid mashgiach, of course, has to act according to his own organization’s instructions, tactfully.

  6. I'mJewish
    June 18th, 2007 @ 9:00 am

    With all due respect, you seem to think that you, a stranger to most of the C’s there, are so important that the fact that you won’t enter their sanctuary is something that they should notice and file away and potentially then investigate O further as a result. I’m sure the majority of them think, “Oh, well, he won’t enter our sanctuary. Whatever, his problem, not ours.”

    You draw people to O by being a mensch and by conducting yourself in a fashion that makes people want a taste of what you have, too. Not by pointing out how people are wrong and shaming them into doing better.

    It also seems as though you get some perverse joy or pleasure in telling the C’s that they may not have their food until after Shabbos. I think you have to meet people where they are, as opposed to set yourself higher and demand that they meet your standards, too.

    There are issues with Chabad, but I have never met a Chabadnik who would talk to non-observant or less observant Jews in any way other than in a respectful manner. And if that meant grandfather’s bracha wasn’t perfect, but grandfather felt pleased that he had taken a positive step, then so be it.

  7. Steve Brizel
    June 18th, 2007 @ 9:13 am

    Just curious-who are you relying upon in your view of the teshuvah of RMF?

  8. Eliahu Levenson
    June 18th, 2007 @ 9:15 am

    Thank you for your comments Bob.

    Kiruv does have greater limits when connected with employment. For example, at conservative functions, quite often, many women are dressed, shall we say, rather inappropriately.

    Since I represent a kashrus organization and not the temple, it would not be my place to discuss issues of tznius with the offenders in “most” instances. I am engaged with responsibility over food issues, and not individual attire.

    As you stated, when someone else brings up the topic instead of myself, I have more leeway, but even then I have to navigate carefully.

    For all food issues however, including brachos, then it is quite appropriate for me, in the role I fill, to tactfully bring important information to the attention of various individuals. After all, I am talking to many people about food related topics all the time…that is my function.

    If I think however that broaching a topic will result in a negative reaction, rare when discussion brachose over food, but possible, then of course I would refrain.

    Regards, Eliahu

  9. Eliahu Levenson
    June 18th, 2007 @ 9:26 am

    To I’m Jewish,

    I’m not permitted to allow Jews to violate Jewish law if it is within my ability to prevent it.

    That’s the way it is. It isn’t personal. If my doing my required functions before Hashem has the side effect of bringing people to think about things they may not have previously given much consideration, that is called “Kiddush Hashem,” and a very good side effect.

    Regards, Eliahu

  10. katrin
    June 18th, 2007 @ 10:35 am

    eliahu

    nice post.

    i agree that jews of all stripes have a problem with a authority, even (and sometimes especially) the authority of Hashem to tell us what to do.

    it’s a complicated area, as even in rabbi akiva’s generation there was a suggestion that we were already too ‘low’ to successfully rebuke another jew.

    but i agree with you that we should try, in whatever way we can, to help people to learn about what is expected of them.

    even if they aren’t doing it, Hashem still wants / expects it (and that’s a good part of why people who ‘remind’ are constantly being criticised and derided by others….)

  11. Eliahu Levenson
    June 18th, 2007 @ 11:11 am

    Thank you Katrin,

    It’s hard sometimes, but you gird yourself anticipating the hits to come, but you do it anyway…because that is what you think Hashem expects of you.

    A person only needs one friend, Hashem. Anything above that is appreciated and a bonus.

    What you wrote reminded me of something a read in an Aryeh Kaplan book yesterday. I’m going to find the quote. Don’t go away, I’ll be right back.

    Okay, I’m back. Here it is.

    “We are thus taught that if a person finds himself inordinately free of suffering and troubles, he should examine his ways. He may be receiving his just reward entirely in this world.”

    It takes my breath away.

    Cordially, Eliahu

  12. Albany Jew
    June 18th, 2007 @ 11:37 am

    Hmmm

    I wonder how much control of the food you actually have as the mashgiach? Is there a policy and procedure manual for the job? Do all food related activities fall under your purview? Even if the food is the property of the host, can you actually confiscate it until a halachicly correct time?
    To some extent, I actually agree with everything you say but I still think you may not be right in your approach. Kiruv may be looking out for others but it still should be done in a way that will make them more likely to do the mitvah, not get angry at the representative of observance.
    This sort of reminds me of the issue of inviting non-observant guests for Shabbos. If they insist on driving afterwards, do we recind our invitation? I know there are arguments both ways, but as a BT it really does come up a lot. Just my 2 cents.

  13. Bob Miller
    June 18th, 2007 @ 11:43 am

    Eliahu, are you hired as mashgiach for a simcha as an individual or through some organization you work for? If the latter, how does that organization view your efforts to encourage mitzvah performance at these events?

  14. Eliahu Levenson
    June 18th, 2007 @ 11:58 am

    Shalom Albany,

    Inviting wayward Jews for Shabbos is a hotly discussed issue amongst the sages. You can read an excellent discussion of the issue in Rabbi David Bleich’s, “Contemporary Halakhic Problems, Volume 4,” pages 92-104.

    My personal approach, which is discussed in the book, works on two principles. The first is the idea that if they violate Shabbos to have a possibly life changing experience that could possibly stop them from violating many more Shabbosim in the future.

    The second is one of approach. I want to stop them from driving if I can so I extend an invitation for them to stay in my home all of Shabbos. It’s the best I can do and if they decline my offer and drive to my home, well at least I tried.

    A number of people over the years have accepted my offer of staying over.

    Regards, Eliahu

  15. Eliahu Levenson
    June 18th, 2007 @ 12:02 pm

    Shalom Bob,

    They know what I do. I just published an article to the world on this website explaining what I do, and I did so l’toeles. I’m not shy when it comes to mitzvah performance.

    I put myself on the line to the extent I think I should, and whatever happens will happen. I will face Hashem in judgment over my actions, just as other people will face Hashem in judgment over their responses to my actions.

    I try hard to do what I think is correct, and then I leave the rest in the good care of the Almighty.

    Regards, Eliahu

  16. David Linn
    June 18th, 2007 @ 12:03 pm

    “A person only needs one friend, Hashem. Anything above that is appreciated and a bonus.”

    I think you might mean to say that you have to do what is right even if it may cause others to dislike you.

    I don’t think this is the same thing as Hashem being your only friend. After all, doesn’t the mishnah enjoin us to “acquire a friend”.

  17. Eliahu Levenson
    June 18th, 2007 @ 12:12 pm

    Shalom David,

    You are referring to Pirkei Avos 1:6.

    Rashi, on this mishna, says that “friend,” refers to the acquisition of proper books of Torah learning. In that sense I have many friends.

    Others liken friends to will 1) help another to study Torah, 2) to help insure that a person will fulfill mitzvah observance, and 3) will offer criticism l’toeles.

    I have those kinds of friends also. If I didn’t however, I still have Hashem…dayenu.

    Regards, Eliahu

  18. David Linn
    June 18th, 2007 @ 12:51 pm

    And your wife, no?

  19. Albany Jew
    June 18th, 2007 @ 12:59 pm

    Thanks for responding Eliahu,

    Putting it another way, I am working very carefully with people that I love who are not observant, and have had some degree of success to get them to do more mitvahs. I could see them coming into contact with a “Shabbos policeman” at a family event such as you describe and some damage might be done. All I’m trying to say is that when you represent Torah Judaism you also have to sometimes tread lightly on those who might be influenced by you. Especially when you feel it is an opportunity to do Kiruv. (I guess I’m up to 4 cents now)

  20. I'mJewish
    June 18th, 2007 @ 1:35 pm

    Eliahu, you said: “I want to stop them from driving if I can so I extend an invitation for them to stay in my home all of Shabbos. It’s the best I can do and if they decline my offer and drive to my home, well at least I tried.”

    Personally, what I find to be more effective is working on helping non-observant or less observant Jews understand the beauty of Shabbos, why keeping it is something they should investigate, and how doing so brings them closer to Hashem and helps fulfill their own family happiness, as opposed to just stopping them from driving.

    Are you familiar with the concept of “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”? I think the signage for the washing that you describe is very effective and a good example of kiruv. It makes people stop and think. Being told that what they are doing is wrong, however, doesn’t make people stop and think. It just gets their resistance up and runs the risk of turning them off observance entirely.

  21. Eliahu Levenson
    June 18th, 2007 @ 2:02 pm

    Yes, David,

    Certainly my wife. I am most fortunate that Hashem looked after me on this account.

    Thank you.

  22. Eliahu Levenson
    June 18th, 2007 @ 2:11 pm

    Shalom Albany,

    We take our best shots, knowing it is possible for us to mess up. That’s life, that’s the world Hashem placed up into, and Hashem does not want us to seal ourselves off the world and live 13 years in a cave.

    Hashem also gave us a seichal, which, fortunately or unfortunately, some of us use better than others.

    I try to be thoughtful and deliberate in how I speak and act. I also have been doing this every single day for many years. That helps, although I am certainly capable of making a mistake that I will regret. B’ezras Hashem I am hopeful that this does not happen.

    I have many stories, but it’s not for here or now.

    Thank you for your thoughts, Eliahu

  23. Eliahu Levenson
    June 18th, 2007 @ 2:15 pm

    To I’m Jewish,

    You need to do what you think is correct and what has been most effective for you. I have to do the same. I do want to learn from your experiences however, and try to incorporate all that is good and helpful.

    As I said earlier, what I spoke about regarding inviting non-observant guests for Shabbos is thoroughly discussed by one of the most respected halachic sources in the world. I provided the source as well as the page numbers. Everything I said about that subject is to be found in those pages. I hope you will take a look and study the material for yourself.

    Best Wishes, Eliahu

  24. I'mJewish
    June 18th, 2007 @ 3:02 pm

    Eliahu, when you tell the C Jews, “If you wish to violate Jewish law, that’s your own choice, but I’m not going to participate in that choice by allowing you to take the food,” what reaction do you typically get? Is that reaction one that brings the C Jews closer to wanting to better understand and live by halacha, or not? If not, why do you think that is?

  25. SephardiLady
    June 18th, 2007 @ 3:02 pm

    David and Mark run a fantastic forum and it is wonderful to have a place where we can discuss and critique each other, and I see no more important area to do that than in the arena of kiruv.

    So, please excuse me when I say your form of kiruv (outside of the lovely washing station idea) seems to be what I might label “kiruv with attitude.”

    This Shabbos I oversaw a luncheon in a non-observant (conservative in this case) temple. Here I want the people to notice that I will attend to the kashrus of their center, but they will never see me in their sanctuary during a service (that’s also kiruv).”

    For starters, I find it incredible, basically shocking, that you would go our of your way to inform the baalei simcha that you won’t step foot into the sanctuary. What about just wishing a mazal tov, giving them a beracha for nachas, and letting them know that if they have a question you will be in the kitchen?

    I find it thrilling that there are conservative synagogues under Orthodox supervision. Let’s keep it that way.

    NOT on my watch however. They are welcome to whatever food the caterer wants to give to them, but that food is not leaving the building until SHABBOS (not the event) is over. If the people want that food, they’ll have to come back for it.

    Sometimes they become somewhat angry. That’s okay. To me, it’s a Kiddush Hashem, as well as an important teaching opportunity.

    Maybe a more subtle technique could be used. Perhaps you could let the ba’alei simcha know that you would be happy to deliver the leftovers to their home motzei Shabbat (should your employer approve).

    Angering the baalei simcha can’t be effective kiruv and people really do not like being inconvienced. If they still want to take the food, I’d look the other way. But, people like delivery (!) and I’m guessing you would have a few takers (especially when people are tired from months of planning the simcha and would like to just visit with family and friends).

    Here’s what I answered: “Gentlemen, whether that is true or not, this synagogue is not under the hashgacha of the certifying agency you are mentioning. This synagogue is under a different hashgasha that DOES NOT
    permit such a blend.”

    I don’t know anything about scotch. But, I see no reason to engage in a sparring match. I’d just say that the hashgacha you work for does not permit this product.

    You have a responsibility to uphold kashrut, but you also have a responsibility to represent the hashgacha that you work for in a positive light. I’d say that sparring with attendees at an event can’t reflect well on the hashgacha.

  26. Eliahu Levenson
    June 18th, 2007 @ 3:13 pm

    To I’m Jewish,

    I’m glad you asked me that question. Only a couple of times has anyone ever sounded angry, and then I explain it to them in more detail and the anger goes away.

    In fact I usually meet them at the Temple at a pre-arranged time after havdalah or the next day to give them the items personally. It has always been cordial and friendly…no exceptions.

    If it wasn’t cordial and friendly, so be it, but it has been, Baruch Hashem, and I’m sure many of these people have done at least a little bit of looking into their inner Jewish selves.

    Thank you for asking, Eliahu

  27. Eliahu Levenson
    June 18th, 2007 @ 3:31 pm

    Shalom Sephardi Lady,

    I don’t ask you to like or approve of anything that I do.

    Don’t expect me to do things your way however. You may not understand my reasoning, and I may not agree with yours.

    That said, I do appreciate hearing what you have to say, I try to take it in and assimilate all that’s good and valuable. That might change me in a big way, or not at all, or somewhere in between.

    Kol tuv, Eliahu

  28. Bob Miller
    June 18th, 2007 @ 3:35 pm

    Conceivably, some or many of those who don’t express anger are just too polite to lose their tempers in public at a happy family event. However, their displeasure may result in no hashgacha at all at a later event, not exactly what one would want to have happen.

  29. Eliahu Levenson
    June 18th, 2007 @ 4:04 pm

    Shalom Bob,

    You make it sound like a started doing this last week. I’ve been at it for years, along with many other forms of kiruv.

    There are plenty of issues surrounding hashgacha, but this has never been one of them.

    You see, in my area, maybe not your area, there is always a segment of people that will not attend any event that doesn’t have proper hashgacha. This is a main reason that many temples even bother with hashgacha.

    When standing up for Jewish law, always in a thoughtful and caring manner (as I see it), becomes an impediment to my work, it becomes time for me to consider changing occupations.

    But that’s just me, Eliahu

  30. Bob Miller
    June 18th, 2007 @ 7:43 pm

    Eliahu,

    The real point is not whether it somehow works in your personal situation with your specific clients, but whether it serves as an example for others to follow on some level. After all, that’s why you’re talking about it here. In other real life situations if not your own, I can see some of your semi-confrontational practices as potentially risky and worth, at least, a shaila.

  31. Eliahu Levenson
    June 18th, 2007 @ 7:59 pm

    Shalom Bob,

    Assuming a person has an understanding of the laws of loshon hora, motzei shem ra, rechilus, sinas chinam, ahavas Yisrael, and more, we are dealing with subjective questions here. We go with our best judgment, asking for input at times, but always knowing that the one we will ultimately answer to is watching every one of our moves, and recording all of it for future reference.

    Decisions are made as situations come up. Opportunities are taken then and there when deemed appropriate or lost forever.

    Regards, Eliahu

  32. Leah L
    June 18th, 2007 @ 8:34 pm

    Shalom I’mJewish,

    I wanted to respond to your post #20, particular around this part: “Being told that what they are doing is wrong, however, doesn’t make people stop and think. It just gets their resistance up and runs the risk of turning them off observance entirely.”

    First, I do want to say for the record that Eliahu has used many different methods over the years to get Jews take notice. There is the iron fist in a velvet glove approach, and there is the slow, methodical building up approach. He sizes up the target, and determines what approach will work best with them.

    Eliahu brought me to teshuvah long before circumstances led to our becoming husband and wife. My process started with a whopping argument with him over the idea of memorializing loved ones with Holocaust museums. That is a whole other discussion that is worth looking at, and I would urge Eliahu to write a post on it. It will generate heat and sparks, but it is an important topic.

    At any rate, Eliahu didn’t not hit me over the head with a hammer, but he said some things that I just couldn’t ignore, no matter what kinds of compelling arguments I would throw at him.

    Stuff like, it’s too hard, I’m too busy, it’s too complicated, I’m too confused, I’ve got a career, a secular family, yada yada…

    Eliahu’s entire approach, as I understand it, is to save that Jew who is standing in the middle of a 16-lane superhighway, with no idea that a truck (in the spiritual sense) is coming along to hit him. Eliahu will do what it takes to get that Jew to at least take notice.

    Are there successes? Many. Are there failures? A good lot of them too. Does it work, yes it does, and I’m proof of it.

    Back to your comment, I’m Jewish. This is a good example of what you’re talking about.

    After my father passed away, Eliahu somehow convinced my brother to attend our shul for a little while to say kaddish. (Shock of shocks, he KNEW the kaddish prayer and could read Hebrew!)

    My brother brags about being a “once a year Jew, maybe,” loves to sleep in when he can (no 7 a.m. minyans for him), and is devoted to his secular lifestyle.

    But he came to shul, to my amazement and delight. “This could be the start of something big!” I thought.

    He had the kind of mini tallis you only see in Conservative shuls, tefillin he hadn’t seen in four decades and were most certainly not kosher, and he had the kind of kippah they hand out as loaners for simchas at shuls, i.e., “The Rosensweig Wedding – April 12, 1998.”

    Anyway, this lasted for a few weeks, and he even made it through a couple of Shabbos. Of course, the idea of him walking the 5 or so miles from his house to our shul was completely out of the question. (He wouldn’t have walked 500 feet if he could help it).

    So he drove to shul and parked on the lot, even though I suggested he had least park at the nearby plaza.

    A friend of mine’s husband said to me one day, “You really should tell your brother to walk on Shabbos.”

    Then, Yitzhak told my brother that too. You can guess the outcome.

    This Cheshvan will be my father’s fourth yahrzeit, and I can assure you, my brother has never been back.

  33. Eliahu Levenson
    June 18th, 2007 @ 10:49 pm

    Shalom Leah Hudis Esther,

    Lovely story dear. I seem to recall bits and pieces of it.

    Yes, I catalyzed your beginning, but I could only go so far. After all, I lived thousands of miles away.

    Realizing this mammoth obstacle, I researched all of the synagogues in your area. Only observant Judaism would be acceptable, but some orthodox synagogues would be better suited to who you were than others.

    I said that I don’t think this one would be for you, or that one. Go to this one. I told you many times to go to that synagogue before you garnered enough courage to actually walk to that shul and go inside.

    When you took that first step in earnest, I believe Hashem took over. He brought Anschel and Penina into your life. They saw your new face in shul and essentially adopted you into their extended family, guiding you along every step of the way, including you as if you were really their child.

    I should point out that whilst I myself required at least two years to begin to find my foothold in Judaism, it took you less than one year, and that is the power of having Jews who are concerned about you watching over your shoulder and guiding you.

    I am stunned to this day at how quickly and completely you threw off the old yoke and donned the new.

    If there are any real heroes in your story, it is Anschel and Penina and not me. They saved a Jewish neshama and thereby saved the world. Their reward in the Olam HaEmes is probably beyond measure.

    B’Ahavah, Your choson.

  34. Steve Brizel
    June 19th, 2007 @ 9:14 am

    WADR,I think that your comments unfortunately show a willingness to use halacha improperly on the interpersonal level.

    The Orthodox Jew who asked you about a Psak of RMF appeared to understand the basis of that Psak and merely asked why the scotch was not available. IMO, your comments were disparaging to this individual, almost disparaged the Psak of RMF and did not discuss the halachic issues in a way that would have contrasted the various positions in a helpful manner.Instead, you merely presented RMF’s psak in the manner of a fait accompli as one that should not be followed.

    You also seem proud that at non O simchas, that you have a washing station. That is wonderful, but none less than RSZA paskened that one can invite a not yet O person to one’s house and not even insist upon Netilas Yadayim because at that stage, doing so might antagonize someone further from Torah. IMO, running a washing station is at best marginally related to providing hashgacha over the food at such an occassion and IMO strikes me as you acting as a self appointed Mashgiach Ruachani or engaging in kiruv in a possibly inappropriate manner. WADR, a C Bar Mitzvah Seudah is not an NCSY Shabbaton where advisors help teens wash en masse.

  35. katrin
    June 19th, 2007 @ 11:52 am

    let’s all give eliahu a break, and stop jumping all over him

    everyone has a different approach to kiruv – from his posts, you can tell eliahu is genuine, and genuinely cares about other jews.

    i’m sure that comes across, and makes all the difference. someone with less love of his fellow jews would certainly come a cropper doing some of the things eliahu does, but thank G-d, we were all made different and have our own way of doing things.

    may we all merit to have more achdus and less division

  36. I'mJewish
    June 19th, 2007 @ 11:27 am

    Out of curiosity, Eliahu, has your approach brought any of your (presumably non-observant) family members closer to halacha?

  37. David Linn
    June 19th, 2007 @ 11:51 am

    Just as a clarification here and to get things back on track, I don’t think anyone is questioning the sincerety and good intentions of R. Eliyahu. What some are questioning is whether he can achieve his proper goal in a better way.

    As you were…

  38. SephardiLady
    June 19th, 2007 @ 12:27 pm

    He sizes up the target, and determines what approach will work best with them.

    How do you size up a “target” when you met them only minutes before at a busy simcha?

    Assuming a person has an understanding of the laws of loshon hora, motzei shem ra, rechilus, sinas chinam, ahavas Yisrael, and more, we are dealing with subjective questions here.

    I do not believe that these situations are subjective in the least. And because you are representing a hashgacha, the employer probably has an objective standard on how he wants his services perceived. So, I imagine that you should also be concerned with the hilchot of employee/employer relations.

    You see, in my area, maybe not your area, there is always a segment of people that will not attend any event that doesn’t have proper hashgacha. This is a main reason that many temples even bother with hashgacha.

    Sounds like you believe the consumer is stuck with your hashgacha so how they perceive the company is secondary?

    I don’t ask you to like or approve of anything that I do.

    Don’t expect me to do things your way however. You may not understand my reasoning, and I may not agree with yours.

    I don’t expect you to agree with my approach in the least. But, marketing research is not just an academic exercise and it seems that the market questions your approach.

  39. Leah Levenson
    June 19th, 2007 @ 12:44 pm

    Shalom Katrin,

    Thank you for your post! I get a little antsy when I think people are beating up on my hubby. ;-D

    One thing that seems to be missing from this discussion is a recognition that, for a lot of these folks attending these simchas, “halacha” and “Torah observance” means nothing to them whatsoever! These are not concepts they can even remotely relate to.

    What Eliahu introduces to them, rituals like netilas yadim and hamotzei, many of them are seeing for the VERY FIRST TIME and just barely scratch the surface.

    Hey, I’ve been there, through my brothers’ bar mitzvahs and my nephews after them. There is NO connection to Yiddishkeit, Judaism and Torah at these parties! NONE!

    If you’ve been BT long enough, you have to acknowledge that pit-in-the-stomach feeling you get when you see people DIVE into the challah without so much as a second thought, never mind washing and saying a brocha first!

    Many of these “horses” don’t even know the water source is there to drink from, never mind trying to make them drink from it, if I can borrow from the analogy.

    If he wanted to, Eliahu could tell you juicy stories about 12-year-old girls and their moms with plunging necklines down to THERE and hemlines up to THERE, and fully-equipped casinos in celebration of the Bar Mitzvah boy’s “milestone” event.

    Have some of you forgotten your own tenuous connection to Yiddishkeit from BEFORE BT, nevermind BEYOND BT? Many of these people don’t have a scintilla of a clue, and so there are the Eliahus of the world willing to go out on a limb to give them a glimpse of what that clue can look like

    And he does go out on a limb. The hostility and opposition we have gotten from our respective families over our frumkeit would make you sick. The anger it inspires is quite shocking.

    So yes, maybe it doesn’t fall within the parameters of “what a mashgiach does,” aren’t we ALL, every one of us, obligated to do what we can to bring Jews back to Judaism? Aren’t WE in abrogration if we fail to try.

    Just what are we here for if not to serve Hashem and lift his chosen people Israel to the level of kedushah Hashem wants of us.

    Ask yourselves WHY people get angry and turn away? Could it be that it hits too close to home, that deep down inside they KNOW how far off the derech they are — they know they are Jews that have gotten very far away from Judaism?

    And here is someone like Eliahu trying to bring some glimmer of Torah light to these celebrants, and you seem to be condemning him for it.

    I’ve got news for you. They really aren’t interested in Torah light. They’re interested in dirty dancing and downing shots — even the 12 year olds.

    That he is able to give them that much is a great kiddush Hashem. You just never know who will catch a bit of the spark.

    Who are we to deny them that?

    C’mon people!

    LeahL

  40. I'mJewish
    June 19th, 2007 @ 12:44 pm

    I absolutely believe R. Eliahu is sincere and well-intentioned. There’s no question in my mind. I question whether an approach that gets people angry and embarrasses their loved ones at simchas, enough that they call and complain, is a good approach. I also question whether saying to people, “You’re violating Jewish law” is motivating to them and makes them want to investigate why.

    I think we need to apply some common sense.

  41. Leah Levenson
    June 19th, 2007 @ 12:49 pm

    SephardiLady,

    “‘He sizes up the target, and determines what approach will work best with them.’ How do you size up a “target” when you met them only minutes before at a busy simcha?”

    Eliahu does many forms of kiruv. At these events, you can often tell from how people dress and behave what their level is, how they will react or to what degree they’d be interested in hearing about Torah.

    From his decade-plus years of participation on forums like this, he also can tell where people are at from their very own words.

    LeahL

  42. Leah Levenson
    June 19th, 2007 @ 12:57 pm

    Shalom I’mJewish,

    >>> I also question whether saying to people, “You’re violating Jewish law” is motivating to them and makes them want to investigate why.

    I’m fairly certain he doesn’t do that. Perhaps Eliahu can be more explicit in how things roll out at one of these events.

    I’m not sure why we’re being so concerned about offending sensibilities anyway when people are doing the wrong thing. Wouldn’t that be considered “enabling?”

    When Eliahu first told me about helping an elderly Jewish man with netilas yadayim for the very first time in his life, I was moved to tears. I thought it was a beautiful story. And the man didn’t mind it, and thanked him.

    Another man he helped didn’t complain, BUT HIS DAUGHTER DID. Big tsouris over that one! That’s when Eliahu got called on the carpet. The DAUGHTER was embarrassed. Holy moly!

    What is going on here???? Are we making excuses for failing to live up to our part of the covenant? Do we go on blissfully living our lives while Jewish neshamos are being lost for eternity? Is this bothering anyone else but me?

    Excuse me while I tear my hair out!!!!

    LeahL

  43. Albany Jew
    June 19th, 2007 @ 1:23 pm

    Leah

    I’m absolutely sure that your husband has the best intentions and I agree that we cannot go blissfully living our lives while we lose Jewish neshomos! I just think that his approach might be a little “heavyhanded” to have the desired effect. Some of us BT’s are more gung-ho with showing others what’s right then others. I think some who advocate treading more lightly have painstakenly tried to do it more by setting an example and teaching a little when the time is ripe than by actively rebuking. (there is defintely a time for rebuking though, but I would wait until I have some more “buy-in” to the idea of becoming Shomer Shabbos first) I’m sure your husband moderates his tact according to his audience but by writing this article he is at least bringing forward the idea tha being very tough is the best route. I’m going with more flies with honey then vinegar I guess.

  44. Bob Miller
    June 19th, 2007 @ 2:00 pm

    Back to liquor:

    The article above (far above!) refers to Canadian Club scotch. I’ve heard Canadian Club called a lot of things but not scotch.
    Did the bottle say scotch on the label? Eliahu, please explain.

    At any rate, straight from a very Orthodox Vaad in Canada, here are their recommendations about liquor:

    http://www.mk.ca/approved.php

  45. Bob Miller
    June 19th, 2007 @ 2:12 pm

    From the US, here are details about alcoholic beverages from the Star-K (Baltimore’s Vaad):

    http://www.star-k.org/kashrus/kk-thirst-highspirits.htm

    This addresses technical issues connected with (for example) Canadian whiskey.

  46. I'mJewish
    June 19th, 2007 @ 2:14 pm

    ” At these events, you can often tell from how people dress and behave what their level is, how they will react or to what degree they’d be interested in hearing about Torah.”

    That seems rather superficial to me. I would not make a judgment on the state of someone’s soul or openness based on what they are wearing. Across any segment of Jewry. The woman in the modest dress may just prefer that style, whereas the woman in the revealing dress may actually be quite ripe for learning more about (O) Judaism.

    It would be interesting to know whether the approach were to differ in a room full of C Jews versus a room full of R Jews.

  47. Leah Levenson
    June 19th, 2007 @ 2:24 pm

    Shalom AJ,

    Frankly, I’m a little surprised Eliahu is not getting more support here at Beyond BT.

    Think about this though. If Eliahu was being unduly heavy-handed, would they have kept him on the premises? Would he still be working at that facility? He’s been doing this work there for several years, as well as at quite a few other venues. He’s only had one complaint of that nature. That should tell you something.

    My husband isn’t heavy-handed at all with them, unless they give him an argument about bringing something not kosher onto the premises — and you’d be surprised how many try to. They’ve put him through hoops trying to justify bringing in things that could endanger the kashruth of the entire kitchen or hall. Generally speaking, they simply do not understand why it matters.

    But caterers or restauranteers who lose their hashgachah because of kashruth problems in their kitchens certainly do.

    What other arguments does he get? Oh, patrons who want to take all the leftover food home with them by packing up their cars and driving away with it on Shabbos. He won’t let them. He’ll come back after Shabbos or the next day and meet them to make sure they get the food. I think he goes way beyond the call of duty.

    From my perspective, setting up a water station was a brilliant compromise. People can read the instructions. They can choose to use it or not. It’s a shame 100 per cent choose not to, but there you go.

    Hey, there’s a kosher restaurant here in Toronto I love to go to, patronized by Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike. They have a washing station all set up per usual for a kosher restaurant. You wouldn’t believe how many don’t bother with it. Only the frummies will.

    And it’s interesting. When I go there with my secular family, they watch me get up, go wash, come back, say hamotzei, eat a piece of bread, and then watch me bentsch afterwards. They know what I’m doing. They know why I’m doing it.

    In six years, they never once asked me if I could help them to do it too. The thing of it is, they are afraid to open that door even a crack. They know how much they’d have to give up if they did. All the important stuff, you know, like bacon and shrimp pizzas….

    Makes you wanna cry.

    LeahL

    LeahL

  48. Leah Levenson
    June 19th, 2007 @ 2:26 pm

    I’m Jewish,

    > That seems rather superficial to me. I would not make a judgment on the state of someone’s soul or openness based on what they are wearing. Across any segment of Jewry. The woman in the modest dress may just prefer that style, whereas the woman in the revealing dress may actually be quite ripe for learning more about (O) Judaism.

    It would be interesting to know whether the approach were to differ in a room full of C Jews versus a room full of R Jews.

  49. Leah Levenson
    June 19th, 2007 @ 2:28 pm

    Bob,

    Eliahu is employed by the largest kashruth authority in Canada. He’ll provide to you I’m sure their view on the issue, but I appreciate your doing the research.

    LeahL

  50. Leah Levenson
    June 19th, 2007 @ 2:33 pm

    Re post #48, I messed it up because I put in a close tag bracket I shouldn’t have.

    What I meant to say, I’mJewish, is that I’m sure Eliahu has his own filters and litmus tests for determining where people are at, so please make that distinction.

    Maybe I’m “superficial,” but please don’t pin that on him.

    So how would you determine who needs or wants help? What do you do to help your fellow Jew?

    LeahL

  51. Albany Jew
    June 19th, 2007 @ 2:52 pm

    Leah, thanks for responding.

    I was basically responding to the tone and the few examples (food take home) of the posting, I really don’t know what your husband actually does in detail but it sounds very inspiring! I like the idea of the water station, it certainly couldn’t hurt!

    I feel very bad that you have had such limited success with your family but don’t stop trying. Maybe it will take 10 years instead of six! We have been immensely gladdened by every baby step our family takes! My father sometimes says “Baruch Hashem” and it almost makes me cry. When you get angry and frustrated with them, it will come back to you in the same form. Hatzlacha with all that you do!

  52. Leah Levenson
    June 19th, 2007 @ 3:06 pm

    AlbanyJ,

    Re post 51 — thank you! That is a lovely post and very appreciated. Hatzlacha for you too! We have a tough assignment in olam hazeh. :-)

    LeahL

  53. Leah Levenson
    June 19th, 2007 @ 3:33 pm

    AJ,

    I wanted to add, regarding getting angry and frustrated, I never really did that. I know I got pious and judgemental at the beginning and had to stop that real fast. It didn’t sit well with them.

    Over time, I learned how to explain things without getting into arguments and to wait for their cues. They can certainly test your patience though.

    The other day I was planning to meet my sister somewhere and she said, “Don’t dress weird.”

    “Huh?”

    “You know, with heavy stockings and stuff.”

    “Umm, well, I’ll wear my long denim skirt and a baseball cap. Is that too weird? I mean, maybe I shouldn’t wear a burqua.”

    “Heh, your heavy stockings are just as bad.”

    Ohhhhhhhhhhhh-kay. ;-D

    LeahL

    LeahL

  54. Steve Brizel
    June 19th, 2007 @ 4:04 pm

    WADR to the author and his spouse,I believe that the author has clearly overstepped his boundaries and responsibilities. Let’s face reality here-the average heterodox Bar or Bat Mitzvah emphasizes “Bar” over “MItzvah” and has been for decades. I don’t think that insisting upon anyone washing renders such an affair a Seudas Mitzvah. Likewise, when an O Jew mentions a Psak of RMF that clearly is relied upon by major Jashrus agencies, I don’t think that a Mashgiach’s job description includes an answer that belittles both RMF and the questionner.

    I also would hesitate to draw conclusions from not yet observant relatives comments, despite the pain engendered, or by observing whether or not some people wash in a Kosher restaurant. WADR

  55. I'mJewish
    June 19th, 2007 @ 4:59 pm

    The delivery idea is a really wonderful one. It enables him to make the point about not breaking Shabbos in a helpful, win-win manner. Would Eliahu consider it? I think many non-observant Jews would be impressed by the devotion of a man who takes Shabbos so seriously that he’ll go out of his way to deliver. I think fewer are impressed by the devotion of a man who holds “their food” hostage (in their eyes).

  56. Leah Levenson
    June 19th, 2007 @ 5:01 pm

    Steve,

    - WADR to the author and his spouse,I believe that the author has clearly overstepped his boundaries and responsibilities. Let’s face reality here-the average heterodox Bar or Bat Mitzvah emphasizes “Bar” over “MItzvah” and has been for decades. -

    This makes it right, the fact that they’ve been celebrating these extravaganzas for decades? No concern that the “party” part has nothing to do with the “mitzvah” part? How many dads take their sons aside on the night of the big bash and say, “Son, you are now of age and obliged to follow Jewish law.” We’re also talking about 12 and 13-year-olds, a double whammy IMHO in terms of your sardonic joke about “bars.” Further, how can you possibly “overstep” when it comes to trying to teach Jews how to be Torah observant?

    - I don’t think that insisting upon anyone washing renders such an affair a Seudas Mitzvah. -

    It’s one small piece of observance for a Jew, a step. Why are you opposed to it?

    - Likewise, when an O Jew mentions a Psak of RMF that clearly is relied upon by major Jashrus agencies, I don’t think that a Mashgiach’s job description includes an answer that belittles both RMF and the questionner. -

    What? Please clarify. I’ve been reading plenty of posts belitting the first post in this thread. My husband gets his marching orders from a particular agency, that happens to be the largest and one of the most authoritative in Canada. It isn’t to discount others, but he is obliged to rely on their ruling. For the purposes of this discussion, that’s what matters, unless the other information is offered as an FYI only.

    - I also would hesitate to draw conclusions from not yet observant relatives comments, despite the pain engendered, or by observing whether or not some people wash in a Kosher restaurant. WADR -

    The evidence is pretty conclusive Steve. My family is absolutely not interested in observing Jewish law. Will they in the future? One hopes so. Today, not in the least. Care to argue with me on that point?

    LeahL

  57. Leah Levenson
    June 19th, 2007 @ 5:05 pm

    Re “holding the food hostage.” In fact, the leftover food is the caterer’s. Don’t ask me why, but it is. The caterer gives the leftover food to the host as a courtesy.

    LeahL

  58. Leah Levenson
    June 19th, 2007 @ 5:13 pm

    I’m struggling with something re the issue of not letting the party hosts take the food home on Shabbos.

    To allow them to do so would facilitate their violating Shabbos laws and also make you party to the violation. To allow or ask a non-observant Jew to do something you are prohibiting from doing on Shabbos is also a violation, same as if I were to ask a non-observant Jew to flick on a light for me on Shabbos.

    Why is Eliahu made to look like the bad guy here? To me, this is clear-cut.

    LeahL

  59. Steve Brizel
    June 19th, 2007 @ 5:18 pm

    Leah L-My point is that there is a proper time and place for kiruv-I don’t think that asking someone to wash at a heterodox Bar or Bat Mitzvah is the proper venue for that. I also doubt seriously that it is proper for anyone to take out their frustrations on lack of compliance by anyone with any halacha by attempting to ask someone to comply in a clearly inappropriate manner and setting. That is exactly RSZA’s point.

    As far as the issues with your family, the best advice that I could give you is to ignore it. Comments hurt but one can argue as many do on this site in the name of many Gdolim that one should try to maintain a relationship with one’s family of origin even if it is difficult for you.

  60. Leah Levenson
    June 19th, 2007 @ 5:38 pm

    Steve,

    - My point is that there is a proper time and place for kiruv-I don’t think that asking someone to wash at a heterodox Bar or Bat Mitzvah is the proper venue for that. I also doubt seriously that it is proper for anyone to take out their frustrations on lack of compliance by anyone with any halacha by attempting to ask someone to comply in a clearly inappropriate manner and setting. That is exactly RSZA’s point. -

    I’m not sure that’s how it rolled out, but I’ll leave Eliahu decide whether he needs to elaborate further. I’ve yet to see my husband get frustrated either. I know he found it somewhat disheartening.

    - As far as the issues with your family, the best advice that I could give you is to ignore it. Comments hurt but one can argue as many do on this site in the name of many Gdolim that one should try to maintain a relationship with one’s family of origin even if it is difficult for you.-

    Fair enough. It took me a long time, but I realized I had to approach it differently in order to maintain that relationship, and I think we’ve come to a reasonable understanding. They think our lifestyle is weird and foreign, and after six years, I think they’re lifestyle is weird and foreign. ;-D

  61. MG
    June 19th, 2007 @ 5:42 pm

    With regards to one of the details this thread has gotten into: I agree with those who support the idea of the mashgiach setting up a washing station (with signs and all) at the event. Introducing people to something new that is very Jewish is very clearly a kiddush HaShem (even if they only see the washing area and don’t even read the signs or try to use it).

    Stepping aside from the issue of the specific tactics (or is that strategy?), I am inspired by how much Eliahu tries to make kiddush HaShem at the work place. I’m curious what others are able to do at their places of work in this regard.

  62. Eliahu Levenson
    June 19th, 2007 @ 5:58 pm

    Shalom Everyone,

    I have just returned from work, fed the cats, turned on the computer, and browsed what’s going on. I’d like to say, “I’m amazed,” but in reality, “I’m not surprised.”

    I see it constantly that people understand me and the circumstances of my life better than I understand them myself, even though I’ve been walking in my own shoes for a very long time, and no one else has ever even seen my shoes.

    I learn and study Torah every day. I have been doing so for decades. I leave my wife to go and learn almost every night. I have been leaving this way constanting during our marriage, but she is angelic about it, and even encourages me.

    I discuss every issue under the sun with great rabbeim, including issues of kiruv. It is well known amongst many rabbeim the variety of activities I am involved with and what I do with them. I also discuss a variety of halachic issues with the rabbinic authorities of my kashrus agency concerning how I comport myself in my professional associations.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Well, let’s look at things that I find relevant to this thread. BTW: I’m a little surprised nobody made any comments about lettuce issues, but that’s just an aside.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    First, the following is from the CRC kosher liquor list, which is a list incorporated into hashgacha well beyond the area of Illinois.

    If you wish to view this kosher liquor list for yourselves, use this link: http://www.crcweb.org/kosher/consumer/liquorList.html

    Quote: “Blended Whiskeys are acceptable only with certification, unless appearing on the list below: Canadian – Canadian Club (regular only – not Classic, Premium or Special Reserve)”

    The reason Classic, Premium, and Special Reserve are specifically forbidden here, is that the CRC does not allow blends that contain non-kosher wine.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Next: The following is a snippet from an e-mail sent to me yesterday afternoon…

    “Hello Eliahu.

    I hope all is well with you. Over the past two months since I contacted you last, I have slowly become more involved with the observant community here in xxxxx, and I am becoming very happy with it. Just the other week, I attended my first Gemora class ever and purchesed my first set of Tefillin…I just gave notice to my landlord, and I hope to move within the borders of one of the two eruvim here in xxxxxx…I, therefore, thank you for everything that you have done online to get the word out.”

    There was a lot more detail included in this e-mail but I would want to ask his permission before revealing more…even though his identity is fully protected here.

    NOTE: I suppose Hashem wanted me to relay this little snippet to you as an example, one of many, of what can happen when Jews truly care about each other.

    I wish to point out l’toeles, that this gentleman first met me in my Jewish forum. Posters are moderated unless we have confidence that they will comport themselves respectfully and constructively.

    When we do not speak properly to one another, regarding kiruv, 1) Bringing Jews closes is vastly more difficult, and 2) We lose the message that Jews are refined, thoughtful, and very caring people.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I’ll finish with some important words from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan zt”l, who I also quoted earlier in this thread: “One who prevents others from sinning is also included in the Biblical malediction, ‘Cursed is the man who does not uphold all the words of this Torah.’” Devarim 27:26

    Of course we want to be highly intelligent about this, gentleness is far better than harshness where it is feasible, and we must understand that there are biblical restrictions based on a variety of factors.

    Recommended study for further research:
    Bava Metzia 31a & Arachin 16b

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I have said all I am going to. The floor is yours. I do not intend to post in this thread again.

    All in love, and with understanding that I am flawed and must work onself constantly until the day I die.

  63. I'mJewish
    June 19th, 2007 @ 6:00 pm

    Leah, you say: “Further, how can you possibly “overstep” when it comes to trying to teach Jews how to be Torah observant?”

    It’s very possible to overstep. You (and by you, I don’t mean you or your husband specifically) overstep if your efforts, no matter how well meant, end up antagonizing them and thus have the opposite effect and drive them away from Torah observance.

    When you wash and bentch at the kosher restaurant you frequent with your secular family, do you tell them that they are wrong for not washing / bentching? My guess is no, because you know that however correct you may be, telling them so won’t drive them one step closer to Torah observance.

    When Eliahu says that he received a call and said, “What did I do this time?” it appears that he does have some recognition on his part that he goes too far and unintentionally antagonizes or makes people angry. Otherwise, why would he say “this time”? He considers it justified as part of bringing people closer to Hashem, but feeling justified and being effective are two different things.

  64. Steve Brizel
    June 19th, 2007 @ 6:18 pm

    Eliyahu-WADr, the two Mareh Mkomos are not the end of the story. There are numerous statements in those Sugyos as well as by Rishonim , Acharonim and Gdolim that we have all lost the ability to rebuke a fellow Jew in a constructive manner. The previous poster mentioned that when you receive a call you wonder “what did I do this time?” Noone questions your desire to effectuate changes in people’s lives, just whether your timing and tactics are appropriate, especially when your spouse related that your own relationship with your families of origin is in a pretty rough shape.

  65. Bob Miller
    June 19th, 2007 @ 6:55 pm

    Anybody who posts over here opens him/herself up to comments and even criticism (hopefully friendly). It goes with the territory. No matter how experienced, professional, wonderful, etc., the poster is, the other people have their own experiences, positions, axes to grind, etc., and that is perfectly normal. I didn’t see one word above downgrading Eliahu’s idealism and desire to do good or saying that his actual hashgacha was not up to his organization’s high standards. That’s pretty good for a blog thread these days!

  66. Albany Jew
    June 19th, 2007 @ 7:53 pm

    Eliyahu,

    Please don’t take it personally. When you write something controversial and put it on this forum, you have to expect debate (it should always be respectful though, ….NOTE TO STEVE…many BTs have issues with their parents, it is part of the process not necessarily indicative of bad tactics) I think you are definitely a “Shomray Torah” but you have couched everything as Kiruv and I think thats where the disagreements stem from. If you were writing about guarding the Torah you would have a better argument.

  67. Neil Harris
    June 19th, 2007 @ 8:44 pm

    Eliyahu,

    What an insightful post! I spent almost 8 years as a masghiach in a community of 10,000 Jews and have gone through many similar situations.
    You’ve provided a much needed look at an important, yet, overlooked aspect of a kehillah. Just as importantly, IMHO, is the insight into yourself that went into the posting. Keep up the good work!

  68. Leah L
    June 19th, 2007 @ 10:01 pm

    AJ,

    Speaking strictly for me, I’m surprised that Eliahu’s post was deemed controversial. Maybe I misunderstood the audience here, but I thought we were all BTs who embraced Torah values, albeit at varying levels and hashkafos.

    I thought you would welcome and support his efforts at reaching out to the dedicated non-observant. I really have to digest what went on in this thread, because now I’m confused.

    Re your comment that everything is couched as kiruv … Well, it is about kiruv. Everything should be about kiruv. When you see a Jew walking down the street, you should think, that is a fellow Jews — does he need my help in some way?

    When he sees 40 or 50 or 200 non-observant Jews in a room, he immediately thinks about ways to reach out. He sees that as his job.

    He has several jobs. One is to serve as a mashgiach. But his full time job, 24/7, is working for Hashem.

    I don’t know where he gets the energy.

    LeahL

  69. I'mJewish
    June 19th, 2007 @ 10:13 pm

    It was controversial, Leah, because just telling people that they are doing wrong (“you’re breaking Jewish law”) doesn’t motivate them to do better. Letting people see the beauty that is O Judaism does motivate them. What beauty of O Judaism is being revealed when a stranger tells a non-observant Jew that he’s doing it all wrong?

  70. Steve Brizel
    June 19th, 2007 @ 10:24 pm

    Albany Jew-Many years ago, I heard a story in the name of R Yisrael Salanter ZTL in which he advised a talmid that he first had to work on himself before he could even think of having any positive influence on his family or his community. In that vein, IMO, a BT should work on his or her own spiritual level and proceed with extreme caution as to his or her immediate family. I remain an advocate of working on oneself and on others as opposed to family members whose thinking may not be so open minded or who may have such negative vibes about Torah that the best that one can do is to essentially excell on the interpersonal level and try to maintain a civil relationship.

  71. Albany Jew
    June 19th, 2007 @ 11:12 pm

    I may be wrong but I’m defining Kiruv as bringing Jews closer to Torah in the best way (that works) possible. If the end result is to turn one away from Torah then IMHO it is not Kiruv, it is rebuke that had negative (and in some cases worse) effects. I know this is a ridiculous example, but if you wrestle a non-observant Jew to the ground and wrap tefillin on him, he may have done the mitzvah but I wouldn’t call it Kiruv.

  72. I'mJewish
    June 19th, 2007 @ 11:19 pm

    Well said, AJ. And I still don’t understand how making it known that you won’t go in a non-O sanctuary is going to make one single C (or R/R) Jew come even one inch closer to Torah observance.

  73. Leah L
    June 19th, 2007 @ 11:50 pm

    Well, the distinction I would make is that these people aren’t asking to be reached, and therefore Eliahu’s actions have more to do with exposing them to Yiddishkeit — many for the first time in their lives — with the hope that something will kindle.

    As for the repeated reference to his refusing to go into the sanctuary in a domain that turns a blind eye to Torah trangressions (such as driving to Shul on Shabbos) — we are prohibited from going into them, just as much as we are prohibited from going into a Church!

    If I had a non-observant nephew who was getting Bar Mitzvahed in a Conservative shul, I’d have to find an excuse not to go — as much as I love him. Same with any activity that involves religious ritual, davening and the like. I could go to his simcha and refrain from eating if the food wasn’t kosher, but I couldn’t go to the actual service.

    So Eliahu was not out of line in refusing.

    And only Eliahu really knows how that conversation went down when he refused to go in. None of us was there. Was he patronizing? Was he rubbing their noses in it? Maybe. I doubt it, but then I know him very well.

    Maybe some of this has to do with a presumption of the way he is with people, and the only people who can know that are the ones who interact with him on a day-to-day basis. You certainly can’t tell from a messageboard conversation.

    I guess that’s about all I can say on this.

    LeahL

  74. Steve Brizel
    June 20th, 2007 @ 8:40 am

    In cases of heterodox Bar and Bat Mitvahs, IMO, one should always attempt to check out whether the kashrus is acceptable. IIRC, without venturing the realm of Psak, there are numerous Piskei Halacha by Gdolim across the spectrum that bar attending any service in a heterodox house of worship unless one is atttending a “mechitzah minyan” on such premises.

  75. Albany Jew
    June 20th, 2007 @ 9:04 am

    Leah,

    Of course, of course, of course Eliahu couldn’t go to that service. No one is saying he is not a very pious Jew (much more than me, most likely) Let me try another example:

    Let’s say I was in the police force and my job was to recruit other people to uphold the law (hey, this analogy might actually be pretty good) Would my best strategy be to watch my potential targets carefully and throw them in jail when they made any sort of infraction of the law? Would that make them interested in becoming an officer like me? Probably not. This is all I’m saying.

  76. David Linn
    June 20th, 2007 @ 9:33 am

    Eliyahu,

    I will reiterate that, IMHO, you (and Leah)are well intentioned and that you do an amazing job of bringing others closer to Torah, both online and in the real world.

    That being said, I think the commentors here are also well intentioned. I also think that most of them have been in the position of being the one being “mekareved”. As such, they offer a perspective that it is important to anyone in kiruv, professional or otherwise.

    It’s great to see that you have the perspective of growing each day. If you incorporate the constructive comments here, you will become even more effective in your avodah. Hatzlachah Rabbah.

  77. belle
    June 20th, 2007 @ 9:40 am

    Leah,

    I find it interesting to contrast this thread to Ora’s thread on kiruv, in which she decried the whole concept of kiruv in favor of a softer touch. Her comments generated criticism that she was not appreciative enough of kiruv workers. And here we are criticizing your husband’s attempts at kiruv!! However, the issue with both posts may be in how they were written, not with the actual intent of the poster, who discuss two differing methods by obviously caring people.

    I think that the reason so many posters are objecting to your husband’s kiruv is because the way he himself portrayed it in his post made it seem forceful and patronizing (even tho in reality it may not be). For example: “Here I want the people to notice …[that] they will never see me in their sanctuary during a service (that’s also kiruv)” In other words, he is saying that he goes out of his way to point out their breach of halacha. A reader may reasonably derive that this is not kiruv, it is insulting to them. It would be kiruv if it were phrased apologetically, with an explanation of what halacha is, and an invitation to a class or a shabbos meal, as opposed to forthright statements of self-righteousness, which is the way his words sound.

    I imagine that with all his experience, he in fact does not come across as self righteous in his interactions, however, all we at this message board have to go on are his words.

    Another example: “Sometimes they become somewhat angry. That’s okay. To me, it’s a Kiddush Hashem, …” [talking about taking food home on Shabbos]. Again, he seems to delight in making them angry, describing this interaction as “Another of my favorite mashgiach activit[ies].” This is not kiruv, explaining the beauty of Shabbos, it is antagonistic, and we as BTs know how ineffective it would have been on ourselves, and we know how our friends and family would react to such a pious mashgiach. Sure, they don’t know the first thing about Shabbos, but why not introduce it to them in a positive light, rather that reinforce their notions that orthodoxy is just a bunch of illogical restrictions?!You can keep to the same halachic standards (not allowing the food to go out) with a much more pleasant approach. Again, maybe he uses a pleasant approach, but we only read his words, which come across as pointlessly antagonistic.

    There are other things in the post that are off-putting, and smack of self rightousness, such as the lettuce tangent. My only guess as to why he included it is that he thinks you are the one of the few aware of the presence of bugs in lettuce. I don’t know what community you live in, and perhaps people are really unaware, but believe me, all of my friends, and probably my whole community understand the issue and check thoroughly. The fact that he even posted this in a post about kiruv is off-putting to say the least, and borders on offensive. Perhaps it would come across as educational had he chosen to write a post about little-known kashrus issues to be aware of, as a public service. But a tangent about what he and you eat in other people’s homes? Don’t we all have standards?

    In sum, Leah, you seem to “not get it.” We are not attacking your husband’s desire to do kiruv, which is what you write about in your responses, but his methods, which you do not address. I’m sorry if this sounds like an attack, but we are just commenting on his post as he wrote it. If his post is not an accurate description of how he in fact interacts with others, then may I suggest more careful writing in the future.

    From your responses you sound like a very dedicated couple. May you find success in all your avodas Hashem.

  78. Albany Jew
    June 20th, 2007 @ 9:51 am

    Belle,

    Perfectly said.

  79. Bob Miller
    June 20th, 2007 @ 10:59 am

    Amen!

  80. SephardiLady
    June 20th, 2007 @ 11:08 am

    Leah L-First off, I believe that the critiques are l’sheim shamayim. We are not personally attacking your husband or you, but we worry that the approach presented is one that is bound to offend, rather than expose draw close. It isn’t every day you have commentors like Steve Brizel and Bob Miller taking an interest in your thread. I know that these two gentleman are serious about Torah and do not look to cause machloket, but to be exchange productive ideas.

    From the presentation, it appears that your husband’s biggest opportunity to engage people is before/during/after their smachot. I think it is important to remember that making a simcha can be extremely stressful no matter what. Right or wrong, the baalei simcha are probably trying to meet a lot of demands and please a lot of people. They want to take pleasure in their day and they want it to run as smooth as possible. They want to please their families and please their guests.

    I hope I am not speaking just for myself (!), but receiving criticism about a simcha can really hurt and be very painful, and having the itinerary thrown off is practically a disaster.

    That said, being asked to schedule a time to pick up the food probably doesn’t come off as caring, but as inconvient (hence my idea of offering delivery). What does your hashgacha say about allowing the ba’alei simcha to take home the food? Perhaps if they allow, you could try to look at the situation a little differently. Now, instead of the ba’alei simcha ordering non-kosher takeout, they now have kosher food available to them (even though you wouldn’t eat it any longer).

    That said, I see no purpose in going out of your way to let someone know that you will never go into their house of worship. Details like this are probably akin to starting off a class on kashrut for beginners with the details of bishul yisrael. Many of the bar and bat mitzvah students have worked hard to learn the program (sometimes it can even be quite extensive) and your statement could come off as needlessly insulting. Since you want to share something, perhaps you could share a thought on building a Jewish house (for married couples) or share a basic thought of the haftarah that the Bar Mitzvah learned. Telling them their event if treif based on something they have no framework to appreciate seems like a useless exercise to me.

  81. I'mJewish
    June 20th, 2007 @ 11:40 am

    Leah, you said, “And only Eliahu really knows how that conversation went down when he refused to go in. None of us was there. Was he patronizing? Was he rubbing their noses in it? Maybe. I doubt it, but then I know him very well.”

    Leah, Eliahu started off his post by indicating that he WANTS the C Jews to NOTICE that he will attend their food but not go into their sanctuary. That IS rubbing their nose in it, to tell them that they’re doing it all wrong. I don’t understand how you can see it otherwise. Why can’t he simply say, if asked to enter the sanctuary, “I’m needed in the kitchen to take care of all this delicious food your guests will be enjoying shortly, but thank you for asking.” Why does he have to go out of his way to point out that he can’t go into the sanctuary? What kiruv purpose do you think that serves?

  82. Leah Levenson
    June 20th, 2007 @ 11:47 am

    Shalom David:

    Thank you for your comments.

    Apart from the things he mentioned in this thread, Eliahu was also the editor of a successful children’s magazine that reached Hebrew schools across America. His kiruv efforts encompass children, adults and the elderly.

    Eliahu has been doing this for the better part of two decades. He will continue on his path, and he will continue to grow and improve. He will absorb that which is constructive and he will leave behind that which is destructive.

    As always, Eliahu will respond to the circumstance and act accordingly when it comes to interacting with Jews, both observant and non-observant alike. Will he make people uncomfortable or angry? Undoubtedly so. Will a path be illuminated for others? Undoubtedly so.

    One day perhaps we can weigh the failures against the successes to see how well he did.

    If others see him as “arrogant,” “forceful” or “patronizing,” and choose to ignore the positive testimonies he has provided, then so be it.

    I will leave you with this thought. What we write here is meant as much for the regular conversants as it is for the silent majority as it is for the regular posters. If a regular poster finds things “offensive” and “patronizing” because they’ve heard it all before, i.e., bug checking, well, let’s keep in mind there are readers who haven’t.

    LeahL

  83. Leah Levenson
    June 20th, 2007 @ 11:50 am

    I’mJewish,

    - Leah, Eliahu started off his post by indicating that he WANTS the C Jews to NOTICE that he will attend their food but not go into their sanctuary. That IS rubbing their nose in it, to tell them that they’re doing it all wrong. I don’t understand how you can see it otherwise. Why can’t he simply say, if asked to enter the sanctuary, “I’m needed in the kitchen to take care of all this delicious food your guests will be enjoying shortly, but thank you for asking.” Why does he have to go out of his way to point out that he can’t go into the sanctuary? What kiruv purpose do you think that serves? -

    And what purpose do you see in letting them carry on in ignorance. One day, when you go before Hashem and he asks you, “So, I’mJewish, what did you do to bring Jewish neshamos to Torah?,” what will you answer?

  84. Leah Levenson
    June 20th, 2007 @ 12:00 pm

    SephardiLady,

    Why do you suppose a mashgiach is required for these events if we need to be so careful about not offending the non-observant-and-happy-to-be-that-way baalei simcha?

    For whatever reason, they’ve decided to have it at that venue and therefore it has to be a kosher meal requiring supervision. Given this choice, they obviously are aware that there are some rules to follow, otherwise why not just rent the Four Seasons and order in a nice surf-and-turf for the guests?

    Believe it or not, there is a bottom line to this conversation aside from finding new things to pick on from Eliahu’s post. The bottom line is this: Observe G-d’s laws.

    LeahL

  85. Leah Levenson
    June 20th, 2007 @ 12:03 pm

    To all,

    I ask respectfully that any further comments be directed to the audience at large and not to me. I really don’t have the heart to comment further and I have been trying to step out of the thread.

    LeahL

  86. Jacob Haller
    June 20th, 2007 @ 12:03 pm

    ““A person only needs one friend, Hashem. Anything above that is appreciated and a bonus.”

    The Gemara in Ta’anis in the sugya of Choni HaMiagel’s situation and his comment of “chevrusa o misusa” (friendship or death).

    Furthermore, I once heard from HaRav Noach Orloweck a p’shat from Iyov (Job) that the Mikatreg (Heavenly Accuser) was given permission to do anything but take Iyov’s life.

    How does this explain Iyov’s meeting with Eliphaz and other friends after losing his family and property? Because without friends it’s not a life.

    The point here is providing another side. Our narrative acknowledges the criticality of friendship.

    COMMENT # 46
    “It would be interesting to know whether the approach were to differ in a room full of C Jews versus a room full of R Jews”

    IMO, probably not. But that’s likely symptomatic of the closing gap between the R and C movements which 20 years from now will have only nominal differences if the inevitable merger will have not yet transpired. That’s my forecast.

    It’s not false to state that clothes alone do not reflect one’s standing in piety but conversely it’s not true to say that clothing is completely irrelevant.

  87. Albany Jew
    June 20th, 2007 @ 12:03 pm

    Leah,

    Agreed, it is good to try to educate on the proper Torah. But just read Belle’s entry, I think it summarizes all the feelings regarding this post.

  88. Leah Levenson
    June 20th, 2007 @ 12:10 pm

    AJ,

    I read her post and your atta-girl post, and it sent me off on a steaming 2000-word diatribe that I deleted. It summarizes your feelings, and I trust I’ve summarized mine.

    (Someone please take away my keyboard!)

    LeahL

    P.S. I hope we can stay civil and friendly after this. I do not like controversy or disagreements. I know, I’m weird.

  89. I'mJewish
    June 20th, 2007 @ 12:22 pm

    I doubt the heterodox Jews who are celebrating their simchas in the way that they know how want controversy or disagreements, either. I respect that you are feeling attacked and I’m truly sorry for that. I hope you understand that if and when heterodox Jews feel attacked, they don’t feel very good either, and it doesn’t motivate them towards observance. And having someone go out of their way to tell them that they won’t enter their sanctuary and that they’re violating Jewish law comes off like an attack.

  90. I'mJewish
    June 20th, 2007 @ 12:26 pm

    “One day, when you go before Hashem and he asks you, “So, I’mJewish, what did you do to bring Jewish neshamos to Torah?,” what will you answer?”

    I tried to gently show them the positives and the beauty that O Judaism had to offer (through Shabbos meals and the like). I also tried to set an example of a calm and peaceful loving person who accepted them where they were, even if it’s not where I wanted them to be. I did not and will not take virtual strangers (as the baalei simcha are) and play policeman and point out what they are doing wrong, because it’s ineffective and raises people’s hackles. At best, it reinforces their stereotype of Orthodoxy as a collection of archaic rules that their ancestors ran away from the moment they stepped foot in America, and at worst, it turns them even further away from ever considering Torah observance.

    The best way to convince someone of something is to let them believe that they’ve discovered it for themselves.

  91. Albany Jew
    June 20th, 2007 @ 12:28 pm

    Absolutely we should stay civil and friendly, truth be told, we agree on much more than we disagree. It is just frustrating that you guys just cannot see how some of us can be offended by some of the words and tone of your husband’s post. Once again though, I wish you the best of luck!

  92. Leah Levenson
    June 20th, 2007 @ 12:32 pm

    AJ,

    Of course I can see that some of you are offended. I’m trying to provide a little context that seems to be largely ignored.

    I get a lot put out by the words and tone of posts I see too, but I really try my best to focus on the MESSAGE versus the delivery.

    LeahL

  93. Leah Levenson
    June 20th, 2007 @ 12:33 pm

    I’mJewish,

    I’m delighted you have found a formula that works for you.

    LeahL

  94. I'mJewish
    June 20th, 2007 @ 12:48 pm

    LeahL, thank you for your comment. I hope you have a lovely day!

  95. katrin
    June 20th, 2007 @ 1:11 pm

    reading through this thread, a few things struck me:

    1) people seem to be very uncomfortable if other people don’t conform to their ideal way of ‘doing things’ – in this case kiruv.

    Isn’t this exactly the same beef that so many non-chareidi jews have about the chareidim? that if it’s not 100% our way, it’s wrong?

    what happened to diversity?

    2) there is not enough ‘judging favourably’ going on. Eliahu is well intentioned – that’s clear. if he phrased things a little starkly or self-righteously in his post- so what?

    no-one is perfect, and many of the people responding to his posts are also writing in a less than ‘optimal’ way.

    he cares about other jews, and about keeping the torah’s commandments. that’s a GREAT start. why can’t we, collectively, focus more on the positive in people instead of picking them apart in posts?

    3) as someone who’s posted here as well, and had a few posts run off in less than useful directions, this is a general observation: the more we rush to attack posters, the less they will want to contribute.

    it’s not easy opening yourself up, particularly on such loaded topics as are often dealt with at beyond BT.

    there are many faces to the torah; many flavours of jew; and many ways to do outreach.

    ultimately, eliahu’s approach is not going to put off anyone who is remotely interested in yiddishkeit – they may use it as an excuse, but that’s all it is.

    but if someone genuinely has never heard of some of the concepts or ideas being introduced by eliahu, and is genuinely interested, he is doing them an enormous favour by opening the door for them a crack.

    most irreligious people don’t want to be religious. if they did, they would be.

  96. Leah Levenson
    June 20th, 2007 @ 1:16 pm

    Dear Katrin,

    Yet again you’ve written a post I just love!

    Thank you for putting a little perspective on this. Now I can have a good night’s sleep.

    LeahL

    (Now I’m REALLY signing off for now)

  97. Ron Coleman
    June 20th, 2007 @ 3:24 pm

    Like Leah, I’m with Katrin. I can’t believe the negative comments this very nice, very life-affirming post has generated!

  98. Albany Jew
    June 20th, 2007 @ 3:28 pm

    katrin

    For me I am not uncomfortable, I am fearful of having something carefully cultivated undone by a harsh word or judgement in the name of “kiruv”. Please don’t make the mistake of saying ” if they were really interested it wouldn’t matter what I say or how I say it” because it DOES matter, and I’ve seen it.

    Also this quote is a little upsetting: “most irreligious people don’t want to be religious. if they did, they would be”

    I believe all Jewish Neshomas want to do mitzvah’s, otherwise it may be time to give up Kiruv altogether.

  99. Chana
    June 20th, 2007 @ 3:31 pm

    Speaking from my memories of being an unaffiliated, then reform, then conservative Jew, I don’t think Rabbi Levenson’s approach was as threatening as the comments suggest. Non-orthodox Jews are often disconnected in the sense that they wouldn’t even know where to go if they had questions about Torah Judaism. Having the mashgiach at the simcha so available, is a good thing, but maybe not even enough. What if the person has curiosity but doesn’t know how to ask the mashgiach? Then you need proactive kiruv, such as Rabbi Levenson describes.

    In any event, we have no way of knowing the ratio of those who walked away in a huff never to look back versus those who walked away having a seed planted which will later germinate.

    I am very inspired by this post, and hope Rabbi Levenson will continue to be mekarev all of those neshamas whose paths Hashem has caused him to cross.

  100. Leah L
    June 20th, 2007 @ 7:03 pm

    Shalom Neil Harris,

    Re post 67:

    - Neil Harris
    June 19th, 2007 20:44 67

    Eliyahu,

    What an insightful post! I spent almost 8 years as a masghiach in a community of 10,000 Jews and have gone through many similar situations. You’ve provided a much needed look at an important, yet, overlooked aspect of a kehillah. Just as importantly, IMHO, is the insight into yourself that went into the posting. Keep up the good work! -

    Toda rabba for your post Neil!

    I forgot you wrote this yesterday. Both Eliahu and I appreciate your sharing your experiences as a long-time mashgiach, and that you have gone through some similar situations. It’s quite heartening to read that! Are you still working as a mashgiach?

    LeahL

  101. m
    June 21st, 2007 @ 4:12 pm

    Just a nitpick. I don’t have an Igros Moshe in front of me, and I haven’t gone through it, but the title specifically discusses blended whiskey (b’zeh haloshon).

  102. Bob Miller
    June 21st, 2007 @ 6:00 pm

    I live in the town where Neil Harris was a mashgiach, and he did a great job here.

  103. CHASIDAH FRIED
    March 4th, 2008 @ 7:58 pm

    I am also a Mashgiach for a major
    VA’AD and a Woman.
    when I am not working I am learning . I have made vast
    improvements In aii aspects if the kashrus here but can’t disclose it.
    I can however say that most of the kiruv I do currently as I do not
    live in a populated area
    revolves around teaching Jews that smicha / a Rabbi is nice
    but not necessary in kashrus
    knowledge of halacha and the
    ability to enforce the law is the ikkar and I teach them NOTto call me Rabbi.

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