Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

Rabbi Harvey Belovski on Kiruv

Posted on | August 31, 2007 | By Administrator | 95 Comments

Rabbi Harvey Belovski recently posted some Hard Questions About Kiruv on Cross Currents. After a number of paragraphs focused on the small percentage of Baalei Teshuva who fall out of Yiddishkeit, he concludes:

I hope that it’s not too controversial to suggest that the objectives of outreach are to help each Jew reach his or her full potential as a human being, ultimately through Mitzvah observance and Torah study. Presumably we should get to know those who seek our guidance: learn to love them as individuals; discover their interests, strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs. Developing a sense that the religious needs of each person we meet differ considerably from those of every other can be difficult, but might we be doing those with whom we work a disservice by adopting any other approach? The Sages teach:

When a man mints many coins with one stamp, they all look the same, but while the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed is He, minted each person with the ‘stamp’ of Adam the First, no one looks like any other. (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5)

If God created us as individuals, it should be the role of those privileged to help His children along their journey towards Him to foster that individuality. Shouldn’t we try to craft a tailor-made religious path for each of our students? Despite the complexities of doing this, it might just enable them to benefit from the wonders of Torah life without stifling their personality or crushing their need for self-expression.

Is it just possible that the multi-chromatic vision of the Jewish world isn’t the common one in the kiruv scene because some of those in charge don’t subscribe to it? Some of us may have come to believe that there is a single optimum way to be a Torah Jew: one ‘correct’ approach to all Jewish issues, one best way of observing halakhah (Jewish law), one ideal mode of living and one supreme authority for Jewish life. May I suggest, perhaps contrary to prevailing norms, that a kiruv operative would see it as a sacred duty to learn about (and hence validate) the range of Jewish possibilities and to incorporate that into his or her kiruv practice. After all, the magnificent system of thought and practice called Judaism really does have a multiplicity of expressions. Finally, might an outreach professional who thinks that it is his or her mission to turn an eclectic group of non-observant Jews into a bunch of religious clones be in the wrong job?

Comments

95 Responses to “Rabbi Harvey Belovski on Kiruv”

  1. Mark
    August 31st, 2007 @ 9:59 am

    I hope that it’s not too controversial to suggest that the objectives of outreach are to help each Jew reach his or her full potential as a human being, ultimately through Mitzvah observance and Torah study.

    Are the objectives of outreach the same as the objectives for any observant Jew?
    Is that objective developing as close a relationship with G-d as possible and practical through Mitzvos observance or is it reaching our full potential apart from a relationship with Hashem?

    Shouldn’t we try to craft a tailor-made religious path for each of our students? Despite the complexities of doing this, it might just enable them to benefit from the wonders of Torah life without stifling their personality or crushing their need for self-expression.

    Does anybody really believe that people within any given group lose their personality and individuality? They might be limited in what actions they perform, but I think suggesting losing their personality discounts the inner depth of the human being. This same loss-of-individuality argument is made against becoming observant and I think it has the same weaknesses both here and there.

    Some of us may have come to believe that there is a single optimum way to be a Torah Jew: one ‘correct’ approach to all Jewish issues, one best way of observing halakhah (Jewish law), one ideal mode of living and one supreme authority for Jewish life.

    I think a more nuanced view of this is that many/most people feel their derech is correct for them and clearly see its benefits. They also more clearly see the deficiencies in other derachim. This is part of the human experience, we see our own merits easily and we see other peoples deficiencies easily. It is something we have to work very hard on our entire life. Teaching your derech to others is probably the least malign aspect of this universal human deficiency.

    May I suggest, perhaps contrary to prevailing norms, that a kiruv operative would see it as a sacred duty to learn about (and hence validate) the range of Jewish possibilities and to incorporate that into his or her kiruv practice. After all, the magnificent system of thought and practice called Judaism really does have a multiplicity of expressions.

    If we’re talking about a surface level understanding of different derechim then this makes sense and I anxiously await the Derachim for Dummies series. But to expect an individual to really understand different derachim at a deeper level is not practical as most people have a life’s work ahead of them, just understanding their own halachos, hashkafas and minhagim.

    Approaching and appreciating different derachim is a complex issues once we get beyond the fact that we should love all Jews. I think Rabbi Schiller had a good treatment of this in his Achdus mp3.

    Presenting different derachim as valid seems correct, but I don’t think we should present most derachim as equal. I agree with Rebbetzin Heller that derachim are overemphasized, but that is the reality of our world so we need to deal with it.

    Finally, might an outreach professional who thinks that it is his or her mission to turn an eclectic group of non-observant Jews into a bunch of religious clones be in the wrong job?

    Why would you end a seemingly constructive article with such a potshot is beyond me?

    As you can see, I was a little disappointed with this article.

  2. Mordechai Y. Scher
    August 31st, 2007 @ 10:07 am

    I won’t try and address Mark’s to-the-point comments. That belongs to author, if possible. Besides, I still have to answer comments from my thread :=(.

    I recommend going to Cross Currents and reading the entire, original piece. I think Rav Belovski gives his take on many topics that have come up here recently.

    BTW, I think he wrote a really good piece.

    Shanah Tovah!

  3. Mark
    August 31st, 2007 @ 10:17 am

    When I’m in disagreement with R’Mordechai I get nervous.

    Besides the obvious point that we should be more tolerant of other derachim, can you just highlight what you found significant. I’m probably missing something.

  4. Bob Miller
    August 31st, 2007 @ 11:00 am

    It probably is too much to expect rabbis in kiruv to thoroughly understand and describe Torah paths other than their own. However, the seeking Jew might want or need to investigate more than one approach from the inside before making his/her primary mental commitment to one of them.

    This investigative process could be frustrated if the first group the seeking Jew tries out emphasizes only its own approach and ignores or even denigrates the others. Will someone be so bold as to argue here that such a thing doesn’t often happen? At a minimum, a Group A institution should not bad-mouth Group B institutions if the latter are “Torah-true”. One institution should not feel or act threatened if people want to step out to check out the others. Each group should show some maturity, and self-confidence that its message is strong enough to get across without manipulation or control-freakiness.

    This leads to my next point, which is that non-partisan, objective information clearing houses should be created, so that Jews in the early or middle stages of their search can get the accurate scoop on the worthwhile institutions and approaches out there. Even if kiruv personnel in general aren’t able to accept or communicate the global view or shake off their subjectivity, the clearing house management and personnel should have the intelligence and training to do exactly that. Such a clearing house would need exceptional leaders, but I’m confident they can be convinced to come forward.

  5. Mark
    August 31st, 2007 @ 11:30 am

    Bob, I agree that denigration does happen to often as a first resort.

    But lets say that there are two primary derachim available in town, A and C, for arguments sake. And you know/believe/have-faith
    after years of investigation and analysis that there are *major* differences between them and it would be a critical mistake for someone to *chose* derach C over derach A. Is it correct not to try and influence/persuade them to follow derach A when you “know” that derach C would be a big mistake?

    I like your idea of the information clearing house, but I am not optimistic that it can or will be formed other than as a grass roots movement.

    Let’s start by listing some major derachim and pointing to the Web Page(s) that are indicative of those derachim.

    Here is a starting list:

    RIETS YU Modern Orthodox – http://www.yutorah.org/index.cfm

    Modern Orthodox – http://www.ou.org

    Yeshivish/Charedi – http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/

    Chabad – http://www.chabad.org

    Breslov – http://www.breslov.org/

    Religious Zionism – http://www.torahmitzion.org/eng/default.asp

    Overview – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orthodox_Judaism

  6. Bob Miller
    August 31st, 2007 @ 11:35 am

    Mark said, “I like your idea of the information clearing house, but I am not optimistic that it can or will be formed other than as a grass roots movement.”

    The grass roots can start it, but will soon enough need others to staff it.

    I know it’s easy to find any group’s web self-advertisement, which was not what I had in mind, although these do serve a purpose. Also, I wouldn’t rely on an anonymous Wiki-thing for anything this important.

  7. Mark
    August 31st, 2007 @ 11:44 am

    Most of the Wikipedia information on Orthodox subjects is written by observant and knowledgable Jews (I think there is a group of writers). I have found it a very good starting point.

    It’s interesting that Wikipedia has a policy of NPOV – Neutral Point of View: All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV), representing fairly and without bias all significant views.

    In your post you also make reference to the term objective.

    Personally I think everything written is editorialized with some implicit (or explicit) point of view, so I’m skeptical of the word objective, but we need to communicate. I would rephrase the goal as “as objective as possible”.

  8. Bob Miller
    August 31st, 2007 @ 11:52 am

    Again, useful but not enough.

  9. Neil Harris
    August 31st, 2007 @ 2:12 pm

    Re: Comment #1-
    I would suggest reading THE ROAD BACK by R Schiller.

  10. Steve Brizel
    August 31st, 2007 @ 2:47 pm

    Mark-Since you listed the categories, classifications, etc, let me suggest a very small but significant classification. Torahweb represents the POV of many of the RIETS RY. I think that “RIETS RY” would be a better nomenclature than YU/MO.

  11. Steve Brizel
    August 31st, 2007 @ 2:57 pm

    I would also like to add one important postscript to the last paragraph ofR Belovski’s column-IMO, there is no better evidence of real pluralism than when you quote Torah that is not part of your Mesorah.

  12. Dovid
    August 31st, 2007 @ 6:32 pm

    Neil:

    I agree that The Road back is a good book to read. There are quite a few BT-themed books that I have read over the years…some good others not so good. I’ll have to compile a list one day and post it.

    IMHU, these books and websites are all more or less calling cards. One really must spend time with each group to experience not only what they see to be “the” derech, but to experience the people themselves. I know, for my part, I did lots of that when I first was searching…and found that I felt “at home” within certain circles and in others I had an “oil & water” reaction. It has taken many years and lots of searching to find that I’m a man of several black hats and a few streimlach. It’s a little bit of felt and a little bit of fur for me. (No, I don’t own a streimal, but do consider myself a closet Breslover at times). Each of us has his/her own search to make, and there is no express lane towards this end. You can’t do Cliff Notes in this important of an endeavor…

  13. Ben-David
    September 2nd, 2007 @ 3:28 am

    Let’s turn this around…. to what extent are some BTs looking for the certainty, security – and sense of control/power – of a rigidly defined truth?

    I have definitely met numerous BTs for whom a modern Orthodox or Torah-im-Derech-Eretz approach would be less of a dislocation – but single-mindedly pursue entry/acceptance in the haredi world precisely because of the certainty and self-proclaimed authenticity that community projects.

    These people seem to want a version of Judaism that insists on an extreme break with the culture that they are leaving. Even though there are other approaches to a Jew’s place in the world that are less extreme and equally valid historically – and perhaps even more “mainstream” from a historical perspective.

  14. Dovid
    September 2nd, 2007 @ 7:14 am

    Good point, Ben-David. I can only speak for myself, and can confirm your suggestion above.
    I considered what you describe as “less extreme and equally valid historically”, and found that these paths didn’t have the spark to ignite my pintele yid. I found these derachim to carry much of the same baggage that I was sold during my upbringing in the suburbs of NY. Sure, I went to “Hebrew School” at both reform and conservative establishments, and was provided with the standard “Jewish” education that these movements provided at that time. It included much to do with nothing, and a hefty load of Zionist rhetoric to give things a contemporary flavor. Focusing more on the State than on my state was an indication to me that something was not as it was meant to be. This, amongst other factors, were guide posts for me in what and where to search for answers in my quest towards Yiddishkite. I found, to my dissapointment, that though I had shared some things in common with the folks in the left-leaning side of orthodoxy (my dress style at the time, I welcomed all forms of media, music, etc.) – I did not share the political and hashkofic beliefs these folks boasted of. Once again, that same sense of “something was not as it was meant to be” filled me, and I knew the derech for me was elsewhere. I have no doubt others have experienced what I did those many years ago. So, did I go more “extreme”? I don’t believe that term is accurate, and can almost say that it can be taken as insulting from some. Sort of like “Ultra” Orthodox, a term loved by the secular media. Ultimately, it is Hashem who chooses our path. We just need to find it…

  15. Eitan
    September 2nd, 2007 @ 8:05 am

    Dovid (though this addresses others here as well):

    You said, “Ultimately, it is Hashem who chooses our path. We just need to find it…”

    I think that’s absolutely R’ Belovsky’s point. The problem, as I’ve seen it, is that instead of presenting what they see as the right derech, arguing for it, convincing people based on merits, etc., many kiruv organizations (and here I speak from personal experience) deeply demonize other derachim. It is one thing to argue that we are right, and our way is right. It is another to insist that anything (within halachic Judaism, of course) outside of your derech is outside the lines of Judaism, and being an eved-hashem. This demonization stunts the investigation into various derechim in Yehadut, and many feel ‘forced’ to accept a way which doesn’t fit them personally because it is presented as the ‘only choice.’

  16. Dovid
    September 2nd, 2007 @ 8:51 am

    I understand that point, Eitan. It is a difficult issue, for which there is no easy answer. I often think of the observant Jewish community as Hashem’s orchestra. (I can’t help it, as I’m a musician). Each player has their instrument to play, and there are many different kinds. Some are small and project a soft, sweet sound. Others are large and provide a deeper sound. Still, others give off a sharp high-pitched sound, etc. All the players have music to read, and all of the music conforms with the Conductors score. So no one particular part is the “correct” part; it is simply a small part in a much larger arrangement. It follows then, that each musician’s (or each section’s) contribution has its place within the Conductor’s score.
    The brass section is no more correct than the string section, which is no more correct than the percussion section, et al. Hashem has surely created an interestesting symphony orchestra. Each of has a part to play. And the musical arrangement would not be complete unless each musician played his part. And so, too, the members of the orchestra should always remember that it is the music, not the stage, that is of importance…

  17. Ron Coleman
    September 2nd, 2007 @ 11:28 am

    Here’s what I wrote at Cross-Currents:

    Arguably, talmidim of Ner Israel and YU are, on the whole, more open and understanding of differences between people and groups.

    Arguably, talmidim of Ner Israel and YU, on the whole, consider themselves more open and understanding of differences between people and groups, and demonstrate this by distinguishing themselves from those who are not. (“Those who are not” do not require understanding, nor should is there any reason to be “open” to their approach.)

    This article struck me as just more “big Kiruv” bashing. The people I am close to (including myself) are alumni of Aish, Ohr Someach, Kol Yaakov and Machon Shlomo, and they fall out fairly widely across the spectrum.

    What I have urged, in writing about this topic for years, is that the criticism from the self-appointed “center” against BT’s for moving “too far” to the right is frequently either:

    (a) a fairly obvious cry from the heart that one is himself uncomfortable being “passed” by BT’s on their move toward a firmer commitment to halacha and more demanding hashkofos, or (as is the case here, I am sure),

    (b) a lack of understanding that by and large BT’s are by virtue of their experiences suspicious of compromise, eager to distance themselves from cultural artifacts that beckon them to their previous lives and which, by experience, they regard more suspiciously than “just music” (or whatever the case may be), and who have been taught that the Rambam—and common sense—counsel one to achieve “the golden mean” by compensating, even arguably over-compensating, to break oneself of old habits, old addictions, old associations and even old pleasures which could, in and of themselves, be permissible.

    These comments also make a straw man of BT yeshivas, which do not have a programmatic goal of denuding people of their personalities, nor do they have the ability to do so. Individuals, not “kiruv,” make their own choices, often for some of the reasons I have alluded to above. Many grow into their new lives and find a way to ease formerly stricken relationships or experiences back in, having built themselves up appropriately. Some never look back, and among those there are those who become highly accomplished and respected Jews in their new sphere, and others who are complete jerks about the whole thing. But none of them—none of us—checks their brains or their free will at the door.

  18. Dovid
    September 2nd, 2007 @ 11:39 am

    Once again, nicely put Ron! :)

  19. Mark
    September 2nd, 2007 @ 1:28 pm

    These comments also make a straw man of BT yeshivas, which do not have a programmatic goal of denuding people of their personalities, nor do they have the ability to do so. Individuals, not “kiruv,” make their own choices, often for some of the reasons I have alluded to above. Many grow into their new lives and find a way to ease formerly stricken relationships or experiences back in, having built themselves up appropriately. Some never look back, and among those there are those who become highly accomplished and respected Jews in their new sphere, and others who are complete jerks about the whole thing. But none of them—none of us—checks their brains or their free will at the door.

    I find the check-your-brains at the door thesis not only condescending and insulting but so plainly wrong, that I wonder how a person can espouse it.

    Again, I’m probably missing something, but if so I’d surely like to hear what Rabbi Belovski really means in this piece.

  20. Ron Coleman
    September 2nd, 2007 @ 4:23 pm

    Mark, it’s that old problem — he doesn’t want to say loshon hora by naming anyone specific. So instead he speaks generally, but, probably unintentionally, defames a whole category. And he provides, though this is hardly avoidable in the Internet era, fresh quotes from those who claim to be upset about “extremism” but are actually quite against any kind of kiruv.

  21. Ron Coleman
    September 2nd, 2007 @ 4:28 pm

    Let me just add that Rabbi Belovski appears, by all indications, to be a very serious and committed orthodox Jewish rabbi. Obviously he’s seen something that bothers him. I don’t wish to be dismissive of him.

  22. Menachem Lipkin
    September 2nd, 2007 @ 5:40 pm

    Ron,
    You said,

    “instead he speaks generally, but, probably unintentionally, defames a whole category.”

    You engaged in a bit of that yourself in your a/b scenarios above. Once again, you’ve subtly implied that somehow being “chareidi” is more, or better, or “firmer”, or whatever. For some yes, for some no. I think the broader point of Rabbi Belovski’s article is that it’s not one-size fits all.

    Also, your generalization of BT’s in b) falls short. You don’t take into account the vast numbers of BTs who came in via NCSY, NJOP, etc. Many of whom are not looking to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    For many of the reasons you mentioned the safety of the more RW world is a necessary path for many BTs. Yet for many reasons you did not mention many BTs are better suited to the path that MO or Chasidus has to offer. And make no mistake. One can move toward just as “firm a committment” within MO as within the RW world.

    One final point. You closing sentence is simply false. In all avenues of kiruv there are absolutely those who “check their brains at the door”. I’ve seen it time and again.

  23. Mark
    September 2nd, 2007 @ 8:19 pm

    I think many of us here are in agreement that we owe a collective debt of gratitude to *all* those involved in kiruv including of course those who post on the subject over at Cross-Currents.

    The message that I react to is when the writer implies that they are the ones that “get it” when it comes to kiruv.

    In my experience nobody totally “gets it” and if you imply that you do, then it is pretty probable that you don’t.

    We are all extremely limited in world-view by our own personal experiences and what we’ve seen succeed and fail. The projection of our world view as the real truth is a normal human process, but we should probably do it with a little more caution when we proclaim our truth loudly in public view on the Internet.

  24. Mark
    September 2nd, 2007 @ 8:30 pm

    Menachem, Can you define “check your brains at the door” a little more clearly.

    I remember when somebody heard an inspiring speech about the dangers of the Internet. With a number of boys at home the person wisely decided to remove web access from their home after talking to their Rav.

    After that incident somebody blogged that this was an unfortunate incident of a BT checking their brains at the door.

    Personally, I saw it as incredibly strong decision from somebody who personally benefited from Internet access, but understood the risks and followed the advice of their Rav.

    Would you call this an example of a BT checking their brains at the door?

    People make wrong decisions all the time but saying that somebody checked their brains at the door shows so little respect for the person involved in a complicated decision, that I’m having a hard time getting a handle on what is meant by the term.

  25. Ron Coleman
    September 2nd, 2007 @ 10:47 pm

    “Everyone driving slower than I am is an idiot. Everyone driving faster than I am is a maniac.” I wear a black hat and a suit and tie to shul where the rabbi wears a frock on Shabbos; I don’t intend to send my kids to a traditional college; I have nothing to do with my dear college friends because, frankly, I just have nothing to do with them. Yet I use the Internet, read history books, practice law without a yarmulke and am clean shaven. Which guy on the road am I? I don’t even know.

    Okay, now, Menachem, I didn’t use the word “chareidi.” If you really believe what you say — that some hashkofos are more firmly committed to halacha than others — you shouldn’t read it into what I say. After all, aren’t non-chareidim more committed to certain areas of halacha, or something, than chareidim? (I actually believe most black-hat orthodox Jews in America are not chareidim at all; indeed our kids’ school characterizes itself as “yeshivish, not chareidi.” But I consider disrespectful statements or scoffing at chareidi leaders a Torah prohibition. Gosh, what lane am I in?)

    But hey, we’re all orthodox Jews. Wouldn’t we all say a stronger commitment to halacha is “better” than a weaker one? So, which is the weaker commitment to halacha type of being frum, exactly, that is better — or not less good — than the firmer kind? What, precisely, is this mythical baby we are so eager to keep out of the drain? Like unnamed yeshivas and unnamed kiruv organizations, will someone name for me the unnecessary or excessive strictures that the right-wing BT’s have taken on systematically, so I can find out for my own purposes what the bona fide leniencies are on which I am missing out? Please be specific, without being anecdotal (i.e., “some BT’s don’t go to other family member’s non-kosher simchos” is not what I’m looking for, because it’s not useful or informative).

    Menachem, you say,
    Also, your generalization of BT’s in b) falls short. You don’t take into account the vast numbers of BTs who came in via NCSY, NJOP, etc. Many of whom are not looking to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    Boy, am I confused. Certain bloggers tell me that NCSY is a feeder right to Ohr Someach, that manufacturer of impoverished, baldy-harecutted automatons and their Stepford families. For all the vast numbers you speak of, I don’t know too many of those BT’s, but the again as Mark said we are all constricted by our own experiences. I just don’t know any because I live in a supposedly right-wing place, I guess. But if these BT’s from NCSY and NJOP are so numerous, and so successfully “centrist,” then the problem we’re talking about is hardly a problem at all, is it? On the other hand, I am waiting for that long-awaited definition of centrism, so once we have that on the table, we will all understand each other much better!

  26. DK
    September 2nd, 2007 @ 10:54 pm

    I don’t feel like arguing about the whole “check your brains at the door” thing. What I would say is that the more people understand what Big Kruv advocates, the more and more resistance will emerge targeting the RWUO and even the LWUO BT movements.

    I don’t think education will solve or help these camps to improve or reconsider most of the extremism and austerity they advocate in many ways, but education should lead to greater resistance. This can work as a prevention to many from seriously considering these movements/institutions (or would you be more comfrotable with “drachim?”), as well as used as pressure points to those who merely work with such institutions/movements. For instance, our favorite youth group should be essentially given an ultimatum. Drop your RWUO programming ties for public school graduates, or get out of the public schools. Adding RWMO options will not suffice. I think such an ultimatum could and should be made. It is a reasonable alternative, even if said youth group will probably choose self-destruction to accommodating reasonable request. Maybe that’s what it will take to get the message across. But if they lose enough, they will get the message, They prefer to learn things the hard way.

    Additionally, education can help encourage BTs to leave the more fahfrumpt movements and institutions earlier rather than later. Information on the downside of haredi BTism is much more readily, both for the BT himself, and his friends and family.

    Certainly this has started. After all, the essay on Cross Currents would not have been published unless it was clear that the worm is taking its course.

  27. Ron Coleman
    September 2nd, 2007 @ 11:40 pm

    Certainly this has started. After all, the essay on Cross Currents would not have been published unless it was clear that the worm is taking its course.

    I don’t actually pay David Kelsey to show up and sing his part to a “t” — right down to preposterously characterizing Rabbi Belovski’s essay as an endorsement of his anti-Judaism point of view, which it of course is not. But, I have to admit, if I did pay him, it wouldn’t look too different.

    But I am sure when I get the specifics I am asking for, from someone, we’ll understand the distinctions here a lot better.

    Thanks, DK! (You either read this site a a lot or there are more coincidences than even a self-described apikorus can countenance in this universe!)

  28. Gershon Seif
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 12:18 am

    Leaving aside the article and whether you do or don’t like the tone, etc. I’d like to point out that while I realize that the topic of that article is about how to direct newcomers to observance, and how important it is to allow them to understand the many paths that are out there, I found it very refreshing to know that such a thing is going on in a high school in NJ. There is an amazing discussion/debate that was presented to the talmidim of this high school. One rebbi had a German and Lubavitch background but wound up in Kerem B’Yavneh, then Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim, the other a bbal teshuva, became chassidish, but quite an intellectual, the moderator, the principal has a degree in philosophy and is a student of YU. All have great respect for each other and many facets of their approaches and how they got there are shared. Go to http://rygb.blogspot.com/ and scroll down to July 23 for 5 great sessions.

    It’s nice to know some students are being taught this way.

  29. Menachem Lipkin
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 12:21 am

    Mark,

    My understanding of “check your brains at the door” is not the example you gave. It’s people who swallow everything they are told or observe without the least amount of critical thinking.

    I saw some of this during the summer I spent at Ohr Somayach many (many) years ago. Guys who barely knew Alef Beis were lecturing me about not wearing a hat, as just a small example.

  30. Bob Miller
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 7:20 am

    DK, if you were intellectually honest, you would not offer comments here that seem to distinguish among “brands” of Jewish outreach, since you have jumped ship altogether into a secular, anti-Orthodox orientation—as evidenced by your own blog.

    If you dispute this, please tell us which Orthodox community has an approach (to anything) that you do endorse.

  31. Ora
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 9:01 am

    Menachem–I think the phenomena you’re discussing is common among some BTs simply because they have no frame of reference. For example, when I began keeping kashrut I kept a strict set of rules (some of which I later rejected). Not because I wasn’t using my brain at the time, but because I simply had no way to know what was necessary vs. really important vs. somewhat important vs. not followed by most. I don’t think anyone in the frum community misled me about kashrut in any way, but since I didn’t know any other religious Jews at the time, even when someone told me “this is a chumra,” I thought it still must be very important b/c everyone religious I knew was doing it. If that makes any sense.

    As for barely literate BTs lecturing about hats, I think that’s more a result of a sweet (if somewhat misguided) desire to “share the light” than brainless acceptance. And since they have no framework to determine how important hat-wearing is vs. anything else, hat-wearing becomes, in their minds, an important part of the general push to frumify the world.

  32. Ora
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 9:25 am

    I do think that pushing a single derech can be problematic. The religious community I met in America pushed Seminary X exclusively, while the kiruv workers I met in Jerusalem pushed only Y. I eventually found Z with the help of a kiruv rabbi who is not from the Z-hashkafa, and I was very happy there. I am very greatful that this particular rabbi was able to recommend a setting that he knew would be right for me, despite the fact that it didn’t promote his own hashkafa. If others had let me know about the Z option earlier, things might have been easier (then again, maybe not, and the search itself led to some valuable experiences).

    That said, I think there’s only so much that kiruv workers (or anyone else) can do to keep those on the early stages of the BT path from choosing their (that is, the kiruv workers’) derech. Many BTs get very passionate early in their journeys, and drink in their mentors’ example, chumrot and all. I think most end up on the derech that’s right for them in the end. For example, I know many people who did 6-8 months in a hareidi yeshiva and ended up dati leumi, and vice versa.

  33. Menachem Lipkin
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 9:54 am

    Ron,

    Actually you and I sound pretty much alike. Of course I’m much frummer cause I work with my yarmulka on. :) (OK, I work in Israel, in my house.)

    I had to go back and re-read my comment. I didn’t say that, “some hashkofos are more firmly committed to halacha than others”, I said one can be “just as” committed within MO. I think, legally speaking, there’s a big difference there. I did say Chareidi. One by-product of living in Israel where everyone to the right is considered Chareidi. Yeshivish works too.

    Not sure where you got your information about NCSY, but you should ask for a refund. NSCY is the youth wing of the OU. The OU is the umbrella organization for hundreds of MO shuls. Not a logical feeder for places like Ohr Somayach.

    There are many communities in the NY Metro area that have huge populations of NCSY alums. NCSY alums are also well represented among those who make Aliyah. As for defining MO, I’ve done that for you already.

    I don’t really have an ax to grind against different Kiruv organizations. I think, as someone mentioned on CC, that it would be rediculous for these organizations to dumb down there hashkafa and present as some sort of Kiruv mall. What I think can be taken from the article is that, just as parents, Kiruv organizations need to be sensitive to the concept of l’fi darko, that one size does not fit all therefore be willing and able to point those individuals, who clearly do not fit in the organizations mold, in the right direction for them.

  34. Mark
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 10:08 am

    Gershon,

    Thanks for that link. I just downloaded 4 of the shiurim, but I can’t find the link to the first one.

    Rabbi Schiller is one of my favorites and an earlier contributor to Beyond BT. We’ve posted his shiur about Achdus. The shiur is a sophisticated and nuanced look at how we can realistically view different Derachim as equal, valid or something else.

    Besides the tone of the Cross-Current article, my major criticism is its unrealistic look at how to view and teach different derachim. Most people agree there is more than one, but few people will say that they’re all equal.

    Under the confusion of a new word, multi-chromactic, the author and others in the thread provide no clarity and guidelines on how they *really* view different derachim as I’m pretty sure they don’t view them all as equal.

    I would highly suggest listening to Rabbi Schiller’s Achdus shiur for a truly insightful look at the subject.

  35. Mark
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 10:50 am

    Menachem, Your example was perhaps irrational exuberance or naivete, but not of checking your brains at the door (CYBATD).

    I think that term and the attitude behind it is unhelpful at best, and false and extremely divisive at worse. It is this implicit accusation that helps to create the unnecessarily huge divisions between Yeshivish, Modern and Chassidic hashkafos. It is also the implicit accusation that many non observant hurl dismissively at the observant.

    In fact if we take the opposite view point and assume that there is thought and reason behind different people’s derachim and decisions, it opens up to us a whole new world of thought and ideas that we won’t be exposed to if we assume CYBATD.

    This is not to say that I believe that all derachim are equal, I don’t, but I do believe that starting from a position of benefit of the doubt, listening and learning instead of the dismissive position of CYBATD makes a lot of sense.

  36. Menachem Lipkin
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 11:23 am

    From Mark:

    “Under the confusion of a new word, multi-chromactic, the author and others in the thread provide no clarity and guidelines on how they *really* view different derachim as I’m pretty sure they don’t view them all as equal.”

    In a shiur on Daas Torah that Rav Schachter gave at our shul here in Israel a few years ago he does a good job of defining this concept in very similar terms.

    Rav Schachter says that there is a Zohar that the Baal Hatanya brings on the posuk where Yitzchak asks Eisav to bring him some food before giving him the Bracha. Yitzchak tells Eisav to go out to the field and hunt game for him and “V’asei Li Mataamim Kasher Ahavti”. (Make me delicacies that I love.)

    The Zohar says Yitzchak didn’t just request one dish, he wanted variety. So to Hashem says to B’nei Yisroel “Asei Li Mataamim”. Quoting Rav Schachter, “He (Hashem) wants to see a clal Yisroel with different stripes and different colors and that’s why he originally introduced the concept of the Yud Bes Shvatim. Each one of the Shvatim is supposed to have a different approach to Avodas Hashem.”

    You can listen to the full shiur here http://www.bmtl.org/online.html

  37. Mark
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 11:47 am

    Thanks Menachem. We’re certainly getting a lot of great mp3s out of this thread.

    Different valid paths are a given in my book. Do you think Rabbi Schacter includes “path xyz” (fill in the blanks) as an equal among Derachim?

    I certainly have no argument with Rav Schachter or the Zohar, but his goal wasn’t to provide a clear definition of an extremely inclusive multi-chromactic. Or how we should give over those paths to our children and students. I’m pretty sure Rav Schacter *primarily* gives over the path he has received from his teachers. We call that Mesorah and it’s one of the foundations of Torah.

    Getting back to the Zohar, has anybody seen any deeper understanding on what is meant by those different paths or is it just a general statement that there are multiple valid paths?

  38. Menachem Lipkin
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 12:11 pm

    Mark,

    I think that irrational exuberance and/or naivete define CYBATD. I agree that the term is a bit harsh, but the reality exists.

    The issue that some have is not that there are people who CYBATD, but that they believe that there are kiruv organizations that take advantage of it, if not outright depend on it.

    Even then some will say, “so what”. It will all work out in an, ein l’shma bo l’shma, kind of way. Others think that operating this way just sets people up for failure.

  39. Steve Brize;
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 12:23 pm

    Mark-I think that Menachem was simply popinting out that while RHS certainly does follow his Mesorah, RHS is very willing to quote Gdolim who are not part of his Mesorah and whom he might even disagree with certain issues because Torah is Torah. That is a true sign of pluralism as opposed to treating such Gdolim as if their views are either nonexistent or not worth considering by the intended audience or readership.

  40. Mark
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 12:46 pm

    Menachem

    I agree with you that there are probably some Kiruv people/organizations who may not do Kiruv right according to your or my definitions. I’m a little more hesitant to say that they are willfully manipulative, although I wouldn’t be surprised if a small percentage of those exist.

    I think most Kiruv professionals believe strongly in the validity of their Mesorah and pass that on to students who are looking for a Torah Observant Mesorah. To claim that those kiruv professionals are not truly multi-chromactic (whatever that means) and therefore deficient does not ring true in my book and borders on defamatory.

    I don’t say “so what”, but I think we have to be very careful when we paint with a broad brush, especially in this case where the ideal of multi-chromactic is so poorly defined.

    Steve
    Quoting other Gedolim is great and I assume/hope that there are many other Rebbeim who do it. But I don’t think that’s the multi-chromactic that Rabbi Belovski is refering to. I’m also pretty sure we won’t find RHS quoting everybody who puts up the Torah Observant mantel.

    I’m also very hesitant to define what is the *true* sign of pluralism or even to go near the term given it’s far afield connotations in this day and age.

    I’m still holding by there are different valid paths, but most people know well and teach the one that has worked for them. People not fitting into the path that they have found themselves is a broader community issue. It’s certainly not limited to Baalei Teshuva and the Kiruv professionals who teach them.

  41. edh
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 12:46 pm

    [snip]
    “I just downloaded 4 of the shiurim, but I can’t find the link to the first one.”
    [snip]

    Try here:
    http://rygb.blogspot.com/2007_07_01_archive.html

  42. Ron Coleman
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 12:50 pm

    All the approaches of the different shevatim were equally valid halachically, I can be sure.

    I notice no one has answered my inquiry — as usual when the issue of “my centrism versus your extremism” is mooted — defining the systematic “excesses” that are so offensive here among those who recognize the halacha.

  43. Steve Brize;
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 1:00 pm

    Mark-I think that we both know very well who RHS quotes in his shiurim and whom he doesn’t as well as who he considers within the model posed by the Baal HaTanya and those who do not fit the definition of Torah observant despite their having attended or learned in a particular yeshiva. WASR, I don’t see, hear or read of too many Gdolim who are truly pluralistic in that manner.

  44. Steve Brize;
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 1:04 pm

    Menachem-Our younger daughter, who attended Michlala, took Rav David for a shiur last semester and raved about his approach to Halacha, teaching style and ability to motivate a big class despite a topic that may not interest everyone equally.I also recently surfed your community’s website. I was very impressed by the range of shiurim and speakers for men and women. It was a community that we would seriously consider moving to if we moved to EY.

  45. Mark
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 1:22 pm

    Steve, We’re in agreement, RHS quotes many but he certainly doesn’t quote everybody, but I would bet that he quotes RYBS an order of magnitude more then anybody else, as he should being his Talmid.

    And I also agree that many of us still possess the attitude of my gadol is greater than your gadol. But again given the primacy of Mesorah, that might not be such a bad thing.

  46. Steve Brize;
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 1:44 pm

    Someone visiting RHS once mentioned that he only quotes the “Briskers” in his shiurim. RHS commented that since he is not part of the family, he is not under such an obligation. IOW, while RHS certainly quotes that which he heard from RYBS, he also will quote Gdolim from very different backgrounds as well simply because Torah is Torah-regardless of whether the Gadol is anyone from RAYHK to RYBS to the Satmar Rav ZTL and any legitimate Gadol in between. All of his talmidim work from that methodology as well.

  47. Menachem Lipkin
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 2:22 pm

    Steve,

    I have two words for you: Nefesh B’Nefesh!

  48. DK
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 10:28 pm

    Bob Miller,

    Once and for all, get it through your head —

    1) Complaints about Kiruv will not be restricted to those who are frum. Not a chance.

    2) Haredi Kiruv frequently is revisionist, fundamentalist, and encourages socio-economic devastation in ways Modern Orthodox kiruv does not. Hence, liberal and secular Jewry should differentiate between MO and Haredi kiruv, UNLESS the MO kiruv organization is recruiting for Haredi institutions. Then they should be met not with tolerance or even support, but with full wrath.

    And if such concerns can’t be aired or negotiated in the kiruv circles themselves, the harediazation problem needs to be taken to the true institutional and organization leaders of liberl and secular Jewry, who may demand something far greater than just topping harediazation of their youth. Want to see what they say about these Orthodox controlled public schools “clubs”?

    I am increasingly leaning towards that approach, in part from offers from friends in more pluralistic camps.

    You want to leave that as the only option, Bob Miller, “Dean” Burg, whoever, we will get to that point. That’s no problem. We can do it that way if you want.

    It might be the best way, and things sure will move a lot faster than blogging about it.

    I got all the notes I need. And so do a couple of others.

    I actually am hesitant to do that, but I am increasingly concerned that it is the only way to give them the power of choice they deserve, and I am increasingly convinced that said youth group will not abandon their haredi relationships, but rather, the relationships will be submerged.

    But if they are denied public school concentration, are given competition, are faced with parental education and disapproval, and denied pizza parties (I think that would affect attendance…let’s see if we can get rid of the pizzas…they’re outside food, right?), well, even if they ffically have a presence in the schools, they will have less students, and over time, less, not more federal funding.

    So anyway, Bob Miller, what I am trying to say is that maybe you are right. Mabye I need to concentrate more on the liberal and secular Jewish leaders, and less on the kiruvniks.

  49. DK
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 10:28 pm

    I meant Federation funding, not federal funding.

  50. Bob Miller
    September 4th, 2007 @ 9:13 am

    DK, you oppose kiruv as a concept and only single out the Chareidi version because you have more of a grudge against it and think an attack on it is easier to put over. Nothing you have said shows otherwise.

  51. Elitzur
    September 4th, 2007 @ 10:42 am

    Can someone provide actual statistics for the number of BT who ‘fall out of Yiddishkeit?’

  52. DK
    September 4th, 2007 @ 11:13 am

    Bob Miller,

    There is nothing weaker in online debates than ascribing motives to your opponents.

  53. Steve Brizel
    September 4th, 2007 @ 11:26 am

    DK-Fortunately, we live in the USA which is governed by the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and in relevant part, a First Amendment with a Free Exercise of Religion Clause which the Supreme Court has stated includes allowing any and all religious groups-Jewish and otherwise on public school grounds after school hours. All of your posts on this issue seem to ignore this legal reality.

  54. DK
    September 4th, 2007 @ 11:48 am

    Right, Steve. As if parents and institutions won’t be able to do anything of any sort once they find out what is happening, and if they decide this is a problem.

    I wouldn’t be so cocky, Steve. These are their kids, not Dean Burg’s. There are ways, and there are ways.

    Just finding a way to stop the pizza would be a great way to reduce the numbers of new kids they attract.

  55. Bob Miller
    September 4th, 2007 @ 12:05 pm

    DK, your motives are an open book. The substance of what you say is never supported by anthing beyond your personal say-so, which makes your motives fair game.

  56. DK
    September 4th, 2007 @ 12:10 pm

    Bob Miller,

    Most of what I bring is from documents of the kiruv group itself. Your preference for personal attack and armchair psychologist will lead nowhere, just as it lead nowhere with UOJ, despite its ferociousness. In the end, the evidence was heard, the allegations were heard, and they were processed.

  57. Bob Miller
    September 4th, 2007 @ 12:21 pm

    DK, you do not oppose personal attacks per se; you are an attacker.

  58. Bob Miller
    September 4th, 2007 @ 12:38 pm

    Also, DK, the kiruv documents you “bring” do not incriminate the organizations in question according to normal human logic, only according to your personal spin.

  59. Menachem Lipkin
    September 4th, 2007 @ 1:40 pm

    Back to Rabbi Belovski’s article for a moment…

    This may sound strange, but I’d like to disagree with something I wrote.

    I wrote:

    “I think, as someone mentioned on CC, that it would be ridiculous for these organizations to dumb down there hashkafa and present as some sort of Kiruv mall.”

    As Dorothy said after returning from Oz, sometimes what you’re looking for is in your own back yard.

    I’ve been learning part time at Shapell’s/Darche Noam for the past year. This BT yeshiva is pretty much what Rabbi Belovski was writing about. And, in fact, it’s the reason I chose this Yeshiva. I was looking for a place to improve my Gemorah skills. At my stage in life I didn’t need to be “directed” into some Yeshiva’s idea of the “right” Hashkafa. Being a bit atypical of most of Shapell’s students, i.e. 40 something and frum for 30+ years, I’ve had a chance to observe how this Yeshiva operates.

    If a BT Yeshiva can be “multi-chromatic” then Shapell’s fits the bill. Not only do their students come from a range of backgrounds, which in and of itself is not so unusual for a BT Yeshiva, but their Rebbayim also represent an array of Hashkafot. From my vantage point, I see that none of the Rabbis are forced to subsume their ideology under some larger derech. On the contrary, they each bring to the table the richness of their philosophies. In just one year most students at Shapell’s are exposed to many of these Rabbis as they move through several of the nine Gemorah levels. I myself have had four Rabbayim ranging from a Dati Leumi, down to Earth Rambam man, to a Chareidi, mystical, Maharal man, to a Rabbi who defines himself as an Oreo, i.e. “black” on the outside yet who espouses the teachings of Rav Soloveichik and Rav Aviner.

    And isn’t this ideal for a BT? After all, most BT’s start off as virtual blank slates and I would hope that most people here would agree that hashkafa is not “one size fits all”. That given a menu of wonderful role models to showcase various derachim the BT will gravitate to the derech that suits him best.

    It’s easy to see why many (most?) BT yeshivas don’t operate this way. If you think your derech is THE derech then how can you send a new BT off in the “wrong” direction? I think it takes a “multi-chromatic vision of the Jewish world” to do what Shapell’s does.

    Like I said before, I have no ax to grind here regarding particular BT Yeshivas. I just wanted to point out that what Rabbi Belovksi suggested actually exists.

  60. Mark
    September 4th, 2007 @ 1:56 pm

    Menachem, If the goal is to help others achieve clarity than using poorly defined terms is certainly not the means (ok I took the bait).

    At a Bar Mitzvah, just last night I pointed out to a supporter of Shapells my admiration of Rabbi Karlinsky and his thinking and writing. Another friend and teacher, Rabbi Yakov Haber is now teaching there (say hello to him if you meet him).

    I asked the supporter why Shapells is not often mentioned in the same breath as Aish, Ohr Someach and Machon Shlomo. From what I’ve seen and heard they definitely should be.

    I just hope they don’t decide to use a *we* do Kiruv right campaign against the traditional more Mesorah-based approach. The mode of strongly believing and teaching your Derech does have centuries of support in the Torah world.

  61. Bob Miller
    September 4th, 2007 @ 2:15 pm

    My derech or the high-derech?

  62. Mark
    September 4th, 2007 @ 2:22 pm

    We have a Mesorah that you shouldn’t teach a Mesorah.

  63. Ron Coleman
    September 4th, 2007 @ 2:34 pm

    I’ve been learning part time at Shapell’s/Darche Noam for the past year. This BT yeshiva is pretty much what Rabbi Belovski was writing about. And, in fact, it’s the reason I chose this Yeshiva. I was looking for a place to improve my Gemorah skills. At my stage in life I didn’t need to be “directed” into some Yeshiva’s idea of the “right” Hashkafa.

    Perfect description of gemorah learning as an academic enterprise (see Feldman, Noah). “Don’t bother me with hashkofah, I’m fine the way I am.”

    That is not a yeshivah. And that, Mark, is the answer to your question.

  64. Bob Miller
    September 4th, 2007 @ 2:46 pm

    Ron, you’re too critical here. If one’s head is screwed on straight going in, attending to brush up on skills has nothing in common with the sterile academic approach.

  65. Menachem Lipkin
    September 4th, 2007 @ 3:12 pm

    Mark,

    Not sure why you’re having so much trouble with these terms. You’ve defined it yourself pretty clearly as presenting legitimate derachim as valid and correct. Between that, Rav Schachter and Rabbi Schiller, I think there’s a clear picture.

    You’ve created a bit of a conundrum for yourself by introducing the word “equal”. Nobody is talking about the different derachim being equal. They are, well, different. It’s evident that Hashem wants different derachim. It’s human nature to extol the virtues of that which you’ve chosen. The only k’nich here is that while you can certainly hold that your derech is the best for you, accept that it may not be for me and that maybe G-d is most pleased when we each choose our the derech that fits us the best. Looking at the last generation, do you really want to get into a you-know-what match as to whether Rav Schneerson, Rav Teitlebaum, Rav Feinstein, and Rav Soloveitchik, all with different derachim, are “equal” or not?

    Rabbi Meir Goldwicht, in a parsha shiur on Va’etchanan, touched on this idea. Here’s a couple of excerpts:

    “A person whose task in this world is to work – in whatever field – must understand that his life is equal in value to the life of one who learns Torah, as it is incumbent upon each of us to increase kevod shamayim.”

    “The gemara in Chagigah (5b) says that Hashem sheds a tear every day for one who could teach Torah, but doesn’t, and for one who is meant to work in a certain field, but instead sits and
    learns Torah. Therefore, a person who is drawn to a certain profession shouldn’t think for a moment that his life is worth less or a double life if he learns Torah;”

    You can find the entire shiur here:

    http://www.yutorah.org/_shiurim/VaEtchanan%2Epdf

  66. David Linn
    September 4th, 2007 @ 3:16 pm

    I think, perhaps, as well, that Menachem is alluding to the heavy hashkafic weighting often found in BT yeshivas. That is not to say that some of them do not provide real, hands-on learning but it is a common and, IMHO, an often valid criticism.

    From what I hear Shapell’s is certainly gaining traction in becoming a more prominent choice for BTs looking to learn in EY.

  67. Menachem Lipkin
    September 4th, 2007 @ 3:22 pm

    Ron,

    I never said there was no Hashkafa. In fact I said there is an array of hashkafa being offered. My point was that there are no neophytes trying to put a black hat or a kippa seruga on my head.

    Why don’t you stop by the Beis Medrash next time you’re in Israel? I’ll be happy to provide you with a soda to wash down the words you’ll have to eat.

  68. Bob Miller
    September 4th, 2007 @ 3:33 pm

    He’ll need to drink something worthy, befitting the occasion. Make the soda Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray.

  69. Ron Coleman
    September 4th, 2007 @ 3:37 pm

    Menachem, I’d love to. A lot of my friends learned there.

    Everyone should understand, however, that advanced students seeking to enhance their learning skills at Aish or Ohr Someach — and I have seen such people — are also treated as such.

  70. Menachem Lipkin
    September 4th, 2007 @ 3:37 pm

    Do they sell that here?

  71. Bob Miller
    September 4th, 2007 @ 3:47 pm

    He may need to bring it with him in baggage. It’s not known to be a safety hazard.

  72. Menachem Lipkin
    September 4th, 2007 @ 3:49 pm

    You know, your showing your age just mentioning that soda.

  73. David Linn
    September 4th, 2007 @ 3:55 pm

    You have to maiser Cel-Ray soda in EY?

  74. Menachem Lipkin
    September 4th, 2007 @ 4:04 pm

    “A lot of my friends learned there.”

    And they tell you, “That is not a yeshivah.”?

  75. Mark
    September 4th, 2007 @ 4:46 pm

    Menachem, The term equal has to be defined in its context, and perhaps only in math does it mean 100% identical in all facets. The Gemora discusses whether two things can ever be equal in a different context.

    In Rav Goldvicht’s example I’m pretty sure he *wouldn’t* tell a brilliant and developing Talmid Chachim who could afford to learn for a number of years that sitting and learning is equal to going to Yale. That is definitely not what he meant by equal and this is the context in which we are discussing equal.

    When I used the term I meant that few people would see all the paths followed in Torah to be equally proper for a given person or category of people.

    I’m sure that if we look at the students of Shapells we’ll see a majority following a given path, which I would venture to say is working and continuing to learn and probably not becoming full fledged Chassidim. Despite the tolerance, at the end of the day a Derech does emerge.

    As far as other derachim being legitimate or correct, I think it’s obvious that no derech needs my or anybody else’s blessing as long as there are responsible and knowledgable Rebbeim teaching it.

    The key question is what small group of Derachim do you guide your students or children to. And in most cases its between 1-3 out of tens or hundreds depending how you enumerate them. This is a far cry from the implications of the wonderous, magical and ultimately meaningless term multi-chromactic.

    Does that make any sense?

  76. Menachem Lipkin
    September 4th, 2007 @ 5:13 pm

    Mark,

    I’d have to let Rabbi Karlinsky deal with specifics. Anecdotally, I’ll tell you that just in the last year I’ve seen some students go on to learn in “black-hat” yeshivas. The uniqueness of Shapell’s is that when a student is ready to leave he will be guided based on what’s best for him and not based a predetermined hashkafa. I would say that if, in fact, a majority of students do go back to the states to grad school and/or jobs then it reflects what’s best for them and does not de facto create a “derech” for the yeshiva.

    If your key issue is how to guide your children then in my opinion, it’s no brainer. At least to start off, you guide them in your derech. I think there’s a big difference between your kids and adult BTs. You have an obligation to be mechanech your children in the best way you can. Since your derech is what you presumably know best and feel the strongest about that should be your default position.

    All the while trying not to deligitimize the other paths. This is important for two reasons. First, because you want your kids to be tolerant. Secondly, as they get older you may find that some of your kids are not suited to your derech. It’s important for them to know that there are other, valid, derachim to choose from and that you’ll be there for them if it turns out that’s what’s best for them.

  77. Steve Brizel
    September 4th, 2007 @ 6:05 pm

    Ron-I share Mark’s sentiments re R Y Haber and Shapel. FWIW, we are very friendly with Mrs. Lynn Finson, who is one of the directors of Midreshet Rachel. If anything is the case, this yeshiva/seminary offers students a wide range of hashkafic options-which is not usually the case with many yeshivos or seminaries in Israel. I think that you should retract your comment re Noah Feldman.

  78. Ron Coleman
    September 4th, 2007 @ 8:51 pm

    Steve, I don’t understand what “offering hashkafic options” means. Can you explain the term? Surely there are baseline hashkafic expectations of the students there?

  79. Steve Brize;
    September 4th, 2007 @ 9:07 pm

    Ron-I would suggest that you check out the Drachei Noam website. I think that it might cure some of your misconceptions about its approach.

  80. Ron Coleman
    September 4th, 2007 @ 10:24 pm

    OK, Steve, but I’m not looking for homework. You used a term so I am asking for it to be defined.

  81. Mark
    September 4th, 2007 @ 11:02 pm

    I hope we don’t see the following on the next upgrade to the Shapell’s site:
    Because we are tolerant and not dismissive of different paths we teach *all* of them as possible options to our students. You name it, we teach it. Yes – even that derech.

    What is probably more likely is that Shapell’s and Rabbi Belovski have a few hashkafas upon which they are comfortable guiding their students. I think that’s a good thing and many Yeshivas consider more than one path appropriate. Some places might not have one Mesorah that they favor, but there are downsides to that approach, BT’s often need a solid hashkafic framework.

    People seem to love to tell horror stories, hopefully leaving out names. In fact this same person at the Bar Mitzvah told me he had recently heard about 5 BT horror stories.

  82. Steve Brizel
    September 5th, 2007 @ 11:27 am

    Ron-I think that you should indeed do some homework on this issue before using a Noah Feldman metaphor to brand a yeshiva, seminary, its faculty and students.

    Mark-You and I know R Haber and we know the Finsons very well. I am dismayed that you would view it as LW MO.

  83. Mark
    September 5th, 2007 @ 12:26 pm

    Where did I say it was LW MO?

  84. Steve Brizel
    September 5th, 2007 @ 12:48 pm

    What did you mean in your 23:02 Post? Were you contrasting and stating that you thought that a “solid hashkafic framework” was preferable to a yeshiva or seminary with “a few hashkafas” ?

  85. Shaya Karlinsky
    September 5th, 2007 @ 12:53 pm

    Since the Hashkafa – or “lack thereof” – of the Darche Noam Institutions (Shapell’s and Midreshet Rachel) has surfaced in the discussion of “multi-chromatic” Judaism, and a lot of common misconceptions have been voiced, I would like to attempt a few clarifications.

    Just to clear the air – in response to Menachem’s comment:
    I’ve been learning part time at Shapell’s/Darche Noam for the past year. This BT yeshiva is pretty much what Rabbi Belovski was writing about. And, in fact, it’s the reason I chose this Yeshiva. I was looking for a place to improve my Gemorah skills. At my stage in life I didn’t need to be “directed” into some Yeshiva’s idea of the “right” Hashkafa.

    Ron Coleman in post 63 wrote:
    Perfect description of gemorah learning as an academic enterprise (see Feldman, Noah). “Don’t bother me with hashkofah, I’m fine the way I am.” That is not a yeshivah. And that, Mark, is the answer to your question.

    Of course, this line of Menachem’s was taken out of context, since he was describing HIS personal goals, as a 40+ year old, ba’al tshuva since his teen years. And I am sure that if Ron spent even one day in any one of the Gemara shiurim, the comparison to an “academic enterprise” (kal vachomer to anything related to Noah Feldman) would disappear. While skills are emphasized in the lower level shiurim, it is to ensure that every talmid is both equipped and motivated to continue Torah learning for his entire life, even when involved in a “secular” career. And this is because Torah study is NOT an academic enterprise, but “ki heim chayeinu” the foundation of Jewish life. Someone who is less than independent in his own learning will have more trouble engaging in Torah learning on an ongoing basis when leaving the walls of the Yeshiva. This is true even for FFB’s – all the more so for BT’s.

    I will quote one more of Ron’s many posts, but it seems to embody the core of the issue of “multi-chromatic” hashkafa that comes through in Rabbi Belovski’s post, and is a foundation of the Darche Noam hashkafa (which actually exists).

    Ron, comment 78
    Steve, I don’t understand what “offering hashkafic options” means. Can you explain the term? Surely there are baseline hashkafic expectations of the students there

    I intend to write a post on the definition of “hashkafa,” so I won’t go deeply into the concept of it at this time. But it implies “the way we look at the world”, or “weltanschauung, ” and Rav Volbe zt”l in Alei Shur, Vol. 2, pg. 144, writes the concept is a German one, foreign to authentic Judaism. More on that at a future date.

    As has been pointed out, and I can only emphasize, Torah hashkafa, life, practice, and understanding are NOT “one size fits all.” The Jews in the desert were comprised of four degalim, banners, twelve shevatim, tribes, and each shevet composed of many mishpachot, families. No one is to be a clone of the other. Each group has a different role, each individual has a different neshama, which means a different set of personality characteristics, talents and intelligence, and therefore different responsibilities and different ways of understanding things. (See Rav Hirsch commentary on Bamidbar Ch. 1, V. 2.)

    There are clearly parameters and limitations on legitimate paths that can be pursued. How do we define them? A more encompassing explanation of the principles will be part of what I hope to write on the topic of “hashkafa.” But in practical terms, accepted approaches built on mesorah (transmitted tradition) in the Torah observant community is legitimate. The foundation is Torah study, Torah observance, excellence in character traits (midos), all on a foundation of striving for growth and spiritual elevation. This what we at Darche Noam call “primary hashkafa,” and I would like to think that every student who spends time with us walks away with that hashkafa.

    Then we move on to what we call “secondary hashkafa.” Is the State of Israel the flowering of redemption, theologically neutral, or a destructive force? Is full time learning in kollel the ideal for all, a necessary emergency measure post-Holocaust to rebuild the destroyed Torah world, or something that should be reserved for an elite group of scholars? Is a woman in the working world a compromise on the Jewish role of women or not? Do secular studies have inherent value, are justified only for careers needs, or negative (and a livelihood which does not require them must be pursued by those who must work)? Is integration into the resident culture or isolation from it the preferred path?

    There are those who promote and decide the above issues based on sociology or politics. We feel the decisions on these questions must be based on what we are taught through the Torah. Different Torah giants have decided these questions in different ways, and that is the manifestation of “machlokes l’shaim shamyim.”

    At Shapell’s and Midreshet Rachel, we include Rebbeim who fully ascribe to our “primary hashkafas” while representing a range on the secondary hashkafa issues. What our students find is that each Rebbe’s approach has sources in Torah, and a mesorah from his own Rebbeim built on teachings of Torah giants, which is what creates its legitimacy. Many years ago, Rabbi Bulman zt’l summarized to me that what our approach does is enable our students to each find the part of Torah to which the core of their neshama is connected. We tell our students “Hear the TORAH upon which each of our Rebbeim bases his approach” – not the sociology or politics. Then decide which derech you find your neshama connecting with, which approach works best for you to become more connected to HaShem and more devoted to fulfilling your unique role in serving the Jewish people.

    So we have alumni who are members of many different Torah communities, from Black Hat Yeshivish to “Chareidi-lite,” from Chasidish to Charda’l, from YU to Dati Leumi. And subsets within each “major” category.

    There are concrete benefits of this approach, particularly for ba’alei tshuva. The obvious one is that no one is pushed to join a community and live their life in a way that isn’t appropriate for his/her background, upbringing and personality. (This is usually the root problem of most of the BT “horror stories” that you hear.) But on a deeper level, it nurtures a true “Ahavas Yisrael,” the appreciation of what [has the potential to] make the Torah world so rich and vibrant and eternal, fostering a connection with Jews who aren’t exactly like you. Our students see that our Rebbeim, with their different hashkafas, have a camaraderie and unity based on the shared values of their “primary hashkafas. While the the secondary hashkafas represent real differences, no one puts down or deligitimizes an authentic Torah position, even if they don’t agree with it.

    When Judaism is presented – inaccurately – as being “my way or the highway,” many potential ba’alei tshuvah mistakenly think Judaism isn’t for them. Every person has to choose a derech. And they have to believe that derech is correct for them. But true educators are knowledgeable enough in Torah, secure enough in their own approach, and have enough confidence in their students to help guide each student in a way that is appropriate for him or her.

    THAT is our hashkafa. I frequently explain that the reason too many people think we don’t have a hashkafa is because I have never succeeded in presenting the above in a sound-bite.

    **Administrative Note: Rabbi Karlinsky is co-founder and Dean of the Darche Noam Institutions, Yeshivat Darche Noam/David Shapell College and the Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya College of Jewish Studies for Women.**

  86. David Linn
    September 5th, 2007 @ 1:17 pm

    I think the dichotomy of the primary and secondary hashkafas is instructive.

  87. Mark
    September 5th, 2007 @ 4:22 pm

    Steve, I think that the benefits of presenting a more solid hashkafa are that the student will get more clarity. I think and certainly hope that the foundation hashkafah that Rabbi Karlinsky presented of Torah study, Torah observance, excellence in character traits (midos), all on a foundation of striving for growth and spiritual elevation is standard in most Yeshivas.

    As far as the secondary Hashkafas, I can’t imagine any one institution teaching “Kollel is ideal for everyone” side by side with “it should be reserved for an elite group of scholars”. I think the answer is neither of those options and the what’s and why’s need to be clearly articulated so that the student can make a wise decision. I imagine that this is how Darche Noam also teaches it.

    Every one of the secondary topics Rabbi Karlinsky mentioned are clearly not as black and white as he laid them out. A clear hashkafa which looks at the issues as grey with the guidelines clearly understood and taught seems preferable to me over presenting – here is a black view, here is a white view, here is a grey view – now you decide.

    In what I’ve been taught, Torah living is in the grey area and it takes continued learning from Rebbeim who understanding the Hashkafa of grey that makes the difference.

    So maybe I’m color blind in that I’m confused by the poetry and ambiguity of a word like multi-chromatic but I get very excited by the Hashkafa of the Grey.

  88. Steve Brizel
    September 5th, 2007 @ 4:57 pm

    Mark-I am inclined to allow R Karlinsky’s words speak for themselves and as an invitation for any reader to explore Darchei Noam/Midreshet Rachel’s website if they are interested in more details.

  89. Mark
    September 5th, 2007 @ 5:07 pm

    Steve, agreed and I stand by my earlier comment that Darchei Noam should be among the potential choices of BTs considering learning in Israel.

    Here’s the web site:
    http://www.darchenoam.org/

  90. Steve Brizel
    September 5th, 2007 @ 5:08 pm

    Mark-thanks for that clarification.

  91. Shaya Karlinsky
    September 6th, 2007 @ 3:43 am

    Mark, let me try to clarify a couple of points you raised.

    You wrote:
    Every one of the secondary topics Rabbi Karlinsky mentioned are clearly not as black and white as he laid them out. A clear hashkafa which looks at the issues as grey with the guidelines clearly understood and taught seems preferable to me over presenting – here is a black view, here is a white view, here is a grey view – now you decide.

    Every issue that I raised – including kollel as the ideal – has proponents for exclusivity of the “black” as well as “white” position. We don’t agree that ANY issue is black and white, nor do our Rebbeim, and we don’t say: “Here are the two positions, which one do you like.”

    But I laid them out that way because ba’alei tshuvah ARE hearing very extreme postions, “out there.” I know it, because our students come to us with those questions, “my friend said…”. Anyone working with ba’alei tshuvah knows what I am talking about. (It is sometimes hard for us to imagine how they didn’t realize the positions weren’t to be taken literally, or weren’t for them, or why they didn’t seek “second opinions.” But that’s the reality we are in.)

    In fact, relatively little time is spent on what I have called the “secondary” issues. Most of the Hashkafa curriculum is devoted to learning, inside, Rambam, Maharal, Ramchal, Rav Kook, Rav Desseler, Pachad Yitzchak, Rav Volbe, et al. The students know that for themselves, the Rebbeim have chosen a certain derech, yet the Rebbeim will be the first to caution against imitating them or their children in a way that isn’t appropriate for them. So they hear about the value of Kollel, and the value of living in settlement (just two examples). They hear the Torah sources upon which these derachim are built, and they get personal guidance about incorporating the common values – and I firmly believe that the VALUES of the different derachim have more in common than is realized – as they make responsible choices about what part of the Torah community they will be joining.

    You wrote:
    In what I’ve been taught, Torah living is in the grey area and it takes continued learning from Rebbeim who understanding the Hashkafa of grey that makes the difference.

    We may be playing with semantics here. Hashkafs isn’t grey. Life can be grey, since life is rarely black and white, and “real life decisions” frequently are made in a grey area. But a Gerer Chasid doesn’t live his Torah life in the “grey area.” He lives it as a Gerer Chasid. A person who has chosen a Torah im Derech Eretz life doesn’t live in a grey area. Unless by grey you mean “not as extreme as the person to my right and not as heretical as the person to my left.” Allow me to rephrase what you wrote as follows:

    It takes continued learning and guidance from Rebbeim who understand the grey areas of life, and who can provide advice that is appropriate for you and for your unique situation.

  92. Rabbi Harvey Belovski
    September 6th, 2007 @ 9:48 am

    I’m on a somewhat tight schedule before the Yomin Tovim, but I did want to write a brief reply.

    I think that there are many derachim that are all equally valid, yes, at least in that they are equidistant from HKBH (as per the last sugya in Gemora Taanis). However, they are not all suited to every person. It takes breadth, bravery and sensitivity to help each person find the right way, even when that isn’t popular, and it isn’t popular for sure. It seems that we agree about this.

    But validating, respecting them and recognizing them as appropriate ways for some people to live a meaningful Jewish life has no impact on one’s own mesorah which may significantly differ from them.

  93. Mark
    September 6th, 2007 @ 12:21 pm

    Rabbi Karlinsky and Rabbi Belovksi

    Thanks for your time and your comments. I think we are basically in agreement that there is more than one valid hashkafah and a person might be more suited for one over the other.

    I still think the term multi-chromatic is misleading and implies more inclusiveness than reality sustains and glosses over the very important distinctions between equal, valid, respected, recognized as they apply to different derachim.

    I’m still inclined to the view that most Baalei Teshuva Yeshivas do a good job. I know many wonderful people from all the major schools. I’ve also heard many horror stories, but on closer inspection, I’ve often seen that there is another side to even those stories.

    I think we all agree on the major points and when I tried to dig a little deeper of what is bothering me, I found it was partially a reaction to what I see as an unfortunate move on some web sites towards Torah Punditry replacing the wonderful method of teachers, students and friends learning and searching *together* to arrive at the Torah truth.

  94. DK
    September 7th, 2007 @ 3:58 pm

    “I’ve also heard many horror stories, but on closer inspection, I’ve often seen that there is another side to even those stories.”

    What’s the other side(s)?

  95. Mark
    September 7th, 2007 @ 4:15 pm

    The other side are the emotional, intellectual and middos deficiencies that are brought to the table by the BT. My understanding of the Torah is that we *all* have these deficiencies to various degrees.

    That’s not to say that the Kiruv person is never at fault, only that when you hear it in the form of a “horror story”, you’re often only hearing one side of the story.

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