Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

Authentic Kiruv – Part 1

Posted on | June 20, 2008 | By Guest Contributor | 76 Comments

By Dan Illouz
This article first appeared on Tzipiyah.com

Thank God, in the last few decades, the Jewish World has experienced a movement of return (Teshuva) to it’s tradition. This movement has been lead by “Kiruv” movements. I want to explore, through very short thoughtful posts, what authentic Kiruv should be like according to Torah.

There are two types of Kiruv usually mentioned. The most common practiced today is known as “Kiruv Rehokim” – To bring those which are far way closer. However, there is a fundamental problem with such a practice. In order to practice “Kiruv Rehokim”, I need to believe that I hold the truth and the other is very far away, and I am bringing him closer to my truth. The belief that you hold the ultimate truth to which people must be returned is a clear sign of Gaavah (haughtiness).

From the Lubavitcher Rebbe:
“You say you are ‘bringing close those who are distant.’ What gives you the right to call them distant and pretend you are close?”

On top of that, secular Jews which are exposed to such kiruv movements refuse to be connected to them because they believe they are right in their ways of lives. This position often, unfortunately, translates into some people loving their fellow jews only to turn them religious – inviting them over for a shabbat meal only if they believe it will help connect them to Judaism. If at the end he didn’t become connected, inviting him was a bit of a waste of time. Unfortunately, some people, through this position, give no intrinsic value to loving their secular brothers in the way they are, without the need to change them.

On the other hand, there is a concept called “Kiruv Levavot” – Bringing the hearts closer together. Kiruv Levavot comes from an understanding that everyone holds a part of the truth. Yes, even secular Jews hold some part of the truth from which we can learn. Sometimes, this reality is easier to understand retroactively – 100 years ago, the secular world started speaking of communities, nations, universal love. Zionism, the movement which brought Jews back to their land after 2000 years of exile, stemmed from this perspective. At first, religious people thought that everything presented by the secular world had to be rejected. This can explain the initial violent rejection of Zionism by most of the religious world. However, Rav Kook explained that Zionism stemmed from deep and holy ideals which permeated Judaism. Zionism was the holy call of the Jewish nation to become a nation once again, to serve God on it’s land. Rav Kook explained that just as the secular had a lot to learn from the religous, so too, the religious had a lot to learn from the secular – a lot to learn about nation building, sacrificing their lives for klal israel, etc…

Through this perspective, each side realizes that we each hold a part of the truth, and by working together, mixing our perspectives, we will be able to get to the ultimate truth.

——

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Comments

76 Responses to “Authentic Kiruv – Part 1”

  1. Michoel
    June 20th, 2008 @ 7:15 am

    Shalom R’ Dan,
    Are there really exactly “two types of kiruv” with such clean definitions, one condcending and one not? So if everyone holds a part of the truth, maybe we shouldn’t be asking folks to put on tefillin. We are not respection their truths that say it is not right for men to wear them and not women. And maybe in another 100 years we (the slow Orthodox) will see the error of out ways.

    I really think that things are a bit more complicated then the old “We are motivated by ahavas Yisroel but those other kiruv folks just don’t get it.”

  2. Dan Illouz
    June 20th, 2008 @ 8:38 am

    I don’t understand your argument.
    I never said everything within the other person’s perspective has to be taken as a truth. Rather, instead of trying to change the very basis of his personality and beliefs, we should look at the positive within him and from this show him how this is truly best explained in Judaism.

    My example of Jewish Nationalism is clear – Jewish Nationalism is good. Secular zionists thought it was a “moving away” from traditional judaism. By showing them that the best way to be a nationalist is through Judaism, we are bringing ourselves closer to each other, and in the process, also getting them closer to their tradition (I have 5 parts to this series which were posted on http://www.tzipiyah.com so if things aren’t clear, the other parts make it clearer).

    The same is true today with all the human rights stuff, and universalists. They criticize Judaism for being only good for Jews etc.. Our approach shouldn’t be to tell them Universalism isn’t right, but rather to take our Judaism and make it universal (as it should be!) and, as Jews, care about the problems of the world.

  3. Bob Miller
    June 20th, 2008 @ 8:39 am

    We can believe that the other person is intelligent, sincere, and caring without necessarily believing that his current views on Judaism make any sense. Sometimes, he will sense some of the truth in Judaism (possibly a perspective new to us) and sometimes not.

    Seeing and treating the other person as an individual ought to keep us from underrating or overrating his current level of understanding.

  4. yy
    June 20th, 2008 @ 8:47 am

    Allow me to elaborate on Michoel’s concern with such sharp distinctions.

    First of all it buys in to the agenda of the secular humanists to convert the world to relativity, big R! While I personally have found that there IS soemthing to be gained from that approach, in that indeed most people, certainly Jews who are not subservient to any other, specific ideology, have something to offer klal Yisroel. As the Mishna teaches: The bor (generally unlearned) cannot fear sin, nor can the Am HaAretz (Torah unlearned) be a chossid (pious)”. Implication: A.H.CAN fear sin and respectively offer others some important perspectives on how to do so.

    But oy v’voy if he starts trying to teach us piety! Even more if we start pampering him to believe he can…

    Secondly, Dan’s point about the importance of “giv(ing)intrinsic value to loving their secular brothers in the way they are, without the need to change them” reveals that nefarious Yeitzer of primordial Man to deny any possibility of truth, big T. Like with brother Cain, this orientation is insistent on perpetrating the fantasy that EVERYone’s sacrifice is as good as the other. They accordingly get incensed when G-d (or the expression of His Will in Halacha) says “no, dear child,that’s not the kind of sacrifice I want. But if you are sincere, I’m sure you can figure out the kind I do want…”

    One point Dan makes is valid and has been echoed in this format many times: We must never use”kiruv” as an excuse for relating to people as objects to achieve our own self worth. But it’s a giant jump from there to say let’s just do a giant kumzitz and Moshiach will come!

  5. Mark Frankel
    June 20th, 2008 @ 8:49 am

    Dan, I think you are making some very good points.

    However, I think using the term Authentic has the implication that other Kiruv methods are not authentic. As a result you are telling other people involved in Kiruv, that what they are doing in not right, instead of seeing the positive and building from there.

  6. Chaim G.
    June 20th, 2008 @ 9:05 am

    interesting how those posessing “other parts of the truth” don’t mount kiruv levovos programs of their own.

    You won’t find Mapamniks driving “build the land” tanks or Michael Lerner driving “prophetic vision of social justice” tanks, through Crown heights or Williamsburg.

    Why do you suppose that the impetus for kiruv always seems to begin with the Torah studying/Mitzvah observant Jews hmmmm?

  7. Chaim G.
    June 20th, 2008 @ 9:11 am

    Basically this is a pitch for the Billy Joel ethos of “I love you just the way you are”. A nice sentiment (perhaps. I’m not sure that it’s an “authentic” Torah sentiment) when dealing wit co-equals in an adult relationship.

    But what would you think about a parent who says to there two year old “I love you just the way you are”. And, as such, will offer you no toilet training, education, vocational training or instruction in table manners et al?

    Perhaps our ship of ahavas yisrael is breaking up on the rocks of poor semantics. Maybe we’d be better off just dropping the kiruv label altogether and just calling it harbotzas HaTorah or adult Torah education.

  8. Mark Frankel
    June 20th, 2008 @ 9:26 am

    Chaim G, If you frame kiruv as Adult Torah Education then we get into two funding issues:
    - Perhaps the onus of education funding should fall on those being educated. (this is the problem our Mesivtas face and perhaps the reason that they get very little outside funding).
    - Even if we agree that we should fund the education of others, should not our prioritization consider the entire gamut of Torah education.

    A common funding model of Kiruv is the saving souls model.
    Some other models are
    - The mitzvah observance
    - Torah is fun and cool model
    - The Chesed model. Focus on helping people and understanding that having a deepening relationship with G-d is a basic human need.

    So here are some current models
    1) The United Jewish People model
    2) The Adult Torah Education Model
    3) The Saving Souls Model
    4) The Mitzvah Observance Model
    5) Torah is Fun and Cool Model
    6) The Chesed Model

    Which is authentic? Which will be effective? Which will get funding?

  9. Chaim G.
    June 20th, 2008 @ 9:39 am

    >Perhaps the onus of education funding should fall on those being educated. (this is the problem our Mesivtas face and perhaps the reason that they get very little outside funding)

    Problem: Mesivta parents value the recognition of the “product”. in Kiruv it can take years, or sometimes decades, for the student being educated to value the education recieved.

    Want to destroy a BT Yeshiva or Kiruve org.? The Surest formula is to start charging actual costs for the services rendered. Said institutions then get slapped with the “C” word (cult) and, the thinking goes, “You are just trying to pick my pockets while you launder my brains”

  10. Tzvi
    June 20th, 2008 @ 10:15 am

    Shouldn’t kiruv require a sacrifice/korban from the kiruvee as well? It could be time sacrificed or money or whatever.

  11. Chaim G.
    June 20th, 2008 @ 10:30 am

    In theory yes, in practive it will serve to keep rechokim rechokim.

  12. Dan Illouz
    June 20th, 2008 @ 10:40 am

    “However, I think using the term Authentic has the implication that other Kiruv methods are not authentic. As a result you are telling other people involved in Kiruv, that what they are doing in not right, instead of seeing the positive and building from there.”
    You are right, sorry

    As for the others, I think I have been misunderstood. I do not mean we have to take all their views! To understand this from what I wrote is insane! I don’t mean we have to become secular!

    Again, the next parts posted on Tzipiyah.com make this clearer. What I mean is find the nekudah of truth in them and integrate it into our being.

    As for those who compared this to educating a child. I think that’s precisely the problem. When you treat someone like a child, he’s not going to want to listen to you. Would you listen to someone who was 100% sure he held the truth, and u were completely wrong, and therefore treated you like a child he needed to educate???

  13. Mark Frankel
    June 20th, 2008 @ 10:41 am

    Chaim G, Do you agree that positioning kiruv as Adult Torah Education is not an adequate way to get funding? If you think it is adequate for funding, then why do organizations position themselves as soul savers?

  14. Mark Frankel
    June 20th, 2008 @ 10:52 am

    Dan, I agree with you about seeing the truths in other people’s beliefs, but the way you presented it in your last paragraph makes it seem more like a tactic instead of a deep held belief. It could be a bit of both, but we need to clarify it in ourselves so that it is not perceived as a potentially condescending tactic by those we communicate with.

    But at the end of the day if you belief you are 60-80 percent right, will that make the person any happier. Will they be happy with anything less than a 50-50 stance and can we really enter a discussion with a concession such as that.

    And sometimes even finding the 10-20% nekudah of truth on secular objections to subjects such as different roles for men and women and differences between non-jews and jews takes a lot of deep analysis and thinking.

  15. Ron Coleman
    June 20th, 2008 @ 11:22 am

    Wow.

    Dan, do you think the Lubavitcher Rebbe — who even R’ Noach Weinberg of Aish HaTorah acknowledges invented modern-day kiruv, whether we consider it “authentic” or not — would have agreed with your sentiments that the real “authentic” kiruv takes place via Zionism, in any form?! I am referring to the Lubavitcher rebbe who lived the second half of his life — let’s say, after 1948 — in Brooklyn. New York.

    It’s amazing how people can find a way to criticize even the most idealistic concepts. Kiruv rechokim doesn’t mean bringing people to where “I” am. It means bringing those who are far from Torah and mitzvos — that is the central point, not me! — closer to these things, and hence to Hashem. How do “I” do that? With Torah and mitzvos! The Torah is the device by which a person comes closer to Hashem. It has nothing to do with closer to me.

    As to the arguments about what the religious have to learn from the non-religious, Dan, especially from a Zionist perspective… and considering the nature of the non-religious society that was built in the Land of Israel … and how it has affected worldwide views of Jews and Jewish nationalism… I can hardly imagine how a religious Jew can suggest that the fears of 100 years ago among religious leaders besides Rav Kook of moral and social decline in a state built on Zionist ideology were exaggerated. The only question would seem to be whether they were understated.

    But maybe I am incorrect. What do you think the non-religious Israeli world as it actually exists (as opposed to the worldview and Zionism of aspiration) has to teach the world of observant Jews as a whole? I could perhaps venture a couple of things, but what do you have in mind? (Or do I have to read the five-part series to find out? That’s a lot of work for the Internet, you know!)

  16. Chaim G.
    June 20th, 2008 @ 11:23 am

    Would you listen to someone who was 100% sure he held the truth, and u were completely wrong, and therefore treated you like a child he needed to educate???

    If I want to learn how to fly a plane or program software and enter the classroom Tabula Rasa of course. When I am ignorant/uninformed and my teacher posseses the knowledge I lack there is nothing condescending about the act of teaching.

    The Torah’s very revelation @ Sinai is a powerful metaphor for this. Torah must descend. Those who would position themselves above, or even on level, with their Torah transmitters will be unable to absorb it. Hence the paramount importance of kavod haTorah and Kavod Talmidei Chachomim.

    This is what makes kiruv Harbotzas HaTorah, particularly tricky. Whereas everyone acknowledges the superior knowledge and expertise of their Accounting or Biology professors or even their washing machine repairman few accord the same deference to Talmidei Chachomim or even Torah educated laity.

    Why? because in the popular imagination (as well as in most of contemporary kiruv marketing) Torah has been reduced to a system of ethics/morality and/or a self-help tome. In todays ambiance of moral relativism in these fields everyone is an “expert”. “No one need to teach ME right form wrong or how to attain pleasure and success”.

    If I may be candid Dan, your post sounds like a sop to just this sort new-agey clap-trap.

    Call me arrogant but to me any interface between a Torah observant and secular Jew is like a meeting between someone with a suitcase full of gold krugerands and a 49er prospector from the gold rush with a ton of gold ore that may yield an ounce or so of precious metal. Is the prospectors cargo worthless? Of course not. But it’s important to establish who stands more to gain in the transaction.

  17. Chaim G.
    June 20th, 2008 @ 11:27 am

    Chaim G, Do you agree that positioning kiruv as Adult Torah Education is not an adequate way to get funding? If you think it is adequate for funding, then why do organizations position themselves as soul savers?

    I see no dissonance between the two. If Yeshivos K’tanos and Mesivtos do not emphasize soul-saving in their marketing and fund-raising materials and events it is only because this is already axiomatic to the prospective donors.

    Torah education is never a dry, dispassionate intellectual exercise. Any Torah teacher imparting the data without the passion of it’s life-giving nature AKA Kedusha is IMO not doing the job.

  18. Mark Frankel
    June 20th, 2008 @ 11:33 am

    Chaim G, I see I need a tighter definition of Soul Saving. For the sake of this discussion let’s define Soul Saving as “making people Frum” which is the message that’s been given repeatedly at dinners, lectures and seminars from fantastic Kiruv organizations.

    IYO (in your opinion) is this positioning presented because Adult Torah Education is not exciting enough for fund raising and involvement in kiruv or for some other reason?

  19. Dan Illouz
    June 20th, 2008 @ 11:48 am

    Ron
    Zionism was my personal example, not attributing it to the Lubavitcher Rebbe
    As for your attack on zionism, and basically saying that we have nothing to learn from it and Rav Kook was wrong, I won’t respond to it because it is not the subject of this post. But you can email me at dillouz@gmail.com if you want to discuss this. As you can imagine, we, Rav Kook’s students, disagree with you and do have ways to explain all the things you brought up. Still today, secular israelis are ready to die in the army to protect am israel. If that’s not something positive we can learn, I don’t know what is.

    Chaim G., of course religious people are closer to the emet expressed in Torah. Never denied that. My point is that you cannot approach someone to CHANGE him and make him religious – rather, find the positive in him and emphasize how it is more powerful in Judaism than anywhere else. And your vision of the religious world seems to me a bit utopic – ok, in theory talmidei chachamim are closest to the truth. But they do not hold the whole truth! No one can hold the whole truth! So, sometimes, some secular people hold on to a spark of this whole truth which the religious world has neglected (social justice, nationalism etc…). My point is that the way to get this person closer to Judaism is not by telling him “leave social justice and come to religion” but rather by enhancing our own vision of the truth, which, when complete includes social justice (as an example) and then, he’ll be able to find his truth within our work of Torah.

    The point u made about a professional does not stick. Because while someone goes to a biology professor to learn biology, someone won’t necessarily go to a rabbi to find the truth if he feels the truth is within social justice (and yes, part of emet is within social justice) unless the rabbi truly lives a life based on this principle (which, according to torah, he should, because there is no greater social justice than the one outlined in torah!).

  20. Chaim G.
    June 20th, 2008 @ 11:50 am

    As all the anguish, wailing and gnashing-of-teeth over the youth at risk, OTD crisis bear testimony to, “KEEPING people frum” sells itself.

    Unconsious of the silent tragedy of the already(from birth)-not-frum, the frum olam needs to be sensitized. Hence the emphaisis @ fund raisers.

  21. Dan Illouz
    June 20th, 2008 @ 11:52 am

    “at the end of the day if you belief you are 60-80 percent right, will that make the person any happier. ”

    Its not about percentage, its about approach. Do you approach them as people you need to change, people you need to “fix”, or rather as people you can communicate with.
    I have a lot of arguments with my religious friends where i think im right and they are wrong. But when we argue, I don’t approach them as people I want to “fix” but rather as people I communicate and this enables a discussion where we both try to get to the truth. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes they are.

  22. Chaim G.
    June 20th, 2008 @ 12:02 pm

    of course religious people are closer to the emet expressed in Torah.

    Question: Would you be as candid about this conviction to a secular Jew with whom you are cross-polinating emmet with? Or only in the smokey-back-rooms, good-’ol-boys network of the BeyondBT blog?

    C’mon now, you too condescend, are we going to quibble and clibrate how much condescension should be revealed/is healthy?

    Charedi FFB triumphalists are not arrogant idiots, nor are they ignorant of the teachings of מִכָּל-מְלַמְּדַי הִשְׂכַּלְתִּי “Who is wise? He who learns form all persons” and “do not dismiss any/the entirety of man”.

    really …What is your point?

  23. Administrator
    June 20th, 2008 @ 12:09 pm

    Chaim G, Can *you* find any truth in what Dan says? Does he deserve our respect, even if we would disagree with him on the majority of his points? Isn’t bein Adam L’Chaveiro one of the areas of halacha you thought should be emphasized recently?

  24. Dan Illouz
    June 20th, 2008 @ 12:12 pm

    CHAIM
    I would FOR SURE tell (and I do tell) my secular friends that I believe religious jews are closer to EMET!
    Of course I do, what do you think?

    It’s not condescending to believe I am right. It’s condescending to approach someone with the only goal of changing him and without trying to understand his perspective also and trying to figure out how he is right and what points he is right on – with the only approach of transferring my perspective into his mind.

    But its not condescending to believe you are right – thats simply human, normal and healthy. If you don’t believe you are right, stop believing what you believe!!!!

  25. Dan Illouz
    June 20th, 2008 @ 12:14 pm

    “Charedi FFB triumphalists are not arrogant idiots, nor are they ignorant of the teachings of מִכָּל-מְלַמְּדַי הִשְׂכַּלְתִּי “Who is wise? He who learns form all persons” and “do not dismiss any/the entirety of man”.”

    Who said anything about Charedi or not Chareidi. I don’t think the hilouk here is between Charedi or non Charedi.
    I know a lot of chabad shlichim who utilise the methods I encourage (others who don’t). I know a lot of Chareidi rabbis who also do. Don’t politicize this discussion please. The example I gave with zionism was posted on my blog which is about religious zionism. I could come up with other examples.
    This is not about chareidi or not.

  26. Chaim G.
    June 20th, 2008 @ 12:20 pm

    in theory talmidei chachamim are closest to the truth. But they do not hold the whole truth! No one can hold the whole truth! So, sometimes, some secular people hold on to a spark of this whole truth which the religious world has neglected (social justice, nationalism etc…)

    Ya know… this is just historical revisionism.

    Do you think that Abraham Geiger SR”Y “invented” social justice ex-nihilo? (remember it is usually prefaced with the words THE JEWISH PROPHETIC tradition of Social Justice) Or that Theodore Herzl inented Jewish Nationalism and Zionism out of whole cloth? Preposterous! These were the precious few planks of the rich and diverse Torah Platform that they chose to retain! And this is what Torah Jewry have had a visceral overreaction to these movements over the past two centuries.

    Is it healthy and normal that frum Jews seem to have lost a sense of kinship with Jews who look or speak differently than they do (arvus)? or that they routinely maltreat the “stranger” and the powerless (social justice)? Or that they love Israel for their relatives or Chaisidc courts living there (or the holy Tzadikim interred there) and not for the land itself (Chibat Ha’aretz)? Or that they deemphasize Holocaust memorials (zichron Kedoshim)?

    Of course not! But when reshoim 200 years ago arrogatantly arrogated to themselves the power of reductionism (bah Chabakuk v’he’emidan ahl achat) and essentially sold world Jewry a bill of goods picking and choosing one or two Mitzvos and saying “This is it! This is the entire Torah” the frum overrecation was”Absolutley not. And if this counterfeit version is what you stand for then WE are opposed to it”.

    But, in fact, “they” have nothing new to offer, unless you count foreign influences that they picked up along the way:

    לה וַיִּתְעָרְבוּ בַגּוֹיִם; וַיִּלְמְדוּ, מַעֲשֵׂיהֶם. 35 But mingled themselves with the nations, and learned their works;

    לו וַיַּעַבְדוּ אֶת-עֲצַבֵּיהֶם; וַיִּהְיוּ לָהֶם לְמוֹקֵשׁ. 36 And they served their idols, which became a snare unto them;

    לז וַיִּזְבְּחוּ אֶת-בְּנֵיהֶם, וְאֶת-בְּנוֹתֵיהֶם– לַשֵּׁדִים. 37 Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto demons,

    as something positive.

    Those are indeed “new” and “innovative” vis a vis Judaism. But I would hardly call them emmet!

  27. Mark Frankel
    June 20th, 2008 @ 12:28 pm

    As all the anguish, wailing and gnashing-of-teeth over the youth at risk, OTD crisis bear testimony to, “KEEPING people frum” sells itself.

    Unconsious of the silent tragedy of the already(from birth)-not-frum, the frum olam needs to be sensitized. Hence the emphaisis @ fund raisers.

    I like your answers except that I don’t think nearly enough attention is being paid to the OTD crisis so I question whether “KEEPING people frum” sells itself. I happen to know at least three people who could not get adequate funding for their OTD oriented institutions.

    I think that sensitivity to the Not Frum From Birth issues is important, but the emphasis on the “success” stories indicates to me that there is more going on here:
    Making people Frum is exciting, educating uneducated jews isn’t.

    I personally think it’s a reality that should be understood and addressed rather than dismissed.

  28. Michoel
    June 20th, 2008 @ 12:30 pm

    Dan,
    I mean this respectfully…
    Sometimes Chabadnikim seem to take offense to the vociferousness of objections to their seemingly mild, across-stream statements. But you have to look at your own words. You stated that the most common type of kiruv has “a fundamental problem”. But the Lubavitcher Rebbe says…

    Do you not see why that can be offensive to non-Lubavitchers?

  29. Chaim G.
    June 20th, 2008 @ 12:32 pm

    I’m not really trying to be disrespectful to Dan. Forgive my harsh tone. I just REALLY don’t understand him or grasp his point.

    I’m not saying kiruv should not be a slow and tolerant process. Nor am I saying that after ESTABLISHING who the Rebee is and who the Talmid is that the Rebbee not relish the promised rewards of “U’Mitalmidai Yoter m’kulam”= “That I learned more Torah from my students than from my Teachers and peers” but by the same token that Dan writes:

    If you don’t believe you are right, stop believing what you believe!!!!

    I say “If you don’t believe the other fellow needs changing*, stop trying kiruv and wasting both your times”. To answer my own question this, IMO, is precisely why there are no social justice tanks in Crown Heights.

    As Ron pointed out earlier here the “change” is not about “look/ be more like me” though that may occur coincidentally. The point is helping another Yid do T’shuva (and thereby help yourself do the same see the 20th principle of RabenU Yonah) and get closer to his/her OWN heart and his/her Creator.
    _________________________________
    * “Change” meaning self-actualization. Teaching a biped to walk a winged bird to fly, a prodigy with dexterous long fingers and a pitch-perfect ear to play their instrument.

  30. Chaim G.
    June 20th, 2008 @ 12:33 pm

    Mark-

    point taken. You are right.

  31. Dan Illouz
    June 20th, 2008 @ 12:41 pm

    Michoel
    I am sorry if I offended anyone, I did not want to. If anyone interprets this as an attack to any one group, he’s misinterpreting this.

  32. Bob Miller
    June 20th, 2008 @ 12:44 pm

    You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

    The person someone has approached with kiruv in mind, who now knows more about the genuine Torah alternatives to his current lifestyle, still has the personal responsibility to make the right choice. His success or failure can’t be pinned totally on others.

  33. Dan Illouz
    June 20th, 2008 @ 12:48 pm

    “Do you think that Abraham Geiger SR”Y “invented” social justice ex-nihilo? (remember it is usually prefaced with the words THE JEWISH PROPHETIC tradition of Social Justice) Or that Theodore Herzl inented Jewish Nationalism and Zionism out of whole cloth? Preposterous! These were the precious few planks of the rich and diverse Torah Platform that they chose to retain!”

    I agree with you! That is precisely what I believe. But, if you ask me why Jews who believe in social justice go to Abraham Geiger, I’ll tell you because we frum jews have not yet integrated it into our way of life as a top priority. But of course our source should be torah, not Geiger!

    “I just REALLY don’t understand him or grasp his point.”
    My point is in the approach we take to kiruv. Don’t take an “I have the full emet and want to change you” approach but rather a “I want us to learn from each other and get to the real emet – both of us together (actually, all of klal israel together)”.

    ““If you don’t believe the other fellow needs changing*, stop trying kiruv and wasting both your times””
    Agreed. I don’t think we should try to do kiruv. I think that when you truly have an approach where mutual learning is the main goal, kiruv happens by itself, its a natural result. I’m not sure if they’ll post the other 4 parts to this series lol but go to http://www.tzipiyah.com .

    And Chaim G. No need to say sorry. I enjoy this discussion. I don’t think you were disrespectful at all.

  34. Steve Brizel
    June 20th, 2008 @ 12:57 pm

    I thought that the post was an excellent illustration that kiruv can have multiple models and hashkafic bases. I would strongly suggest that if anyone thinks that kiruv has made a dent in the state of American Jewry to read Ramban on this week’s Parsha at Bamidbar 15:22. IMO, how different is our world than that described by Ramban?

  35. Chaim G.
    June 20th, 2008 @ 1:02 pm

    Agreed. I don’t think we should try to do kiruv

    IMO you are sacrificing true visceral ahavas Yosrael on the altar of cultural realtivism/mutial respect.

    Why stop doing kiruv? Is it not apthetic at best and selfish/callous at worst to be an accomplished pianist, see the prodigy with dexterous long fingers and a pitch-perfect ear and NOT sit down with them at the keyboard and help them learn to play their instrument?

  36. Dan Illouz
    June 20th, 2008 @ 1:09 pm

    Chaim
    I think that by exercising what I defined as Kiruv Levavot, “Kiruv Rechokim” would not be necessary anymore. So it’s not a question of one or the other and I’m not sacrificing one over the other.
    Actually, I give my regular donations to many organizations which do kiruv rechokim because I know that we’re not all practicing Kiruv Levavot :-) lol
    So until we get to that point I do see the need for some people to do Kiruv Rechokim. I just don’t think it’s the ideal mechanism and I prefer working on what I described as kiruv levavot.

  37. Michoel
    June 20th, 2008 @ 1:27 pm

    OK, Dan. Hatzlacha raba and good Shabbos.

    Michoel

  38. Ron Coleman
    June 20th, 2008 @ 5:23 pm

    Dan, you raised Zionism either as a model or an example, and I tried to suggest why it’s a really bad one to make your point with.

    I agree that the going-in-the-army thing remains a rhetorical and moral trump card for Zionists compared to people who live in Israel and don’t serve. But the main products of Ziomism, i.e., non-religious youth, increasingly resist service and their elders among the Israeli elite increasingly can’t blame them, or worse. The trend isn’t good.

    So, what else ya got?

  39. Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)
    June 20th, 2008 @ 7:28 pm

    At first, religious people thought that everything presented by the secular world had to be rejected.

    R’ Sh. R. Hirsch would be very surprised to hear that.

  40. belle
    June 22nd, 2008 @ 12:09 am

    I really don’t understand this whole discussion. The difference between Dan’s examples of kiruv rechokim and kiruv levavot is semantic and not really borne out in the reality as I have experienced it. Most “kiruv” professionals I know from various organizations who candidly practice “kiruv rechokim” are very respectful of their students and actually love engaging with them and recognizing their individual strengths and insights. They really like the people they work with! And they would all say they have been enriched from meeting those people and having the relationships with many of their students. There is no separation betw kiruv rechokim and kiruv levavot! I really don’t know why there seems to be this caricature of the kiruv rabbi being arrogant. Maybe some of these rabbis need some social skills lessons, but as a whole, they have more ahavas yisroel than many frum jews.

    Of course they want the secular jew to change! Of course that is their goal! But not out of condescension — it’s like they have the tip of the century on what stocks to buy and they want to share it! It’s not that they look down on those who don’t know…it’s that they want to share their wealth.

    Could Dan or someone please explain…in reality, based on personal experience…why they think those who practice kiruv rechokim have an approach that is condescending, other than what the words imply in a semantic sense?

  41. Ron Coleman
    June 22nd, 2008 @ 3:00 pm

    If it weren’t “kiruv people” involved in these weekly condemnations of “the wrong kind of kiruv” that we read here all too frequently, you’d almost think it were some kind of jealousy over the success that certain programs and institutions have, and, perhaps, the attention their leaders get.

    Because that can’t be the motivation, though, I share your wonderment, Belle.

  42. yy
    June 22nd, 2008 @ 3:50 pm

    “its about approach. Do you approach them as people you need to change, people you need to ‘fix’, or rather as people you can communicate with.’

    When Dan said this a number of comments ago,he hit the core. HOW TO COMMUNICATE WITH OUR FELLOW JEWS,as equals, is the question.

    Once this is established, that we want to play a role in stimulating / guiding their growth in Torah no longer becomes suspect of condescension. As the song says: “Just walk besides me and be my friend and together we will learn to serve H’”

    Political issues, like whether Zionisim or Chareidikeit is the b-e-s-t way to be kiruv-friends only confuses the matter.

    CO-mmunication requires mutual respect and there are many ways to do that.

  43. Ron Coleman
    June 22nd, 2008 @ 5:08 pm

    But who exactly is guilty of this obviously stupid “approach”? I’m not asking for names, but, as Belle asked, the posited “wrong approach” is little more than a parody.

    Why not make one’s point without setting up straw men?

  44. yy
    June 22nd, 2008 @ 6:10 pm

    this blog, for one, has born witness to many individuals who have experienced such “Fixer” condescension. I, for one, have been traveling for over 25 yrs, through many Jewish wortlds (atheistically non-denom to agnostically-Zionistic. to Ref. to Cons. to DL to Yeshivish to Academic to Chassidic to mammash-Chassidic… and have encountered it at every juncture. Sometimes it comes out of the same person who wins your heart with genuine communication, only to whip out at another moment the Fixer-ghost in him.

    Stop dismissing it, Ron, simply due to a lack of scientific data!

  45. Bob Miller
    June 22nd, 2008 @ 7:39 pm

    Belle and Ron are onto something here. There is room in our world for every sincere approach based on Torah, so no one should feel the need to run down someone else’s approach. Soon enough, the best approaches will attract positive attention based on their true success.

  46. Mark Frankel
    June 22nd, 2008 @ 10:35 pm

    Of course there is condescension despite the well intentioned protestations of Ron and Belle. As Chaim G implied above, there is some condescension in a teacher – student relationship, when the student has not yet accepted his role.

    I called Dan on his title of Authentic Kiruv and he apologized earlier in the thread.

    The claims of “we do no wrong” Kiruv is also something that needs to be called. Of course a public forum is not the place to point out specific instances of condescension, and I’m not expecting either Ron or Belle to modify their line in the sand positions, but let’s move forward.

    We all need to get better in kiruv, because as Rabbi Yaakov Salomon said quoting Rabbi Noach Weinberg last Wednesday, we’re losing the war. Thank G-d Aish is always looking to do it better and recognizes that they need to improve as all good Kiruv organizations do.

    Does anybody remember this ditty:

    My dog’s better than your dog
    My dog’s better than yours
    My dog’s better, cause he eats Kennel Ration
    My dog’s better than yours

    Let’s stop the silly songs and start, listening, learning from, and helping one another.

  47. yy
    June 23rd, 2008 @ 3:07 am

    Not sure if you meant me,Mark, but I don’t
    view that line as silly at all!I certainly didn’t bring it to “run down someone else’s approach”, as Bob warns. Rather, after adding my voice against creating a theoretical division between rechokim / levovot approaches, I sought to clarify Dan’s valid, underlying concern about mutually respectful communication.

    No, it can’t be said enough. It happens everywhere people are trying to persuade the other of their latest “tip” on how to save the world, your health or your pocketbook. It’s just that in kiruv, the stakes are so much higher, in essence.

    Honestly now, are WE communicating the best way? Surely, this is what many Tsaddikkim have been pointing to as the ikkar avoida of the final generations, from Akiva to chofetz Chaiim.

    Calling it “silly” does not help.

  48. Bob Miller
    June 23rd, 2008 @ 8:18 am

    Mark said “Of course there is condescension…”

    That’s because people are people. It doesn’t necessarily follow that there is some established method in use out there that is grounded in condescension.

  49. Ron Coleman
    June 23rd, 2008 @ 9:13 am

    Like Bob said. It’s a lot shorter post to write, “Let’s be careful out there, when we’re trying to reach out to our fellow Jews, not to condescend to them. It’s bad for kiruv and it’s bad for us.”

    But if that’s the point, that’s the point.

  50. Mark Frankel
    June 23rd, 2008 @ 10:24 am

    I don’t think the condescension is intentional, but the more I think about it, I think the whole approach to answering questions is a bit condescending.

    The goal is to dismiss the question instead of looking for what aspect of truth there is in the question. I’ve heard many speakers recently on answer question and the whole approach has been to undermine the question.

    Do you think that is condescending? If you were on the other side of the question how would you feel?

  51. Chaim G.
    June 23rd, 2008 @ 12:29 pm

    Let’s not forget that the “Brisker revolution” has permeated all facets of harbotzas haTorah including, IMO, kiruv and that Rav Chaim Brisker z”l said “I don’t try to say terutzim (answers) I try to do away with the kashas (questions/difficulties)” . In Talmudic discourse this means re-casting the theoretical underpinnings of the law such that the preconcived notions that engendered the questions are dispelled. In Kiruv this means…well you figure it out.

    Another kiruv-specific point to this attitude is that “answers” often sound like “apologetics”. Apologetics are intellectual turn-offs and emotionally weak and unsatisfying. When the Kiruv lecturer “undermines” the question s/he puts the questioner on the defensive.

    As to If you were on the other side of the question how would you feel? I think that all depends on both the one posing the question and the one answering/undermining it. The one answering may need a better bedside manner and learn to tone down an in-your-face confrontational style which may have been Dan’s point all along.

    Absent this the one posing the question may feel invalidated, if they were seeking validation which may, BTW, be the WORST thing the teacher can do to/for them in terms of their T’shuva/ growth. OTOH if the one posing the question is a true truth seeker it may be an epiphany, a kind of slap-your-own-forehead and say “Why didn’t I see it that way before” or “Hmm…If I was wrong on something so basic maybe I’ve got to re-examine a lot of my other basic assumptions” moment.

  52. Bob Miller
    June 23rd, 2008 @ 2:43 pm

    In business you can get a lot done if you make the boss feel it was his idea all along.

  53. Bob Miller
    June 23rd, 2008 @ 2:50 pm

    Chaim G mentioned something that reminded me…

    How many times have I asked a question and they told me I should have asked such and such stronger question? Too many times to count. While I sometimes appreciated the stronger question, I mostly wanted my very own personal question answered! If someone tries to improve on my question, I get this unseemly urge to push back.

  54. Chaim G.
    June 23rd, 2008 @ 3:10 pm

    fraig besser ask stronger/better has always been a “gentle” put down.

  55. Bob Miller
    June 23rd, 2008 @ 3:23 pm

    Sometimes a simple answer will suffice, as opposed to a demonstration that the other person is very smart.

  56. Bob Miller
    June 23rd, 2008 @ 3:24 pm

    “other person” meaning the answerer

  57. Chaim G.
    June 23rd, 2008 @ 3:53 pm

    Very True.

  58. Baruch Horowitz
    June 23rd, 2008 @ 7:33 pm

    “fraig besser ask stronger/better has always been a “gentle” put down.”

    Perhaps it depends on the tone and situation: whether or not it’s said with warmth or a smile on the face, and whether the question is validated in some way; I’ve never been insulted by “fraig besser” for Talmudic questions, because the Gemera uses that logic as well !

    Certainly for many hashkafic issues(perhaps each issue is different) discussed by laymen online, one can bulid up the questioner/commenter and the question, and compliment him whether one agrees with the entire point or not. It is interesting that R Shraga Feivel Mendelowitz showed his students who attended college how one can find a kernel of truth in certain college subjects, but how that kernel had been distorted(Artscroll biography).

  59. Bob Miller
    June 23rd, 2008 @ 10:52 pm

    Gemara questions can call for a “freg besser” response, but it often doesn’t work with other kinds of questions.

  60. Ron Coleman
    June 23rd, 2008 @ 11:00 pm

    Freg besser is meant as a compliment: “You’ve hit the vein — you’re really onto something. In fact, taking your question to its logical conclusion, we can ask an even more challenging question!”

    But I guess people can find a way to be offended almost no matter what. I don’t mean that facetiously; it just seems to be a fact.

    Another fact is that Talmudic dialectic is part and parcel of Jewish sensibility. Everyone knows Jews answer a question with another question. I wouldn’t lay that at the feet of Brisk, either, but that’s a side point. Still, many people find this paradigm hard to take, because it is premised on challenge at every juncture of intercourse. Lawyers are also taught to think this way; so are people schooled in engineering, mathematics and the hard sciences. Okay, and economics, actually, which is merely a social science but uses constructs which are on their own terms internally consistent, rigorous and amenable to quantitative proof or disproof.

    That leaves about 80% of the rest of the world, many of whom find this intellectual approach demeaning, or insulting, or offensive, or condescending. Again, with all due respect, I can’t think of anyone with an academic background that stresses rigorous problem-solving that is offended by this, but, also again, that leaves most of the rest of humanity. And the rest of humanity, I will concede, deserves to be engaged in a manner that “works” for them.

    The irony to me, however, is that this is what I consider “condescending.” But I’m a prejudiced economics major and law school graduate! ;-)

  61. Bob Miller
    June 23rd, 2008 @ 11:32 pm

    As an engineer interested in facts, I find I ask a lot of questions and can become a sort of interrogator in approaching people to get a better sense of some event or situation. This is not meant to be hostile, but some people take it as such.

  62. Ari
    June 24th, 2008 @ 3:22 pm

    Let us also be realistic and recognize that not all questions are really “questions” – often times they are “excuses” to avoid progressing. The “art” of kiruv is being able to distinguish and respond in kind to each circumstance.

  63. Mark Frankel
    June 24th, 2008 @ 5:46 pm

    Ari, unless a person is a complete Tzaddik, we also have those type of questions/excuses. Just like we give credence to our own excuses, perhaps when need to be charitable to the excuses/questions of others.

    Personally I think the “art” of kiruv is in it’s infancy and we really need to keep on rethinking it if we want to stop the horrendous slide towards assimilation and worse.

    We need to keep on questioning ourselves and our methods and truly evaluate on which definitions we are succeeding and on which we are failing.

    Knee-jerk reactions to defend Kiruv and bury questions without dealing with them do not really help our global cause of bringing Jews closer to G-d and Judaism. I am disheartened that smart good people insist on painting a false, everything is fine in Kiruv-land picture, although I can think of some reasons they would take that view.

  64. Bob Miller
    June 24th, 2008 @ 7:21 pm

    No one announced that everything is rosy. What I, at least, suggested is that kiruv problems arise more from human frailty than from some fundamentally faulty kiruv philosophy.

  65. Mark Frankel
    June 24th, 2008 @ 8:49 pm

    I’ve been pretty immersed in fundamental Kiruv philosophy recently and I personally think there are some flaws.

    The way questions are dealt with is one flaw for starters.

    And I do think there is a knee-jerk reaction by some to defend fundamental kiruv philosophy. That of course does not bode well for improvements to the fundamentals.

  66. yy
    June 24th, 2008 @ 10:35 pm

    good to hear you staring down the faults of those fundamental Kiruv philosophies, Mark. So why don’t we now make a pt of spelling them out and proposing real alternatives?

  67. Mark Frankel
    June 24th, 2008 @ 11:13 pm

    yy, we’re planning on discussing some of the issues. This particular post fleshed some out.

  68. Ron Coleman
    June 24th, 2008 @ 11:28 pm

    Mark, this will help:

    Explain how freg besser is “burying a question,” but describing other people’s arguments as “knee-jerk reactions” is constructive, non-judgmental New Kiruv.

    You can get away with that because everyone likes you. But how about the rest of us? ;-)

  69. Mark Frankel
    June 24th, 2008 @ 11:55 pm

    I don’t think I said anything about freg besser, but you’re right about knee-jerk being non-constructive and thanks for calling me on it. I’ll try to be more careful, more constructive and less emotional with my comments in the future.

    And thanks for disproving your point that I can get away with it in the same comment that you made said point ;-)

    Lastly, for the record, I’m not exactly calling for a new Kiruv, just for understanding and improving on what existing Kiruv does well.

  70. Bob Miller
    June 25th, 2008 @ 9:36 am

    My knee feels better already.

  71. Ron Coleman
    June 25th, 2008 @ 12:46 pm

    I’m with Mark calling for what he said.

    By the way I just coined the term New Kiruv last night in that comment. Remember, folks: You were here.

  72. Bob Miller
    June 25th, 2008 @ 12:53 pm

    Ron, did you copyright it?

  73. Ron Coleman
    June 25th, 2008 @ 1:24 pm

    (Groan) Don’t get me started…

    Here, read this, Bob. And this.

  74. Bob Miller
    June 25th, 2008 @ 3:48 pm

    Meet the new kiruv, same as the old kiruv (Avraham Avinu’s).

  75. MG
    June 25th, 2008 @ 7:01 pm

    oooh… retro. cool.

    More to the point:
    I think that many ‘sour’ kiruv experiences stem from individuals (as opposed to organizations). Upon reflection and some insights from my rav, I think that some of those experiences stem from the insecurity of those individuals. It could be insecurity about a job, finances, past choices in frumkeit, or current status in frumkeit, to name a few. I imagine there are other sources of insecurity that could cause this as well.

    I think this is different than the jealousy Ron mentioned earlier.

    If insecurity is a significant cause of a kiruv-related problem, a solution would be difficult. It seems there could be no institutional or global solution for a problem that is so personal.

  76. David Linn
    June 25th, 2008 @ 8:01 pm

    MG, I would think that perhaps the best solution to the “sour” issue is a combination of institutional and personal kiruv. Easier said than done.

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