The Roots of Chabad Outreach

What are the roots of Chabad Outreach? Perhaps the best way to understand it is to hear how the Rebbe himself describes it (from his collected talks, Shabbos Parshas Behar-Bechukosai, 24th Iyar, 5740)…

(The words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe…)

In certain segments of the Jewish community, the expression ‘Kiruv Richokim’ — drawing close those who are far — is used to describe the efforts to reach out to Jews who are presently estranged from Torah and Mitzvos. This expression is improper. Our sages tell us that it is forbidden to tell a convert “Remember your initial deeds.” Similarly, it is forbidden to remind a Baal Teshuvah of his previous behavior by calling him a Richuk — someone who is (or was) far away. It is true that the Talmud comments on the verse “Peace, Peace to the close and to the far,” stating “to the far who drew close.” However, it is improper to address those whom we wish to draw to Torah with that expression. For this reason, the Rebbeim never used such phraseology. They stressed the importance of loving all Jews — even one whom we never saw, — but they never used the expression ‘Kiruv Richokim.’

No Jew is ever Rochok — far away — from Yiddishkeit. The only reason the aforementioned text of the Talmud uses the terminology is because “Torah speaks in the language of men.” From the perspective of man, such an individual may be a Richuk, but from the perspective of Torah, Yiddishkeit is close to him.

Hence, there can be no condescension in the attitude with which we reach out to our fellow Jews. We must realize that “more than the rich does for the poor, the poor does for the rich.” When giving charity, the rich must give with a pleasant disposition, without letting the poor man feel that he is poor. The same principle applies in spiritual Tzedakah. In such a case, we are reinforced by G-d’s promise, “Since you gave life to the poor man… I will remember the Mitzvah you have done… and repay you soul for soul.”

(end of the Rebbe’s words)

When presented in his own words, it would seem rather difficult to disagree with.

In my words, we don’t dump on a Jew or consider him ‘lower’ because his circumstances weren’t as good as ours or have the learning opportunities ours have had. That ‘innocent’ neshama, from the standpoint of never being exposed to Jewish learning, isn’t of any less value than the neshama of the talmid chacham.

To use Rabbi Brody’s language from his shiur at BeyondBT in Passaic a few years ago, was there no room for another neshama in Boro Park or Bnei Brak?

Is that Jew of less value because he wasn’t born in to an observant Jewish home? Frankly, that neshama may be on a much higher level that it can take the challenge, with a chance of success, of being born outside a Torah community and immersed in a non-Torah upbringing and still having a chance of returning and reconnecting to Torah.

So do you walk in looking down on all the poor ignorant masses that you’re about to share your deep Torah knowledge with? You who were raised in Boro Park, served chalal yisroel milk from childhood, licked honey off the alef beis at 3, had rebbe’s and rosh yeshiva’s directing you from the day the sandek held you, or do you rejoice that these neshama’s are overcoming their challenges by coming to you, and be so thankful that Hashem Yishborach has given you the opportunity to help them on their path?

Even thought the answer is obvious, it is something we need to work on internalizing.

Akiva writes regularly at Mystical Paths.

54 comments on “The Roots of Chabad Outreach

  1. Shua,

    The goal of our site is to help Jews grow with a strong focus on the BT community. There are literally thousands of sites on the Internet where you can be as negative as you want to be, this is not one of them. We tolerate a degree of negativity but there are limits.

    In regards to hate, I’ve always like the definition that love is primarily identifying with the positive in a person while hate is primarily identifying with the negative. Love connects, while hate divides.

    I’m sure you’ve heard of the term sinas chinam, senseless hatred, and know how strongly Chazal condemn this attitude. The obvious reason is because this divides Jews, whereas our goal is to be united.

    Unless, you can provide absolute proof to the contrary, we are obligated to assume that Rabbi Feldman recognizes the positive in what Chabad does, while still maintaining his strong objections.

    Our goal in posting this piece was to highlight an extremely positive mind frame that would be helpful to learn from.

    Hopefully those who read this thread will come away with this positive message and on that note we are closing comments on this thread.

  2. Akiva:

    The following is a list of quotes from your comment (above) and my responses.

    > “It is still not so *unusual* to see fund raising advertisements from kiruv organizations …that speak so,” i.e. are condescending.

    >> I would love for you to cite an example of what you consider condescending ad copy (of a kiruv organization) to back up your assertion. Being that you claim such ads are not “unusual,” providing an example should not be difficult. Personally, I find it hard to believe without evidence.

    > “30 years ago you couldn’t discuss tefillin with the non-religious Jew because they hadn’t used the mikvah and therefore didn’t have bodily purity for the mitzvah.”

    >> Huh? Since when is tevilah in a mikvah required for putting on tefillin? Please provide a source for this halacha and a source for your assertion that someone…anyone…held by this halacha 30 years ago.

    > “20 years ago talking about Moshiach wasn’t something of a Jewish focus.”

    >> Let me see now, the 12th principle of Rambam’s ikarim is: “I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah. How long it takes, I will await His coming every day.” That was 800 years ago (which is far more than 20) and it has been pretty much of a focus for all of Orthodox Judaism since then.

    About 80 years ago the Chofetz Chaim wrote “Tzipita L’Yeshuah,” a work which describes the importance of awaiting Moshiach every day and doing everything in our power to bring the redemption. Akiva, like the Rambam, I think the Chofetz Chaim was pretty well read in Orthodox Jewish circles as well.

    > “a minority lost it…It took 5 years to start to rebalance, and another 5 years to…push the minority off to the side.”

    >> Have you done a poll to determine that the meshichistim in Chabad are a minority? This quote is from the Jewish Learning website: “It is hard to know how many Lubavitchers actually believe that their dead rebbe is really the Messiah. But the number is significant. It includes a few of the more important rabbis in the Lubavitch movement in North America, and a higher percentage of Lubavitch leaders in Israel.” I personally believe that this is a more accurate rendering of reality than your claim that the Messianists have been pushed to the side.

    I’m sorry Akiva. I just don’t find much credibility in anything that you wrote. If you could provide hard evidence to back up any of your assertions, it would be most appreciated.

  3. Sorry, Akiva, but I won’t take the above on faith. The problem that turned me off to Lubavitch was basically ideological and not organizational. The assumption that things were “balanced” prior to the Rebbe’s petira is untenable.

  4. The administrators asked me to come in and comment. It was literally 4 or so years ago that I wrote this article (it was a bit delayed in getting posted :-), and I can’t remember the incident at the time that brought me to do so.

    I do remember that I fused some of Rabbi Lazer Brody’s discussion of why certain neshama’s have to endure certain circumstances with the Rebbe’s statement on outreach, and was mentally responding to the clearly expressed position of some organization at the time that was rather condescending. It is still not so unusual to see fundraising advertisements from kiruv organizations, ads focused inside the frum community (for example in Mishpacha or Bina magazine), that speak so.

    Regarding all those who wish to pick at this detail or that of Chabad, 40 years ago there were gedolim who said you can’t reach out to the non-religious Jew because they will damage the spirituality of your home, you might come into contact with tuma, and you were sure to damage your neshoma. 30 years ago you couldn’t discuss tefillin with the non-religious Jew because they hadn’t used the mikvah and therefore didn’t have bodily purity for the mitzvah. 20 years ago talking about Moshiach wasn’t something of a Jewish focus.

    Chabad has always been on the outs. Yes, Chabad went through significant turmoil and a minority lost it with the Rebbe’s hilhula. It took 5 years to start to rebalance, and another 5 years to straighten out the organizations and push the minority off to the side. This is sad but not unusual in the case of the loss of driving leadership. (We’ve seen something rather similar regarding Ponevetz Yeshiva as well, for those who follow that sort of thing, and more recently with Satmar though the rebalancing is happening faster there).

    Those who are looking to ding others will always find a good reason. Those who look to work together and respect each other are able to.

    –Akiva
    Mystical Paths

  5. The emotion expressed here comes not from hatred but from a feeling of betrayal. Many Jews were impressed by Chabad and were very close to Chabad at one time or another and had high hopes for its success, but were shocked and astounded by the excesses of the “Mashiach campaign” that insisted only one person could be, or was already, Mashiach.

    I remember being told that the Rebbe was the “best candidate for Mashiach”, as if we were in any position to compare him to all the alternatives.

    Now that this campaign has become a sore point, some speak and write as if it and its associated beliefs ended with the Rebbe’s passing, except among a few people. That is disinformation.

  6. Ah. I see that my response to Mark’s comment at no. 27 — that originally failed to be accepted — has belatedly appeared. It’s at number 36. (Maybe my response to Michal will show up as well). Thank you, administrator, for your consideration.

  7. David F: You asked, “Why you chose to make an allegation of the sort you have is baffling.” Well no, it’s not. This is how the propaganda juggernaut works. And the web has provided a wonderful new venue for spreading the propaganda. Whenever the words “Chabad” or “Lubavitch” show up on a website or blog, the well conditioned minions are ready to write in with both aggrandizements of Chabad and the Rebbe, and put-downs and claims of “hatred” against anyone in opposition. [Note Mark Frankel’s comment at #27: “We really need to break the hatred exhibited here.” Does anybody see any hatred being exhibited here? Fear…concern…yes. Hatred? I don’t think so.]

    David Linn: Granted, I may not always succeed, but I do try at all times to write with derech eretz. But, sometimes the truth cannot be so easily varnished…and I don’t mean my own very fallible versions of the truth, but truth as enunciated by gedolei Yisrael of both the present and past generations.

    PL: “The best response is no response.” Sometimes yes, I would agree with you. But we have a rule: “shtikah k’hodah” (silence is like assent). When silence in the face of sheker can be damaging to Yiddishe neshamas, I believe we have a duty to speak out. This is Rav Aharon Feldman’s position and I feel that we all have this responsibility.

    Bob Miller: I think we’re on the same page. It’s good no to feel alone.

  8. Judy,

    You wrote: “Second, I think they are all looking for a certain type: the rich assimilated young adult snared by a cult who finally got unsnared, and now his/her grateful wealthy parents are going to donate ten million dollars to the Kiruv organization. If you are not a “prize catch” then the Kiruv organizations are not as anxious to spend their time on you.”

    I beg to differ and take great exception to what you wrote. Clearly, from your other posts on the subject, you are enamored by Chabad and have a deep appreciation for their style. If I’m not mistaken, their style is not to be critical and condescending – why is it that you’ve done exactly that and smeared a long list of wonderful Kiruv organizations?
    I attended Aish HaTorah for a short while and then Ohr Someach for much longer. My parents are divorced, my dad is far from wealthy and my mom struggled to make a living. Yet, that never came up in either place, both of which welcomed me with open arms. I spent years in the Yeshivah and all they did was support and help me until the day I married.
    Since then, I have always looked to Rabbi’s Weinbach and Schiller for guidance and advice and they are like parents to me. Of course they ask me to support the Yeshivah which I do with an open hand when my finances allow for it. Times are now tight and I can’t do what I once could but they’re still there for me as in years past. Rabbi Samet was in the US recently and he made a special effort to attend a simchah of mine because he cared.
    While he was alive, Rabbi Weinberg of Aish was also very kind to me although I left his yeshivah. He told me that he knew it was better for me and supported my decision.
    This has been my experience and that of many of my peers. Why you chose to make an allegation of the sort you have is baffling.

  9. Shua,

    This is the way of the world. You are feeling frustrated, and I feel for you. The best response is no response.

  10. Shua, maybe we should be immune to this by now. At least the inquiring minds now know the story behind the story.

    It is possible for one and the same movement to be all love towards recruits and something else towards their perceived kiruv rivals and the misnagdic (non-chassidic) yeshiva world and some other major chassidic groups. Calling the misnagdim “snags” is one example.

  11. First we have Akiva (in the original article) trumpeting the Rebbe’s gevaldik madraiga in Kiruv and castigating non-Chabad Orthodox Jews for not reaching that exalted madraiga with a slew of pejorative terms: “condescension,” “dump on,” “less value,” “looking down on,” etc.

    Now we have Judy Resnick trumpeting the superiority of Chabad congregations, and again — using “one of the sichos of the Rebbe” — castigating non-Chabad shuls in a manner dripping with sarcasm and condescension (ex. “the first man cannot tell an aleph from a beis,” “these three giants of Talmudic erudition”).

    Yet, when I try to object to this sort of insulting tripe, I get censored as being too negative. Go figure.

  12. Just one more thought re Chabad. In too many shuls, the congregation tells the Rabbi how frum they want to be. Years ago, wealthy nonreligious members steered a lot of shuls away from Orthodoxy, first getting rid of the mechitzah, then building a parking lot, etc. Any rabbi who tried to stop the downward slide got fired. Well, the beauty of these Chabad houses is that the congregation can’t fire the rabbi, they’re stuck with him. They can vote with their feet and go elsewhere, but they can’t tell the rabbi what to do. OK, maybe in some situations Chabad-Lubavitch will send a different couple to take over that particular Chabad house, but there’s no way the nonreligious congregants, no matter how wealthy or important they may be, can change the way things are done. The Chabad rabbi is the boss with the final say at any Chabad house.

    I remember reading something like this topic in one of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s printed sichos (short discussions) from 1974 or 1975. The sichah discussed how many shuls have a “Ritual Committee” that tells the rabbi how to run the shul. According to the sichah, the typical “Ritual Committee” consists of three Jewish men. The first man cannot tell an Aleph from a Bais. The second man went to Sunday school years ago and can still sing “Adon Olam” with gusto. The third man, the most learned of the bunch, attended Hebrew school every afternoon until his Bar-Mitzvah. These three “giants of Talmudic erudition” take it upon themselves to instruct the rabbi as to what he can and cannot do.

    Chabad rabbis at Chabad houses don’t have to deal with “Ritual Committees.” OK, maybe they rely on their enthusiastic baalei-batim for help with fundraising and other community projects, but they can’t be fired for being too frum.

    I am reminded of a well-known rabbi in Brooklyn, honest and outspoken, who was niftar back in 2001. His kehillah was absolutely devoted to him; there were no contracts. It was a theocracy, run entirely by the rabbi, who held his position his entire life. That rabbi used to joke about how his shul was having a “membership drive.” To that rabbi, a “membership drive” meant saying something controversial to drive members out.

  13. Once again, awe-inspiring words from the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Chabad never ceases to amaze me–they are a shining example of Ahavas Yisroel

  14. I would like it to be known that I responded to Mark and Michal (at comments numbered 27 & 28, respectively), but the administrator has rejected my responses. I believe that I wrote my comments with particular care as to content and tone. However, I understand that comment evaluation is highly subjective, and clearly the administrator has the right to reject whatever is not deemed appropriate.

    As I wrote earlier, once it was decided to publish an article entitled “The Roots of Chabad Outreach” — which promoted a Chabad point of view and overtly disparaged the non-Chabad Orthodox Jews of “Boro Park” and “Bnei Brak” — the site administrator should have expected that it was sure to become controversial.

    But now, having creating this sticky-wicket, a legitimate subject for discussion — Chabad/Lubavitch’s challenge to the Achdus of Klal Yisrael in our generation (as evidenced in part by Akiva’s essay) — has been censored here, so that the discussion has become biased and, therefore, dishonest.

  15. I remember that day, Sunday, June 12, 1994. I was calling the special phone number that had been set up for inquiries. The recorded message that morning was that the Rebbe had died that day. Died. Nobody minced words about it. Later that week I went to the Ohel. At that time, so soon after the levaya, there was no wall around the two graves (that of the Rebbe and the Previous Rebbe, his father-in-law). I stood right next to the grave, praying for my mother who was very ill.

    The point of all this is that at that time everyone in Chabad-Lubavitch acknowledged that the Rebbe was niftar. Nobody said the Rebbe was simply transmuted or any nonsense like that. Chabadniks do say that the Rebbe zatzal will come back at Techiyas HaMaisim, but that’s one of the fundamental principles of our faith, that one day there will be a Revival of the Dead.

    The basic teachings of Chabad-Lubavitch always said that Moshiach would come after the seventh rebbe. There was no teaching that the seventh rebbe would actually be Moshiach. Nor was there ever a teaching about the resurrection of a dead Moshiach. Classic Jewish tradition was always that there is someone born in every generation who has the potential to be the Moshiach if we are worthy. There is an old story about the Baal Shem Tov arriving in a town for a funeral of a poor Jew and saying that Jew “could have been” Moshiach if the generation had been worthy of redemption. The idea to take away from that story is that a Tzaddik’s chance to be the Moshiach ends on his death. Otherwise, why the need for someone to be born in each generation, we could simply have Moses or King David be Moshiach.

    I think a lot of falsehoods have been said about Chabad-Lubavitch which obscure their great deeds of kindness and outreach to their fellow Jews.

  16. FWIW, my attitude has always been that whenever I notice banners/hats/flags etc. it’s a message to me that I need to remember the RAMBAM’s 12th principle of Faith:
    I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah. How long it takes, I will await His coming every day.

    It’s a very complex issue, indeed.

  17. I guess it’s a “buyer beware” thing. Both people with the right beliefs and people with the wrong beliefs can be wonderful/compassionate/understanding in their approaches to Jews. The approach expressed in the article is good for the Jews only if it leads Jews onto one of the true Torah paths.

  18. Mark wrote: “We really need to break the hatred exhibited here.”

    I’m sorry Mark. I do not see a single sign of “hatred” in evidence in any comment in this thread, including my own. Opposition, based upon a fear for the neshamas of many yidden who are being misled in the direction of kefira, is not “hatred.” It is Ahavas Yisrael.

    You wrote (at comment 23) “that most frum Jews do recognize and respect the positive accomplishments of Chabad, even while seeing the deficiencies.” But what you call (naively, I believe) “deficiencies” — a relatively benign term — Rav Feldman calls “dangerous perversions.” Obviously, there is a profound difference between the two. Deficiencies do not necessarily lead to the destruction of Jewish souls. Dangerous perversions on the other hand…well, you get the point.

    So no, I don’t believe that Dr. Berger or Rav Feldman would be very impressed with Chabad “accomplishments,” in light of the dangers to the Jewish people that they clearly believe the Chabad movement represents.

    These are extremely serious issues which can only be dealt with by our gedolim…they are not subject to the “feel good” and “every Jew should love one another” platitudes that are passed around by the likes of us common folk on the internet. The stakes for thousands of Jewish neshamas are too high.

  19. The basic problem from my outsider point of view is that it’s close to impossible to know what most of them believe on this topic. Apart from the flamboyant types with banners and hats and Yechi proclamations, others may still harbor the same basic belief but not in public. The conventional breakdown based on public behavior may be misleading.

  20. Agreed that it’s a complex issue and that some did and some still do. It is for these very reasons, complexity and “some do and some don’t” that the issue doesn’t lend itself to one line, broad categorization (sp?).

  21. If I did the best of good deeds so that someone would come to accept a false view of Mashiach, what would have been accomplished overall?

  22. To Mark,

    Yasher Koach for defending the myriad good deeds that Chabad does daily for Klal Yisroel. We can learn so much from their positive attitude and unconditional love for every Jew.

  23. Daniel, thanks for commenting, but I think it’s very important to credit the author of an important and insightful statement. And I don’t think calling the post “the roots of Chabad outreach” implies that Chabad outreach is superior. It’s certainly not a view that I hold.

    Shua, I would be extremely surprised if Rabbi Berger and/or Rabbi Feldman did not recognize or respect any of the positive accomplishments of Chabad. In fact they would probably be violating the mitzvah of Ahavas Yisroel if they did not recognize and respect such positive accomplishments.

    We really need to break the hatred exhibited here. You can disagree with a group, even strongly, as many of us do, and still recognize their accomplishments. In fact it’s something we really need to do.

  24. B”H

    Long time reader/subscriber, first time commenter.

    Honestly, I’m starting to think that this post should have simply been one reminding those involved in kiruv, and indeed all Jews trying to teach Yiddishkeit to other Jews) of the attitude they should have, that of “This Jew is, at the heart of it, a Divine neshoma, and thus, no matter what they have done or what kind of life they have led up until now, and may continue to lead, they are truly and always close to G-d. I just love them so much, that I want to help them get rid of the external layers of insensitivity to G-dliness that have built up over the years.” And, as a side note, to realize that someone who’s frum most definitely has sort sort of similar “insensitivity” layers (my point being, that a frum Jew has problems with, say, loshon hora, just as a secular Jew has problems with, say, kashrus, both because they don’t know/aren’t thinking about G-d when they do these things — they both have yetzer horas).

    Any mention of the Rebbe or Lubavitch, I think, after seeing the reaction, should have been left out, with the message alone remaining.

    I would even concur that the very way the post was presented, as “the roots of Chabad outreach”, i.e., a post about why one group is better at what they do than others, as opposed to a post simply about how Jews should approach and relate to other Jews when teaching them Torah, was a mistake.

    For what it’s worth, and this may hurt my cause, I am a Lubavitcher (struggling to be worthy of adding “chossid” onto that, but that’s another discussion).

  25. Mark Frankel:

    In my responses to your comments I kept referring to you as “Max.” I haven’t the vaguest idea why, but once I made the error I kept repeating it. I apologize.

    As to your comment #23, here goes:

    I assume you’re aware of Prof. David Berger’s book: “The Rebbe the Messiah, and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference.”

    Well, I also hope that you’re aware of the public writings of HaRav Aharon Feldman shlit”a (Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisrael and member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah) on the issue of Chabad theology. Rav Feldman begins his commendation of Dr. Berger as follows (and I hope that the administrator won’t censor the words of an adom gadol):

    “I would like to express my appreciation…This book exposes the danger of a perversion of one of our principles of faith by a significant segment of a Jewish community who are observant of Torah and mitzvos.” (see “The Eye of the Storm,” 2009, p. 201)

    Rav Feldman’s viewpoint mirrors that of many (most?) gedolim of the past and present generation. So, for those of us who consider that the dangers associated with this group subvert the accomplishments, well, we have whom to rely upon. According to Rav Feldman, if there is anything that is “disheartening,” it is the number of otherwise sincere Jews who have fallen victim to a Jewishly unacceptable theology.

  26. I understand the Mishna in Avos’ about “Who is wise – he who learns from everybody” as a directive to actually try to learn from everybody.

    Thankfully, my experience has been that most frum Jews do recognize and respect the positive accomplishments of Chabad, even while seeing the deficiencies. It’s disheartening that some participants in this thread don’t share that viewpoint.

  27. I have a number of frustrations with Kiruv organizations. First, there’s the experience that once you become frum, you get dropped by them like a hot potato. After all, you’re a success, they made you observant, OK now we move on to the next person. Until very recently, the whole idea of followup and continued support for baalei-teshuva was nonexistent. Second, I think they are all looking for a certain type: the rich assimilated young adult snared by a cult who finally got unsnared, and now his/her grateful wealthy parents are going to donate ten million dollars to the Kiruv organization. If you are not a “prize catch” then the Kiruv organizations are not as anxious to spend their time on you.

    I have enormous respect for Chabad for their many acts of kindness given without remuneration. For example, they provide free Jewish burial to poor Jews in the former Soviet Union, and Chabad shluchim serve free Shabbos and Yom Tov meals to people who drop in at their Chabad Houses. I only wonder about the extreme contrast between the glamor of Chabad sponsoring Chanukah wonderland events in wealthy suburbs, as opposed to the reality of divorced female baalos-teshuvah in Crown Heights struggling day to day with poverty and single motherhood. It just brings to mind the posuk in Shir HaShirim about “my own vineyard have I not kept.” Is the neshamah of some Israeli soldier backpacking in Thailand, ten thousand miles away from Eastern Parkway, more important than the neshamah of a BT divorced mom living two blocks from 770?

  28. Bob: Truth be told, I don’t imagine that non-Chabad kiruv organizations are wanting of any kind of relationship with Chabad, harmonious or otherwise.

    The administrator of this site does not want this thread to turn into one of Chabad-bashing. But the entire Lubavitch/Chabad enterprise is a lightening rod for controversy — the nature of their theology, and their claims of hegemony in the Jewish world being, shall we say, rather singular.

    I would suggest that as soon as Beyond Teshuva chooses to publish any piece with “Chabad” in the title (as they have done here), they are courting the very controversy that they wish to avoid.

    Lest this comment be rejected, I won’t go any further, and leave it at that.

  29. Shua,

    It’s bad enough when they believe it themselves. Without this strong belief in their own superiority they could work in better harmony with non-Chabad kiruv initiatives.

  30. “I think it’s generally believed that Chabad is more accepting than others in Kiruv. Many Kiruv people I’ve spoken to will admit this and there are great reasons why this is so.”

    Huh? Max, I see that you *have* bought into Akiva’s agenda. There’s nothing more to be said.

  31. Max:

    The salient line that Akiva wrote is: “So do you walk in looking down on all the poor ignorant masses that you’re about to share your deep Torah knowledge with? You who were raised in Boro Park, served chalal yisroel milk from childhood…etc.”

    By first introducing the teachings of his Rebbe, and then making negative insinuations about other kiruv workers and FFBs by contrast, Akiva implies that Chabad has cornered the market on appropriate kiruv middos, and everyone else needs mussar to reach the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s standards.

    Indeed, I regularly read this site, and I haven’t seen any *empirical evidence* warranting that non-Chabad kiruv professionals and Orthodox Jews are deserving of this mussar lesson from Akiva. I think you’ve missed Akiva’s agenda, Max. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it.

  32. We should also ask how long a kiruv group should be patient with people under its wing who, for example, continue to drive to Shul on Shabbos. This may be tolerable for some beginners (if a Rav OK’s that), but at some point they should cease driving on Shabbos, etc., or get much stronger encouragement from their mentors.

  33. I think it’s generally believed that Chabad is more accepting than others in Kiruv.

    Many Kiruv people I’ve spoken to will admit this, and there are great reasons why this is so, one of which is the Rebbe’s attitude as expressed in this post.

    I think we can all benefit from internalizing this attitude, and learn from the good in everything we see.

  34. I did not say FFB’s uniformly have the right attitude toward BT’s. I said the FFB kiruv people I have met were not condescending toward BT’s. Those who enter kiruv may have a different mindset from some of the others.

    I have observed members of one kiruv group talking/acting as if that group invented and owned the concept, and trying to sabotage the group’s “kiruv competitors”, but that’s a different issue.

  35. Shua, If you would read this site you would clearly see that the FFB attitude towards BTs is quite far from your description of “only love, caring and abiding patience….never condescension”.

    The only thing more amazing in you comment is to think that any experience, much less this one is universal.

  36. My previous attempt to post a comment was rejected. But I am glad that the piece by Akiva was edited, thereby rendering my original post no longer necessary.

    Nevertheless, we are informed that “this piece was written a few years ago and was never posted.” Well, to my mind it was a good call not to post it then, and I don’t believe that it should have been posted now, either. In my humble opinion, its underlying premise is simply false.

    I second Bob Miller’s experience: I am a ba’al teshuva of some thirty years now, and have lived in both MO and Yeshivish communities. Neither I nor my children have ever been looked down upon by FFBs in any of the places we’ve called home. I’m sorry, but I think Akiva is trying to blow smoke where there isn’t any fire. I like Bob Miller’s classification of the supposed phenomenon as an “urban myth.”

    Furthermore, I wouldn’t get hung up over the expression “kiruv rechokim.” No one has ever called me a “richuk,” but the reality is that I was very far from yiddishkeit — in both ruchnius and gashmius — for the first 27 years of my life. I don’t deny it, and I’m not embarrassed by that reality. Those who had mesiras nefesh to help me on my journey back to Torah exhibited only love, caring and abiding patience….never condescension. I truly believe that this is the universal experience of ba’alei teshuva…and I simply don’t understand why Akiva presumes otherwise.

  37. FWIW, I don’t think this was meant to be a “pro-Lubavitch” post. It just so happened that the Lubvitcher Rebbe’s view on the concept of “kiruv rechokim” and that every Jew is close to Hashem and not “far off” is an important one, contrasting with how a BT might view him/herself.

  38. Administrator’s note: This piece was written a few years ago and was never posted, but we thought it contained an important message.

    We just changed the first paragraph to help people focus on the positive here.

  39. This was a great post, Akiva. I was told over those words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe years ago (when I was in a previous career) and they always stuck with me.

    BTW, Avraham and Sara predate those that Charlie mentioned.

    I think today’s kiruv landscape nicely shows that there are mulitple avenues towards outreach.

  40. It was the true ahavat Yisrael of the Shemtov family in Tucson, AZ that brought me to Torah. More than anything else, the casual, unaffected friendliness of this family of the Rebbe’s shlichim nudged me into following the sparks of my soul. I didn’t up a chasid of the Rebbe myself, but I gained a lifelong appreciation of his approach.

    This isn’t just another “yay Chabad they do so much” post; I mean to say that I think it’s specifically this non-condescending view that the Rebbe promoted that makes Chabad so effective in their holy work.

  41. It’s so disappointing when intelligent people can’t give credit to the success of others and need to claim that there group was more successful in that endeavor.

  42. We aren’t conscious of it because we have short memories, but kiruv did not start with the Rebbe. His own ancestors were bringing lost Jews back to Torah before the Rebbe was born, and here in America many modern orthodox rabbis such as Joseph Lookstein and Leo Jung were active in kiruv while the Rebbe was still in engineering school.

  43. “So do you walk in looking down on all the poor ignorant masses that you’re about to share your deep Torah knowledge with?”

    The existence of this attitude may be an urban legend. I have not encountered this attitude among people I’ve met who were engaged in kiruv.

    Instead, I’ve met many shining examples of the “right stuff” such as Rabbi Avraham Jacobovitz of Machon L’Torah:
    http://www.jaam.net/rabbijacobovitz.asp
    http://www.machonltorah.org/index.asp

  44. Maybe it makes me a bad person or a bad Jew, but I often find it difficult not to look down on someone who was raised observant and decided to abandon it.
    I know there could be mitigating factors and we are supposed to give the benefit of the doubt, etc, but my initial reaction is to view some one like that negitively. I’m not saying it is right or good midos, but I’m only human.

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