Professor Jack Wertheimer recently penned a good article in Commentary Magazine called The Outreach Revolution. Although he clearly read the Klal Perspective’s issue on the subject, he adds much worthy information to the discussion and his extremely positive assessment of the Kiruv enterprise was a refreshing change from KPs gloomier editorial assessment.
By fully including Chabad in the Outreach Revolution, Wertheimer states that 5,000-7,000 Kiruv workers in the US, lead an estimated 2,000 Jews to Orthodoxy each year, which comes to about 1 Orthodox person for every 3 kiruv workers. He also makes the point that Chabad and many other Kiruv professionals don’t consider Orthodoxy the goal of Kiruv, and by assuming that each Kiruv worker reaches about 100 people a year, outreach touches 500,000-700,000 Jews a year, an impressive figure.
The article ably documents the strengths and weaknesses of different outreach efforts and its effects on Conservative and Reform Jews. What stood out to me were the two types of outreach that he outlined: the over ambitious leading people to Orthodoxy, and what he termed latitudinarianism, reaching out regardless of outcomes.
Perhaps there’s a middle path to be defined here, helping Jews strengthen their spiritual sides, a step at a time. Taking small steps away from the materialism that is the default in the US, towards a G-d centered spirituality through the learning of Torah and performance of mitzvah. The focus is on the here and now and the appropriate steps for each individual with no “becoming Orthodox” agenda looming large.
The main problem is exciting donors with these modest goals. However, I think that with healthier goals, we might get many more people involved, because we overcome the “fear of becoming frum” deterrent that keeps people away.