Thursday, October 22, 2009

On Bad Kiruv

[I've been mulling this post for a while, partially because I haven't had actual time to write (not that I do now either) and partially because I wanted to make absolutely certain that I say this right. So, here goes, but I just want to make sure on the outset to clarify that I do not mean to offend anyone who reads this blog, that this post does not refer to anyone who I know reads this blog, and that I would love to hear from those of you who have more informed comments on this topic. End disclaimer.]

I have the utmost respect for ba'alei teshuva. Both my parents are ba'alei teshuva and every once in a while one of them says something that makes me realize how hard it was for them. And I recognize that I cannot even begin to fathom how hard it is to turn your life upside down like that. I have no idea if I would be able to do it and am thankful that I am an FFB—and am in awe of my friends who are ba'alei teshuva.

But I have very little respect for some kiruv organizations. Organizations whose members will go up to students on a college campus and ask if they are Jewish and then bring them to a beautiful Shabbat meal but then sort of let them float, not helping them find their way and never letting them know that there is something in between not religious and charedi. Seminaries that spend a year emphasizing tzniut and being shomer negiah (not bad things in and of themselves) but send girls home not even knowing what a lulav and etrog are and without a support system of any kind. Kiruv organizations that tell people they are frum as soon as the guy puts on a yarmulka and the girl puts on a skirt and then try to marry them off before they know how to keep a kosher kitchen.

Kiruv organizations have a responsibility to do it right if they're going to do it. Sending the newly mekarev-ed back home with a commitment to the beauty of the fluffy stuff without the support system and without the knowledge or venues to obtain the knowledge that is required to actually be frum is asking for these people to fail.

And that is awful for the people who are so attracted to orthodoxy and awful for the Jewish community.


At 10/26/09, 5:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont have personal experience in campus kiruv, but I do know some people who do. Of course you are mostly correct in what you say. It is a great shame the way things are run. The people on campus have to mark up the numbers of students they have managed to reach out to and to what degree. This is all to satisfy the financial backers of the organizations that employ them. The people on campuses are for the most part very genuine people who try their best to keep up with those who they have met and advise them if they can. Sadly, it is left to the organization to take over the reins post university in particular if/when the students move back home. Their systems aren't set up for that, and don't have the money to fund it. They barely have funding for they already are doing. Perhaps this is the old debate of quality vs quantity. Backers are always impressed with figures and its difficult to convince them otherwise. I know that this all sounds a little simplistic, (and a little socialist) but I honestly think in this case that it is the key factor.


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