It Has Merely Just Begun

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13 Responses

  1. Bob Miller says:

    Part of the disagreement among writers on this topic stems from the fact that the religious communities discussed are complex and diverse, whether they look that way superficially or not. A Jewish seeker can be exposed to a family and shul in one community and become inspired, but he can also be exposed to another family and shul in the same community and be turned off. Sometimes, the fault causing “failure” lies with the contacts or overall environment, and sometimes with the seeker. Sometimes no one is at fault, but things just don’t click. This points to kiruv as being an art more than a science, much as it is with matchmaking. In major league baseball, the best hitters, a small subset of all active players, succeed at bat only 30%-40% of the time.

  2. cvmay says:

    Lovely and insightful posting, Rabbi Goldberg.
    In essence, the Rov redefined Kiruv (from the old slogan of every secular Jew is seen as a potential baali tshuva) and brought it closer to home. We all need, desire and will benefit from a more intimate relationship with our creator. Go for it!!!

  3. Meir Goldberg says:

    Thanks. This is actually not the original article, but it gets my point across. If anyone would like to see the longer original (which also touches on left wing modern Orthodoxy and the myth of the ffb world funding kiruv) feel free to email me at [email protected]

  4. lacosta says:

    If you compare the frum attrition rate today with that of the communities over the last 250 years, we are actually doing well. While we do not produce gedolim on par with those of prewar Europe, our baalabatim are certainly holding their own.

    —– is there any data on any of this, or conjecture?

    2] could one argue that kiruv krovim with a goal of 100% fidelity would be an equally good use of the funding?

  5. Yahu Skaist says:

    Rabbi Goldberg, while I agree with your thesis that involvement in kiruv is a very elevating experience for the already frum, from my experience in “out of town” kiruv I agree with Rabbi Feldman’s contention. I have observed people, both mekarvim and mekuravim go through the entire cycle; from initial intense inspiration to a jaded sense of loving yiddishkeit but disillusion with its purported practitioners. The bottom line is that when you are mekarev someone the job is not done when they “move into the eruv”, much in the same way that all Jews need chizuk. My impression is that we are creating a “thin skinned” Jewish community; both the already observant and the newly observant are becoming increasingly dependent on second and third hand source material for learning and can not find their own place in Torah learning, common sense in people’s everyday decision making has become clouded with a superficial religious-feel-good “hashkafa” that ignores basic realities of the human condition, both in those that have immediate effects and in decisions that will destroy lives in the long run. Right now, one may feel good and become more inspired about his or her own yiddishkeit when involved in kiruv but that is not necessarily internal growth and if we do not pull ourselves together and get back to basics, eventually the thin “skin” of inspiration will burst. I’ve seen it burst in individual cases and I see it bursting at communal levels.

  6. L. Oberstein says:

    Pardon me for waxing nostalgic. 40 years ago I was a teacher for Pinky Bak z”l in Vancouver and we were doing kiruv on the students of the school and the NCSY. Visiting Toronto in 2013, some of these “kids” contact me and they are frum,raising frum families, learning Torah and they thank me for what little I had to do with their lives. It is very gratifying. Those on the front lines of kiruv are saving generations of Jews for Judaism.
    One problem I did see is that within our own camp, there are those who demand absolute fielty to their understanding of Torah and are quick to expell anyone who veers even a little bit off their path to truth.When I see a Kol Korfeh that saying that someone who has a divergent opinion is an apikorus and someone who says that someone who says that it is OK to include that person within orthodoxy despite his divergent views is also an apikorus, I wonder how many of us will be left who are not apikorsim when the day is done. How can we reach out to others when we eat up our own for thinking a little differently? In Pinky’s day, we were very tolerant, but, today so much of orthodoxy is thuggish.

  7. L. Oberstein says:

    I asked Rabbi Goldberg for the complete version of his article which he sent me. The disturbing statistic (if indeed it is a real statistic,which I do not know as the source is third hand) is that 50% of Modern Orthodox kids are not shomer shabbos two years after high school is scary. I recently asked a graduate of a Jerusalem high school-modern orthodox- and he said that 50% of his fellow graduates are also not frum any longer. He added that half of those who attended the school were not really strictly frum at the time either.
    In israel they call these people Datlashim, Datiim l’sheh’avar, formerly religious. We call them “off the derech” in this country.
    Forty years ago, Rabbi Steve Riskin cme to Vancouver to recruit Pinky bak to come to New York to found a Modern Orthodox high school that would instill the same “bren” for yiddishkeit and “mesiras nefesh” that Pinky instilled in numerous young people in Vancouver in the early 1970’s. Tragically, Pinky died less than two years later and that school long ago ceased to exist. Why can’t we instill enthusiasm and fervor in so many of our children? What is at the root of this problem and what can we do to correct it?

  8. Meir Goldberg says:

    @Lacosta Which statement were you looking for hard data for? I assume you meant the frum attrition rate. There is much evidence that right wing modern orthodoxy and the Yeshiva/Chassidish communities are doing far better in keeping in our own than in Europe for the last 250 years. (Left wing modern orthodoxy is hemorrhaging at a 50% rate – they are in big trouble. I talk about that in my original article and I have been screaming about it to anyone who will listen, that Kiruv people must reach out to LW Modern Orthodox on campus)

    I have asked those who work with kids off the derech what the at risk rate is nowadays and it seems like it is somewhere between 5 – 10 percent (I admit that even 1% is too much). R’ Ronnie Greenwald stated at an AJOP convention several years ago that 80% of these kids eventually come back to yiddishkeit often more mature and better off.

    Compare that to Frankfurt of the early to mid 1800’s when almost everyone went off, America of 100 years ago when 90% went off, Vilna before WW2 which had something like 2/3 of it’s kids enrolled in secular schools (See The World That Was: Lithiuania page 35 that has quite a depressing letter from R’ Chaim Ozer). Rav CD Rabinowitz in his History of the Jewish People states that Eastern European Jewry was 50 years behind Western European Jewry in terms of spiritual collapse.
    See “Reb Yaakov” biography which quotes Rav Zeidel Epstein receiving instructions from Rav Shimon Shkop not to insist on marrying a girl who would cover her hair since he would never find a shidduch.
    Note the Mir Yeshiva bochurim not marrying until a late age since marrying a Yeshiva boy was something that few girls wanted.
    I can go on and on from first hand witnesses.

    The fact is the “failure narrative” about today’s frum world so popular in the blogosphere and in the frum media today is overly pessimistic. We all know the frum world has major problems which need to be corrected and dealt with in an open way, but when we overdo it we lose credibility.

  9. Meir Goldberg says:

    @Lacosta Re kiruv funding – As I point out in my original article, 2 families provide 50% of world wide kiruv funds, and much of the remaining Kiruv monies come from secular Jews and Baalei Teshuva. We do in fact spend far more on kiruv krovim. Furthermore, at risk youth is not necessarily a problem solved with more money. It has a lot more to with parenting, family trauma and abuse, middos and erlichkeit, emunah, people caring about another, etc, etc. Those are things unrelated to money.

    If you mean that we should spend more money on Kiruv Krovim efforts of left wing modern orthodox students, I make that point in my original article.

  10. Meir Goldberg says:

    @Yahu Skaist Doing Kiruv is not feel good Judaism. It requires the mekarev, whether s/he be full time or volunteer, to prepare real Torah material in a deep and clear way, to grapple with real questions about emunah, taamei hamitzvos, etc. To go out of ones way to do chesed, make a beautiful and inspiring shabbos meal, genuinely care about the person you are reaching out to and help them in all areas of life, not just spiritual needs. This is not skin deep, feel good Judaism. It is the essence of what Hashem wants of us.

  11. DF says:

    50%, 80%, 5-10% – these numbers are meaningless. All we have is antecdotal hunches based on our own experiences. And I dont have experience with the modern orthodx, but I can see clearly that there are many, many young people from perfectly mainstream orthdox families who are no longer frum. (I dont mean OU orthodox – I mean Agudah, Young Israel, Lakewood offshoots, as well as all the older legacy shuls.) For a long time I didnt realize this, since the population is exploding, k’h. You see so many kids in hats or velvets, you think everything’s great. But nobody notices the guys you DONT see. Its only on rare occasions, like a simcha, when we actually realize that hey, there’s another sibling in that family who you never see, and often more than one. It is absolutely rampant. And I’m not sure what conclusion can be drawn from this, nor am I convinced any should be drawn, nor am I sure this is not simply the way of the world as its been since time immemorial.

  12. Yahu Skaist says:

    Rabbi @Meir Goldberg, I know kiruv involves all of that, but when the “real” relationships fizzle because the person is now frum and the mekarev needs to produce more numbers to satisfy the 2 or three families who are footing the bill of his salary, we are left with some very big problems. I am not saying “Stop Kiruv!” If someone comes across our paths we have a mitzvah to be mekarev him with divrei Shalom, but the mitzvah to teach Torah applies to all Jews and we are losing possibly at least as many as we think we are saving.

  13. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    I agree with the general drift of the conversation that inreach/kiruv krovim is very necessary, as is followup as well as targeting MO youth on secular campuses. I just want to add that outside the US and Israel, one of the major kiruv players is (gasp!) World Bnai Akiva. Look up their website and see what they do in Europe, South Africa, South America, Australia. Their clientele outside the US and Israel (although some there, too) are by and large not frum, in some cases facing very hard cases of isolation and secularism, such as in Scandinavia or in Catholic countries where anti-clerical socialism is rampant and there are Muslims about. Those in some (boldface that) hareidi communities who ask cleverly, “But what are they being mekarev them to?” are welcome to go out to Sweden or Italy and try their luck at the “real thing”. They won’t.

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