The Success of Chareidi Kiruv

As much as I enjoy reading Jonathan Rosenblum’s column in Mishpacha each week, I find it painful. Comparing my own poor attempt at communication with the richness of his thought and expression always leaves me feeling inadequate.

Last week was no different. How many people in our community would have thought of introducing a column with a reference to Alain Finkielkraut? Many in our community whose secular (non-)education came through our day schools criticize writers for Mishpacha for using “Artscroll English.” Among them, many surely believe that Finkielkraut must be the inventor of a new condiment for hot dogs.

Jonathan, however, doesn’t pander to the lowest educational common denominator. His writing always attempts to not only stimulate and educate, but also to elevate. There are almost always some subliminal messages thrown in, gently prodding a community to make small changes in its thinking.

To succeed in that, he has to limit what he can say. I am not subject to the same intensity of limitation, so I can take what he says to the next level. Which is what I feel compelled to do in regard to the column at hand.

Jonathan reacted to a woman announcing that she was shifting her previous support of Chareidi kiruv projects to a Dati-leumi (DL; national religious) one in Tel Aviv. After all, she reasoned, DL should be far more successful at kiruv than chareidim, given that the latter come laden with baggage. In the popular mind, chareidim in Israel are associated with both poverty and secular ignorance.

Jonathan’s column shows why her conclusion, while reasonable, runs afoul of the facts on the ground. For decades, the vast majority of kiruv everywhere has been done by chareidim, despite the handicaps. Several factors help explain why Chareidi kiruv succeeds, says Jonathan:

1) Chareidi kiruv workers overcome the negative stereotypes by exposing potential students to role models who are neither poor nor ignorant. The message is that you can have it all. You can participate in the strength and vitality of the Chareidi community without giving up on academic and professional goals. Secular Jews can be welcomed in without their feeling that those who invite them in “are too alien to the world from which prospective baalei teshuvah are coming.”
2) Chareidi mekarvim – at least the better ones – do not demand that their students become their clones. They are pleased when students come closer to halachic observance, regardless of the head-covering that they ultimately don.
3) Most importantly, what potential students look for is authenticity and passion, and these have been lacking in the DL community. Too often, secular Jews see DL Jews as very much like themselves, other than the wearing of a kipah serugah.

I have nothing to fault in Jonathan’s analysis. That analysis, however, looked only at the past. Looking forward (and I can say this much more easily than he can), the outlook is not so rosy. Let us look at each of the three points he made.

1) While kiruv workers can point to role models who have got it all together, the baal teshuvah soon finds out that those models – especially in Israel, which is what Jonathan’s column was primarily about – are not in such strong supply. More importantly, when they come cheek to jowl with the educational system to which they are expected to commit their children, they are in for a shock. They learn that their children will be given secular education so inadequate that they will have little choice but to become part of that system of poverty. Even in the US, the standards of secular education of almost all yeshiva high schools in the Chareidi orbit are abysmal, while attitudes towards genuine preparation for vocation are even worse. (Thank G-d for Touro.)
2) It is true that many mekarvim do not demand robotic imitation by their protégées. The same cannot always be said about the ordinary people with whom the baalei teshuvah wind up living. There, concepts like “it’s not done,” “it doesn’t pas,” and “it will be bad for shidduchim” terrorize people and snuff out much individuality and creativity.

Taken together, these last two points often create crisis in the children of baalei teshuvah, and sometimes in the BTs themselves decades later. I have heard from far too many BT’s that had they known then what they know now; they never would have become frum! (In all fairness, the majority of those do not regret the decision, even as they struggle on. It might be more accurate to say that at least one kind of BT has no regrets: the kind that learned that Torah is true, and because of that, must be followed no matter the expense or hardship. Those who took on observance because the life-style was extremely appealing – but not because they acquired a sense of its compelling truth – are in real danger of recidivism. This observation should have profound impact on the way batei din treat geirus candidates, where the vast majority come from the latter category. But that will have to be a different essay.)

3) The DL community has become more complex. Comparisons are both fraught and painful to too many people. Suffice it to say that today in Israel you will find plenty of the passionate types with real commitment and background in learning. They resemble – other than the wearing of kipot serugot – the successful Agudah professional in the US. It might very well be that in the future the more learned and observant part of the DL community will succeed with secular Israelis while chareidim will fail.

It is probably best to conclude not with a quote from Finkielkraut, but from my kind of intellectual. Yogi Berra famously opined “it is hard to make predictions, especially about the future.” The bottom line is that all of the above is speculative, while Jonathan’s analysis is a real contribution.

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38 Responses

  1. chardal says:

    There is no way to compare chareidi kiruv to DL “kiruv”. Up until recently, the DL community had no interest in the kind of evangelical approach that chareidi kiruv organizations take. That being said, one could argue that the mamalachti dati school system as well as bnei akiva youth movement are the biggest and most successful kiruv organizations in the world. Many people in my yeshuv were not raised in religious homes but were exposed to observance because their parents sent them to mamlachti dati schools and that track led them to observance.

    But in the end, until a real sociological study is done on the transitions between various religious sectors, it is impossible to speak intelligently on where it is best to spend the money. The woman Rosenblum is talking about it not speaking from a position of knowledge but rather from gut speculation.

  2. Marty Bluke says:

    I find it very troubling that Charedi kiruv institutions put a moderate face on Judaism when they clearly don’t believe it. Aish Hatorah published an article a few years ago “Women at Work” which claims that Orthodox women can work at any job that they want.

    “Let’s get something perfectly clear: Jewish women work. One of my neighbors is a nuclear physicist. I’m a zoo veterinarian.

    And nowadays, like women all over the Western world, they work in every field. Some run their own businesses or are part of a larger corporation. Here in Israel one of my neighbors is a nuclear physicist. Another is a school principal. Several good friends are lawyers. One’s a pediatrician. Two are successful artists. I’m a zoo veterinarian.

    My point is, little is forbidden to us. We work in the fields we want. We have open choices. We can choose to work part-time or full-time. ”

    If Aish Hatorah was a Modern or Centrist Orthodox institution then these statements would be perfectly true and not misleading. However, Aish Hatorah is a Charedi institution and it’s goal for it’s students is that they join Israeli Charedi society. The fact is that if Elizabeth had been born to a Charedi family she would not have had a choice to be a veterinarian, a nuclear physicist or anything other then a school teacher. University study is strictly prohibited. In Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak even getting a high school diploma is prohibited (see this post No Bagrut for Beis Yaakov girls?). All the women that she brings as examples fall into one of 2 categories:

    1. Baalei teshuva
    2. They grew up in modern homes

    None of the women cited grew up in a Charedi home in Israel, because if they had they would not be where they are today.

    According to Charedi hashkafa, University study is prohibited, yet those are the examples they site when trying to be mekarev people. None of the faculty at Aish Hatorah in Yerushalayim send their daughters to university and their daughters do not have the ability to do what they want. They will be kollel wives who support their husbands by teaching or being a secretary, cashier etc. They have absolutely no choice to be Veterinarians, Nuclear Physicists, Lawyers, etc. To say otherwise is simply a lie.

  3. Mike S. says:

    I am not familiar with kiruv in Israel. However, the claim that there is neither passion or authenticity in the dati le’umi community in Israel or the modern orthodox community in the US is a gross slander.

  4. Bruria Meltzer says:

    I am a baal teshuva of over 25 years with 4 grown up children who went through the usual Israeli chareidi yeshiva, and beis yakov education, all of whose extended family are chiloni.
    I myself grew up overseas.
    I cannot protest too strongly the assertion that chareidi are given a “secular education so inadequate that they will have little choice but to become part of that system of poverty”.
    While, for technical reasons neither I nor my husband continued higher education after high school,I have an excellent and well above-average general education, which I acquired through natural intellectual curiosity, and we both hold senior and well paying positions – he in the industrial sector, and I in the financial.
    Two of my sons are avreichim in top kollelim, after learning in two of the best Chareidi yeshivos in Israel – and because of the atmosphere of the home they grew up in, and their own intellectual curiosity, have a general education that has proven to be at least, if not far above, the level of education of ALL of their 20 or so hiloni cousins/second cousins of their generation both here and abroad.
    This is for the simple reason that, not being distracted with the various types of sports and entertainment which takes up most of the time of their chiloni peers, they can pursue “extra-curricular” interests in world events, science, technology, etc.
    To quote the famous saying: “Education is what you have left over after you have forgotten everything you learned in school”
    It is well known that most high school graduates here in Israel leave school abysmally ignorant, and, having wasted their years in high school “having fun”, need to complete their “bagrut” by cramming in external matriculation schools such as Lachman in order to get into university .
    That being said, the part about bt’s coming up against a wall of prejudice and narrow-mindedness in chareidi circles is very true, and very ugly. However, in all my decades of experience in b.t. circles, while all of us have experienced it to whatever extent, I know of nobody who was “terrorized” by it, and the overwhelming majority learn to live with it and simply find their own circle .
    I enjoy reading Cross currents and R. Adlerstein’s pieces, but after years of reading contributions by Rabbanim in the US , in order to fully understand what happens here in Israel , one has to actually live here – among Israeli chareidim, and not be influenced by the slanted Israeli chiloni press.
    Chareidi society is definitely flawed, but definitely not in the ways chiloni say it is, but rather just the opposite; the ones to judge it are the Gedoley Yisrael, and it is chutzpa for any chiloni to criticize it. If anything, its problems result from not enough Torah learning – not too much!! (I am reminded of the statement by Harav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld ZTz”l who, when the Mufti suggested they join forces against the Zionists, as they both hated Zionism, answered the Mufti “You hate Zionism for the “Jewishness” in it, while I hate it for the “Goyishness” in it.)

    [YA – You are quite fortunate to have found ways to employment without the usual credentials. No one is denying that such is possible. But it is not the rule. For too many jobs, there is no way around presenting the qualifications that employers seek, whether they make sense or not. When speaking of an entire community of hundreds of thousands of people, keeping them from degree granting programs is going to translate into unemployment and underemployment – just as it does in the US. Here, chassidim do not shy away from work, but are typically underemployed, with very large numbers living below the poverty level, increasingly attracting the negative attention of the general population that is supporting them through social welfare programs.

    I don’t know of goings-on in the Israeli charedi community by reading Haaretz. What I know comes from friends living there for decades, and two sets of grandchildren living in the charedi system. I don’t wish to see the charedi community weakened, but strengthened. I am aware of its berachos at least as much as pained by its failures. And despite the latter, I remain an advocate for it to outside forces such as Israeli government personnel.]

  5. Dr. E says:

    One of the well-known challenges for beneficiaries of Chareidi Kiruv is the social challenge of “fitting in”. The FFB community will always see them as outsiders. Another challenge for those who find observance later in life is in how they bring up their own children. Many Baal Teshuva parents will overcompensate for the spiritual inadequacies of their own upbringing and buy-in to the new system. As the kids get older, they are not so much tempted to re-connect with the ideology of their nonobservant grandparents and first cousins. What they are tempted by is the universal normal human need to self sufficiency, which as they mature, will come to know is totally consistent with normal levels of Orthodox and Halachic observance. When they can’t find role models for such consonance, they very well might opt for the self-sufficiency without the observance.

    For many BT’s. their fitting in requires that they move from their place of residence and emigrate to the “big cities” which have the shuls, yeshivas, and kosher food which their mentors have touted. However, once absorbed, many quickly become just a number. They are both ideological and geographical outsiders. Many have given up stable jobs for the sake of the relocation. Due to their years of spiritual journey and transition, some have disconnected with education and skills which they accrued and find themselves employment challenged. Unfortunately, most Kiruv workers have neither the background, training or connections to provide the necessary support—after the end game of “becoming frum”.

    I think that Rabbi Adlerstein makes a good point when he points to the lack of role models. Kiruv workers are often not completely socially integrated with (American Chareidi) Yeshiva educated professionals (beyond “can you take this person for a Shabbos meal?” or “can we count on your support for this year’s dinner?”) Even if they were, the Yeshiva educated professionals who are potential role models for the BT’s are often pre-occupied with their own families and communities (working, raising children, shidduchim, chessed, simchas, and more working until they are 120 to support their own children in Kollel). Therefore, even beyond the social distance attributable to differences in their upbringing, they don’t really have the time, interest, or energy to mentor the Baal Teshuva family who moves into the neighborhood.

    On a side note, it is unfortunate that besides Jonathan, there are few in the Chareidi world (below the age of 50) who are capable of writing beyond Artscroll English. Proper written English is certainly not a skill which is being nurtured through the prevalent chinuch system (although there are still some Mestivtas which offer an occasional class in “English as a Second Language”). While I often disagree with Jonathan for his defense of the system, I lament the fact that in 20 or 25 years, there will be no one from his community who will be able to carry on the mantle, as there will be no more well-adjusted BT’s informed by Yale.

  6. Arnie Lustiger says:

    Kiruv has unfortunately been placed on the back-burner for the Dati Leumi community. Here is something I heard from David Luchins, fomer assistant to Daniel Moynihan – After Menachem Begin got elected in 1977, Rabbi Soloveitchik declared that this event signalled the end of religious Zionism, because the Dati Leumi focus would now be entirely on shtachim, ignoring the essential part of the religious-Zionist vision. This declaration was prophetic. The original vision of the Mizrachi party, including injecting kashrus in the army, kiddushin/ gittin kehilchasa and basic Torah eduction for every Israeli Jew, has essentially been abandoned. Avner Shaki of the old Mizrachi school once said that the purpose of those who wear the Kippah Serugah is to become prominent professionals, creating Kidush Hashem, so the average Israeli can look at their frum professional peers and ultimately come to emulate them. Today, if you were to ask the typical secular Israeli to quickly name someone who is Dati-Leumi, he is likely to mention Yigal Amir. So much for Kiddush Hashem. Today, the antipathy of the Israeli public towards those who wear the Kippah Serugah is almost at the same level as the chiloni antipathy towards the Chareidim, but for different reasons. Chareidim don’t know how to say thank you for an army that protects them, while the Dati Leumi have alienated the general population who look askance at the settlement enterprise.

  7. Harry Maryles says:

    As always, your insights are right on the mark. Outreach is yet another casualty of the move to the right that has become the hallmark of the Charedi world, especially in Israel.

    The kind of role model that has both Charedi values and is a trained professional is becoming an rare bird and increasingly hard to find – as Charedi society increasingly moves away from the kind of education required to such a person.

    This is why it is imperative in my view for the rest of the observant community to stand together in support of installing a core curriculum of Limudei Chol in Israeli Charedi high schools in order to be funded by the government. If they won’t do it themselves, it must be done for them with the support of the rest of the observant world. We cannot allow this to become a frum versus anti frum issue, which is how some Israeli rabbininc leaders and their politicians frame it. The Frum community must take a proactive position on this even if the Charedi leadership in Israel would object.

  8. joel rich says:

    1) Chareidi kiruv workers overcome the negative stereotypes by exposing potential students to role models who are neither poor nor ignorant. The message is that you can have it all. You can participate in the strength and vitality of the Chareidi community without giving up on academic and professional goals. Secular Jews can be welcomed in without their feeling that those who invite them in “are too alien to the world from which prospective baalei teshuvah are coming.”

    You lost me at “you can have it all”, especially when coupled with “without giving up on academic and professional goals” when all those examples are baalei tshuva who didn’t come up through the chareidi model. I’m reminded of the commercial from the 80’s telling women they “could have it all” (as kosher as its lyrics “gonna bring home the ba-con, fry it up in a paaaan”) which put unreachable expectations on a whole generation of newly liberated housewives.

    Life is about resources and priorities so unless we engage in clintonian analysis (what do have and it and all mean?), I suggest this could be classified as a mekach taut (sale under false pretenses)

  9. Bob Miller says:

    So the kiruv pro puts his best foot forward and becomes an attractive role model for the cause, but may be atypical of the group he recruits for. Maybe it’s inevitable that the pros will be a cut above the rest, but what is being done to keep the rest at a high enough level to make their communities and institutions proper homes for sincere BT’s (or really for all sincere Orthodox Jews)? Or at least to identify for BT’s those communities that are already at or near this level? If communities and institutions aren’t being consciously upgraded, but their leaders and rank-in-file rest on their laurels in self-satisfaction or maybe self-deception, progess could be hard to make.

  10. Aharon Orloff says:

    What does DL stand for?

    [YA – Dati-leumi, or national-religious. I’ve inserted that now in the body of the piece. Thanks for pointing out the omission.]

  11. lacosta says:

    neither rJR nor rYA mentioned the economics factor— ie given that there is a large pool of hareilim of varied ages in the Torah Umnato category—which means that their torah activity is being reimbursed by government/mosdot funding , they are free to do activities during the day – like kiruv, demonstrations , etc that ‘working stiff’s don’t have the luxury of participating in. it is not clear how a class of non- ‘working’ DL large enough to be similarly involved will develop….

    [YA – The people I know in kiruv, both here and in Israel, virtually without exception, are the stiffest of workers. Not only do they work insane hours, but they carry all their fundraising on their own shoulders. Nine to five jobs are much easier.]

  12. Aryeh Lev says:

    Great column as usual. Good kiruv can persuade non-Orthodox Jews that the Torah is true, that the Torah-observant world is diverse, and that they can be religious and still hold onto many of the positive values they bring with them from the secular world (many of which come from the Torah in the first place).

    But not even the best kiruv can paper over real problems in Orthodox communities of all stripes: casual disrespect and demonization of non-Jews and non-Orthodox Jews, groupthink, peer pressure, weak secular education and crushing poverty in the Haredi community, political extremism in the Israeli DL community, widespread religious apathy in the American MO community. These problems aren’t all widespread, there are many exceptions, and there is still cause for optimism. However we are kidding ourselves if we think that clever kiruv can cover up real problems that we ourselves admit exist.

    Orthodox Jews are a growing community visible on the local and global stages. People can see us–all of us–and not just the parts of our world that we want them to see. And only we can decide if we want to be the type of community that our non-Orthodox brethren might consider joining.

  13. DF says:

    JR is always excellent, no doubt. I would refine, however, the third point he makes, and the objection to it. His point is not that the DL community is passionless, but rather, that they are so NORMAL. In his own words:

    >”Perhaps that is why 60 years of full participation in Israeli society and culture by the national religious community has produced so little kiruv. Coworkers may acknowledge that the guy wearing a kippah srugah is a fine fellow, but they do not see him as essentially different from them — except for the kippah — and therefore are unlikely to have their curiosity about Torah life piqued in any way.:<

    In other words, JR seems to see value in being exotic. It seems to suggest that having a beard or wearing a kappotah/black suit every day somehow make one better than another, and the absence of such outer novelty in the DL community hampers them from kiruv. Of course, the issue of dress is a very old issue, and was even one of the planks of the Protestant Reformation. What JR should recognize is that the type of people who are piqued by the exteriors of charedi Jews might be more attracted to Torah by their emotions, rather than by their intellect. And it is precisely such people – when the music stops, and the religious euphoria of discovery fades – who are most susceptible to the worst dangers of kiruv and ballei teshuvah.

  14. lacosta says:

    neither rJR nor rYA mentioned the economics factor— ie given that there is a large pool of hareilim of varied ages in the Torah Umnato category—which means that their torah activity is being reimbursed by government/mosdot funding , they are free to do activities during the day – like kiruv, demonstrations , etc that ‘working stiff’s don’t have the luxury of participating in. it is not clear how a class of non- ‘working’ DL large enough to be similarly involved will develop….

    [YA – Not the people I know in kiruv, both here and in Israel. They work insanely long hours, and have to shoulder the burden of their fundraising themselves. ]

  15. lacosta says:

    >>>I lament the fact that in 20 or 25 years, there will be no one from his community who will be able to carry on the mantle, as there will be no more well-adjusted BT’s informed by Yale.

    —- 2 comments to this .
    1] as marty bluke noted , there will always be talented BT’s who were properly educated [secularly] who will be the writers of that era. JR could be included int hat box.

    2] the new hareili oriented university-type options will certainly provide technically skilled people— maybe not physics PhD’s [but maybe yes], though Men of Letters less likely—but a hareili lawyer has to write a proper brief, so writing skills will be there…..

  16. L. Oberstein says:

    Your nalysis is on the mark. The fact s that passion seems to correlate to total committment. Inother words, it is much easier to be passionate if your mind is made up and you have no doubts that what you are teaching is directly from Mt Sinai. Those who are more broad minded are also more moderate and thus more lukewarm. Nobody comes close to Chabad in producing men and women who are willing to devote their lives to kiruv and to live far from the centers of Jewish life long term. The next level are the kiruv koillelim which go as a group and thus reinforce one another. The religious zionist/YU kollelim are trying to copy the successful models but do their members have the same long term committment. After all the brouhaha ,how much passion for kiruv is there in open orthodoxy. Their answer is that they send rabbis to shuls that are in the boondocks, but you need life long committment and for that there is no one who holds a candle to the Rebbe’s shluchim.

  17. cns says:

    Any sense of what percentage of kiruv workers in Israel are Israeli born Charedim? My intuitions tell me that most either are either BT’s themselves or grew up MO or American Charedi. While there are of course differences between these categories, each is substantially more open than the Israeli Charedi society that they are recruiting towards. How much of their success is explained by this factor?

    [YA – Living in LA, the only evidence I have access to are the meshulachim for all those kiruv organizations who ring the doorbell. And the vast majority of them are Israel-born and bred charedim!]

  18. Rafael Guber says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein once again your direct honest and heartfelt desire to speak truth warms my neshama. Some times I fell so alone. I am totally flummoxed be the (Lehavdil) near Orwellian reconstruction of the recent Jewish past? I attended some simchas in the last month where I witnessed a kind of dress up of people who have somewhat uncomfortably reinvented themselves to look and act like members of a world whose roots they believe go back to Sinai.These people believe that unless all there sons marry rich girls so they can sit and learn forever they have some how failed to lived up to an ancient mesorah.

    The mesorah of full time learning for all adult males as a “national goal” of real Torah Jews can be traced back 210 years to the founding of Rav Chaim’s Yeshiva. Fourteen years after the passing of The Grau,Zechrono Levrocho, the Lithuanian community was bereft of its greatest leader and facing the growth by leaps and bounds of Chassidus which was seen as a real threat. This new imprimator of Brisk was pushed and promulgated as the new normal. We need to remember that before Chassidim their were no Misnagdim. We might conjecture that Rav Chaim, Zezhrono Levrocha,saw that by broadening the base of leaning to the entire community he was schlugging up those who claimed that Lithuanian Torah Jewry was elitist, and not available to all comers as Chassidus seemed to be. He broadened the base by upping the stakes and redefining a new bench park of community standards and true frum Jews .

    We must remember that Lithuania especially prior to 1804, had the strongest tradition of community schuls proudly delineated by professions, (the shoemakers schul, the the shnaders schul, the Kupfer’s schul, etc.) Work and Torah went hand and hand in Lithuania. It was a mark of pride to work all day and attend serious shiurim at night.

    This real mesorah has been expunged from the books. People who peddle “Oiysgetracte mieses” about our recent past do a disservice to the truth and by definition trivialize (Chas vShalom) Torah and our own recent ancestors.

    It also feeds a kind of OCD substitute for truly emmesdik reasons to perform mitzvos.

  19. David F says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein makes some valid points and some of the commenters do as well, but the inconvenient truth is that currently with a few minor exceptions and NCSY which is a major exception, virtually all kiruv is done by the Charedi world. We can quibble over all the reasons that they won’t be successful, and how the model is not sustainable, and everything else, but the reality is that they’re the ones doing it and there’s a very simple reason for that.
    The reason is that kiruv is one of the hardest, loneliest, and impoverished jobs out there, and it requires dedication on a very high level. The level of dedication and passion required is rarely found outside of the Charedi world. Sure, there are individuals in the DL world who have lots of passion and dedication, but on a wholesale basis, there’s no one who has to the degree that it’s found in the Charedi world. And that’s the reason it can’t and won’t be done elsewhere.
    It’s not much different from the situation on MO schools which have a hard time staffing themselves from within their community. No one wants a job that pays peanuts when they can become lawyers and doctors. The passion required is unfortunately absent.
    So while everyone here will predict the demise of Charedi kiruv, the fact remains that it’s not going anywhere.

  20. Mark says:

    “Aish Hatorah published an article a few years ago “Women at Work” which claims that Orthodox women can work at any job that they want.”

    There may be a small (very small) bit of truth in that statement regarding women, but would any kiruv professional EVER tell a kiruv target that 61% of charedi men in Israel don’t work?

  21. Steve Brizel says:

    Superb column! I found the last two paragraphs, which celebrated the attraction of BTs to Charedi kiruv as opposed to the works and thinking of RYBS and RAYHK, and which seemed ignorant of the work of NCSY, an exercise in unvarnished Charedi triumphalism.

  22. Spot On says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,Your remarks are spot on.

    To add to what you said, another complication down the road for adult BTs is when one spouse became frum because of coming to realize the Torah’s truth and the other because of the model families he/she was exposed to. When all the issues you mentioned become clear, they are no longer on the same page and they will have a very hard time navigating life. Levels of religious commitment will vary from one spouse to the other and how to raise the children as well.

  23. Y. Ben-David says:

    Arnie Lustiger certainly gives us a lot of extreme stereotypes that don’t correspond to the Israel I (as a DL) live in. Who says that that Religious Zionists have “abandoned” the goals of brining Torah to the broader society? You seem to think that Israelis perceptions of things are based solely on what they may read in an anti-religious forum like the Ha’aretz newspaper, or see on television. I don’t believe most secular Israelis view Yigal Amir as the quintessential Religious Zionist (also taking into consideration that he didn’t consider himself as such). Since highly learned and religiously motivated RZ’s are moving up in all sectors of society and industry and business and science, most Israelis have contact with them. The fact of the matter is that when you work in close contact with people on a daily basis, it is not comfortable to come up to a secular coworker and say to him that he should be religious. I have found that the best forum for reaching out to non-religious coworkers has been at our daily minyan at work where many non-religiuos come to say Kaddish, which is an unfortunate situation, but it opens their mind to a more “religious” frame of mind than on the day-to-day work routine.

  24. Asher Klarburg says:

    A lot of charedim (or in America, yeshiva-leit) go into kiruv for the same reason they go into chinuch – it is the only “job” available for them. Sadly, it has nothing to do with passion or zeal for Torah or anything like that.

  25. Baruch Gitlin says:

    I strongly agree with Rav Adlerstein’s three points. I would also like to compliment the author on providing an excellent model for how to engage in respectful discussion – I’m not sure whether to use the word “disagreement,” because Rav Adlerstein’s three points do not necessarily contradict the three points quoted from the original article, although they certainly do supplement them in a very important way.

    I would like to comment specifically on Jonathan Rosenblum’s statement that “Most importantly, what potential students look for is authenticity and passion, and these have been lacking in the DL community. Too often, secular Jews see DL Jews as very much like themselves, other than the wearing of a kipah serugah.” Many years ago, as an aspiring ba’al tshuva, I most definitely felt this way, and this feeling strongly influenced me towards a haredi rather than a modern orthodox path. However, the more I got to know the Israeli dati leumi world, the more I felt that this initial impression was incorrect and based on superficial first impressions. I think this statement would be more accurate if it were edited to state that “…these have sometimes seemed to be lacking in the DL community to the casual observer who is not yet familiar with the nuances of Orthodox thought and the diverse layers of hashkafa and observance found in the DL community…”

    Finally, I would like to note that Rav Adlerstein is on a pace of one article per day since the publication of “Why I Don’t Write More Often” earlier this week. I wonder if there is a lesson of some kind to be taken from this, and I am eagerly awaiting today’s post!

  26. A Jewish Jew says:

    I have a better idea – let’s call a spade and call ourselves Dati Leumi! We are all religious here, and all nationalists/Zionists! (At least we all believe in what most human beings abhor Zionist for…) (myself most emphatically NOT included!)

  27. SA says:

    Naturally, both Rabbi Adlerstein and many of those commenting here have only a limited perspective of what is going on in dati-leumi kiruv in Israel. I’m not sure what or if Jonathan Rosenblum knows about it either.

    For nearly 20 years, groups of young dati-leumi families have formed “Torah nucleii,” (garinim Toraniim) that settle in various cities in Israel and conduct various types of kiruv, formal and informal, in those communities. These families are often centered around a yeshiva, but not necessarily. They actively engage the community around them by teaching in local schools, sponsoring programs for children and families, classes for the community, as well as other projects that are not strictly Torah projects (like work in hospitals, with the elderly, pre-army programs for teens, soup kitchens and marriage counseling) that show the smiling face of Torah in action. The experience involves the self-sacrifice and passion that are the hallmarks of shluchim and “out-of-town” community kiruv projects.

    Full disclosure: My son is the director of one such garin in Israel’s deep south. Most of its members have bought homes in the community and are deeply involved in all kinds of Torah and civic activities. He has lived in that city since before his marriage nine years ago, and considers himself there to stay.

    The Keren Kehilot website (which seems to still be a work in progress) lists 44 such garinim, from north to south, including in Tel Aviv and Petah Tikva. That represents a not-inconsiderable number of dati-leumi families. Maybe someday they will be more proactive about reaching out to English-speaking communities here and abroad(my son is working on it for his garin) so that you can get to know them.

    I would also imagine that at least some readers are familiar with the Torah Mitzion program, that sends young dati-leumi singles and families from Israel to communities all over the world to do educational and community work. That’s also nearly 20 years old (they have a nice English website).

    So dati-leumi kiruv work is out there. You just have to know where to look.

  28. dina says:

    on the topic of RZ/DL authenticity and passion… one thing to note is that the authentic, passionate RZ/DL go about it in a quiet way… I’m sure this is true of charedi as well, but with charedi there’s certain extreme things they inherently do that make it stand out more.

    Some of the authentic passionate DL I know
    Gets up for minyan, davens sincerely without fanfare or dreying, possibly has a morning chavrusa, heads to work. At work he behaves decently to the people around him and deals honestly. In all likelihood his job is something he feels makes a contribution to society. He davens mincha with a minyan. When he gets home he has supper, then helps his wife with the after-supper cleanup before sitting down to learn with his son. Some nights a week he has a chavrusa with a neighbor.
    On shabbos he has more than one chavrusa. Shabbos table conversation will be a mix of topics, interspersed with zemiros, and learning whatever sefer the family is currently learning together.
    When people need help he gives it matter-of-factly. (Not going to list all the DL chessed I’ve encountered but it’s basically a universal in the communinty and it’s heartwarming)

    DL varies on the spectrum of how closed/open they will be. So the more closed will stick to Jewish books and zero tv and the more open won’t see a problem with secular books or movies.

  29. cvmay says:

    I read the original post by R.Y.Rosenblum and have to admit he is entirely CLUELESS when it comes to the Dati Leumi world, culture and life style. I have encouraged him personally on many occasions to ‘live that world’ for a few days and then write from knowledge, accuracy, and realism. He can spend a week at Yad Binyamin with Rav Tal, a Shabbos and shiurim in Bet El with R. Aviner & Melamed, a few days in Alon Shvut attending shiurim, meeting people and volunteering at Shalva. Or even more enlightening would be a few days with the DL Garinim (groups of newylweds) who have joined secular kibbutzim, give classes, run the ex-defunct synagogues there and have reJEWvenated the youth groups with zeal and passion.

    As example, R.Y.Rosenblum have you ever investigated Srugim, Keren Karev, Chevruta program (where daatim & chilonim learn via phone), nishmat, machon meir, Bet Hillel, Tzohar kiruv and learning groups, Dati Garinim who have reopened shuls and Shabbos programs in Tel Aviv????

    There is zeal, passion and enthusiasm in Charedi & Dati Leumi/Chardal kehillos and there is also large doses of apathy, disinterest, mundane attitudes and ‘don’t bother me’ behaviors exhibited in both. Who is winning this important battle of ‘Shavu Banim” is really not as essential as both camps continuing to be a ‘light onto the world’ and bring ‘Kavod Shamayim’ down to everyday life.

  30. Ben says:

    And it is always easier to get the touchy warm feeling doing kiruv rechokim than to deal with kiruv kerovim when you deal with someone who knows everything you are going to say. So why solve the situation of people going off the derech in droves when you can grab new stock. Everyone is replaceable, no?

  31. Pg says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein. If you feel inadequate compared to Jonathan Rosenblum, I feel ten times as inadequate compared to you. So despite my poor writing skills I hope some of my thoughts come through.

    “I have heard from far too many BT’s that had they known then what they know now; they never would have become frum!”

    I think the similar things can be said for some FFB’s from my generation. We in the US from “Heimishe Backgrounds” (non Litwak) did not want to marry boys who did not go to college or who wore Chasidishe Levush. We therefore married Yeshiva boys (Torah Vodaas, Chaim Berlin). If we had known what the Yeshiva (Litvish)world would turn into where Lakewood does not have secular studies in their boy’s high schools, we would not have chosen the “Yeshiva World”. We probably would have turned more to the YU world.

    In addition we did not know how anti Zionist the American Yeshiva World was at that time (it was hidden). You can call it “Mekach Taus”

  32. A. Schreiber says:

    The burden is not on the DL to prove their “bona fides” as good Jews and stewards of tradition. They don’t have to show all the shiurim they do or don’t go to. Likewise, the charedim have no burden to prove to the DL that they are not parasites. The normally astute rabbi rosenblum is wrong to speak so of the DL.

    I would also like to add – with all due respect to Arnie Lustiger, he is simply wrong in his assertions. Completely so.

  33. Reb Dr. R. says:

    1) “when they come cheek to jowl with the educational system to which they are expected to commit their children, they are in for a shock … Even in the US, the standards of secular education of almost all yeshiva high schools in the Chareidi orbit are abysmal…” This becomes a huge area of conflict and soul searching for BTs who themselves may have attended Ivy League (and certainly plain old, non-Touro/non-Stern secular) universities. In our hometown we are witnessing the beginning of what I predict will become a trend of baalei teshuva that are fed up with trying to change the BY/yeshiva system of sub-par secular education and opting to send their children to the more modern school. Their thought is that it is easier to influence their judaism with positive family values and role modeling by the parents, along with targeted private lessons, than expect them to be able to compete for highly coveted spots in secular institutions solely by their own efforts or pure luck in scoring highly on SATs or national competitions. Look at what Beth Tefiloh is doing in Baltimore to attract these frum children. Bais Yaakov/TA: beware. That is many full tuitions lost for you!

    2) “I have heard from far too many BT’s that had they known then what they know now; they never would have become frum!” Our BT friends tell us that all the kiruv pros had a pat answer when it came to “frumonomics” (my term), usually centering around the issue of kosher food. While it is true that kosher meat might “cost more” and that you need to invest in a second set set of dishes,what is 30% or a few thousand dollars over the course of 70 yrs on earth when it comes to the eternity of your immortal soul? No one, however, discussed the frumonomics of the chinuch system; not the fact that you will be out of pocket $X(fill in your favorite school’s tuition fee here)K/child per annum in after-tax income for 14 yrs of education; nor the fact that if you have a daughter, you should add 1-2 years additional tuition fees for seminary that can easily run $25K/yr; nor the fact that if you have a son, you may as well add another 4-6 yrs to that, for how can a boy leave the safety of a bais medrash until he is good & married?; or even longer if you REALLY want to fit in or have done a SUPERB job inspiring your children to a life of Torah learning in kollel so that you will indeed be supporting them to the tune of those kinds of after tax dollars, if not more, for the foreseeable future or until you are called to your Maker, whichever happens first. All this to compensate for the financial contributions that never accrue from the people who make you feel less worthy or like an outsider. What a bum deal for BTs! While none of our BT friends so far has reverted, they are calling into question much of what they learned and assimilated at the feet of their rebbeim and rebbetzins. Were they deliberately misinformed or misled? I doubt it. But they certainly did not have sufficient information to ask the right questions. In medicine we call that insufficient for obtaining informed consent and it is considered an aggregious (and actionable) ethical lapse. What do we call it in the kiruv world?

    Finally, note to the Aish HaTorah ‘Women at Work’ article quoted by Marty Bluke (comment #2) above. Plenty of non-BT women and those who grew up in frum homes DO have secular educations and are physicists, veterinarians, scientists, physicians, etc. The majority started out in Touro and Stern. A few did not. I am one of the few. Our daughters and sons are following suit. To support Marty’s contention, however, I too am unaware of any professional at our level that grew up in the chareidi world in Israel. In fact, some of us were terribly disappointed to discover that the much lauded new female charedi Dean at Bar-Ilan was not born into it. It doesn’t diminish her incredible accomplishments, academic credibility or the fact that she was the one to shatter the glass ceiling at that venerable institution, but it was still a bit of a letdown for us trailblazing mommas 🙂 who would like nothing more than to break yet another stereotype.

  34. Steve Brizel says:

    Ben-Kiruv Rchokim and Chizuk Krovim IMO have long been two sides of the same coin-namely how to enhance one’s relationship in Avodas HaShem. Sitting down with a jaded person who has been through the yeshiva system, regardless of his or her hashkafa, means starting from scratch in many ways in their approach to Avodas HaShem. That is very similar to the fact that BTs have many ways of growing in Avodas HaShem, as long as the path is directed towards the Mesorah of Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim.

  35. Y. Ben-David says:

    If it is true that Haredim are more successful at kiruv than DL Jews, then we can assume that if a non-Haredi Orthodox or non-Orthodox Jew were to move into a community like Boro Park, Williamsburg, Monsey, Benei Braq or Kiryat Sefer, they would be welcomed into that community, the local synagogues and the children of that community would be encouraged to socialize with the new non-Haredi children, all with the idea of integrating them fully into the local religious community. Is this indeed the case? Yes, I am well aware that people in these communities are quite happy to invite non-Haredi Jews for Shabbat, but there is more kiruv that just that? Do the communities I mentioned welcome “diversity” in their neighborhoods for the sake of bringing non-Haredim closer to the Torah?

  36. Bob Miller says:

    Cvmay’s Jan. 30 comment points to how hard it is to understand any large, diverse group you’re not part of. Any group discussed here presents the same challenge.

  37. Jonathan Uziel says:

    Sadly, not so successful.
    Millions of Jews are still being lost to Judaism. If the DL community would reorient themselves and commit to kiruv, there would be the possibility of mass kiruv. Exactly what one writer found to criticize in the DL community – the DL’s are too similar to the secular – is what would actually make the difference. Of course, DL kiruv would be a lot different to Charedi kiruv – DL’s would just have to socialize with their secular colleagues and neighbors, go on picnics (when possible), go to movies together, invite them for a shabbat meal – show them that their lives don’t have to be totally upended, that they don’t have to dress like they’re from another planet – most Israeli’s who already observe the High Holy days, have a Pesach seder, who are not anti-the religion, just the religious politics of religious people, would be amenable to learning Torah and embracing Judaism. (Of course we would have to get rid of the multi-party political system including religious parties and have Two+ party system and embody the principles and protections of Torah within each party. (But this is for another discussion.)

  38. Jonathan Uziel says:

    BTW the DL’s in the rest of the world should also start getting into this kind of kiruv.

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