Kiruv Goes On: the Models Change

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16 Responses

  1. Lisa Liel says:

    Kiruv, and the whole baal teshuva movement, is bound to bog down so long as we don’t have a central halakhic decision making body. Call it a Sanhedrin or don’t, but our resistence to lo titgodedu is killing us.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    Do Kiruv professionals ever do referrals to other kiruv professionals outside their own institution or circle when they feel the other professional will be a more suitable advisor to the person being helped, or do they feel obliged to keep it within the “family”?

  3. Mr. Cohen says:

    How can kiruv succeed with a new scandal hitting the Torah world every month?

    Israel-bashing newspapers and reporters have succeeded in blackening
    the name of the State of Israel, which makes kiruv more difficult,
    even though the State of Israel is not governed by Torah law.

  4. Michael says:

    I think that you touch on something important but then you get sidetracked by other issues (such as claims that modern social networking makes kiruv more difficult). It is certainly true that the kiruv model needs to adapt, and the needs of potential BTs need to be taken into account. It’s interesting that you mention UW-Madison. I was there a number of years ago when Aish was first setting up. I was already religious, and found them to be very off-putting. Specifically, their only real interest seemed to be in getting me to take time off from my schooling and spend time in Yeshiva (which, given the nature of my program, was not a possibility). You touched on this in your article, but you didn’t seem to have a solution, other than bemoaning the fact that few were capable of doing this. At UW, there is also a Chabad house, which was involved in increasing student learning and observance without them leaving campus. Overall, I think that Chabad has been more successful (at least at UW) than Aish for precisely this reason, and I know several individuals who became BTs through Chabad. With a multitude of learning resources on the web, and yes, on social media as well, I think that kiruv needs to take this into account and focus more on educating potential BTs within the course of their careers rather than trying to get them to temporarily (or permanently) abandon their other plans. I think that there will be far less resistance from potential BTs, and even those who do not become religious will still leave with greater knowledge and observance than those who don’t even start. In other words, I think that kiruv should take the approach of continuing adult education, which which people can pursue their interests (in this case Torah) along with their career goals instead of having to choose between them. In my own experience with Aish, once they determined that I was not able to take time off, they pretty much ignored me (except once when they needed a favor), and discouraged me from participating in their programs. They seemed to only be interested in getting people out of University, and had little interest in those who couldn’t take time off. I think that this needs to change if Aish wants to make further progress in kiruv programming.

  5. Esther says:

    The Shabbos Project in my community may not have had the turn-out of the non-frum that we’d hoped for but it had, for me anyway, a very important, though not anticipated result, and that was the beginning of open dialoguing within the community amongst the frum. A courageous and persistant guest, questioned some of the inconsistencies in what the Torah says and how some members of the Torah-community behave. And instead of our usual sweeping these issues under the rug, our panel of rabbis in the ask-the-rabbi session spoke honestly, not afraid to disagree with one another, and I think possibly, at least for myself, if not other attendants at that event, helped to be mekarev kerovim. Maybe that needs to be the direction we have to go, rather than cutting another notch on the kiruv belt, to focus inward, and to be more open and honest with ourselves and each other (and not only on blogs such as this one, which a portion of our community is forbidden to look at, whether they actually do or not), so that not only will Torah-Judaism be a desirable place to aspire to join, but will perhaps be a place where so many of us who are leaving, may yet return.

  6. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    We desperately need to get away from the “my way or the highway” approach to kiruv. Kiruv people who belong to a particular organization fervently say that they are happy to have people come closer to Torah not necessarily to their organization. But then they start talking about “the right hashkofa”– their ideology. I don’t know many people who are open enough to recognize a person who belongs in Bnai Akiva if the mekarev is yeshivish, or chasidish if they are litvish, or hareidi if they are MO. We need to instill and facilitate a true attitude of 70 faces of Torah, perhaps with a website introducing them all and made available for both outreach and inreach. Such and approach can help people starting out and also prevent some kids from going off the derech.

  7. Jewish Observer says:

    How does Rav Nota Schiller factor in?

  8. Steve Brizel says:

    Kiruv will and should always be an important mission and committment of the Charedi and MO worlds-yet, you have to use today’s tools and means, and realize that teens, millenials and adults have to be reached via different means, and that Kiruv remains a one mitzvah personal growth so that someone can progress via a port of entry to become a BT and find a comfort level within the Torah observant world, and is aware of demographic changes such as the simple fact that a Jewish last name is not a sign that a person is Halachically Jewish.

  9. L. Oberstein says:

    Rabbi Nota Schiller was very offended and wrote an article that someone shared with me. He felt left out and his institution neglected. He seemed pretty bitter about it. I guess there is internal dissention in the kiruv movement about how to go about it and who is the leader . Sad but that is life.Maybe C-C will publish his response to what he feels is a hatchet job on Ohr Samayach.
    I know a lot of kiruv professinals and they are sincere and each does it his or her way. They all have successes and failures. The best one I ever knew was the late Pinky Bak who turned around Vancouver in the 1970’s, but he died young and no one else could sustain the momentum.
    On a personal level, I have much hakaras hatov to Lubavitch. Whenever any of my children have reached out they have been there with ahavas yisoel. In today’s “me generation” their formula is very appropriate. For people who live in a self centered, narcissistic, consumer generation, the fact that someone cares about me and will show me how much he wants to help me is what appeals. I know all the criticism, but my children have always found Chabad there for them wherever they lvie and whatever the circumstances. G-0 bless them.

  10. Cvmay says:

    Why has changes in the KIRUV MODEL been a surprise for all?

    Nothing stands still, we are inhabitants on a constant evolving universe. Without innovations, new ideas, different strategies – the world of Kiruv ( building binding relationships) will collapse or just stagnant.

  11. lacosta says:

    traditionally the college campus was both the age-space that the Seeking student re-evaluated the life values he was raised with and the only age-space where the haredi kiruv worker could access young jews of other stripes . it probably remains the greatest source for free access to potential ‘converts’ [ ask Campus Crusade why they are there]. but i think that is true if one views success as total buyin to a yeshivish lifestyle [ Michael implies this , a la Aish]. certainly that is not the chabad model—their goal is one mitzva right now , at any age . one can argue which approach is more ‘successful’ , but that would neccesitate quantifying what types of improvement count how much : how do you equate various levels of observance improvement–is one turned into a Kollelnik count more that 1000 still treif that dont marry a goy? is there a rav dessler type formula- pushed thru to gadlus worth more than the 1000 he was mined from?

  12. esther says:

    I don’t think that anyone is keeping points when a secular Jew performs a mitzvah. As others have pointed out, different forms of kiruv appeal to different personalities under different circumstances coming from different backgrounds, etc. etc. We are only responsible for the effort, not the results. The results are in Hashem’s hands.

  13. tzippi says:

    Last year I heard Rabbi Steven Weil speak about the changing face of outreach. As one example, JCCs aren’t the chosen venue, Starbucks is. People are so much less affiliated, and have minimal to no Jewish frame of reference. In fact, he clarified something for me, an incident the year or so before I’d found disturbing. A kiruv organization featured a well-known speaker on hasbara and other issues, and prior to his speech showed a very pro-Israel video. However, the video was practically devoid of anything religious. I regret that I’d linked the speaker to the video; one really had nothing to do with the other yet in searching for an explanation of how exactly this video, shown on many campuses, was actually constructive, I may have given the speaker a hard time. When I heard Rabbi Weil I understood how outreach had changed, and how this was a necessary hook to get the viewers’ interest. (I hope R’ Rosenblum will accept some belated apologies.)
    I’m heartened by the investment in opportunities for real spiritual growth even for people who won’t take off a year or more to go the old route of yeshiva immersion, but hope these yeshivos and seminaries will still flourish.

  14. Zalman says:

    Today’s model: Be a mentsch.
    Works with all demographics.

  15. Cvmay says:


    Why did the showing of the video bother u?? Every organization has what they call a “hook”. It could be a quickie Chinese Auction, wine tasting, mini fashion show, exotic cigars, wine & cheese, outdoor BBQ….& then the speaker begins. One has nothing to do with the other.

  16. tzippi says:

    First of all, let me mention I was fasting, hot, and tired. But I do remember bouncing it off someone older and if not wiser, a clear thinker and she was also discomfited. I wasn’t bothered by the video as being the hook for this function as much as by the thought that this was what was going to appeal to our kids on campus. It seemed so sterile and so devoid of any Jewish content and I figured that the speaker would be able to clarify why so much was invested in such an effort when they could have produced something so much more meaningful and beautiful. Pretty unfair of me since, as you say, different parts of an organization’s function have nothing to do with each other.

    I hadn’t realized at the time how necessary, and I hope effective, such hasbara was and is in instilling Jewish pride. And while I want to say, and may it be a stepping stone to bigger and greater things, the pride in knowing that we strive to maximize our resources and make meaningful contributions to our world and the world at large, in and of itself, is no kleinigkeit.

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