On Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi’s Form of “Kiruv”

As rabbonim and mechanchim, we are greatly concerned about the popularity in some circles of a “kiruv” approach that does not bring honor to the Torah ha-Kedoshah but, on the contrary, creates considerable chilul Hashem.

Earlier this year, Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi apologized for one particularly offensive statement he made on several occasions. But he has voiced, both before and since that apology, many things that reduce complex issues to simplistic and misleading sound bites. He has also repeatedly arrogated to “know” why unfortunate things happen to various people and has presented subtle statements of Chazal in superficial and deceptive ways.

That method may entertain and even stimulate some audiences, but it does no justice to the Jewish mesorah. And, especially with the worldwide audience enjoyed by any public speech these days, misleading assertions even when offered with the best of intentions, are particularly objectionable, and even dangerous.

Jewish institutions must be discerning about the credentials and the histories of those to whom they offer the honor of acting as teachers of Torah. We urge all shuls and organizations to act responsibly and take seriously decisions about whom they invite to address their gatherings.

HaRav Gedalia Dov Schwartz – Rosh Beit Din, Beis Din of America and Chicago Rabbinical Council
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein – Editor, Cross-Currents
Rabbi Shalom Baum – President, Rabbinical Council of America
Rabbi Yosef Benarroch – Rosh Midrasha, Midreshet Eshel Mara D’atra, Adas Yeshurun Herzliya Synagogue, Winnipeg, Canada
Rabbi Moises Benzaquen – Mara D’atra, West Coast Torah Center, Rosh Hayeshiva, Harkham Gaon Academy Los Angeles, CA
HaRav Mayer Alter Horowitz – Bostoner Rebbe of Yerushalayim
Rabbi Joseph Dweck – Senior Rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese Sephardi Community of the United Kingdom
Rabbi Daniel Feldman – Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary
Rabbi Ilan D. Feldman – Mara D’asra, Congregation Beth Jacob Atlanta, GA
Rabbi Efrem Goldberg – Mara D’asra, Boca Raton Synagogue Boca Raton, FL
Rabbi Micah Greenland – International Director, NCSY
HaRav Michel Twerski -Mara D’asra, Congregation Beth Jehudah, Milwaukee, WI
Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky – Rosh Yeshiva, Darche Noam Jerusalem, Israel
Rabbi N. Daniel Korobkin – Mara D’asra, Congregation Beth Avraham Joseph (BAYT) Toronto, Canada
Rabbi Avi Shafran – Media Liaison, Agudath Israel of America
Rabbi Yitzchak Shurin – Rosh Midrasha, Midreshet Rachel V’Chaya

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7 Responses

  1. Shades of Gray says:

    Keiravtuni is an  organization that makes inspirational programs for Chasidim, similar to Project Inspire.  I thought  Rabbi Mizrachi  did a good job at the Q&A last year–no fire and brimstone or any theodicy–including saying something  on his own about hashgacha, that is also written in the  Moreh Nevuchim, as I recall. 

    However, his “kiruv” approach helps some people but causes  damage at the same time, which leads to the next point.

    A mekarev apparently needs a rebbe himself. If Rabbi Mizrachi has a rebbe, then that person would either need to go on record to defend the approach against  criticism, or have helped him  avoid the current situation.

  2. Raymond says:

    I have been listening to Rabbi Mizrachi’s online videos for many years now, and while they tend to be longer than my attention span is, I have never ever found even the slightest thing even the least offensive about anything that he has ever said, and so I have no idea what the fuss is all about.  Meanwhile, I think he is performing a valuable service, in bringing Torah values to any Jew who happens to have a computer, and is the least bit curious about gaining a Torah perspective in life.

  3. Anything happen in particular recently that was the catalyst for this public statement?And how much can we infer from many prominent names who are conspicuously absent from this list of Rabbis? Which rabbonim were asked but did not sign on?Knowing who declined to sign would be almost as important as knowing who did sign, in my mind.

  4. Nathan says:

    Rabbi Mizrachi is completely over the top and has no problem saying things that people find offensive, simplistic, superficial and arrogant. As a longterm resident of Ashkelon, I can tell you tat he is mild compared to what is considered “good Kiruv ” over here. Its all about drawing clear lines in the sand between us and them, and urging your listeners to start cheering for the winning team. Because Mashiah is coming, and the Hardeim are going to ride high and will have the whole world wanting to be them, but by then, poor pathetic losers, it will be to late.

  5. dr.bill says:

    comments by Nathan about Ashkelon, Raymond and Shades of Gray confirm there is a much wider problem, something for which there a list of recorded excess, albeit not as outrageous as Rabbi Mizarchi.  IMHO being less toxic may make it more believable and hence more dangerous.

  6. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    It is a good idea to give some ground sometimes when it is not a violation of basic halacha or fundamental principles of faith. It is an even better idea even when facing off against out-and-out enemies of Torah (secularists, missionaries, Muslims, cults) NEVER to veer away from menschlichkeit for the sake of pleasing the crowd of “unsere”. You don’t want to win the battle against the enemy with the sort of slam-dunk which will lose the war. The “bad guy” goes away as a tortured martyr for his wrong cause, strengthened in his resolve that he is right. If you leave the seeds of doubt in his mind, as the king of Spain said to the Ramban, never have I heard anyone argue so nobly for a cause, even if it was in error, the enemy of today may be your friend, baal teshuva or ger tzedek of tomorrow. Today, even more than in the days of the Chofetz Chaim, what is heard here today is heard there tomorrow.

  7. Raymond says:

    I see no valid reason to attack me for coming to the defense of Rabbi Mizrachi.  Not all Jews live close by to religious Jewish neighborhoods, and not all Jews are even willing to become part of such communities even if they have access to them.  Yet many of those same Jews may be far more willing to listen to Torah lectures online, away from the often narrow, judgmental eyes of their more formally religious Jewish colleagues.  Rabbi Mizrachi provides excellent Torah lectures for such individuals, thus performing a valuable service to our Jewish community.  Maybe the reason why I only remember him speaking words of Torah and nothing offensive, is because I choose to have a wider, more tolerant view of our world than some supposedly religious people sometimes have.  If our standards are too narrow and too unrealistically high, all that such a thing accomplishes is to push ordinary Jews further and further away from the strictly Torah way of life, making Judaism too elitist to have any real impact on our world.  Not a good idea at all.  Please let us never forget that all of us Jews, in fact every person ever born, are created in the Image of G-d.

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