What Is ‘Call of the Shofar’?

The program “Call of the Shofar” is an Orthodox Jewish version of EST aka Landmark Forum. It is popular with many Lubavitchers and is a form of LGAT – Large Group Awareness Therapy. As such, it is very dangerous, according to this one rabbi.

Is The Possible You seminar a form of LGAT? It sounds like it.

About half of my friends swear by LGAT but I would never participate in such a thing.

Jim* emails: “Call of the Shofar is pop psychology using cult-like methods of mental and emotional manipulation; wrapped in a Jewish theme; conducted by self-appointed (and oftentimes unstable) gurus; and performed on searching, troubled, or otherwise vulnerable individuals…for profit. It is ironic that although purported to be “Torah based,” Call of the Shofar is founded in the philosophies and practices of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, new-age nihilism, and narcissism, to name jut a few antithetical-to-Judaism sources. Why on earth would any reputable rabbi or mental health professional fall for this?”

Robin Garbose posts: “I have chosen to put my name on my posts because I have experience in combatting cult mind control. There are many ways in which manipulative people/groups exert influence. I am bothered by this group’s recruitment techniques. I am bothered by the euphoria participants are reporting. I am bothered by the loved ones who are concerned about personality changes. I am concerned about the Eastern influence and similarities to EST and the Forum. Of course participants want to connect in a real way, and I am concerned that their vulnerability is being exploited. Groups that practice deceptive persuasion use the bait of truth as well as love-bombing to recruit members. Everyone needs to get educated on the subtle and insidious practices of mind control. Their leader, Mr. Frischling, needs to be thoroughly vetted by experts. I would suggest consulting Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh of Kfar Chabad who is an expert on these matters. The hundreds of posts speak for themselves, and, at the very least, contain many alarming red flags.”

Post: “for all those that have a little bit of objective analytical skills, you will find that this is a copy of LANDMARK FORUM.
landmark, is a ponzi scheme and cult.
though it would be nice to be able to have a “chassidus” workshop where you pay $800 for a 3 day chassidus group therapy program that could help you redirect your life!
in the case of the shofar, the idea is to reduce ones self esteem. it would be nice to have a real good program which would help people create healthy self respect and attitude.
Call of the shofar is an unhealthy program, and out there to make one dependant on their moneymaking schemes. it is detrimental to the people who go there, and they don’t even realise it till they become objective. if they are smart.
many, aren’t smart enough hence they didn’t research the program first, but relied on a psyched up and excited friend of theirs. that is how people are convinced to join anyways. it’s called “sharing” where you are encoureaed to “share” with people you care about.
be careful people!!”

Post: “It is well known and documented that Landmark forum, and the call of the shofar are the same style and baloney.
the intent is to affect detrimentally ones self esteem, which will cause a small hype in the person, but cause more damage then one could believe.

The answer to those who feel they could use the call of the shofar, is to do some autobibliotherapy, instead!
Read a twerski book, on self esteem. (pretty much any of them)

who-ever can seriously think that living in a cult like setting for 3 days, yes cult!
Where classes start at 8-9am and finish 10-11pm,
where speaking with other members is against the rules
going to the bathroom is highly discouraged
congregating after classes is forbidden,
sleeping times are limited to 5-6hrs (realistically)

if this is not symptoms of cult brainwashing then you are obviously post shofar. because NO-ONE who is pre-shofar would rationalise that!

as well the long lengthy classes 8am-10pm a monologue, of information being pushed on you. i’d like to see any sane person, tell me they can succesfully listen to and productively pay attention to a lesson with 5hrs sleep, a day for that amount of time.
it is clear that your defenses break down with such long lectures, and after the first day once the new stuff is introduced your tired and less defensive to new ideas.
Even if EVERYTHING they teach IS good, why do it in such a horrible and cult like manner? i would love to hear a rationalism?
the famous bait method they employ is ridiculous! they claim they have tools you can get from them, that will improve your life, but NEVER, do they say what they are, they always just tell you that through the call of the shofar, you will get the answer. it is the “chanukah gift” trick. where there is an empty box, and you say “in this box is the answer” “i have the answer here… pay attention and you may get a glimps” when they don’t teach what these skills are but get you beleiving that there is something there!
no-one from the call says “i learnt how to improve my self esteem from the call” they always say “it changed my life” “it is so powerful!” what? they don’t know… but something! how did it change your life? write it down? explain? why does it need to be experienced? not written? why can you not document the ideas taught?
It is a ponzi scheme people. and it is a danger too your neurotic health.”

I remember circa 1995 I was offered a free ticket to Aish’s Discovery seminar if I promised not to ask any questions publicly.

Rick Ross’s website CultEducation.com argues:

Participation in such programs is not recommended. Case histories suggest that the powerful psychological techniques and emotional stressors used in LGAT can in some cases overwhelm the coping mechanisms even of “normal” people who otherwise were functioning well, leading to decompensation, mental breakdown, or transitory psychosis (#2). There is little to suggest that these mental breakdowns lead to long-term patterns of psychopathology. However, the outcome of transitory psychosis by itself is a severe injury. Although some people seem to enjoy the psychoactive effect of their LGAT participation, others who decompensated as a result of their participation have described it as “hellish”. Even though the benefits sought by many participants are those of personal growth and psychological well-being, to my knowledge there is no credible evidence that LGAT participation leads to significant improvement in core measures of mental health. If it were not for the intangible nature of the psychological process, this form of amusement product would most likely be banned as unsafe.

Opinions about LGAT are polarized, with some people experiencing a “conversion” or becoming promoters of a particular LGAT system, while others may decry the same program as destabilizing, dangerous, or detrimental (#7). Those who do become converts or proponents of the particular LGAT they participate in, often seem to pay a significant cost in unpaid labor they perform for the LGAT corporation. This cost is usually not accounted for when deciding whether or not to enrol. One might also question whether such converts have been distracted from lifelong goals that they may have focussed on instead. While similar questions may be raised with respect to extreme religious conversion, the lack of labeling for the secular LGAT conversion process is especially problematic.

This polarization seems to exist within the mental health professions no less than among the general public. However, aside from case reports of psychological injury and the lack of evidence that LGAT has any real benefits (#3), consideration of professional ethics (#8) clearly mandates that mental health professionals should avoid LGAT involvement.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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