Hormonal Judaism Vs Mind Judaism

Rabbi Yitzhock Adlerstein writes:

There is good kiruv and there is bad kiruv. After reading ‘You’ve been Aish’d…’ in the Jerusalem Post, even the bad kiruv starts to look better. It is a piece that alternates between silliness and shallowness. The author makes it clear that she believes that the claims of Orthodoxy have some facial appeal, but nothing rigorous to back them up, and then proceeds to pen many declarative sentences – with nothing to back them up. Perhaps she was more influenced by her kiruv experience than she realizes.

“Everything moves fast and intensely, yet rarely lasts,” she writes about the trips to Israel. Duh…if the effects were such a rarity, would she really be writing an expose of kiruv organizations like Aish and NCSY? Where are the stats on the religious effects of kiruv organizaions? As I recall, a scientific study by the Lilly Foundation a few years ago demonstrated quite impressively the long-term efficacy of NCSY programs.

Those female advisors, overbrimming with cherubic innocence, may make a good go of it, but “unfortunately, they are unable to relate to the secular world.” So why do so many neophytes come back to them and their classes and their homes, and find in those same naifs mentors for life? Again, just how many people has she interviewed?

…If there is a redeeming thought in the article, it is in these lines: “The Orthodox world they present bears not a trace of dissatisfaction: Never did I ever hear a speaker or trip leader discuss any problems within the Orthodox world. Apparently, as long as they follow proper Halacha, everybody is happy and fulfilled, with neither depression nor repression, money nor domestic problems.” The ba’alei teshuva whom I know (and I have known far more than the average frum Jew) find out in due time about the myriad problems of the Orthodox community. They do not and should not learn about them at their first encounter, as long as they are introduced to them at the appropriate time. (Did you ever wonder whether freshman orientation at Cornell, with reputedly the highest suicide rate in the country, includes a tour of the last ten places on campus where a student did himself in?) I, for one, am a great fan of divulging problems (and helping students deal with them) as soon as possible. I make a point of not promising social, intellectual, or spiritual rose gardens. I try to describe the journey from the very beginning as having road blocks and detours. I frequently answer question with what must quickly become a boring response: “I don’t know.” My own experience has been that the candor has paid off for my students.

There are in fact many, many problems within Orthodox communities – as well as in the conduct of kiruv– as there are in all communities. If the Jerusalem Post piece is any indication of how outsiders look at us, we all have to try much harder to expose those problems ourselves. Some of the others aren’t getting it.

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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