A Case for Modern Orthodox Kiruv

By David Kelsey

Fair Warning: This appeal is not targeting those Orthodox Jews who consider Modern Orthodoxy religiously unacceptable. This post is only appealing to those Jews who are:
1) Modern Orthodox, or
2) Accepting of Modern Orthodoxy as a legitimate approach to traditional Judaism. If you are not in one of these two camps, this post is not for you.

I am declining to establish the parameters of Modern Orthodoxy. Clearly, the acceptable boundaries for those on the MO left will be drawn differently than the by those on the right-wing of Modern Orthodoxy, and many will debate where the line is separating MO from charedi. But for the point of this essay, despite many grey areas and gradations, I am relying on the fact that in reality, there is a Modern Orthodox world, and there is a charedi world, and it appears that post-high school kiruv–at least outside of the Upper West Side of New York City–is dominated by various charedi branches of Judaism. There appears to be a general lack of interest in kiruv by the Modern Orthodox. BTs have to find them.

This is partially because of Modern Orthodoxy’s tolerance of other Jews having a different perception of the world. But many secular Jews who may not be willing to embrace a charedi brand of traditional Judaism might very well be willing to consider a Modern Orthodox vision. Additionally, for many Jews, charedi Judaism is often mistakenly viewed as the only legitimate approach to traditional Judaism. This can unfortunately create the mistaken impression that one must choose between being charedi or secular.

In Israel, Modern Orthodoxy is considered to be based on Zionism. But this is not the foundation of Modern Orthodoxy. Despite common misconception, the yeshiva and Chassidic movements are largely relatively modern movements. Just as not all religious Jews joined the various Chassidic movements, so too, not all of religious Jews joined the Yeshiva movement. Those who declined to join either modern Haredi movement are frequently considered to be in the Modern Orthodox camp.

Modern Orthodoxy offers an advantage to secular Jews who are becoming more observant. The stress and difficulty of the already monumental life-changing commitment to begin keeping the mitzvot is often added to by communities who have extra traditions and stringencies and demand extra conformities. Jacob’s ladder of steady, incremental growth might suggest that beginning with a haredi interpretation of Jewish law and life might not be an appropriate starting point for many secular Jews intent on increasing their commitment to Jewish life. Integration into such communities can be quite difficult. The cultural references are invariably more radically different than with the Modern Orthodox, with fewer points of shared experience and a larger language barrier, a less charitable view of such experiences, and a firmer divide between BT and FFB. These can even carry over into subsequent generations to some extent; something rarely understood fully or explained to new BTs.

There are reasons to be concerned as well about the effects of charedi kiruv ideology upon younger recruits, where a college education and high-level vocational training are frequently discouraged, with undue financial strains, unfortunately, becoming a not unheard of byproduct. This is particularly problematic for those Jews from the lower economic classes, who are not going to be supported or assisted to the same degree or for the same length of time as those from more well-to-do backgrounds. This can prove trying and devastating on a socio-economic level which can cause marital strife.

The natural instinct for many secular Jews who grew up in a society where no one is beyond reproach and criticism will not always be receptive to an intensive emphasis on daas Torah whose acceptance is incumbent upon most charedim, but less so among the Modern Orthodox.

If we accept the premise that Modern Orthodoxy is a legitimate approach to Torah Judaism, and if we accept that it will prove valuable both to those who would not consider haredi Judaism, then it would make sense that Modern Orthodoxy be presented as an option to secular Jews with greater promotion.

MO’s silence is perceived, incorrectly, by those inside the BT world and even outside of it as a tacit concession that it is a compromise, and not ideal. Not the real deal. But for some it is clearly ideal.

For some Jews, not only is charedi Judaism unacceptable, but there is reason to believe it has proven damaging to some Jews who have attempted to do so. This is not surprising, and should not be surprising. A radical change in lifestyle and outlook is not easy, and it would appear that the greater the attempted change, the greater the chance of resentment and eventual fall out. This is not always properly considered as a risk. All too often, the example of bending a tree in the opposite direction for straighting it out is offered, even though this may not be an appropriate example, since the issue in question with the tree may be only particular and specific form of behavior or characteristic, not a general outlook on life.

If so, this example is being misappropriated as a refutation to the Torah’s warning of Jacob’s ladder.

Additionally, the charedi approach does not always seek to build a BT’s skill set in order to allow a BT to develop his own understanding of Judaism within a traditional framework as intensely as he could, but sometimes focuses more in generating a specific outlook (hashkafa) according to a sometimes narrow perspective, and even at the expense of much needed general skills such as the Hebrew and Aramaic languages themselves. To be clear, in the post-high school kiruv world, there is a dominance of institutions that sometimes place more of an emphasis on a specific frumkeit rather than a general yiddishkeit

There is simply less of a chance that a BT will identify with a specific brand of Judaism, and If not, there is more of a chance that exhaustion will set in if frustrated and discouraged by this specific outlook or another, rather than define himself within a larger framework which is being presented as incomplete or sometimes even flawed.

Certain sectors of the haredi kiruv world appear to be promoting dysfunction and rigid ideas about traditional Judaism, including (but by no means limited to): an all but prophetic claim of understanding of specific current events, a rejection of hishtadlus, general bans on information sources, and an insistence on public preference for literal translation of text.

And in the meantime…

Non-Orthodox Jewish movements intentionally misappropriate Orthodox language, bolstering the impression that they are the religious Jewish alternative to charedi Judaism.

Cults like the Kabbalah Centre and predators like Jews for Jesus disproportionately target our youth.

How does Modern Orthodoxy justify its silence? I am not advocating fliers in the subway or screaming in the street.

But there is reason to set up shop, and be honest and forthright with people (without pressure) about objectives. They could also distinguish themselves by being above board and forthright about their desire for Jews to consider engagement in traditional Judaism, and never employ misleading or deceptive tactics to attract students. The objectives may vary depending on the institution, but will always be in line with the stated ones. Both BT yeshivas in Israel and after-hour institutions for men and women seeking to learn about Judaism could differentiate themselves from the charedi ones.

And they could be promoted as such through both programming and marketing. For instance, a night institution might offer and promote an ongoing (come-for-one, no problem) fifteen part lecture series on R. Soloveitchik’s “Lonely Man of Faith” (at say, $5 a pop), and explain very briefly why both he and this book was important, and insert on a rotating basis one of his many profound quotes in each ad in the secular weekly press.

A lecture series on the Modern Orthodox approach to evolution would probably find tremendous interest.

So would a moderated lecture and discussion explaining the biblical rivalry between Yitzchak and Yishmael.

A Hebrew language course need not even be mentioned. It is a necessity, and the focus should be dikduk based.

In addition, such MO kiruv should tackle all the usual nuts and bolts ( i.e., mitzvot) of Judaism, from an MO perspective, explaining a range of opinions, not a favored stringent answer based on accommodating maximum compliance.

There is no end to what can be accomplished. But a MO that focuses solely on its own community or defending Israel is, IMHO, not maximizing its role in the Jewish world. The Jewish people need choices, and choices demand public debate, not a private one among the already MO.

I would argue why this would help the Modern Orthodox themselves, but that would be an entirely different post.

160 comments on “A Case for Modern Orthodox Kiruv

  1. Why are so many people arguing with him? We Jews act like mosquitos at times. Maybe that’s the problem. Our first instinct is to argue, oppose, poke holes, poke fun. What do we accomplish with that?

    How about a different approach? How about finding the good points and expanding on them?

  2. If he is criticizing Haredi kiruv it’s because he’s making the case for the need for MO kiruv. That’s fair. Besides Haredi kiruv hurts many people even if it helps many so it deserves some musar.

    We need MO kiruv yeshivot or at least Torah Im Derech Eretz ones. I know many BTs who left because Haredism was as anathema to them but was portrayed as the only acceptable path. Even this author seemed so insecure about MO, kept apologizing for it. MO is just fine. Haredism is no better, just different. It has plenty of faults of its own.

  3. I am a BT and spent a year in Ohr Samayach last year. This year i started my first year in YU. The differences are incredibly subtle but nonetheless very vast.

    I think Chaim Grossferstant made a very true and important point. In OS, the Judiasm i was presented was very dogmatic, black-and-white, and holeproof. It wasn’t neccesarily holeproof, but some information was withheld by give OS’s BTs are solid hashkafic foundation. I am not critizing this approach. One doesn’t need learn every aspect of judiasm (which takes several lifetimes) before he can change his lifestyle. However, there is no denying that this approach will create a BT who will stumble when confronted with advanced academic counterproofs to judiasm.

    YU on the other hand espouses a very intricate intellectually sound view of Judiasm which definetly lacks the appeal of the haredi one. Its a much more difficult and intellectually advanced view that while being inaccessible/unappealling to many BTs (and non BTs), if properly understood is gold.

    I think ideal kiruv should start the BT off with the OS vision and graduate him to MO/YU.

    Thank God this in many ways is done. YU for example has a Mechinah program for NCSY graduates that in many ways models itself after a 1 year post-HS israel yeshiva program. Efforts are made to provide strong cohessiveness and ruach to the program, and it is in a healthy degree quarentined off from the rest of YU (it has its own dorm floor, own breakfast, own shabbas schedule, own morning classes, and own trips)

    BTs are expected to stay in this program til their skills/level increases and then they graduate to the more advanced YU morning programs

  4. In every generation and every era people change and must conform to society to survive. Judiasm does not change since it is what the world was created from but the world does change. so where do we people fit in to all this. Do we change or keep things original. well unfortunately the charedi havent gotten it right the secular haven’t gotten it right and neither have the modern orthodox. How do I know this, if any of us did get it right one of us would have brought the redemtion. What the problem is we each have bits and peices of it but are so damn stubborn that we can’t stay in the same room and figure it out together.

    The modern have a point the chassidim have a good point the litvaks have a good point and to tell you the truth so do the secular jews. What is my point. I offer you a whole new perspective to judiasm a wholistic approach no i’m not jews for jesus or a muslim my approach is very simple. If we all just did our jobs the way we are suppose to it will all click into place. The charedi are too busy trying to keep themselves pure they forgot about embracing teaching and helping every other jew. The secular jews are so worried about not fitting into goyish culture they forgot about being a jew and the modren orthodox they think they have it figured out perfectly. The perfect solution to the problem.A little bit of this and a little bit of that and we’ve figured it out. It sounds great but its flawed you can’t fit judiasm into your life into your schedual. You can’t pick “the best of” and think it will work just right.

    You CAN incorperate judiasm into who YOU are as a person whether it be a musician, businessman, lawyer, chossid, teacher, or kollel learner. You can uplift everything you are and everything that is part of your life and make it holier just by connecting it to hashem and his torah. You can’t modernize the torah but as a modern jew you can utilize your talents and thoughts through torah and create an ultimate you.The point of judiasm is not that it should not put any strain on us and create a feeling of it being “such a drag”

    The point is to create us into the ultimate being. How does one acheive this, through hard work. How does one become the best doctor or lawyer or anything great, by working hard. How does one accomplish being a true and graet jew, by working hard. And by doing this you create a feeling of great accomplishment. Judiasm is so amazing it can bring out our positives to the utmost degree.We are too busy trying to prove our “points” that we haven’t had the chance to truly see what are points are fighting for That we are jews, we are one nation that has something no other nation has- the blueprints of G-d. If we would stop proving who we are and just living it instead- together- surly then moshiach would come. The true Modern event of our time.

  5. I’m not lubavitch, but the Rebbe ZT”L said If you know an aleph…teach an aleph. If you can bring just one yid closer to H’ , regardless of the “brand” than I think thats what counts:)

  6. Mel:

    The sad and frustrating reality is that as MO, (under whatever name or title you prefer to define it), keeps its welcome mat open to the “norms” of today’s society and values, and integrates them (an unavoidable consequence)the need for non-MO Orthodox groups to clearly distance themselves from such activity becomes all that more important. I, too, agree with you that it is a sad state of affairs.

    Way back in Aaron’s blog (#13), he doesn’t stop to consider that the gentleman he met at the kiddush, may be there for doing kiruv to the members of the shul. Kiruv to teens in MO communities, even in large centers of MO has become a subject of discussion of late in some kiruv circles , who see the LWMO particularly as a dangerous and misleading realm; the last stop for many off-the-derech teens before they leave the fold for good.

  7. I mean I’ve seen a lot of destruction done to people who have been taught a very black and white approach…and then completely have fallen when they realize that there are grays! I mean, Modern Orthodoxy suits me because I see many benefits that come from men talking intellectually to women, although there are dangers there, as always. The seminaries I went to, you could get kicked out if you were seen talking to a boy. That just didn’t click with me and the more I met more modern Orthodox people, I saw that I like their approach to life better. I met amazing zcholars like Aviva Zornberg and I found myself connecting and agreeing with more the poeple who classify themselves as Modern Orthodox. I saw that as being a healthier approach for me.

    But eveyrone has different paths. For some people the orthodox way is the way to go. I don’t feel like that category was the right way for me to define myself so I picked modern orthodoxy although I feel that it’s just a label and it doesn’t really define me either.

    I want truth and I want to do what’s right. And labels are just labels, to serve the purpose of forming a community but I don’t think people should chain themselves to a label.

  8. I agree. I like the modern orthodox approach as being encouraging of secular knowledge, open to discussion of halacha based in sources, and lenience to things that aren’t halacha, such as ‘pants for women’ and other things that aren’t so clear cut. I don’t see herraidi orthodoxy as the way to go for me. I’ve been to various seminaries and had amazing experiences there! These were orthodox seminaries but something didn’t click for me, mainly the shunning of the secular world that I experienced in a lot of them. But I had very good experiences there so this was just one minor bad point!
    I think that every Jew should pursue truth.
    The problem with these labels is that people define themselves by them and a lot of the times it becomes about trying to fit into some category, even if you don’t believe what you’re being dished (I’m talking about stuff that’s not clear Halacha – and when you’ve taken the time to go over sources with Rabbi’s)
    But anyway, Modern Orthodoxy isn’t Orthodox lite or trying to fit Judaism into a secular world. I feel like it’s trying to do what’s right and truthful with the direction that comes from Rabbi’s and studying.

    I really don’t feel that people should classify themselves as anything except Jewish because such a label gets in the pursuit of truth but for things like finding a shul to attend, labels do serve a purpose. And I would be more comfortable at a Mod Orthodox shul like Yakar in Tsfat than a Herraidi shul.

    I respect all different Jews as individuals. I think you can come to G-d with an orhtodox approach and a Mod-orthodox approach. I think the desire to find truth has to be there.

    People shouldn’t just assume that because a woman wears pants and doesn’t get married until she is 28, that she is not observant. She just thinks differently than you do and from the knowledge that she has been given, she believes more of what the people who call themselves ‘Modern Orthodox’ believe and she is not trying to fit Judaism into the modern world or adapt Judaism to her life. She follows a lot of Mod-Orthodox sholars and orthodox Rabbi’s like the founder of Yakar, because she believes that it is true.

    Modern Orthodoxy shouldn’t be looked down upon. But neither should Orthodoxy be looked down upon by modern orthodoxy. People should respect that there may not be one right way or interpretation of halacha when it comes to modern issues such as wearing pants, going to a secular university, the sheitel, etc.

  9. You can investigate to understand if any negative things said make sense or not. If you get the impression that they are false, or were said as a form of manipulation in a spirit of competition with another kiruv group, act accordingly and find yourself another advisor.

    Also, the first kiruv person operating in an area gets no territorial rights and has no claim against “competitors”.

  10. On second thought, however, is that in some cases the kiruv professional really DOESN’T think that the Hashgafa of another stream within Orthodox Judaism is valid, and will even say negative things about it.

  11. YM,

    Outreach people, especially the charismatic ones, can be too caught up with their own approach and too possessive. Remember that interactions with them are in the nature of an experiment more than a commitment to their approach until you’re sure which way to go.

    This toughness that you had to develop is not something negative. It’s possible to be tough about these matters in a healthy way without becoming cynical.

    You’ll get to know who your true friends are.

  12. Although I hate to admit it, I think DK does identify a real issue, which is the psycological pressure that some Rabboim in some institutions place on people to stay in their institution or on their hashkafa. One reason I find it difficult to deal with various Rabboim in my community is because each one wants you to daven and join their shul, their instituion, instead of just trying to help you maximize your relationship with Hashem and be the best Jew you can be. And I do think that the more right wing you go, the more you find this. In a way, it is like a business that doens’t want to lose you as a customer, which unfortunately should not be the model in Judaism; Hashkafa is not a brand of deodorant or beer. Also, one develops personal relationships with peers that the person would not want to give up or lose, but risks losing it if he leaves the institution or shul or organization. This makes it hard to leave and causes resentment.

    I have found that in order to get what I need for my own growth and Yiddishkeit, I have had to be tougher that I would have liked to be and have had to develop a sharper awareness of when somone is trying to manipulate me.

  13. DK wrote, ” I would say there tends to be greater andmore frequent problems with younger recruits who have not finished or begun college from less than affluent backgrounds, particularly in instiutions in Israel.”

    This is in the realm of the hypothetical/maybe-logical/not-quite-factual. DK’s personal recollections and web surfing impressions are not nearly enough factual support for his broad assertion.

  14. Gershon,

    You asked,

    “Doesn’t YU also have some staff with views that come quite close if not duplicate a chareidi worldview?”

    Like O.S.? No, Gershon. Not that I know of, not that I ever saw. They wouldn’t usually work in a place like YU, and YU usually would not hire them.

    And YU’s marketing materials, while stressing the positive and not the negative, are never the less hardly misleading about their worldview.

    Most secular Jews do not see Israeli charedi insitutions before their kid gets there.

    And Gershon, if this were only about my own experience, this would not be a big problem. While I do not claim to be devoid of personal gripes against these places, I am hardly alone, as a cursory, if educated, glance around the web will demonstrate. FWIW, some of these places have policies I see as detrimental, sometimes crippling, on a socio-economic level, and they should be examined, as they affect more people than many realize. One of the remarkable thing about the web was that so many of us (of varying current religious levels) were dissatisfied with charedi kiruv found we have many of the same issues.

    I think you are incorrect in your attempt to claim this doesn’t occur in some charedi insitutions in a way that doesn’t occur at MO insitutions, and I would ask you to at least investigate a little more before insisting that my complaints are restricted to my own personal experience.

    Granted, there are plenty who have a different take, but there may be reasons for that. I would not say all charedi kiruv is bad for everyone. I would say there tends to be greater and more frequent problems with younger recruits who have not finished or begun college from less than affluent backgrounds, particularly in instiutions in Israel.

  15. I’d like to indulge in a little armchair sociology. The hyper-lomdishkeit first conceptualized by Rav Chaim Brisker has been a boon and blessing for limud Hatorah worldwide. Through post-war cross pollination it has gained near universal acceptance (some would call it cultural-imperialistic hegemony) and popularity. From YCT to UTA everyone strives to train their minds to analyze like a Brisker Lamdan. But there is a downside.

    There is something all-embracing and sweet about a secular Jews or novice BTs assessment upon looking at a group comprising a Chardal, Chabadnik and Ponovezer that “I can’t tell the difference”. Lamdonim OTOH have been trained to micro-analyze everything. The greater the capacity to discern the slimmest chilukim (differences) and being able to extrapolate how these superficially insignificant characteristics are, in fact, mechalek (differentiate) the greater the Lamdan and the more respect he accrues. Under a microscope tiny differences look gigantic.

    I think we need to cultivate the capacity for being Brisker Lamdonim when studying the sugya of “Oiraysa” but Baa’lei Batim with Groba Kep (uncultivated, indiscriminate minds) when studying the sugyos of “Yisrael” (and maybe even Kudsha Breech Hu!)

  16. DK

    It is obvious to almost every reader of this site that nobody is giving a carte blanche to anyone.

    We are getting past the point of constructive dialog and unfortunately entering bashing territory. Please adhere to the spirit and tone of this site and don’t destroy your own case.

  17. DK-I fully support Gershon’s last post in its entirety. I would hope that you and I are not the only persons on this blog who have a very skeptical POV re the Kabballah Center. Bob Jones University operates under its own skewered view of minorities. OTOH, anyone who enrolls can withdraw-that is the beauty of living in a world that is a marketplace of ideas, to use Justice Brandeis’s wonderful description, which IMO can be seen as far back within classical Jewish thought as Rambam’s description of man’s ability to be as big a Tzadik as Moshe Rabbeinu or a Rasha as Yeravam ben Nevat. The bottom line is that noone is forced to enter or stay in a yeshiva or seminary. If someone senses that they belong elsewhere, they are free to leave, because kiruv professionals donot promise anyone a proverbial “rose garden” but rather an opportunity to explore Judaism’s views on life and how to live in one’s life by sanctifying every aspect of one’s daily life.

    As far as an institutional sense of good and bad, Orthodox institutions reflect the pluses and minuses of their supporting communities. I would agree that we have an abundance ( or even an overabundance) of institutions that serve our communities on a 24/7 cradle to grave RL basis. Yes, there are pluses and minues but I don’t subscribe to the view that either communities or their institutions need to be rejected via a “disposing of the baby with the bathwater” approach. NCSY’s response to the scandal that you mentioned shows that institutions respond to change, even if the demand eminates externally. Even in the Charedi world, if one goes beyond the exterior of the standard uniform, there is a wide variety of people learning from the very few who may indeed become Gdolim to future rabbis and educators and “learner/earners.” There are unofficial “career tracks” that one can ascertain only by having access to and a handle on what is happening in a Beis Medrash, as opposed to condemning those who are learning as fanatics or parasites, etc.

  18. SB-

    That wasn’t my point. I was challenging your contention that a novice secular Jew could be Yoitsay “consumers beware” and shop around for a Kiruv program with some idea of his/her final destination merely by checking a websites curricula and staff for the presence or absence of RIETS musmachim or courses on the Philosophy or Talmudic Theory of RYBS. I contend that the average secular novice would not know what they are looking for or at.

    BTW It may be a question of semantics but I disagree that there are “major differences” between the Rov and his nephew z’chusom yogain oleinu. There are nuances that define and distinguish alternate d’rochim but IMO it is precisely the attitude that these constitute “major” differences that fuel the hostility, disrespect, marginalization and mutual suspicion that adherents of the various d’rochim have for one another and that is the scourge of Torah-Observant Jewish communal life and, arguably, a major stumbling block on the final leg of the Messianic Era relay-race.

    I hate to say it (maybe I’ve grown less passionately committed to my own derech and begrudge others sticking to their guns) but the older I get the more intra-Orthodox arguments about shittos and derochim sound to me like the Gulliver’s Travels episode where two nations go to war over the proper way to crack a boiled egg or the Star Trek Episode where two B/W worlds perpetrate mutually assured genocide because one world is right side white and the other left side white (which may itself be a rip-off of Dr. Seuss’ allegory about regular and star-belly Sneetches). Well you get the idea. See the recent thread Modern vs. Charedi for more on this.

  19. Steve, you said,

    No one forces anyone physically, no, but there is non-physical pressure to stay in the yeshiva, and non-physical pressure to stay charedi, and consequences for those who listen. Saying that this was their choice does not alleviate these problems.

    This is, as far as I know, no different than what happens at the Kaballah Centre or Bob Jones University, which I would argue, are closer to non-Jewish parallels (though by no means perfect) than Manson or Jim Jones. I think you should set the bar a little higher than Manson or Jim Jones, okay?

    There are problems with these places (Bob Jones, Kaballah Centre) even though they don’t force anyone to stay.

    My point is that from your perception all charedi insitutions of every variety do some good. My concern is that you explicitly do not have a problem if they also do some bad. The good excuses the bad for you and others. This is problematic, as it prevents ever addressing the bad in a real way, and hence, there will not be pressure from the MO community (or anywhere in the Orthodox community) to shape up, since “they make people frum.”

    You are giving a carte blanche, provided there is no physical force.

    That leads to unfortunate things.

  20. DK,

    Anyone who steps foot in Ohr Somayach for one day sees exactly what the staff is. Lots of black hats, lots of kollel proponents. Is your main issue with how they describe themselves on their website?

    Doesn’t YU also have some staff with views that come quite close if not duplicate a chareidi worldview? In your opinion should YU be obligated to post a disclaimer on their website and perhaps their application form that states: “Please be aware. We know you think you’ll be entering a bastion of modernity as implied by the word “University” in our name. We do not want to mislead anyone. Remember, there is also the word “Yeshiva” in our name. For the uninformed, the word “Yeshiva” means many things to many people. Some of your or your child’s teachers may attempt to share their own personal beliefs with you or your child, which may not be your current ones. They may actually succeed at changing your or your child’s mind on some central issues. You have been forewarned. Enter at your own risk!” … ?

    I am sorry you had a bad experience. I really am. I am sorry you feel so bitter. I hope you haven’t been wronged – and you obviusly feel you have been. In the spirit of Elul, I hope we can all find a gentler and kinder way to try to convey our ideas/grievances. Divrei Chachomim b’nachas nishma’im – The words of the wise are heard by others because they are delivered gently – in a manner that allows the listener to hear and accept what’s being said.

  21. DK-Let’s deal with each of your statements in seriatum:

    1) Like it or not, secular culture as exemplified in the NY Times and the media, especially, in terms of music, culture, clothing, etc views women as an object, as opposed to a person with a mind and a soul.There is doubt that this cultural standard is equally applicable in Scardale, Brookln Heights and anywhere in between. Any good pre marital class offered for a chasan and kallah emphasizes that there is no contradiction between tznius for men and women and marital intimacy. As far as a “veibeshecher kashe”, I have never heard that term, as opposed to a “baale batishe kashe”, which sometimes can be a great or totally off the wall question or a “gvaldike kashe”, which means that you raised a question that was raised possibly by an Acharon, Rishon, Amora or Tanna, depending on how far one searches for the original source of the query. I am curious as to the context in which the term was used-was it used to reject a question based upon a discipline that was not rooted in Talmudic knowledge and methodology?

    2)Again, contrary to your thesis ( and indeed that of some kiruv activists), Torah Judaism has never accentuated quantity over quality. 80% of the Jewish People never left Egypt and the generation that left Egypt never made it out of the desert.The Torah itself accentuates that we were not given our unique role as a people because of our numbers as a people. However, that being said, “naaseh vnishmah”, was and is a cardinal element of faith because as RYBS pointed out, there was no other way that we would have accepted the Torah. That being the case, we reached our spiritual level at Har Sinai and since then we have been trying as a people to communicate with HaShem via Tefillah and discerning the meaning of the Torah via study of the Torah. Even those who experienced Har Sinai but who did not make it out of the desert were privileged to go thru a temporary spiritual transformation and epiphany that placed them back in the Garden of Eden.Of course, the lasting acceptance of the Torah occurred after the acceptance of the Second Set of Luchos and/or after the miracle of Purim, which accomplished more than all of rebukes of all of the preceding prophets.I would argue that anyone who even temporarily experienced Torah life and then reverted back to a secular life had a similar experience. The key is choice-noone forces anyone via a cult-like Manson or Jim Jones, Lhavdil elef valfei havdalos to stay in a yeshiva or seminary. Those who stay or leave do so on their volition in what IMO is an elementary exercise of one’s free choice because first and foremost, the Torah community is a teaching community.With regard to the mental health and other issues that confront BTs,the facts are that there are many rabbis and mental health professionals who are very familiar with the issues that can and do arise among BTs.

    3)With respect to the former employee of NCSY, AFAIK, the JW, which is a Federation subsidized paper,provided the first of a series of articles .That is hardly the same as the NY Times publishing a Pentagon Papers sized series of articles on the history of US involvement in Vienam. Clearly, heads rolled and changes were made.

    I also think that you judge NCSY’s founders and lay oversight far too harshly. Yes-mistakes were made. Yet,as a corollary, we also know that human beings have made mistakes in terms of judgment as far back as the Avos. Despite their lofty status and level as the founders of what became the Jewish people and the spreaders of the belief in Malchuyos which we can only appreciate and try to emulate,one can certainly argue from a close reading of Sefer Breishis and the standard Mfarshim that they made mistakes in judgment vis a vis their raising of their own children. I view that as the standard by which to evaluate how NCSY handled the scandal that you mentioned. That is what called teshuvah on a communal standard or what the Talmud calls “HaShem Shel Achar HaChet.”In view of the communal teshuvah that I mentioned and the community’s belief that NCSY offers a judgment free means of outreach, I believe that your call for a “MO kiruv” is nothing more than an unfortunate attack on one of the best means of kiruv for teens and kiruv in general. It is sad that your own negative view of kiruv has led you to such a conclusion.

    It is really too bad that you missed the BT Shabbaton. I would have enjoyed discussing this and other issues with you.

    Chaim G-Yes, there are obviously major differences between RYBS and the Brisker Rav Zicronam Livracha in many ways. Yet, I doubt that any Judaism 101 course would , could or should explore these differences.

  22. Steve,

    Maybe I’m insensitive, but I don’t get up every morning worrying about how women readers of the NY Times are going to get through their horrible day. I mean, sure, secular Jewish women in Brooklyn Heights and Scarsdale have it real rough, but we all do.

    And you aren’t taught to respect women in many charedi institutions. After chareism 101 classes, you are taught not to think about sex and not to talk to women, and what a veibershe kashe is. It’s not the same thing as “respect.” Trust me — what they promote is overrated.

    And “noone is forced to enroll or remain enrolled” in a lot of places you would have serious problems with. So are they okay too? As long as they don’t force anyone to enroll or stay enrolled? Are you serious? That’s your prerequisite for a problem?

    That’s not the core problem with newly observant anything.

    And I see the changes that took place — after the aforementioned counselor was finally exposed.

    Exposed in the secular media. Not because of the pleading by victims beforehand. After all, he made people frum.

    You and yours are making a big mistake affiliating with those who advocate things you you guys don’t even hold by.

    It would be a lot smarter to move away from them. In the off chance you agree that maybe some of the accusations being hurled at such places have any merit.

    The most heartbreaking part of it is that all too many Modern-Orthodox Jews really don’t care what radicalism is being advanced through their program. They just don’t care. Just like they didn’t care about what was happening with one of their counselors. Not until the secular press rained fire and hail down on them. Then they made policy changes.

    Glad you are happy with how that went down.

  23. SB-

    “The absence of a RIETS musmach on faculty or courses on RYBS are obvious indicia that a yeshiva or seminary is charedi in nature”

    How preposterous! Where’s YOUR supporting evidence that the average secular Jew has ever heard of either RIETS or RYBS? It would take real time WAY after Judaism 101 to appreciate the nuances (you do agree that they are nuances don’t you?) that distinguish RYBS’ weltanschauung (sorry that my spell checker can’t wrap its brain around that word) and, say, that of his first cousin… the Brisker Rov!

    I know many BTs of 10+ years standing who have only been exposed to one philosophy or the other (or more commonly, neither) and/or having seen many differnt approaches have a hard time making sense of all the tsad hashovehs and the lo harey zeh k’harey zeh.

  24. DK-Anyone who can read and comprehend English can discern the differences in hashkafa that you believe are misleading. WADR to yentas, what you have described is nothing less than Judaism 101.WADR, while they may have a sentimental view of Judaism, the assertion that keeping the elements of Judaism that you mentioned renders anyone a Charedi is a notion that is palpably wrong.

    Once again, you incorrectly apply the term “partnering” when in fact NCSY’s leaders were addressed by a wide variety of speakers.You seem unable or unwilling to accept that fact, because in your view,MO can learn nothing from Charedim.WADR, that is your perspective, but IMO, it suffers from a lack of basic Ahavas Yisrael.

    As far as your comments re a certain NCSY counseor, that person was terminated and massive changes were made in major personnel and in the methods of advisor training. FWIW, NCSY’s programs attract teens from across North America to a wide range of programs. However, as I pointed out, NCSYers attend a wide range of yeshivos and seminaries-another fact that you ignored in your desire to bash kiruv .I suggest that you read the training manual for advisors that is available for your perusal before commenting further on NCSY.

    Obviously,via your comments re Ohr Sameach and Aish, you had a negative experience which continues to influence you to this very minute. That may be your experience, but many others have had a very successful integration into the Charedi world via these same progams.It might not be your or even my derech, but it produces many educated and loyal Jewish men and women who seek to raise Jewish families in accordance with the Mesorah. No less than RYBS pointed out that we call Yom HaKipurim in that manner because different methods of teshuvah work for different people.However, the elements of basic Judaism that I outlined cross all hashkafic boundaries and IMO you have unfairly tarred all of kiruv by your unproven assertion that kiruv is guided by a Machiavellian philosophy. The bottom line is that noone is forced to enroll or remain enrolled in a yeshiva or seminary of any type. That is the choice of the person, as opposed to some Svengalli like person who is responsible for the decision.

    Yet, Judaism values saving a life via all possible recognized medical remedies even on Shabbos. In fact, it is well known that R Chaim Brisker raised money and held up Kol Nidre to ransom a Bundist revolutionary who had been incarcerated who probably would not have been located in his shul if he had not been in shul.Why-R Chaim valued his life as much as any of the Jews in his shul. That’s Ahavas Yisrael 101.

    You seem to think that most of the people in the Charedi kiruv world spend most or all of the time in brainwashing students. WADR, showing someone the ins and outs of a Shabbos meal, Tefillah, kashrus, Torah study and treating the opposite gender as a person and not as an object is the way of enabling a neophyte to understand how a Jew deals with modern and contemporary life on a step by step basis.

    The question as to how Torah observance mandates or even implicitly suggests that one reject much of contemporary life is not an easy question to answer, but one IMO which is dependent on the times and culture that we live in today. Even a staunch advocate of TuM as RAL views today’s secular culture as nowhere as wholesome as the secular culture of the 1950s and early 1960s. One need only read the culture and book reviews in mainstream media such as the NY Times to see that a good portion of the culture in the world is violent,portrays women as objects and not persons and is not conducive to Torah observance or values. R E Buchwald , who is hardly an extremist, once commented that watching TV is akin to bringing the garbage that one took out of the house back into one’s living room.

  25. Really, Steve? Any hashkafic variety of haredism? Well, who is the “pluralist” here?

    And when the “approach” to modern and contemporary life is to discard modern and contemporary life in its entirety or as much as possible, this may not really be “helping” a person, particularly when it is presented as the only legitimate “approach” to Torah Judaism.

    As the song goes in the not-so-frum album “Free to be you and me,”

    “Some kind of help is the kind of help…we all can do without.”

    And again — once more — most secular Jews, particularly outside of New York, have no understanding of what the difference is between charedism and Modern Orthodoxy. They won’t understand the difference from these misleading websites. All Orthodox is “very” Orthodox to most of them. Do you know how many times some yenta described some nephew or cousin or friend’s child who became Modern Orthodox as “very” Orthodox merely because he kept kosher, wouldn’t travel on shabbes and put on these little black boxes on in the morning and declined to attend a non-Orthodox synagogue?

    You are endorsing the ends justifies the means approach of the charedim. NCSY also appears to agree with by partnering with them.

    Hey — why not? Isn’t that why a certain NCSY counselor lasted so long despite complaints about some very improper behavior?

    He saved a lot of souls, right? It was pakuach nefesh.

    An ends justifies the means philosophy. Any variety, any method.

    Great stuff, Steve.

  26. DK-Perhaps, you should check out Ohr Sameach and Aish’s websites, especially the various links as to faculty. The absence of a RIETS musmach on faculty or courses on RYBS are obvious indicia that a yeshiva or seminary is charedi in nature.

    I think that we also disagree on how you understand kiruv. You seem to view Kiruv as a threat to a pluralistic and progressive vision of a “big house” in which Torah observant Judaism is essentially a dusty artifact in a museum to be cleaned up on festive occasions. Earlier on, I posted that such a ersatz Judaism was not a substitute for Torah observance and learning in any form.

    That being the case-let’s be utterly frank on the issue- Yes, kiruv means exposing a Jewish man or woman to basic elements in Torah 101 such as Shabbos, Kashrus, Tefilah, Torah study and treating the opposite gender as a person, as opposed to an object. There is absolutely nothing wrong with showing a Jew who is grossly ignorant of his or her background on these and other subjects such as supporting Israel that their Jewish education and identity should at least be on par with their secular education and to explore how to approach modernity and contemporary life from a Torah perspective. In an age when assimilation and intermarriage continue to skyrocket, when any Jewish man or woman who decides to become a Torah observant Jew-of any hashkafic variety-and seeks to explore their roots-then those who have helped a person reach this decision have in fact saved a world because he or she who saves one person’s life is considered as if he or she saved the world. They have enabled and enpowered the would be BT to commence a search that they will continue in their lifetime. Contrary to your POV, this is hardly the stuff of cults or brainwashing. It is just showing a would be BT the options.

  27. DK-Now, we get to the core of the issue. You claim with no supporting evidence that most secular Jews have no knowledge as to the “pragmatic and theological” differences between MO and Charedi Jews. Once again, a simple search of a website and faculty and shiurim all of which can be located on a website or via Google reveals this basic information as well as the basic differences between these groupings. How about some evidence on this issue as opposed to a conclusion?

  28. Steve,

    You said,

    IMO, that thesis is paternalistic and patronizing at the best and assumes without any evidence that the reader will not conduct such a search.

    Most secular Jews don’t know the difference between MO and non-chassidic charedi. They just don’t. Your average secular Jew does not know the pragmatic or theological differences between an OU rabbi in a dark suit and black hat and a charedi rabbi in a black suit and black hat. They don’t understand the difference.

    Your insistence that they somehow understand is absurd.

  29. DK-I think that a simple search of the websites of Ohr Sameach and Aish, as opposed to the OU, will confirm that Aish and Ohr Sameach are charedi, OTOH, to assume that the neophyte student or his or her parents are incapable of deciphgering this information is an assumption that the average reader is not capable of reaching that decision on his or her own. IMO, that thesis is paternalistic and patronizing at the best and assumes without any evidence that the reader will not conduct such a search.

  30. DK-Anyone who limits his or her inquiry to the terms that you mentioned would indeed be surprised if they wound up in a Charedi environment. However, all you have to do is to read the application, check out the description of the faculty via the application or (better yet via Google) and the other indicia that I mentioned and the hashkafic nature becomes rather apparent.

    FWIW, your comment re RYBS, Lenin’s analogy and the Charedi world is poorly taken. RYBS raised funds for Lakewood, Chinuch Atzmaia and signed a letter calling on his talmidim to support Yeshiva Torah VDaas when it was in serious financial problems, regardless of their serious hashkafic differences with RYBS.( OTOH, Lenin’s comment re Bundists as Zionists afraid to take a boat ride strikes me as indicative of the views of many secular Zionists who prefer to lecture and dictate Israel’s foreign and domestic policies.)

  31. Bob,

    Many Haredi institutions tend to look at secular Jews as coming from the same situation as a Jewish child kidnapped by gentiles.

    Addtionally, they frequently look at current secular society as some of the most depraved societies in human history.

    This is to say, they look at the opportunity to encourage secular Jews to become haredi as “pakuach nefesh,” saving a life/soul.

    When a situation is “pakuach nefesh,” you are justified in doing things for people — and to people — that you are not usually inclined or even allowed to do.

    You approach an “ends justifies the means” philosophy.

    Will you agree that deception and even lies are permitted according to Jewish Law when a situation is “pakuach nefesh?”

    Will you agree that many haredim look at the individual secular Jew as a “pakuach nefesh” situation?

  32. DK,

    Aish HaTorah and Ohr Sameach really believe they have a correct understanding of the true Jewish heritage, land, and culture and want to impart that understanding through their form of Torah study. You’re entitled to challenge the correctness of their understanding. If you would stop alleging the unprovable—ulterior motivations and sinister efforts to conceal—you could make a stronger case.

    I’ve been suggesting that educational consumers really can get the info they need, even from and about the organizations you fault for incomplete advertising.

    Even the best advertising cannot give complete information about the product to everyone’s taste. People are quite aware that they need to supplement this to get a comprehensive picture.

  33. Bob,

    I did not “characterize all their personnel so negatively.” I am concerned about their underlying philosophy.

    I do maintain that it is important to understand the underlying philosophy, and the educational curriculum and focus, and I feel they are not being particularly upfront about it.

    They want to describe their educational programs as focusing on “exploring your heritage” and “Jewish Land” and “Jewish culture,” well, I consider that…let’s just say suspiciously incomplete.

    I would add a bit to that. Cause I’m a believer in the marketplace of ideas. Just like you!

    People will make better choices if they have more complete information.

    Incomplete information can lead to wrong, or for Politi-charedi Correct purposes, different choices, and a different track in life than would complete information.

    The sad thing is, I suspect they would agree with me.

    Their websites sure suggest they do.

  34. Do you think it’s right to characterize all their personnel so negatively, based on your own interactions in a particular time and place? Why do you feel others will be less discriminating than you?

  35. I have no sense, from experience, that Aish HaTorah or Ohr Sameach are hiding anything. Their people are approachable and candid. Try them out.

  36. I would say when it is bound by the policies of those political organizations nad their spiritual guides, it is absolutely appropriate.

    What is not appropriate is to conceal your hashkafas when hashkafa is, in fact, paramount to the education and curriculum of your facility.

  37. And since when does an educational institution have to advertise what political parties its staff people may belong to or vote for?

  38. check here: no clue about what they are offering or who they are: http://ohr.edu/yhiy.php/study_in_israel/
    They are not about “Jewish land and Jewish culture.” Please.

    Go here to Aish: http://www.aish.com/aishint/about-us.asp
    More general ecuminical stuff about “heritage.”

    Compare that to NCSy’s site, or the OU, where political and religious definition (“Orthodox” Union) is pretty upfront, where is Degel HaTorah/Agudas Yisroel mentioned on Aish’s and O.S.’s sites?

  39. DK intoned, “Charedi insitutions work hard to conceal important aspects of their haskafa, as well as the end effects of their policies.”

    Where is your proof? As Lennon would say, “nowhere man”.

  40. Steve,

    People can only make informed choices with sufficient information. Imperfect information makes for flawed decisions. Charedi insitutions work hard to conceal important aspects of their haskafa, as well as the end effects of their policies.

    I find it quite interesting that you defend the charedi institutions as part of your inclusive Orthodox vision, despite what some of them say preach (hard) about MO (oh yes they do!) and The Rav. Many would say that is rather big of you, considering that.

    Of coure, Lenin would have a different, if also useful term for such behavior.

  41. Jaded, that last point is interesting. (I don’t mean that your other points aren’t, just mean I want to focus on that one). I want to ask you, do you think BT educators can be effective in attracting FFBs who aren’t currently observing/affiliated?

  42. One more point , an MO oriented kiruv org would also probally do a way better job than a UO oriented kiruv org on attracting and enlightening not religious FFB’s that have long sworn off anything remotely chareidi related or oriented.

  43. Steve Brizel – quick sidetrack note – lets not forget the profound truism ” life ,its nothing like the brochure” author unknown…It might help if Rabbi And Rebbitzin Pollyana with Pollyana junior writing but suprisingly soothing verbal skills were not the only voices heard on the institution or program in question. Some may mistaken “everything is just peachy and perfect Pollyana” for an actual religion , and the care bear family as more than one family in a given geographic area . And may believe that they actually exist everywhere in real life for more than pictures and a random lovely shabbas .

    Another issue of concern ,of which certain angles can also be applied to UO high schools(a magnified version of the abrupt ending/parting part and the money part ), is that once the mr/ms spiritual roadtrip person is dressed and ready to embark on the perpetual path of blissful enlightenment on their own ,chareidi style (correct me if i’m wrong as im not an organization or school and dont pretend to be ) but i believe the figuretive “morning after” parting line (no plan b doesnt work here really, u would need something a little more potent , Duramed & Barr might be working on something … ) is something to the effect of ; good day and thanks for shopping at Chareidi Magnified Magnetism R Us . We appreciate your business,hope youve enjoyed your stay.Yes you have been added to our database for mailings (solicitings) and we do hope you love your dress and wear it often and always. We also look forward to enlightening your friends and neighbors.Please ask about our layaway programs and advanced courses and our expensive retreats that offer famous dry or fluffy expensive speakers that love hearing themselves speak , golfing and gemarah, tap dancing with the torah and pirkei avos at the pool or in the pool. And Dont Miss the caring in true care bear spirit “how to love everyone and care about them at the same time seminar given in our world famous HOT AIR fluff balloon ride with free looks of concern and a caring word or email from cheer beer and share bear themselves.You will also be able able to purchase photographs with the whole care bear family and group hug !!! These Care Bear weekends all take place in beautiful resorts in exotic and scenic Truth or Consequence New Mexico locations ..

    (Even jewish high schools should be sensitive to the fact that not everyone makes a beeline straight on over to the seminaries hawking their spiritual wares. With all that tuition having been paid there should be some sort of spiritual follow up even like a simple structure system or check system no expensive retreats needed really just to keep things in perspective out there in the colorful world ) .It might help with those that are not already disenchanted (which definitely could have been avoided with an optional MO track) and running far far away looking for some meaning and depth in other places . But thats a whole different kind of sidetrack ) .No this is not a spiritual systems analyst analysis of stuff , just some simple random points for pondering.

  44. No Problem. To be honest I wasn’t even sure what you were saying to me in your last comment. I too apologize (anee L’DeeKay V’Deekay Lee) for being aggressive. I was not trying to aggrieve just to debate but many a sin are perpetrated by accident so I beg your pardon as well.

  45. Chaim G,

    I just looked up bee season, see that it is a movie, and realized I probably perceived you to be more aggressive than you were being. I’m sorry for overreacting.

    I would recommend Spellbound in the same genre Bee Season appears to be, except it’s a documentary, so that means it probably better. ;)

  46. DK-WADR, you have posited that neither a high school senior nor a post college student can make an intelligent and/or independent decision on this issue. In contrast, many of us believe that they can make such a decision, based upon all of the information that is provided to them in the course of the applications and admissions process. That issue is the difference between a patronizing and paternalistic view of mankind and one in which a free mind makes a free decison by exercising his or her free choice-a fundamental principal of Torah Judaism.

  47. DK- You assume that parents have no role in how, when, where or what yeshiva or seminary a teen or adult attends. First of all, parents either fund the year in Israel or a post graduate arranges for his or her own payments thereof.All of these yeshivos and seminars have applications, guides, faculty listings, videos, etc that set forth their hashkafa in detail. One need not be well versed in the subtlties of hashkafa to discern these differences. An adult has the right and the obligation to make the choice that he or she views as appropriate based upon the literature and discussions with a representative that occurr during the applications process.

    You assume with zero proof that all of those who “wash out” do so because they become disallusioned with the Charedi way of life.That assumption requires more proof than you have posted at any place in this discussion or which is available on other websites. (Perhaps, D S Heilman can devote his next book on that issue.)

    Moreover,how about some evidence to support your claims instead of what almost borders on conspiracy-style logic?

  48. Sure, Chaim G.

    I am not familiar with Bee Season.

    I resent your characterization of Jewish parents as ones who believe in hefker for their children. I don’t think that’s the case at all. Even Kevin MacDonald, a rabid anti-Semite, concedes Jews tend to make very good parents.

    So I don’t know what you are talking about. Do you really want to make this your case for charedism? The possible (in your mind) of preferred legality for their teenagers secret abortions? This is your shtarke kashsa?

    You know what? Do it your way. Since you feel non-Orthodox Jewish parents want their kids to have abortions without telling them, by all means, do whatever you want with them. It’s no worse than them having an abortion, right?


    I am concerned about those who would never know about this blog. Not everyone knows all the option, or what they mean, going in. Stop acting like secular teenagers or their parents understand everything. Some learn the hard way.


    I don’t find it hard at all to believe. Some of these places do not present themselves or their haskafas clearly in part or in full. Why would they know if no one is telling?

    And Chaya — what a story!

  49. DK said,


    If an institution is not being represented properly, this is not a marketplace of ideas. This is the obfuscation of ideas.”

    DK, that’s a mighty big if.

    Your misguided, one-sided comments tout your favorite approach and outlook as the one choice for all BT’s, while you attack the other valid choices.

    In reality, American Jews are not easy marks for any sales pitch. We are already able to dig and find out the pros and cons of the various kiruv resources available. This blog helps in that regard. Our situations, needs, and aspirations differ. One size does not fit all.

  50. DK-you seem to think that attending yeshiva/seminary is more akin to undergoing surgery in which a physician must provide a patient with “informed consent” of the procedure as opposed to enrolling in an educational institution, in which a parent expects a person who has graduated high school to be able to make choices for themselves. In any event, I find it hard to believe that either parents and high school seniors or adults attending as post college graduates are not at least minimally familiar with the hashkafa and expectations of the schools that they are exploring or ultinately exploring.

    LC-thanks for the note re Midrashet Rachel. We are good friends with the Finsons.

  51. I just wanted to share a personal experience that relates to this discussion–

    My parents didn’t know what was flying when I got into orthodoxy in my late teens. I spent a summer at a Chabad seminary in Israel and wanted to stay the year. My parent’s answer was something like, “NO WAY! STOP BECOMING RELIGIOUS RIGHT THIS MINUTE AND GO BACK TO COLLEGE.”

    My aunt, who had more knowledge of different Jewish groups and saw I wasn’t going to give up observance, talked me into coming back to the States and entering a learning program at a VERY left-leaning (but MO-affiliated) institution. My mom was furious at my aunt, but her intervention helped me find a personal middle path that my parents are now very comfortable with (especially the cute MO rabbi husband).

  52. I think most secular Jewish parents — if they understood the difference (and they do not understand the difference) would prefer their child go to an MO insitution instead of a charedi one.
    Eh. Not necessarily. As someone else pointed out, parents are the ones who generally pay for the “year in Israel” post-HS. That’s why this NCSYer didn’t go post-HS. My parents saw anything that involved Shabbos observance as being a threat.

    I went on my own after getting my BS, with my father’s warm wishes – and reminder that ” you’re on your own financially”. I ended up at Midreshet Rachel (Shappel’s women’s school), and was very happy to again find a variety of viewpoints within Yiddishkeit, from modern, to Chassidic, to yeshivish, both among the staff, the hashkafos expressed during class, and the leanings of the other students.

    For all that the different viewpoints speak to different individuals, there’s also something to be said for the harmony and unity of this approach.

  53. Yikes,

    The MO existed before the State of Israel. And even RYBS himself wasn’t a fabrentene Zionist.

    Chaim G,

    Not all secular Jews are as liberal as you are describing. For instance, Giuliani received 76% of the Jewish vote his second term, when the city was well below 20% Orthodox. (It was up to 19% in 2002, from 12% in 1992).


    If an institution is not being represented properly, this is not a marketplace of ideas. This is the obfuscation of ideas.


    Would you at least agree with me that parents should understand exactly what an institution is advocating besides platitudes of “exploring your heritage?”

  54. DK if you get into proto-stuff, then most thinkers throughout the ages have been proto-yeshiva world (see Pirkei Avos for the importance of Torah study, etc) and Baalei Kabbalah were indeed proto-Chasidim.

    There is NO way you can make MO the historical standard and say other paths are innovations. As mentioned, neither RSRH nor latter Zionists hid the fact they were innovations. RJBS himself didn’t justify his involvement with the MO world [though by the way in The Rav, Rabbi Rakkefet mentions that RJBS did not align himself with the MO world as such, and has an interesting quote or two on the subject] by saying it was historical. Rather he said that times had changed and the new reality demanded new approaches ie talmud learning for women, working with the secular state of Israel, etc. Unlike you, MO thinkers have never claimed their views and approaches were old, rather they believe that we live in a new post-emancipated world with a State of ISrael and we need to adjust to that. Again, a NEW approach not an old one.

    Being a historical standard or not doesn’t affect whether a path is a legitimate Torah path, so I’m not sure why you are trying to squeeze that in. It takes away your legitimacy on other points

  55. DK-

    Aren’t these the same secular Jewish parents that,typically, would (as a liberal thinking/voting class)advocate their childrens obtaining contraceptives and/or abortions w/o their knowledge or consent to maintain the kids privacy rights?

    Just wondering

    PS What did you think of Bee Season?

  56. DK-I tend to doubt that most secular Jewish parents have any better idea of what happens at a college campus than they do at yeshiva or seminary. At least Tom Wolfe’s recent book dispelled some of the ignorance as to what passes for “higher education” at a typical institution of higher learning. You assume that parents and their children would make a decision based upon hashkafa, as opposed to the yeshiva or seminary that best suits the needs of their teens. I also reject the tone of your last post that NCSY fails to allow parents a role in the process. After all, who funds a teen’s decisions re a choice of college or a year in Israel?

  57. DK should not live in fear that some Jews might adopt other, less modern, Orthodox approaches. Where is DK’s own confidence in the Orthodox “marketplace of ideas”? Give people some credit for sechel.

    Jews have a history of voluntarily making material sacrifices for a greater good.

  58. Gershon,

    I think most secular Jewish parents have a better idea about was goes on at a college campus (though they are not all the same) than they do about what is advocated at a haredi institution.

    I think most secular Jewish parents — if they understood the difference (and they do not understand the difference) would prefer their child go to an MO insitution instead of a charedi one.

    You are welcome to disagree. But this needs to be upfront, and I don’t think I am doing anything wrong by demanding they be properly informed.

    And they are not being informed. Well, they should be. It’s their kid. I don’t buy into the “tinuk shel nishba” thing. These are Jewish parents. These are their children.

    Not yours.

  59. DK,

    NCSY teleconferenced Rav Mendel Weinbach and Rav Noach Weinberg because they are experts in kiruv with over 30 years of experience to share with us. Shouldn’t we glean wisdom from experts in our field? Shouldn’t we be proud that we did so? Are you aware that Rabbi Shlomo Riskin also gave sessions there? Did you know that there was a panel disscusion on the direction of Modern Orthodoxy at that same NCSY conference? Did you know that Richard Joel, president of YU also came and spoke?

    NCSY has always been a high school outreach program. There weren’t significant funds allocated to getting involved in a large scale adult outreach effort. In an ideal world with endless resources we might have NCSY Yeshivos, but no such thing exists. (BTW, those hypothetical yeshivos would likely have MO, chareidi and everything in between as staff – just as you will find on our current staff) That leaves NCSY with the job of trying to help teens who have become interested in Judaism choose the best place for themselves, based on what’s available. Many kids are well suited for MO yeshivas. Others are inclined to go to places like Ohr Somayach or Michlelet Esther on the Neve campus for girls. We try as best as we can to see which one fits the child’s personality and specific strenghths and needs. I don’t see why that’s wrong whatsoever. I actually think it’s commendable.

    NCSY’s goal is to help teens engage in Judaism. If NCSY succeeds in that goal, and based on what’s available for them post high school and based on who they are, many teens happen to go to Michlelet Esther or Ohr Somayach and many others go to MO yeshivas ans seminaries, that is a success as far as I’m concerned!

    I read your article in jewschool. You clearly object to kiruv that brings a secularly raised teen in close contact with the chareidi world. One of your objections was that the teens and their parents have not been properly forewarned about the financial hardships chareidism and kollel life lead to. Also, you feel that halachic stringencies isn’t a healthy lifestyle to promote for the typical secularly raised teen.

    My response is the following. Even if there would be some truth to the fact that some parents of baalei teshuva were never expecting their kids to wind up in kollel (and let’s be honest – many don’t end up in kollel), or that their kids would end up “so very religious”, that should still not be reason for NCSY to hesitate trying our best to reach out to Jewish teens who are often uninspired about their Judaism, and getting them inspired. You seem to be saying that only place we should send kids is to MO places!! Why? Because you think that every secularly raised kid is best suited for MO? That’s just not true. Some kids are more inclined for a yeshiva lifestyle. Some kids would feel that MO doesn’t talk to them.

    DK, think about it. Do secular colleges send warnings to the parents about all the possible exposure the kids will receive to philosophies and lifestyles that are different to what was taught at home?!

  60. Yikes,

    I am not sure I agree. There were proto-MO’s. Like the Ibn Ezra. Grammarian, mathmatician (credited in helping to spread decimel system to Europe). Where were there proto-chassidim before they came unto the scene? Nowhere. That’s why they got put into charem.

  61. “the yeshiva and Chassidic movements are largely relatively modern movements. Just as not all religious Jews joined the various Chassidic movements, so too, not all of religious Jews joined the Yeshiva movement. Those who declined to join either modern Haredi movement are frequently considered to be in the Modern Orthodox camp.”

    For the record, that statement is patently false. MO was not the ‘historic standard’ and others went to chassidic or yeshiva etc.

    Need we mention Rav Hirsch’s NEO-Orthodoxy? Need we mention the new Zionist movement and the Mizrachi. These were new movements and MO traces itself to them.

    The truth is that the entire O world underwent a change and split up into Chassidic, MO and Yeshiva to make three simple splits.

    It may or may not equally legitimate but MO has no more HISTORICAL authority than the others, and possibly less so considering the radical changes within RSRH’s and the Mizrachi’s programmes, most of which were self-acknowledged.

  62. If you click on the links for TORCH’s Rabbi Grossman and Rabbi Wolbe in my earlier comment, you will see their short biographies.

  63. Ilanit,

    What works in a suburban, smaller Jewish community may not suffice in a place like New York in terms of reaching lots of Jews of varying, disparate cultures. Having said that, I am really impressed that they push Hebrew so heavily. It’s wonderful. I also like that they teach the meaning of the holidays through the language of the prayers.

    Out of respect for the parameters of this blog, I am going to decline to discuss Aish at length. I will only say that it is absolutely not Modern Orthodox, but the largest outreach organization of the B’nai Torah movement, which is a haredi movement, and offers a more stringent interpretation of Orthodox Judaism than a Modern Orthodox organization like NJOP.

  64. Thanks DK – so where do you think it would fall in your assessment of MO kiruv? I know you would only be basing that on the flyers for the programs, but I am just curious to know if you think the org fulfills what you talk about in this post or not. My second question is, where does Aish fit into all of this?

  65. It looks mostly, but not only, Modern Orthodox, Ilanit. The giveaway is that it has NJOP programming, but I would know anyway, because they are really pushing varius classes which teach the Hebrew language http://www.torchweb.com/upcoming.html, frequently for religious purposes, but also generally. Judging by these numerous and frequent Hebrew classes offered, there are apparently a lot of Jews who will take interest in that sort of thing.

  66. Hi all –

    I am curious to know what you think of an organization in Houston called TORCH (which is actually having its annual gala tonight) – Torah Outreach Research Center of Houston. It is at http://www.torchweb.com. It has many programs that cater to all sorts of people, but I am curious to know how everyone here will characterize it.

  67. Steve,

    You gave reasons why MO parents send their kids to NSCY. That is outside my area of concern or knowledge. I am not from an MO background. I am from a traditional secular background. What MO parents and communities do and why is their business. They know the lay of the field.

    Secular Jewish kids do not, nor do their parents. If there is not an infrastructure for them to go to in the MO world, which there is not–like there is for MO kids, then this is indeed an issue, and a big one.

    Now, granted, this appears to be changing to some degree. But until recently, and in many ways still today, the most available insitutions for secular Jewish teenagers to go to for intensive Jewish study are charedi insitutions.

    If we agree that NSCY wants to mekarev secular /liberal Jewish teenagers and promote intensive Jewish study for those intersted and willing, and if we agree that the most readily available places for them do to so are charedi, then NCSY is clearly facilitating a charedi ideology for those secular Jewish teenagers interested in intensive Jewish study in Israel.

    Where are they going to go? Well, we know exactly where. The type of haredi places whose Roshei Yeshiva were greeting NSCY professional through video conferencing. There were others, but it was clear from the press release who were considered the most important and distinguished speakers. http://www.ou.org/news/article/rashei_yeshiva_of_aish_hatorah_and_orh_somayach_address_ncsy_pros

    Why not just admit this?

  68. DK-Did you read my two posts on NCSY at Jewschool? I think that your post requires more evidence and a lot more logic to support the conclusion that you recently asserted herein. FWIW, I disagree with your claims that NCSY ‘facilitated” the Charedi way of life, that a “significant number” end up in what you claim “advocate maximum halachic compliance , stringency and poverty” even if may not have explicitly or specifically advocated that way of life.

  69. Gershon,

    If a significant portion of NCSY’ers end up in institutions that advocate maximum halchic compliance, stringency and poverty, the fact that NCSY may not have explicitly or specifically advocated this way of life does not nullify the fact that they facilitated just that.

    This seems to be the situation, and I don’t think it’s okay.

    Do you?

  70. DK, I think that if the tent had people who were stringent for themselves but lenient when it came to others it would be just the right fit. For instance:

    On a recent public school student visit to NY, we (NCSY) had a bunch of Midwest teens visit the Lower East Side, see some kosher restaurants, visit Boro Park just to look around, check out Eichler’s, visit YU when they had their book sale, and some other places that were purely NY tourist attractions. They also visited Chaim Berlin Yeshiva to meet the Rosh Yeshiva. Rav Aharon Schechter has a beautiful warm smile. Nobody told these kids a word about what they ought to do. It was just a wonderful warm hello to some very long lost relatives.

    Do you see a problem with that sort of thing?

  71. To mix a metaphor, rather than concerning ourselves with revealing or concealing the rooms and their furnishings we should try to make sure that Judaism is not the proverbial “everything on the menu but nothing in the kitchen” restaraunt!

  72. Gershon,

    I am certainly all for that, It is, at the very least, educational.

    But where we might disagree is in terms of how the living room and dining room need be set.

    Can we at least agree an MO kiruv tent should not include those who advocate or even personally prefer (for others) stringency or generally seek maximum compliance?

  73. Gershon,

    I like the Moshul, but I think DK is addressing the possibility that if you show some people the living room and dining room, they may be scared off and not even enter the front hall.

  74. DK, In response to #64, I’ll say once again… Opening the door for Jews to come in is critcal. Agreed. (And not demanding impossible things should be obvious to anyone in kiruv who has any common sense.) Just open the door wide enough for them to see what’s in the living room and dining room, not just the front hall. Some might want to just hang out in the front hall for a long time, but in time, many will venture into the other rooms. If you only show the front hall, many will simply fing their way back out. The outdoors is much more spacious. And that would be a shame. If only they had seen what was inside…

  75. “I guess the only thing i can focus on is to channel some of my charity giving towards extra seats in random houses of worship and schools.”

    JT- That would be a very special thing to do. What a beautiful Rosh Hashanah preparation!

  76. Rav Wolbe wrote a book that Feldheim published in paperback in the 1980’s as an English translation with the title Pathways. This is out of print and scarce, but may be available secondhand or at some Jewish bookstores. You’d be surprised at how many out-of-print items lurk in out-of-the-way corners of the larger bookstores.

    Here is how Ohr Sameach listed it on their reading list:

    Pathways, by Shlomo Wolbe (Feldheim) – A philosophy of repentance by one of the foremost of contemporary ethicists.

    Rabbi Leib (Lawrence) Kelemen, the student of Rav Wolbe who translated Rav Wolbe’s parenting book, has put out books and audiotapes of his own.

    Here’s a link to the tapes:

  77. Steve Brizel – thanx for R Wolbe’s “Mamarei Ymei Ratzon” and the RYBS influenced YK machzor info, appreciate it. Mostly everything R Wolbe does is in hebrew except for a parenting book which ive just read even though i dont have kids but do have nieces and nephews.(actually his background is fascinating i’ve read snippets of his writing on wikipedia and hes brilliant).I wish someone (with a brilliant command of the english language) , would translate Alei Shur or at least the second volume .I’m assuming “Mamarei Ymei Ratzon” is in hebrew only , everything thats been stimulating my spiritual interest levels lately seem to have that common denominating factor of being available in HEBREW ONLY which is a harder language for me to process.

  78. “Also regarding the halach learning and gemarah recommendations ..”

    One can apply the same 30 day concept regarding Halcaha also to Tefilos as Steve does, or to Machshava/ Mussar as well.

  79. JT-I agree that one cannnot fabricate a mood or rely on a mood that is well intended but not one that will inspire you.I do agree that we need more shiurim that explain the Nussach hTefilah, especially the Mussaf of RH, in Elul, as opposed to drashos, etc that you describe as fluff. That is precisely why at least 30 days before any Yom Tov, one has to review those halachos and minhagim associated with it. In the case of the Yamim Noraim, I always review the works of RYBS and R Wolbe, Zicronam Livracha. Whenever I review these works which include a lot of the Tefilos, the awesome nusach hatefilah just comes alive as I am learning them.

    FYI, there is a new sefer of drashos that R Wolbe ZTL gave over a series of years during Elul and Aseres Ymei Teshuvah in Yeshivas Beer Yaakov entitled “Mamarei Ymei Ratzon.” I highly reccomend it in addition to the Machzor for YK that is based on the machshavah of RYBS as a means of preparing oneself for the Yamim Noraim.

  80. Boruch Horowitz – Apisdorf is actually a good writer ,great choice on the spiritual stimulant (follow the prescription dosage carefully :-) .I read parts of that Rosh hashana and yom Kippur survival kit book.Also regarding the halach learning and gemarah recommendations ..I’m not on that level where i would get inspired from halacha learnings of a holiday but interesting concept for future reference.

  81. “One option is the modular mobile lateral fun on an as needed basis praying group modeled after the trailer park home concept – supplies needed…”

    Jaded Topaz,

    Very humorous!

    One of my rebbeim said that one gets out of each Yom Tov to the extent one puts in, in terms of preparation. The Gemara speaks, for example, about studying the halachos of a holiday before the particular Yom Tov.

    I personally find the singing conducive to concentration. Obviously, this dependends on the particular Schul and Chazzan.

    I sometimes take Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf’s “Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur Survival Kit” next to me, so I can look at it, if I get tired during a long davening. It has a funny cover(it’s a good marketing technique), and one year, the book got some curious glances from the chassidshe kids davening next to me.

    But he has some good thoughts on the Machzor, so I don’t mind my neighbors. And the cover stimulates me as well. You might say that this is my equivalent of green apple smiroff with honey, Adderall, or the other stimulants of different varieties which you mentioned in a previous post.

  82. Steve Brizel -regarding your belief of existing ” awe of yamim noraim”.I dont live in a vaccum and have been taught plenty of “halachic and hashkafic bedrock notions” of the prayers still no awe in sight.Lovely options but i’m not looking for a beginners high holiday service/a well structured high holiday service or a UO pre-programmed high holiday service with extra singing.I’m not even in the market for a high holiday service program but my point was, not everyone is capable of fabricating their own personal awe and inspiration agenda.It really is all in the presentation.And most high holiday programs out there are either getting all caught up in the fluffyism of superficial gimmicks and trendy knockoffs and spoofs or they just rely on the fact that mr/ms self sufficient congregant will self inspire and awe themselves into the New Year with rust free resolutions by mere spiritual osmosis and diffusion and a long sermon or ten.There is a need for colorful innovative flavored intellectual based zero fluff high holiday service program for individuals with less than average attention spans but greater than average thirst for real meaning and depth.I think that Alei Shur should be part of the program too or parts of it.

    There is a major difference between a “free lunch” and a lunch that was paid for in full but initially offered in the name of Judaism and care bear ism not synagogue/shul/shteibel/house of worship marketing ism.I would like to think that prompting or prodding to pay for a service you take part in is not needed . But should a poor person want to pray there should be some kind of option there .I think that there should always be extra unmarked seats in every house of worship.The whole concept reeks of tuition commitees similarities and messes with the spiritual thing.I guess the only thing i can focus on is to channel some of my charity giving towards extra seats in random houses of worship and schools.

  83. Menachem (#57)–
    I don’t think that the phrase “supportive of the Medina” comes close to describing the dati leumi philosophy. “Supporting Israel” is what American Jews do every time they send money to Hadassah or write a letter to the editor defending Israeli policy. Supporting Israel is something that pretty much all religious Jews do, and most non-religious as well. The only exception that I can think of is the Neturei Karta, and certainly not everyone outside of them is dati leumi…

    Not everyone who is religious without being haredi can be called dati leumi, or MO for that matter. Hence terms like “masorti dati” or “traditional.” I won’t try to get into all of dati leumi philosophy, but suffice to say that there is no such thing as dati leumi outside of Israel–a huge practical difference from the rest of the Jewish world, based on a significant difference in perception of halacha.

    Anyway, my main arguments, which I don’t feel you addressed (my fault for not stating them more clearly):
    1)It is possible to be dati leumi without being MO, and also possible to be MO without being Dati Leumi. Therefore, the two are not the same thing.
    2) It is possible to be dati leumi and also haredi, or at least to fit completely into the haredi community in terms of dress, lifestyle, and education. Could the same be said of MO? And if we recognize that dati leumi and haredi are two seperate groups despite the occasional very close resemblance, why not say the same for Dati Leumi and MO?
    3) In mathematical logic terms, if A=B, and A=/=C, then if B, A. And if A, B. And B can never equal C. In this case, those terms are not met. Therefore, A=/=B.

  84. David Linn, you wrote,

    “It seems that the area where you and Rabbi Seif are disagreeing is that the way you are presenting it, compromise can be seen as a goal. I think you run the risk of defining the difference between Charedim and MO as MO being more meikel in halachah.”

    Well, there is that in part. Sometimes the MO would and should be more meikel when it comes to halacha. I see no reason to deny that.

    Take hand shaking. I once heard a lecture by a haredi rabbi insisting that there was no way to shake hands with a woman for business purposes. He insisted that if you absolutely had to, you would need to put on a glove first. He also insisted that this stance would not hurt potential business. People would understand and respect your position.

    Now — in the MO world, though there are some who may not shake hands with a person of opposite gender, pragmatically, most shake hands in business. Where is the outcry from the OU on the “shaking hands crisis?” Nowhere. Rabbi Gil Student may write a three part series on the question http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2005/07/shaking-hands-with-women-iii.html , but this merely demonstrates that even the RWMO have a different approach to this issue and others than at least some of those in charedi kiruv institutions.

    So yeah, sometimes I would say the MO world is more lenient. But not in terms of not caring about halacha, but in terms of defining halacha.

  85. DK,

    I’m not so sure if the points you are making should be limited to MO kiruv. It would seem that this would be a good approach (and it is often employed) for all kiruv endeavors.

    It seems that the area where you and Rabbi Seif are disagreeing is that the way you are presenting it, compromise can be seen as a goal. I think you run the risk of defining the difference between Charedim and MO as MO being more meikel in halachah.

    I agree wholeheartedly that any growth is important and just bc someone hasn’t reached a level of full commitment doesn’t mean they haven’t changed or are failures of the kiruv efforts. In some of the examples you gave, you seemed to have blurred the line between MO normative halachah and someone not doing something because they are not ready to commit. There is a big difference, no?

  86. DK-AFAIK, the MO kiruv groups that currently are out there such as NJOP and MJE, work quite similarly to what you have described.Their success is well documented OTOH, Charedi kiruv groups work for others. While I agree that a gradually adjustment to a Torah observant life works for some BTs, I would be loath to condemn the Charedi kiruv programs, despite my own well documented reservations about them. The Neviim tell us that there is no one way to accomplish teshuvah.

  87. Jaded Topaz-The Tefilos of the Yamim Noraim cannot be appreciated in a vacumn without reviewing the halachic and hashkafic bedrock notions that underly them.Perhaps, you should try a shul, yeshiva, Beis Medrash or shtiebel as opposed to somewhere the attendees view synagogue architechture with the same rapture as a museum.

    On the issue of paying for shul seats, that is indeed a difficult issue.For instance, in an ideal world, every shul should always welcome any Jew off the street , especially on Shabbbos , Yom Tov and the Yamim Noraim. OTOH, paying for seats is a means of ensuring that a shul can perform its goals during the years and is a legitimate means of tzedakah or a sign that one identifies with a shul as his or her community. IOW, there is no such thing as a totally “free lunch” for someone with the means.

  88. Steve Brizel – just a quick sidetrack point -I dont agree with examples of stuff you bring as awe inspiring …..like your eloquent description of concepts like “the Awe of the Yomim Noraim”. WADR ,IMJO Awe is not a definite default emotional response associated with the Yomim Noraim and results may vary from synagogue sitter to synagogue sitter .While some do find Awe seated in a dusky shade of pink topaz fabric w/ fading floral background chapel chair ganged in unison to the rest of the chapel chairs in tidy rows flanked on either side by stern shooshing congregants listening to sermon after sermon prayer after prayer.Other spiritually unruly congregants focus on the stained glass windows with their prayer book safely tucked in the chrome underseat bookrack and wonder how long it must have taken to handpaint all the pretty colorful intricate patterns on the tallest glass window.Some with actual personalities wonder what would happen if the guy blowing the shofar suddenly got the giggles .

    And the rest wonder if the fabric and floral weave thought patternings of Mr never ending sermon lectures and speeches are just a fickle cover for some plywood thoughts and laminated shortcomings, some woolly fabricated insight knockoffs (as it does seem a little scratchy on the surface and sounds vaguely familiar doesnt anyone adhere to the trademark and copyright infringement laws anymore …) or an actual original thought pattern.Is the fabricated presentation actually enhancing the sturdy solid oak frame seat of prayer on which (as the legend goes) everyone is supposed to be using as fundamental building bricks for sand castles of faith. And which should be able to yield long years of endless usage without wearing out the foam cushioning for lifes rough tripping/bruisings/hurts.Its hard focusing on the solid oak prayer foundation when the fading pink floral fabric material cover (fee) is so distracting. The possiblity of the core and frame being fickle/ plastic/cardboard (material) becomes more and more of a disconcerting possiblity or probability.

    And of those not actually ensconced in the synagogue setting on praying days ,some are in the process of fabricating awe through the looking glass in places that dont have admission fees.(No not Hillel’s solutions) .One option is the modular mobile lateral fun on an as needed basis praying group modeled after the trailer park home concept – supplies needed :a prayer book/ a double hinged padded metal folding chair or light weight plastic resin folding chairs with the waterfall seat and a patch of concrete or green lawn with unobscured views of a house of worship . This way you get the sitting /the praying/ the fresh outdoors and you can pray at no additional or initial cost other than the folding chair you bring along.All in a fun/ enviroment with friends .You can probally get some tanning time in too by default if its sunny .Recommendations : green apple smiroff with honey should be served in half hour increments to faciliate with solemn concentration and sitting for a sweet new year.Groups should be kept small max of 25 participants and laughter should be kept to a minimum ,you dont want disturb the congregants your freeloading spirituality off of .They might throw hats or words at you then you might miss the shofar blowing.

    And then your New Years resolution of painting your life in a whole new bright shade of Coral might make the narrowminded space you occupy seem even smaller.So the question is do you just want to use a lighter shade of generic pink and stick to your quaint narrow victorian with turrets living space or did you want to broaden your horizons in a spacious loft and be able to use any extreme bright paint colors without worrying that it would make the narrow seem even more narrowminded.Its so hard choosing the color and actual degree of intensity you want to paint your life with. I guess you can always just repaint with a whole new color .Something to think about on those resin lightweight folding chairs damping down the green grass spirits as you ponder the price of praying (or not praying).

  89. Gershon,

    I am not advocating diluting the message. I am advocating a fair, non-judgmental deal.

    Does the Torah demand a complete shabbos? Yes. If you can’t handle that, is a shabbat dinner worth doing? Yes. So start there. The advatanges according to a purely cost-benefit analysis are tremendous. There is little question.

    Do you have to stop listening to Radiohead or Mozart and instead listen to Matisyahu or the Miami Boys Choir? No, you do not. It’s really no problem. You can listen to Radiohead and Mozart for the rest of your life.

    Do you have to cancel HBO? No. Worry about fasting on Yom Kippur. The “49th level of Tumah” lens is not for everyone. Not all of us are mikabel. And you have other things to worry about besides worrying about and resenting not having Sunday night HBO.

    Should a woman consider only wearing jean skirts for casual dress instead of pant ever? No, don’t worry about that right now. First let’s worry about kashering your kitchen and no, tattoos are not okay. But don’t worry about shaking hands with business people. You have what to rely one, relax. You can be religious and normal. We are a functional people.

    And if you are with a guy you aren’t married to, well, you should make sure he’s Jewish, and make sure you are headed towards a more traditional life experience. We aren’t asking you to break up. Rather, we are asking you to get married. No pressure, but it’s out there, right? Jewish people are supposed to get married, not live casually. But again…we didn’t ask, so don’t tell. Unless you need a Rabbi for your wedding and preperations for a traditional one. Then we’re here for you. Even if you’re having mixed dancing.

    That is my suggestion, Gershon. Is it really so half-baked? Or would it lead to something quite vibrant for a lot of people? I would like to think the latter.

  90. Did anyone else read the title of this article and think that they were refering to MO kiruv to the Chareidi- trying to show that there is room for dinosaurs and opera in one’s life as well as talmud and zemirot?

  91. Mark,

    I agree with that. Focusing on “TAG”(the acronym sounds nice as well), would alleviate many problems.


    “Is it right or wrong, better or worse? Who am I to say?”

    I don’t know either; as I said, I see both positive and negative aspects. I also don’t know exactly what or where the elusive golden mean(“shvil hazahav”) is and/or is located. I, as well, like merely observing the Jewish Scene.

    It is hard to judge any period when one is living through it; this is even harder than analyzing the past, which is also not easy. The hopeful thing, I think, is that the Jewish Community on a whole, has a mechanism which allows it to pull back to some type of center. Otherwise, I think, we could not have survived over the years as a diverse people and community with different inclinations.

  92. A teacher of mine said that if you look at the people at the “top” of any path, they are all learning a lot of Torah, doing lots of chesed, davening with Kavanna and spending their time wisely. At the “bottom”, people aren’t focused on those things and are wasting a lot of time.

    This teacher thought that derech/path was not as important as focusing on getting closer to Hashem through Torah, Avodah and Gemillas Chasadim (TAG).

    This does not mean all paths are equal. To answer which path is best, we would have to try to measure the achievements of the people following the path in the three areas (TAG) and also look at the paths other stated goals and focuses.

  93. Many of the themes discussed here are echoes of those in the recent post “Looking Good”. To reiterate, there is no such thing as one size fits all kiruv. Everyone is different. One person loves hot dogs and the BBQ; another will come from grilled vegetables. But eventually one might try the others preferences, and may even find that they like hot dogs.
    Over the years, from my original “chevra” of BT’s, I’ve watched us all grow from mainly LWMO. Some of us have clearly moved to the right. But the Orthodox community in general has moved to the right – we all know the LW families whose kids come home from EY as black hatters. Who are we to say that one aspect of Orthodoxy is “better” then the other?
    Basically, let’s be more concerned with getting people through the door then whether the door is black or white. Shabbos is Shabbos, kashrus is kashrus. It takes time for people to find their comfort zone. In summation, there’s a place for every type of kiruv.

  94. Ora,

    I don’t agree with you. I think here in Israel Daati Leumi is a broad catch-all that includes any orthodox people that also are supportive of the Medina. It is also a quasi-political designation. Under that umbrella exists all the people you describe, e.g. those who read newspapers, those who don’t, women who learn post high school, etc.

    I think Rav Kook and Rav Soloveitchik would both fall under this category. (Not sure how you came to put Rav Feinstein in the MO camp.) They represent the broad categories of Messanic vs non-Messianic approaches to the founding of the state. Also, the newer “Chardal” (Chareidi Leumi) would fall into the broader DL category. As well as all of the Hesdar yeshivas.

  95. Baruch, I can’t explain it. I just know things have changed. It was a lot easier to deal with questions such as evolution just a few years ago. Is it right or wrong, better or worse? Who am I to say? It was just an observation.

  96. DK, In response to #48 my point was that if we are mekarev people to the point where it will only fizzle out, we will not have had success. If we only show the first rung or two, and that’s view as the end goal, then 10 or 15 years down the road, I imagine the homes of such baalei teshuva might resemble the LWMO homes that I have grown up with and have observed for many years. At that point I wondered, what would things look like for the next generation?

    As for what is called a real change, I was originally thinking along the lines of Ora in #51, but I’m thinking about it some more. You make a good point. It’s not for anyone to decide who’s done teshuva and who hasn’t. That’s for God to decide. But I still wonder if would be selling potential BTS short by not showing them the whole broad picture and showing them other paths. You’d be surprised how many different directions NCSYers choose to go in. We try as best as we can to find the right fit for everyone. You seem to be advocating only showing them one option. That seems to be just what you were unhappy about – just in the converse.

  97. Ora- (#50)
    “… there are… many in the dati leumi world who avoid secular papers, don’t have internet at home, etc…. would consider more Haredi than MO.”
    “In the other (IDL) yeshivot, yes, they read RYBS, but they learn from haredi rabbis as well.”

    Whereas in Ponovez, Slonim and Lakewood no one (or few if any) reads RYBS, right? I think the phenomenon you’re describing in these 2 comments is not IDL at all but Chardal (Chredi, Dati, Leumi with a dash of mustard). At the risk of being self-referential this is just a prime example of what I wrote in comment # 11: “Since the Holocaust there is no question that …within all of Orthodoxy there has been a cross-pollinating with different camps influencing one another and getting disconnected from there own ideological “purity”.” Nevertheless some groups share a much greater cultural affinity and ideological harmony than others. I still believe that AMO and IDL are in the same general camp.

    “There’s also a difference between supporting Israel and believing that all Jews are required to live in Israel whenever possible.”

    Not at all. There is just a lower threshold of “impossibility” for American DL/MO who have yet to or opted never to make Aliyah.

    “I would strongly disagree that Gush Etzion is the “crown jewel.” It is one of the bigger and better hesder yeshivot ”

    Why quibble? All I wrote was that it was ARGUABLY the “crown jewel.” I have no ax to grind here. I never attended a hesder or Bnai Akiva yeshiva of any kind.

    DK- Your post and comment thread argues more convincingly for a spiritual Cabrini Hospital burn victim unit than for LW-MO Kiruv. In Israeli Demographics there are Olim , Yordim and Noshrim. The term Noshrim describes those who made Aliyah, then dropped out and were yored. As the Kiruv/Chesed of Klal Yisrael matures and diversifies (witness the growth of organizations specializing in youth at risk over the last 15 years) we need efforts by all camps to address the very real pain and disillusionment of spiritual Noshrim i.e. BT’s who dropped off or dropped out altogether.

  98. Gershon,

    “It wasn’t always like that… That was in 1978. I don’t think he’d be able to give that same shiur today…”

    I am curious why there might be such a change. I am not referring to attitudes towards evolution per se, as this particular aspect of Science and Torah discussions doesn’t particularly interest me that greatly.

    However some people say or imply that we have too much conformity today, and less diversity, etc. If this is true(perhaps it is exaggerated), then the question becomes, can we go back to the “good old days”, and should we want to? It is easy to make an argument and say that we should.

    On the other side of the question, Sholmo Hamelech said, “Do not say that old times were better than today …. ” Certainly, in some ways, the generation and its standards have improved.

    Or perhaps, with the growth that the Torah community has experienced, Baruch Hashem, there needs to be an effort made to try to keep conformity. Also, maybe additional insularity is a reaction to the progressively worsening moral standards of secular society.

    Whatever the case may be, one hopes that there will always be a healthy and balanced communal happy-medium.

  99. Gershon #46, I like the point you raise here:

    “I would like to see a study assessing how well people with hashkafic loose ends did educating their children. From what I have witnessed in my 46 years on this planet, the results aren’t that pretty. OTOH, what are the options?”

    Like some others on this blog, I learned at Midreshet Rachel, a Darche Noam institution. Those schools strike a balance (albeit in a yeshiva setting, not in frontline kiruv) between presenting Jewish views with clarity and acknowledging the diversity in the spectrum of acceptable positions. I think the same is possible in first-level kiruv, whether MO or Charedi or whatever. It just takes the courage and honesty to say: “I am presenting an authentic and compelling Jewish perspective on this issue. This is not the only way to approach it. Come and learn.”

  100. DK (#49)–I’m not sure that everyone who takes on a new mitzvah is “becoming a new person.” People can, for various reasons, change their actions without changing their underlying beliefs or viewpoints very much, and I have met people who keep kashrut and shabbat for basically cultural reasons. It’s better than not keeping kashrut or shabbat, and noone would question that, but it’s also not teshuva (because there is no realization that the past actions were wrong).

    Any effective kiruv will have to challenge people at some point, to help them become Jewish in their heads and hearts, and not only in action. That’s what “becoming a new person” is about, and that’s the change that lasts.

  101. Chaim #41–
    OK, I’m probably wrong about Rav Feinstein. My knowledge of American Jewish groups is not so good.

    It’s true that many people who define themselves as dati leumi “embrace many of the accoutrements of modernity.” But there are also many in the dati leumi world who avoid secular papers, don’t have internet at home, and send their kids to religious colleges (or kollel)–something that, it seems to me, Americans would consider more Haredi than MO. Someone’s attitude towards modernity and higher education is not what makes them dati leumi.

    There’s also a difference between supporting Israel and believing that all Jews are required to live in Israel whenever possible. “Positive support of the State of Israel” is better than the alternative, of course, but it’s certainly not the entire dati leumi philosophy.

    Most dati leumi women learn Torah in high school and for one year post high-school. For that matter, most MO women I’ve met did about the same. I think that’s pretty standard. The question is more what comes after–a four-year college in America for the MO lady, a 2-year degree in special ed or teaching for the haredi woman, and social work at Bar Ilan for the dati leumi girl (yes, stereotypes all, sorry). The Jewish education is about the same.

    For both men and women in the dati leumi community, the (small) minority end up studying in secular institutions of higher learning. The community has its own programs (Machon Lev, Machon Tal, Bar Ilan)–again, like both Haredi and MO. Most either get a degree from a religious school, or don’t get a degree at all.

    Finally, about Hesder Yeshivot. I would strongly disagree that Gush Etzion is the “crown jewel.” It is one of the bigger and better hesder yeshivot (although my husband points out that his yeshiva was ranked above it :) ), but the hesder yeshivot are really all seperate, not “led” by any one particular school. Actually, the Gush is known for being left-wing and very Soloveitchik oriented compared to all of the other hesder yeshivot, so it’s not really a good example. In the other yeshivot, yes, they read RYBS, but they learn from haredi rabbis as well.

    Lifestyle-wise, the dati leumi community runs the gamut from being like MO to being like Haredi. In terms of philosophy, it’s a seperate entity, with a different hashkafic focus.

    (One final (unrelated) thought, because I just thought of it now–there’s a difference between being against secular learning and just not valuing it as much as Torah learning. I would say that the second is the case in most haredi communities. While haredi girls do fairly well in national testing on secular subjects, the boys do poorly. If haredi groups thought that secular subjects were somehow bad or evil, they wouldn’t teach them to the girls. So maybe the boys aren’t getting as much math/english/whatever not because it’s seen as “bad,” but just because it’s seen as “much less good” than Torah? Any haredim want to tell me if there’s any truth to this?)

  102. Gershon,

    You wrote,

    “2) On the one hand, surely you know of the famous Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva where he speaks of becoming a different person. Teshuva does mean real change”

    If someone starts observing the sabbath on some level, the holidays on some level, kashrut on some level, changes how he dates, how he looks at the world, what he studies, how he treats others, it would seem to me that he is becoming a different person.

    I would call that real change.

    What would you call it?

  103. DK, So it seems that what you’re proposing is

    1) Kiruv that is open to hashkafic loose ends

    2) Doesn’t push the newcomers to drop their identities

    3) Encourages finding a way to earn a decent living.

    —–My comments

    1) I would like to see a study assessing how well people with hashkafic loose ends did educating their children. From what I have witnessed in my 46 years on this planet, the results aren’t that pretty. OTOH, what are the options? To deny that there are various opinions? – But still, if on most major hashkafic points, everything is a blur of various opinions, religion becomes too cerebral. You really think that will attract the masses? I wonder about that.

    2) On the one hand, surely you know of the famous Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva where he speaks of becoming a different person. Teshuva does mean real change. But of course you do have a point that many will run the other way if they are given too hard a push too soon. I think it’s a matter of degree. And perhaps many must never be pushed at all, just included.

    It’s a shame that this seems to appear as a charedi vs. LWMO issue. It wasn’t always like that. I remember when Professor Geller -who recently signed on the back of the new Slifkin book- was invited to speak in Ohr Somayach about evolution. He began with a story of an atheist who had just fallen off a cliff. He was dangling from a small branch when God spoke to him. When God asked him if he believes in God he said yes. Then God said “if you really believe in me, let go!” Prof. Gellman continued, why tell you to reject all of evolution as wrong, when it might be too hard a challenge? There are sources in the Torah that don’t contradict evolution. That was in 1978. I don’t think he’d be able to give that same shiur today…

    3) I hear you. Earning an income is a good thing. It’s good for shalom bayis, helps pay tuition, shul fees, etc…

  104. “Because we have reason to fear the bonfires, and the burns they inflict.

    And over time, more and more people are going sound the alarms, and bring in the fire trucks, and keep the bonfires from spreading.”

    OK, let’s get back to the focus- MO kiruv. Please, it detracts from your position to mudsling- the whole thesis can’t be built on strong negative feelings on chareidi kiruv. Come, let’s get back to the real stuff- it’s good stuff, and doesn’t need this to bolster the MO position.

  105. “a LW MO approach… would be exceptionally dynamic, and it’s honesty would be detected and well received.”

    By implication other approaches are less than honest. Do you mean Conservodox (agree)or RWMO and Charedi (couldn’t disagree with you more)?

  106. Gershon #40

    Afeelu Sefer Torah Hamunach B’Heichal tsorikh L’mazal.

    One might ask (w/o naming names) how did so many of the older well-established Yeshiva’s reach near moribund status while many “young-upstarts” are doing so much so well?

  107. Gershon,

    I am not advocating a limited growth policy.

    I am saying that there has to be an Orthodox approach that encourages people to incorporate Judaism into their lives without amputating their lives, or seek to rid their minds of secular concepts or secular culture. That accepts conflict, and does not seek complete resolution.

    I would point out that the liberal religious movements (including the so-called “post-denominational” or the “Conservadox”) make this very mistake — insisting on resolution between Judaism and modern times on the side of “progress.”

    What I am describing is different than either the haredi approach or the liberal Jewish approach. Religious growth is encouraged…but engagement with secuar life and even conflict is not feared.

    I am not ruling out a right-wing MO approach as well, provided it is sensitive to the vocational well-being of the BT — which it generally is.

    But there needs to be a LW MO approach too, because it would be exceptionally dynamic, and it’s honesty would be detected and well received.

    I personally believe that the Jewish people would be much better off if the Judaism people struggled with was Orthodox, and not non-Orthodox.

    I think a LW MO approach could sweep the floor with these movements.


    I think you should recognize and be proud that American Jewish life was founded by the Modern Orthodox, from that first Rosh HaShana in 1654.

    I think it is time for the MO to take the reigns of dominance again, not just privately, but publicly, and not just when it comes to Israel.

    The alternative is very grim. Most secular Jews will not be interested in the bonfires of the charedim. Of those who do, some will get burnt.

    Youa are worried that the campfires of the LW MO won’t be hot enough for your liking, even though you prefer campfires to bonfires as well, so we are talking about the degree within campfires.

    Give the LWMO their warm, marshmellow campfires, and they will certainly grant you space and support for your burger and hot dog level campfires.

    But if we only have bonfires, or if the campfires are usually leading to bonfires, then we all have a problem.

    Because we have reason to fear the bonfires, and the burns they inflict.

    And over time, more and more people are going sound the alarms, and bring in the fire trucks, and keep the bonfires from spreading.

    All because too many Orthodox saw no need for campfires. Only for bonfires.

    And the majority of the Jewish people go hungry. Because it’s less awful than getting burnt.

  108. Ora #31:
    “MO is not the same as Israeli Dati Leumi any more than it’s the same as haredi.”

    I beg to differ. I think they are two permutations of a very similar worldview that is quite different from the charedi worldview.

    Both MO and IDL embrace many of the accoutrements of modernity. Both have an overall positive attitude towards engagement in the political process, the establishment, positive support of and engagement with the State of Israel, Higher secular education , higher Judaic education for women and a higher tolerance for and involvement with people, concepts and thing non-Jewish.

    The Charedi worldview is marked by a deep love for Eretz Yisrael but is very conflicted and deeply ambivalent about the Jewish State established there, i.e. how to “digest it” philosophically and how or whether or not to support and /or participate in its institutions. Charedim on the whole have a negative attitude towards secular education in general and higher education in particular, believe that a year of Seminary after high school (at most) is “just fine” in terms of Women’s Jewish education and has an overall unsympathetic and intensely suspicious attitude towards all things “Goyish”.

    Many of Rav Kook’s works have been translated and avidly studied by YU students and alumni and the Hebrew Language works of RYBS are studied avidly in Hesder Yeshivot. Additionally, RYBS’s son-in-law and talmid Muvhak has been the highly influential Rosh Yeshiva of Gush (Har) Etzion, arguably the crown jewel of the Hesder Yeshiva world, for around four decades now.

    Of course political and cultural evolution have given American MO and IDL distinct flavors. The latter lives in a more concrete sense what the former merely theorizes (as the maintenance of an autonomous Jewish State with all of its institutions and trappings is without a doubt the ultimate litmus test of a positive engagement with modernity). But that is much like saying that because Chevron is a very different Yeshiva than Lakewood or Ger a very different Chasidus than Bobov that they must belong to completely different Camps. They don’t and neither does MO and IDL.

    PS I think that many of the most avid students of the works of Rav Moshe Feinstein would be surprised to hear him touted as an icon of MO!

  109. FYI, JSS has been revived from its near moribund status

    Steve, how did it come to be that a successful program such as JSS reached near moribund status? Was it a financial issue or some other factor?

  110. “Takin’ it to the streets”? That brings back lots of memories. In its heydey, Havurat Yisrael (Forest Hills, NY) started having “Perek in the Park”, a weekly Pirkei Avos shiur given by Rav Baruch Zaitchek in a small park along Queens Blvd. It actually came to be quite by accident – one Shabbos afternoon the AC broke down in the shul, so we took it outside. And sure enough, curious people would stop by to look and listen. Then there was a Motzei Shabbos Simchas Torah when Rabbi Algaze stated that “if the Jews won’t come to the Torah, we’ll take the Torah to them”, and proceeded to dance up to the area of the movie theatres on Austin St. Those days were awesome, and yes, kiruv was achieved. Therefore, go for it in organizing a LES event. How about under the auspices of BeyondBT, JHC, NCSY etc.?

  111. DK wrote “The Left-wing MO approach would say … Incremental growth — even if complete adherance is never achieved, even if the person never “becomes frum” — is still valuable. ”

    I think that almost everyone believes that, even the most charedi kiruv person.

    The big difference isn’t about that belief. It would be hard to come by a frum Jew who would rather watch his fellow brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews assimilate into oblivion.

    But can we feel comfortable declaring that partial observance is the destination? If that is what you have in mind, I’m not comfortable with that.

    But let me clarify… I’ve been working for NCSY in the Midwest for 5 years. One sample of an NCSY kiruv approach is that during davening, we offer “hang out room”. That’s for kids who just can’t relate to davening. So they just chill with someone frum who’s quite cool instead of davening. At the same time, at the same convention, there’s other NCSYers in the other room davening. The teens see the ladder to climb up, if and when they choose to climb it. They may never choose to. Perhaps in 4 years of attending some or our conventions, some will “only” choose to marry another Jew and do one or two mitvos.

    But I think you’re proposing something else. Are you proposing never exposing them to anything other than LW modern orthodoxy? If they never see the ladder to climb, just one or two rungs, that’s a shame in my opinion.

  112. DK-Soho , Union Square and Chelsey would seem the next frontiers for Kiruv-either the MO or Charedi varieties. I suspect that there are many Jews who are unaffiliated but spiritually searching for an approach or answers who live in that area.I would not be surprised to see the development of kiruv based MO and Charedi shuls and outreach programs in those areas.One can argue that these areas are what the UWS was prior to the development of Lincoln Square Synagogue-outwardly barren but full of untapped potential.

    I would agree that the LES would be a tourist mecca-if it included a tour of such sites as MTJ( RMF’s yeshiva), the coops where RMF lived his life as a member of the LES community, Essex Street and surrounding areas which were at one time a major mecca for Tashmishei Kedusha , etc and kosher restaurants but not as a substitute for the combined elements of the heart and head.

  113. David,

    Just had to say hi to you on this venue. Brave post, well-needed.

    May G-d bless you and the Jewish Heritage Center always.


  114. Menachem–Certainly. Some of the major differences:
    The major historical figures of MO include Rav Soloveichik and Rav Feinstein, whereas dati leumi philosophy is based on the teachings of Rav Kook.

    Philisophically, the main belief of MO (correct me if I’m wrong) is that Torah and life in modern society can and should go well together.
    The main belief of dati leumi is that the return of Jews to Israel is part of the divine process of redemption, and the major task of our generation is to bring Am Israel together as one nation in one land. (Clearly if this was a standard American MO belief, there wouldn’t be many MO people in America). Dati Leumi individuals may or may not agree with the MO principle stated above.

    Finally, dati leumi covers a wide range of lifestyles. Someone who does three years of army, goes to university, and keeps rabanut kosher can be dati leumi as can someone who pushes off service in favor of yeshiva study, never gets a secular degree, and insists on badatz.

  115. Jaded Topaz,

    Awesome comments–it reminds me of your “Fabricating and Pruning Personality post”.

    I like the part about darshening at Union Square or Bryant Park. You could also add Penn Station to the lecture circuit–I sometimes see crowds there listening to someone spreading a message :)

  116. Ora,

    Can you provide a couple of examples of what you’re saying here: “MO is not the same as Israeli Dati Leumi any more than it’s the same as haredi. They are two very different groups, with different rabbis, different lifestyles, and different philosophies behind them.”

  117. Not to get off topic, but I do want to make one correction–
    “In Israel, Modern Orthodoxy is considered to be based on Zionism.” (original post)
    “Except for the Merkaz HaRav –Gush Emunim camp I think that the rest of MO..” (#11)
    MO is not the same as Israeli Dati Leumi any more than it’s the same as haredi. They are two very different groups, with different rabbis, different lifestyles, and different philosophies behind them.

  118. DK- quite the impressive presentation. Refreshing reasonings/insights /elucidations on the perpetual quest for attaining the perfect mix of flavored intellectualism without letting fluffyism or stiflling other ism’s ruin the picture . New York City has so much in untapped potential that could be threaded into MO kiruv marketing strategies to make things exciting and thrilling ,and not ruin and or maintain core intellectual concepts in the process. New York City is awesome….(for those that were under other erroneous NYC impressions).My favorite quote ever – “There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless” Simone De Beauvoir .You should so do some of your lecture series parts in NYC parks like Union Square or Bryant. It would probally just enhance actual presentation without ruining any core intellectual elements.

    Seriously it could be awesome. Reading your Eldridge Tour Synagogue descrip just makes the reader wanna jump off their Hi-back executive task chair and out of their dusky amythest paneled cubicle and hop on the next train even if they dont love jewish history or synagogues. Its all in the moderated passion presentation mostly, sort of like Adderalled passion. Not unbridled and everywhere ,more focused/concentrated/unadulterated and passionately real .

  119. I tend to agree with Baruch. Everyone should be given the opportunity to explore what the many hats (or no hat at all) of Yiddishkeit has to offer. Of course, the greatness of any kiruv organization is that can make its’ point without knocking down everyone else. I’m sure many shuls across the country would love an organized kiruv network to help with programming and outreach.
    BTW-I’ve been to the Eldridge Street Synagogue and I hear what you’re saying about attracting the LES bar hopping hipsters. “If you market it, they will come”

  120. Interesting post!

    There will defintely be people who will be attracted to MO ideology, although some aspects mentioned like vocational training, could fit with a TIDE/charedie approach as well.

    MO organizations are already involved in Kiruv, and that approach works for many people.

    I was in Israel a few years ago, and the group I went with observed and participated in one of the OU Israel Center programs which build a rapport with secular HS kids through Torah study and discussion. They do good work.

    If it builds a spark of Yiddishkeit, then I say good for whoever does it, despite differences in hashkafa of the organization.

  121. “and that doing a mitzvah itself is good, even if the person isn’t doing all of them right now, or ven tomorrow morning. One more still has value. Incremental growth — even if complete adherance is never achieved, even if the person never “becomes frum” — is still valuable. ”

    That sounds awfully familiar. Are you sure you’re not a closet Chabadnik?

  122. “The Left-wing MO approach would say (because they believe it) that all knowledge about traditional Judaism is good, and that doing a mitzvah itself is good, even if the person isn’t doing all of them right now, or ven tomorrow morning. One more still has value. Incremental growth — even if complete adherance is never achieved, even if the person never “becomes frum” — is still valuable.”

    This is something we can all agree on. Well said.

  123. “before an MO kiruv curriculum is discussed in detail, doesn’t its need have to be acknowledged?”

    Surely, and I think many of the commentors are squarely behind the idea of expanding MO kiruv. MO kiruv can and should be presented as credible and significant on it’s own.

    “I thought I gave some ideas”

    You did give some great ideas. But they were presented (I am sure unintentionally) as if a side point to the article’s focus on a less than flattering presentation of chareidi kiruv. I would really love to see a Part II by you, with an expansion on what MO can offer, positions of MO on kiruv, and ways to make it happen.

  124. Steve, your last post (#21) said it all. You wrote a very powerful and potent position of MO kiruv, with the perspective of bringing our brothers and sisters closer to G-d and Torah, not merely into a social club.

  125. Steve,

    You might be exaggerating my view, but I concede that you have a partial point. My goal is not to just “make people frum,” but to educate Jews about Judaism. It is not about nostalgia though, but about Jewish literacy and engagement with Judaism. The bagels and delis are for after the program, not the reason it’s happening.

    I certainly think a revamped JSS program is a great idea, but it won’t be for everyone.

    A Left-Wing MO approach is also necessary (there you go, finally I said it!), not just a right-wing MO approach, which I agree is also necessary.

    The Left-wing MO approach would say (because they believe it) that all knowledge about traditional Judaism is good, and that doing a mitzvah itself is good, even if the person isn’t doing all of them right now, or ven tomorrow morning. One more still has value. Incremental growth — even if complete adherance is never achieved, even if the person never “becomes frum” — is still valuable.

    And so is understanding a little more.

    This would be the antithesis of the “numbers game” all too common in certain circles. The Torah demands all, this is true. But it never says something equals nothing. Everyone, and everything….counts.

    I think you might be pleasantly, if grudgingly, surprised at the results of what I am suggesting, if implemented properly.

  126. DK-A revamped and revised JSS, which would appeal to adults and collegiates, would IMO be a huge positive factor in any MO kiruv program. FYI, JSS has been revived from its near moribund status.

    I think that I see our lines of demarcation-you view the observance and study of Torah as merely one factor in a kaleidoscope of social and cultural milieus that all have the common denominator of being Jewish. That IMO is simply what is known as cultural relativism and pluralism.Many years ago, RYBS observed that man served HaShem thru his head and heart-via Talmud Torah and Tefilah. IMO, your approach almost relegates these factors to that of relics to be kept polished in a museum window and trotted out every so often for sentimental value.

    IMO, unless a Jew is literate and observant, there is no gurantee that he or she will raise a family that can continue the Mesorah. The LES, delis and bagels are nice, but are a ceremonial and almost pareve to the point of tasteless substitute for the excitement of Jewish observance and knowledge. They cannot replace the awe of the Yamim Noraim, the all important purposes of the Shalosh Regalim or the key to surviving in Galus that is the key to Channukah and Purim. They cannot replace the weekly beauty of Shabbos or the excitement of thinking of an insight in learning that a Rishon, etc thought of hundreds of years ago.If you were to combine these factors with a healthy dose of RYBS’s writings, both halachic and hashkafic, that IMO would constitute part of the blueprint of MO based kiruv.

  127. One of DK’s points of contention with charedi kiruv is with the economics. (encouraging kollel and not college) To address that point, within the charedi world itself there is some movement to address this concern. There a significant number of chareidim at least in America who are getting degrees. In the kiruv world, Machon Shlomo opened up by Rabbi Rosenberg, in order to do kiruv with a Hirchian Torah im Derech Eretz spin. Such a thing does exist. They’ve been around for years and they’re not the only ones.

    OTOH, The Washington Heights community itself has undergone major changes over the last 30 years in a move tht looks more and more like a typical yeshivish approach.

    BTW, DK may be happy to learn that a girls’ seminary in Israel just opened up run mostly by NCSY staff. We’ll have to see how that develops.

  128. What is clear to me is that none of you people have been to the Eldridge Street Synagogue, or you would not be dismissing its cultural power and pull with a yawn. This could easily be a major bastion of Modern Orthodox Judaism specifically for New Yorks secular Jewish hipsters, who love urban culture. It’s hidden at the edge of Chinatown. The basement is filled with yiddish street signs of yester-century. It’s awesome.

    If I were running appropriate programming the Orthodox Union, I would be all over this place. I would be playing and pleading the “we’re all Modern Orthodox here, help a brother out” card until they worked with me.

    First visit the place. Then write my suggestion off as boring.

    I know this stuff. Go there. Imagine it at night, how wild it would feel walking there for a class. Then tell me I’m nuts.

  129. DK – The deli and bialys was the first good suggestion you’ve had. But wouldn’t it be more effective to host a lecture entitled “Eastern European Baked Goods in Contemporary American Society: A Comparative Survey”? In any case, you seemed to be of the opinion that I was favoring chareidi ideology. I was simply pointing out that that way of life, even though it is much further removed from that of the unafilliated Jew, lends itself toward kiruv more than the MO way, since it speaks to people’s hearts.

    Menachem- Were you objecting to the fact that I didn’t recognize other successful MO kiruv orgs? If so, would you care to enumerate them? If you were objecting to the way I spoke about NCSY, then re-read what I wrote…I think they are doing exactly the right thing.

  130. David,
    A well thought out post. Your ideas for programming towards the end of the posting are fantastic and could be implimented across the Torah observant spectrum. Marketing for any kiruv organization is key. Part of Chabad’s success is their graphic arts publications and ads. I will ask, though, how do you define Modern Orthodox?

  131. M,

    I thought I gave some ideas, but before an MO kiruv curriculum is discussed in detail, doesn’t its need have to be acknowledged?


    I offered YU’s (and IMHO, America’s) most important theological thinker as an example of what could be taught. Having said that, in my own experience, YU is not right for the ratio of Jews from secular backgrounds as it is, for say, Jews who grew up MO in Teaneck.

    MO Judaism would have to also be geared culturally towards secular Jews. Not everyone is a YU person, and less from secular backgrounds.

    I would also like to add that for those who fear an overly “intellectual” approach that you may be underestimating segments of the Jewish population.

    There are a lot of Jews who will find traditional Judaism quite engaging, and they know nothing about it.

    In fact, in the off chance that MO professionals are concerned with things like assimilation, there are plenty of activities that the MO could do that would appeal to a fun-loving but smart crowd.

    For instance — here’s an example.

    MO Jews like Jewish history.

    Do a walking tour of the Lower East Side to all the historic synaogogues in conjunction with the synagogues. They happen to be all Orthodox — go just to those. Eldridge Streets history is amazing, and it is a stunningly grand and beautiful place that declared (in the 19th century) “We are Modern Orthodox and we aren’t going anywhere!” For crying out loud — this is your place!!!! And you get to explain that! The Stanton St. Synagogue is a complete trip — one of the rabbis got busted trying to sell the shul for personal profit behind the congregations back. Sorry, but this is great stuff!

    No shortage of interesting shuls.

    This may not appeal to the YU crowd, because they weren’t here for the most part when this history was unfolding — they were mostly still in Hungary.

    But many BT’s have been here longer, and especially the Out of Towners love the historic Jewish neighborhood.

    Then everyone can go to the glatt kosher deli on Grand St. or go to the Bialy store.

    It’s Eastern European Jewish history with an Orthodox bent. Completely fitting. And quite fun.

  132. Its funny that this posts topic was Kiruv in the MO world. I was actually thinking about this this past shabbos because of an experience I had. I spent Shabbos in a very MO community that only has one orthodox shul which is a liberal Young Israel. In this shul however, I noticed that there was a Lubavicher. My first reaction was that it was strange for a Lubavitcher to join a MO shul when he can live in a Chabad community. I took it upon myslef to introduce myself during Shalosh Suedos and I got a little bit angry after my conversation. He was a Chabad Shaliach who moved to this neiborhood to do Kiruv but he has no intentions of starting a Chabad house. The reason I got angry is because why does Chabad have to send someone to this neighborhood when there is already an established orthodox community. This MO shul should be doing the kiruv in their neighborhood. The shul could have hired someone to do outreach as well. Don’t take my comments as being anti-Chabad because I am not, but it just shows that the fact that Chabad has to go into communities where there are already established MO and other O shuls that the people in these communities are not doing the right thing.

  133. Why not have a kiruv expo where any authentic (whatever that means) kiruv group can have a booth or display and say positive things about itself? There could also be a presentation area with chairs where each group can schedule 10-15 minutes to make its “pitch” and invite people to its booth or display. Booths could have signup sheets for follow-up or info, sell books, pamphlets, or recordings, etc.

    Any exhibitor who badmouths another one gets tossed.

  134. “MO’s silence is perceived, incorrectly, by those inside the BT world and even outside of it as a tacit concession that it is a compromise, and not ideal. Not the real deal.”
    “You are really suggesting that MO are the true Litvaks, and the Haredim a bunch of dancing Chassidim.”

    Since the Holocaust there is no question that within Charedi culture (and even within all of Orthodoxy) there has been a cross-pollinating with different camps influencing one another and getting disconnected from there own ideological “purity”. I have theories on why this is so but for the sake of brevity suffice it to say that today many Litvaks are themselves dancing Chasidim. I think that one reason that more MO kiruv has not sprung up of its own accord is that the underpinning of any kiruv movement and effort is passion and conviction. It’s not about MO being viewed as illegitimate or a sell-out but I think you will admit all camps within MO are as a general rule broader and more nuanced than most Charedi camps. In response to the “Family Feud” post on August 15th I wrote:
    “I know the following may be a sweeping generality yet I think it is mostly true. The more tolerant among us have greater nuance and gray area in their own world-view; they have many self-doubts and increasingly find themselves questioning or at least not completely comfortable with many of the dogmas of their early education/indoctrination.”
    Except for the Merkaz HaRav –Gush Emunim camp I think that the rest of MO, especially in New York, are blessed (some might say afflicted) with “greater nuance and gray area in their own world-view” and as such lack the inclination to share it with others much less to convince others that it will improve their lives. Until and unless the moderation characteristic of MO becomes dogmatic and passionate (this may be an oxymoron) I don’t think that we will see a spike in MO outreach efforts. MO needs a new ideologue who can articulate an MO worldview with passion and clarity and with much less of the characteristic ambiguity.

  135. He did write that there is much MO kiruv going on in Manhattan. Headquarters for all the institutions you mention.

  136. DK-a well thought out piece. I was puzzled by your failure to include RIETS,YU, the OU and especially NCSY or NJOP as facilitators of MO kiruv, especially on halacha and hashkafah.

  137. Firstly, as much as MO kiruv needs to increase, tremendous credit goes to NCSY- may it grow, expand, and have bracha and nachat from their many “recruits”!

    The post, though well meaning, was a bit disappointing. I was hoping to see a post of potential MO kiruv, not why chareidi kiruv is deficient. Sentence by sentence, it was really a post about chareidi kiruv, not the MO approach. I wish the post could be redone, and focus on what the title indicates. It is such an important topic- MO has enough to offer without putting down the next guy. The “case for MO kiruv” is surely not about charedim…Let’s have a part II.

  138. I think David’s piece is important and I think many of the comments are making good, important points. I, personally, don’t see charedi bashing in the piece. Others apparently do. What I can tell you is that was not the point of the piece and, if it is there at all, I believe it was inadverdent.

    Getting to the comments:

    Boruch: I think that your point about limiting an approach to intellectualism is a good one. I don’t know how many 20-30 year old unaffiliated Jews are going to run to a multi-part seminar on RYBS’s philosophy, especially when they don’t even know who RYBS is. Your point dovetails with R. Gil’s first two points.

    Bob: I think that it is ture that just as some lump all “charedim” together, they lump all MO together. Big mistake.

    DK: I think you are allowing those who see some sort of charedi bashing in your piece to daraw you into an argument that is pointless and detracts from the important points of your piece.

    Gil: All great points. It’s true that we tend to overllok the amount of kiruv being done by shul rabbonim.Also National Jewish Outreach Program, and National Council of Young Israel do a great job. At the same time, do you agree that MO needs a more public kiruv face?

  139. First, let me just say that the lack of formal kiruv organizations does not mean a lack of kiruv. Shul rabbis do an excellent job at kiruv.

    That said, I think there are three issues MO faces in doing outreach (and inreach):
    1. Over-complicating things. Most people like simple ideas. If you only cater to the intellectual elite, you’ll end up with a small movement that does not attract the masses or the children.
    2. Over-intellectualizing things. In other words, speaking only to the brain and not to the soul. Not to many people want to join a religion that is cold and emotion-less.
    3. Defining the community in a negative. I.e., MO is frum but not Haredi. If you do that, as the Conservative used to do (we’re religious not like Reform, but not fanatic like Orthodox), you fail to inspire and generally only attract people who have gripes with the “other”.

    In other words, you have to present a positive, attractive, and understandable worldview.

  140. Boruch, you wrote,

    “The overly intellectual approach you clearly favor and which is encouraged at many MO institutions is precisley the reason that MO never manages to do any successful kiruv.

    Do you honestly think that lectures on dikduk and the theology of RYBS is going to turn Jews on to Yiddishkeit?”

    I think that it would and should, although Hebrew itself would be for the more committed students — all of them.

    You wrote,

    “Having been on both sides of the kiruv table,”

    I think we know which side you spent more time one.

    You wrote,

    “The chareidi organizations are lighting bonfires and Jews are flocking to them. The MO brush that off as simplistic and irrational. But you will never lecture anyone into becoming frum.”

    This is no longer about about MO or charedi. This is a different debate. You are really suggesting that MO are the true Litvaks, and the Haredim a bunch of dancing chassidim.

    I couldn’t agree more — except with the side you favor.

  141. From Boruch:

    “Case in point…what is the single case of a successful MO kiruv organization? It’s NCSY, which specifically shuns all things intellectual and overdoses kids with mushiness.”

    This is a false statement and is as disparaging as the post you were criticizing.

  142. For a post that claimed to be about the need for MO kiruv, you sure spent alot of time slinging mud at the chareidim. That approach is not likely to attract anybody (except maybe bloggers).

    After I got through the diatribe, though, and got to the actual pertinent content at the end of your post, I couldn’t help but chuckle as I read it.

    The overly intellectual approach you clearly favor and which is encouraged at many MO institutions is precisley the reason that MO never manages to do any successful kiruv.

    Do you honestly think that lectures on dikduk and the theology of RYBS is going to turn Jews on to Yiddishkeit?

    Having been on both sides of the kiruv table, I can tell you with much certainty that a good cholent is always better than a good svarah. Jews, no matter how intellectual they may be, are attracted to Judaism because of the love and passion displayed by its adherents. They are attracted by the warmth of the fire and only much later do they think about such things as theology.

    The chareidi organizations are lighting bonfires and Jews are flocking to them. The MO brush that off as simplistic and irrational. But you will never lecture anyone into becoming frum.

    Case in point…what is the single case of a successful MO kiruv organization? It’s NCSY, which specifically shuns all things intellectual and overdoses kids with mushiness. You seem to think that Jews outgrow that need after high-school. You are wrong.

  143. Also, each large group within Orthodoxy, including MO, is not monolithic, so there has to be a more specific context or definition to underly the discussion.

  144. I agree that MO has something to contribute to the kiruv effort. In fact, I am MO and I am involved in kiruv.


    Respectfully, I fail to understand why a post ostensibly about MO kiruv has to use so much space denigrating charedi kiruv, mostly in the form of sweeping generalizations without examples.

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