What Would It Take for You To Be More Active in Kiruv?

We’re all aware of the passing of Rabbi Noach Weinberg this past week. As you may know, one of Rabbi Weinberg’s most important projects was to get lay people involved in Kiruv.

What would it take for you to be more active in Kiruv?

1) Having tools and techniques to reach out.

2) Knowing that I would have some success in helping people become observant.

3) Internalizing the belief that every piece of Torah learned or mitzvah performed is valuable in and of itself.

4) Sensitizing myself to the tremendous chesed of bring people closer to Hashem.

5) Realizing that being aware of and acting on opportunities to bring people closer will tremendously help my own Yiddishkeit.

6) Having a clearing understanding that I have an obligation to do Kiruv under the mitzvah of Ahavas Hashem.

36 comments on “What Would It Take for You To Be More Active in Kiruv?

  1. FFB, if you can do tevye the favor of connecting him with skver in new square, they will for sure be very welcoming too – know people who’ve gone that route.

  2. I doubt I’ll be able to find out before shabbos but I’ll try. I’ll try to get back asap after shabbos. Good shabbos.

  3. FFB,

    Hi there. Thanks so much. Please find more about Bobov. I am very fascinated by them. I want to get connected to the Chassidus that is based in NYC. I am not planning to go to Israel anytime soon. Do you live in Monsey? I was there once for Shabbos at the OS yeshiva to check it out. I never checked out Monsey proper. Keep in touch. I know in Monsey there are a lot of Chassidim too.

  4. Told you so! Chassidic circles are insular, but maybe that’s why they’re so warm once you’re inside. Like I said, I’ll see what I can find out about Bobov if you want. Belz, Karlin, and even Toldos Aharon are also open to BTs but they’re headquartered in Jerusalem.

    BTW maybe the guys in OS were drinking lichvod shabbos. If it’s done in moderation and doesn’t lead to drunkenness (except on Purim of course) I don’t think there’s anything wrong with drinking. Judaism does not support Prohibition.

  5. FFB,

    Hi there. How are you? I have been to OS for a Shabbos yars ago and I saw guys drinking beer for leisure which I did not like. It brought to mind my college days when everybody got wasted which I do not like at all. Anyway, my family comes from Skvira and Zhitomir which I understand were very big Chassidish cities in the Ukraine. I definitely gravitate towards Chassidus. The majority of the divrei Torah that I read are bases on Chassidic and Kabbalistic teachings. I would love to explore these Chassidic sects but they are so insular except for Chabad Lubavitch.

  6. Or maybe, Tevya, what you’re really looking for is the warmth of chassidus. Bobov is a great place for BTs and converts and it’s practically in your backyard. If you want, I’ll find out more. I think chassidus is in the blood; if your grandparents were chassidim you somehow just gravitate towards it. Check your lineage…

  7. Tevya,
    In Monsey I think the way to go is thru the great BT Yeshivos, Kol Yaakov and Ohr Sameyach. That’s where I got my first BT Shabboss guests from. (That was when my kids were little; now that I have grown daughters, I feel it’s improper to host men b/c of tznius, unless it would be an emergency of course. I hope you understand.) If you contact me, I’ll arrange something, PG. I have some contacts in OS, but please be aware that it might be too “yeshivish” for your taste.

  8. FFB, Charnie, and Bob,

    It is so hard to find them. I have been in this for 10 years without any luck and sometimes I feel it is over for me in this search. I wish I had more success in this matter.

  9. Bob, it’s all relative, of course. try yelling “chaptsem!” (catch him! – the code word for help in case of a hold-up) in Williamsburg or BP and Jews will appear out of nowhere, filling up the streets, ready to defend you to their deaths, Heaven forbid. Whereas in Manhattan, G-d better protect you b/c nobody else will. However, compared to small-town frum communities like Monsey, it’s freezing over there.

    But Charnie is absolutely right and her comparison to job hunting is brilliant. There are wonderful frum Jews everywhere. It’s worth every ounce of effort to locate them.

  10. Tevya, I’m glad you’re still reading this blog. We need to talk. Yes, there are some communities in NYC where one could be made to feel like an alien if they don’t look and act exactly like everyone else. But even within those enclaves, there is warmth. It’s just that sometimes we have to make an effort to seek it out.

    Think of this as analogous to seeking a job. It’s very rare that someone will call you up and say “Tevya, you’re just the man for the position I have open. Come on in tomorrow”. Rather, we find a job through lots of effort, networking, etc. So it goes with a search for a Rav and Kehilla. Try going to lots of different communities for Shabbos, that will expose you to people, shuls and communities all in one step.

    You can get my contact info from the admin if you’d like to come for a Shabbos.

  11. FFB’s point about NYC prompts this question. OK, it’s the big city and all, but isn’t immersion in Torah and Torah life supposed to refine one’s personal middos? If so, the results should be apparent in NYC, too.

  12. No rabbi teaches that non-observant Jews are horrible people. They are considered at worst as “tinokos shenishbu”, as if they were “kidnapped babes” i.e. ignorant of Judaism thru no fault of their own. If frum Jews stay away, they might be unsure of their kiruv skills or afraid of the impact of strange ideas on their kids, or maybe even themselves. Unfortunately, the media has done nothing to assure them of the decency and sincerity of many in the secular world.

    That being said, get away ASAP. NYC is the coldest place in the US (or at least in greater NYS) in terms of ALL human relations, secular as well as religious. Even Chassidic FFBs from “out of town” like me feel the cold as soon as we step foot in Boro Park or Williamsburg. There are warm and welcoming frum towns all around NYC. Get out of the cold!

  13. First of all, I personally believe that frum Jews are not involved in kiruv. I live in the NYC area and I am so turned off to the frum community here that it is disgusting. Nothing has changed since that “Uninspired” BT post.

    I have no rabbi or support here at all and I am possibly thinking of relocating to another area but I do not know where and I am frightened to because I do not know other people in other areas of the country and I am also afraid that the frum people there will be as cold as the NYC frum community. The only thing your rabbis taught you in your quest to Torah is that non-observant Jews are horrible people and that frum Jews should stay away from them because where ever I go I feel like a complete outsider and it is despicable and it hurts and I am in so much pain from this. I have no one to talk to in this matter at all (rabbi or BT or FFB friends). And sometimes I feel like giving up but I do not want to.

    You should take an initiative to reach out more and not be so cold to the non-observant Jews and that is why they feel you do not accept them as Jews.

  14. Regarding Nathan’s point (23:47):
    The types of persuasion he mentions seem to be part of kiruv in the broad sense (enabling someone to draw closer to HaShem), and not a separate category.

  15. I could be wrong about this, but I believe that persuading Orthodox Jews to stop smoking cigarettes or to stop talking in synagogue during the reading of the Sefer Torah or to stop cheating in business all have value which are comparable to Kiruv Rechokim.

  16. Rabbi Noah Weinberg believed that after several years of study, students who were the object of outreach should themselves get involved in reaching out to secular Jews.

    SOURCE: Mourning the Loss of Rabbi Noah Weinberg AH, by David Bibi, 2009 February 13, The Jewish Voice, pages 1 and 26, http://www.jewishvoiceny.com

  17. FKM – I’m not saying that on my own I don’t do these little things. I’m saying that I’m hesitant to be more active “in kiruv” because of what that typically means.

    I gave a better answer to Mark last night off the blog. If my Gmail would work I’d repost it, but alas Little Brother is glitchy today. (Mark can feel free to repost the applicable part, if his is working.)

  18. FKM

    Like you, I can’t tell you what goes on in the vast majority of Aish presentations, but I can tell you what I distinctively remember from the Shabbos Discovery in Great Neck many years ago.

    In the closing speech Rabbi Motti Berger brought the story of Eliyahu on Mount Carmel after his korban was miraculously consumed and pointed out that the next day he would need to go into hiding, since the effect of this event would not last.

    He said the same thing was true about the Discovery Seminar. Even though the presentation was dazzling, we each needed to go out and learn more about Torah. I though that was a very honest and circumspect presentation of the material.

    In regards to happiness, I agree that Torah observance should be presented with the potential
    for unparalleled happiness but the end result is totally dependent on the individual – and each person’s actual mileage will and does vary – FFB and BT alike.

  19. The situation Bob describes (#10) closely mirrors my own.

    Yes, I have many cousins who are not frum, many who are intermarried, a few who as a result of the previous generation are no longer Jewish. There is one cousin who credits my husband and I as having been mekarev him, and that is a big blessing to us! Among friends, my oldest friend defines herself as Conservative, but that’s a delicate situation for several reasons (see https://beyondbt.com/?cat=85). Other friends from “before” either think I went off my rocker or are tolerant but uninterested.

    So I guess what I’m saying in my own long-winded way is that I don’t currently have good hands on access to people who we might be able to show what Yiddishkeit is about.

    BTW, I think tht FKM had some very valid points about trying to put religion and happiness into the same package. There is no doubt that many of the people who read this blog know of people who tried out being frum in their quest for happiness, and then went backwards when it didn’t produce nirvana. Don’t overlook the fact that there is a sizeable number of BT’s who have been in cults, or similiar, and therefore, their “purpose” in being frumkeit is not necessarily to get closer to Hashem, but to overcome psychological issues. The very people who were the first ones to invite me for a Shabbos fall into that very category. As I started on my path, I watched them leave theirs, to the point that the last I heard of the husband (this couple had divorced), he had become a born again Christian, nebich.

    In my workplace, we are required every year to sit through EEO seminars, which emphasize how we must be politically correct in the office.


  20. Ezzie:
    I’m hesitant to be “mekarev” people for the sake of being mekarev them. Kiruv movements too often go too far in promoting end goals without taking careful care in how they’re supposed to get to that point.

    Private individuals don’t need to have end goal in engaging a non-Observant Jew.
    It’s a pity that the “professionals” have jaded us by their use of “marketing strategies” and going for bigger numbers and end goals which sacrifice individualistic approaches.
    But why should that affect your activism?

    I’d much rather do a passive than active kiruv, to simplify what I’m trying to say, and by leading by example rather than pointed teachings meant to lead a person a certain way.

    Certainly there are “certain ways” which ALL forms of Orthodoxy promote as basic Jewish spiritual messages or values.
    You shouldn’t be so paralyzed by the conflicts among the Orthodox camps to be prevented from any activism whatsoever. Are you sure its not just apathy or laziness?

  21. Responding to Mark:
    However, that certainly doesn’t guarantee that every person following Torah and Mitzvos will be happy. It depends greatly on what level of observance a person reaches and their life circumstance.

    I don’t exactly hear a denial from you that the Aish approach intimates this guarantee.

    However that doesn’t mean there is *proof* in the sense that many people understand that word.

    Again, no denial that Aish discovery seminars do appear to use “proofs” in the sense that many people understand it, and is thereby misleading and can lead to a rude awakening and crisis of faith down the road.

  22. Thank you Mark for your efforts to fine tune this question. It’s crucial that we keep at this if there’s any hope at fulfilling kiruv, as a Mitzvah, l’shma.

    As for FKM’s formulation, as some of you might suspect, I offer a big BRAVO. It’s a courageous feat to both sharply criticize and praise an illustrious Niftar, z”l. I think your clarity was right on.

    Mark, you say a crucial nuance is “potential”? No doubt the Rav was a major force in helping us remember that. Still, let us not forget that it’s not the teaching of truth that makes the difference, but how well we help others internalize it. This is the eternal nisayon of the teacher. Hence, that he (and those who hold by his shita) was responsible for bring myriads into the fold is not the issue.

    It’s the quality of what they do once they’re there.

    FKM said: “Telling or intimating to the secular individual that he will ‘enjoy’ life more if he becomes frum is plying a very dangerous game with this person’s emotional relationship to Judaism.”

    How many emotional cripples have emerged from a kiruv seminar? THAT’s the question.

  23. I think that might push some people since it may reduce the amount of time needed and the responsibility it entails.

    Sometimes I need the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

    I think that Aish has also reoriented itself in this direction, no?

  24. David, I was trying to allude to that in points 2, 3 and 4, but obviously it should have been made more explicit.

    Is this a better formulation?
    #9 – I would be more involved if Kiruv success was defined by any small step a person made towards Torah and/or mitzvos and not by people becoming observant.

  25. In my local social world are Orthodox Jews, mostly members of my shul. In my work world are (except for me) non-Jews. Immediate neighbors are also non-Jews. So my obstacle to kiruv (on my amateur level) is mainly lack of proximity to non-Orthodox Jews.

    As for my level of knowledge, that’s not inherently an obstacle, since I can get answers for people as needed, or refer them to the appropriate rabbis.

  26. No one is biting on my question regarding the definition. I think it is important since many people believe that “getting more involved in kiruv” requires the time and abilities necessary to “make someone frum”, if such a thing is even possible.

  27. We can’t guarantee happiness to other people, but we can attempt to give them the tools to live a Torah-based life dedicated to their Creator, and the moral support to follow through. How they handle the tools in the end is largely up to them.

  28. Busy day, sorry for the delay Mark.

    While not agreeing with much of what FKM said, I do think that we can see throughout the J-blogosphere and simply throughout the frum community that many people simply end up very unhappy with how things turn out, having been promised happiness and fulfillment by living as an Orthodox Jew.

    I think your Q#1 in comment 2 very much oversimplifies a much deeper issue, which is that living as a frum Jew is not only about that, and that some people will end up very bitter and miserable. There are many reasons for this, and certainly kiruv is not at fault for many of them – nevertheless, I’m hesitant to be “mekarev” people for the sake of being mekarev them. Kiruv movements too often go too far in promoting end goals without taking careful care in how they’re supposed to get to that point. I’d much rather do a passive than active kiruv, to simplify what I’m trying to say, and by leading by example rather than pointed teachings meant to lead a person a certain way.

  29. Interesting point:

    For all of the supposed flaws delineated above, Aish was involved in bringing thousands closer to Hashem in some form, and those who are involved in formulating criticism of the methodologies have not.

    I always reflect on this point when I hear assertions similar to the above.

  30. FKM, I think you’re missing the nuance in Rabbi Weinberg’s teachings. And unfortunately it’s not always taught with the nuance.

    I think it is a fundamental hashkafic principle as Rabbi Weinberg points out, that a life of Torah and Mitzvos has the greatest potential of anything on earth to give a person a meaningful, fulfilling and extremely happy life.

    However, that certainly doesn’t guarantee that every person following Torah and Mitzvos will be happy. It depends greatly on what level of observance a person reaches and their life circumstance.

    I also think it is fundamental that there is ample evidence that there is a G-d, Who gave the Torah and rewards and punishes for it’s observance. See the Ramban at the end of Bo for starters.

    However that doesn’t mean there is *proof* in the sense that many people understand that word.

  31. A lot to say:
    I think #4 in the post overlaps with Ezzie’s #8, and I disagree with both formulations.
    If you mean that attempting to bring people closer to a life Torah and mitzvos is worthwhile because it will make those people happier people, then we haven’t yet learned the bitter lessons of the J-blogosphere.

    Holding out false promises of an happier life with less tension and dissapointment and more gratification and pleasure was one of the sharpest criticism’s of Rav Noach Wienberg’s ‘popular approach’ to kiruv.

    Telling or intimating to the secular individual that he will ‘enjoy’ life more if he becomes frum is plying a very dangerous game with this person’s emotional relationship to Judaism.

    Another serious criticism of the Aish approach was the claim that we have unassailable “proofs” that the Torah is min hashomayim and that all challenges from the world of science and academia are easily dismantled.

    So in short, I believe we do not do justice to Rav Weinberg’s legacy by perpetuating his flawed strategies, and false hopes.

    We have much to learn from his superhuman dedication to the spiritual well-being his fellow Jew and to Klal Yisrael, but we must learn from his mistakes and do kiruv in spite of the fact that taking on the yoke of Torah and mitzvos is often a deeply uncomfortable and stressful disruption of one’s physical,emotion and intellectual equilibrium.

    It is Hashem’s cheshbon alone to insure that the mekurav will get sufficient fulfillment from Yiddishkeit to keep him inspired and commited. No human being should take the achrayus that personal salvation will miraculously result from keeping Torah and Mitzvos.

    We do kiruv because it is a mitzva. And like any mitzvah, it brings spiritual tikkun to the neshama of the Jew and ultimately, to world.

  32. I think it is also important to define what is meant by kiruv. Do we mean attempting to make someone frum or do we mean providing someone with the opportunity to do more mitzvas or something else?

  33. Ezzie, I think I’m misunderstanding your #8.

    Are you saying

    1) That some people would be truly happier and better off not having a relationship with Hashem?

    2) Some people would be truly happier and better off if they didn’t live in certain frum communities?

    3) Something else.

  34. #3 is part of the answer. Other than that, I’d say
    #7: Knowing that the tools and techniques in place are honest and open and
    #8, which is perhaps most important: Knowing that the people would be truly happier and better off frum than as they are now.

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