10 Points from “Is the Door Closing on Kiruv?” in the Latest Mishpacha

The latest issue of Mishpacha had an article titled: “Is the Door Closing on Kiruv”. Pere are some points from the article

1. A recent Klal Perspectives’ article claims that half as many young Americans became BTs as compared to ten years ago.

2. A Kiruv activist estimates that the American Kiruv budget is $30 million, eight times the amount in 2000.

3. The intermarriage rate among non-Orthodox is 71.5 percent.

4. Intermarriage makes is difficult to identify halachic Jews.

5. The ‘searcher for answers’ in no more.

6. Anti-Israel sentiment on campus makes involvement appeals based on pride in the Jewish state difficult.

7. Attachment to cell phones has made it difficult for people to become distraction-free at Shabbatons.

8. Spending time in yeshiva is rare because people are hesitant to put their career on hold.

9. The increasing attention that donors pay towards kiruv numbers has pushed some people out of kiruv.

10. Lack of post Teshuva support have hurt those who have taken steps towards observance.

13 comments on “10 Points from “Is the Door Closing on Kiruv?” in the Latest Mishpacha

  1. I would suggest that kiruv in this day and age must go where the millenial aged jewish singles spend their time-the communities and facilities such as a gym, Starbuck’s, bookstores, etc and such locales as the refurbished High Line in NYC. Anyone in kiruv in any community should try to offer shiurim at a JCC or Y-even if the JCC or Y is open on Shabbos.

  2. There is lots of truth to what Charnie Feldman pointed out – in general many non-religious Jews are much more distant from Judaism than was the case a generation ago. Further, I get the impression that many “BTs” (at least in the more modern world) started out life in the Conservative movement, with varying levels of observance. They were the “low hanging fruit” looking to strengthen their observance and Jewish connection. As the Conservative movement contracts, the number of BTs will therefore necessarily contract.

  3. I was responding to one of the comments above who said that modern day baalei teshuva feel like they are checking in with their weekly AA/OA coach where they confess their backsliding when they succumbed to the danish. They are told “ok, try harder and come back next week.”

    What’s missing in BOTH scenarios is the sense of responsibility. My own shortcomings only hurt myself. But the other part of the equation is that nobody can accomplish teshuva of any sort without feeling Someone is rooting for me, as well as Someone is disappointed in me if I fall short. But that same Someone has to love me and I have to feel that!

    I would urge all of us to look through Shaar HaTeshuva from Chovos HaLevavos. I have personally found this more manageable than conquering Shaarei Teshuva of Rabeinu Yona. This is a sefer that needs a year or more to complete. It is possible to go through many of the chapters in Chovos Halevavos in an ELul and Aseres Yemei Teshuva. Wishing us all Hatzlacha Amitis!

  4. If bringing our fellow Yidden to Torah is like an AA meeting, then no wonder kiruv is on the decline. Modeling a close personal connection to Hashem so that He is ELokai, and not Elokecha, is aleph-beis to kiruv, and basic Yiddishkeit for all, quite frankly.
    I have to know I follow in a very very long chain of masters of faith and that is bequeathed to me. I just have to tap into it. Trying this way, trying this shul, connecting with different sefarim- Rav Pincus, Rav Dessler, Duties of the Heart, to name just a couple, can be among what make up the vibrant life of a Yid today in addition to having one’s own Rav/ Rebbe to guide him on his own unique path.

  5. Kiruv and its proponents have always been confronted with obstacles-we should remember that not so long ago that Shemiras Shabbos, rreliable Kashrus, availability of employment , and shuls without mechitzas and strong heterodox movements were the obstacles. Today, we need to inspire and teach Jews who are extraordinarily uneducated in the fundamentals of Jewish practice and belief-that is a far more labor intensive endeavor-but one which can succeed if we realize why “Toireh is du bestest schorah”-because such Mitzvos as Shabbos, a strong committment to the nuclear family and the Chagim are the bedrock and cement to Jewish identity.

  6. In my community even rabbis are busy with their cellphones during (!) tefilah. So how can we expect people not to be influenced and distracted by cell phones and other media if we are even not able to provide a cell phone free are in our mosdos and shuls?

    Second: “People want to feel okay where they are at”.
    This is so true.
    People don’t want to feel the little nebbachs who need to be “miskarev” – they bring a lot with them. And sure, also they want to have wise people around them, rabbis to learn from etc. but they are maybe not willing anymore – like the two generations before them – to give up everything.

    “Spending time in yeshiva is rare because people are hesitant to put their career on hold”. Why then not invent something where people can have their working life and then learn in the evenings, on shabbatonim and the like? People who give up everything to jump into a full time yeshiva life with 30 or 40 … this is not an option today anymore which makes much sense. Not everyone wants to spent the rest of his life on wellfare.

  7. I am very angry with Judaism as it comes down in OJ. But that is neither here nor there.

    Reflection: number seven is totally fascinating. Cell phone / smart phone addiction is absolutely real. Turning those things off is hard. Good point that it is an obstacle.

    Reflection two: I read somewhere that the internet makes having a rav to turn to with shilas obsolete. This is an interesting thing too. If virtual community replaces a sense of real community to a degree, does that make feeling close to yiddishkeit harder?


    OJ kiruv is coming close to feeling like an alcoholics anonymous undertaking. Hanging on week by week. Talking to your mentor when you slip. Not giving up. That is a tough sell.

    Finally, can someone take a crack at how Mormons can send their kids to coed colleges, and then on far flung missions for 80% of the boys — and not be concerned about OTD?

    What is it about the frum world that going to college has parents white knuckling it (and many forbidding it), coed classes even more ludicrous, and the idea of them going off to a non-community for a couple of years a certain non-starter?

    You answer that question, and you have the answer to what ails OJ from a marketing/attractiveness perspective.

    More finally,

    Rav Adam Law (full disclosure: I know him) indeed runs a fine program for outreach in Toronto. Quite a different take on bringing Jews close. It might be interesting to hear more about the kind of characters he attracts to Torah study, and what they are getting out of it.

  8. The Jewish Week (one of the most widely-read Jewish newspapers) incessantly and relentlessly portrays Orthodox Jews and Orthodox Judaism in the most negative and unfavorable ways possible. [Yet amazingly, The Jewish Week never seems to criticize Reform or Conservative.]

    I believe that it is impossible for anyone who reads The Jewish Week often to become Orthodox; and that is one of the major goals of The Jewish Week. This has been going on for decades.

    Furthermore, The Jewish Week now owns the NY Blueprint, a Jewish newspaper that specializes in reaching young Jews.

    Last but not least, I request that my fellow Orthodox Jews stop reading and stop buying Orthodox-bashing newspapers like The Jewish Week and Israel-bashing newspapers like The New York Times.

  9. My feeling is that the internet (as well as other factors) has hurt kiruv in another way. We, the frum community, are far more cynical and lacking in idealism. How can one with doubts and a dampened sense of simchas hachaim be m’karev others? I remember well the incredible purity and idealism of those that were m’karev me 25 years ago. I don’t see in today’s kiruv community.

  10. I also found this article quite interesting. For those of us who are 40+ the biggest difference is that even if we grew up without a trace of religious observance, we were very conscious of being Jewish. Our parents may or may not have “gone to temple”, but they were involved in Jewish organizations. Call it the Jewish culture piece that isn’t part of the lifestyle of the younger people now. Even the Holocaust, for many of us the negative but still Jewish connection is no more relevant then the Spanish Inquisition.

  11. Adam, I agree that people need hand holding friends, but spiritual growth is difficult if we’re complacent. I’m not a big fan of the “make teshuvah” model, but we all need people to help us grow whether they be friends, family, mentors or Rabbis.

  12. I think these ten points make a lot of sense. I think there’s another larger picture as well. The internet and the resultant apparent chillul H”s that appear make it harder to sell Yiddishkeit as a “move up.”

    Most people don’t really look up to Orthodox Jews anymore because increasingly we don’t seem so appealing anymore or even more moral. When I became observant a lot of the appeal was the lifestyle and family values of the Rabbis’ family that we all wanted to model. I don’t know if this “modeling” approach is effective in this generation which is increasingly “I-based.” People don’t look up to us and the average kiruv professional may not seem as genuine as they used to be.

    In my organization what I feel is working is a more grass-roots, community approach where people can have more ownership and feel successful as a Jew at their level. People want to feel okay where they are at. I think Chabad has the right approach in this area. Furthermore the idea of “kiruv” itself and the numbers game is a bit offensive, it objectifies people and cannot really grasp the intricacies of the individuals growth in a meaningful, lasting way. If we see community members as “others” who we have to “draw closer,” than we are not sensing who these people really are and what they need. They need friends, people who are real, who they can “share” a spiritual Judaism with, and not be told what to do or how much better their lives will be if they “make teshuvah.” If they are zoche to go to Israel then hopefully they can “chop” a deeper truth, but in the diaspora, we need to sit with them, under the table, where we are all at.

Comments are closed.