A Brighter Future for Kiruv

Moishe Bane recently wrote an article in Jewish Action titled “Yefashpesh B’ma’asav: Post-Tragedy Introspection.”
This section on Kiruv was encouraging.

“Communal allocations to kiruv: American Orthodox outreach to secular and unaffiliated Jews has always been on the communal agenda, albeit pursued on a relatively modest scale. Adult outreach, in particular, has been limited to Chabad, and to a relatively small group of other impressive but significantly underfunded efforts. This minimalistic attitude was formulated in the mid-to-late twentieth century in an era of limited Orthodox communal resources and when Orthodoxy itself was struggling with its own revitalization. As a result, for most Orthodox leaders and philanthropists, strengthening Orthodox education and community building, not outreach, were prioritized.

In addition, the most powerful and effective kiruv efforts have been one-on-one personal interactions. But because such efforts are costly, they are limited in generating the scale that might significantly affect the escalating intermarriage rates within the American Jewish community.

With new realities emerging since October 7, perhaps we need to rethink our community’s attitude toward outreach. Post-October 7, we observe a surge of interest in Jewish identity across the spectrum of American Jewry. For example, NCSY’s JSU public school clubs throughout North America have experienced an explosion of non-observant student participants and social media is replete with unaffiliated Jews, and even intermarried Jews, expressing a desire to strengthen their Jewish knowledge and identity. Perhaps there is a rare window of opportunity to engage unaffiliated Jews and provide a path for their greater connection to Jews and Judaism.

We must also acknowledge that the financial base of our community has enjoyed significant expansion, and kiruv need not be pursued at the expense of meeting internal Orthodox needs. Moreover, social media has introduced unprecedented tools and opportunities to inspire and inculcate Jewish identity on a previously unimaginable scale.

On the other hand, if this pivot is to be seriously considered, proposals for implementation must first be designed and initial efforts implemented to evidence effectiveness. ”