Monday, December 31, 2012

Klal: Keep Krovim? Kiruv?

The new issue of Klal Perspectives focuses on the Kiruv Phenomenon - what works and what doesn't and what has changed since the Kiruv Boom Days of the post '67 War. Entries are from most of the key players of the Kiruv movement. I have highlighted some of the more interesting comments:

Rav Sholom Kamenetzky:

“Always remember that you are not
HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s apotropis (guardian).” He is
responsible for the results, not you, and you have no right to
bend Shulchan Aruch in the pursuit of “better results.”

Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald:

Sadly, American Jewry prayed for a melting pot, but instead we now have a

Most Baaley Teshuva come from Reform/Conservative backgrounds. But those pools are shrinking.

Several years ago I raised many eyebrows for pointing out the ineffectiveness of contemporary kiruv efforts by noting that approximately 3,500 outreach professionals were “producing” fewer than 2,000 baalei teshuva a year. Had they been refrigerator salesmen they would have been fired fourteen times over!

Birthright – followup.

In light of the relatively small return on the investment in
campus outreach, I wonder why a greater effort is not directed
at reaching the not insignificant number of former Yeshiva and
Day School graduates who are on campus. In fact, I would
argue that it is time to establish more programs on campus
(such as OU’s JLIC – Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus)
directed at Modern Orthodox (MO) educated students, who
reportedly suffer a very high religious attrition rate during their
college years. (One recent study claimed a fallout rate of as
many as 50%!) Keeping the MO students in the fold is exactly
what is needed today. I say this despite my lifelong devotion to
reaching out to the non-committed. Clearly, keeping the
“committed committed,” should be our top priority.
example of this dangerous trend is the total elimination of
the presence of women from all publicity in the name of
“tznius.” Advertisements, fliers and marketing pieces for
outreach programs increasingly feature blurred-out faces of
little girls, or blank picture frames with the names of the
women speakers at the bottom. This type of insulting
marketing is currently even being promoted by some of the top
names in kiruv. It is not only an embarrassment; it is a huge
turnoff to anyone who might consider learning more about their
Jewish heritage.

This new radicalized direction of kiruv is not only doomed to
failure, it also suggests that those who have piously and
selflessly devoted their lives to the extraordinary efforts of
kiruv either lacked requisite devotion or failed to consult with,
and take guidance from, the rabbinic leaders of Jewry. Over 30
years ago, when we discussed with Rav Moshe Feinstein, z”l,
and other gedolim the parameters of outreach involving co-ed
NCSY and YU outreach seminars, no gadol suggested that
women’s faces need, or even should, be blacked out. The
parameters were halacha, but the goals demanded moderation
with halachic bounds. The advocates who are promoting this
radical approach will certainly have to give an account for the
many thousands of Jewish souls who are being lost and who
will be lost because of the further alienation they are causing.

Rabbi Bentzi Epstein:

RBE is the Director of DATA, community Kollel of Dallas. He shows how the Community Kollel has the power to change a community. Notes that excitement is a necessary ingredient.

Lori Pasternak:

Years ago, there was a famous comedian whose highly
irreverent routine included “The Seven Words You Can’t Say
on Television.” Today, you can say all of those words on
television, and more. Years ago, Lucy and Ricky slept in
separate beds. Today, Ricky sleeps with Fred in a popular and
accepted mainstream comedy.

I always tell women, “The choice of where you send your kids to
school will not result in who your kids will be, it is who your
grandchildren will be.”

Dr. Marvin Schick:

WHEN I WAS HONORED at the Torah U'Mesora dinner
twenty-five years ago, I compared the understandable emphasis
that our community was placing on kiruv with our neglect of
the challenges arising from the abandonment of religious life
by many, mostly younger persons, who – though raised
observant – no longer considered themselves Orthodox. “We
speak of kiruv rechokim,” I said, “but we pay no heed to the
problem of richuk kerovim.”

Rabbi Shraga Simmons - AISH

Rav Noach Weinberg, zt”l, founder of Aish HaTorah, had a plan for the Jewish people that was all-inclusive and holistic: Draft the frum world into doing kiruv and accomplish both goals simultaneously.

(Incidentally, I personally have been somewhat critical of the AISH viral videos, but after reading how effective they are, I retract my original criticisms.)

Bentzion klatzko:

Is it any surprise that Carlebach minyanim are proliferating? Is
it really a mystery why 50,000 people a year head to Uman for
Rosh Hashana? The Jewish people are begging to rediscover
the simcha (joy) in Yiddishkiet. Our children, our homes and
kehilos are striving to recapture the essence of a loving and
vibrant relationship with our Heavenly Father. When a nonobservant
person witnesses the true happiness of Judaism manifested in the Jewish home, this becomes the greatest reason to give it serious consideration. No kiruv expertise required! But when the joy of a relationship is absent, no intellectual argument or outreach seminar will be convincing or compelling. A loveless relationship is simply hollow and burdensome.


  1. you give too much homework. i haven't yet read the Dialogue and now your giving us a much thicker issue of K'lal perspectives.

    I wish I had more time to read and to learn but alas...I don't. besides if I took the time to read other peoples learned opinions and rhetoric there'd be no time left for broadcasting my own ignorant hot-air by blogging and commenting.

    1. 83 pages of Kal (light) reading for Klal, as opposed to 253 pages of intense Dialogue?

  2. apparently I've laid my hands on neither one

  3. Are BTs something like refrigerators? Make a sale, go on to the next one?

    What's an "outreach professional"? Is a Chabad rabbi an outreach professional? How about the rabbi of a Young Israel that occasionally attracts a non-frum or just-becoming-frum new member? Is my husband who owns a Judaica store an outreach professional? After all, he often talks to non-frum customers and sometimes invites them to our home for Shabbos. Is a young person who teaches in an after-school Talmud Torah an outreach professional? Is the administrator of the Young Israel of Hollywood an outreach professional? Every year she goes to the AJOP convention. (AJOP = the Association of Jewish Outreach Professionals.) But outreach professionals are not licensed like doctors and barbers. I think we must have much more than 3,500 but who can even figure out what counts?

    As for how many BTs there are every year, there is just no way at all to count. What do you call a person who goes from eating treif to being a vegetarian and gradually becomes fully shomer Shabbos over a period of several years? Which year counts as "the" year he became a BT?

    But anyway there is a much more fundamental problem with this whole statement, aside from the impossibility of actually counting professionals OR baalei teshuva.

    It is this: outreach isn't something that takes place once per client and then you hang that scalp on your belt and go on to the next one. A rav, rebbe, rebetzen or a balabos who gives some shiurim will be involved with his students or new-BT friends and neighbors for years, maybe a lifetime. Look at Ohr Someach or Aish or Neveh Yerushalayim (for women). You don't just "make somebody frum" and go on to the next one. People who become frum, just like people who were always frum, need to learn Torah for months and years, and they also need practical help and advice as they go along from stage to stage in their lives. Trying to calculate the success rate of outreach as a mathematical ratio of "professionals" to "each year's new BTs" -- as if "new captures" were widgets -- is just obscene!

  4. Thanks for your comment and welcome aboard!

    To answer your first question, yes, there are many more than 3,500 people working in Kiruv, as any Orthodox looking Jew is performing Kiruv all day as he interacts with the outside world.

    What the author here is bemoaning, is the fact that there are 3,500 PAID professionals, with little to show for it. And even if you argue that the 2,000 per year, we should also count their progeny down through the generations, the question still beckons, should we as a Klal fund other projects, such as keeping MO Frum on campuses, or other such endeavors that have greater return for the money?

    Sadly, Kiruv is no longer the way it was in the days of your father,Rav Nachman Bulman ZTL. No longer is the Chulent and Kugel and warmth of the Shabbos table enough. We now need multimedia presentations to reel in the distanced souls.

  5. "What the author here is bemoaning, is the fact that there are 3,500 PAID professionals..."

    I take your point, but it is still not so clear to me. The administrator of a synagogue attends the AJOP convention every year but she is not being paid to make baalei teshuva -- she is paid to run a synagogue. Are there really 3500 paid professionals who are paid just to beat the bushes for new BTs? Who is paying all these people?!

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. Are there really 3500 paid professionals

    I don't know. Those are the stats in Rabbi Buchwald's article.

  7. My web site for quick easy divrei Torah in English is useful for FFBs and kiruv rechokim and kiruv kerovim, and nobody pays me to do it.

    It seems that Jews who make aliyah and Baalei Teshuvah and Gerim and mussar fans and Jews in remote location are especially likely to appreciate my web site for quick easy divrei Torah:


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