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.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Local Learning Lures Lipa

Fascinating article that Lipa Schmetzer has enrolled in college. Yet what puzzles me is that Lipa notes how college is a ticket to Parnassa, yet he is making a fine Parnassa already without it.

Part of this Medina Shel Chessed conundrum is how we relate to the great Melting Pot. It is not easy to keep out unwanted influences, even in the secluded Chassidic areas as noted by R. AHARON HERSH FRIED in this landmark article in Hakirah.

Gerry Albarelli is a non-Jew who taught “English” (i.e.
secular studies) at the Satmar cheder in Williamsburg for five years and
wrote a book about his experiences. In the book, Albarelli talks
about his relationship with Mendy, the fifteen-year-old brother of a
boy he had undertaken to tutor at home. Mendy would come home
from yeshivah, often join in the tutorial sessions meant for his younger
brother, and always insist on walking the teacher to the subway.
Albarelli relates:

Then there are the questions that Mendy asks, walking me
to the subway, week after week. He asks these questions as
though everything depended on the answers:
“How they know the weather?”
“What means geology?”
“Who was Con Edison?”
“Thomas,” I say, “Thomas Edison.”
“No,” he insists, politely embarrassed by my ignorance.
“Con, Con Edison.”
Albarelli, Gerry, Teacha! Stories from a Yeshiva, Glad Day Books, 2000
(P.O. Box 112, Thetford, Vt. 05074)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mint Makes More Money

It seems that in recession times such as these, when politicians worry about falling off the Fiscal Cliff, belt tightening is something that every government agency must engage in.

I've seen news reports that even the Mint is now looking for ways to make the coins cheaper. You know that you have a problem when pennies cost two cents to make and nickels cost eleven cents.

This reminded me of several interesting tidbits. First of all, I once heard the reason why dimes, quarters and half-dollars are serrated, whereas pennies and nickels are not. Seems like in olden times, when coins were actually made of silver, people used to shave off little pieces of many coins and melt down the shavings. Serration put an end to that. Yet nickels and pennies were not made from silver.

What to do if someone tries to pay you with a shaved coin? That reminds me of a story in the Gemara Baba Kama 37A

חנן בישא תקע ליה לההוא גברא אתא לקמיה דרב הונא א"ל זיל הב ליה פלגא דזוזא הוה ליה זוזא מכא בעי למיתבה ליה מיניה פלגא דזוזא לא הוה משתקיל ליה תקע ליה אחרינא ויהביה נהליה

where Chanan Bisha hit someone and was fined by the court 1/2 Zuz. He paid with a Zuz that was not up to par and demanded change. The victim obviously was not interested in giving change. No problem, said Chanan. And he hit him again!

When touring the Mint many years ago, the guide noted at one point that the entire operation is not much different than a factory that makes washers (as in nuts, bolts and washers). The only difference is, he said, that here at the Mint " we always make money."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Levaya Launches Leadership Lament

This past week I attended the Levaya of a Rabbi who served for many years as a mentor for hundreds of followers.

During the procession, I noticed a good friend of mine, a grandfather already several times over, with tears streaming profusely down his face.

This caused me to pause, as I am used to seeing tears by funerals, yet shameless sobbing on a public street for one who is not even a relative is not often seen.

And then I realized that it is I who should be crying. In that I don't feel that close to MY mentor.

May this blog post arouse all those who lack loyalty, who are lackadaisical and lax in their living without a lawgiver, to fulfill the dictum of Aseh Lecha Rav to the utmost degree.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dialogue For Torah Issues and Ideas Fall 5773/2012: Review

The new issue (No. 3) of Dialogue is now available. See here and here for reviews of previous editions.

[Disclaimer: I am not associated with Dialogue in any way.]

I am quite impressed with the latest volume of Dialogue. This 3rd volume is a remarkable contrast to the previous two volumes. Whereas the first two offerings showed growing pains, this latest edition boasts a maturity rarely seen in a periodical so young.

The bulk of the current issue focuses on Orthodoxy confronting changing attitudes towards Homosexuality and Metzizah BePeh. The magazine continues in the tradition of the Jewish Observer in clearly delineating and defining Orthodox Hashkafah vis-a-vis these topics.

The lead article, A Torah View on Homosexuality, was penned by Rav Aharon Feldman, Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Israel, member of the Rabbinical Board of Dialogue, and member of the Moetzes. RAF explains why Homosexual behavior is so despicable, and why, until recent times, even Gentiles did not sanction HS with a marriage document.

A follow-up article was written by Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, Editor of the Intermountain Jewish News, The Attempt to Legitimate Homosexuality Within Orthodoxy. RHG documents the geometric change in attitude that the world has undergone with regard to HS over the past 50 years. Particularly within some segments of "Orthodoxy" who advocate for behavior that the Torah clearly labels Toevah and prohibited.

The final essay in this trilogy was offered by Dr. Elan Karten, Sexual Orientation Change Efforts: A Clinical Perspective. He discusses his professional practice that revolves around those seeking Reparative Therapy to combat SSA.

Finally, Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky, Rosh Yeshiva of Philadelphia and member of the Moetzes shares his thoughts on Same Gender Attraction and Reparative Therapy in the letters section.

Rabbi Moshe Einstadter, member of Dialogue's Editorial Board takes us on an intellectual journey, Koheles and Shir HaShirim Two World Views, into the paradox how both Koheles and Shir Hashirim could be written by the same author.

Rabbi Abba Zvi Naiman discusses Lo Sisgodedu and Tefillin on Chol Hamoed, why Lo Sisgodedu seemingly applies primarily to Tefillin on ChM and not other areas of Halachik difference.

Rabbi Benjamin Blech writes on the topic of The Parah Adumah and the symbolism of Color. He takes us on a fascinating journey into the mystery of this Chok, and along the trip we discover many insights into Eisav's selling of the Bechora, and the significance of the color red.

What would a good Jewish Journal be without some reference to the Cairo Genizot? Professor Robert Brody shares with us Polemics in the Early Geonic Period - Pirqoy Ben Baboy's Letter and Its Implications.

Doctors Isaac Betech and Obadia Maya delve into The Identity of the Shafan and Arnevet. This is a snippet from their forthcoming book The Enigma of the Biblical Shafan. Using a novel interpretation of Maaleh Gerah (to get around the problem that rabbits and hares don't chew their cud), they argue that the Shafan and Arnevet are in fact the rabbit and the hare, and not the hyrax as argued by other recent authorities.

Doctors Jonathan Zenilman and Lawrence Stanberry take issue with Dr. Daniel Berman's recent offering in Dialogue in The Dangers of Metzizah BePeh - A Response to Dr. Daniel Berman. Followed by A Rejoinder to Drs. Zenilman and Stanberry by Dr. Daniel Berman.

Professor Brenda Breuer joins the fray with An Epidemiological Critique of the CDC Report on Metzizah BePeh.

Professor Simeon M. Berman follows with An Analysis of the CDC's Statistical Methodology.

Professor Awi Federgruen also challenges the CDC's position with A Review of the CDC Statistics.

Rabbi Professor Dr. Avraham Steinberg and Moshe Westreich MD offer Halachic-Medical Position Paper - Metzizah BePeh in Traditional Jewish Ritual Circumcision.

A lawyer enters the arena with Is Metzizah BePeh Dangerous? A Critical Analysis of the NYDOH Study by Yerachmiel Simins, Esq.

And lastly, we have two more lawyers: Informed Consent for Metzizah BePeh - A Legal Analysis. by Shay Dvoretzky and Yaakov Roth Esqs.

Letters to editor include Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky's letter which was already noted above. Also, a short correction is noted by Avi Horowitz with regard to Yoram Bogacz's article from the previous edition.

The last two articles are in Hebrew. Rabbi Yechiel Goldhaber writes on the history of secular marriage in France and Italy, and Rabbi Eliyahu Avigdor Feldman writes on מציצה בפה ושכיחא הזיקא.

All I can say about this new edition is Wow! My complaint about earlier volumes was primarily how sparse they were. This new edition is almost 3 times the size of the previous two. I didn't notice any blatant typos. There is enough material here to keep one engaged for quite some time. Another minor complaint was the drab color used for volumes I and II. The deep blue of the current edition is a remarkable improvement in that regard. The only thing that puzzles me about volume III is that the Hebrew articles increment using the English page numbers. In other words, unlike Hakirah where the Hebrew articles start at the end of the volume and move towards the middle, these articles flow left page to right page. Another criticism has been that Dialogue does not engage in dialogue. Yet although this volume is heavy on the Pro MbP camp, the fact that they included opposing views was refreshing. Finally, they've removed the advertisement on the back cover, giving it a more professional look.

Dialogue can be ordered by calling 410-367-2567 or email
AJOP 5906 Park Heights Avenue, Suite 10, Baltimore MD 21215

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Administrative Note. Some Comments Lost


I have retrieved the lost comments.

[Apologies, I mistakenly labeled comments on the last few blog posts as Spam, hence losing them in the blogosphere. Please repost, or post new ones! - SoMeHoW Frum]

Monday, December 3, 2012

Gangnam Gangsters Gyrate Grotesquely

Blogging Buddy The Partial View, has posted recently on the phenomenon of Yeshiva Bochurim dancing at Chasunahs to current Pop Music trends.

Apparently I had been living in a cave, as I was not aware of this Youtube sensation that has Garnered upwards of 800 million hits, and is Glorified as the most watched Youtube Gig of all time.

To satisfy my curiosity, I foolishly unfiltered my PC for some Gratuitous Gratification, only to be Greeted by a Garishly Garbed Gangster, Galivanting about in the Gutter in his Goal to Get the Girl.

This Godless Gentile, Grossly Garmented, Generates Glee as he Glides, Gropes and Grooves the Gauntlet, his Gallery of Ghastly Greed.

It seems that this topic surfaces every so often. Not that long ago, there was the Macarena, before that was Yidden (Ghengis Khan) etc.

As the electronic world Germinates and Grows, bringing the Gamut of Western Culture to every nook and cranny, there is little that can be done to filter out the Garbage. Many years ago I heard Avrohom Rosenblum from the Diaspora Yeshiva Band defend the use of the rock-n-roll Genre for his music. The argument was that every culture has influenced the music of its Jewish inhabitants. What we call "Good" Jewish Music today is in reality the music of the Russian/Polish/German etc. of yesteryear.

Although this argument has some merit, there still is the "jungle beat" which is unnerving. Also, even if the tune is slow and beautiful, it may not be appropriate for Davening. Not everyone will appreciate their Lecho Dodi distrubed by conjuring up images of Simon and Garfunkel.

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