La Responsa

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Amazing what adrenaline can do. I was hoping for an early night. Just half an hour ago, I was lying in bed (half-asleep) and ready to turn in. I decided that I’d let the blog go for the evening or the week but, by-the-by, found an article in the blogosphere that took my article (this one) out of context to promote different and oppositional ideas so now…I’m awake.  I’d rather not draw anyone’s attention to this blog because I don’t agree with the writer at all but I would like to acknowledge the style of the writer’s (Rebecca’s) article. Rebecca didn’t attack me in any way or at least I don’t feel attacked by Rebecca personally but some of my writing was misinterpreted to fit with her agenda which I don’t love. Rebecca- we’re women- so let’s put it all out there. You’re my Jewish sister. Let’s get real. Really real. Therefore, friends, I give you: La Responsa.

1. In my article “Blowing the Head Off Of Campus Outreach”, the goal for most kiruv professionals is to help a student feel more connected to Judaism, God, other Jews, and to develop (from that connection) a stronger commitment to Judaism. Most kiruv professionals that I’ve spoken to (and I talk to the most fanatic!) do not want carbon copies of themselves or even to force a student into an “orthodox lifestyle” (her words). A richer connection to Judaism and more serious level of commitment to reflect that connection is not the same thing as forcing someone into a little cookie-cutter mold called “orthodox”.  True story.

2. My “brazen” (her words) mention of students needing inner-strength to live a more Jewish life even when friends and, at times, family take exception…Where to start? We all (should) make choices at some point that don’t sit well or even threaten others. Whenever I go on a diet, I inevitably encounter people who are threatened by my new choices and I need to fortify myself to eat healthy and exercise in the face of such people. OK, not quite. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a real diet but the principle is there. It is  hard for certain types of people (usually the insecure types) to feel comfortable when someone else is making choices to live a healthier, happier life (I’m not just talking  about Jews). The idea is that those who truly love us will be happy we’re happy and support us. If not immediately, then eventually. Rebecca: Why fear change? Change can be good! In that vein, why fear questioning? The definition of “brainwash” is to adopt radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible pressure. The ability to question is a person’s only chance NOT to get brainwashed and I certainly hope you aren’t trying to brainwash your readers, Rebecca 😉 STRONG people QUESTION. WEAK people bury their heads in the sand.

3. My step-to-step guide of how a kiruv professional develops a relationship with students does sound contrived and, in fact, is contrived. I’m not being facetious when I tell you that I’m not naturally sociable and don’t enjoy socializing, per se. The result of these steps is actually an organic relationship. Proof? My husband and I were “set up” on a blind date that led to a (short) series of dates before our engagement. The whole process was forced, contrived. However, my marriage is anything but contrived. It is very real. One can go through a premeditated series of steps and the outcome of the connection between those two people will depend on those two people- not the steps that got them there. My best friend is dating a guy who had a crush on her for two years and used the pretense of friendship to solidify a bond with her. Was he being dishonest? Honesty isn’t even in the equation. The honesty was his intention to connect and whether they’d end up together was up to their chemistry. Same with my relationships with students. Either we end up having a deep and long-lasting friendship or the chemistry isn’t right.

4. Rebecca seems overly concerned with families who “try to figure out how to relate to their children and how to weather the growing pains of the baal teshuvah”. To me, a healthy and loving family views a member’s growing devotion to Judaism as a positive thing and accommodates the family member’s request for, say, kosher food. If my children ask me to serve them food that is more “kosher” than I’m accustomed to eating, I would be happy that they want to strive for a stronger commitment. I would commend my own parenting efforts because, after all, I taught them the importance of being Jewish which led to this self-discovery. I don’t want my kids to follow my path in Judaism. I want them to follow theirs. Abraham was happy to have Isaac and not another Abraham. Those two were different and had very different paths towards God. Both were good. Neither one should be judged. Abraham wasn’t preoccupied (I assume) with the fact that Isaac didn’t embrace the kindness of hospitality the way he did. Rather, he was proud that Isaac developed the trait of self-restraint and discipline.

5. Finally, Rebecca’s (and her commenters’) plea for more transparency in campus outreach. I can only speak for myself and my husband when I say that our prayer for our students is a heightened awareness and connection with Judaism. We never made any other claim. Those students that I’m closest with (and are probably reading this) know I bust their chops about dating non-Jewish people because I love them and feel close enough to discuss my opinions openly with them. In return, they discuss their honest opinions with me. I’ve debated some extremely opinionated students in my day and one girl (who I feel very close to) has, indeed, left me changed. I believe she has made me a more open and less judgmental person. I hope I have made her more proud of her Judaism. How much more transparent can I get?

If you have an opinion – whether you agree with me or you don’t- I’d love to hear it.

Rebecca- whoever you are, wherever you are- I love you girl. Before you judge, how about listening with an open heart? You may be surprised there are no devil horns beneath my wig.

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13 responses »

  1. “Rebecca- whoever you are, wherever you are- I love you girl. Before you judge, how about listening with an open heart? You may be surprised there are no devil horns beneath my wig.”

    She is not claiming this, she is claiming that it is all carefully orchestrated ‘love bombing’…

      • #awkward I plead ignorance. Thanks for Wiki referral. I will say this to my paranoid contingency (I’m looking at you Chatzkaleh, Motti, Rebecca): In regards to the implication that the love is feigned (wikipedia says that critics define “love bombing” as feigned love falsely fronted to manipulate), from my standpoint, having devoted my adult life to trying to connect Jewish people with Judaism and developing deep and long-lasting relationships with those people- this couldn’t be more false (or offensive). When the average person in kiruv takes steps to create a relationship with a student- that’s coming from true love for this person. Why else bother to devote oneself to enriching Jews’ lives if not for love? I assure you, I get no thrill from any other motivation. If you don’t believe me, how about giving these students some credit? They’re smart! Even the open-minded people know when they’re being manipulated. My response in a word? Ouch.

      • I plan on writing a full response to your post but I wanted to comment on your comment:

        “I will say this to my paranoid contingency (I’m looking at you Chatzkaleh, Motti, Rebecca): In regards to the implication that the love is feigned (wikipedia says that critics define “love bombing” as feigned love falsely fronted to manipulate), from my standpoint, having devoted my adult life to trying to connect Jewish people with Judaism and developing deep and long-lasting relationships with those people- this couldn’t be more false (or offensive). When the average person in kiruv takes steps to create a relationship with a student- that’s coming from true love for this person. Why else bother to devote oneself to enriching Jews’ lives if not for love?”

        I’m not sure which “paranoid contingency” you’re talking about, unless you believe that those of us who believe in providing information that kiruv workers leave out are “paranoid.” In that case, any group that is concerned with non-Jewish missionaries missionizing our children and provides counter-missionary information would also be considered a “paranoid contingency.” Not wanting my children to become recruited by any missionary–Jewish or otherwise–doesn’t make me paranoid. It makes me a parent concerned for my child’s well-being. Just as you most likely would take offense to a representative for Jews from Jesus seeking your child out while in seminary in Jerusalem, many of us take offense to Jewish missionaries doing the same to our children while on college campuses.

        I don’t doubt your sincerity in believing you love every Jew, and I do believe that it’s a very nice sentiment. But I don’t believe that it is what you think it is. You love Judaism, and as an extension of that love for your religion, you believe that you have the obligation to “bring people back” to that which you practice. In thinking that you love every Jew, it’s only because you believe that you have an obligation to seek them out and “help” them, in order to further your own personal relationship with God. Sure, you believe that it helps them because you’re viewing this from an orthodox kiruv perspective. I know that you find the idea that you might be love bombing to be offensive. But the love from any missionary is contingent on a potential recruit or a new recruit accepting your words and following the examples you set. Once they start challenging you openly or their views begin to pose a threat to the work you’re doing, you’re going to drop them for damage control. You are not showing “true love” for people–you are showing true love for your own way of life, your own values, and for the work of kiruv. Everyone else is just another potential warm body.

      • It’s true- I do believe a Jewish person’s life will be enriched when they are more connected to Judaism and prouder of their heritage. Being embarrassed or desiring to reject a piece of oneself is tragic and I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.

        I wish I did kiruv out of obligation because it would show, perhaps, a deeper level of commitment but I don’t. I do kiruv because I have benefited tremendously from Torah wisdom and a relationship with God. My marriage has benefited, my parenting has, my character has.

        As for the students in my life who won’t embrace religiosity the way I have…If only you could meet my students!!! I Love Love Love them. I’m incredibly close with students who openly disagree with me and in no uncertain terms reject religiosity. HOWEVER, they’re respectful of me and my lifestyle and I’m respectful of them. I enjoy their company and friendship tremendously and my love for them is contingent on nothing.

  2. if kiruv organizations would invite black velvet kippa, white dress shirt rabbi/academics to show how the Torah was written over hundreds of years I would respect them more. They exist now in greater number, and merit being heard.

    You guys are too indoctrinating, not educating. Manipulating, not informing. People hear only from rabbis who are orthodox. Outside voices/information are suppressed/distorted/omitted.

    You prey on people who are naturally vulnerable. You are not interested in open and honest debates with different sides invited to join.

    Remember that all civil religions and fundamentalist religions do the same thing for people. They inspire them, indoctrinate them, make them feel special, give them a goal a quasi-secret mission. It doesn’t matter if it is hare krishnas, the KKK, orthodox Judaism, Mormonism, Scientology.

    They all make people feel special and directed and protected and part of an in group.

    It can feel great – which is how they ALL bring in people. They ALL have dim views of the other. They ALL believe the other is wrong because they get you thinking in black and white terms.

    Actually it is not thinking. It is believing. And strong beliefs can get you anywhere. It is where thinking stops.

    It’s manipulative using exactly the same tools that the communists in Russia used in the old days, and 1927 fuhrer used. And it works on MANY people — because feeling special and great beats thinking and educating yourself any day.

    They also use fear of what will happen to your soul if you don’t comply against you.

    Well done….

    Tuvia

    • I just found this message along with another you sent in my spam box. My apologies for the delayed response. It’s difficult to comment about what you’re saying because they’re accusations with no basis of evidence. I can tell you we don’t indoctrinate at all- we educate in a multitude of ways although there’s no point in bringing in the “other side” because they can get that elsewhere. They’re in our home and at our programs to hear the Torah’s views as we present them. I see no reason to bring in an atheist view, for example, because they can go to many other places for that. This will just be a he-said-she-said discussion if we don’t base them on facts. As far as I can tell, this comment is accusations with no substance supporting them.

      • this must be rather exhausting for you. i appreciate (though am wary of) your efforts to confront your challengers. Not bad.

        I did leave a comment (several, but the last one is the one it would be interesting to get your feedback on) on stop kiruv now – the latest post by Rebecca. Perhaps if you care to respond to it there.

        Tuvia

      • Whoa Tuvia! Are you being nice to me? Thank you 🙂 Who knows? Maybe we’ll end up friends. Can you draw my attention to the comment with a link please?

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