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.