Not how I would have phrased it but I’ll embrace the message nonetheless. There is an over-representation of an anti-outreach, anti-orthodox population that didn’t exist in my mind last month and are now my nearest and dearest. They’re like a cute grumpy old man that you just want to hug. I’ll dub them “Uncle Leo” (if you missed that reference- no biggie). In my last post I took all their complaints and questions and boiled them down to two “core issues”. Here’s my post if you missed that:
Any-who, apparently this was not what they wanted at all. I want to summarize some points of theirs and responses of mine for posterity.
Let’s break it down. Here are Bec’s points (I call her ‘Bec’ now because we’re just tight like that):
She Asks: I have no problem with people coming to orthodoxy by their own volition. The problem I have is when people are willfully misled by kiruv workers who teach that the all-encompassing cozy blanket is “just Judaism.” It is not “just Judaism.” It is specifically an Ashkenazi brand of orthodox Judaism.””
I Answer: Rebecca makes an interesting point. The Torah – written and oral law was given thousands of years ago. In the early 19th century, the reform movement was created and as a reaction to that, in around 1850, the conservative movement began. Most non-orthodox practicing Jews are practicing a relatively new form of Judaism that doesn’t match up with the authentic tradition given over in 2448. That original version of Judaism is “just Judaism”. I am absolutely pointing Sephardi Jews towards experts in Sephardi customs and Sephardi groups. I have no intention of dictating customs. There is, however, a basic list of expectations Jews observe and then beyond that minimal set of laws- it’s up to the person how they want to practice. I always tell my students to be true to themselves (they should also be true to Judaism). Side-note: “Willfully misled”? Isn’t that an oxymoron?
She Asks: If Ms. Eden’s children were to decide that they no longer believed that orthodox Judaism was the way to go, and instead, opted to live as Humanist Jews, would Ms. Eden be as accommodating to their needs as she expects non-orthodox parents should be to the needs of their BT children? Let’s assume that her children are simply following their own path in Judaism. Would she “commend [her] own parenting efforts because, after all, [she] taught them the importance of being Jewish which led to this self-discovery?
I Answer: Another nice point, Bec. The above image “Just Be You” is me being facetious. I’m not typically one of those facebook posters who paste a cliche into their status bar. If you are, no judgement- sometimes I even enjoy reading them. If my children, God forbid, decided to live as “humanist Jews” that wouldn’t be self-expression. Let me explain. I believe God created the Torah as a guide to living for all Jews in every generation. Just like when my husband and I married, we created an understood exchange of expectations (ex/ we come home every evening, know for the most part each other’s whereabouts, pool our money together, are faithful to one another, etc). My children also know I have expectations of them (speak respectfully, eat health food usually, clean up after playtime). God created expectations for our benefit – and our benefit alone. Hashem doesn’t need us to do this stuff- this stuff is how we keep spiritually healthy. After we do everything we need to do to keep spiritually healthy, we can start to consider self-discovery, creativity, more spiritual outlets. But there’s a minimum standard as I said before. I’m happy to accommodate my children as long as they’re being healthy. If there are parents who think practicing a Torah-observant life is unhealthy, I’d like to hear why please.
She Asks: Within the last post, I also posted claims made by another (anonymous) person in kiruv which seem to contradict your claims. “AM” (“Anonymous Mekarev”) states that:
1. It is the firm position of Halachic Judaism that all Jews have a responsibility to influence others to the realization that there is a creator of the world and that there is a correct code of conduct for human beings in general and Jews (as His reps to the world) in particular.
2. We are to do this by any peaceful means including persuasion because we are held responsible for others’ actions and welfare to the amount that we can influence them for the better. We have a moral obligation to educate people about this code of conduct who – through no fault of their own – do not yet understand what is incumbent upon them being born as Jews.
I Answer: Firstly, I’m one of those annoying people that don’t enjoy reading anonymous posts. I just don’t see why a person gets to state an opinion and not stand behind it proudly. That said, I’ll oblige since Bec and I now go way back.
- I never considered kiruv a responsibility though maybe that’s bad. I feel really fortunate to have investigated Judaism at a time in my life when I could create a home and family on the basis of my conclusions. I feel fortunate to be born into a religious with a built in infrastructure for how to live life to its fullest and grow every day. I feel so fortunate that it seems wrong not to share what I benefit so much from with others.
- I don’t agree with Anonymous’ point here at all. “We are to do this by any peaceful means”? “We are held responsible for others’ actions”? No and no. There are boundaries. There are lines. There are no-nos. Anonymous needs to back up what s/he is accusing – a dangerous accusation- with some evidence and there’s not a shred of it. My husband and I would never manipulate anyone or pressure someone to be a frum Jew. Before our desire to educate people about Judaism is our obligation to be upright people. Anonymous sounds like a rabble rouser and I’m suspicious of this person’s credibility.
She Comments: While yes, there are key issues within the blog as a whole, it was my understanding that we were actually discussing specific points we were each making within the body of discussion.
I React: If there are specific points to address, I’m game. However, my guess is there are a couple underlying themes that once we identify we can cut right to the chase. For example, now that I’ve had so many interactions with your readership I now have the hunch that these anti-kiruv people are actually anti-orthodox.
She Comments: I’m also really curious to know about these “outrageous comments and points that are too ridiculous and off-the-wall to address.”
I React: One example is when you paralleled my work in Jewish outreach with rape. For starters.
She Comments: I’ve also asked a lot of other questions within the latest post.
I React: Can you please re-post in case I’ve answered them here?
If they have anything else to add, I am still here and honored to play poster-child for the kiruv world. Ask away. Angry messages in my inbox? Fill ‘er up. I gotta be me. And Haterz Gonna Hate.