I’m A Loser (Soy un Perdedor)

Standard

I’m just gonna put this out there: I have entitled and plan to continue entitling my articles unusually. Here’s why:

  1. It’s Funny (Sometimes. To me!)
  2. It’s Ironic (See above)
  3. It’s Eye-catching (Hey, I’m allowed to market my articles to up my readership!)

It is for these reasons that I used an early 90’s alternative rock song title by Beck. (Get it? I’m debating with Bec, who thinks what I have devoted my adult life to is for losers? Well, those are my words but I think a fair analysis.)

The title “Haterz Gonna Hate” was not to be taken too seriously (can we not joke, people??). There are seven definitions for “Hater” in the Urban Dictionary (click here) and I’m sure we can make one of them fit. Let’s get over the titles. Moving on….

Point One: Willfully Misled

Rebecca used the term “willfully misled” and I took it to mean that the students were willful in the Jewish outreach leader’s mission to allegedly mislead. I see now from Rebecca’s most recent article that she’s claiming  Kiruv professionals deliberately mislead students. Ten-Four. Point Taken. Let’s chalk this one up to a misunderstanding. (By the way, I think describing Jewish outreach efforts this way is not true and destructive)

Point Two: Would you let your children….?

I’ve gotten a lot of “Would you let your children…” questions as of late. Here are two of Bec’s:

  1. Would you let your child marry a person who keeps shabbattaharat hamishpacha (family purity laws,) and kosher?
  2. What if they’re actually Conservative but keep these things?

My Answers:

  1. I won’t be controlling my children’s choices in marriage. It’s an orthodox Jewish thing. We aren’t allowed to tell our kids who to marry. They decide. That said, if my child chooses a person who keeps the Big Three (Shabbos, Family Purity, and Kosher), that would be good. A dream boat? Not for me. I like the passionate Jews who are super proud of their Judaism and want to continually work on their character traits, love learning Torah, develop their relationships with God, and embrace (or aspire to embrace) all the mitzvot that pertain to them. But, again, it’s up the my kid. I married my dream boat.
  2. I don’t get it. Conservative Jews don’t (according to this) observe the laws of Shabbos. Are there individuals who do? You betcha. I won’t make a carte blanche statement about those individuals. I’d like to understand more about why they’re labeling themselves “Conservative Jew” but not practicing the ideology.

Point Three: Love with Expectations

Bec wrote: “I hope that if Ms. Eden’s children ever go off the derech (off the path of orthodox Judaism,) that she doesn’t toss them to the curb like yesterday’s trash. And I sincerely hope that she will respect their life choices and love them unconditionally. ”

I recently told a student’s mother in front of him that I was so proud of his progress in a certain area. She responded that she is always proud of him. Here’s why that’s dangerous. I believe in a parent’s unconditional love – 100%. Pride, however, requires accomplishment. If a child thinks that zero effort is required to invoke a parent’s pride, we will end up with a bunch of kids who aren’t confident in their own capabilities because no one asked them to succeed so perhaps they are incapable of success. Love and expectations go hand in hand. They in no way contradict.

This also addresses her “Just Be You” beef. She writes: “Ms. Eden says that “Just Be You” is facetious? So she doesn’t want people to be themselves?” Rebecca, I don’t want to just be me if that means living life according to my base instincts. We’d live in a violent, twisted world if everyone conducted themselves this way.

Point Four: Marketing

Rebecca writes: “This isn’t about a Torah-observant life being healthy or unhealthy…It’s sad to see this in print because I’ve had this “argument” tossed at me too many times to count and I really thought that Ms. Eden was above this cheap shot. ”

Here’s why this argument IS about a Torah-observant life. Remember those “this is your brain on drugs” commercials from the 80’s? I don’t see Rebecca creating blogs blasting anti-drug campaigns. Why not? Because she thinks they’re selling a good product. But Torah observant Judaism? That shouldn’t be marketed to anyone according to Rebecca. Any Questions? 😉

Point Five: Hiding Rebecca

Rebecca writes: “She (Rachel Eden) doesn’t like anonymity, yet insists on keeping me anonymous. I am not anonymous. In fact, I have my name on my blog (as well as my bio with some of my other writing.) This lack of proper attribution is both hypocritical and academically dishonest.”

I’ve already addressed this- more than once. I have approved several posts that quote Rebecca with a link to her original post but I won’t help her share her blog with more people. I feel her message is very negative and bitter. I’d like for people who are objective to not have to read this. I don’t see how this is dishonest or hypocritical.

As for my distaste towards anonymous commentators, I am going out on a limb as the lone wolf to defend an entire movement. This isn’t easy but I think it’s important. To defend writers who don’t want to come out makes my job harder and their writing less credible.

Point Six: Deception

Last thing. We’ve been here before. She thinks Jewish outreach is deceptive. I don’t. We may be running in circles but I’d like to point out that I’ve conducted numerous intellectual debates with students who don’t agree with me and I don’t hunt them down, drug them, or kill them. True story! Jewish outreach is affording young people a chance to embrace their Judaism in a way they never considered before. Generally, it works out really well according to all parties involved. But it’s not perfect- there are times it doesn’t work well for a person. Should we stop reaching out? I don’t think so. And if that makes me a loser, then all I have to say is: I’m a loser, baby; but uh…don’t kill me.

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26 responses »

  1. Rachel,

    I haven’t been following much of this chain (read this post and skimmed some of the other related ones) but it seems to me that Bec believes that Kiruv is at it’s core dishonest, while you naturally do not. I am curious though if you believe that there are some kiruv tactics or groups that you do believe are misrepresenting some ideas and facts in order to acheive the greater good of bringing Jews closer to Judaism?

    I have been through the Kiruv system both as a BT as well as helping promote Kiruv to other less observant Jews myself, and while I think on the whole there are many well intentioned people in this system there are also a considerable number who’s intentions are less than perfect. Even those who mean well tend to whitewash complicated/sensitive issues to make Yiddishkeit look more attractive to the secular world, which IMO is a form of deception, a tactic I have personally done as well.

    Do you think there are any problems in the Kiruv system that need to be addressed?

    • Thanks for your comment and your question. Being an “insider” into Kiruv organizations for a number of years, I see many areas that need improvement. I think about them often and strategize to make them better. I think I’m qualified to do this because (1) my experience and (2) my intent is to make a movement based on idealism better.

      To answer your first question more specifically, I don’t believe kiruv rabbis or professionals misrepresent a religious lifestyle. I do believe that secular Jews don’t understand the flaws of orthodox Jewish people, school, etc until they have enough exposure to encounter them. No community- religious or secular- is perfect because people are involved. I believe that we need to address this lack of awareness by giving these baalei teshuva the tools they need to cope with imperfections. Rabbis are not gods. Someone who calls him/herself an orthodox Jew may not act like one. Dating, marriage, parenting takes copious sweat and tears to make it great- even with the help of Torah and mitzvahs.

      Complicated/Sensitive issues should be addressed free of apologetics and sugar-coating. If we’re finding ourselves doing it we should stop- immediately. I see why it’s tempting since Torah philosophy is so different from our Western perspective but clearly it’s doing harm and completely dishonest. I don’t think I have fallen prey to this but maybe my students who read this would disagree!

      • Very interesting. Thank you for replying.

        I don’t know how many kiruv workers intentionally misrepresent the religious lifestyle or not. I definitely believe that based on what I was exposed to and taught through various kiruv Rabbis is that there does seem to be some large differences between what BTs have come to expect from a frum lifestyle and what actually is available. Whether these differences are due to misrepresentations by the kiruv workers or false assumption made by the potential BTers, I am not sure. At the very least I do believe that not enough is done to make sure that in fact people who become BTs know they wont have ready made families in the Frum world by becoming frum, like they have with their real secular families.

        Each situation is different of course, not all secular families are healthy and some BTs do indeed become very much accepted “like” family in the frum world it seems, but I know from experience that in the end you can’t count on frum friends for assistance like you can with your parents/siblings. That I feel is not expressed often or clearly enough in kiruv programs.

        There are also some common misrepresentations I have come across in relation to what is said about other commonly non frum beliefs/ideas (such as billion years old universe, evolution, global warming, other religions, other Jewish movements, atheisms, etc). I am not sure if these misstatements are intentional or just based off of an ignorance of the subject at hand, but often a nuanced presentation of these subjects in relation to Judaism when the topics do come up, or even an admission of not being an expert/formally educated in these areas is missing. I have at times heard gross misrepresentations of some of these topics from self proclaimed experts, with no actual training or credentials in the particular field being discussed.

        As for the sugar-coating/apologetics, sadly I have seen this as well (I also actively talked about complicated topics in this way to certain audiences when doing kiruv myself). It is even clearer when I can remember what I was being told as a fresh not quite BT in college, vs what I would hear while I was a black hat & beard wearing frum Jew (from the same Rabbis/People). Also you can hear the tone change just by being in an audience of secular Jews vs Frum Jews. I think it is pretty clear that the tone and the way things are presented change quite drastically from one setting to the next. This to many appears to be a form of deception. If I heard earlier in my journey into Judaism many of the things I heard later on, my relationship with Judaism would be much different than it is today, likely because I wouldn’t have had to reject a philosophy only after becoming completely entrenched in it to find out what regular day to day Jews and Rabbis believe in real life in frum communities.

      • As institutions, I have found the classic yeshivas/seminaries in Israel (Aish, Ohr Sameach, Neve) do place a heavy emphasis on family and keeping ties very strong especially when headed towards kashrus- a typical area where contention could lie. The thinking – from what I’ve seen – is to move very slowly towards a religious lifestyle if you are headed in that direction. Family should be kept at the forefront of a BT’s mind because (we agree) no one has your back like your family. I accept that you feel not enough is done to make sure new BTs know they won’t have ready-made families coming in although I wonder how this could be integrated into the kiruv model?

        As for the “misrepresentations” about age of the universe, global warming, etc…I don’t know what incorrect assertions are being made out there. What your saying isn’t familiar to me (unless you can be more specific?)

        And, lastly, the tone change that you found from teachers speaking to a religious audience vs a secular one. That does ring true. But I don’t think the root of it is deception. It’s that a person needs to be more grounded and steeped in Torah values before a teacher can assume a premise is understood. For example, how can I talk about the flaws of religious communities before we talk about the values of one? How can I talk about deepening prayer and my relationship with God if I can’t assume you acknowledge God exists?

        Just curious, what did you hear later in your journey that was such a turn off?

      • Not sure how to reply to your last comment in this chain so I am replying to this one again.

        “I accept that you feel not enough is done to make sure new BTs know they won’t have ready-made families coming in although I wonder how this could be integrated into the kiruv model?” —Perhaps just by flatly saying it. I think all that is needed is a simple explanation like this:

        “Make sure you always have a good relationship with your family, Not because you might mekarev them, but because they are the only family you got, and as close and tight knit this community may seem from the outside, nothing will ever be able to replace the special relationship you have with your family”

        I know it might seem obvious to those already frum, but for new BTs the impression I got (whether it was intentioned by others or simply a mistake on my part) was that the main reason to be in good terms with your family is (1) To honor your parents (2) To love every Jew & (3) in hopes that they will also become frum. I also had the impression that the frum community is a good replacement for your secular family in terms of a support system, which I found out the hard way is just not the case.

        Like I said earlier I am not blaming kiruv people for me having these impressions, only trying to get y’all to know that these are impressions many disillusioned BTs have and something that should be addressed early on, rather than after the fact.

        “As for the “misrepresentations” about age of the universe, global warming, etc…I don’t know what incorrect assertions are being made out there. What your saying isn’t familiar to me (unless you can be more specific?)”
        —–Some of the things I have heard are common to science denialism in general and not very particular to Judaism, but they are still incorrect assertions such as “Evolutionists say that we are descended from Monkeys” , “The idea that the world revolves around the sun was disproved by Einstein with his theory of relativity”, “There is a lot of debate among leading scientists over whether global warming is occurring”, “The Haskalah movement was created in order to allow Judaism to end to exist, but the conservative movement felt they were attempting to exterminate yiddishkeit too quickly, and proposed a more gradual termination so people wouldn’t push back too much”. etc

        “And, lastly, the tone change that you found from teachers….”
        —-You do make a good point that later explanations build off earlier ones, so what may have been taught earlier are just simplifications, which may not be entirely true in relation to a more nuanced understand that is built with time and study. That certainly is the case with many subjects within Judaism.

        What I caught issue with wasn’t really the more nuance but sometimes a complete reversal. For instance I remember being taught in early classes that racism is not acceptable in Judaism. Later I heard comments from bochurim and rabbis that Black people were intended to be slaves because of what Ham did to Noach. I also remember hearing common off colored remarks about “Shvartzes” that are way too common to be just a “few rotten apples” (not saying it is a majority perspective, just a common and not one that would bring a person shame/criticism from many other frum jews when expressed within the confines of the community). I remember that when I was looking to buy houses in Baltimore my frum real estate agents would tell me not to buy in areas where there were too many shartzes (despite that there were some jews around and was in the eruv). Also I know of a few unlisted houses that were for sale only for Jews so the Shvartzes wouldn’t be able to buy them.

        Aside from undercurrent racism I found there were also conceptual changes. In relation to the view of non Jews the opinions expressed by both people in the community but also in many of our holy texts are less than flattering as I was led to believe. The role of women in the community and in halachah is far more nuanced and less praiseworthy than I was led to believe. And the general sense that certain political & religious beliefs were far more restrictive in the frum community than I was initially led to expect, from what constitutes acceptable opinion, to what our tradition says about the afterlife, prayer, the concept of God itself. There are very narrow ways on how to view the world the deeper you get in the system, and at one point what initially seemed very open to interpretation (with many paths to God) became something very strictly defined to the point that I simply didn’t relate anymore or agree.

        Hope this helps to elaborate. Again I am not trying to say that Kiruv is all evil, just that it works for some and not for others (that goes for Jews as well 🙂 ).

      • Daniel- I can do that (and spread the good word) that a family’s worth is far more than the potential for frumkeit. I would have assumed this innate but I can understand why it’s not. Caring for one’s family should certainly not come from a feeling of obligation (mitzvahs) ideally but from an organic place deep within each of us. The mitzvahs (I always thought) were in place if those natural feelings were not.

        Interesting point about science….I’m certainly an example of someone in the kiruv world who isn’t “science-y” by nature. When talking to science-minded intellectuals I did and do rely on what I was taught by people like Dr. Gerald Schroeder and others who I consider experts. This isn’t ideal. On the other hand, I would like to address these points and there aren’t always people more competent than me available (tragic!) so I rely on what I know. I think of this as working with what I’ve got and doing my best. There very well may be errors along the way.

        As for the racism stuff, I’m from California where even the frummest are pretty liberal so this really “gets my goat”. I think the racist frum attitude you’ve encountered (who weren’t born in the 30s or earlier) are those who live in neighborhoods where black people and Jewish people live practically side-by side (Baltimore, Brooklyn, etc). This creates tension from both sides. Are you familiar with the awful Knockout Game? Here’s a perfect example of a hate crime. I don’t think all black people discriminate against frum Jews and I don’t think all frum Jews discriminate against black people but when it happens- it’s NOT coming from a Torah value- but from a cultural one.

      • Dr. Gerald Schroeder is a perfect example of apologetics in order to attempt to appeal to a secular understanding of the world, but only accomplishes to misrepresent both the scientific consensus as well as the Torah & Talmud. I also got caught up in his work early on but upon researching the topics he referenced and talking it over with more knowledgable people it became clear that a lot of what he writes is not accurate. I came to this conclusion about his works long long before I went OTD, I wasn’t even in a “decline” at that point but became more religious since then actually in spite of the misinformation I found in his works.

        The problem isn’t so much that racism exists in the frum world, but that it is far more common (even in those areas) among the frum than it is the non-frum and that many in the frum world don’t even pretend to hold to a higher standard that they claim to hold by. Its a systemic problem IMO

      • I will try to look into the science matter more. It will require time and research since, as I said, science is definitely not my niche.

        I’ll have to agree to disagree regarding racism because I absolutely don’t think Torah Judaism promotes racism at all. Fun fact you already know- Moshe’s wife, Tziporah, was black. Religious Jews as a group have never discriminated on the grounds of color and I would be embarrassed by any frum person who voiced a remotely racist opinion.

      • “Religious Jews as a group have never discriminated on the grounds of color ” All religious Jews as a single unified group can hardly be said to have done many things in complete unison, but many groups of religious Jews have and continue to discriminate on the grounds of color. I never claimed it was a Torah value to be racist, or that it is even acceptable, that doesn’t make it any less of a problem within many large frum communities.

      • What does identifying a problem in the frum community have to do with kiruv? As it happens, it’s non-issue in many communities I’ve been exposed to (like I said – particularly California) but regardless I don’t see the connection. Of course the frum communities need improvement. No one said otherwise. Agreed?

      • Well for me it has to do with providing new BTs with an accurate expectation what living in a generic frum community is actually like, either for them to be prepared for it when they get there or for them to have the tools and information to decide whether or not it is really the right place for them.

        I have never been to California and perhaps the style and culture of the frum communities there are quite different than frum communities on the east coast, I have heard similar things from others as well, but just because the culture in some frum communities are one way in one part of the country doesn’t mean it is the same in the other. This I think is important. It’s simply not enough to be a Torah observant Jew who is basically well adjusted, some people, even those who try hard to fit in, simply don’t mesh well within a large Jewish community. Some don’t work well on either coast and are better suited for small midwest communities. Others may not be well suited for any significant Jewish community at all.

        Often times Frum Culture is presented as a one size fits all, while in reality it works for some and not others.

    • I want to add a specific problem to this thread that I see in Kiruv. One issue that I feel needs to be (and has begun to be) addressed is follow up. Kiruv professionals want to share Torah Judaism with as many assimilated Jews as possible. They can only connect with a limited number of people at any given time though. The problem is once someone has begun the path towards Torah Judaism, their rabbi/rebbetzin begins to focus on those who haven’t even had face time with them.

      For those who marry, the couple usually has one another and a community to use for support. But singles fall through the cracks in communities because a community by nature is family-oriented. I do have single friends in this category. They’re not bitter about kiruv at all- they’re grateful. But they want more time and attention to help them integrate into the world as religious Jews without the network of a community.

      • My family was one that also fell through the cracks in our community. Sure our frum neighbors were friendly, sure they would lend us something if we had a need or help us move if need be, but not much more than what many could expect in the non Frum/non Jewish world.

        The support system tends to focus on certain people/families than others. You aren’t automatically treated as family. If you are a BT with family connections to the community, or some sort of financial relationship, or your attitude/culture is in sync with that community then whether or not you are single I am sure you can easily find a place in that community. But unfortunately for my family (wife/kids and I) and some other families I knew in our Baltimore community, none of these were the case, and fitting in and being accepted (even within the Torah framework) wasn’t really available to us.

        I am not saying the the frum world can’t work for BTs, only that not all Frum communities will work for all BTs. It may even be the case that some BTs wont fit in with any existing frum community. That I believe should be recognized and considered and openly expressed when mekareving others.

      • I’m saddened to hear that your family weren’t accepted by the community in Baltimore. Clearly a lasting impact was made based on that which means it behooves religious communities to increase their warmth, hachnasas orchim, and general reaching out. A kiruv rabbi I worked with years ago recently called me to help brainstorm for my husband’s next job move. I haven’t received many phone calls or messages like yours so when I do, I feel all warm and fuzzy inside! Anyway, I said to the rabbi AS A JOKE that he doesn’t have to be nice to me- I’m already frum! While he was polite and laughed he also put me in my place and reminded me that being frum means being a mentsch and caring about all people going through challenges unconditionally. This may seem strange coming from a die-hard kiruvnik but I’m not particularly sociable. Approaching new people, small talk, that awkward getting-to-know-you stage is daunting for me. Your message is an important motivator to push myself out of my comfort zone so no one feels alone- not for the sake of kiruv but for the sake of human decency and for the good of the Jewish people (to feel connected, not to be frum).

        I think BTs do find integrating into frum communities a struggle which is why Passaic and similar areas are popular. I agree with you that this difficulty and how to cope should be communicated to new BTs.

  2. Why is it important “to be proud about Judaism”?
    Since when is it a child’s job to make the parents proud? After all, do you have children for the sake of having them and not expecting something in return or do you want them just to feed your ego?
    Love is a separate thing from expectations.
    The problem is the “need to save Jews”. It’s ok to inform them about what there is out there. Another thing is manipulating people into becoming more religious.

    • Thanks for your comment and questions! Fact: Being a religious Jew means being different. Rabbi Noach Orlowek, a wonderful educator, said something profound: “Being different is either a source of pride or shame.” I have been asked to not inquire if a student is Jewish in front of his/her peers because Jewish college kids are often embarrassed of their heritage. Very sad to me.

      Is it a child’s JOB to make the parents proud? No. It’s a fact that children want to make their parents proud. It’s appropriate to have expectations of my children so they become adults with confidence, competence, and coping skills. Any expectations imposed on my kids are for the good of my kids- not my ego.

      I don’t think any Jews need to be saved. I think Judaism and Torah can enrich an already happy and wholesome life.

      I’m glad you think it’s okay to inform people about what’s out there. I do that- or I try to do that. I don’t manipulate people into becoming more religious and I don’t think the Kiruv movement does either.

      • The problem begins with seeing yourself different because you are a religious Jew. The division in your mind becomes a source of further dividing between good and evil and belief about what’s moral and immoral. Similar with feeling pride or shame. If you don’t see yourself as more different than any person next to you, there won’t be a reason for pride or shame (which is a different side of the same thing).

      • Thank you so much for your comment. The fact is there are differences- this is not a perspective. I dress differently, on Shabbat I conduct myself differently, I eat differently. I don’t feel different in terms of morality for the most part because America’s values of generosity and kindness are in line with the Torah’s.

  3. I definitely believe that I was misled and sold a bill of goods by the kiruv professional who brought me. I had come out of a very bad time in my life, and I was given stories about how all of the things that had happened doesn’t happen to frum people. Almost 10 years later I have seen frum people doing the bad things that had happened to me and things that were far worse. I have to say that I am much happier in my chevra of egalitarian Conservative Jews than I ever was in the frum world.

    • Mark- thank you for your message. I was sorry to hear that you feel misled by a kiruv professional. Given that I’ve been in the kiruv field and hope to stay, I feel a sense of responsibility for any negative experience a fellow Jew encounters. Sounds like you were vulnerable and searching and either wanted to believe that living a frum life meant an easy, perfect life or someone made you believe that. Whichever the case, I’m sure that your experience was incredibly disillusioning. There are bad people who call themselves frum- absolutely. I’d argue such people are not, in fact, frum because frum is by definition a person embracing a life filled with good choices. I am glad to hear you’re happy and feel connected to Jews and Judaism. I googled you 🙂 and found your practical goal setting book (at least the title) most intriguing. I’ll bet there’s plenty of Torah in underlying themes of your work.

      • You’ve made a significant leap assuming that I believed that being frum would be an easy and perfect life. You are wrong on this count. This would be like me making a generalization that these sorts of leaps and assumptions are common in your profession.

        What I object to with kiruv professionals is that they provide a simplified and idealistic view of things. There is also a tendency to paint rosy pictures of frum life, because if the realities of the personal and financial costs were shared at the start, even fewer folks would come into the fold. Kiruv professionals never have you spend a Shabbos with someone who is struggling with the negative aspects of being frum. Instead you are sent to a family who love bombs you and makes everything look lovely and wonderful. To be genuine in their actions, kiruv professionals should make sure that you meet people across the spectrum. Instead when you encounter people like this, you get the story that they just aren’t observant enough, as they would not have the problems they do, if they were more observant.

        I have witnessed a lot of negative behaviours in supposedly very chashav and makpid individuals who come from sterling yichus. I have seen rabbaim treat geirim as being less than equal to other members of the community, despite it being clearly set out in the Torah that they should not be. I have see hetterim given out because of how much money a member donates to the shul. I have seen children treated abysmally by frum rabbaim’s children, because they don’t fit the mold. I could go on and on citing examples of non-Torah behaviours exhibited by people who are most definitely ‘frum’.

        So by your assessment as to who is frum and who is not, would you say that someone like Rabbi David Twersky is not frum? He is shomer mitzvot, yet he told his bocherim that “the use of force and violence to make a point or settle an argument violates Skver’s most fundamental principles.”. This resulted in another frum yid, burning down the house of a family where the father had visited a different shul.

        What about all of the rabbaim who have or are currently committing physical and sexual abuse in yeshivot across the world? When I was becoming frum, I remember sitting with a group of rabbaim making jokes about Catholic priests, yet this sort of abuse is as prevalent in our world as it in the Christian world.

        I also find it peculiar that you feel a need to remain anonymous, yet you will Google-stalk commenters on your blog. A bit of an ethical violation isn’t this?

      • Thank you for clarifying. I agree- it would be unfair for a kiruv professional to try to over-idealize a frum lifestyle or oversimplify it. On the other hand, I think it’s important to emphasize to newcomers that living a frum life has its challenges but is ultimately steeped in idealism. Kiruv certainly is.

        I don’t see why a rabbi/rebbetzin should need to send students to spend a Shabbos with an observant Jew who’s struggling with negativity. The idea is to show why being frum is relevant and a meaningful way to live. There are many outlets students can use to gain exposure to an alternative viewpoint.

        I too have witnessed negative behaviors from individuals who call themselves frum. I also have seen frum people act as they’re supposed to- with integrity, humility, and selflessness. The idea is to look at the theory and ask “Will this enrich my life or harm it?”. It would be a shame to throw away the Torah because of a few people who don’t behave the way Torah guides us.

        I’d like to not name names and tell you who is a great frum Jew and who’s a bad one since I don’t want to violate Lashon Hara (negative/damaging speech). I will say that burning down someone’s house is a hideous crime and not a reflection of what Hashem intended for His children. Ditto for sex offenders. I don’t see why bad apples should tear down an entire ideology.

        I am not anonymous at all. My blog thiswaytoeden.wordpress.com contains my full name and information about me.

      • As your livelihood, which puts a roof over your head and food in your children’s mouths is tied to kiruving Jews, this is a pointless discussion. Your fundamental needs are met by your doing this, just like Bernie Madoff’s were by his profession, and neither of you could be convinced that what you are doing is wrong for the exact same reasons.

  4. I have to agree with your title, you are a loser. You’re tremendously uncool!!! But since when does that matter? what are we 16 and in gym class so you don’t get picked for a team?

    Being cool doesn’t make someone a good person, and being uncool doesn’t make someone tremendously boring to talk to and get to know. These are useless descriptors!!!

    I wouldn’t say I was Kiruv-ed by the Eden’s, in fact I’m positive I contacted them (I heard i could go learn something one night a week, get fed, AND paid.) For a doctoral student, this was a very good deal.

    While no one would call me boring, my time during the “Classes” was mostly spent making comments, and interrupting. But hey, I hung out with some jewish People for 2 hours every week.

    The Eden’s invited me for Shabbat dinner (Something I hadn’t had every week since I left for college almost 10 years before), and I went again. I arrived with my car and left with my car, carrying my keys and my wallet and phone (though I didn’t use them at the table usually.)

    They answered any question I had no matter how bluntly I asked what could’ve (should’ve? but subtlety has never been my style) been a delicate question. The Eden’s invited me into their home, and have great kids, one of whom I even got to pick up from school one day and take him out for cupcakes, because he is a pretty awesome kid, we had a blast. When asking about humanist judaism, i can’t speak for how the Eden’s would react, but really perhaps the question should be, if one of your kids grew up to be a true mentsch, a true light among nations, dealt with people fairly, honestly and with integrity, but wasn’t 100% torah observant, would you still love him? be proud of him? I think the answer is yes ( i believe) That doesn’t mean they would be thrilled, but, there are worse things that could be said about a person.

    Am I more involved with Judaism now than I was then? Yes. Did the Eden’s move away and I work with other Rabbi’s? Did I just spend a week learning in Lakewood, NJ ( It don’t get much frummier than that). But I like learning, but I really haven’t given up anything of my life before, I like learning. I have been accepted for who I am and what I bring to the table. The way I am.

    Ultimately who we are is how we interact with the world, my learning partner having known me for all of 3 hours invited me to his house for dinner ( thankfully canceling though when his daughter came home with lice and my return from NYC was delayed anyways). But I have always been accepted for who I was. I can’t say I haven’t changed, I have. I have tried doing shabbat dinner on my own a few times, granted I probably didn’t start cooking until 7:30 or 8 (way past sundown during the winter) But I wanted it in my house. That was the way I could do it. It still felt good.

    I don’t consider myself Frum in any way shape or form, but one rabbi said in Lakewood I was the most religious person on the trip. I laughed, It was the same rabbi who thought it was funny that as one of the oldest in the group I laughed when one guy said booby-trapped. hahahahaha.

    They aren’t handing out orange robes, or black hats for that matter, which is a real shame because I look quite dapper in a hat. Perhaps Kiruv people encourage you to be more involved, maybe take on ONE mitzvah, whether tefillin, or the way you put on your shoes. But I was never brainwashed, though somedays with all the cobwebs i seem to have a good vacuum or powerwashing might be a good idea, but that is neither here nor there.

    I found last week TWO great mitzvot (one positive and one negative) that I was going to try to keep, if I see an object that had been left behind, don’t turn away (1-), and return it to it’s owner (2+). Now of course the laws regarding this can get complicated, but I’m not sure what has to be cultish about learning to not look away from a lost item (make it someone else’s problem) and to return it (if possible). Maybe I’m a cult member for wanting to do this, maybe the Eden’s tricked me, but frankly this just sounds like the right thing to do no matter what.

    • Thank you for your beautiful post, Benjamin! I’m glad the sensory deprivation and psychological manipulation reaped great rewards. But seriously, I appreciate you writing this. Warms my heart.

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