A Community Worthy of BTs
The reactions will be predictable Keibler Ross type reactions (if anyone cares to react all, and not just let him go):
1) Denial - Really, he believes in Judaism since no one could possibily leave for the reasons he states. There is something else going on with him. Really, just under the surface, there is some single question that is bothering him. Someone just said the wrong thing to him. It cannot be that there is something wrong with the community or the "system" ethically. Aren't all communities the same? No, people aren't leaving for central core reasons, only personal reasons.
2) Anger - There was something wrong from the start with him. It was personal problems. I'll bet there were problems with his yichus. He thinks HE'S so ETHICAL. He is just too foolish and arrogant to accept things that he doesn't understand. Just because it is beyond his understanding, or he doesn't have money, or someone said the wrong thing to him, he is going to reject all of Judaism. We will never again give him or his family the time of day. He is now an enemy like the goyim and all the other freiya.
3) Bargaining - Maybe he will turn around if we just ...
4) Depression - Oy what has become of such an ehrlich guy! Such a waste, gone to the wolves! No offense! What could we have done?
5) Acceptance - Good bye and good riddance.
But is this the healthiest way for a community to respond to someone who has decided that their lifestyle is not for him? Will they all forever view him as some dark, forlorn near psychopath who just could not see the light? Will they all view him as some evil emanation of the "other side" to be avoided, to be shunned? Interestingly, before he became frum, before he "knew anything", they would have welcomed him with open arms. What has changed now? If a person rejects the derech or voices their opinions openly, does the whole fabric of the universe collapse around it? Perhaps the question is even darker. Does Judaism, as practiced today, with all of its practical offshoots, bear examination in the light of day? Or are there some things we would rather hide? And if the latter is true, do we not owe Noam a little more?
I write this as a former kiruv-ist who has seen the situation from every side. I have seen every shade of Noam that there is to see. The Noam that never truly buys it all. The Noam that reacts with anger and fights back l'hach'is. The Noam that tries to resolve. The Noam that withdraws, freis out and doesn't care. And YES, even the Noam that happily grows and prospers, buys in more deeply. But if we, in whatever kiruv role we have, do not make an honest assessment of our product and the customer experience, if we are increasingly satisfied with our product and say that we are not interested in the special challenges of the BT, we sell what we sell and that's it, then we are not destined to gain many of the latter Noams. More importantly, the main mitzva of kiruv will be lost. That mitzva is not convincing the unaffiliated person that Judaism is rationally, theologically, or ethically superior. It is helping them to become part of a community that acts together to make it so, that admits its shortcomings, that works to solve them, instead of hiding them. The mitzva is not bringing BTs into the community, but making the community one that is worthy of BTs.