Thoughts on Judaism

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A Community Worthy of BTs

So let's suppose that the story had a different ending and Noam had decided that the Judaism that he had sought in Yeshiva was not really there. He wants to accomodate his family but he can no longer maintain any feeling for Jewish practice. Increasingly, he does less and less and drops any involvement in his community or its ritual practice. If anyone cares to discuss the subject with him, he is more than happy to tell them that Judaism disillusioned him, and he realizes that, while it is a wonderful life for some people, it is not for everyone, certainly not for him. He was expecting an ethical and theological base, and instead found situations with which he was not ethically nor theologically comfortable.

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.


  • No offense taken! :)

    The Wolf

    By Blogger BrooklynWolf, at 11:35 AM  

  • FFB”s can never understand what it is like. When a FFB is pregnant, for instance with her fifth child that she cannot afford, her family wishes her the best, is happy for her, and may even help her in any way they can. But for most BT’s in this situation, her family will simply nod their heads in disapproval and say ‘I told you so, you chose this life, you made your bed, now you lie in it…etc”. I cannot tell you how many times in the past 18 years of marriage I could never seek support from my family when facing financial hardship or other issues simply because it would be conceding defeat. All through the years I had to put on a brave front to my family that everything was perfect, lest they condemn my frum lifestyle choice.

    And then there are all the good times and family events that the BT can no longer participate in. I will not get into all the issues regarding the BT experience and the thin invisible wall becoming frum puts between the BT and their family. Suffice to say, most BT’s have complete mesiris nefesh in this regard

    AS a BT, I came to Yiddishkeit seeking emes. Then it is most shocking to find that the entire FFB world runs on nepotism and dirty money. I am disillusioned with this because I was raised to be honest, not to cheat, and to loathe corruption, while the Orthodox world certainly revels in all kinds of underhanded dirty business dealings. And the rich are given the utmost homage, no matter how crooked they may be. I have never gotten used to the vast oceanic gap between the ideals spouted by the FFB world and the actual reality of their way of life. In Lubavitch, we love those quaint stories about the humble, simple Jew, but in real life we regard such Jews with contempt while the arrogant corrupt rich are seen as our role models.

    Without the nepotism, family ties, and support systems, and without the FFB world giving the BT’s their just due, we are expected to struggle through raising our children in their incompetent corrupt school systems, and to put up and shut up. We are expected to swallow whole all the propaganda that Chabad is the greatest in the world, we are expected to put a blind eye to all the hypocrisy

    Thinking critically is not the same as being critical. In fact, critical thinking in psychology of education, is indeed the highest and most mature level of thinking. Concrete thinking is a lower less mature level and this is what one’s operates on when one is a fundamentalist, when one passively accepts propaganda, no matter how outlandish this may be. Cults depend on their minions using only concrete thinking and not critical thought.

    The FFB Lubavitch world expects the BT to operate on the level of concrete thinking only, allowing them to ignore the BT’s issues, and to continue in their self aggrandizement.

    By Anonymous Mystery woman, at 5:21 PM  

  • MW

    You obviously understand the story fully, and you will see from the previous comments of Yizchak goodman, Shneur, and yaakov (presumably not CS) that you are correct. (Are you Shoshana Silcove, perhaps?)

    Just to end on a good note, there are those FFB's who understand as well and will extend true family support to BTs. They are people to whom the term "kiruv" represents a derech, not just a business that they are not in.

    Finally, you say that many Chabad FFB's continue with "self-aggrandizement". Anyone who has listened to Chabad Toirehs for even a short time knows that Chabad is selfless and "batul", only to help others. Misnagdim are into self aggrandizement. Haven't you been listening? Shame, shame. ;)

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 8:19 AM  

  • I don't get it if you realy don't like Chabad why stick with it
    If you feel you can do better in other place why not to move If you don't like Chabad lifestyle why to keep it. Torah gives free choice to do anything what he/she wishes
    Chabad doesn't do "kiruv". This term was created by non Chabad people. Rebe sent chasidim to be mezache other jew to do a mitzva since every mitzva has a value. If person desided to do more then one mitzva up to the point when he or she wants to keep all laws in Torah he becomes what you call a BT. The key word here is what you call. I am what you will all "Chabad" and "BT" but i don't call myself that I am a jew who desided on specific lifestyle I live on Eastern Prwy not far from 770 This is my choice If I didn't like it I'd move to Florida. There are times when it is much easier to be what you call FFB. You get family support etc. It is better to be healthy and rich then sick and poor But life is not fair. So I live my live and don't bitch about it. I don't mean to offence anybody If You find my post offencive to you I am Sorry


    By Anonymous lw, at 5:49 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home