Thoughts on Judaism

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Kiruv Business - Hakdama

The Kiruv Business

has effectively created a blog for ba'alai teshuva who have gone off the path to share the experience together. Among the oft repeated points is the feeling of being misled by kiruv professionals. FFBs respond by blaming the BTs for being gullible, for having unrealistic expectations, for blaming personal problems on frumkeit, and intimating sometimes that the BT is a little ... you know ... odd. They conclude that "misled" is whining or griping. Mentalblog had a weeklong discussion (search for Love bombing and following posts) on the subject some time back, featuring BTs and FFBs trying to break through the rift of understanding that seems to separate the two groups.

In this matter, I am in a unique position to examine the issue. For years, I was a "kiruv professional". I had some regular Jewish education growing up and was on again off again frum. Sorry that is a long story and a digression for another time. By the time I reached adulthood, I wanted to be frum, I could speak Hebrew well, I knew halacha and gemorra well enough to "sit and learn" after a short time. At that time, I decided that I wanted to bring the good word to all the corners of the Earth, and set out to do that. I was not an FFB, not a textbook BT, sort of an in between larval stage of something frum. As an idealistic youngster, I loved the fervor of Chabad, especially.

I do not regret having been a kiruvnik, a Chabadnik or anything else that I have been. (OK, I occasionally regret when I have been a jerk, but I rarely admit it. The Rebeltzin has to beat it out of me.) But, I feel that the parties in this dance really do not understand one another at all.

This series will be on BT - FFB relations and the kiruv business.

First installment - The BT experience
When a corporation reviews its practices, often the meetings concern themselves with the "customer experience" in dealing with the company, or why would people want to deal with us? The first mistake kiruv pros make is to act as if they are in a corporation and that their job is to get customers. In Chabad, they even have the ignoble practice of logging "tefilins", "lulavs", "menorahs" or whatever they happen to be doing, building a "Din V'Cheshbon" of numbers, instead of trying to affect the life of the person.

During the course of posting, we will cover the BT side, the FFBs nonkiruv pros' view, the special challenges of the BT, and above all, why the kiruv pro MUST MUST MUST face that when they mekarev someone to frumkeit, they need to replace the family and familiarity ties that they are removing. Perhaps BTs should be required to fill out a full disclosure form stating that they have been informed of the advantages and disadvantages of frum life FOR THEM, and that they are making an informed choice.

Please stay tuned.


  • One can say the same thing for converts although, they are of course, a different kettle of fish. Even with all the warnings too many converts in my experience go through the whole process with their head in the clouds and don't really face the reality of ditching their family and friends. They always walk alone and I really don't think that many are up for that or truly know what that means until afterward when the holidays or life stresses come to pass.

    By Anonymous The Water Ox, at 9:29 PM  

  • The BT has rejected the way that he was raised, and often has taken on a completely alien way of life. "Why so many kids?" "Why can't you go to cousin Jeffrey's wedding to Christina?" "Isn't she heroic having served the Peace Corp in her native town in Korea?"

    And then it is ten years down the road. Jeffrey and Christina have divorced. Jeffrey has announced that he is really gay. Our BT couple have now given those question-asking parents their only grandchildren.

    By Blogger Yitzchak Goodman, at 4:15 PM  

  • YG
    Let's keep going. The purpose of this is not to bash frum people or BTs or their parents.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 11:36 PM  

  • How true Yitzchak!

    By Anonymous Yankel, at 12:07 AM  

  • Cute YG, and the standard stereotypical viewpoint from the sheltered FFB side, methinks.

    OK let's say these are their only grandchildren. But still, they will rarely be able to spend time together, eat together, celebrate holidays and family events or share life priority joys and sorrows, because they do not share priorities at all. There will always be the tension and resentment on one side, and the undertone of "holier than thou" hubris on the other.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 2:49 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home