Sunday, June 27, 2010

Shut It Down! (On the Kiruv Industry in Israel)

[The following is a reworked version of a speech given by one of the columnists written in last week's weekend Makor Rishon. I feel it is necessary to post it, as the local discussion of the Immanuel school is missing the bigger picture. [Shabbat section] - aiwac]


We are all gathered here today, Rabbis and educators, all people dedicated to bringing non-religious Jews back into the fold. We have heard many heart-warming speeches on the successes of the kiruv movement. Rabotai, I wish to put a damper on all of this by saying we need to shut it down. Now. Allow me to explain:

The kiruv starts out positive enough. Avrechim and professionals go on their mission, usually to masorti neighborhoods of Sefardi Jews. They show warmth and compassion to their fellow less religious Jews – teaching them Torah and inviting them for wonderful Shabbatot. Eventually some of them decide that this is the life they want for their family, and the become full-fledged Charedi chozrim betshuva. This is the story we have heard over and over again at this conference, and it truly is inspiring.

Except that this story has a sequel, a very bad one. That family, once ensconced in Charedi society, is never truly accepted – not even three generations later. The parents and children are constantly viewed with suspicion and checked to make sure they "fit the bill". Children in particular suffer – forced to go to second-rate schools and associate only with 'their kind'. They will often be called derogatory terms like 'frankim' and "schorim", to say nothing of disgusting insults like "sefarajukim" (sefardi cockroaches). They will never be able to marry above into the "first class" Ashkenazi community unless the Ashkenazi in question is physically or mentally lame or has some family defect. This family of genuinely religious Charedim is forced to forever walk the earth in a state of second-class status – no matter how learned, no matter how pious they are, they will always be considered inferior to the lowest Ashkenazi.

I have heard the excuses given for this state of affairs. It's not racism; it's the importance of masorah and tradition, each edah and its principles. Some might even compare it to the twelve tribes maintaining their separate identities, though I may point out that the only time the tribes didn't intermarry was during the pilegesh bagiv'a incident.

All of this only exacerbates the hypocrisy and fraud of kiruv as is presently constructed. You are selling these wonderful, devout Jews an empty bag of goods, offering them heaven and giving them hell. You present them with the promise of a loving, accepting community of God-fearing Jews. They end up with a bunch of narrow-minded ethnic Ashkenazim who barely tolerate them and give a million and one (even if justified!) excuses for doing so.

Rabotai - this is not true kiruv. This is fraud, a system that destroys the lives and often the families of many a good Jew just so the "kiruv professionals" can feel better about themselves. Until our communities are truly willing to work towards ahavat yisra'el and true acceptance of ba'alei tshuva, we must shut down the project. Otherwise the cries of these thousands of these Jews will continue to reach the heavens, and judgement will come swiftly.


Mordechai Y. Scher said...

Would he feel the same way if people instead ended up in yeshivot Bnei Akiva, hesder, and the like? Probably not. All the years I spent in such places, one could find pretty much all of Am Yisrael represented among staff and students. What's more, there are plenty of Sefardi-Ashkenazi couples once the hevra start getting married.

So yes, maybe the kiruv industry is misguided and misguiding. But maybe we just need to encourage those interested to go to different institutions for their Torah education. Machon Meir could be a very nice place to start...

Anonymous said...

agree with mys.
this speech is more true for hareidi kiruv than kiruv from other camps.

the speech only lightly touches on the pygmalion complex in kiruv, and the inherent deception wherein most kiruv workers are there to earn a living, or to make people religious, not to honestly be the mekarevs friend. these are deep flaws in the kiruv movement.

i also take issue with point of the speech. they are second class citizens. so what? i cannot marry into one of these families either, and my family has been frum since sinai, as far as we can tell. why not just marry someone like you? surely you are good enough for one like yourself? if not, you have a deep inferiority complex which should be a primary concern here.

aiwac said...

Dear Anon,

This speech is fictional, as are the two "letters". I'm actually a single FFB.

Anonymous said...

Just came across this blog.
Isn't one of the issues of someone (or a community) that defines itself as chareidi, is to be insular?

I second the posters who suggest that someone who is examining their direction in life and wants to become more religious, to do so within a more modern environment.