Category Archives: Outreach

Who Owns The Holocaust?

Aish_holocaust_1

Aish_holocaust_2

Twelve years ago, the British Union of Jewish Students launched a project called 50 Days For 50 Years, an effort to commemorate the Holocaust by having Jews learn something each day for 50 days in memory of a Jew murdered in the Holocaust. A book of 50 essays written by leading (Orthodox) rabbis and scholars was published and the program was launched. In 2005, TRIBE, a section of the British United Synagogue (Modern Orthodox, Jonathan Sacks is their chief rabbi) relaunched the program under a new name, 60 Days For 60 Years. It then changed the name to 60 Days For 6 Million and "syndicated" the program to communities around the world.

Fine. To a point. Now groups like Aish and Ohr Somayach have gotten on the bandwagon (please see the pictures above for an example), and use this program as a way to draw non-Orthodox Jews to Orthodoxy and Modern Orthodox Jews to haredism.

But the problem with this program is deeper than subterfuge from Orthodox outreach organizations. First of all, many of the Jews who died in the Holocaust were secular or non-Orthodox, and they were secular or non-Orthodox by choice. They were Jews who left the backwaters of shtetl Orthodoxy for the bright lights of the Enlightenment. Is the proper way to remember those Jews learning Orthodox theology and theodicy?

Some of you will argue it is, claiming that Orthodoxy has a monopoly on theological truth. I beg to differ. Leaving aside the overwhelming failure of Orthodox rabbinic leaders leading up to the Holocaust (please see our discussion here), I would still argue that an Orthodox monopoly on this endeavor is wrong. Why? To me, it is too much like the Mormon baptisms of long-dead non-Mormons.

The proper way to do this, I think, is to take a Jewish text we all accept and study it or sections of it. For example, take the Pentateuch. Use the text to show how traditional commentary (like Rashi and Ibn Ezra) work, show how halakha is derived, codified and implemented. Show how the Documentary Hypothesis works, how modern Biblical Criticism works, and how Orthodoxy (for the most part) rejects it.

Another possibility is to deal with the exact issues the 60 Days program does, but bring varied, pluralistic responses to each one.

Of course, when an Orthodox organization sponsors an event like this, one expects the viewpoints to be Orthodox. That is why I don’t have much of a problem when the OU sponsors 60 Days, or the British United Synagogue does. But when Orthodox outreach organizations get involved, especially when those organizations have a history of deception and when their involvement is partially masked by community organizations like the Jewish Community Relations Council (please see above pictures) or the non-Orthodox day school, I think a line has been crossed.

Should the Holocaust be used as a marketing tool to bring Jews to Orthodoxy? If you think it should, shouldn’t information like Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman’s letter (which I first read in the Aish HaTorah beis midrash) and the behavior of the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe be presented right along with it?

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Filed under Chabad and the Holocaust, Haredim, History, Modern Orthodoxy, Outreach

The Jewish Student Union That Isn’t — NCSY And Deceptive Outreach, Part 2

David Kelsey noted last week that NCSY has a front organiztion, the so-called Jewish Student Union, that it uses to bring non-Orthodox high school students into NCSY’s orbit. It is now clear why NCSY uses the JSU front to snare kids. In order to get into public schools, clubs and organizations need to be cultural or educational, but not religious in nature. NCSY uses the JSU to skirt the Constitution and push religion in the public schools. This is deceptive, both for the students recruited and their families, and for wider society.

Many of you are now clucking that I am wrong and that my "hatred" for Orthodoxy is driving this post. So, for all you Steve Brizels out there, let me help you with the logic and facts.

A group calls itself, say the Jewish Cultural Student Union. It forms clubs in public high schools and teaches kids about "cool Jewish  stuff" like the Prophets and the Messiah and Jewish history. They bake bagels and fry latkes. They knit kippot and weave talaysim. They play sports and visit neighborhood religious institutions to "observe" "davening." They study "Jewish culture" with "rabbis."

You Brizels out there have no problem with this, do you? You support this type of deception 100%, without reservation.

Now look at it this way. That Jewish Cultural Student Union is not a stealth project of NCSY and the OU. Instead, it’s a stealth project of Jews for Jesus.

Dishonesty and manipulation should have no role in legitimate public discourse. That means what is wrong for Jews for Jesus is also wrong for NCSY, Aish HaTorah and Ohr Somayach. The sad thing is, none of these groups believe they are doing anything wrong, morally or legally.

12 Comments

Filed under Modern Orthodoxy, Outreach

The Jewish Student Union That Isn’t

David Kelsey has uncovered a bit of subterfuge out of the bastion of Modern Orthodoxy. The OU’s NCSY has apparently started a front organization, the Jewish Student Union, to lure unsuspecting high school students into NCSY and Orthodoxy. DK notes that NCSY and the Jewish Student Union share some staff, and that nowhere on the JSU’s website is the relationship between the JSU and NCSY and the OU mentioned.

How’s this for the new NCSY slogan? Abusive and deceptive kiruv – it’s not just for the haredeim any more™.

[I would also add a bit of history. Traditionally, JSUs have been student run and governed. The NCSY version is top down, with programs and leadership coming from adults long past school age. For those of us involved in the JSU movement years ago, this NCSY innovation perverts what JSUs are and are meant to be. And it does so piggybacking on the selfless work done by many students over generations. It is, in fact, a form of geneivat da’at. Just another reason not to trust NCSY.]

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Filed under Modern Orthodoxy, Outreach

How Kiruv Works

From MentalBlog:

When you are taught by a person you respect that the world is nothing and the path to reach the devine is right in front of your nose it is so seductive that makes the rat race around you look soo meaningless that you just go for it. When the person who is teaching you pretends (and 99% are pretending) that they really live like that and look, they have a nice family with cute curls it is all the more seductive. Add a little maise, a little lechaim and magic happens, a new BT is born. I have a professor who told us that it always amazes her that in criminal investigations the interrogator who is taught which buttons to press and he does it and BAM magic happens, people confess, even if they did not do it. It’s the same sort of process with Tanya or Olga or Bagavat Gita.

That’s how it works. The person who has seen this process and knows that this is what will happen and does not warn the new victim ex. "please don’t take this to mean that you have to drop everything and really nobody lives like this, its a high ideal but there is reality, please don’t drop everything, take this as another bit in the grand Jewish mosaic that makes life interesting and meaningful!" is either stupid or a criminal. The few who do warn you are often tepid and cautious but are remembered fondly.

But I’ve spent a few years in chabad yeshivas and a few years on shlihus…

People spend so much personal energy and time (me personally only 8
plus years but its enough, I assure you) you have to be blind not to
see it. People understand that life is not a picnic. But we also
understand that we should not have to spend the rest of our lives with
sanctimonious assholes in order to feel "really Jewish". This is by the
way why there are not a lot of BTs. A lot of people see the truth
beyond the smoke screen.

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Filed under BTs, Chabad Theology, Outreach

Hanukka 2006: How Ignorant Are Haredim? This Ignorant

Rabbi Nota Schiller is a co-founder of and rosh yeshiva at Ohr Somayach, the "Harvard" of BT yeshivot. Rabbi Schiller was educated at Ner Israel in Baltimore, and has been a leading exponent of kiruv (missionizing) and haredism for 40 years. Yet, in a fanciful attempt to prove both the need for Jewish Otherness – separation from non-Jews – and the validity of the Oral Torah, Rabbi Schiller displays a level of ignorance that, even now, is truly shocking. In his attempt to explain what the midrash means when it says, "Write
upon the horn of an ox that you have no portion in the God of
Israel," Rabbi Schiller writes:

Historically, at Chanukah,
the Jews warred with the Greeks, yet there is no megillah,
no written work chronicling that battle
. Why? Because it is
a story that must be transmitted orally, for at the center of
this battle was the Greeks’ attempt to destroy the Oral Torah.

Instead of being conquered, we persevered and created a new holiday
that could only have been orchestrated through the mechanism of
the Oral Torah.

The blessing we say when
lighting the Chanukah lights is "…Who has sanctified
us with His commandments and has commanded us to light the flame
of Chanukah." Where are we commanded? Which verse in the
Torah mandates such? The oblique origin of this mitzvah is its
very strength: Because the Torah endows our Sages with the initiative
in each generation to legislate for the Jewish People, a mitzvah
such as Chanukah symbolizes the power of the Oral Torah. That
which the Greeks sought to extinguish is symbolized in the light
that illuminates the darkness of exile.

Well, no Rabbi Schiller, there are written works from those days describing the war and the victory of Hanukka. They’re known as 1 & 2 Maccabees. We did not canonize them, although we use them. Why weren’t they canonized? Because, one can easily argue, the books show two things clearly; 1. The sages did not participate in the war (if they even existed) and played no role in national life and, 2. the miracle of Hanuka was the victory. There is no mention in these contemporaneous documents written by believing Jews of any miracle of lights. In fact, mention of the "miracle" does not appear anywhere until more than 100 years later.

The holiday of Hanukka was this: The Maccabees were about to take back the Temple and expected they would in time for the Succor celebrations. They were delayed and took the Temple too late for Succor. To make up for the missed Succor celebrations and to remember the victory, they instituted Hanuka. (That’s why Hanukka is 8 days long – 7 days of Sukkot, 1 day of Shemini Atzeret.) That is what out Hanuka megillot say.

And there is no proof at all for Rabbi Schiller’s assertion that the "Greeks" sought to destroy the Oral Torah. It is unclear whether the Oral Torah even existed at the time of the Maccabees.

Rabbi Schiller continues with his foolishness:

Each holiday that Jews approach
is like a way station along the turnpike of history. The largest
distance on the highway had been between Succos and Pesach, between
which there was no holiday to stop off and refuel.
In the darkness
of exile, G-d in His wisdom provided us with two more fueling
stations, Chanukah and Purim. When we celebrate Chanukah, we
celebrate a holiday that reminds us that it is the wisdom and
genius of the Jew, expressed and refined through the Oral Torah,
that makes us Jewish.

Again, simply untrue. We had holidays then that are not celebrated now, or are "celebrated" by not saying certain prayers connected to sadness. One such holiday is Tu B’Shvat, which falls smack dab in the middle of the Succot – Pesach "gap."

Rabbi Schiller is a fool.

For an extensive post on the origin of Hanuka please see my posts, The Little Menorah That Didn’t: 1, 2, 3, & 4.

For DK’s coverage of Schiller’s idiocy, see his post.

[Hat Tip: DK.]

41 Comments

Filed under BTs, Hanukka, Haredim, Outreach

Hanukka 2006: How Ignorant Are Haredim? This Ignorant

Rabbi Nota Schiller is a co-founder of and rosh yeshiva at Ohr Somayach, the "Harvard" of BT yeshivot. Rabbi Schiller was educated at Ner Israel in Baltimore, and has been a leading exponent of kiruv (missionizing) and haredism for 40 years. Yet, in a fanciful attempt to prove both the need for Jewish Otherness – separation from non-Jews – and the validity of the Oral Torah, Rabbi Schiller displays a level of ignorance that, even now, is truly shocking. In his attempt to explain what the midrash means when it says, "Write
upon the horn of an ox that you have no portion in the God of
Israel," Rabbi Schiller writes:

Historically, at Chanukah,
the Jews warred with the Greeks, yet there is no megillah,
no written work chronicling that battle
. Why? Because it is
a story that must be transmitted orally, for at the center of
this battle was the Greeks’ attempt to destroy the Oral Torah.

Instead of being conquered, we persevered and created a new holiday
that could only have been orchestrated through the mechanism of
the Oral Torah.

The blessing we say when
lighting the Chanukah lights is "…Who has sanctified
us with His commandments and has commanded us to light the flame
of Chanukah." Where are we commanded? Which verse in the
Torah mandates such? The oblique origin of this mitzvah is its
very strength: Because the Torah endows our Sages with the initiative
in each generation to legislate for the Jewish People, a mitzvah
such as Chanukah symbolizes the power of the Oral Torah. That
which the Greeks sought to extinguish is symbolized in the light
that illuminates the darkness of exile.

Well, no Rabbi Schiller, there are written works from those days describing the war and the victory of Hanukka. They’re known as 1 & 2 Maccabees. We did not canonize them, although we use them. Why weren’t they canonized? Because, one can easily argue, the books show two things clearly; 1. The sages did not participate in the war (if they even existed) and played no role in national life and, 2. the miracle of Hanuka was the victory. There is no mention in these contemporaneous documents written by believing Jews of any miracle of lights. In fact, mention of the "miracle" does not appear anywhere until more than 100 years later.

The holiday of Hanukka was this: The Maccabees were about to take back the Temple and expected they would in time for the Succor celebrations. They were delayed and took the Temple too late for Succor. To make up for the missed Succor celebrations and to remember the victory, they instituted Hanuka. (That’s why Hanukka is 8 days long – 7 days of Sukkot, 1 day of Shemini Atzeret.) That is what out Hanuka megillot say.

And there is no proof at all for Rabbi Schiller’s assertion that the "Greeks" sought to destroy the Oral Torah. It is unclear whether the Oral Torah even existed at the time of the Maccabees.

Rabbi Schiller continues with his foolishness:

Each holiday that Jews approach
is like a way station along the turnpike of history. The largest
distance on the highway had been between Succos and Pesach, between
which there was no holiday to stop off and refuel.
In the darkness
of exile, G-d in His wisdom provided us with two more fueling
stations, Chanukah and Purim. When we celebrate Chanukah, we
celebrate a holiday that reminds us that it is the wisdom and
genius of the Jew, expressed and refined through the Oral Torah,
that makes us Jewish.

Again, simply untrue. We had holidays then that are not celebrated now, or are "celebrated" by not saying certain prayers connected to sadness. One such holiday is Tu B’Shvat, which falls smack dab in the middle of the Succot – Pesach "gap."

Rabbi Schiller is a fool.

For an extensive post on the origin of Hanuka please see my posts, The Little Menorah That Didn’t: 1, 2, 3, & 4.

For DK’s coverage of Schiller’s idiocy, see his post.

[Hat Tip: DK.]

38 Comments

Filed under BTs, Hanukka, Haredim, Outreach

Will Chabad Tefillin Stands and Aish Seminars Now Be Illegal?

The JPost reports:

The familiar sight of Chabadniks inviting youths to put on tefillin may suffer a serious setback if a bill proposed by Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines in the Knesset on Monday becomes law. The bill would prevent adults from placing pressure on anyone under the age of 18 to increase or decrease their religious involvement.

According to Paz-Pines, too much pressure is placed on youths to alter their religious traditions. Pressing youths to observe or discard religious practices can "cause the break-up of a family and cause damage to minors," he said.

Menachem Brod, a spokesman for Chabad in Israel, said Paz-Pines’s bill was absurd, and was intended to undermine religious Jewish life.

"Are they telling me that if someone is lacking a 10th member for their minyan, and they go out on the street and find a 17-year-old boy, they can’t invite that bar-mitzvaed boy in to complete the minyan? This is evil," he said. "Why do we insist on treating teenagers as though they don’t have the ability to make decisions?"

Ephraim Shore, a director of Jerusalem’s Aish Hatorah Yeshiva, disagreed with Paz-Pines’s reasoning, saying: "There are so many reasons for schisms in the family… We have a heritage that has lasted over 3,000 years and we believe in teaching it to people. This heritage has not traditionally caused schism in the family."

Shore rejected the assertion that some teenagers might be brainwashed into adopting religious practices.

"If you teach a Jew the beauty of Shabbat and he lights candles on Friday night, that is his choice, not some brainwashing," he said. "It’s a free country. We have a popular Web site that 2 million people visit a month. Should we change it to an ‘adult only’ Web site just so that teens won’t be exposed to the dangerous material we post there about Jewish life and traditions?"…

So let me get this straight. The organization that promotes the Torah Codes and uses other deceptive recruitment tactics claims it does not put undue pressure on people – adults as well as teens – to adopt a haredi lifestyle? Please.

As for the bill, if the age were dropped to 16, I’d be more comfortable with it. As written, the bill protects haredim from those who oppose haredism and urge radical change – like me. That should give some solace to Rabbis Shore and Brod.

8 Comments

Filed under BTs, Haredim, Israel, Outreach, Religion