Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The success of Charedi Kiruv

Jonathan Rosenblum wrote about the success of Charedi kiruv in this past weeks Mishpacha magazine. However, his description of how they are successful is very troubling:

I would agree that neither ignorance nor poverty are major selling points for Torah. 
involves frequent lectures from Orthodox Jews who have achieved prominence in fields to which the students might aspire. The subliminal message is: Becoming shomer Torah u'mitzvos does not require eschewing the career to which you previously aspired.

The problem is that it is a big lie. All of the examples that they bring are either Baalei Teshiva or people who were brought up in a more Modern home. Using these people as examples of how well religious Jews can fit into society is very misleading when the institutions/mekarvim themselves don't believe in that hashkafa. According to Charedi hashkafa, University study is prohibited and any secular study is very much discouraged, yet those are the examples they site when trying to be mekarev people. If a Baal Teshuva raises his children in a Charedi environment it means that his children cannot follow in his career path or any secular career path because they won't learn any secular studies in school.

Aish Hatorah published a similar article, Women at Work,  a few years ago which claimed that Orthodox women can work at any job that they want.

Let's get something perfectly clear: Jewish women work. One of my neighbors is a nuclear physicist. I'm a zoo veterinarian.
And nowadays, like women all over the Western world, they work in every field. Some run their own businesses or are part of a larger corporation. Here in Israel one of my neighbors is a nuclear physicist. Another is a school principal. Several good friends are lawyers. One's a pediatrician. Two are successful artists. I'm a zoo veterinarian.
My point is, little is forbidden to us. We work in the fields we want. We have open choices. We can choose to work part-time or full-time. 

Again we see the big lie. Aish Hatorah is a Charedi institution and it's goal for it's students is that they join Israeli Charedi society. The fact is that if Elizabeth had been born to a Charedi family she would not have had a choice to be a veterinarian, a nuclear physicist or anything other then a school teacher. University study is strictly prohibited. In Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak even getting a high school diploma is prohibited.  As I mentioned above, all the women that she brings as examples fall into one of 2 categories:

1. Baalei teshuva
2. They grew up in modern homes

None of the women cited grew up in a Charedi home in Israel, because if they had they would not be where they are today.

Charedi kiruv may be successful in attracting the initial generation, however, it is not at all clear that it is successful with the next generation.


Michael said...

"Again we see the big lie. Aish Hatorah is a Charedi institution and it's goal for it's students is that they join Israeli Charedi society."

I'm a convert, and although I had exposure to multiple streams within orthodoxy, the yeshiva I attended for a year was Chabad. There certainly is a bait and switch phenomenon people feel they encounter when entering Judaism via the kiruv machine (not that anyone mekarved me, but still the material on Judaism that is accessible to most converts at the beginning, is also material that is largely offered to BT's).

I think it is certainly true that many BTs and converts don't quite understand what it's like to be ensconced in a chareidi community, much less what it's like to grow up as a chareidi Jew, and its particular social pressures (there are positives of chareidi Judaism, but that is not my focus here).

I decided at some point to try to raise my family, and live out the Judaism that inspired me to begin with--namely one that acknowledges the centrality of Torah, while still honestly valuing secular branches of knowledge. One that acknowledges the importance of giving a child a serious occupational education, is not afraid to answer difficult questions, does not censor voices from within the Jewish masorah, values mitzvos bein adam lchaveiro AT LEAST as much bein adam lmakom, etc.

Many of the kiruv organizations in fact paint this portrait of Judaism (which I still maintain is authentic, as it does find much support from primary sources), it's just that people feel pressure to adopt the "real chareidi" life afterwards, which contains much less of the above. I say it's best for most of us to find either a halachically serious MO community, or a mixed community, with left wing/moderate black hatters, that hopefully give one the space to live a sensible life, and not suppress ones individuals talents/abilities.

Truthfully I think this is the preferred model for most Jews, but BTs and converts may be less "hip to the game" socially when first encountering the realities of living in an observant Jewish community.

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

The psychology is fascinating. The same BT woman who proudly announces that you can be ultraorthodox and a highly educated professional would be horrified if her daughter wanted to follow in her footsteps! She would likely see it as a failure of upbringing.

w said...

Having gone back and read the Mishpacha essay, I see that it is a great piece of propaganda. Well thought out and logical, it makes so much sense. What Jonathan Rosenblum espouses is just like the anti-Israel theories he starts out mocking - appealing, despite being totally refuted by the facts.

Chareidim have been doing most kiruv for decades, and the modern/dati-leumi are only now getting involved? I suppose the decades of the American yeshivish world mocking kiruv, looking down at Carlebach, NCSY, and anyone else doing kiruv must have all predated him becoming a bt. I can't speak as certainly about Israel, but something tells me that most of the "chareidi" kiruv programs there either started within the last 15 years, are run by Shas types and aimed at the already traditional - or like Aish, Ohr Sameach, Neveh, etc. are run by American black hat types who aren't really "chareidi," though their children will be.

And the line about talmidim of Rav Asher Weiss who wear kipot serugot - so? Does that mean they are BTs brought in by chareidim? Maybe they are just regular yeshivah guys who (unlike chareidim) are willing to learn from a good rebbe regardless of his hat.