It’s Time to Turn Up the Heat on Kiruv


kiruvBy Yehudah Meth

My recent reading of that tragic, cynical “It’s Time to Put Kiruv on Ice” on left me fairly brokenhearted. As a baal teshuvah for several decades working for a seminal kiruv organization, I tend to take for granted how important legitimate Torah outreach has been to me, and to my family and friends–to those we received from and to the many we’ve given back to.

Kiruv work, from the vantage points of both recipient and giver, is literally life-changing. Its implication, that we are all part of one klal, goes without saying. But more importantly, its impact on the bottom-line fate of our people is immeasurable in the face of rising, trend-setting assimilation. That any frum Jew in this day and age would so callously imply that Jewish leaders and their organizations should abandon our non-observant fellow Jews even for one moment is a testament to just how sad things have gotten.

The anonymous writer at your site selfishly scolds, “There are certain tzedakah programs that, to be frank, are less critical and vital than others… the ‘kiruv rechokim’ movement is a luxury we cannot afford at this time.” But if not now, when? After intermarriage has jumped to 70%? To 80%? In truth, kiruv efforts need doubling and redoubling. As anyone who has studied the overwhelming success of twelve-step programs understands, recovery from spiritual illness never occurs in a vacuum. Quite the opposite: By sharing, we strengthen not only the other person but our own resolve. By teaching, we clarify and learn.

A frum child has parents who have an obligation to teach him. Poskim, including Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky, maintained that a child from an irreligious family has the status of an orphan who the community is obligated to educate. We are that community. Helping our own children doesn’t preclude the need to help the children of our fellow Jews. My head may be more important to me than my feet, but if gangrene sets into *any* limb, the rest of the body suffers and dies.

Is Kiruv the problem? No. The problems are indulgence and cynicism. Try living without those two influences for a while and even the biggest disparager who likes to count his op-ed comments will sing a different tune.

Better still, speak with the families permanently impacted by kiruv organizations, or visit to one of the camps doing genuine outreach for Jewish children–Oorah’s or any other one–and your heart will be too full to pen attacks on this area of vitally needed Tzedakah.

Yehudah Meth / Oorah

P.S.-Anonymous comments (a.k.a. digital graffiti) may call this a PR piece for Oorah, but I append my name and organizational affiliation solely for identification purposes.



  1. I think the writer who was promoting the dropping of kiruv has left most of us if not all with our mental mouths open. No G-d fearing person would question the importance of kiruv in these times. It’s in the category of ‘we should bring our children to the molech avoda zora’ the sheer audacity of the suggestion leaves people unable to respond properly. Now that we’ve had a chance to catch our breaths:

    I can’t believe that anyone has taken that person seriously but the fact that it was posted caused people to hesitate in their full-blown condemnation. As if our Heavenly Father doesn’t have enough for all of us and wants us to ignore our ignorant brothers. As if Moshiach isn’t waiting for us to make the first moves closer. As if retribution is being showered on us because we are helping rechokim rather than because we aren’t helping enough.

    Enough said on this subject. Perhaps if we continue to be mekarev as we should, our merciful Father will bless us this year with Refuos, Yeshuos, Parnossah and Hatzlocho.

  2. And I think that the kiruv movement has benefited us all. There are so many people I can think of in the 60+ range who left serious Yiddishkeit due to uninspiring chinuch. (I do not, ch”v mean to impugn the many, many outstanding mechanchim on the American scene from 1900 on, but I hope you all KWIM.) Not to mention more recent departures off the derech, as well as those in the OTD closet (“adults at risk”).

    B”H for the Rabbi Mechanics of the world who’ve taken a page out of the kiruv handbook to shake things up for those who have arrived, and all those who recognize the importance of such work.

    We can all support kiruv, in the traditional sense and internally, and if we can’t put our money where our mouths are, we can at least cheer on those in the trenches from the sidelines, and try our best to make sure that the Sheim Shamayim is misaheiv b’yadeinu.

  3. Like the previous response to the well written “lets put kiruv on ice” essay you avoid his point with emotional pulls. Yes kiruv is important, he never said otherwise, the first two paragraphs reiterate what he agrees with. The question is where to prioritize our money, you havent given a compelling argument as to why kiruv takes precedence over our struggling mosdos. That is all that the original author was saying.

  4. #1
    Although what you and the writer are saying is what ones immediate hergish would say. We yidden don’t follow hergish we follow torah. Weather you agree or not , there are many big rabbanim and rosh yeshivos that don’t agree with the idea of kiruv movements that dose not mean to say they don’t hold of what the many of the rabbonim you have quoted said. on a whole every one agrees (and im sure the original letter writer included) on the importence of kiruv and the chiyuvim to do so. I think what you fail to understand is that just like any hashkafa shaila you must take in to consideration the circumstances. Many noted rabbanim feel that the circumstances today are such that one is endangering him self by going out in to the filthy world to meet and theorize with people that are fully part of the goyishe American filthy world
    it should not shock and disturb you so much that people say these things they have many choshuva rabbanim who back them. As to why the rabbanim don’t speak out that I cant answer you. I can just attempt to guess perhaps most people would fail to understand that and it would cause a chilul hashem . but I have heard personally from my Rosh yeshiva , and quoted from others that don’t agree with the hashkafa of kirruv organizations

  5. The writer suggesting putting Kiruv on ice was not saying that kiruv is unimportant. All he was saying is that according to halacha, other tzedakos take precedence.

  6. It is really a problem that Matzav decided to post the article as a major article, with a catchy headline. If it would have been just a comment, it would not have had such an impact. Also, Matzav, why are you publishing major controversial articles that are anonymous????!! You should really be ashamed of yourselves!

  7. The gentleman who wrote in favor of tzadakah for Yeshivah Tuition and Food for Poor Mishpuchos obviously was in pain, either for his family or friends and neighbors who are collapsing under the weight of financial obligations. We can and must forgive him. Kiruv is chashuv. But all organizations must be frugal and not lavish in their productions in these difficult times. May HKBH send shefah parnassah to all who need it in this upcoming new year. Shana Tovah u’Matukah. Amen.

  8. no one is saying to stop kiruv, you missed the point. It was just that kiruv should be a 90 percent self sustaining operation as is so succesful by chabad. To pull a little masser that a hard working kolel yungerman has to pay for ____ kiruv rechockim camp and so on wrong and does not work well. Balebatim could go out and be makarev yiden learn with people like parners in torah ect… But to ask middle class hard working balebatim for their masser so some oorah guys can knock on doors and be mekarev them on the expense of yiden not having bread to put on their table rebbes behind months of their meager salary in not responsible

  9. I think you summed it up quite well. People don’t begin to understand the power of Kiruv. We run around looking for zchusim and segulos….bring one Yid back to Hashem you can be sure Hashem will reward you amply.

  10. I believe, as many do, that kiruv rechokim should not have the large market share of tzedakah it currently has. Quite simply, we need to be practical and focus energies on those who are already frum and struggling.

    I think the person who commented “kiruv is an industry” made a good point, albeit a slightly callous one. Too many good people have invested alot of time into kiruv, and it is difficult for them to face the reality that their services are currently a luxury we can no longer afford as a community.

    Imy”h in better times, the trend will be towards more spending on kiruv rechokim, but now is not the time.

  11. but if people don’t stop ridiculing the writer,he himself is going to be humiliated to the point where he may need kiruv.he is after all a person!!leave the guy alone…he got the message by now,i’m sure.i have no idea who he is,but enough is enough.

  12. no, not enough. while it may strike some as callous to prioritize tzedaka money, there are clear guidelines in halacha. if tje question is a person with no food (or a school in debt for that matter) vs oorah, your money should be going to the poor person even if you dont get a cd from him.
    of course it would be better to give every one and not need to prioritize but obviously from the extensive halachic writings on the subject, our gedolim realized that they werent in a perfect world and paskened accordingly.

  13. In response to the claim of:
    “Let’s be honest: the halachic basis for kiruv is questionable”
    That’s completely false.
    There is a chiyuv for us to do kiruv.
    First, we have the passuk of “lo sa-amod al dam reiechah.” We cannot stand idly amidst a spiritual holocaust.
    Second, many meforshim surprisingly learn it out from the issur of baal tashchis. God’s handiwork isn’t being used for it’s intended purpose, and in many instances; it’s being wasted!

  14. My mother became frum through NCSY. Her brother followed her lead a couple years later.
    Myself, my siblings and my cousins are now ALL in yeshiva due to kiruv. I will iy”h be going to beis medrash after I finish mesivta, do to the selfless actions of kiruv activists about 30 years ago when the “kiruv movement” wasn’t yet so powerful.

  15. I work as an Oorah volunteer and see first hand what they accomplish… truth be told, it’s inspiring.
    One boy that I learn is now basically frum, and so is his family thanks to Oorah. Another boy I learn with is in mesivta now thanks to Oorah.
    Now tell me, did those Oorah chevrah waste their time making these boys frum; boys whom all their descendants will forever be shomer 613 mitzvos?

  16. IT goes to show that we have to learn and learn and learn and review to make sure we need to know what is important. Just because someone can write doesn’t mean his opinion counts. we need to hear what Gedolim say and that is the final word. be blessed shana tova. remember the din of day 2 of rosh hashana is does someone need you? maybe your life depends on a not yet religious person who needs a Rabbi to talk to him… why risk not helping them?
    be blessed

  17. #4 Out of curiousity, who are many big rabbonim and roshei yeshivos that don’t “hold” of the kiruv movement….”Many” connotates double digits at least…can you name 5 + of these major rabbonim- or better yet 3 of the leading poskim or gedolei hador in the US ? And to put out a blanket statement of “don’t agree with THE hashgofo of kiruv movements”is ridiculous as there are many different hashgofos and approaches- plenty of which do not include “endangering oneself” in the “filthy world”

  18. you are soo concerned about going out in the “goyishe” streets, what about our own children do you want somebody to be mekarev your child? are you yourself infested withe the “goyishe” street.
    the writer of the original article is most probably a “kanuey” nebech.

  19. boruch hashem there is a strong response to the CHILLUL HASHEM that the original ‘Ice’ article was!!

    The only thing that was ICE was the writers heart!!

    BH lots of yidden with warm hearts still abound. ANd let us hope that in these days of tehuva the author of that abominable peice will do teshuva shlaima!!!!

  20. Whatever your opinion is on this issue, there is one thing we agree on – the power of Tefilla. There are thousands of Jews out there who have been reached; they are aware of tonight being Rosh Hashana, have attended Kiruv events, etc. but won’t be going anywhere but work tommorow (even if the went to shul in previous years), because they have no interest. For no other reason alone – daven they should return; it will help in the long run!

  21. Klal Israel accepted a bris of arvus. Rashi in mesches Rosh Hashanah says what that means is that as long as another Jew hasn’t fulfilled his mitzvah, mine is incomplete.

    We are all resposnible for eachother as a klal and our avodah is not complete untill all of klal israel is serving Hashem.

    anyone who wants to be so brazen as to suggest that the intent of the person who wrote the original “put kiruv on ice” article was just to make a benign statement of “hey we need to check our priorities” is out of his mind. The title for one was deliberately meant to stir.

    Secondly calling the support of kiruv “a luxury we can’t afford” is clearly reflecting the attitude that it is so clearly less important than supporting “OUR” mosdos.

    Saying the halachik basis for kiruv is questionable at best, was another statement that was meant to slash out at a movement that has done so much good and that every single gadol b’israel of this generation supports without question.

    But more than anything else the ironclad proof that the person who wrote that article intended malice was the fact that he insinuated that people have continued to give money to kiruv mosdos while cutting back on their own mosdos. There has never been a statement in the history of mankind that could have been more untrue. Just ask the fundraisers of any major kiruv operation how the current recession has affected their donation base and you will see that long before this callous person ever got to the scene every charitable giver had unfortunately already realized they couldn’t afford to give at all or if so certainly much less to kiruv than in the past.

    This is so blatently obvious that the only salient statements the article made were those intended to hurt and cause malice to those who care about klal israel in a way that EVERY SINGLE GADOL BISRAEL SAYS WE NEED TO DO TODAY.

    What I keep saying to myself over and over again is “If the writer of this article wants to suggest that we cut back on kiruv so we can at least continue to purpetuate our own existence than I am very scared. Why would Hashem give us a bracha to allow us to purpetuate our own existence when we have such a callous uncaring heartless cruel outlook towards other Jewish neshamos. If anything this attitude will just bring a more harsh judgement upon us. Oy lanu l’yom hadin”

    The article should have been titled “How terrible it is that kiruv has unfortunately been put on ice for a few years” – but it couldn’t have had that title as then it wouldn’t have been able to serve as a platform for all of that hatred and wickedness.

  22. The very beginning of Shaarei Teshuva quotes tehillim 25:8- Tov Veyashar Hashem, al kein yoreh chataim Badarech. In other words, Hashem Himself is actively involved in kiruv. So much for it being “halachically questionable”.

  23. who are some of the rabbanim who specialize in adults at risk? Not emotionally disturbed, marginally functional people, but thoughtful intelligent fully functional people who struggle with doubt…

  24. Seems to me that the Kiruv Mosdos are more successful than the Chinuch Mosdos. Maybe the Chinuch Mosdos can learn about fund raising from them.

  25. I think that Mr. Meth made a very important halachic point lost on some of the “lomdim” here:
    The chinuch of a frum child is the responsibility of his parents,helping them is part of our general obligation of tzedakah.
    On the other hand, the chinuch of a child whose parents will not be mechaneich him is OUR DIRECT OBLIGATION.
    That being the case, helping a frum mossad (except for that of your child or grandchild) MAY not have priority over kiruv.

    As for Reb B’tzinah, there are many daas yachids in the world. Rov Minyan and Rov Binyan of Gedolei Torah have rejected the position of your Rosh Yeshiva, when Kiruv is done under the proper hadrachah.