By Sara Dafner, Matzav.com
Beitar Illit, Israel
I have no idea if I’ll be successful or not, but I’d like to try to inject a bit of perspective into the conflagration that arose from the Matzav.com article titled “It’s Time to Put Kiruv on Ice.” (See also here and here.)
First of all, I’d like to reiterate what a number of commenters have pointed out. Controversial title aside, it would seem that the author of the first article was not trying to throw all kiruv off the agenda. His point was a financial one, that when chadarim and girls’ schools are going under because of financial pressure and families in our communities don’t have money to put bread on the table or buy shoes for their kids, we have to prioritize and concentrate on them before supporting formal kiruv organizations (emphasis intentional). That is a legitimate point to consider. We can all tone down the rhetoric.
Secondly – and more importantly – I think that this whole discussion has exposed a very serious fallacy, which is really the crux of the issue and might even be its cause.
While there are some very worthy kiruv organizations out there, kiruv does not – and should not – need to be an organizational concept.
We have made the grave mistake of leaving kiruv to the “professionals.”
Each and every frum Jew is a walking potential for kiruv, and it doesn’t have to cost a dime. When was the last time we smiled and said “Good morning” to our frei neighbor, or colleague, or checkout person? When was the last time we showed genuine interest in how their day went?
When was the last time we were conscious of the fact that every move we make is a potential for kiruv, or, chalilah, for richuk? The way we stand in line, the way we drive, the way we speak to the myriad people with whom we come in daily contact – all of these and more are potential opportunities for kiruv and for being mekadeish shem Shamayim. Are we careful to be polite? Are we pushy when we wait? Do we show courtesy to those whose services we utilize, or do we act as though “es kumpt mir”? And the same goes for the way we behave as a community. When people see us, do they see us behaving as frum Jews should behave? Do they see that we answer to a higher order? Do they see that we exercise self-control and self-discipline? Do they see that we are consistently honest? Or do they see the opposite? These are questions that have become ever more pressing in the wake of the media scandals we have seen over the past few years.
Donating is very nice and very important. But we have ignored our true kiruv obligations.
I understand that people are nervous, for many reasons, about inviting frei families for a Shabbos meal, and this is not the forum to go into that issue. But there is a lot we can do way before that. Did we ever consider inviting one of our estranged brothers or sisters into our Sukkah? Not for theological discussions, but simply to share a l’chaim or a cup of coffee? When we plan our mishloach manos, do we take the time to include on our lists people who may have only a dim perception of what Purim is? When we buy our matzos, does it occur to us to send to someone who cannot read the Haggadah, together with a card wishing them a happy “Passover”? What about a box of doughnuts and chocolate “Chanukah gelt” on Chanukah? Or a jar of honey and a honey cake before Rosh HaShanah, expressing our wishes for a sweet year? These are gestures that stand a virtual 100% chance of being appreciated, without being threatening.
Perhaps this time of year would be a good time for us to do a serious cheshbon hanefesh regarding the way we interact with our fellow Yidden, and what we can really do in terms of kiruv.
Whether the scope of donating to kiruv organizations should be narrowed is a question of tzedakah priorities that requires a psak. But, to be honest, we – as a community and as individuals -have already put kiruv on ice, long before the anonymous writer typed his first sentence.
It’s high time we moved it to the front burner.