Kiruv On the Front Burner


kiruvBy Sara Dafner,

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 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.

{ Newscenter}  


  1. I would like to thank and commend Ms. Dafner for her fine response to the original comment.

    I would like to add that an inspiring story was recently quoted in the Yated, discussing how R’ Mordechai Kamenetsky SHLITA was mekarev a family that had moved next to his home. Basically, R’ Mordechai asked R’ Shlomo Freifeld ZTL how to approach the family, and how to bring up frumkeit, hashkafa and similar issues, and was told not to do any of that – he was told “just don’t miss a ‘good morning’ or a ‘how are you'” and was told to have his wife and children become friendly with this family as well. That approach helped make Rabbi Kamentezky’s neighbors become frum.

    And of course, going about our daily lives al pi derech hatorah, b’sever panim yafos, and setting an example for all Jews by our behavior is a form of kiruv as well, and is so critical at a time where we unfortunately see so many frum people making a chilul Hashem in the news media.

  2. “es kumpt mir”

    I just want to point out that it is an error to transcribe the Yiddish expression ?? ???? ??? (it is coming to me) like that. There is no ‘p’ sound in the expression and it is out of place to create one when rendering it into English.

  3. couldn’t have said it better you know if you have no money to donate or are learning in yeshiva and don’t have too much interaction with non religious jews I spoke with someone in partners in torah and theres a shortage of mentors especially sfardic so kiruv is not only about money you can give 45 min a week or a 10 second good morning and have a nice day we don’t know the power of a friendly gesture

  4. wow.
    good stuff. couldnt agree more. whatever happenned to the self confident Jewish Baal Habos who would proudly share his Jewish values.
    What happened to the Jew who had enough self esteem and understanding of Torah that he wanted to share it with him brethren because he cared about them and couldnt stand the idea of a Jew living without the Torah which is sweeter than Honey.
    The discussion of Kiruv, or Kiddush Hashem (as I think it should be called) as a chiyuv and where it sits in comparison to our other chiyuvim is like the discussion of Chinuch Bonim as a chiyuv and where it sits in comparison to our other chiyuvim.
    The fact that the question needs to be asked illustrates the nature of the problem.

  5. i’ve been told that a major kiruv yeshiva in Monsey marries off most of their buchrim to FFB girls. With today’s shidduch crisis, now is not the time to stop funding kiruv!

  6. As a “been there and done that” bal teshuvah, I can attest to the fact, although the professional kiruv organization peaked my interest, it was the INDIVIDUAL frum persons and families that completed the process.

    In my opinion, there is no way that all the kiruv organizations combined can reach the millions of our brethren that need to be reached. BUT, if each frum family would invite one frei yid into their succah, how many millions would be effected?

    Just asking.

  7. Superb!Unfortunately we as yechidim sometimes feel that we do not have the power or ability to make change. Therefore, we refrain from doing many things that really could have everasting impact. this is not just specific to kiruv obviously(it includes redding shidduchim etc). We need to remember that we are all unique and each and every one of us has the capabilities to help others, impact the world, and help bring Moshiach sooner.

  8. beautifully written…this letter should be read in every shul across the U.S. Imagine if all of us took these words to heart….just imagine…

  9. Mrs Dafner

    this is a wonderful article making a very valid point BUT I keep coming back to the same point over again. The original article had clear malicious intent. Anyone involved in kiruv at the orginizational level knows that the theoretical premise of the whole original article was false. The kiruv orginazations have been hit much harder than the traditional mosdos in question and the notion that people are still giving to kiruv as opposed to properly prioritizing for OUR mosdos is so pathetically false. Those donors backed out of kiruv long before backing out of OUR mosdos – FACT.

    The entire article was therefore nothing but a pathetic platform to voice all forms of sinas chinam towards mekarvim and BT’s and complete amharatzes about what kiruv is and how/whether we should be doing it.

    If you want to clear the air good luck, but when I look at some of the blog sentiment that ensued from that article it just makes me think OH MY G-D WE ARE DOOMED IF THIS IS HOW MUCH OF KLAL ISRAEL relates to as of yet non-affiliated jews and the kiruv rechokim movement.

    For example one fellow said “these jews are renegade rebels against Hashem they are worse than goyim and it is absolutely forbidden to talk to them or teach them anything”

    Or for example “why should we care about some guy in YEHUPETZ”

    Or for example “BT’s are second class citizens anyway who no real frum yid takes seriously”

    Or “all these people in kiruv are a bunch of prutzim who just want to touch women all the time”

    Or “All the rebbeim in kiruv are a bunch of failures who couldn’t make it in yeshivos so they went into kiruv”

    Or “we aren’t allowed to talk to people who have questions about Hashem because it will make us go off and lose our emunah”

    (At least realize that in the face of that kind of sentiment your point is anticlimactic at best)

    This and much more was all the venemous sentiment that was enwrapped in the tone and teh platform of the original article. The only thing to do is basically put your head down and cry bitterly and beg for Hashem to bail us out of this dark abyss. When that is the sentiment of at least half of the population OH MY G-D WE ARE IN TROUBLE.

  10. To FYI:

    I speak fluent Yiddish and don’t know how that crept in – I guess I have seen it written like that so many times in transliteration that the mistake didn’t occur to me. Thank you for pointing it out.

    To Sorry:
    I agree with you that the sentiments you quoted are tragic, and it is needless to say that those who feel that way have completely missed the boat (to say the least) and need to be put back on track, ASAP. And I agree that, for them, my point may very well be anticlimactic.

    I believe, however, that there are many frum Yidden out there who bear no animosity towards our non-frum brethren; they simply are unaware of what they can do about the situation, and so feel that kiruv can, and perhaps should, be left to the professional organizations. It is that fallacy that I sought to refute.

    Also, I do not know what the facts you referred to in the first paragraph of your comment are based on. While I am sure that kiruv organizations have been hit hard by the current economy, that doesn’t mean that the question of how much money one DOES have to give to tzedaka should go to kiruv, and how much should go to struggling families or struggling mosdos, is an irrelevant one.

  11. Agreed. We need to show the beauty of Yiddishkeit. The warmth and love and caring. And even saying hello to the not-yet-frum relative with a smile can have a very big impact.

    #11, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh at the sheer idiocy of those comments or cry because there are unfortunately some people who feel that way.

    Gemar Chasima Tova to all of Klal Yisrael!

  12. Some points:

    That is real nice if it would be true that every frum person is welcoming the non-frum into his home, but since the fact is that not every frum person is doing that, we need the organizations.

    What about the organizations that convince the regular everyday frum person to do kiruv (ie. project inspire etc.)

    What about those non-frum Jews that don’t live next door to a frum Jew, or even anywhere close to any frum Jew?

  13. Mrs Dafner – what I am saying is that WAY before the guy wrote that original article about “prioritizing our giving in the correct ways” ALL givers and donors had already years before cut back on kiruv donations tremendously or completely as they (without having to be reminded of their priorities) had already figured out what they are. This simple truth would be beared out by any kiruv orginization as they were the very very first to bear the brunt of the current recession and are literally struggling to make payroll (most of them are months behind in paying) if they haven’t already let go of much of their staff or completely closed down their operations.

    This fact is simply so basic and obvious that I have no choice but to conclude that the original article was nothing more than a platform for negativity not a “VALID POINT THAT REALLY SHOULD BE WEIGHED OUT IN OUR DAY TO DAY LIVES”

    As for those who are as you say naive or impartial to kiruv your point surely hits a crucial note and should be made more clearly and loudly. I am only going on percentages of the responses to the previous articles which shockingly showed that the ratio of the people from within the FFB world is mainly anti and negative to kiruv not impartial or naive. THAT IS A TRAGEDY

    AND to # 13 I have no doubt that to cry is the only response – Just as much as you can’t laugh when you hear that intermarriage has reached 90% in most of america you can’t laugh when you hear that a bulk of the FFB world is saying “YEAH let them all rot those stinking rebels against Hashem along with all the perverted retards trying to save them AS LONG AS I KEEP ALIVE AND I AM DOING OKAY THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS”!!!!!