Part of a series devoted to Kiruv.
By Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin MA
Director: Jewish Professionals Institute. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Formerly: Director Sinai Heritage Center (Wall Street) and AJOP Trustee.
When secular Jews start on their “voyage of discovery” in their lives and begin to be curious about God and Judaism, they are not all on the same levels when we as Frum Jews and Kiruv workers meet them for the first time. In any situation it is important to know who you are talking to and dealing with. If your were in business you would want to know if your are dealing with an “educated consumer” or with someone who is “just curious” that is just “window shopping” and obviously you would not talk the same way to someone who knows a lot about a subject or product as you would talk to someone who knows nothing or very little about something they would like to “try” or “purchase”!
It’s the same way in Kiruv Rechokim, one needs to know if the person who is coming to you and you want to Mekarev is someone who knows absolutely nothing about Torah and Yiddishkeit or are they already familiar with many basic concepts and may have even started to to “keep” some Mitzvos and your job is to take them even higher on their growth on the path they have evidently and obviously already chosen.
When I was the Director of the Sinai Heritage Center years ago, I had the great Zechus to meet many wonderful students and teachers who helped me in many ways. Some of the best teachers were volunteer businessmen and women who out idealism were willing to donate many hours of their time to do Kiruv with co-workers. One of my most successful and dynamic volunteer teachers in Wall Street was a great salesman and he had an amazing “marketing” approach to Kiruv that really worked. He had prior experience in Kiruv and saw how it was done from great teachers and Kiruv rabbis he met in the past that he admired a lot. From one of those teachers he adopted a very special attitude to help assess new students or those we may be meeting for the first time.
From that volunteer teacher I learned a very important working lesson in Kiruv: That when meeting a student for the first time one needs to ask oneself, and of course NOT tell the student, if they were total beginners who knew nothing, or were they already on the road to Yiddishkeit but wanted to learn more? The way he put it was, do we need to do a “pitch” or do we need to do a “closing”?!
If the potential student knew nothing based on talking to him or her, and it’s obvious we need to do a “pitch” and introduce the basics of Torah and Yiddishkeit, then we need to have a very simple approach. They may have started thinking deeper about life and had “spiritual” experiences that drew them closer to God and Judaism in their own way. On the other hand if it becomes obvious that the person in front of us is a more “advanced” potential student, then we need to think in terms of a “closing” and talk in a way that takes them over the “finish line” towards more complete observance and commitment to Torah and Mitzvos.
This is the application of the Torah principle of “Chanoch Lena’ar Al Pi Darko“! To EDUCATE a student according to his or her way, meaning in the manner comfortable and suitable and adaptable and adoptable to that student’s character and mental and emotional abilities and interests and in that way what we teach them will stick with them for a long time to come!
Far too often Kiruv becomes a standardized “generic” activity and then we wonder why it is not working. The reasons can be many as to why there is no success sometimes, as we cannot know what is going on inside the minds and hearts of students, and HKB”H may have other paths for a person that do not include YOU as the teacher or guide in life for this person. But by the same token we have to try our best but not based on over-simplification or Chas VeSholom an attitude of “paternalism” or superiority Chalila that we “know best” and we can then say and do as we wish.
That is not a Mehalech in life for anything! We need to use our Da’as and Chochma to take the time and try to understand “Mi Vami HaHolchim?” — who is it that is “coming and going” before us?
By using the simple method of thinking whether we need to do the “pitch” or perhaps do a “closing” depending on who is before us based on the time we spend getting to know them, then our methods of Kiruv will be sharpened and and we will hopefully succeed, with Siyata Dishmaya!
May HKB”H always grant us the right way to do Kiruv Rechokim and our own Shemiras Hamitzvosand Limmud HaTorah.
To be continued…