By Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin MA
Director: Jewish Professionals Institute www.jpi.org
About ten years ago, an unique organization known as “Footsteps” was created in New York City to run organized programs to “help” Frum Jews who are leaving the Orthodox Judaism world. They have supposedly “serviced” hundreds if not thousands of young frum Jews, helping them leave Yiddishkeit behind for the lures of a secular lifestyle.
Just from looking at the Footsteps organization’s home page on their website, one can see their message loud and clear:
“Get Started with Footsteps: Whether you are considering leaving the ultra-Orthodox community or have already begun a new life in the secular world, there is a place for you at Footsteps. We offer programming and resources for people at any stage of the journey. We also welcome formerly ultra-Orthodox people who would like to help others considering or actively making the transition.”
What does this say about the serious scope of the OTD crisis in the frum world in New York City?
It would seem that it is mostly young people in their 20s and 30s who are the main “customers” of Footsteps and one then also wonders what is going on that this is happening and what, if any, are the organized counter efforts to deal with this growing crisis?
What is happening in the New York City area that a growing wave of young people are even looking for the services offered by Footsteps that gives them a secular education and teaches them how to socialize and integrate, what we know as ASSIMILATION, into the secular world? Abandonment of Orthodoxy by young people is also happening in circles that don’t go to Footsteps but nevertheless are dropping Yiddishkeit to the point that they become fully secular.
A serious question arises how one matches up the numbers of those secular Jews being Mekareved to become Ba’alei Teshuva (“returnees to Judaism”) by Kiruv organizations versus the numbers being lost to the Frum world if the existence and growth of Footsteps is any measurement?
Has anyone really sat down and added up the numbers of Jews joining the Frum world versus the numbers who are leaving Yiddishkeit? We are not talking of stories from a hundred years ago or even fifty years ago when the problems of assimilation, intermarriage, and apostasy made serious inroads. We are talking in the here and now, as one looks at the creation and growth of Footsteps a mere decade ago in the 21st Century!
These are serious concerns that the Frum world needs to think about.
To be continued…