By Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin MA
Director: Jewish Professionals Institute, Email: [email protected]
Formerly Director Sinai Heritage Center (‘ 88 – ‘ 95)
Author: The Second World War and Jewish Education in America www.jpi.org/holocaust/
Probably one of the greatest opportunities for Kiruv Rechokim by Frum people is when they are at work “nine to five”! In a prior article it was mentioned that just by being present and not doing anything specific all Orthodox Jews are role models and examples that are being watched as “representatives” of Orthodox Judaism by all their co-workers.
Based on past years of first-hand experience I have had many adult students who worked in Manhattan who over the years became more observant and in turn became inspired by Frum co-workers and then wanted to inspire others. There are many ways to inspire fellow Jews in the workplace who are not Jewishly observant but are definitely curious about Yiddishkeit but don’t know how to go about knowing and doing more. The following are pathways that are helpful in such situations:
Always stay calm and realize that you don’t really have to “do” anything or “say” anything because your very presence is a “lesson” in Yiddishkeit to all around you. The way you act in day to day situations, the way you dress, the way you talk and think are being noted and noticed. As a small example, most secular Jews have never heard of “Shemiras HaLashon“, what is “Loshon Hora and Rechilus“, “Taharas HaLashon” and “Lashon Nekiah” and unfortunately gossip and sadly even inappropriate language is the norm at many times in our modern age in most societies today. It comes as a great surprise to secular Jews to observe a Frum co-worker who does not gossip and does not curse and generally watches what they say. This sinks in over time to all around you in your office and job and it makes a profound impact. It is a great Kiddush HaShem and it is great Kiruv Rechokim because decent people will be impressed and curious about your good mode of behavior and speech and will consciously or unconsciously want to emulate you and at least be impressed by your behavior and the way you talk and express yourself.
Invite your fellow Jewish co-workers to go out for some light refreshments at a Kosher store or restaurant. People get overwhelmed and think they must invite secular Jews for Shabbos which is a great challenge for all concerned as pointed out in past articles. A simplified thing to do is to go out for a slice of pizza or some sushi or coffee or a soda at a Kosher place that is informal and casual. This will make a big impression displaying your friendliness and that you are as “normal” as everyone else and enjoy the same light refreshments as anyone else just that you are strict about Kashrus and you say Brochas (blessings) before and after eating, and are not ashamed to do so openly.
One of the greatest ways to “sell” Yiddishkeit is by giving a curious co-worker a well-known reliable book about Judaism in English or in whatever language they speak and know well. I have had students who set aside money as their “Tzedaka” to give away or loan out well-known books that will interest people at the “beginners” level. As some examples, all the books written by the late Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan especially about Shabbos, Tefillin, Mikva, and many more topics are available in many languages and are always appealing to newcomers to Judaism because of their clarity. Other good books that are perfect “Kiruv catalysts” are “The Bamboo Cradle”, “Anatomy of a Search”, “Black Becomes a Rainbow”, “All for the Boss” and many other books like this published by ArtScroll and by Feldheim publishers. There are also many excellent Shiurim by many famous Kiruv Rabbis and Rebbetzins that are easily accessed online and are fascinating to watch and learn from.
Finally, the best way to really influence someone is by having them attend a Kiruv-oriented lecture and Shiur or even spend a few days at a seminar or weekend run by most of the well-know Kiruv organizations. It is important to know who the Kiruv organizations are and how close they are to you and to know their numbers and contact information. Try to refer people when they are really interested to a local Kiruv Rabbi or Rebbetzin, it is so easy to know. There are always local Kiruv organizations and personalities in every major city where Jews live in greater numbers anywhere in the world!
These are just some helpful hints and guidelines for Kiruv in the workplace.
To be continued…