By Yehudah Meth
My recent reading of that tragic, cynical “It’s Time to Put Kiruv on Ice” on Matzav.com left me fairly brokenhearted. As a baal teshuvah for several decades working for a seminal kiruv organization, I tend to take for granted how important legitimate Torah outreach has been to me, and to my family and friends–to those we received from and to the many we’ve given back to.
Kiruv work, from the vantage points of both recipient and giver, is literally life-changing. Its implication, that we are all part of one klal, goes without saying. But more importantly, its impact on the bottom-line fate of our people is immeasurable in the face of rising, trend-setting assimilation. That any frum Jew in this day and age would so callously imply that Jewish leaders and their organizations should abandon our non-observant fellow Jews even for one moment is a testament to just how sad things have gotten.
The anonymous writer at your site selfishly scolds, “There are certain tzedakah programs that, to be frank, are less critical and vital than others… the ‘kiruv rechokim’ movement is a luxury we cannot afford at this time.” But if not now, when? After intermarriage has jumped to 70%? To 80%? In truth, kiruv efforts need doubling and redoubling. As anyone who has studied the overwhelming success of twelve-step programs understands, recovery from spiritual illness never occurs in a vacuum. Quite the opposite: By sharing, we strengthen not only the other person but our own resolve. By teaching, we clarify and learn.
A frum child has parents who have an obligation to teach him. Poskim, including Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky, maintained that a child from an irreligious family has the status of an orphan who the community is obligated to educate. We are that community. Helping our own children doesn’t preclude the need to help the children of our fellow Jews. My head may be more important to me than my feet, but if gangrene sets into *any* limb, the rest of the body suffers and dies.
Is Kiruv the problem? No. The problems are indulgence and cynicism. Try living without those two influences for a while and even the biggest disparager who likes to count his op-ed comments will sing a different tune.
Better still, speak with the families permanently impacted by kiruv organizations, or visit to one of the camps doing genuine outreach for Jewish children–Oorah’s or any other one–and your heart will be too full to pen attacks on this area of vitally needed Tzedakah.
Yehudah Meth / Oorah
P.S.-Anonymous comments (a.k.a. digital graffiti) may call this a PR piece for Oorah, but I append my name and organizational affiliation solely for identification purposes.