By Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin
Director: Jewish Pofessionals Institute. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Formerly: Director Sinai Heritage Center (Wall Street) and AJOP Trustee. Author: “The Second World War and Jewish Education in America” www.jpi.org/holocaust/
A New Series Devoted to the world of Kiruv Rechokim (Jewish Outreach).
For most of my life I have been in the world of Kiruv Rechokim. First as someone who wasMekareved by great Rabbanim in my youth, and then as someone who has worked in most of the areas of Kiruv Rechokim since the 1970s, so like many people in that world I have lots of fascinating and miraculous experiences that I hope to share with you in coming articles IY”H.
Today I had one of those experiences that highlights how we can all do a bit of Kiruv almost effortlessly and give Chizuk to another Jew we meet who can easily benefit from our own Yiddishkeit no matter what level we are on. It happened that I needed some minor work done in my home and the person I found to do the work was an older Jewish man who turns out to be single yet very motivated by his Judaism and Jewish identity even though he is not in any way “formally” Frum and he does not go to Shull.
He arrived as scheduled and completed his work efficiently within a short time. He told me he still had almost another hour to spare until his next assignment and I saw he was eager to talk and tell me about his life. So I took the opportunity to invite him to sit down in my living room and we began to chat and I let him do the talking. He started telling me how he was orphaned as an infant and was raised by his beloved “Bobba” and two aunts. He had never married but he was full of life and happy to be a proud Jew with great Simcha. In his youth he had gone to “Talmud Torah” but he has by now forgotten how to read Hebrew. He was full of various Yiddish expressions. He was also proud of being a Kohen and how he helps out whenever a Minyan is required in the most unexpected places. He has many cousins and a large family all over the USA.
What then emerged from his family saga was the sad reality that faces so many of our secular assimilated Jewish brothers and sisters today. Almost all of them had intermarried to various women and people from many nationalities from exotic countries and how very few of them had been married to Jews. This is a reality that by now so many official surveys and statistics have shockingly reported, but we do not need to be statisticians to find out first hand that the reality is very bad as far as assimilation and intermarriage is concerned among non-religious Jews today, sadly.
But let us look at what we can do and what can be done with even a chance meeting with a secular Jewish person who obviously loves Jews and Judaism but is struggling to find a connection and their way to belong to Klal Yisroel in some small yet meaningful way:
Stay calm and be relaxed and see what opportunities of Hashgocha Protis HKB”H is sending your way, like a chance meeting with a secular Jew in some way and in some place you were not expecting it.
Remain friendly and practice Ahavas Yisroel and remember the advice of Pirkei Avos: Hevei Mekabel Es Kol Ha’adam Besever Panim Yafos (“receive everyone in a friendly way”).
Treat a fellow secular Jew as you would a friend or relative, and invite them to talk with you and make them feel comfortable in your own home. This is the most powerful Kiruv tool, that you are sending the message that you accept that Jew as a person and recognizing their identity as proud people who want to be taken seriously, treated kindly and humanly and accepted as equals who can feel safe telling you about themselves in a relaxed and calm way. That is a very powerful way to win someone over to your side and help them feel comfortable with Frum people. If you cannot feel comfortable doing this then try making light conversation and never ever be judgmental or “preach” about anything.
Encourage some sort of even minor observance and take the lead from what you hear them say to you. In my case today I was told how happy the man was to help out with a Minyan and that he was a proud Kohen, but he did not go to Shull on his own. I encouraged him to go to Shull whenever he could encouraging him to find a place where he would feel welcomed. He said it was strange that a few people had lately been telling him the same thing! Then he tells me he is starting to get worried about a burial plot for himself, and he is making arrangements. I told him it was more important for now to take care of his needs while he was yet alive! He listened and said it was not easy for him, which I understood very well.
The main point is to do more listening and less talking if you want to succeed in Kiruv and influencing other people.
To be continued…