Monday, December 20, 2010

Modern Orthodox Jews and Lubavitch

There is something unsettling about a relatively new phenomenon taking place in Yeshiva University. According to a Chabad website, students from Oholei Torah - a Crown Heights yeshiva - are doing outreach at Yeshiva University. And they have been doing it for over four years.

Let me be clear. I have no problem with Chabad doing outreach to anyone they choose. I have said many times that this is their biggest strength. They reach out to Jews in places where there is absolutely no Jewish public presence of any kind. No Shuls. No restaurants, No Yeshivos, No day schools. Nothing.

They set up shop and try and change things there and are usually very successful in doing so. They succeed at a very high level in attracting Jews to observant Judaism in general and to the Lubavitch brand of Judaism in particular.

The unsettling thing is the fact that they feel the need to do this at YU. They apparently see YU students as Kiruv projects.

This phenomenon corroborates my view that Lubavitch’s Kiruv efforts are geared more towards making Lubavitchers than it is in making Jews observant. Although observance of Mitzvos is obviously their primary goal - that apparently is not enough in their worldview. It is all about teaching the world what they believe to be the only authentic version of Judaism – Chabad Judaism.

Why else would they go to the lengths they do at YU? It can’t just be to have better public relations with these young men. There are far less demanding ways of doing that than setting up Chavrusos in the YU Beis HaMedrash and learning Chabad Chasidus with them on a weekly basis. And then inviting them to Crown Heights for Farbrengins. Farbrengins are happy time, party like get-togethers where alcohol is served and Chabad Chasidus is promulgated- usually punctuated with lots of sayings from the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

I am not a Chasid. But I have no problem with Chasidus as a chosen lifestyle. Nor do I see anything wrong with taking pride in one’s Chasidic heritage. Or with Chasidim trying to inform the world of why they are so in love with their particular brand of Chasidus. But this is something more. I think the real goal here is gaining ‘converts’ to Chabad. They want to increase their ranks by all means available to them. YU is just another target in that respect.

Before anyone accuses me of being paranoid let me say the following. It would be one thing if there was some kind of reciprocity going on here. If the Yeshiva University students could do the reverse and teach the Chabad boys the beauty of their own Hashkafos - and more importantly convince them to study Torah U’Mada by attending a few Hashkafa type classes at YU - I would support it. After all - why not have a cross fertilization of ideas? But I don’t believe that is what’s happening. If it is, I would love to be corrected.

Based on my knowledge of Chabad, they are not about to change their Hashkafos. It is antithesis of Chabad Chasidius to veer even one iota from it. There is not a chance in the world that they will ever let themselves be influenced by a Hashkafa of Torah U’Mada. It is a one way street. Again I would love to be corrected. Are there any Ohalei Torah students taking any Hashkafa classes at YU?

The students at YU on the other hand are not as cemented to their Hashkafos as Lubavicthers are. The very nature of the TuM Hashkafa is to be open minded about other Hashkafos. If there will be anyone sold on any Hashkafa it will YU students being sold on Chabad. Not Chabad on TuM.

I am therefore opposed to this new form of Chabad outreach. That’s because in reality it is not an exchange of ideas at all. It is instead ‘the selling of Chabad’ to vulnerable modern Orthodox students.

What makes this even worse is that one of my sources knowledgeable about Chabad has informed me that this particular Yeshiva is a Meshichist one. If that’s true, I don’t know how officials at YU can even allow this to take place.