Tuesday, July 03, 2018

The Three Categories of Kiruv

By ‘Just a Guest’

Image for illustration purposes only (Forward)
As a followup to yesterdays post I received the following submission from a prominent Charedi Rav who is knowledgeable on the subject of Kiruv.  And who has experience in dealing with many individuals that were once observant and no longer are. He has posted here before and as always asked to remain anonymous – this time using the alias ‘Just a Guest’.  I am happy to oblige. His words follow.

Time to weigh in.  I agree with your points, and want to add a few.  We are dealing with a discussion comparing and contrasting three phenomena, in an effort to understand the process better.

1.     Non-observant from birth.  Kiruv via the traditional kiruv movement.
2.     Non-observant from birth.  Kiruv via Chabad.
3.     Frum from birth, now OTD.

Recognizing that the definitions here involve considerable generalization, let’s approach the subject.  No one can be exact, but a shot at this may be informative.  

Category #1 are involved in seeking something spiritual.  They may be drawn by a family history, by exposure, by exploration, etc.  They seek out the kiruv professional, who has probably engaged in some sort of marketing effort to insure that his activities and services are available.  There are many venues for this, some by direct interaction, others online, etc.

Category #2 often does not involve the individual seeking anything.  Chabad is far more proactive, and seldom wait for customers.  They put themselves everywhere, and offer their services to anyone they find.  Without moving into analysis how these two categories differ, they certainly disparate populations.  We can each look at this and draw hypotheses about these distinctions.

Category #3 is very different.  These individuals have been within the frum, observant community, and are somehow on the exit, not interested in entry at all.  Offering them the intellectual material that can be enticing to those of Categories 1 & 2 is futile.  They already know that.  They are on the escape, not thirsting for information or understanding.  

Countless efforts to find blame for this grace the pages of publications and websites.  I personally find most of the theories way to shallow to be meaningful.  They lack accuracy, and are based on conjecture, not experience or observation.

I have my own theory, and I have yet to find it disproven.  Unanswered questions, yes.  But not disproven.  

I believe that every single OTD kid is escaping from a lifestyle because of rejection.  This can occur in many ways, and I surmise that no two kids are the same.  Rejection occurs in the home, the community, and the yeshiva/school.  This carries a strong and specific message to all.  Disagree, educate, raise your children.  But NEVER reject them.  

That’s tough when we, as the adults in the community, are obsessed with discipline.  Listening to any parent, rebbe, or teacher interact with a child who is being a kid, we hear persistent threats of punishment, withholding of privileges, and far too often to stomach – shaming.  

These all risk negative reactions.  Even Shlomo Hamelech referred to discipline as a last resort, never a regular tool.  A Gadol once quipped that the children who emerge from our system unscathed are the ones who did so despite the system. The system was busy with others and just didn’t get to them.  Not sure I agree, but I hear his point.

Lastly, the approaches to OTD – Kiruv Kerovim and the non-observant – Kiruv Rechokim are almost diametrical opposites.  This has been discussed in open forums at various conventions.