Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Different Kind of Kiruv Challenge

A few days ago I heard Lori Almost Live on the Aish website. The subject was a Jewish woman studying at Berkeley who has converted to Islam. Lori, an accomplished kiruv (Jewish outreach) professional based in Washington, DC, is agitated that we frum Jews are not winning the "nice war" to make Jews feel aware that Judaism has spirituality to offer and that estranged youth are welcome. There is also a YouTube link to this story here. It's jolting, but go watch it. It is an Islamic production and is calculated to show the power of Islam as an attractive force.
I have great respect for Lori and other Jewish kiruv people out in the field for whatever they do. A given soul has its own particular key, and for some it may be Aish, for others Chabad, or NCSY, or Breslav or whatever. But the type of person who is attracted to Islam is not IMHO part of the battle to be nicer. The person who is looking for nice could become a Buddhist or a born-again Christian. The potential Muslim is looking for the power of an army out to conquer the world, in this case the Islamic Uma. He or she is looking for something that demands her utmost life force, total self-sacrifice. She, who grew up in a wishy-washy heterodox Judaism which seeks to be undemanding, nondescript and politically correct in order to let people get on with their lives of work and play, is seeking more.
Here I am forced to be critical of those kiruv generals who are fighting the last war against missionaries and cults. Of course they are still around, but the newest challenge in the world is different. Let me tell you what I think is the approach which is needed and barely to be found in the Dhimmi Republic of America.
What we need for this kind of person, and many others, is Torat Eretz Yisrael, which demands that we put our lives on the line and live our Judaism not merely as a religion but as a full national life for the individual, the community and the nation. We need to fashion a call to the Jew of all ages and all walks of life to march in the footsteps of Joshua and David, the Macabees, Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Yehuda Halevi and the Ramban, the disciples of the Vilna Gaon, Rav Kook and today's fighting yeshiva students. It's a different type of approach to outreach. G-d willing, in my next post I will talk about the handful of people who are walking the walk to pass this kind of Judaism along.


Netivotgirl said...

Beautiful post! I became frum through NCSY and later became an advisor at Shabbatons. You struck a raw nerve, for it always bugged me that they never mentioned aliya or Zionism. I actually asked permission once to give a session on the connection between Yiddishkeit and Eretz Yisrael.... but was denied.

Kae Gregory said...

I agree with you. I also agree with Lori. I agree with you that our heroes were some of the most majestic in history. I agree with Lori because when do we ever truly hear of them - in an captivating way at least. We tend to focus too much on our suffering and oppression, on anti-Semitism and defamation and not enough on our heroism as a people that sustains the world. Everyone dreams of being a hero and when that is impossible, knowing that there are heroes in the family is a suitable substitute, imo.

Keli Ata said...

I love the post and agree with both comments:)

Anonymous said...

Living in Israel is not a cure-all.
Unfortunately I have personal experience with this topic. A friend of the family decided that Islam was the way to go and dragged his wife and children with him. The attraction to Islam began in his country of birth. Coming to live in Israel just brought him closer to "El Kuds" and that blight of a mosque on the Temple Mount. For him, power was definitely the attraction to Islam. He was religious and well acquainted with Jewish heroes, past and present. Somehow they paled in comparison to the Muslim Imams.

Batya said...

great post, goyish'
I saw the youtube about that Jewish girl who became Muslim. She liked the "community" of women. She didn't mention much about the actual religion.

James said...

The jihad against Buddhists continues: "8 wounded as gunmen attack southern Thai temple," from Taiwan News, June 23: Suspected Muslim insurgents opened fire on a Buddhist temple in southern Thailand on Monday, wounding eight people, an army officer said.

goyisherebbe said...

To Anonymous:
I never said that going to Israel would be the solution to everything. I said that learning the Torah of Eretz Yisrael would fill in what was missing. By that I meant not only Rav Kook, but the Em HaBanim Semaicha, Kol Hator, Kuzari and many others. If you show up in Israel geographically and you aren't there spiritually, there is no guarantee. I would also like to add that Torat EY or Zionist ideology is not a substitute for being open and kind to fellow Jews and all the other things that every Jew should do, to say nothing of a person working in Kiruv. I found this story of yours somewhat worrisome, and I would like to know more about the circumstances.

goyisherebbe said...

It was not so easy to find this post when I wanted to refer someone to it. I didn't see an index. Can you put one in?

Batya said...

goyish, since you wrote it, you should be able to find it when you sign in. Also, if you write "key" words on the bottom, it's easier to search.
I'm using what's known as an "old template" which doesn't have all the extras.