Thursday, February 09, 2006

Kiruv - Haven't got a clue...

This post was spurred by a post on BeyondBT. A Simple Jew writes about how non-observant Jews just don't have a clue about what Kashrut* means. I don't think the point of the article was to preach or coerce, but to illustrate just how much of a disconnect there is between two groups of Jews.

I want to write about another disconnect that exists between non-observant Jews and Kiruv(outreach) types such as Chabad. A long time ago, when I was not observant, I wandered into a Chabad house and then kept coming back. Often I would try to talk to the people there about many important things that were on my mind, but I had a hard time. Their idea of how the world works, about history, science, theology was so different from mine that I felt like I was talking to Martians.

Aristotle said that "It is the mark of an educated mind to entertain ideas without accepting them." I was very frustrated with the people in this Chabad house because they acted like they were clueless about any world outlook other than their own. Mind you, I didn't care if they agreed with my beliefs; all they had to do was acknowledge that my beliefs existed.

As much as I appreciated them at the time, there were many reasons I knew that Chabad was not the right place for me. Later on, I encountered a very similar lack of understanding in a Yeshivish type of outreach program. Which is a shame. Because I think that if they took the time to listen and acknowledge, they could get a lot farther with a lot more people.

*For those folks that don't like "Kashrus" :)


Blogger Shoshana said...

I hear what you are saying - I have had problems with this also. Instead of having an intelligent discussion about the differences or similarities between the viewpoints, or trying to reconcile them at all, the discussion often gets skewed by the fact that one viewpoint is completely dismissed as unthinkable.

I agree that many of the groups would probably be more successful if they openly acknowledged other views, but it might be more dangerous for them as well, both for themselves personally and for the forums in which they are teaching. It does cause cognitive dissonance to try to reconcile and acknowledge the validity of different viewpoints, and I think a lot of groups don't want to even head down that road because they see where it has led others. It's a tough line to walk, and I am sure many don't want to tread it themselves nor do they want others to. It's often easier to not think.

February 10, 2006 3:25 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...


One thing I want to make sure I communicated. I didn't care if they even tried to validate my views/understanding. I certainly didn't expect them to "water down" their beliefs.
It was the fact that they talked about things as if it was assumed that everyone already agreed with them that their understanding was the only understanding.

February 10, 2006 10:16 AM  
Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

See, that's exactly how I feel in my college classroom. And they aren't Chabadniks by any means!

February 10, 2006 11:17 AM  
Blogger Tobie said...

Irina- I second the motion.

February 10, 2006 11:58 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Tobie and Irina,

I wonder if there are two factors at play here that may explain your asessment of your classmates.

A) It seems that many people that aren't really suited for higher education wind up in college anyway just because there is an expectation for them to move along. The bar has been lowered.

B) I think that somewhere in the last half century, colleges and universities began a transformation from places of learning and education to hotbeds of activism and doctrine/dogma. Once this metamorphosis transpired, many of the modes of education are not as valued.

I have more to say about this, but it probably deserves it's own post.

February 10, 2006 1:01 PM  

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