web analytics
March 28, 2015 / 8 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post


Pushing the Boundaries of Outreach

As Orthodox Jews who understand the value of the Torah and the importance of following Halacha – how can we change this new secular Jewish paradigm?
Outreach

One of the most difficult challenges of the 21st century was made very clear by the recent Pew study on American Jews. The fact is that except for Orthodoxy – Jewry is shrinking. I need not go into the statistics. They have been discussed ad infinitum by just about everyone. The shrinkage is due to a combination of factors mostly having to do with the lack of any significant meaning attributed to Judaism by those devoid of a religious education. Young Jews even with the highest of ethical values see no value in the religion of their forefathers. They see themselves as ethical human beings – same as anyone else with ethical values. They see all religious ritual adding nothing to their sense of ethics.

The question arises – what do we do about that? As Orthodox Jews who understand the value of the Torah and the importance of following Halacha – how can we change this new secular Jewish paradigm?

There are those who would answer: Nothing! There is nothing we can do to significantly change the attrition away from Judaism the masses are undergoing… that there has been attrition one way or another in every generation. Although they might wish things were different, they say it is virtually impossible to influence the minds of the vast majority of Jews whose secular – even ethical values were formed by a society devoid of Torah.

They will therefore say that we Orthodox should instead turn inward and work on ourselves and that the future of Judaism rests with us. While I understand that mentality and would certainly agree that we all need to work on our ourselves – I strongly disagree that we ought to ignore the rest of Jewry. We are not talking about a few Jewish souls here. We are talking about the vast majority of them. Fully 90% of all American Jewry is not Orthodox. Are we simply to just write them off? I don’t think so.

Thankfully neither do all the outreach organizations. They have had much success in reaching out to our secular brethren. But it is still a drop in the bucket. We Orthodox remain only 10% of the total. We may be growing, but a lot of that is internal because of our higher birth rate. The amount of successful outreach is still relatively small.

One way to reach more people is by interdenominational interaction. The problem with that is that some of the greatest religious leaders of the 20th century – including Rav Soloveitchik – have forbidden doing that. They forbade religious interaction of any kind because it would grant them tacit recognition. We cannot be seen to recognize movements that legitimize heretical thought. I understand and appreciate that.

Which is why the actions of the well intentioned Yeshiva Chovevei Torah are so problematic. Outreach is what motivated them to host leaders of Reform and Conservative Judaism at a round table discussion during the installation of their new president, Rabbi Asher Lopatin. That certainly does seem to legitimize them. Both in the eyes of the leaders themselves and in the eyes of those who attended the session. While I support YCT’s intentions, I believe they have crossed a line here. As much as I would love to see cooperation between the denominations towards the goal of outreach that we all share – it cannot be at the expense of undermining our theology.

I know that YCT argues that such interactions do not validate heterodox movements. But it is impossible for those who attend to not see it that way – watching them all discuss their religious views as equals at the same table.So even though I agree with their motives, I disagree with what they did. That leaves the problem unsolved.

But there are other ways that we can participate with them and at the same time not be seen to recognize them. One way was when Yosef Reinman, a right wing Orthodox Rabbi from Lakewood, co-wrote a book with Amiel Hirsch, a Reform rabbi he had befriended… and then went on a book tour with him.

He was immediately – roundly criticized by the Agudah Moetzes for violating the ban on interacting with heterodox rabbis. They asked him to stop the tour and withdraw his book. He acceded to their requests but lamented the fact that he was now impeded from making the inroads he had started making with Reform Jews he would have otherwise never met.

About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “Pushing the Boundaries of Outreach”

  1. There are worse things now than Reform or Conservative Jews, or even Qaraites.

  2. There are worse things now than Reform or Conservative Jews, or even Qaraites.

Comments are closed.

Binyamin and Chaya Maryles, uncle and aunt of Emes Ve-Emunah author Harry Maryles.
Current Top Story
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu to Release Frozen Palestinian Authority Tax Revenue
Latest Blogs Stories
The Dimona nuclear reactor dome. Iran has been using Israel's reluctance to join the NPT to escape criticism of its own program.

“Israel has nuclear weapons & it isn’t afraid to use them if necessary-Does that frighten you? Good”

JB Flag

American Jews think they know what’s best for Israel-better than Israelis. Here’s my take…

HarHabayitwDome.jpg

An old Arab man yelled at me “You’re stupid!” I returned the compliment; He had murder in his eyes.

Doug Goldstein

Why do people feel the need to check their email 50X a day, constantly dipping in & out of Facebook?

Betar is the world-wide Zionist youth movement that refuses to be silent, and as our founder Ze’ev Jabotinsky wrote: “Silence is despicable.”

Life in Europe’s pre-War Yeshiva world makes today’s rulings look like the Taliban has taken over.

Moshe’s the 1st family member in thousands of years to have the honor of serving in a Jewish army

Often wig wearers become more attractive after marriage. Doesn’t this turn the intent on its head?

US official interference in Israel’s Elections is not only immoral but may be illegal under US law.

The greatest thing about leaving Israel is the joy in returning, hearing/seeing/smelling coming home

I never felt an election resonate so much; I had true existential fear that my candidate might lose

It appears that Agudah has joined with those choosing to erase women from the public sphere.

How can you turn your passion into your business? How can you build your business around your life?

Politicians have their own egos as priority, not the good of the country nor the will of the people

I might have to “reassess” my position on President Obama if his “new positions and comments” on Israel don’t match his pre-election statements.

Find out about peak oil and how the production & sale of cheap oil has affected other oil sources

More Articles from Harry Maryles
Rabbi Shneur Kotler

Life in Europe’s pre-War Yeshiva world makes today’s rulings look like the Taliban has taken over.

Reiss-062912-Sheitels

Often wig wearers become more attractive after marriage. Doesn’t this turn the intent on its head?

It appears that Agudah has joined with those choosing to erase women from the public sphere.

As long as radical Islam exists it would be irresponsible for Israel to give up an inch of land

This very bright Chareidi young man was unable to earn a decent living because he had NO education

We must convince Jewish billionaires to support Jewish education in ways they support other projects

When evil threatens to conquer the world, it’s the duty of free nations to endeavor to prevent it.

Mentioning genocide in the same breath as Susan Rice crosses a redline about Obama’s foreign policy

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/pushing-the-boundaries-of-outreach/2013/10/23/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: