Thursday, January 14, 2016
Dough as I Say- the harm being done by some funders of kiruv programs
[This is the second in a series of posts on some of the problems with how kiruv is done. To read the first post, click here.]
Several years ago, I spoke with an advisor from NCSY after a shabbaton. When asked to reflect on the weekend, she told me that while there had been some positives, she was upset that there were nearly 500 kids who attended. Noticing my surprise that this was not a good thing, she explained that there was not nearly enough space, advisors and programming to accommodate that many attendees. When pressed to explain why she thought space had not been limited beforehand, this advisor, who knew the workings of that NCSY region, explained that it was to impress funders, who wanted to see large numbers.
This is just one example of what I consider to be a troubling phenomena; funders of kiruv pushing for high numbers, at the cost of an approach that treats each person as a, well, person. This approach is not only dehumanizing, it also makes it much less likely that the potential ba’al teshuva will have a real relationship with their mekarev, and thus, will have less guidance as they become more observant. Furthermore, it rewards those mekarvim who are willing to buy into this approach, over those who want to do things the right way.
Perhaps, one might object that I am telling people what to do with their money, but I think this is more of a case of giving sound business advice. At the end of the day, a good and ethical businessman wants to produce a good product, and would not sacrifice quality for quantity. This approach might lead to less profits in the short term, but leads to much greater success in the long term. From a business perspective it is true that one can quantify how many people attend a shabbaton, or how many college students a mikarev speaks to each day, but that’s just it. Effective and sincere kiruv has nothing to do with numbers. the goal isn’t, or at least, it shouldn’t be, to reach as many “customers” as possible. The goal is to help people improve on their relationship with haShem, which is an approach which is not limited to ba’alei teshuva.
Objects can be mass-produced. Sincere ovdei HaShem can not. Good mikarvim, and those who fund them, need to know and appreciate the difference.