Hey all     BS"D 
I just got home from the Heart to Heart leadership summit!! Here is a quick preliminary report, possibly to be followed up on..
Heart 2 Heart is destined to succeed because they've got "it" right. Thats why I choose to associate with them. What is "it," for a Jewish organization devoted to making campus Jewish life more inclusive?

It's the opposite of "kiruv. "gone wrong.  BTW huuge disclaimer here- there are many righteous people who are self- labelled "kiruv professionals." I just want to point out why the word is potentially hazardous, and how Heart to Heart avoids the pitfalls associated with the term. 

Why do people distrust "kiruv"? I think part of it is that at times those doing the noble work of saving the Jewish people from its hemorrhaging numbers R"L are not properly trained. They think, tragically, that encouraging Jewish involvement means doing what ever it takes to change people. 

The Gerer Rebbe once said that he spent years at the beginning of his leadership trying to change his region. After a decade, it was a complete failure 
Then, he tried to change his state. Ten years of pushing and pushing failed to bear fruit. 
Then, his family...no dice. 
Finally, he decided to change himself. After that, he saw that his family, state, and entire region were changed as a matter of course! 

It's all about cultivating a humble mindset- making sure that we are doing this for the right reasons .......

When you are trying to mold people to fit your image, thats one slipperly slope! Furthermore, when Baalei Teshuva are giving up all of their former hobbies, it's a sure warning sign. Maturity, and Ahavat Yisroel, means recognizing that we are not here to change people, but rather to be there for them. Physically and Spiritually- whatever they need. This changes the focus from us to them, and paradoxically makes us more successful in encouraging them to take up a more Jewish lifestyle. 

At the summit, one session coordinator tried to force us to answer "yes or no, is our goal to make people Observant?"You can guess what happened next at this meeting of around 15 wonderful yidden....they had upwards of around 40 opinions on the subject. We never got around to answering the question- and I am still not sure whether it ought to be answeed in a black-and white fashion. 

But I learned something valuable about myself from the experience- that when push comes to shove, if i really, really had to pick, then the answer is a simple and resounding...

HECK NO!!! 
How can I say this??What a chutzpah, right?  
First off, what is the Torah source that we should engage in actvism? We derive our scriptural justification, in part, from "You shall love your fellow as yourself." So Hashem wants us to help one another, to desire for them the same things that we wish for ourselves. And we all agree that giving opportunity and motivation to do a mitzva is infinitely valuable to those that we help. 

But who says our goal is to make them observant?!!! Number One, its not realistic in most cases. At a Shabbat dinner or class, we need a short-term goal that stands on its own merit. Like doing an infinite mitzva of Hashem while providing a positive Jewish expereince to counteract years of cumulative Hebrew School trauma. The Rebbe always said that its not all or nothing, after all. 

Second, part of maturity means recognizing that we cannot ram our lifestyle down the throats of others. It spans the gap between the twin nadirs of impracticality and immoral conduct. When was the last time that you saw an abraive argument on politics or religion end in concession? With a communist acknowledging the superior reason of a libertarian, leaving their commune, and becoming an investment banker? Its not realistic, nor even desirable. It flies in the face of recognizing the value of another's perspective. And it sets two egos against one another, instead of encouraging mutual acceptance and fostering community. 

I think that the Lubavitcher Rebbe's counsel is pertinent here- when he talked about the flaw inherent in the phrase "kiruv rechokim"(bringing close those who are far). He said something like- "Who are we to say that we are close and they are far?!" 
"Kiruv" is a harmful term because it implies two disparate planes of existence-that it is somehow our duty to help others up to our madgrega. Now THAT is what I call a chutzpa! 

Do we have any idea how valuable it must be to Hashem when a "secular" Jew comes to shul once a year on Yom Kippur?!!! He must be overjoyed! Really puts my own tefillot(prayers) in perspective. The truth is, we use words like "Orthodox" and "Observant" cheaply. Almost nobody is without sin. The truth of the matter is, we are all on a journey. Some simply have more Jewish education, which just makes them more responsible for their actions. But we cannot ever judge anyone accurately- only G-d can. We don't know how much effort anyone is putting in relative to the other, and never will. 


So to wrap up for the evening....The Jewish people are absolutely and inherently one. The dichotomy of "observant" and secular" is false- every Jew does mitzvot, and has a soul. And no one knows who is trying harder. 


indoctrinating people so that they will fit our images of who they should be (which tends to look a lot like ourselves)= dangerous

Welcoming Jews into halachic communities, encouraging them to do mitzvot without judging ==G-dly!! 

And keep in mind the following phrase- a Jew, 
Is a Jew, is a Jew, is a Jew, is a Jew................is a Jew. 
Have a Wonderful Week!!!  

ps make sure to check the TorahThoughts blog frequently for some words of Torah that emphasize the above themes!!And add your comments. 
Love, 
Yaakov