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Top 10 kiruv indoctrination practices

Whenever I meet a baal teshuva, I always ask them how they became interested, but instead of being a normal dude, I ask them at what point they drank the Kool-Aid (in reference to them joining the cult of orthodoxy) and who indoctrinated them. I sure as hell love being frum, but if I didn’t grow up frum I could never imagine wanting to join up, just like I could never imagine leaving the cult since I am a full fledged member of it now and have been brainwashed by years of mussar and olam habah indoctrinations.

To 10 kiruv indoctrination practices:

Shabbos Meal: The most widely used kiruv practice is to invite over some unsuspecting guests for a Friday night meal. To us regular folks itís really nothing special to sit down with some random family and break bread with them but to many folks it is. Many folks donít get to eat with a diverse group of people, sing songs, do weird rituals that always seem so cool and spiritual and get to see kids. Most people have one or two kids, rarely do they get the full on experience of a Shabbos meal. Kiruv rabbis find wives that can cook. If they couldnít cook it would scare away potential customers.

Gematria: It isnít only a Chabad thing anymore and the more kiruv rabbis use this, the more I get pissed off. I just hate gematria, itís always far fetched and I feel like itís only a good practice for those gung ho brand new brainwashees that canít get enough of this stuff.

Motivational speakers: Kiruv organizations always seem to have someone who led a really cool life before they became frum that speaks at their events. So you have these Gurus, Buddhists, Motorcycle folks and other strange people that threw away their cool lives to become frum. I usually notice that they don’t retain the coolness, just the memories of being cool.

Frum Theologians or Scientists: Kiruv organizations love the frum intellectual. If they could put someone who taught at Harvard and then became frum and learned in kollel on their dinner events they are set.

Former Ministers: I have seen Asher Wade speak and he is good, almost good enough to make you want to become frum. I am sure there are ministers and priests that have become frum Jews who get paid by kiruv organizations to motivate people to drop their churches and get Aished.

Beginner’s Minyanim: I still donít know how they find these people, but if you show up to a beginnerís service they always seem to be packed. They also always seem to be led by a former modern orthodox Israel activist that learned in the Mir.

Pay you: I never thought the day would come when I could get paid to attend services or come to a class, but on college campuses this is starting to become the norm for non-Chabad Rabbis to do. They tell you that if you come to class every week they will give you $500 or a ďfreeĒ scuba diving trip (another chance for kiruv indoctrination) I have also heard of rabbis paying people to attend services, or put on tefillin every day.

Free trips: Even birthright has its motives, mostly to get you to marry Jewish even though the folks who pour money into it are apparently atheists. I guess itís a cultural thing Ė this whole marrying Jewish concept. Chabad has loads of trips for students to learn and do cool stuff, while slowly sipping the Kool-Aid. BT yeshivas do these deals to get to Israel and there the indoctrination begins.

Books written by famous people who became frum: There are dozens of books out there written by once famous people who threw it all away to become frum. These people are also motivational speakers. The frum community has a secret love affair with ex-movie stars and ex-Christians who became frum.

The Internet: Try typing something Jewish into any seaerch engine and much of the time two sites will pop up. Aish or Chabad. Both super expensive websites that are designed to catch you on the search engine and drag you into the world of online kiruv. Even this here website has been mekarev people, though I have no idea why they would be turned onto yiddishkeit by my writing. There are so many people who become interested in Judaism or orthodoxy because of their Internet searches. Don’t forget the thousands of Blogs just like this one devoted to any aspect of Judaism you can find.

Other lesser things that didn’t make the list:

Girls – I heard that Aish sometimes sends some hot girls to try and get guys in the Rova to come to their classes

Music- Matisyahu has definitely made a lot of people feel proud to be Jewish and more curious about orthodoxy

Ask the rabbi

Kaballah – when Chabad wants to market chassidus, they just call it Kaballah or mysticism

Jewish arts events like Limmud

{ 87 comments… add one }
  • FrumCollegeGirl June 28, 2010, 3:42 PM

    So, so true. Has anyone else ever wondered where they seem to get this unlimited pool of money from? I’ve earned over $500 going to “beginner’s Judaism” classes.

    • lowa October 18, 2010, 11:12 AM

      They get the money from atheist or reform Jews who work on Shabbos and can go up the ladder to become CEO’s. It’s a guilt-sin offering tax right-off for most of these companies.

      As for us regular Ba’al teshuvas, we’re getting into major debt because of so many (Jewish) days off and Hebrew school, hoping our kids will take us in when we lose our house one day.

  • Little Pom's Mom June 28, 2010, 3:46 PM

    “Books written by famous people who became frum”

    Oooh, I need a booklist! Other than Blossom, I’m not aware of these people and love a good read, LOL.

    • Mahla July 3, 2010, 5:23 PM

      Thanks for that, Little Pom’s Mom! I had NO IDEA that she was even Jewish and her Wikipedia bio was definitely worth the read. I guess she was also accepted to Harvard and Yale, but attended UCLA, and has written a PhD dissertation on a neurological disease. Whoa!

  • tesyaa June 28, 2010, 4:14 PM

    Weepy havdala services?

    “Spontaneous” simcha dancing after every Shabbos meal?

  • Anonymous June 28, 2010, 4:31 PM

    Chabad is NOT a kiruv organization…just to clarify ūüėõ

    • Ben June 28, 2010, 5:37 PM

      Would kiruv by any other name smell just as sweet?

      Just because Chabad doesn’t call it kiruv doesn’t make it not kiruv.

      • Anonymous June 29, 2010, 2:27 AM

        they dont consider themselves a kiruv organization because they are not exclusively targeting the non orthodox.

    • 7azon Yesha3ya July 1, 2010, 7:54 PM

      not kiruv? they always brag that they invented kiruv, and everybody else copies them. which seems rather true, don’t u think?

  • dave June 28, 2010, 4:49 PM

    i used to like your postings but recently they became %100 Neg. against frum jews so it sucks, sorry

    • Heshy Fried June 28, 2010, 6:16 PM


      • Anonymous June 28, 2010, 7:00 PM

        What’s so funny?

        • Heshy Fried June 29, 2010, 3:28 AM

          Because on every post I get a comment like this and it’s so untrue

          • Puzzled June 29, 2010, 9:57 AM

            Maybe your readers see what they want to see. I’ve been thinking I was seeing an upswing in positive posts about frumkeit and glossing over of failings!

            • Esther June 29, 2010, 1:38 PM

              Right on! I thought I noticed that too… Its a mark of good writing – that the same posts can be interpreted to mean different things to different people.

  • Chaviva June 28, 2010, 4:57 PM

    I think the body of converts could be considered a pro-bono kiruv organization … we bring in ba’al teshuvas who are turned on by our new-found Jewishness ūüôā

  • Mahla June 28, 2010, 5:42 PM

    To get pedantic, it was actually Flavor Aid. ;^)

  • SJ June 28, 2010, 6:02 PM

    Sad how actually answering questions isn’t anywhere on the list, made it so I had to look elsewhere for them.

  • SJ June 28, 2010, 6:03 PM

    Once in Beit Medrish i was actually told I am not allowed to ask a certain question. I swear to God.

    • Anonymous June 28, 2010, 7:11 PM

      The one you don’t believe in?

  • effetexas June 28, 2010, 6:04 PM

    the tone is kinda depressing for us BT outhere. i since a smug tone with the i could never leave but why join. most BT envy the frum fb childhoods,teen years spent in real jewish schools (not a crappy thursday / sunday after school program no 13 takes seriusly anyway.) and most of all a family that doesnt think youre in the kool-aid drinking cult. we dont need that crap from our own parent much less a frum guy that admits the kiddish wine has cynaide it after raabi chaim jones says kiddish after a four hour service shabbas morning.

    • Heshy Fried June 28, 2010, 6:17 PM

      jeez pull the kishke out of your tuches

    • oy vey June 28, 2010, 6:39 PM

      I wish frumsatire could add a like button for comments.
      Didn’t find this post too amusing, but then again I am a BT.

      • Heshy Fried June 29, 2010, 3:31 AM

        Actually the BT’s are more likely to find this post amusing

        • Dovid July 2, 2010, 1:20 AM

          I found it funny, but your remarks in the beginning are just a tad….worrisome.
          why wouldnt you be frum if you werent in it? what you dont have a love for torah? (granted its hard to keep, but some people dont mind the terkha if it means doing hashem’s word.)
          I myself am a BT and truthfully, some of these things are somewhat true. i dnt know if thats a sad thing or a good thing–i do know that its better someone be frum than not.
          as for me, i came to it because i was once handed a gemara and ever since then i couldnt put it down. i never engaged in the things you mentioned; in fact those things usually turned me off to torah (personally speaking; least at that time); it was the khakhma that was a drawing factor–“the halakhic world is ‘terribly’ articulate, ‘unpardonably’ dynamic, and ‘foolishly’ consistent….” (Lonely Man of Faith p.102)

    • Chris_B June 29, 2010, 9:04 AM

      I got a giggle outa this. As a convert I do understand the envy of the FFBs or just the JFBs who seem to know everyone and know what to do and never make stupid mistakes in ritual.

      • oy vey June 29, 2010, 11:41 AM

        Hahahaha BTs are right behind converts on the stupid mistake chart, don’t worry.

      • Esther June 29, 2010, 1:44 PM

        Don’t feel bad. I am a JFB and was repeating blessings after my Ger friend at their shabbos dinner ūüôā It is what it is.

  • Mahla June 28, 2010, 6:44 PM

    Oy Vey, here is an honest question. As a BT, was part of your discomfort with this post that you were initially drawn in by one of these 10 kiruv practices? Or was it just the tone of the post that bothered you?

    • oy vey June 28, 2010, 6:54 PM

      I was actually always interested with orthodox judaism since I was about 10, although my family was not at all observant. I can’t say that I was initially drawn in by any of the top 10 kiruv practices that Heshy listed, but it is true that as I felt a stronger connection to orthodox judaism I looked toward things like true shabbos experiences, motivational speakers, and chabad on the internet. All of those three things happened much later as I looked for a way to connect with orthodox judaism. This post bothered me because it sounded like it was judging Baal Teshuvas who are “crazy” enough to drink the kool-aid. Personally, I think orthodox judaism is anything but a cult, and I was insulted by the insinuation that Baal Teshuvas were hoodwinked into judaism. But then again, I don’t take it too seriously because I realize that this was written by a frum (and extremely opinionated) jew.

      • Guest June 29, 2010, 10:26 AM

        Oy vey–I hear you out on this one; but keep in mind that Heshy takes shots at just about every segment of the frum world, and he clearly enjoys being a frum Jew.

        I will say, and this applies to me as well, that many of us who have kicked around frum circles long enough experience varying degrees of cynicism with regards to different experiences we encounter in Jewish life. Some people totally abandon observance, and there are plenty of blogs dedicated towards this. Many people keep with their observances, because they do see value in their Judaism, in spite of whatever axes they have to grind.

        Much of this cynicism, I think, is fostered by seeing people acting in diametric opposition to ideals we supposedly cherish. Some of this may be reactions to things occasionally read in seforim that do not gel with our own moral sensibilities, or even difficulties some of us may have in keeping consistent levels of observance, for one reason or another.

        Anyone who’s observance is healthy, however, will be able to see beauty, value, truth, and authenticity in many areas of Jewish living. Excluding some emotionally disturbed people, I think that many baalei teshuvot and geirim experience a more potent appreciation of Judaism, particularly at the outset of their observance, than many people born orthodox. So, yeah, it’s understandably annoying to encounter FFBs who seem to smugly look down upon your personal religious experience, as if it is somehow devoid of authenticity.

        The trick for any Jew inspired by their faith, is to try and hang on as much as possible to your feelings of inspiration, while increasing in your knowledge of Jewish practice, including accepting (without cynicism) the emotional challenges that are encountered by being a Jew in a Jewish community. It’s always better to surround yourself with people who are positive, though, so it’s alright to distance yourself from people/websites/etc. that bring you down.

        Sorry for the serious post.

        • oy vey June 29, 2010, 11:55 AM

          Your post may have been serious, but I agree with it.
          Of course Heshy must enjoy being a frum jew…if he didn’t enjoy at least some parts of it, he wouldn’t stay a frum jew.
          And of course I have seen jews in the frum community who are filled with cynicism, and I even agree with the cynicism at times. We are all far from perfect. Kiruv organizations are far from perfect, but at least they are trying. Every jew deserves the opportunity to understand their religion the way it is supposed to be understood and observed.

          • Heshy Fried June 29, 2010, 2:33 PM

            It also may because I believe that orthodoxy is the right way to do things

  • Gevaldigger June 28, 2010, 6:51 PM

    OMG! You’re killing me Heshy; one of these days I’m going to open up my own blog Le’hachas.

    A lot of the kiruv families, like yourself, prefer to be on the “outskirts” of the Jewish Ghettos. But let’s be Dan Lecaf Zchus here, they go through their own nisyonos:
    $18 for a package of string cheese — Come on?!?!
    Kiruv in the college scene has turned into a real business( non-profit of course). You must see these Yentes shout out on the campuses, wow; “Are you Jewish?” “Oh, you look Jewish, come to my house for shabbos””Come on, I know you’re Jewish!”
    It’s a real bizayon to find out they keep ellaborate databases of all the students they’re involved with. There’s a whole group of students that are fighting the college campus kiruv movements; especially frum students, since they make it a point to shew the frummies away since they aren’t cool enough apparently.
    I laughed when I saw my friend’s picture on the pamphlet for one of the trips. She’s not frum at all, she just loves to party and gets paid to promote the program.
    Oy, I hope this is Le’toeles. I can’t afford any more aveiros before doing tshuva during the 3 weeks.
    I’m really glad you’re exposing this in a positive light, since as much fun as being frum is (ok, just a teensy bit of scarcasm there), we really don’t need members of our community going out selling orthodox judaism as as a bunch of cheap thrills and free trips.
    Something I give credit to Rabbi Rabbs (ok buddy, don’t get ahead of yourself, I didn’t say I agree with everything you say) [ha’omer bshem omro meyveee…….]:
    If you’re worried that the Jewish nation will disappear, you lack emunas hashem. Clear and Simple, God made a promise. Our nation will not disappear.

    So it’s really time for these college campus movements to stop selling OUR Judaism short. No more motorcycle riders, no more ex-priests. How about for once they bring in a few greasy shucklers from Philly or Miir and let ’em all know about the Gishmake Thurs night cholent instead of the Kegs sponsored by unknowing donors.

    Make it Right Hesh!

    • Devorah June 29, 2010, 11:20 AM

      What a great post! Soo true. I’ve enjoyed reading the comments section also…I’m glad to see that others feel the same way about the tactics of some of these organizations as I do…it really is an obscene amount of marketing, with slick, well-spoken rabbi’s (in both Aish and Chabad), glossy websites, and giving away freebies like they’re going out of style (why don’t they divert all these funds to improve their own schools, and get genuine, truly learned, nurturing teachers, who actually know what they’re doing, and smaller class sizes? Then maybe so many kids wouldn’t go OTD).
      What pisses me off is the way these movements target people in vulnerable situations, such as college students who are on their own for the first time in the big, wide world, away from their families, prisoners, sick people, new immigrants (including olim).
      I also think it sucks when kiruv organizations shoo frum people away from their cool programs, (despite the fact that they advertise them publicly), as if it can destroy their marketing ploy. In Jerusalem, I needed a Shabbat meal, and I heard that a Chabad Rabbi in the old city had big ones going. I got told that no, i couldn’t come, I was too religious, and I’d be taking up a potential spot of a non religious person who could show up at the last minute. This sort of attitude efinitely goes against what Chabad kids are taught from the cradle: “God may have put you on earth for 70 or 80 years just so you can do a favor for someone else.”
      The best way to attract people to Torah and Mitzvot, is to just be kind to people. That’s it. That’s how the Lubavitcher Rebbe touched so many people, and that’s how other giants like Reb Aryeh Levine and Rav Kook did too. You are doing a Jew a favor because he needs it, not because you hope to make him frum.

      • gevaldigger June 30, 2010, 2:45 AM

        Well said D!
        Hesh’s site is serving as a great platform for others to speak out on this problem. We need more voices to be heard!

  • Tali June 28, 2010, 7:52 PM

    Actually for me it was none of those things. It was when the free palestine association at Uni held a protest on Holocaust Remembrance Day. A few days later I left my house to see my street plastered with stickers that said “Jews the new Nazis” (we lived in a really left wing area). Made me wonder if I wanted to raise my kids Jewish considering how much hatred there was, I decided yes, for some reason, despite being raised totally secular, this was important.
    So off we went on an adventure that included some truly hilarious parts. Among the funniest included my husband discovering he wasn’t really Jewish (mum’s reform conversion doesn’t count) converting Orthodox, having his second bris and now telling people no he’s not a Levite but his father was, (he gets a real kick out of peoples reactions to that one).
    So see Hesh no money, no kool-aid but hey if your handing out scuba lessons let me know.

    • Chris_B June 29, 2010, 9:07 AM

      Nice story!

  • effetexas June 28, 2010, 8:01 PM

    i have to admir i was drawn to yiddishket thru shabbos meals and beginers miniyans. my frustration was after they pull you in they expect you to : 1 put on a blackhat ( i like my med sized knitted kippah,thanks) (2) move to ny , baltimore, or chicago ( why would anyone move there and why do jews live in such shitty places ?) (3) this is chabadcentrici but, were a gartel when davening and hang on every “Rebbe released from jail ” story like its gospel. If you dont do these things youre a lost cause apricorprus or worse—Modern Orthodox!! gevalt……Shaunda….. gevalt!

    • Anonymous June 29, 2010, 10:14 AM

      I think you got suckered since I never met anyone who expected any of that. And all three of those cities are great so I don’t know what you are talking about.

      • Anonymous June 29, 2010, 10:31 AM

        New York sucks. They have kosher restaurants there, and that’s about it. It’s one of the most expensive cities in the country, and people will step over your dead body to get in line at a hot dog stand.
        So I don’t know what you’re talking about.

        • Nathan June 29, 2010, 1:18 PM

          There are no kosher “hot dog stands” in NYC so don’t blame the Jews for that.
          NY ROX

      • Esther June 29, 2010, 1:55 PM

        These streets will make you feel brand new
        Big lights will inspire you
        Let’s hear it for New York, New York, New York!!!

  • Drew Mazanec June 28, 2010, 8:09 PM

    What got me was the Shabbos meal and the local Jewish Learning Center, where Haredi kiruvites give free classes, where you get invited for Shabbos meals, until you realize you’re spending every Saturday with the frum community because you are getting more meal invites than you can take, from people who seem so nice! After a few months, I moved into the community (cuz where else do you know absolutely everybody who lives within a half mile radius?), and a few months later it dawned on me.

    It dawned on me like it dawned on Nebuchadnezzar. Remember him from Daniel? He went mad for a while, eating wild grass, being driven from men, until his hair grew wild like eagles’ feathers and his fingernails like talons? Imagine how he must have felt when his mind returned to him, looking at his ragged condition asking “What the hell just happened?”

    Yeah, that’s how I felt. “Holy crap. I’m frum.” Yet I did not go off the derech at that point. I was too connected to the community. It took a move to a different city to successfully break off from frumkeit. Escaped by the skin of my teeth. If I had been successfully shidduch’d, I’d have been sealed inside.

  • Anonymous June 28, 2010, 9:25 PM

    I’ve seen all of these, except the former ministers; none of them really got me hooked. But when the Chabad rabbi on my college campus showed up at the AEPi house (where I was living) to help the brothers build a sukkah, I could have guzzled a gallon of koolaide. Sure, it took some false starts before I became fully shomer mitzvos, but you shouldnt think kiruv is a small-minded effort, with standard tactics and no creativity

  • Joe June 28, 2010, 11:50 PM

    If you have no idea why people would be turned on to yiddishkeit by your writing that ain’t such a great thing, is it? Even if it does sometimes work. There’s a lot of positive in frum community though it’s sometimes hard to focus on. But once in a while try comparing the frum community to the world at large. See what you come up with. ( btw I know this is a satire forum so don’t take me” too “seriously)

    • Heshy Fried June 29, 2010, 2:36 PM

      Well I did a post comparing rednecks and charedim once, maybe I will bring that one back

  • A. Nuran June 29, 2010, 2:18 AM

    These are all tried and true sales/indoctrination tactics. It helps if one is familiar with them in other contexts the better to recognize the manipulation for what it is. Then one can reject it or revel in it as seems best.

  • old recruit June 29, 2010, 9:00 AM

    I am a BT and I like this post. It is pretty well the way it works (although I never met the former ministers)

    I think those who do not so much like this post are the new recruits who do not want to see that those kinds of tactics exist. I understand them. As a new recruit, I would have been immune to this kind of description too.

  • Chris_B June 29, 2010, 9:11 AM

    Theres none of those fancy tactics out here on the edge of the world, but I do see how the proximity effect can work. The more time you spend around people the more likely you are to model your behavior on them.

  • Puzzled June 29, 2010, 10:03 AM

    Yea, gematria comes up a lot…but you’d think it would be avoided at college campuses where students might know some basic math. Not true, though – whenever I mention that I’m interested in math, I’m told that there’s a lot of math in Torah…you know, gematria and things…

    Regarding the others – Chabad also pays you to study. And cmon, Birthright is selling Zionism.

  • Lily June 29, 2010, 10:14 AM

    Speaking of paying people to “learn…”

  • Frumsatire Fan June 29, 2010, 10:15 AM

    “Wouldn’t quit, but if I weren’t FFB I wouldn’t join”

    Before I converted, when I told frum people they said I must be insane, how on earth would anyone who isn’t born into this craziness choose it voluntarily, etc. COME ON Hesh, do admit you’d get sucked in by the fire-and-brimstone mussar and kiddush fressing.

  • fearfromlove June 29, 2010, 11:12 AM

    how about emes. seriously, think for a second that maybe the reason it works its that we are selling the truth.
    now you said above that if you werent frum you wouldnt become frum and now that you are “indoctrinated” you cant leave. i feel bad for you. it must suck living a lie.
    the reason, i guess, that kiruv organisations need to do this is because people dont know. people are born jewish but have no idea what that means. university is a time that people discover themselves but more often than not wont ever look into their own roots, they will check out other faiths and beliefs, they will check out girls and they will check out the bottom of a bong but they most likely wont check out their own roots. and lets be honest frumsatire, because the picture most people have of judaism, especially the one you depict is one which most people would like to run away from.
    but there is a different side to judaism, one which believes in pleasure and in asking questions and getting answers. but how the heck can you compete with $1 shots? so get an inspirational speaker with a cool story as opposed to “rabbi cohen” people will come and hear someone with a good story. and maybe find out more about their roots and their history. not a bad thing. if they wanna get involved more, good for them, if not, good for them. but dont blame anyone for trying. dont blame people who believe in their religion for trying to share it with others in their religion.
    just because you seem to have this interesting relationship with Judaism doesnt mean everyone else has to.

    and btw, i find it absolutely preposterous that you would suggest aish would send out girls to get guys to come to their classes. get a grip, think about what that really means. you clearly have no idea about the Torah Giant who started and ran the organisation and those who now run it.

    • G*3 June 29, 2010, 1:22 PM

      > there is a different side to judaism, one which believes in pleasure and in asking questions and getting answers

      I would have loved to see that sort of Judaism as a teenager. Maybe it’s reserved for those who aren’t frum. In my experience, the only questions that are tolerated are those with pat answers.

      > dont blame people who believe in their religion for trying to share it with others in their religion.

      That someone is ethnically/nationally Jewish doesn’t mean that they are religiously Jewish, despite Orthodox beleifs. Frum Jews proselytizing their secular brethren is annalougous to American Christians proselytizing their non-Chrisitan co-nationalists.

      • Esther June 29, 2010, 2:04 PM

        > there is a different side to judaism, one which believes in pleasure and in asking questions and getting answers

        I would have loved to learn about that side of Judaism as well… in fact, I may have been frum if that were the case.

      • Guest June 29, 2010, 2:23 PM

        “I would have loved to see that sort of Judaism as a teenager. Maybe itís reserved for those who arenít frum. In my experience, the only questions that are tolerated are those with pat answers.”

        While no one, including the kiruv groups, has answers to every question one can ask, the best of them have done a good job at presenting Judaism as a life affirming religion, where the Almighty cares about your pleasure, and personal fulfillment. I know that this isn’t what many FFB kids are taught, but I am all in favor of taking the best elements of kiruv-style Judaism, and remaking the religion in this image. Rabbi N. Weinberg’s 5 levels of pleasure, and the 48 ways? Great basic hashkafa for a kid sick of black hats, and bans. Go to a farbrengen done by an shaliach who really seems to love his fellow Jew (just avoid the meshichist stuff). Listen to some of Rabbi Tatz’s better talks, describing Judaism as caring about developing one’s uniqueness, and not being “cookie cutter” religion. Rock the Carlebach minyanim, or attend minyanim where they like to sing, if that’s your thing. We can argue whether or not these things represent “authentic Judaism,” or whether or not these people are entirely sincere, but I intend to practice the religion I was attracted to, and raise my children in the religion I was attracted to. Take the best elements of orthodoxy (however you define it), and forget the rest.

        I know that some of these groups will attract, or churn out highly eccentric individuals, but in my long experience with BTs, and geirim, most of the most eccentric or unstable folks were this way to being with. Those that were healthy and balanced going in, can easily maintain/reacquire their sense of normalcy, after the fact, as long as they don’t buy into this notion that now they are frum, they have to forget about all that introductory fluff, and realize that Judaism is about conformity, restricting freedoms, and maximizing self-denial. That approach may have worked for people in the 16th century, but is not sustainable for many of us now. Or desirable.

    • Puzzled July 5, 2010, 1:26 PM

      You are not sincerely engaging in dialogue and dealing with questions if your starting point is, as you say, that you speak the truth and the questioner is wrong. Sure, you’ll let the non-frum ask questions – then you’ll give pat answers, or tell them what their question shows about them. You won’t actually engage in honest discussion, that’s not part of the program when you believe you’re out here speaking ’emes.’

  • Drew Mazanec June 29, 2010, 11:46 AM

    I have heard of Orthodoxy described as a cult. In fact, one Reform Rabbi warned me that the Orthodox are “somewhat cultish”

    But if you read Jim Collins’ book Built to Last, many of the great companies of the world, such as Nordstrom and Disney are described in the same way. Collins even uses the phrase “a cult-like environment” to describe their corporate culture.

    • A. Nuran June 29, 2010, 12:22 PM

      That doesn’t make it any better. It’s still dishonest, manipulative and dehumanizing whether you’re doing it for souls, seduction or money.

    • jimmy37 June 30, 2010, 4:25 PM

      Interestingly, I would consider Reform Judaism a cult, too. Isn’t it called insanity if you try the same thing more than once and expect different results?

      Reform Judaism keeps losing so many people to intermarriage and indifference because they don’t offer relevance and meaningful observance. It’s hard enough to follow G-d’s laws. But once you remove G-d and get rid of irrelevant laws like kashrut and Shabbat, why should anyone follow anything?

  • jdf June 29, 2010, 11:46 AM

    What is Gematria?

    • Levy Bernstein June 29, 2010, 12:12 PM
    • A. Nuran June 29, 2010, 3:46 PM

      Superstitions numerological nonsense which allows you to “prove” any damned thing you want by assigning values to letters and letting the Law of Large Numbers lead you astray. Search through a big enough text with it and you can find any message you want including “No matter how you slice it it’s still baloney”

      • jdf June 30, 2010, 8:53 AM

        Thanks, A. Nuran!

      • Esther July 1, 2010, 3:41 PM

        A. Nuran – I love this comment so hard! I quoted it twice yesterday!

      • Shmilfke September 22, 2013, 3:59 PM

        I challenge you to find an interesting Gematria explanation of the name “Harry Potter” based on anything in all the thousands of pages of the seven books (I’ll even throw in the supplementary add-on books)

  • zad June 29, 2010, 12:05 PM

    british accents. so many aish and discovery guys have them. south african is okay too because it sounds close enough.

  • Woodrow/Conservadox June 29, 2010, 1:08 PM

    Definitely shabbos dinner did it for me – I took on shabbos a lot faster than anything else, and shabbos is definitely the “dox” half of my Conservadox-ness (in terms of practical observance- though I am fasting today, so that’s kind of dox-y too).

    Surprised Aish Discovery seminar not on the list.

  • Susie @newdaynewlesson June 29, 2010, 3:33 PM

    I’m a newcomer to your blog.

    I think the biggest things orthodox Jews (and I am one and I am speaking from my mistakes http://www.newdaynewlesson.com/?p=2441 ) is that we forgot at the root of Judaism is love. Like Hillel said “Veahavta Le’Reacha Kamocha” that’s the whole torah on one foot.

    Sometimes instead of accepting people who have different views in a loving way and showing them how Judaism is about love, we end up pushing to hard to make people conform to our own views of what Judaism and religious is.

    The world needs one person at a time being kinder and more loving to others. Especially to those different from them.

  • Maimonedes CON June 29, 2010, 4:17 PM

    At many colleges in the US (specifically the eastern seaboard ones) There is a program known as “maimonedes” I know for a fact that the rabbis of this program refuse to accept anyone who is conservative/reform/reconstructionist.

    And yet like someone stated above, THEY USE PICTURES OF HOT GIRLS WHO CAME TO ONE FREAKIN shiur to promote their program.

    • oy vey June 29, 2010, 4:42 PM

      What in the world are you talking about? My sister just “graduated” from a maimonedes program, and I had the pleasure of attending. I am a BT, and my sister would probably fall into the Conservative Jewry label. Their were about 25 college kids at the graduation, and only one was perhaps conservadox. About 10 were conservative, the rest were reform at best.

      And they never use pictures of hot girls. They use Rabbi’s and Rebetzin’s with huge hearts who are always welcoming and helpful. They promote their program by participating in the lives of their students and accepting their students no matter what their relationship with judaism may be.

  • conservative apikoris June 29, 2010, 4:20 PM

    “I have also heard of rabbis paying people to attend services, or put on tefillin every day.”

    Could you please provide more specifics? I’d consider doing this if the price were right. (My normal consulting fee is $200/hour).

    In fact, for $1,000, I’ll let a sofer check my tefillin anf fix them, if necessary. (they haven’t been checked in a while.)

    For $100 a meal, I’ll eat kosher food.
    $500 on top of my consulting time, and I’ll sit in on a shiur.
    I’ll be more than happy to learn in Bet Midrash for straight consulting time, plus expenses and travel.

    And for the right price, I’d be willing to consider committing to never making another apikorsche comment on Internet blogs.

    • G*3 June 29, 2010, 9:01 PM

      I think you’ve got something here. For the right price, I too will happily go to shul three times a day and sit in a shiur.

      I don’t know about the blog commenting, though. That may be too much fun to give up.

    • Esther July 1, 2010, 3:48 PM

      As a new immigrant at the age of 14, I ended up in an Orthodox yeshiva designed to turn ignorant Russian Jews like myself into good Orthodox ones… I recall shabbos meals, staying over at religious people’s homes so they can school us, sitting through a never ending Pesach seder with nobody explaining anything and our English being severely inadequate at the time… I don’t recall anyone offering to pay though. That could have sealed the deal. As it was, my mom pulled, nay, yanked me out of there and placed me in a public school as soon as she noticed that I had been in an all female setting so long and I had no idea what to do around boys.

      Thankfully, all that’s changed now ūüėČ At this point, I wouldn’t know what do without them.

  • Yochanan June 29, 2010, 6:03 PM

    Anyone ever wonder what it would be like if Kiruv orgs got their names translated:

    “Mom and Dad, I’m dropping out of school to study at Fire of the Tora.”

    “He became frum through Happy Light.”

  • Anonymous June 30, 2010, 5:00 AM

    that is how they get you! they are friendly and attractive and offer you something you can’t get from assimilated culture but then before you know it you are part of a community and living a more authentic and fullfilled life – look out!!!!
    the only problem is the produts of their effort returners and converts are so annoying.

    it deosn’t always work tho, my family sent me back to israel when i was at school to scare me straight and keep me away from non-jewish boys but i immediately met my non-jewish partner and moved to the most un-jewish country in the world – backlash!

    • tesyaa July 1, 2010, 12:28 PM

      Please tell us more!

  • Der Nister July 3, 2010, 7:30 PM

    “Every Jew deserves the opportunity to understand their religion the way it is supposed to be understood and observed.”
    @Oy vey – How is it supposed to be understood and observed? Do we each get to answer this for ourselves?

  • lowa October 18, 2010, 11:30 AM

    Yes, I admit to being suckered in by all of the above indoctrinations… and thank goodness too, as I probably wouldn’t have been married to a Jew today… but these same old techniques are getting rather tedious now that I have a family of 4, and staying at home with the family — because of lack in funding kosher restaurants, activities and trips — is tempting us to look at the outside world for connection. (TV, DS anyone?) Boredom and debt is killing this ba’al teshuvah!!

  • anon April 3, 2011, 3:38 PM


  • anon April 3, 2011, 3:39 PM

    thank you for the article
    i find it interesting and am glad to be into happiness

  • Greg Lauren June 16, 2014, 12:59 PM

    there’s plenty of Rabbis who retained the coolness. Yom Tov Glaser is one lol. he surfs, mountain bikes, plays Hendrix, etc…just wears a streimel now lol

  • Miriam Erez February 18, 2017, 7:14 AM

    FrumCollegeGirl: donations, mostly from non-Orthodox Jews. It’s the biggest scam going.

  • David Nazari March 12, 2018, 2:44 AM

    Hope someone beats you up.

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