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Would I be good in Kiruv?

Sometimes I wonder if I’d be successful doing kiruv. Or rabbanus. Off the bat, you’re gonna laugh, I know, and the pros and cons here don’t paint a great picture either, but I wonder if the actual baalei teshuva/geirim/spiritually-minded in the audience would care to weigh in here.

Cons: 1. I can’t look at Jewish propaganda. A Jewish grandfather and kid laughing with white yarmulkes on and some Israel/family ad makes me cringe. An interenet meme hijacked by some mitzvah motivator makes me want to find a slightly overweight man in a suit with a black hat and trimmed beard and punch them hard, repeatedly.† (Foul Bachelor Frog promoting shacharis?!! Raawwrr!!)

I can’t stand the davening. I barely ever do it except maybe once a week in shul, and then I leave out all the stuff that makes my skin crawl. Which is basically every other sentence.

I can’t imagine having to represent Judaism every second of the day. Wait, I kind of do that with my yarmulke on all the time. But that’s off sometimes, like at the beach. Plus, I don’t have to do public events and get my face plastered all over.


1. I like people listening to me.

2. I hate my job now.

3. I actually know the Jewish religion/philosophy/practice really well.

4. Hot women will suddenly be approaching ME for conversation.

5. I’m a pretty good speaker. I’m funny, and I can spin a pretty good vort out of most parshios out there. With life lessons thrown in at opportune moments.

6. Everything I say will suddenly have the weight of 3500 years of serious tradition behind it. Proxy respect, you say? My ego can’t tell the difference!

7. I enjoy helping people. Too personal? Ahh, screw you.

Now on to questionable areas: Would prospective religion seekers like my ideas? I can see it going both ways. Very broadly, here’s my outlook summed up in a hypothetical kiruv conversation.

Rabbi Wannab, Will I find ultimate truth in frum Judaism?

It really depends. I don’t know you well enough. It’s definitely possible you’ll be very happy for a while. Of course, then you might become even more depressed after investing your life in it and hating it. I’m not touching this one.

Is the Torah true?

Oh god. I don’t know. OK, probably not. Wait, wait! I’m just speaking rationally. You know, statistically speaking, with all the other competing traditions out there. And all the unbelievable myths, and antiquated beliefs you’ll undoubtedly find while learning through it. But really, Joanne, why does it matter?

Why does it ma-?

Yes. Let’s look at the facts on the ground here. Clearly people have a need for religion. Look at you, growing up in a secularized, rational, environment, looking now for that old time religion to follow. It’s hard going into the world by ourselves. Maybe biologically, we need this emotional support to be happy in life. Go to the most remote, ancient, primitive, villages on Earth, and they’ll all have sacred rituals that connect them with some higher forces. Just accept it and be happy. And if you’re being smart about the whole thing, while you’re at it, why not choose the one with the rituals that don’t creep you out, and that you’re already kind of familiar with, and that brings back those positive childhood memories of going to grandpa’s house?”

Hmm? Anyone think my spiel has merit? Think it’ll win me enough congregants to make Anshei Agnostics a success?

You know what? It doesn’t matter. Because at it’s essence, isn’t kiruv really just about showing a nice, smiling family around a shabbos table to people who are too emotionally screwed up to ever have it? I can do that. Shit, who am I kidding? That’s what I really can’t pull off. Maybe I’ll become a male stripper.

Visit me at Yeshivaforum.wordpress.com or email me at yeshivaforum@gmail.com

Visit 4torah.com to give Heshy some spending money.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Michael

    Hey Wannabe,

    I think that you would be a great Kiruv Rabbi (I hate that expression).

    Seriously, the BIGGEST challenge to my Emuna are guys who go around lying to try and convince people that the Torah is true – e.g., The Torah must be true because G-d hid some really neat codes in the Torah and no statistician has been able to explain how they got there.
    (An obviously ridiculous claim, if for no other reason than Statisticians have reviewed the codes, and said that there is nothing unique about the Torah, similar “codes” can be found in any text of similar length).

    When I hear stupid false arguments like that (and there are many), my first thought is – “If the Torah is True (and I believe it is), why do these guys have to make up stupid false answers, if they have to lie to prove something that I always thought was true, maybe I should reassess my beliefs…”

    If Kiruv rabbis would be honest and say stuff like “”there are a lot of difficult questions in the Torah, but you can still be a good Jew even with questions”.

    So yeah – if you’re running as Kruv Rabbi, I’ll vote for you, and vote all those guys from Aish off the Island.

    • Thanks man!

    • BZ

      I don’t like proofs in general anyway. If it could be proven that the Torah is true, everyone would follow it. We have free choice. That’s not to say that there can’t be *evidence* that makes it more *likely* that the Torah is true. Bible codes is not evidence. That is to say, while there are real deep secrets encoded in the Torah, but most of us don’t know how to look for them, and those who do are not allowed to reveal it.

  • SC

    I think the most important question you should ask yourself is: do you want to take repsonsibility for the fact that people will change their way of life and join the herd of frummies? That’s what t’shuva is all about!

    If you work for a student hillel organisation or as some kind of function in a not so religious community, you could have the advantages without taking this responsibility, since “kiruv” would not be your primary goal.

  • Is Heshy OK – haven’t seen a post from him in a while

    • Huh

      He quit the blog

  • S. B.

    You would be good at mkarev-ing OTD and almost-OTD people into a basic Jewish practice + certain-amount-of-humility-sometimes type of Judaism.

    You should steer clear of others – especially well-meaning FFBs and nascent BTs. You might rob them of their Olam Haba ch”v.

  • S. B.

    Whoops I take that back I though you were Heshy.

  • yankelyoffen

    Excellent, excellent….I actually considered going into kiruv. Spent time in Aish when I was learning in Israel, but it only reaffirmed my disbelief so….

    • G*3

      I also thought about going into kiruv, one upon a time a little over a decade ago. After all, I knew all this stuff about proving Yiddishkeit that the average person didnít care about, and I had been taught my whole life that kiruv was something important and noble. What better way to put my knowledge to use? I didnít because Iím not nearly outgoing enough. In retrospect, itís good I didnít.

  • Daniel

    You’re already in kiruv, along with all the other frumsatire contributors. For a struggling, and all-too-fatalistic baal teshuva like me, it’s very reassuring and comforting to hear some dissenting voices… who’ve been off the Kool-Aid for a while, and don’t just push the party line… so I can relax and take a deep breath when I’m struggling hard trying to picture Og floating behind the teiva. Before my kids started coming home from school imitating their spastic-shuckling classmates, I was succored with such classics as ’50 ways to make yourself seem frummer than you are’ and ’61 hilarious different types of shuckles’. I especially like your ‘Our BS is as good as any BS… and more comfy’ angle.

  • SJ
  • bratschegirl

    Hoping everyone in the path of Sandy stays safe and dry…

  • Tuvia

    The emunah is destroyed by these horrible, awful, obscene attempts to prove Torah is true.

    My emunah in the idea of G-d was seriously impaired. Got very close to suicidal at the thought that simply nothing existed beyond the physical world.

    If these rabbis are full of nonsense, maybe the whole idea of G-d is more crap from the same bunch of brain-zapped dimwits.

    Never had that problem before kiruv.

    Whoever wrote this: write a book. Doubters canít get books published. You can get a book published if you leave the derech, but you canít get one published that doubts Torah from Heaven.

    Be the first. You are funny.

    Save us all,

    • Engineer

      I can’t tell which parts of this message are serious.

      But yes poor attempts at “proving” Torah are far worse than admitting that emunah results from habituation and upbringing.

      > but you canít get one published that doubts Torah from Heaven.

      There are good books around that explain what “Torah from Heaven” might mean.

      • Tuvia

        i am serious about it all. the more i watch rabbis, the less I think of them. the more i wonder: if these jokers are so out to lunch — does this mean the whole idea of G-d is another joke on us?

        I was better off watching the haredi world from afar — glad to see people with the wisdom and humility and love of tradition.

        up close — seeing how the sausage was made — the whole thing looks like more and more excuses and bunk.

        but I won’t let G-d go. Just need to let Jewish clap-trap go. Got to drop it, break up, move one. Not easy.


        • Kaplan

          Good luck to you!

  • Anonymous
  • Rabbi who can’t get out.

    I’d stay away. When I got into it, I wasn’t too far from your position. Felt like kiruv did so much for me, so it was kindof like giving back. The tests for semiha are easy enough. People definitely want help. It’s very tough on the heart & soul though. To take something that should be precious like religion. Add to that having to suddenly be a saint & genius. Plus unless you are with Chabad, they will drag your good name through the gutters, if you’re anywhere near a place they see as their turf. When it is all over, you’re exhausted, shamed, and left wondering if you really helped anybody at all or just led them into the strife. Forget ever leaving it behind either. Once you’re a religious functionary on the Internet (think JCC newspapers, minyan lists, innocent stuff,) anytime you get googled again will let your future employers, et al. know the whole thing. Once you’re in, that’s it.

    • Engineer

      Once youíre a religious functionary on the Internet (think JCC newspapers, minyan lists, innocent stuff,) anytime you get googled again will let your future employers, et al. know the whole thing.

      Companies won’t hire ex-kiruv people as eg. sales reps? really?

  • langcaster

    …For a struggling, and all-too-fatalistic baal teshuva like me, itís very reassuring and comforting to hear some dissenting voicesÖ whoíve been off the Kool-Aid for a while, and donít just push the party lineÖ so I can relax and take a deep breath when Iím struggling hard trying to picture Og floating behind the teiva….

    Bwah ha ha ha ha! And 1000 times true.

  • Smokey R

    Some of us are NPO Non Practicing Orthodox! Know what I mean.?

  • JewDoughShmuly

    I’d join your minyan.

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