BT’s – They are People not “Products”!

Quote R’ Mendel Weinbach of Ohr Sameach “We have established kiruv centers on university campuses, in communities, in many locations throughout the world and have trained hundreds of avreichim [who pursue a life of Torah study] in two-year kiruv courses to run them. This has produced many blessed products.”
This from an expose from the Forward on the alleged ties between JEC (Jewish Enrichment Center), the formal Birthright follow up rep in NY, and Ohr Sameach.
I see  a deep perversion in the “Kiruv” circuit when it comes to respecting the individuality and autonomy of the “target” audience. As someone who has been on the inside of the system I can say that even the seemingly enlightened operations carry the nudge and wink dimension, “we know what we really want”.
This runs through the entire process, and relates to lack of value placed on individuality which can be seen in the black and white dress code. I have seen many Baalei Teshuva lose there shining light, and it makes me wonder if this is really what God wants.
I know that I will get the usual slew of disappointed responses to this, “why must you fan the hatred”, “why the stereotypes” etc. I want to clarify that I am not trying to demonize anyone, and there is a lot of good work being done out there, and a lot of people who have found life through it. I am compelled to write on this subject because it goes to the heart of the way I choose to work with and relate to Kiruv.
“Kiruv” Means to draw close, and that is a two way street. True drawing close is the deepest Torah value, “Love your Friend as Yourself”. The only way Torah can be represented is in a true relationship, which a manipulative agenda will always taint. The bad taste expressed in the forward article is authentic and appropriate, and has potential to create a significant chilul Hashem. Dont pretend to be interested in me if you are not willing to respect my right to define who and what I am.
This is the significance of Bechira, “choice”, in the world. If God wanted to He/She could be the best outreach professional in the world, of course. We see that God has designed a world that provides us the dignity of defining ourselves. I think God engages us head on as the person we have chosen to be, for better or for worse, no hidden agenda or manipulation. This is the essence of relationship, and the only way there can be potential for Love, between a person and friend, between a person and God.

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