Here’s the part of what Michael Steinhardt (benevolent dictator of the Birthright world) had to say that jumped out at me as wrongheaded. It’s not a surprise coming from him, but it’s still worth pointing out that he thinks:
While the religion of Judaism is so deeply disappointing – its practice, its verbiage, its inability to reflect realistically upon our lives; I could forgive almost anything vis-à-vis Israel. Israel was and still is my Jewish miracle!
Give me a break, Michael! You’re trying to save the Jewish people with one hand while slapping every even remotely religious Jew across the face with the other hand.
Prayer, tzedakah, holidays and inspiring words of Torah reach (check out my cool statistics here) bazillions of Jews every day. Religion isn’t gonna be the way in for every Jew, but Michael, what makes you think it’s okay for you to announce as an absolute truth, “The religion of Judaism is so deeply disappointing”?
On the contrary, Israel is what’s deeply disappointing for many of us. For me, worries about Israel are the one thing driving me away. (And I spent four months there, not just your little 10-day drinking tour of Tel Aviv).
Bludgeoning young Jews over the head with your my-way-or-the-highway, Israel-is-the-only-way-to-excite-a-young-Jew ideology, you’ll do them the same disservice you accuse the rest of the Jewish world of doing them here:
Anti-Semitism has always been far more mythical than real in America; it’s as if organizations have to create the bogeyman of anti-Semitism in order to raise money.
He also complains about over-emphasizing the Holocaust. Holocaust+Anti-Semitism=a single-minded approach to building Jewish identity similar to Steinhardt’s own obsession with the false idea that trips to Israel are the only way to build a committed Jew.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Every Jewish family in the world can grow their very own committed Jew at home without any outside help. They can do it by simply lighting two candles once a week. BTW, Michael, that practice is one of those things that Jews who practice their “deeply disappointing” religion do.