17 thoughts on “We’re On A Mission from G-d

  1. “Chabad is in town to get everybody to do something good today that they didn´t do yesterday. That´s what we´re here for: To increase the goodness, to increase the mitzvahs, to increase the Jewish awareness.”

  2. Well let me throw the grenade then. I’ve seen more than one instance of Chabad using their “freilachs” and their hospitality and their alcohol to seduce Jews into slowly accepting an ultra-orthodox lifestyle. I’ve seen people go from eating bacon to growing pe’as, from living as secular sfards to singing in Yiddish.
    While keruv is good in principle, the other side of the equation (when Habad is involved) is that these ba’alei t’shuva are distanced from their families and friends, and are only able to speak with a singular mind. They are taught that they have a new familty, a fraternity in the cause of hasidism– and at worst, a Christianesque belief in the Rebbe as messiah. I know firsthand the kind of pain that this distancing causes (even in traditionally Jewish families), and it pisses me off. The fact that Habad is Jewish (except for the factions that engage in Rebbe-based idolotry) does not excuse cult-like practices in their ranks.
    Those of you have gotten a sense of where I stand know that I beleive strongly in the passionate-center, and veering from the golden mean in any direction is dangerous to us all.

  3. Ronen’s comments are fairly ignorant. Are we supposed to believe that each and every one of the baal T’shuvas have been *seduced in to an ultra-orthodox lifestyle (as opposed to a regular ortho lifestyle?) against their will?
    The only sense i have of where Ronen stands is that he took his own beliefs, deemed them the “golden center,” and passed negative judgements on others.
    Perhaps he could learn something from Chabad?

  4. Ronen,
    I’m not sure which Chabadniks you hang with, but I daven, eat, and study with ’em in Vancouver, and they do more for our community than 100 UJA’s and a Reform temple to boot.

  5. You’re right… I was frustrated by the glee, to an extent and probably overgeneralized. Of course not all ba’alei tshuva have been seduced against their will (I’d say never against their will even). Habad does do a lot of good… but a lot of it is misdirected, and there’s a dark side too.
    I don’t hang with many chabadniks at all– I’ve been hurt by the movement, and don’t feel particularly comfortable with them (as a group) generally
    As for my being an arrogant prick… yeah, well…

  6. I’ve been a supporter of Chabad for a long time. The movement does a lot of good things. The biggest problem with it is the lack of accountability. If a rabbi turns people off, there’s really nobody to set him straight. The great thing about Chabad is that there is no difference between the business and the family but this can also be a problem. If the rabbi doesn’t know how to run the business side of things, then his family will suffer. If you criticize the business side, it’s like criticizing the family. A Chabad rabbi cannot be fired so there is little incentive to do better.

  7. Hey!
    I knew Yochanan Friedman back when we were both campers at the Camp Gan Yisroel in St. Paul Minnesota.
    He was a really sweet, down-to-earth boy back then, and it sounds like he still is- and living out his Chabad mission as well!
    Sounds to me like he’s not trying to capture anyone’s soul just open up some possibilities.
    Good for him!

  8. While I have no stats, I will relay this anecdote. On a two day stay in Venice I met up with some chabadniks on a water taxi. With great hospitality they invited me for a free kosher meal at a restaurant in the Jewish quarter… once I was there, they spent a great deal of time trying to convince me that the Rebbe is/was the messiah. At least the food was good.
    Mike, I wish you’d explain what you mean about business vs. family a little more clearly. What’s the business? what’s the family?
    Even the notion that Chabad considers itself a family points to my earlier comment– they often posit themselves as a substitute family for those ba’alei tshuva whose true family remains secular or simply non-hasidic. This is a source of great pain for those families.
    Furthermore– I do feel that there is a cult like aspect to Chabad that extends even beyond those who believe the Rebbe was the messiah. I know a local kosher restaurant that broadcasts “Reb TV” with his speeches on air constantly. I have heard people discuss the miracles he supposedly performed, or the prophetic knowledge he had, ad nauseum. Sounds to me like a cult of personality. It’s one thing to respect a leader for his ideas, values and contributions (say, in the way Carlebach or Rambam are often discussed). The way I’ve seen some people obsess over the Rebbe makes me think that he is the focus of their Judaism– not, say, God or the Torah.

  9. rhonen, having hung around chabad a bit, ill throw in my 2c. like every organization, they have good, better, and a few duds. since theres no central controlling organization, each emissary-family is left pretty much on their own to plant the jewish flag in their area, do outreach, a help judaism and try to carry out the central mission of the group. most of the chabads ive met dont believe the rebbe was the messiah but perhaps close to a prophet; and most ive met genuinely believe their mission is not to turn every jew insto a hassid, but to raise up their level of jewish consciousness. i have met a few teens in the group who are over demanding, but the adults for the most part are sincere, non cultish dogooders. their help to the jewish community and jews in general is spectacular.

  10. I grew up playing at the head Lubavitch Rabbi’s house in my city (I was raised in a ‘conservative’ home). It’s my impression that it’s mainly the Lubavitcher Chasidim who are proponents of the Rav=Moshiach which is the case here.
    They do a lot of good as an organization but like any organization (as stated by others) there are some negatives. At least they provide opportunities for religiously uneducated Jews to learn about Judaism, something we need far more of these days.

  11. Wouldn’t it be amazing if people could learn about Judaism in a setting that is both spiritual (that is, not simply academic) and tolerant of different people’s approaches to the religion?
    I’ve seen it twice. First, growing up, I went to a pluralist Jewish schools– we ranged from orthodox Jews to aetheist Jews, sephards to ashkenazim (even an Ethiopian). And we all learned together and about each other.
    Second, I actually studied with one of the big keruv organizers in J’lem– but I made my intentions explicitly clear (that if he so much suggested that I wear tzitzit or go to a yeshiva, we were done learning), and it worked. I got to study incredibly interesting texts with a learned rabbi, but without the pressure I’ve sensed in other settings.
    I hope we can encourage more of this kind of non-judgmental, community oriented spiritual growth.

  12. Chabad, at least on the West Coast, seems to have an extraordinarily enlightened HR process. People picked to be shluchim are personable and open-minded (e.g. they will count you in the minyan even if you are not shomer shabbos). These talents seem to matter more than business acumen, I am inferring.
    I have heard of one instance of “firing” a shliach, when mixed dancing, rock music, etc. was tolerated in a shul, but this is only third-hand information.
    Also, there seem to be sort of “master franchisors” (such as the head of Chabad of a state or region) that most certainly can discipline younger members and set them straight. I have seem them arbitrate disputes, and sometimes even come down on the side of the congregants, even when against Chabad’s ostensible dogma. For example, I know of one Chabad shul where they allow the “Prayer for the State of Israel,” to accommodate a religious Israeli contingent. Now THAT is open-minded, considering Chabad’s lukewarm feelings about the State in its present state.
    The “Rebbe as the Moshiach” seems to be confined to a small group in Brooklyn that “does not know what to do with their grief” at the Rebbe’s passing, as I have heard one Chabadnik say. I have never heard anyone even bring it up except to ask about its prevalence in a few decades on the West Coast.
    Chabad is the only organization in many cities that visits Jewish prisoners or that will not charge for officiating at a funeral. All organizations have strange or bad apples, but this one seems to do an overwhelming amount of good wherever it goes.
    It is not just for beginners: the Tanya is for the intellectual, and Chabad’s daily Rambam study program isn’t too shabby either.
    The Rebbe may not have been the Moshiach, but was clearly spectacularly tapped into the joy of yiddishkeit, was able to share it, and help many, many Jews find their way back.

  13. ronen, perhaps you can’t see the flaws in your own posts. On one hand, you advocate for “non-judgmental, community oriented spiritual growth,” and in the same breaths you bash Chabad and the orthodox (“that if he so much suggested that I wear tzitzit or go to a yeshiva, we were done learning.”) Why would you find his suggestions so threatening? All you have to do is politely say no thank you. I am not orthodox yet have spent time at Ohr Somayach and Aish and have never had problems. Sure it’s their mission to get people more frum, so what? For some people that is a good path. It may not be for you but that doesn’t make it *wrong*.
    I agree with you about the non-judgemental approach to spiritual growth, but that is a two way street. Just as you expect the Orthos to bend over backwards to accomodate you, you need to give back in kind. I say *you* figurativley because I think your sentiment is representative of a large number of Jews in our community who feel bashing the orthodox in the name of tolerance is somehow healthy or positive.

  14. A joooo: I am in no way advocating bashing the orthodox or harshly judging the orthodox way of practicing Judaism– in fact, I am personally more attracted to traditional rituals than to any of the American liberal streams. In my experience, there is a huge range of “orthodox” practice, and many communities are very open-minded and tolerant.
    In fact, in the situation to which you alluded, I had just such an experience. If you read more closely, you will see that there was mutual respect between myself and my study partner, and I had a great Jewish learning experience.
    I am, though, bashing pressure tactics. Pressure in these settings is usually not explicit or negative in nature. It’s subtle and slow and achieved through lots of partying, and that’s how it succeeds in completely altering a person’s mindset and distancing them from their families and communities.
    The fact that you bring up Aish at all is a tacit acknowledgement that this is what it is happening. I wish more Jews had the self-confidence, and confidence in their belief systems, to allow them to experience these groups in the way you have. I think the only way to get there is with a less dogmatic, less factionalized, more exploratory and more committed Jewish education.

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