Friday, February 21, 2020

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I applaud the intentions of Steven Starr, “If I Am Only for Myself, Who Am I? An Argument for Modern Orthodox Kiruv” (May 30, 2019), but his solution is sadly incomplete. He proposes that modern Orthodoxy has a much better ability to attract the masses of secular or assimilated Jews back to Judaism, than the more yeshivish/right-wing Orthodox organizations or Chabad, because modern Orthodoxy is more similar in lifestyle and culture to non-religious Jews and would make an easier transition.

His inadequate solution calls for our organizations, such as Yeshiva University, the OU, Young Israel, etc., to reprioritize and increase resources towards outreach.

But saving Jews, bringing Jews back to Judaism is the obligation of every one of us! “If I am only for myself, what am I?” as Mr. Starr entitled his article, is a lesson to each of us, not organizations. Every Jew has friends, family members, coworkers, neighbors that we can help influence in some way.

Buy a subscription to a Jewish newspaper for a relative. Give a gift of a book by Rabbis Jonathan Sachs or Mark Wildes to a friend. Volunteer to teach with Partners in Torah. Give a charity box to a coworker. Buy a mezuzah for someone getting married. Know what to answer when someone comments on our “silly” rituals. Give Mishloach Manot on Purim, not to an Orthodox friend, but to someone who doesn’t observe, explaining the message of Purim and ethical responsibility. At a graduation party, add some Torah while toasting the graduate. Invite someone for a Shabbat dinner. Remember what Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald said, “For the price of a chicken, you can save a Jew.”

Martin Polack