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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Closed Communities, NCSY, & Jewish Publishing

Three excellent posts from today that are worth reading... (all quotes are excerpts; emphasis mine)

Cross-Currents' Jonathan Rosenblum on What the Neighbors Say,
This past week I finally found someone who has been studying all these issues and collecting hard data in order to create effective early intervention programs. In the course of our long conversation, he observed that the “drop-out” rates in so-called mixed communities, like Petach Tikva, Rechovot, and Haifa, are dramatically lower than in all chareidi communities, like Kiryat Sefer, Beitar, Elad, and Bnei Brak.

The biggest difference between mixed and homogenous communities is that the former force children to define themselves; their identity is not taken for granted. A close friend who raised half of his children in Tel Aviv and half in Bnei Brak once told me that he felt that the children raised in Tel Aviv had a much deeper sense of themselves as Torah Jews because that identity was reinforced everyday in juxtaposition to the surrounding environment.
BeyondBT's Ron Coleman on Judaica Dreams,
Unfortunately, however, Judaica publishers seem to take their market for granted, for sincerity and even knowledge are not the same as quality... Stuff should not come out in book form until it’s worked over “but good.” It appears, however, that desktop publishing is taken quite seriously in the frum world...

I was doubly disappointed when that same publisher sent out preview pamphlets of a new “learn this at your Shabbos table book” that promised to solve an old problem — finding that broadly age-appropriate devar Torah for the Shabbos seudos. It was beautifully produced, and the promised bound version looked — as all these sets do now — just like an Artscroll Gemora, fake brown pleather and everything. My first hit was not unexpected, but the insult to my intelligence was still a disappointment: I noticed that all the drawn illustrations depicted only men. Men mopping floors; men buying groceries; men baking challos. I don’t know whose chumra this is, but I would say if you can’t make realistic pictures of Shabbos activities undertaken by the people who actually do them, skip the pictures.

and PsychoToddler on NCSY Works.
I was sitting next to the parents of a girl that Fudge had met during her brief involvement in NCSY (the National Conference of Synagogue Youth), and whom she had kept contact with for a short time afterwards. I hadn't heard anything about the girl, who went to Public School, for a few years, and had (to my discredit) already mentally written her off as another casualty of the American Jewish Holocaust.

But somehow, she had managed to stay connected to NCSY, and through this thin thread had found herself in Israel for a year, and now was in Stern College along with my daughter! I was totally floored. I didn't know what to say. ...

We are losing this War of Attrition. The majority of American Jews are marrying outside of the faith, and this means that within a generation or two their descendants will no longer identify themselves as Jews. Our numbers are dwindling. We need kiruv. We need good kiruv, to be sure, honest kiruv, but we need effective kiruv more than anything else. We need to keep the flame burning in these kids. And we need it not only for the non-frum kids in Public School, but for our own kids, who are born ostensibly "frum from birth." We can no longer take for granted that these kids will blindly follow in our footsteps. We need to give them their own reasons for following the path.

We need to show them why we love being Jews.
Amen.

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