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Thursday, October 17, 2019

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In your May 30, 2019, edition Attorney Steven Starr laments the fact that Modern Orthodox institutions have only “dabbled in kiruv.” (“An Argument for Modern Orthodox Kiruv”). As an attorney, Mr. Starr surely knows of the need to define terms. I am not sure how he defines kiruv. Was Yeshiva University (YU) involved in kiruv when it started the James Striar program and then educated thousands of Jewish students to be fully observant Jews as well as communal leaders? Does it likewise engage in kiruv when it sends students from YU and Stern to be part of its Torah Tours programs in various communities, large and small? Was the Orthodox Union (OU) engaged in kiruv when it began NCSY and JLIC on the college campus? Does Mr. Starr know about the work of Torah Leadership Seminars, the role YU student leaders played in SSSJ, the thousands of people world-wide inspired by the Jewish vision laid out by the Rav and hundreds of YU trained rabbis?

If kiruv means inviting people for Shabbos or making a l’chaim with them, it is possible that YU lags behind Chabad and Aish. It is a credit to both organizations that they do what they do. One might say, however, that today’s kiruv workers are resting on the shoulders of the giants. YU and the OU and others did what they did without giving it a name. I will try to do that now; they made Judaism relevant to the modern Jew and proved the experts wrong, who solemnly predicted that Orthodoxy could not make it in the 20th century. They were our “first responders” to the challenge of assimilation and indifference. Mr. Starr suggests that the Modern Orthodox institutions “step into the role” history has set for them. They already have and are primed to do so in the future, as well. Sorry, Mr. Starr I must take strong exception to your analysis, as sincere as it may be.

Rabbi Martin Rosenfeld
Fair Lawn