This episode is, in some ways, two distinct podcasts in one: one about outreach, and one about some major spiritual challenges that exist in the Modern Orthodox world.
Many in the Centrist or Modern Orthodox world are uncomfortable with kiruv and outreach; it’s often associated with acting with condescension towards people who are not Orthodox, objectifying people who are not Orthodox, and not acting forthrightly towards people who are not Orthodox. Perhaps most concerning, though, is the suspicion that kiruv professionals act as though they have all the answers, that Orthodoxy is a perfect society, and that we need to reach out because everything within Orthodoxy is basically perfect. Many of us would argue that we need to get our own house in order before convincing other people to join the team.
Rabbi Mark Wildes, though, is one of the rare Modern Orthodox Jews who is deeply involved in, and believes in, kiruv and outreach to unaffiliated and less-affiliated Jews. Scott asked him how he responds to these criticisms of kiruv professionals and organizations, how we should define the real goals of kiruv organizations, and why most kiruv professionals seem to have a Chareidi or Chassidic orientation.
Perhaps even more important, however, was an intense discussion of the problems that Modern Orthodoxy needs to address. Their conversation included a discussion of spiritual anemia, problems that exist in synagogues, the longing – or lack thereof – for the Divine Presence, the differences between experience and intellect in the approach to G-d, how much we should emphasize dogma, and – above all – the need to bring G-d back into the center of our consciousness.
This conversation – again, really two conversations – was fascinating, and should give you food for thought as we enter Elul and the days leading up to the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Join Rabbi Wildes’s WhatsApp group here.
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Music: “Happy Rock” by bensound.com