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Is The Door Closing On Kiruv?

Sara Glaz

Gone are the days when kiruv professionals could pick baalei teshuvah like ripe, red apples. Today’s young Jews are less introspective, more technology obsessed, and less identified with Israel than ever before. Enter the determined mekarev, studied at his art, funded to the brim. But are the students listening?

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

It was Dovid’s first day on the job. The 25-year-old father of one had spent the previous year immersed in kiruv training courses and had conducted a personal study of every lecture by Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb and every book by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan he could find. He wanted to be ready for all the so-called “normal” kiruv questions that students would throw at him — the challenges to the Torah’s account of creation or attempts to disprove Torah by way of evolution. As he stood in front of the small crowd of college students at the University of Kansas, he enthusiastically recited all the reasons why the Torah must be of Divine origin, exactly as he had practiced the night before. He even remembered a favorite joke. “I have a great joke about evolution. Unfortunately, it would take a billion years to explain…” But on this day, the joke would fall flat. One person cracked a half-smile, another let out a barely masked yawn. Whoa, tough audience, he thought to himself.  In fact, for the entire 45 minutes of his presentation, Dovid did not connect with one pair of eyes for more than a minute. Heads stayed down, a few souls stared out of the window, others chatted with a neighbor. A young man, probably around 19 and wearing a Kansas City Royals hat, sat in front, his fingers busily pressing and sliding the buttons on his cell phone. In the third row satMr.Textbook, engrossed in schoolwork.  Finally, reaching the end of his talk and reluctantly accepting defeat, Dovid tepidly asked his audience if there were any questions. No one raised a hand.

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