Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

The Simple Truth

Yisroel Besser

Rabbi Nota Schiller has been in the business of kiruv for the last 40 years, the founder of Ohr Somayach, and a charter member of the baal teshuvah yeshivah movement. While the times have changed, his method has not: give students the truth and everything else follows.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015


Harav Boruch Povarsky of Ponevez Yeshiva gives a shuir on the weekly Torah portion.

“The challenge has always been to serve up truth in a noncondescending and aesthetically provocative manner,” Rabbi Nota Schiller says, offering his mission statement with an unapologetic air, exuding the easy confidence born of experience and success. More than 40 years ago, he was among the founders of the first yeshivah specifically geared to baalei teshuvah. Ohr Somayach went from being a pie-in-the-sky idea to a reality, a very real yeshivah. What would come to be known as the Baal Teshuvah Movement would grow around it. Ohr Somayach graduates would define the evolution of the wider Jewish community, the yeshivah a key setting in the story of the masses returning. The familiar baal teshuvah story line that started on campus or at a club or a shul in Winnipeg or Wichita, London or Los Angeles, often happily ended with “… and today he’s learning in Ohr Somayach.” Seated in a creaky captain’s chair, Rabbi Schiller waits a second too long before continuing. “The truth… it sounds like a cliché, right? Like the coach who instructs the hitter to ‘hit a home run.’ It’s easier said than done. We have a yeshivah. We learn Gemara. B’iyun. That’s truth, and if you start with that, you work backward.

Caption text

The product is in place, and then you just need the right means of transmission, articulate lecturers to predigest enough of what’s to come to motivate the novice to enter the arena.” Last year, an article in this magazine addressed the closing window on the kiruv industry, maintaining that the flood of spiritual seekers has dried up. Like someone whose kid brother had been picked on in a schoolyard fight, Rabbi Schiller strode over with his fists clenched. Kiruv, he wrote in a published response to that article, is alive and well to anyone who cares to look. He opened his essay by quoting Mark Twain, who awoke one morning to find a headline in a local newspaper proclaiming his death. To which Twain responded: “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” Then Reb Nota supplied the statistics to support his argument about the growth of kiruvin recent years. The retort reverberated long and loud. We’re here to continue the conversation.

Related Stories

Ten Ways to Save Water


Water is one of our most precious resources, and it's important to be careful not to waste it. It ma...

The Rabbi Who Makes Succah Calls

Menachem Lichtman

Compared to the extremely intricate halachos of the arba’ah minim, putting up a succah seems downrig...

Tales from the Trails: Africa’s Traveling Rabbi

Shira Yehudit Djlilmand

Officiating at weddings, bar mitzvahs, and funerals. Sheilos on kashrus, arranging supplies for the ...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"