Unfortunately, what began as a well-intentioned set of attempts to bring individuals to a life that would be lived in accordance with Orthodox understandings of Torah, led to abuse. Many of these kiruv organizations were deliberately vague in stating their goals. Some insisted that their success stories not only had to become better and more observant Jews, but that they would have to adhere to a subset of practices and beliefs that was unique to a particular minority group within the Orthodox community. Intellectual dishonesty became commonplace, and some of my colleagues even passed along correspondence showing that they were encouraged to misstate facts if it was necessary in order to bring an individual into Orthodoxy. More recently, an individual involved in this type of work stated publicly that he had “made thousands of people religious”, as though one person could “make” another person accept certain beliefs.
Among the other actions I’ve witnessed or heard of are denigration of other groups within Judaism, and even within the relatively small Orthodox community. Modern Orthodox Judaism often receives the scorn of “kiruv professionals”. Some kiruv groups actively discourage adherents from secular education or learning. Other discourage support for the state of Israel. And most seem to encourage followers to disrespect the Reform or Conservative Judaism that, for many of them was what educated them to a point where they would engage with a kiruv organization to begin with.
In short, kiruv work has moved from what could have been a legitimate path to engage and educate Jews, and to bring them closer to the Jewish community, to become part of a sales force designed to sell a particular approach to Judaism and to distance followers from the vast majority of the Jewish community. This needs to end for the sake of k’lal Yisrael, the greater good of the Jewish people.
Arnold Samlan, “The Quite Necessary Death of ‘Kiruv’”, Jewish Connectivity (18 January 2016) [https://arnolddsamlan.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/the-quite-necessary-death-of-kiruv]