There's nothing groundbreaking here, just a few observations on the way kiruv is done, triggered by an article on New Jew.
Last week, New Jew carried a link to a Jewish Federation of San Francisco article about an intermarried woman celebrating both Jewish and Christian December holidays.
New Jew was perturbed by a Federation’s use of its tzedakah dollars to promote an intermarried lifestyle. I am troubled, too, but I see this issue in the context of a greater question: How do we reach out to intermarried couples - or to anyone, really - in a manner that is simultaneously honest, respectful and substantive?
1. Close the door
Some take the tack of closing the door entirely. They refuse to insult the intelligence of the intermarried by pretending to accept them, and they refuse to bend on the issue of acceptance.
The positive side is that they are entirely honest and upfront.
The negative side is that although the occasional Jew is brought home by this ostracism, those are exceedingly rare exceptions.
2. Take the door off the hinges
On the other extreme, some embrace the intermarried and tell them to come as they are, wherever they are, pledging an open heart, open arms and an open mind no matter the sins being embraced.
The positive side is that they give the transgressor every opportunity to repent, on any level - even that of a single mitzvah.
The negative side is that there is usually - although not always - an inherent dishonesty involved in the “openness” pledge. My experience is that many mekarvim who take this approach are not usually sincere about it; they are just taking the path of least resistance into people’s hearts.
3. The revolving door
Then you have the approach of that San Francisco Federation - to openly and honestly accept the intermarried couple where they are, actively and vocally supporting their choices. This is also the approach of the Jewish Outreach Institute, known particularly for their Mothers Circle program.
The positive side is that they are honest in their respect for all choices.
The negative side is this question: What sort of Judaism and Jewish community are we marketing here, if we recognize intermarriage as a choice we will support, and even promote?
4. The door opens and closes, as you choose
And then there’s a fourth approach: Respectful disagreement, delivered with open arms.
By this I mean that the mekarev recognizes the Gd-given right of Free Will, which empowers every human being to make independent decisions.
That doesn’t mean that I agree with or support your choices, just that I respect your right to make them. I can advise you of my own opinion and present my arguments, and you can do the same in return, and either one of us will convince the other or not, but we will emerge with the recognition of each other’s integrity.
The positive side: It’s honest and forthright and accepting, and the mekarev gets to present his point of view.
The negative side: It’s probably more accepting than some would like, and may not have the greatest success because it’s not a hard-sell tactic.
I advocate this fourth approach. It’s anchored in a Torah-based tolerance, as well as a Torah-based sense of responsibility to engage others in discussions of mitzvos and aveiros, so I’m comfortable with it, and it has worked well for me.
As I said, no novelties here; just my musings, triggered by that article.