Feb 26, 2013

Can Kiruv be Quantified?

Dr. Rosmarin, a psychology researcher, therapist and teacher was invited to deliver the keynote address at the AJOP convention.  His presentation is about taking the guesswork out of kiruv. 

For decades now, those in kiruv have been winging it, trying different things, having more and less success. Dr. Rosmarin maintains that social science research can be used to analyze what makes for successful kiruv outcomes.  After all, if we are spending so much money on kiruv, shouldn't we have a way of defining success and doing our best to maximizing it? He says (as reported in Hamodia magazine), "We have no clue what is and is not working because no one has ever tested a set kiruv curriculum or program of any sort, ever."

(Though I thought that the Aish Ha'Torah Discovery seminar gives participants a survey to fill out after they attend the program based on which Aish says that a high percentage of attendees say they will marry a Jew.)

On the one hand, the idea of systematically examining what does and doesn't work in kiruv sounds wonderful.  On the other hand, I wonder whether it can all be quantified.  A program and curriculum can be tested, but not the effects of a Shabbos table, Purim party or Pesach seder experience.

1 comment:

  1. I doubt that it could be qualified. My son is in kiruv and once convinced a man to break the engagement that he had with a non-Jew and to marry a Jewish woman which he did and BH they now have a child. In fact, several couples met at his Chabad house. Others subsequently married Jews but maybe would have married Jews even if they had not come to Chabad. That is why it would be hard to qualify. The student body at his campus is 30% Jewish so it is likely that Jews will meet other Jews at all college events. Some students come from families who have some level of affiliation in the Jewish community so they may belong to congregations and other activities that bring Jews together and facilitate Jewish marriages. Also, how do we measure success? My son once rented a large conference room in a hotel and held Yom Kippur services there for students and faculty. The hotel had a medical convention and one doctor approached my son and said that she had not been to a Yom Kippur service in 40 years but wanted to join his. Of course she was greatly welcomed and she sat through the entire lengthy service. My son never saw her again and has no way of knowing how she observed Yom Kippur after that. How would we qualify that?
    Then there are the dysfunctional types who respond well to all the attentiveness that is bestowed upon them by kiruv professionals and community members but when they join the community, they simply add their dysfunction to the community and eventually community members avoid them. They love to complain about the lack of ahavas Yisroel that they feel entitled to. Their children, if they have them, often become community "projects". They have the same right as other Jews to practice Yiddishkeit but would we call their entrance into frum society a "success"? How do we qualify the entrance of those individuals into the frum community?