Orthodox Judaism outreach

Orthodox Judaism outreach
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Orthodox Jewish outreach commonly referred to as Kiruv or Keruv (Hebrew: קירוב‎, "bringing close"), is the collective work or movement of Orthodox Judaism that reaches out to non-Orthodox Jews to believe in God, engage in Torah study, and practice the Mitzvot in the hope that they will live according to Orthodox Jewish law. The process and act/s of any Jew becoming more observant of Judaism is called teshuva ("return" in Hebrew) making the "returnee" a baal teshuva ("master of return"). Orthodox Jewish outreach has always reacted to and worked to foster and enhance the rise of a modern-day baal teshuva movement.



Orthodox Jewish outreach in the modern world is often directly associated with, and may function as a trigger, partner and response to, the modern baal teshuva movement.

Orthodox outreach workers and professionals include activists, rabbis, lay leaders and all kinds of organizations advancing this initiative of "Jewish outreach" mainly based on Orthodox Jewish education some call them "kiruv professionals" or "kiruv workers" as well as "kiruv volunteers."



Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, 6th leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch branch of Hasidic Judaism, and then his successor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson were responsible for turning Chabad's strength and activities toward outreach. Each in turn sent out large numbers of rabbinic emissaries, known as "Shluchim", and their wives to settle in places across the world solely for the purpose of teaching those who did not receive a Jewish education or to inspire those who did. The vehicle chosen for this was termed a "Chabad house."

Chabad has been active in reaching out to Jews through its synagogues, and more direct outreach efforts, such as its Mitzvah tanks. The organization has been recognized as one of the leaders in using free holiday services to reach out across denominations.[1]

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, had a core of dedicated Hasidim who maintained underground yeshivos and mikvaos, and provided shechitah and circumcision services. They served as the rabbis who jump-started the teshuvah movement and had these services in place so that the new baalei teshuva had whom to turn to for their religious questions and needs.

Chabad, with its thousands of Chabad houses throughout Israel and the world, and yeshiva programs for Israelis, Russians, French, and Americans, reach out to thousands. Followers of Chabad can be seen attending to tefillin booths at the Western Wall and Ben Gurion International Airport as well as other public places, and distribute shabbat candles on Fridays. There are also Chabad houses in almost every location that Jews might be located, whether as permanent residents, on business, or tourists.

Chabad rabbis and their families were sent to teach college students, to build day schools, and to create youth camps. Most of these were geared towards their secular or less religious brethren. Additionally, unmarried rabbinical students spend weeks during the summer in locations that do not yet have a permanent Chabad presence, making housecalls, putting up mezuzot, teaching Judaism, and simply reminding people that they are Jewish.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson initiated the first Yeshiva for baalei teshuva (returnees to Torah observance), Hadar Hatorah, and a parallel seminary for female returnees (baalos teshuva), Machon Chana. He also initiated the first Jewish children's movement, Tzivos Hashem (lit. "Army [of] God"), for under bar/bat mitzvah-age children, to inspire them to increase in study of Torah and observance of mitzvot. Rabbi Schneerson also encouraged the use of modern technology in outreach efforts such as Mitzva tanks, which are mobile homes that travel a city or country. The Chabad website, Chabad.org, a pioneer of Torah, Judaism outreach on the Internet, was started by Rabbi Yosef Y. Kazen and developed by Rabbi D. Zirkind.

In addition, nearly 7000 people a year visit Chabad's Ascent of Safed, which is a combination recreation center, Jewish youth hostel, and religious retreat that exposes Jews to Judaism, particularly the mystical aspect of it.

In June 1994 Rabbi Schneerson died leaving no successor. Since then more than a thousand couples have gone out to do outreach work, bringing the total of "shluchim" to four thousand worldwide.

Non-Hasidic Haredi yeshivos

The late 1960s and early 1970s saw the founding of the non-Hasidic, Haredi institutions that eventually became the Aish HaTorah, Ohr Somayach, and Machon Shlomo yeshivas.

Aish HaTorah has had notable success. Besides its main Jerusalem campus, where it has accorded rabbinic ordination to 200 students, it has 27 educational branches on five continents, staffed by student-graduates. More than 100,000 people attend its seminars, singles events, executive learning groups, Shabbat and holiday programs, and beginner-style synagogue services each year.[2] The Aish HaTorah website, which receives over 2 million hits per month, features articles, videos and audio segments on spirituality, parenting, dating, weekly Torah portion, Holocaust studies, an "Ask the Rabbi" service, and political articles.

Ohr Somayach has also played a major role in the baal teshuva movement through its education of generations of students. Besides its main campus in Jerusalem, the yeshiva has 10 branches overseas, based in Canada, England, United States, South Africa and Australia. The yeshiva's rabbinical training course, Ohr Lagolah, graduates rabbis to lead communities in the Diaspora. Ohr Somayach also maintains a website featuring articles and online digital classes for free download, covering a full range of topics in Torah study and Jewish philosophy and practice.

Modern practice

Within Modern Orthodox Judaism, the Union of Orthodox Congregations created the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY) to reach Jewish teenagers in public schools. Founded by Rabbi Pinchas Stolper, himself a noted charismatic speaker and writer, the movement also developed its in-house literature geared to the newly observant mainly written by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. In addition, many Modern Orthodox professors have developed and used a sophisticated modern terminology to present Judaism in a scientific manner. Their books on Jewish sciences are the most readily accessible.

In 1987, an organization called National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP) was founded. Headed by a leading outreach rabbi, Ephraim Buchwald, in the first fifteen years of its existence it had managed to create, co-ordinate and guide thousands of volunteer teachers and tens of thousands of Jewish adults. They participated in programs advertised via the mass media and taught at Reform, Conservative and Orthodox synagogues, as well as Jewish non-religious organizations, such as Jewish Community Centers.

Using mass marketing techniques, NJOP have won the support of major Jewish philanthropists, and an ever widening audience by advertising via the media for the Crash Course in Hebrew Reading, Crash Course in Judaism and other programs.

Finally, outreach professional have been convening national conventions to bring together the professional outreach workers with leading Orthodox rabbis. The Association for Jewish Outreach Professionals (later renamed The Association for Jewish Outreach Programs) (AJOP) was founded in 1988 and is based in Baltimore, Maryland.


Association for Jewish Outreach Programs

The Association for Jewish Outreach Professionals (AJOP) was established in 1987 to unite and enhance the work of outreach rabbis and their wives. AJOP is led by prominent rosh yeshivas and is not affiliated with Chabad.

Jewish Enrichment Center

The Jewish Enrichment Center (JEC) located in Manhattan's Greenwich Village works to develop a downtown Jewish community in New York. As the official alumni center for the Birthright Israel Alumni of the New York Metro area, the center services young Jewish New Yorkers. The center is run by Matt Mindell.

Manhattan Jewish Experience

The Manhattan Jewish Experience (MJE) is a program for young Jewish professionals in New York City with little or no background in Judaism which provides Jewish content in a social context. This program was started in 1998 by Rabbi Mark Wildes. MJE has locations in Murray Hill, the Upper West Side, and the Upper East Side.

Boca Raton Jewish Experience

The Boca Raton Jewish Experience (BRJE) is an aggregator of nationally-developed educational programs servicing Palm Beach County. BRJE has classes for people of all ages and interests including those with little or no Jewish background. The program was developed by Rabbi Josh Broide with the support of Rabbi Efrem Goldberg of the Boca Raton Synagogue. Goldberg and Broide also collaborated on two outreach projects called Jewish Pride Films and Jewish Pride Radio.

The Ma'aynei Hayeshua Kiruv Movement

The Ma'aynei Hayeshua Kiruv Movement is a Religious Zionist outreach movement in Israel founded by Avichay Buaron and Religious Zionist rabbis in 2000. The organization's main activity is utilizing "street-kiruv" methods in order to build participants, making Orthodox Judaism accessibile to the secular Israeli.[3] Activities include: production and distribution of literature and music; matching learning partners (chavruta); weekly activities; street stands throughout Israel on Fridays; a year-round Outreach Training School; two 24/7 "Bayit Yehudi" Outreach Centers of Jewish Activity; a yeshiva for Ba'alei Teshuva; and a weekly magazine with an estimated circulation of 70,000.  

Jewish women

United States

One of the earliest pioneers of outreach to men and women is Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, the founder of the international Hineni movement in America. A Holocaust survivor, she has made it her life's mission to bring back Jews to Orthodox Judaism. She has written popular books and made tapes. Another notable pioneer of women's Orthodox outreach education is Rebbetzin Leah Kohn founder of the Jewish Renaissance Center (JRC) in New York. Rabbi Lawrence Keleman - a teacher at Neve Yerushalayim has been teaching classes and written books aimed at the Baal Teshuvah population. His Essays "Permission to Believe” and “Permission to Receive” provide information on the case for believing in God and believing the Torah was give to Moses at Mount Sinai respectively.


  • Neve Yerushalayim, founded in 1970 in Jerusalem, is an Orthodox school for secular Jewish women seeking a college-level introductory program. Its founder and guiding dean is Rabbi Dr. Dovid Refson. Mrs. Tzipporah Heller is an extremely popular teacher who has inspired thousands of women.
  • EYAHT College of Jewish Studies for Women, a subsidiary of Aish HaTorah, was founded in Jerusalem in 1982 by Rebbetzin Denah Weinberg, wife of Aish HaTorah founder and rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Noah Weinberg. It offers full-day classes for beginners through advanced, and has graduated hundreds of students. Aish HaTorah also operates "Jewel", a 3½-week introductory program for young women; "Gem", a 10-day program of learning and touring for women over 30; and the Executive Learning Center, a short-term, customized learning program for men and women.
  • Machon Chana of Crown Heights (founded 1972), Bais Chana Women International (formerly of Minnesota), Machon Alte of Safed, and Mayanot seminary for woman in Jerusalem, are Lubavitch women's yeshivos which have taught thousands of Jewish women who are beginners in their knowledge of Judaism.

Day schools

Torah Umesorah: The National Society for Hebrew Day Schools was founded by Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz. It is an American Orthodox organization which has opened hundreds of day schools and provides resources to many different Orthodox Jewish day schools. It has an outreach effort called Partners In Torah whereby volunteer Orthodox men and women learn on the phone for an hour a week with a non-Orthodox study-partner. A similar program is called Jnet. Torah Umesorah also sponsors the SEED Program whereby young Yeshiva students spend a few weeks during their summers teaching, this is similar to the Chabad Lubavitch "peace corps" which are Yeshiva-student pairs that visit remote Jewish communities over the summers to help develop Jewish communities by teaching.

Publishers of English literature

English, Russian, French and other translations of classical rabbinic literature and modern Jewish works are crucial to the growth and popularity of the Ba'al teshuva Movement. Some of the most important publishers include:

  • Kehot Publications, which is the publishing wing of the Chabad Lubavitch movement, has been publishing basic Jewish texts, and Chasidic works since 1941.
  • Mesorah Publications, publishers of the ArtScroll series, including the Shottenstein English translation of the Talmud.
  • Feldheim Publishers, which offers a mixture of classical texts and lighter literature.
  • Merkos Publications, books on every subject
  • Herman Branover's SHAMIR publishes all kinds of Jewish books in Russian. A team of translators and editors have produced the Pentateuch with commentaries, the Code of Jewish Law, and writings of Maimonides and Yehuda Halevy, Machzorim etc.
  • Jason Aronson (sold to Rowman & Littlefield), which publishes texts from rabbis of all Jewish denominations.
  • Verdier in France published classical Jewish texts.
  • Targum Press
  • Ktav


The following lists are not meant to be definitive, they are just a sampling of prominent personalities mainly in Israel and America.

First generation

  • Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1864–1935). Chief rabbi of the British Mandate of Palestine and also regarded symbolically by the latter State of Israel as its first chief rabbi as well. He was steeped in Kabbalah, Talmud, and philosophy. He was regarded as a guide to the Mizrachi Religious Zionist movement, and an advocate of urgent Jewish emigration (aliyah), to then Palestine before the Holocaust. He won much trust of the secular Jewish leadership in London, Europe, and Palestine, and argued that a warm and positive outlook to the secular pioneers (halutzim) would win loyalty and greater respect for Orthodox Judaism.
  • Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902–1994). The seventh Rebbe of Chabad Lubavitch hasidism. He established a vast international educational, outreach, and community-building movement. In over 40 years, he inspired about 5,000 young men and women to become rabbis and rebbitzins (a name for a rabbi's wife) as his personal emissaries all over the world, with the goal of exposing and attracting non-religious Jews towards Judaism, as well as opening schools, mikvehs, synagogues, yeshivahs, etc. This campaign has had notable success, as a large portion of Lubavitch hasidim today are baalei teshuvah or children of baal teshuva parents. After Schneerson's death in 1994 his hassidim continue his work and hundreds of new emissaries continue to leave for even the remotest places.
  • Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner (1906–1980). The late Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn and student of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook. Moulder of many Orthodox rabbis in America. Author of Pachad Yitzchok ("Fear [of] Isaac"). Arriving in New York in the 1930s, he attracted many young men and influenced them to study Talmud intensively in his "Chaim Berlin yeshiva". Many of them eventually became scholars and leaders of Orthodoxy active in education (chinuch) and outreach (kiruv). He developed a unique Jewish philosophy combining mysticism, ethics, Talmud, hasidic thought, and Jewish law. His daughter, Bruria Hutner David (b. 1936-), obtained a Ph.D. from Columbia University and became the dean of Bais Yakov of Jerusalem ("BJJ"), an influential seminary for Orthodox women. In the 1970s he moved to Jerusalem and established a new yeshiva called Pachad Yitzchok.
  • Rabbi Avigdor Miller. Congregational rabbi, one of the first writers of books on Jewish philosophy for today's seeker, and former mashgiach ruchani ("spiritual supervisor") in Rabbi Hutner's Chaim Berlin yeshiva in Brooklyn. Renowned for his over 2,500 taped lectures disseminated amongst, and influencing, many Jews; religious and non-religious alike.
  • Rabbi Henoch Lebowitz. Head of the Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim: Rabbinical Seminary of America with its graduates, branches and schools all over the United States. Unique in that his yeshiva combines a maximal focus on becoming a deep scholar, together with a strong focus on outreach and reaching non-observant Jews. There are currently fifteen affiliates, including outreach centers and yeshivos, across the US and Canada with two more in Israel.

Second generation

Haredi (non-Hasidic)



  • Rabbi Shlomo Cunin. Prominent leader of Chabad activities in California. Directed the first Chabad House.
  • Rabbi Manis Friedman. Notable Chabad thinker and lecturer. Dean of an important women's seminary for newly-religious women.
  • Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner. Pioneer and builder of the Melbourne Australian Jewish community through Jewish outreach activities.
  • Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky. Roving Chabad rabbi and noted speaker. Directs development of the global Chabad-Lubavitch emissary network.
  • Rabbi Shimon Lazaroff. Head Shliach for Chabad Lubavitch in Texas and executive board member of Agudas Chasidei Chabad.

Hasidic (non-Chabad)

  • Rabbi Nachman Bulman. Pioneer educator, orator, author, translator, and builder of Jewish communities in America and Israel; later a dean of Yeshivas Ohr Somayach.
  • Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb. A baal teshuva himself and a Bostoner Hasid, author and lecturer at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach.
  • Rabbi Oded Nitzani, a baal teshuva for over 30 years, heads the Sde Tzofim Yeshiva and community in Beitar under the guidance of the Amshinover Rebbe.

Modern Orthodox and Religious Zionist

  • Rabbi Dov Begon. Founder of Machon Meir in Jerusalem, Israel. Machon Meir is the veteran Jewish outreach yeshiva that specializes in teaching the Religious Zionist philosophy of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook.
  • Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald. Founder of NJOP, National Jewish Outreach Program.
  • Rabbi Shlomo Riskin. Founder of the outreach Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan, Chief Rabbi of Efrat,Israel, and Dean of Ohr Torah Stone Institutions, Israel.
  • Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira. Founder and Rosh Yeshiva of the Ramat Gan Hesder Yeshiva, its satellite outreach yeshiva, Aish Kodesh, and multiple weekly kiruv programs. Rabbi Shapira is one of the pioneers of organized kiruv in the Religious Zionist yeshiva community in Israel.


The following belong to all or some of the above, or may have been part of all or some or the above, or became known as not belonging to only one denomination of Orthodox Judaism':
  • Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. The "Singing Rabbi", composer and performer of many now-popular Jewish religious songs.
  • Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. Translator of Torah literature into modern English, notably The Living Torah and Nach, and author of booklets and books used for both introductory and in-depth presentations of Judaism.

See also


  1. ^ Fishkoff, Sue. "‘Praying without paying’ becoming a more popular option among shuls", Texas Jewish Post. Accessed September 22, 2007. "Many people credit Chabad-Lubavitch with spearheading the movement for free holiday services across the denominational spectrum."
  2. ^ http://www.aish.com/aishint/wwprogram.asp Aish Branches.
  3. ^ www.mykiruv.org/kiruv

External links

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