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Baal teshuva

The term Baal Teshuva, or Chozrei BeTeshuva, refers to a return of a Jewish person to a Jewishly observant lifestyle. It is sometimes colloquially referred to as "Born-Again Judaism", because of its revivalistic aspects; however, the term is not correct, as Jewish theology rejects the idea that a return to Judaism "saves" a person from damnation.

Within Orthodox Judaism the term baal teshuva is refers only to those Jews who choose to affiliate with Orthodox Judaism; Orthodoxy generally does not recognize the validity of any denomination of Judaism other than itself. Outside of Orthodoxy this term has a wider use, and can refer to any formerly non-observant Jew who returns to more traditional and observant form of Judaism.

Table of contents
1 Origin of the movement
2 In Russia (Former USSR)
3 In Israel
4 Orthodox Jewish outreach organizations
5 Publishers of English Outreach Literature
6 Orthodox rabbis in Kiruv
7 External Links

Origin of the movement

Appearing in the 1960s, a growing number of young Jews who had previously been raised in non-religious homes in the U.S.A. started to develop a strong interest in becoming a part of observant Judaism; many of these people, in contast to sociological expectations, became attracted to observant Judaism within Orthodoxy or Conservative Judaism.

This trend was partly related to the prevailing counter-culture, anti-establishment atmosphere of the 1960s. Among those seekers who were willing to experiment with alternate 'liberated' life-styles were hip young men and women who thought it was 'cool' to experiment with Sabbath observance, intensive prayer, and deeper Torah and Talmud study. A great many of these people temporarily adopted a fully Orthodox Jewish way of life, and although many eventually "dropped out" of Orthodox Judaism per se, many of these people did stay within Orthodox Judaism. Many others found their path within Conservative Judaism.

In Russia (Former USSR)

This baal teshuva movement also appeared in the former Soviet Union, which at that time had almost completely secularized its Jewish population. The rise of Jewish pride came in response to the growth of the State of Israel, in reaction to the USSR's pro-Arab and anti-Zionist policies, and in reaction to the USSR's anti-Semitism. The return to Judaism movement was a spontaneous movement from the ground up; it came as a great surprise to the Soviet authorities, and even to the Jewish community outside of the USSR. Two of the young leaders were Yosef Mendelevich and Eliyahu Essas, now both prominent rabbis actively teaching other Russian emigres in Israel.

The Israeli victory of the Six Day War in 1967 ignited the pride of Jews in Russia. Suddenly there were hundreds of thousands of Jews that wanted to go to Israel, although they dared not express their desire too openly. Several thousand applied for exit visas to Israel and were instantly ostracised by government organs including the KGB. Many hundreds became 'refuseniks', willing to suffer jail time to demonstrate their new-found longing for Zion. In the middle of this there arose a new interest and longing for a learning about and practicing Judaism, an urge that the Communist government had long attempted to stamp out.

Many Russian Jews began to study any Jewish texts they could lay their hands on. Foreign rabbis came on visits in order to teach how to learn Torah and how to observe Jewish law. Now there is a rich resource of Russian religious texts that flourishes, and caters to Russian Jews living in Russia, America, and Israel. In Israel, the euphoria of the 1967 Six Day War victory was interpreted even by some secular Jewish Israelis as a miracle.

In Israel

During this time there was a movement among secular Jewish Israelis that essentially was a search for spirituality. At the time, most Israeli parents were secular Zionists. While some Jews were hostile to traditional Judaism, a spiritual quest in the 1960s and 1970s caused some Israelis to seek answers in Jewish tradition.

In Israel, schools for the intensive study of Torah have been flourishing especially designed for the newly religious students who want to devote quality time to intensive study of classical texts with the ancient rabbinic commentaries. These schools opened in the early 1970s, mainly based in Jerusalem. Two significant institutions have been the Aish HaTorah Yeshiva headed by Rabbi Noach Weinberg, and the Ohr Somayach Yeshiva headed by Rabbi Nota Schiller. Both of these rabbis have degrees from American universities and are well able to speak to the modern mind-set.

Orthodox Jewish outreach organizations

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, leader of the Chabad (Also known as Lubavitch) Hasidic Judaism movement, was responsible for turning Chabad's stregth and activities towards outreach. He trained a large number of rabbinic emissaries who carried Chabad's understanding of Judaism across the world. 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.

Within Modern Orthodox Judaism, the Union of Orthodox Congregations created the National Conference of Synagogue Youth NCSY to reach Jewish teenagers in public schools. Headed 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 1987 an organization called National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP) was founded. Headed by a leading dynamic Outreach rabbi, Ephraim Buchwald in the first 15 years of its existenace 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 advertize via the media for the Crash Course in Hebrew Reading, Crash Course in Judaism and other programs. Headed by Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald they have won the support of major Jewish philanthropists, and an ever widening audience.

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

Orthodox Jewish outreach to women

Traditionally, Orthodox Judaism has not regarded the education of women as a priority. In the area of study, women were traditionally exempted - and often banned - from any study beyond a basic understanding of the Torah, and the rules necessary in running a Jewish household. Women were discouraged from learning Talmud and other advanced rabbinic Jewish texts.

One of the first major breaks with the traditional role of women came from the Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir HaKohen (1838-1933). He overruled the traditional prohibitions against advanced training of women on the basis that times have changed, and that in the modern world it is now important for women to have an advanced Jewish education. Soon after this, the Bais Yaakov network of Orthodox Torah schools for women was built.

One of the earliest pioneers of outreach to men and woman is 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.

At recent conferences on Feminism and Orthodox Judaism, a small but growing group of liberal Modern Orthodox Jewish activists have proposed that it may be acceptable for women to become Orthodox rabbis. Until recently, this was considered an impossible goal. In recent years a small butgrowing number of Modern Orthodox rabbis have opined that women can take on many of the roles of a rabbi, and that some form of rabbinical-like ordination for women is possible. A few rabbi-like positions for Orthodox women have been created, but none grant the title "rabbi", and the Orthodox community is at best ambivalent on this issue.

Even at the flagship institution of Modern Orthodoxy, Yeshiva University, some Talmud teachers, basing themselves on accepted sources in Jewish law, publicly denounced the concept of women praying together in a women's prayer group. However, newly inspired Jewish women tend to enjoy seeking out intimate Orthodox congregations where they can enjoy services in traditional fashion. Orthodox rabbinic authorities reject the idea of ordaining women as rabbis, as they feel that this is an unacceptable deviation from tradition, and detracts from the more immediate goals which are central to the Orthodox emphasis of traditional family values, and a family life devoted to closer to home worries such as raising a family, finding suitable spouses for children ,and supporting a large network of Orthodox educational and charitable causes at home and abroad.

Neve Yerushalayim, founded in 1970, is an Orthodox school for secular Jewish women seeking a college level introductory program Neve Yerushalayim College has a campus in Jerusalem. Its founder and guiding Dean is Rabbi Dr. Dovid Refson.

Orthodox Jewish Day Schools

Torah Umesorah: The National Society for Hebrew Day Schools, is an American Orthodox organization; it provides resources to many different Orthodox Jewish day schools. It has as outreach effort called Partners in Torah. The method is to learn on the phone for an hour where it is not possible to do so in person. Torah Umesorah also sponsors the SEED Program whereby young religious from birth Yeshiva students spend a few weeks during their summers learning with people in communities with those who are less educated.

Publishers of English Outreach Literature

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

Orthodox rabbis in Kiruv

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik. Former Rosh Yeshiva, (akin to Dean), of RIETS, the Rabbi Isaac Elchonan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University. Defacto leader of Modern Orthodoxy in America, a leader in Mizrachi (the Religious Zionists of America) and the RCA, Rabbinical Council of America.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Last Rebbe of Chabad Lubavitch hasidim. He oversaw a vast international educational, outreach, community-building movement. In over 40 years, he trained several thousand, about 5,000 young men and women to become rabbis and rebbetzins (rabbi's wife) as his personal emissaries all over the world, with the goal of attracting non-religious Jews towards a more intense religious life, hoping for them to become Lubavitch Hasidim in the process.

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook. The first modern Chief Rabbi of pre-State Israel in Palestine. Mystic, Talmudist,Philosopher, and adroit politician. Guide to the Mizrachi Religious Zionist movement. Advocate of urgent Jewish emigration ,Aliyah, to then Palestine before the Holocaust. Perfected the art of winning the trust of the secular Jewish leadership in London, Europe, and Palestine. His warm and positive outlook to the secular pioneers,halutzim,won their loyalty to him, and to greater respect for Orthodox Judaism.

Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner. The late Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin. 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 man and influenced them to study Talmud in his 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 law. His daughter, Bruria Hutner David, obtained a Ph.D. from Columbia University and became the dean of Bais Yakov of Jerusalem, "B.Y.Y" reaching many young women. In the 1970s he moved to Jerusalem and built a new yeshiva called Pachad Yitzchok.

Rabbi Yakov Yitzchok Ruderman. Founder and Rosh Yeshiva of NIRC Ner Israel Rabbinical College, Baltimore, Maryland.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller. Writer and spokesman for Ultra-Orthodox Judaism in America.

Rabbi Noah Weinberg. Head of AISH Aish HaTorah International and Jerusalem Fellowships.

Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz. Founder of Torah Umesorah National Society for Hebrew Day Schools,leader of the flagship Yeshiva Torah Vodaath .

Rabbi Henoch Lebowitz. Rosh Yeshiva of Rabbinical Seminary of America : Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim and graduates.

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 Ephraim Buchwald. Founder of NJOP, National Jewish Outreach Program.

Rabbi Pinchas Stolper. Founder and builder of the Orthodox Union's NCSY youth outreach division.

Rabbi Berel Wein. Author of Orthodox Jewish history books, and an unofficial spokesman for the Orthodox viewpoint in the Jewish media.

'Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld. Founder and Rosh Yeshiva of Shor Yoshuv the first serious full-time American yeshiva geared to newly observant Jewish young men.

Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. The "Singing Rabbi", composer and performer of many now-popular Jewish religious songs.

Rabbi Nachman Bulman. Pioneer educator, orator, author, translator, and builder of Jewish communities in America and Israel

Full time Yeshivot for Ba'alei Teshuva in the USA

Yeshiva Ohr Somayach of Monsey,Upstate New York. Yeshiva Kol Yaakov of Monsey, Upstate New York. Yeshiva Hadar HaTorah of Lubavitch, Brooklyn,New York. Yeshiva Shor Yoshuv Far Rockaway, New York.

See also: Judaism Kollel [[

External Links


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