Thursday, December 20, 2012

Two Cheers for Chabad (or, When the Missionaries Came Knocking)

When David started public school in first grade I decided not to sign him for the Chabad-run release time program that takes Jewish kids out of public school one hour a week. I admit that I'm not fond of Chabad for a number of reasons and this largely informed my decision. But I also knew that David would get nothing out of it and I didn't see a purpose in pulling him out school for it.

Last year I changed my mind. I don't remember exactly why I consented to send him to release time--and it may have followed on David's entreaties to go so he too could get prizes and extra nosh every Wednesday. I also decided that even though he wouldn't benefit knowledge-wise--he could probably even teach these classes--, it wouldn't kill him to be exclusively with Jewish kids for an hour and to have fun in a Jewish-themed environment.

I'm still not fond of Chabad, but I have to give credit where credit is due. The MO world is completely silent and apathetic when it comes to providing even the smallest morsels of chinuch to these kids. Why aren't YU, the OU, YI, local shuls, etc. involved in release time or other programming for unaffiliated public school kids? Who collapsed our wide tent? Why has institutional MO written off the rest of the Jewish world to Chabad? I know there are many non-Orthodox Jews who will always look to Chabad as representative of authentic Judaism, but surely there are also many to whom MO could better appeal with a common language, world view, etc.

Anyway, back to David. Last week (Chanukah) the Kinneret called me up one night and told me to hurry home because David's release time teachers were on the way to the house to bring jelly donuts. Shortly after I arrived home these two missionaries* knocked at the door and sat with us for fifteen minutes of story telling, dreidel games, etc. (*I can't think of a better designation for them missionaries, and I don't use the word here with any of its usual negative connotations.)

And then next week, during the school break, David is attending a Chabad winter camp for public school kids.

Most of this is 100% free. There is no nominal fee, or a regular fee that they waive upon request. Money never enters the equation. (Ok, there is very reasonable fee for the winter camp.)

So a shkoyach and two cheers for Chabad. For giving a damn.

Update: We were very impressed with the camp. Door-to-door transportation, hot breakfast and lunch, activities, sports and daily trips. (Capped with the requisite pilgrimage to 770, which thrilled David.) Four days of this for $90!?  


Laurie said...

Chabad steps in where there's a Jewish void (I'm not saying anything about your house, but for the majority of the American Jewish community, that's the only word that describes what's happening).

They have their little issues, like anyone, but in general, in the Jewish world, there's no one as committed to just helping Jews be Jewish as Chabad.

Abba said...


i see some of their issues as more that just little issues (and i'm not even referring to the mashiach business), but i can't disagree with the assertion that "there's no one as committed to just helping Jews be Jewish as Chabad." thanks for visiting