Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cult Busting

I do not know how many of you saw the response from Confessions from the Sandwich Generation to my post this past Sunday, 8/19. (By the way, do yourself a favor and check out her BLOG about caring for both children and aging parents, it is well worth the visit).

In her response she talks about sponsoring a “Cult Buster” to come to their Hebrew High School. The speaker was a Rabbi but when he was first introduced to the students, he was introduced as a speaker from Jew for Jesus. Only after making his presentation from that side and leaving was the Rabbi introduced, to give the kids a different perspective and they were shocked to see the same speaker come out. This is when they learned he was not really a member of J-F-J.

I think a presentation like this is wonderful and there are a number of things about her response that I like. I like the fact that the students got worked up when the speaker came out (when they thought he was a member of J-F-J). I like the fact that they tried to counter some of his “outrageous and false” claims. I even like the fact that when he came out in his suit and let them know he was a Rabbi and a deprogrammer that the kids felt angry. It is more the indifference and ignorance that scares me and here the students had very strong feelings.

Years ago, when I was in college, the Newman Center had a table set up in the student union, trying to make students more aware of the organization. I have no problem with that. I was involved with Jewish organizations on campus and would sometimes sit at “our” tables. We had interesting dialogue with the students representing Newman Center and even talked about doing a joint program.

One day, however, I noticed on their table some literature that had a Star of David. Thinking it was something promoting inter-religious discussions and respect, I picked it up. It was put out by Jews for Jesus. One of the students at the Newman Center table told me how this was an interesting group as they were a group of Jews that had found the Messiah, had found Jesus. The lack of knowledge and understanding they had for what this group was, frightened me. My dealings with the Newman Center were greatly diminished after this.

I have always tried to teach my son (now nine years old) that we, as Jews, should enjoy our customs and traditions and we should enjoy sharing them with others (Jews and non-Jews) but not look to force them on others or think any less of others who do not follow our customs. We should help others enjoy the fact that we enjoy our traditions. Likewise, we should enjoy other people (Jews and non-Jews) enjoying their customs and traditions. It is fun watch, to be an outsider, but just because we enjoy seeing others perform them, it does not mean it is the right thing for us.

To bring this down to its lowest common denominator, we can go out and look at other people who have put up Christmas lights and decorations. We can enjoy how important these customs are to them. But, these are not our customs and traditions. We should be respectful of them and they should be respectful of us.

Unfortunately, when it comes to cults, they are not respectful of others and we need to be very careful and cautious of them.

A big Thank You to Confessions from the Sandwich Generation for getting me to blog on this topic.


Confessions from the sandwich generation said...

I'm blushing from the compliments! Here's another twist--as tolerant and respectful as my grown and semi-grown up daughters are towards non-Jewish religions, I have found on occasion that they can be a bit snarky in attitude towards another Jewish demonination such as Reform. It usually happens when they attend a bar or bat mitzvah, and observe the reduced role and responsibilities the bar/bat mitzvah has in the service compared to their own major participation in our Conservative b'nai mitzvahs. The ironic part of this is that you could easily call all of us "lapsed Conservatives" in terms of strict observance. I suppose this is not dissimilar to the infighting that goes on in Israel within our community.

The Adjunct Professor said...

No need to blush, the compliments are all well deserved.

As for your comments, this is a response that could lead to numerous posts on my part. As I indicated in my very first post, I am an eclectic mix of my Surroundings. My father was a Reform Rabbi and my mother published Jewish Children's text books. I went to a Conservative Hebrew School (and Hebrew High School), My sister and her family are Orthodox. When I was in college, I looked to get off campus on Shabbos and it was the Orthodox and Hasidic (Chabad) communities that would put me up. I am currently a member of a Conservative synagogue.

I believe it takes all segments working together. We are so good at destroying each other when what we should be doing is building each other up (Why do I think I'm preaching to the choir here).

I do not agree with people who claim to be Reform, thinking this is a way they can stay Jewish in name without having any responsibilities. All forms of Judaism require practice, observance and responsibility. If I really got on a soapbox, I would talk about how the branches really differ in philosophy, not in practice. (It is my belief a Reform Jew can observe 613 and still be Reform and an Orthodox Jew can observe zero and still be Orthodox).

To me, the most rewarding service I ever saw was a tashlich service where the Reform Rabbi of the community and the Orthodox Rabbi of that community, did a joint ceremony for members of both congregations.

I agree it is so interesting how we as Jews relate to one another and how sometimes we are more tolerant of others than of ourselves.

By the way, my nine year old will do the same thing and criticize other Jews who observe less or differently than we do. I guess it is a never ending battle.

Thanks for your comments. You are very thought provoking and I always enjoy reading your responses (and your blog posts)

Anonymous said...

The lack of knowledge and understanding you have for what this group is, saddens me.

The fact that the "anti-missionary" played the missionary shows the source of your one-sided understanding.

Your bad.

The Adjunct Professor said...


I am not quite sure of your point and if it is directed at me or at "Confessions". Still, it appears you are suggesting that someone from Jews for Jesus should have truly been invited to present the "opposing" viewpoint. If that is your message, here is my take:

You are absolutely CORRECT!! I would not, in any situation, look to give a speaker from Jews for Jesus, or any other cult, a forum to speak, an opportunity to spread their DANGEROUS and VENOMOUS MISINFORMATION!!

To suggest that a member from this group should truly be invited to voice a "different" viewpoint is like suggesting when a police officer comes to grade school to tell children how to protect themselves from kidnappers and pedophiles, the school should invite a pedophile or kidnapper to come down as well as present the opposing viewpoint. That is absurd!

Your Bad!

A different anonymous said...

Way to go, professor. It's always inspiring to see someone be completely open and honest about their own closemindedness and intolerance. I applaud you on being direct about it, as well as admitting that you're not interested in anyone knowing truth -- just your version of it.