Kiuns Hashluchim: A Gathering Of Charlatans

You may have seen the provocative title and gotten triggered. You may have thought, “how can the author dump on the Shluchim — people who sacrifice tremendously for their fellow Jews?” Please hear me out.

Each year when the Kinus rolls around, I am filled with contradictory thoughts.

On one hand, if not for the Shluchim who exposed my parents to Yiddishkeit, I would be just another American Jew ignorant of his heritage. And for this I am tremendously grateful. In fact, this was one of the reasons that — at one point in my life — I wanted to become a Shliach.

On the other hand, seeing the Shluchim also reminds me how being Chabad has damaged me and my family; a reminder that the Shluchim who influenced my parents sold them a “bill of goods” about Chabad. They were taught that Crown Heights was this utopian island in NYC, a place where right won over might; a place where — instead of the financial guldene medina described by immigrant Jews — the streets themselves cried out ein od milvado! Who wouldn’t want to join such a community?!

Consequently, all they wanted to do was to fit in and become accepted by this community of saints. Interaction with secular relatives had to be curtailed. They felt that their children would be best served by becoming full-throated Lubavitchers. Mind you, my parents are normal people, educated and put-together. But they bought this propaganda hook, line, and sinker and fully believed that their investment would pay off.

Growing up, I felt the same way. With time, however, the sunny picture began to become clouded by reality. You know, reality is weird thing; as much as you try to suppress it, it inevitably resurfaces. I found out about abuse, crime, and hypocrisy. I realized that my Oholei Torah education wasn’t going to serve me well as a human being and as an employee. Most importantly, it finally became clear to me that my peers would never fully accept me, that I would always be labeled the “BT kid.”

So, when I see you Rabbi X walking the streets of Crown Heights, I feel resentment. You lied to my parents about what the community they were entering, and made me — their child — feel like I belong nowhere — not in the Chabad world, not in the secular world. I know that my family isn’t the one that has been negatively impacted by you, and I also know that you are not alone among your colleagues. This is part of Chabad’s DNA. You believe that you save souls, but in reality you destroy them and their offspring. You and your fellow Shluchim are charlatans.

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  1. Yehuda Leib Haskelewitch November 21, 2019 at 1:44 pm

    I hope this can be accepted with a open mind

  2. Avi November 21, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    Doesn’t a charlatan have to convince people of things he knows to be untrue.

  3. Fellow BT November 21, 2019 at 10:56 pm

    I feel you. I resent how my family was fractured when we became religious. I have an entire family out there that I think about often but have zero connection with because of religion. I was accepted to every college I applied to but was told I’d loose my connection to the Rebbe or fry out if I went, so off to sem i went and everyone was incredibly proud. Once finally married to the right family and tied down with kids, did all of a sudden those caring shluchim vanished. Their project completed. Ticked off their list, off to other impressionable families. Once I no longer had that nurturing connection, my cheering squad gone did I realize how empty my life was. Missed opportunities of education, unfulfilled potential and a forsaken family who hates Chabad more than anything for brainwashing their family.
    I’m stuck in my parents choices, I’m too deep in the culture, my kids don’t know any different for me to ever leave.

    You are not alone in your feelings, most BTs I know harbor the same resentment but will never publicly vocalize it.

  4. Peleg Strauss November 24, 2019 at 12:36 am

    Here is my story: I also came to frumkeit via Chabad but I never became Chabad because I soon found out that there were other options. However, even though I tried for many years to somehow fit into the non-Chabad, non-Chasidic Jewish world, it never worked.

    One thing that I did notice early on that bothered me a bit at first but more and more as the years wore on as I came to understand more, is that, just like the author said, once the shliach landed his fish, he essentially abandoned us on the riverbank, even though he had some continuing responsibility to us, especially early on.

    A large part of my failure to integrate is probably because I question everything, accept almost nothing automatically at face value. This doesn’t gain you any fans when you say things like, “Well, that Godol is just a man, perhaps a very learned man of impeccable character, but still, he obviously didn’t know much science (nobody in his day did) and he is wrong about that.” I ask some forbidden questions, I think, and offer equally forbidden possible answers. One sermon talked about Devorah and the rabbi was baffled by how a women could have risen to such a position, to put herself in front of people like that, to command armies of men, and to just speak to mixed-gender crowds because it is not the way a tznious woman acts. After the lecture, I offered an answer based on, to my thinking, Occam’s Razor: perhaps our ideas of what is modest are different from what they thought was modest way back then? Well, by the look on the rabbi’s face, you’d think I cursed out his mother. But that’s me; always making trouble by trying to make sense of it all.

    I actually believed them when they said that “no question is improper”. Perhaps it is so, with the exception of my questions.

    However, one other thing that has kept me always on the outside is something that, I think, only applies to males. Every male is expected to be able to open a book written in Hebrew and read it. I can’t. I have this unfortunate difficulty learning languages — I just can’t remember all the words and, to me, grammar is impossible to understand. They’ve tried to teach me Spanish and German and I was a spectacular and miserable failure at both attempts. When I became frum, I of course tried Hebrew and found the same success. I have given up even sitting in on sermons and lectures because I miss at least half of what is being said. It is a frustrating and painful experience and I just decided to stop subjecting myself to this self-imposed abuse. So, since I can’t sit in on anything but the most basic lectures and classes, which after all these years, are boring and useless to me, I am also outside of the culture because I cannot participate in, what so many think, it the most important thing for a male to be able to do. I never realized that I would forever be a pledge in this fraternity unless I could learn Hebrew. No ever told me that learning Hebrew was the real price of admission into this club and I can’t pay the price.

    So, for those of us who never could attend yeshiva for all sorts of reasons, and who can’t otherwise learn the language, we are also being sold a bill of goods. I regret my decision of 40 years ago to adopt this life style. I am not saying it is in general a bad way to live but I am saying that for some, it just doesn’t work as advertised.

  5. Fellow Chasid December 10, 2019 at 10:11 pm

    This makes me sad. This makes me sad as someone who knows that the Chabad community is deeply flawed and wishes that you and your parents knew that from the start. This makes me sad because I wish you learned to find your niche in this expanse as a community. Since Gimmel Tammuz, the meaning of a Chabad chosid has expanded and each of its colors is beautiful and authentic. Amongs our ranks we have folk singers and Instagram influencers; lawyers and artists; some are in university and some in kolel; black hatters and short-skirt-wearers; farbrengers and farbrengees; movers-shakers and misfits. I’m sorry that you felt like your peers don’t accept you because you’re the “BTs kid.” My best friend in the whole world is a BTs kid and I love him. Acceptance only means you have to find your wonderful niche. The Chabad community is slowly expanding and I think it’s the most amazing thing in the world. As we mature, our job is to shed the resentments of our potential other lives and fully embrace this one.

    I don’t think Crown Heights is a utopia and I’m sad that that was the message your parents received. It was immoral of your shliach to do that. I don’t believe shluchim today are imparting that message. Our way of life is beautiful and multi-faceted and hardly perfect. Today, most of us in the community can find spaces where we’re accepted and loved. Neshamas and Hevria are a part of that and all of the amazing people who are expanding the outer borders of what it means to be a Chabadnik are part of that. Always remember that nobody has a monopoly over acceptance.


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