Friday, February 13, 2009
Guest Post: Hollow Footsteps
Listen to the Zev Brenner Show Here
Ok, so I was badgered until I listened to the Zev Brenner/ Footsteps segment from last Motzoei Shabbos. Of course, I think the show was ill-advised, to say the least – as there is no good that will come from giving an anti-religious organization extensive free publicity; maybe next week Zev will have J for J? That said, it's water under the bridge. No doubt, Zev means well (and the same goes for Ms. Schwartz, founder of Footsteps) but listening to the show, I had that feeling I get when my car tires get stuck spinning in the snow. Making the program focus on the issue of kosher food service was a bit childish, and the caller that decided to gratuitously insult Ms. Schwartz didn't do the frum cause any favors. A little depressing. Ms Schwartz surely has some good intentions. So does Hizbolla. So does Hamas. So does Al-Qaeda. So do, and so did, lotsa folks – but good intentions don't make something right or legitimate. Like many out there, footsteps likes to raise its flag of positive activity and good intentions to legitimize whatever it does – and here's the rub – what service is it really providing? Their mission statement clearly states their dedication to, "providing educational, vocational, and emotional support to those seeking to enter or explore a world beyond the insular, ultra-religious environments in which they were raised."
In other words, in the name of becoming healthier, well-rounded and more educated, they will help you leave your families, your religion, and culture and transition into being a secular Jew who can hopefully become part of the secular American dream. To that end they help you by providing a support group and educational resources to support our most base desires for money, power and guilt-free living. Good Luck. Many have tried but few if any have found peace and happiness on this path in the last few thousand years. Nevertheless, since it's not hard to convince folks that there is fun on the other side of tracks, and all those "prohibitions" restrain us from some kind of thrill; this path has always had its allure – nothing new here.
Here's the big problem though: Forget the services – these services can be provided within the parameters of frumkeit; Footsteps does not. And that is reprehensible, immoral and unethical. To call it healthy, noble or progressive to strip one of true virtues such as loyalty, commitment, family and community is hardly anything to get idealistic about. Anyone with the most basic moral compass can tell you that loyalty is noble. Respect for one's roots, background and traditions is valuable. Self-restraint is a virtue. Tossing away a religion you and those before you have belonged to for thousands of years because ham tastes good on matzah? That's helping someone? That's not moral. I know the counter-argument; I really do. Morality would dictate that we assist those trapped in repressive regimes – that we save people from dangerous cults. So, pray tell, what's the big evil of Yiddishkeit that we need to save them from? As far as I can tell we aren't peddling suicide bombings or violence. There's nothing moral or ethical virtue accomplished by these secular missionaries. That's why Footsteps is a fraud. If they cared about Mordy from Chareidiland they would be interested in helping him within his environment, not to leave him as a spiritual orphan trying in vain to be someone else and live someone else's life.