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.


Anonymous said...

Footsteps is not hiding anything. They publicly declare their mission statement.You are correct in your assessment of the amoral position of that organization.
Having said that,let us consider why does this entity exist in the first place. There is obviously something wrong or lacking in the way we are dealing with the young people in our community. It is ourselves that we should be blaming for approaching the issue by ignoring, covering up,or resorting to threats. The various programs out there are either too few or not effective enough. Just as the baal teshuvah movement is as great as it has ever been there are unfortunately a huge number of people travelling in the opposite direction as well.
We must face this problem head on and not just ignore it as long as it is nebech someone else's child.
We are each responsible for every single Yid.You know it when you share in someone's joy or R"L in someone's time of grief.
P.S. The only good thing I can take from the interview is that more people will know that this organization is no friend of the frum community.

Anonymous said...

While Ms. Shwartz proclaims that her only agenda is "to help" the young people who are seeking help and that she doesn't care about their religious observance, the simple truth is Ms. Shwartz surely does have an agenda. Her agenda is to help these young people go frei.

I agree with you that giving her and her organization free publicity was not the smartest idea. However, the show did expose her agenda for all to see. It was not just the kashrus issue. There was a caller, for example, who took her to task for not giving these young people any other alternative within the Orthodox observance. There were other good points made by Zev himself. Even on the kashrus issue, the duplicity of the organization was exposed with that whole "we serve kosher food at every gathering" misleading lie.

On the lighter note, Ms. Shwartz is only following in her parents' 'footsteps' – they became frum, she walked out on frumkeit the same way they came in. And now she is running the opposite of Beis Chabad ( דבח - slaughter in Aramaic).

fakewood inc. said...

you just gave them some more free publicity.

Josh said...

I think you would be correct if Malkie was being Meisis and Medieach these people to Krumkeit. But that is not really the whole story. In fact, many are committed to leaving. Footsteps is just the support structure which allows them to do so in a practical manner. You may disagree with their decision but don't you think once it has been made that it should not come at the price of their ability to live a normal life? Even if FS did encourage separation from ones culture and family, how is it any different than Kiruv which does the same thing in the other direction? And truthfully, is sticking with ones family against ones convictions always the way to go? And is it always the person's fault that their family ostracized them? I suggest you purchase some gray markers to help nuance your thinking a bit.

Anonymous said...

FS might have a function to serve in Chareidi society in Israel. However, secular studies are taught in most frum schools in America, so I don't see the need here, unless FS's mission is to serve as the garbage repository for frum society.

Anonymous said...

For once, I have to agree with Tzig.

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

anon 12:00

It'll happen again. Count on it.

Anonymous said...

HT said: "Zev means well (and the same goes for Ms. Schwartz, founder of Footsteps)....
Ms Schwartz surely has some good intentions. So does Hizbolla. So does Hamas. So does Al-Qaeda."

Tzig you have a very twisted view of "well meaning" and "good intentions".

I wanna hear you talk about the "weel meaning" guys that had "good intentions" when they killed the Holtzmans.

Tell us, do you work for Noam Chomsky or al-Jazeera?

Show your true colors, Sicko.

Anonymous said...

It seems that to you, "well meaning" is a justification and an excuse. If she means well, then what she is doing is alright. HT is saying that Ms. Schwartz feels that she is in the right, and doing a good thing. Hizbolla, Hamas, and Al-Qaeda also feel that they are right. They are fighting what they feel is a holy war, and they feel that they are right and their opponents are wrong.

That doesn't mean that HT thinks they are right, just that they think they are right.

Anonymous said...

As the saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words". That applies especially to this blog where one picture is worth more than the thousands of words of shtusim posted here. So why don't you label the pictures so that the uninitiated can know who appear in them?

yoseph leib said...

Anyone with the most basic moral compass can tell you that loyalty is noble. "

Really? I disagree. If loyalty means willingness to care for a people or community, then sure, but if it mean being part of them, and surrendered to their norms/assumptions, then why would loyalty be good? Was Avraham Avinu disloyal to his father when he wouldn't serve his tatte's idols?

kisarita said...

Footsteps does not help anyone leave there family for the simple reason that footsteps members do not want to leave their family. More than anything they want a relationship with their families. Unfortunately sometimes there families reject them for who they are and will not accept them unless they put up a false front. You really believe in loyalty? then you should be preaching it to the families, not to footsteps.

Anonymous said...

You wrote,
"These services can be provided in the frum community."

No they can not.

There is no frum organization that will offer people these services without trying to steer them towards the frum world, which Brenner himself admits.

Do you think we are talking about people from China? No, we are talking about people from monsey, boro park, flatbush and williamsburg. We know what frumkeit is all about. We've spoken to more than enough Rabbis. We are children of Rabbis.
I am the daughter of a Rabbi myself. One of my closest friends is a Rabbi. And I myself used to be a former Kiruv professional.
And Brenner thinks footsteps should have a rabbi? As you see, we've already got them.

Anonymous said...

ps there are some of us who don't need the "services" footsteps provide- some of us make very nice parnasas before ever hearing of footsteps. We came because we felt alone in the world and we needed someone like ourselves to talk to, and for once, say honestly what was on our mind.

Anonymous said...

It was only after reading this blog for awhile that I realized how cult-like much of the orthodox world today really is.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:59

It will only be after you descend into the 'real world'(HL"S), that you will realize how cult like IT really is.

I wish you better things, truly.

Anonymous said...

I personaly was involved in a story that led someone to 'transition' out of his family and of his society, A young boy with a good head from a problomatic family, he himself didn't do well in yeshiva but instead of dropping out he thought of becoming a CPA Certified Public Accountant, so before attending Touro Collage he wanted to earn a GED, someone who dealt with his father sugested Foot Steps, he came to me and ask me to look up on what they're all about etc, I wasn't so amazed with what i read but at the end this boy 'ended up' in Footsteps, as of today he has left his family which he didn't thought of before that, he's in collage studying sience and is agnorant of everything about yidishkeit and family. This was a real transition for an inoccent boy.

Anonymous said...

KiSarita locked her blog because I left a nasty "pro" abortion comment there.


kisarita said...

oh, you do think the whole world revolves around you, don't you.

Anonymous said...

So, I'm getting under your skin?

I read through the entire blog with all the comments. Mine was the only one that really broke you.

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

hey, you two!

take it out of here.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to but she locked her blog!