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i have a friend who is hallachikly jewish, but is very far from being "connected". he doesnt care about it at all. he is not a close friend at all, just someone that i know. he lives far away. is there anything that can be done to affect such people?

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2 Answers

Send Mishloach Manos, a honey cake for Rosh HaShana, A box of Hand Matza for Pesach, and be honest and meticulous in your dealings.

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Especially the latter. –  Seth J Mar 4 '11 at 15:40
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You can never force this (as I think you already know from the way the question is written), and trying to do so can actually push the person away more. So that leaves being inviting as a strategy. I've heard this called "meeting them where they are".

When he's in town, invite your friend for Shabbat dinner or a Purim party or a Lag b'Omer cookout or anything else. Food and good company are great ways to participate without feeling "too religious". (Granted, Shabbat dinner will have religious aspects.) I realize this doesn't work so well for you because your friend isn't local, but I mention it for the sake of those for whom that's not a constraint. (Maybe it won't be for you in the future.)

In addition (and you can do this at a distance): in the course of your normal interactions with your friend, mention anything Jewish that you've done/learned/heard recently that he might be interested in -- a new recording, an interesting (accesisble) lecture, a neat thing you discovered in Tanach, Jewish implications of modern calendar changes, or anything at all. It has to be something you are interested in; don't fake it.

Your goal here (in addition to the actual conversation, which I hope is interesting in its own right) is to plant seeds. Maybe something the two of you talk about will make him curious about something. Maybe he'll ask you about it, and then you'll have another conversation about a Jewish topic. This is a slow process, but that's ok -- you can't rush these things and anything you do that moves him in the direction of more interest in his Judaism helps.

And, as suggested by Gershon, never lie or mislead him. That doesn't mean you need to say "hey, I'm doing this to get you engaged with your Judaism" in every conversation, but don't try to be sneaky. Don't invite him for a casual weeknight dinner and then surprise him with a bunch of people from your talmud shiur, for instance.

And finally, the very best thing you can do to help somebody else care about his Judaism is to care about yours. Being a role model, even in what you think of as "small" things, can be a huge factor. I recently learned of how an off-hand comment I made 10+ years ago helped move someone toward keeping Shabbat, for instance.

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