I'm looking for sources discussing the question of priorities in kiruv, especially when there's a conflict in resources.

The question is often asked using the following scenario:

"Imagine you're a rabbi in a small community, and you suddenly receive a lump sum of money for you to spend on what you think is the best investment in kiruv.

You're debating between two choices:

1)You have a student from a traditional Jewish background in public school. You could use this money to send him to a specific yeshiva and get him the proper tutoring etc.

Based on research etc. the likelihood is very high that with this investment, the person will eventually become a real ben torah. He will be committed to a torah life style, will get married and raise a solid Jewish family with a torah education etc.

2) There's a rampant intermarriage crisis in your community. You could spend that money on a youth group- but kids won't come if it's too overtly Jewish.

base on research etc., your assessment is that the youth group will result in 100 kids marrying Jews (they would have intermarried otherwise), with a small percentage even having some sort of Jewish awareness and maybe a couple will even keep some sort of Shabbat.

What's more valuable- creating one solid Ben Torah, or preventing the intermarriage of 100 Jews?"

In other words, is it more valuable to make an impact on more Jews? Or is it better to focus on creating a stronger Jewish identity and Torah connection, even if it means affecting fewer people?

From first hand knowledge, this was one of the underlying differences which led to the split between Aish HaTorah and Ohr Somayach. Rav Noach Weinberg zatza"l held of the importance of impacting more people. Rav Mendel Weinbach zatza"l and Rav Nota Schiller shlit"a held it was more important to focus on quality.

Both sides had support among among major Rabbinic leaders- Rav Shach zatza"l held very strongly of Ohr Somayach's approach, while Rav Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg zatza"l believed in his brother's approach. Each side has many supporters.

All of the above I have heard either directly from those rabbonim, or from students and teachers at the intitutions.

While preparing to discuss this topic with some young rabbinic students planning to go into kiruv, I've had a hard time finding sources discussing this specific aspect of kiruv.

Many sources stress the need for Kiruv and to help all Jews. The Chofetz Chaim famously wrote his sefer Chomas HaDas to explain the obligation.

And many sources discuss the need for intensive torah study, and for promoting widespread Torah study. The Chofetz Chaim wrote about this as well, in Toras HaBayis, Shmiras HaLashon and other places.

But I haven't found sources discussing prioritizing these two issues.

Can anyone share sources on this specific question of kiruv? While contemporary discussions are also valuable, I'm looking more for sources in classic works and among the gedolei yisrael of the past hundred years.

One example of a source which I saw but can't find:

Someone showed me a sefer a few years ago criticizing the Lubavitcher Rebbe zatza"l. In the work, it quoted a teshuva from the rebbe written in the early 1950s.

The questioner had been thinking about starting a Kollel to develop scholars among Chabad Chasidim. The Rebbe wrote a sharp response against it. The main thrust was something like 'How could you justify making a kollel so tens of students can advance in their scholarship, when that same money could be used to bring back thousands of Jews who have become irreligious? Who could justify spending money on such a luxury?'

The book was quoting this as a criticism of the Rebbe, since after the Holocaust almost all branches of religious Judaism set up kollelim to facilitate Torah study, to create new scholars who would replace those killed during the Holocaust hy"d. These kollelim were founded with the encouragement and support of almost all gedolei yisrael from all circles- litvish, chasidish, national-religious, chareidi, sefardi etc.

Does anybody know where the Rebbe's letter is? Are there explicit writings from other gedolei yisrael arguing against him on this specific point?

This is an example of the kind of sources that I'm looking for.


  • 1
    Not to discard the question entirely, but aren't both important? Both achieve meaningful, yet different, results for the Jewish people.
    – Daniel
    May 22, 2020 at 14:06
  • @Daniel I agree 100% that both are important. My question is more regarding a conflict of resources, as well as attitude. Out "in the field" there often is a major push for numbers. A kiruv professional might be able to make more of an impact on 10 people, or have a moderate impact on 30. How do you decide? Or the example in my OP- use the money to send one person to become a ben torah, or save 100 from intermarriage. This is the question which I'm researching now and trying to find written sources (I've lots of oral sources!)
    – Binyomin
    May 22, 2020 at 14:14
  • 1
    It sounds like in general this is a strength in diversity, in that it is good that there are organizations that prioritize each. In specific cases, one should always base the decision on what is needed for the specific community that one is working in. This makes your example seem impossible to answer in the abstract. Can no other way be found to support the Ben Torah? Will the youth group be effective or will it fritter the money away? Is the community on solid foundation or close to the edge? What you really want is a framework of how to weigh these competing goals.
    – Mike
    May 24, 2020 at 12:17
  • @Mike I agree with you- we do need both and each situation will call for a specific approach. And you said it well- there's a need to establish a "framework" to weigh these competing goals. That's why I'm looking for documented discussions about this point. When discussing these issues with rabbinic students, i want them to be able to research these topics and see how gedolei yisrael addressed this question. it will help them appreciate the nuances and develop their "framework."
    – Binyomin
    May 24, 2020 at 15:45
  • Is the former closer to biblical law?
    – Dr. Shmuel
    May 24, 2020 at 22:58

1 Answer 1


This book about the founder of Arachim says that he presented the question to Rav Shach for his organization: Should he focus on making contact with more people or follow-up with fewer people? Rav Shach tried to get out of answering the question, but when forced to answer said make contact with more people.

  • 1
    Great man (he is my neighbor), great book. Interestingly your answer contradicts a statement re R Schach in the question. Shows the complexity of the topic - sometimes there is no right answer
    – mbloch
    Apr 30, 2021 at 10:10
  • I appreciate your comment. Does he share any of Rav Shach's reasoning there? Was he discussing his personal involvement (should he personally reach more people vs more follow-up) or regarding Arachim as a whole? I also wonder if it's different in israel vs chu"l- in Israel, a jew who attends an Arachim seminar has more chances of finding opportunities for follow-up on their own, vs in America. Does that play a factor?
    – Binyomin
    May 1, 2021 at 21:26
  • Question was for Arachim as a whole. For the reasoning, you are probably best reading it yourself. I probably couldn't do it justice here.
    – N.T.
    May 2, 2021 at 10:46
  • @Binyomin I like your posts here and I checked your profile. Please see judaism.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/429/… for very relevant information.
    – N.T.
    May 2, 2021 at 22:31

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