Monday, February 06, 2006

Birthright II

I'd like to dissect the comments from Heshy and the Sabra on my Birthright? post of last week. I encourage all to read what they wrote (Heshy, the Sabra).

Heshy says Birthright is worth it because, if even one person becomes religious, the program will have been beneficial. For argument's sake, we'll assume that Birthright has never driven someone off of becoming frum (and since our Yeshivas do that regularly, its by no means a simple assumption to make).

Is it really worth it? Let's say only one person becomes religious out of it. Couldn't the millions of dollars spent have been used to lower tuition, provide currently religious children with a better education, feed the poor, or address other social concerns? Perhaps instead of being mekarev one individual, the money could have helped 10 children not go off the derech.

I mean all of this in two ways: The first, is that if one child became religious from Birthright, I'm not sure it would be worth it, assuming it were a kiruv organization. The second is that the money could be used in a much better (more efficient) fashion, even if making one person frum was the end result of all Birthright.

theSabra argues that we'll never know the impact that Birthright might have on a single individual. Of course we don't. But we also don't know the impact you'll have on leaving your house in the morning, buying that bagel, or skipping your chavrusa. It might have great consequences, or it might have terrible consequences. Birthright can also be both a positive or a negative experience. But we generally don't operate on the slim possibility that one individual might have an experience which changes him or the world. We use averages, we balance.

Heshy also misses the point that the money may not be spent on non-Jewish causes otherwise, but may be used more efficiently in other Jewish causes (I'm not addressing whether the funding of only Jewish causes is a good idea or not).

Generally, I think Birthright is worth it. But its by no means a simple answer.