Frequently asked questions

Answers written by Rabbi Yosef Polter

Isn't your place only for "Orthodox" Jews?

Not at all.  It is for all Jews.  Realize that "Orthodox", "Conservative", "Reform", "Independent", and "Reconstructionist", are meaningless labels.  In truth, we are all one and we are all in this together.  Yes, some are more observant and some less, but that is only an individual difference, not a collective one; it certainly is not a reason for more groups and sub-divisions.  So why, you ask, do people come to us?  Because they all share a common desire: to love, learn, and grow.  To love and support one another; to learn and become educated in the real truths of Torah as they have been handed down by our sages for millennia; and to grow in their Judaism at whatever pace is comfortable.

As with everything else under the sun, we need to be educated and knowledgeable in Torah and Judaism to make the right decisions.  We then become equipped to choose how to improve ourselves and our connection to G‑d.  This greater connection inevitably leads to a more fulfilling existence.  Torah - the way it has been taught throughout the ages - is the tree of life.  It follows, then, that adhering to it a little more closely can only have positive results and can only improve one's life.  These results can be fully achieved and the spirit of Torah fully felt, in an environment where Torah is lived.  

I must emphasize that no one at our center is coerced into doing anything; no one is admonished for not doing enough or knowing enough; no one is judged.  Everyone is just loved and accepted.  Within that context and atmosphere each one chooses how much, at what pace, and in what area, if at all, he or she would like to grow.  But it begins with acquiring the knowledge and experiencing the spirit of authentic Yiddishkeit.                       

Indeed, it is quite understandable that we, finite beings, are not at liberty to change a Torah ordained by an Infinite Being.  At the same time, we may find it difficult to do everything it calls for, due to our upbringing, social environment, habit, inclination, etc., but we can strive for the truth and try to better ourselves according to sacred Torah guidelines, at whatever pace we feel we can handle.  We don't need to  (nor can we ever) change our immutable Torah to accommodate our shortcomings.  G‑d understands those too.   

And remember: When we meet our Maker (hopefully after a long, healthy and fruitful life) the main question is not going to be, "How perfect were you?" but rather "In what direction were you going when your number was called?"  "Was it toward Me or away from Me?"  There is no in between.  We are either moving forward or sliding backward.  Moreover, in true Judaism there are no small steps.  Every Mitzvah, done according to the prescriptions outlined in Torah/Jewish law, is a huge step.  Let's do it together, one mitzvah at a time.  I look forward to sharing the journey with you. 


Aren't you the ones who proselytize?

Absolutely not.  In fact, Judaism is probably the only religion that does not proselytize.  Judaism does not assert that it offers the only path to heaven for all mankind.  Instead, Judaism insists that all people have a place in heaven, provided they live and abide by the seven basic Noachide (universal) laws.  (These are the laws that G‑d gave to Noach following "the flood", telling him that mankind must obey these seven laws in order to avoid a world of chaos and to avert further catastrophe.)  Judaism does not seek to convert anyone.  In fact, it clearly discourages conversion.  Instead, it encourages all people to be the best they can be, morally and ethically, within their chosen religion or way of life.  But as Jews, we try to reach out to fellow Jews through social, educational, and religious programs, to help them adhere a little more closely to the Jewish way life and impart to them what is inherently theirs: the knowledge of the Torah. 

Additionally, though not our main focus, we try to help all people — regardless of religion — lead a more meaningful and purposeful life.  We help them understand the purpose of creation and the role every human being plays in this big puzzle called "the world." We teach, and encourage them to live by, the Noachide laws.  But we do not push Judaism on them. 

So the short answer to the question is: we are about as far as one can possibly be from proselytizing.