While there has always been a stream of people attracted to a tell-it-like-it-is approach, I do feel like attraction to that approach is growing.
Why is it that in many cases, the "conventional sugar-coated" kiruv either doesn't work or is only attractive for a while before the person goes off to look for something more?
(In some cases, the search for more leads such a person to the "no-holds-barred" approach, while in other cases, one goes off the derech completely. And of course, others remain within the softer approach forever.)
There's a lot to it I think, but I'm only going to touch on it superficially in this post.
(It will be covered more deeply in future posts.)
Why was a Teacher's Wrong Approach So Right for Fraidy?
A newly married American Beis Yaakov girl (let's call her Fraidy) described an experience that once occurred during the first week of her post-high school seminary in Eretz Yisrael.
One of her classmates came to class with something not quite up-to-par in tsnius.
The head teacher made a brief yet forceful statement of condemnation to that girl in front of the others. (Something like, "That kind of thing is NOT acceptable here; go change it immediately.")
The other girls were shocked and disapproving of the teacher's response, which they felt contained excessive & unnecessary force.
(And I think they were right.)
But Fraidy relished it.
Why? Is Fraidy a sadist? Does she enjoy seeing her peers publicly rebuked & humiliated? Or maybe Fraidy is a religious zealot who feels that even the slightest deviance in halachah demands an excessive response?
When Nothing is Really Wrong, Then It's Hard to Know What's Really Right
Fraidy is a very nice & pleasant young woman with great middot who relates to others in an appealingly open & personable manner.
She personally would not speak to a student (or any other person) that way.
Fraidy also has the insight to know that her reaction was different than that of her classmates because of her background.
Her seminary classmates had attended Beis Yaakov schools with girls from equally strong frum backgrounds.
But not Fraidy.
She explained that while she'd attended Beis Yaakov her whole life prior to seminary, her Beis Yaakov received students from a wide variety of backgrounds.
(In places where Beis Yaakov is the only frum girls education available, you'll see that they often feel responsible to accept any Jewish girl who applies, even if her family isn't so frum. And they are correct to do so and have saved many souls with this approach.)
But in dealing with such a wide variety of students, these Beis Yaakov teachers were forced to tone down their approach.
And again, they were correct to do so.
You can't demand the same adherence & understanding of a girl who wears jeans when she's not in uniform as you can of the daughter of a rosh yeshivah.
You have to deal with each person on their level.
So while growing up in this environment affected Fraidy in many positive ways, the one downside was that right-and-wrong weren't always clear.
In other words, the bottom-line halachah itself was not always clear.
In an effort to avoid overwhelming & pressuring girls from weaker backgrounds, the needs of girls from stronger backgrounds weren't nourished as much as they needed.
So when, for the first time in her life, Fraidy encountered a teacher who was uncompromising in halachah, Fraidy cheered on the inside.
(This is even though Fraidy knew that this forceful method could also be turned on her. But to her, the clarity was worth it.)
And indeed, Fraidy thrived in her new seminary.
What Do Girls Really Need & Why Did Fraidy Need Something So Different?
Fraidy was used to a murkier approach to halachah, so the crystal-clear approach (even though it was a bit harsh) slaked her thirst for clarity & Truth.
But the question still remains: WHY?
After all, the teacher's approach really wasn't a good one, especially for girls chinuch.
Furthermore, this new post-high school seminary was a very good seminary comprised of very good & sincere girls from solidly frum homes like Fraidy; there's no need to be so tough with them, especially in a public situation, which is humiliating.
In a nutshell, girls need firm boundaries, a solid understanding of all the halachot that apply to them, and a nurturing approach (i.e., treating them as if they are very good girls who genuinely want to be good, because this is generally true about frum girls also because females are nurturers and nurturing them speaks to their deepest nature).
For many reasons, a tough drill-sergeant approach is generally very bad for girls —especially in a group situation.
(Yes, there's a time & place for even this method, but generally, it's a bad idea.)
Yet Fraidy thrived on it, even though she isn't that way herself and even though, as her peers noted, the approach really was too harsh.
Doubt Leads to Crippling Inertia - Certainty Enables Growth & Progress
Ein simcha (ba'olam) k'hatarat hasfeikot — There is no greater joy than the resolution of doubts.
Doubt cripples a person.
Lack of clarity prevents growth.
A person who isn't sure what path to take finds it difficult to continue forward.
A person can wrench themselves up a hard road, but ONLY if it's meaningful — ONLY if that road is that one that truly leads to their destination.
Can you have mesirut nefesh for something you're not sure is so important?
Can you push yourself out of your comfort zone if you're not sure that doing so will lead to a mitzvah, sweeten din over Am Yisrael, and increase your portion in the World to Come?
In today's world, there is such a heavy, suffocating "Everything goes" and "I'm okay, you're okay" attitude that mires everybody down.
It's impossible to free yourself of the mire if you're not sure what's really right & what's really wrong.
People who want to move forward, people who are ready to grow even if it hurts, are increasingly looking for answers & guidance that get them to where they REALLY want to go.
And sometimes that's only found with people who don't hold back.
(Not always, of course, but at least the more forthright speakers are easily understood.)