I went to a Shabbaton this past Friday night at the Hillel in my college. The food was fairly standard, though I was upset that there was no soup. Ah, what can you do? The group there was fairly homogeneous. Just about all kids with yeshivah educations as far as I could tell.
Anyway, after the meal it became very apparent that there was an agenda behind this shabbaton. The Rabbi gets up and asks if "we feel a responsibility to our fellow Jews." Say what? What's this all about? Responsibility in what sense?
Later on this was clarified as we get into circle time and basically discuss outreach. So this is "responsibility" in a religious way. Aha. The questions discussed are whether we should do outreach, what kind of outreach we mean, and how it should be done. The basic general consensus that I found there was that "outreach" meant turning non-religious Jews into religious Jews. And I swear, some of the things people were saying made me think I was at a Southern Baptist convention where they were working out strategies to help those poor souls who "don't even know they need helping."
Some of the people there clearly only understood proper outreach as making Jews into fundamentalist members of Orthodoxy and one individual even said that the only "right" form of Judaism was defined as one where adherents believe that the Torah was given to Moses, to Joshua, to the Elders, etc. Yikes! It's really rather scary having that type of thing thrown at you and obviously being taken so seriously when it's generally latent among most of Orthodoxy. I mean, yes, they believe it, but they'll more often state their beliefs in more generic ways. It's usually part of the background beliefs and not present in the forebrain, if you know what I mean. Having fundamentalism so fronted without apologetics is stunning.
The whole discussion was a little unsettling for me and I had to play a little privacy game of how much to express and how much to keep hidden. You see, while I do not want to see Jews losing the whole of their identity, I also don't want to see them being taken in by a cultish organization not based on truth. I mean, it was scary, the people in the group were even discussing getting to people who felt lost and were at a crossroads in their life and for them to offer Orthodoxy as a path. That's exactly the type of sneaky methodology that cults try.
My way of "outreach" would be to get Jews interested in their history and their heritage as a people and to get them interested in the philosophical, theological, and moral contributions which Jews and Judaism have produced. I'd want them to establish a strong identity as Jews rather than for them to follow a strict set of rules and believe in a strict set of dogmas. I believe in a plurality of Jewish expressions that will lead to Jewish survivability. The Orthodox Jews at the Shabbaton may only consider Orthodoxy as "real" Judaism, but people like me can see in Judaism a richer wellspring of variable legitimate Jewish expression.