Rabbi Shea Hecht, author of Confessions of a Jewish Cult Buster, recently called the “Call of the Shofar,” an LGAT (Large Group Awareness Training) program, a cult.
“I will begin by saying that I believe that the Call of the Shofar is a cult. Having said that, I stress that it is possible to have a pareve (“neutral”) cult, which has intrinsic value.”
“Why then do I use the word cult? The reason I use that word is to address the fact that they use mind-controlling techniques. One technique typically used by such cults, which is employed by the Call of the Shofar as well, is keeping a person completely isolated from the outside world. For example, taking away a person’s watch, making a person close his phone and limiting his conversation with others.”
“If it was simply knowledge that they were sharing with you, they would not need to put you into a mind-altered state in order to accomplish this. One frame of reference I use is a documentary film produced in Toronto over thirty years ago called Captive Minds. This 56 minute film studies the mind-controlling such groups use,” Hecht wrote in a private letter.
“They say they’re like vitamins – that anyone can take to boost their health; but I say they are like antibiotics. Only one who is ill and needs them for a cure should take them, but if you are healthy – stay away,” Hecht told CrownHeights.info.
Shofar goers are going wild on social media over being classified as a Cult. Rumor is they plan to try and sue Rabbi Hecht in Rabbinic court for slander. In my opinion, they don’t have a case.
Groups like Landmark have been called “cults” for years. Landmark has always disagreed with this classification. The Internet is full of information regarding the benefits and dangers of LGATs. All this has been debated and discussed.
But in our case we may be able to resolve some of the disagreements if everyone would agree to disagree on the definition of the word “cult.”
Years back, as a Rabbinic student in Los Angeles, I was in charge of a weekly outreach publication.
Rabbi Ezra Shochat, the dean of the school and a brilliant scholar, asked me to remove from the paper articles regarding secular and scientific subjects.
He explained to me that we couldn’t compete with the scholars and experts on these topics. These imitation articles are not on the same academic level as the original material. Furthermore, just because the author included a Jewish theme and gave the subject a Jewish costume, does not make the subject a Jewish issue. Shochat advised me to keep the weekly outreach newsletter to religious ideas and topics – our area of expertise.
If I decide to experiment and go to a LGAT weekend, I am going to follow Rabbi Shochat’s advice and choose the best group out there. I don’t see the point in a Jewish costume.