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Blog: A Blow to the Shofar

by Yaacov Behrman

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.

54 Comments

  • 1. Go Yankel! wrote:

    Rock on!

    Keep on doing the good work. If only everyone in ch leadership would be with their feet on the ground as you.

    Hatzlocha.

    Reply
    • 2. If you are not Yankel wrote:

      Please sign your real name proudly
      -for supporting someone who is glad to put down others as a means of building himself up

      tip: poor tactic

  • 3. nice try! wrote:

    all the attacks, and rebuttals have already been aired in the many 100s of repetitious comments attacking and “setting the record straight”

    seems this is a bit disingenuous of u to try to stir the pot of machloikis for the sake of making yourself relevant!

    -a dissapointed jew

    Reply
    • 4. Citizen Berel wrote:

      Toot! Toot! Toot! Toot!
      Now we all feel better!

      Toot! Toot! Toot! Toot!
      I hear that shofar calling my name!

      Toot! Toot! Toot! Toot!

    • 5. Citizen Berel wrote:

      Dear CH.info

      I am the “Citizen Berel” who contributes to the comment section from time to time.

      I did not write the comment that is pending moderation on this thread.

  • 6. easy give away wrote:

    “Shofar goers are going wild on social media ”

    going wild??

    of the 500+ shofar grads who attended, it seems that only a handful cared to respond to all the slander, fear and misinformation

    if each attendee (went wild) and wrote 3 comments, there would be over 1000 comments by “wild shofar robots”

    its hard to grasp, but most shofar grads are normal functioning well todo ppl, leading very happy lives, and have little need to seek the approval of those who rush to conclussions quickly without their own due giligent research,

    enough well know Giants like YY and others attened and if you approach them one on one you will quickly discover how off base most of the hysteria is,

    Rabbi Hecht -an expert- has been sending a steady flow of Lubavitchers there!

    I’m looking forward to seeing a complete and thorough audit by respected experts and Rabbi’s in the relevant fields examine and produce their review, if or what needs to e changed.

    until then,
    Rabbi Hecht said it best,
    If your not struggling in your relationships with others or with Hashem
    if all is on or close to schedule in your life, then he will not encourage you to go!

    Reply
  • 7. transparent opportunism! wrote:

    sorry sir, the ship has sailed

    the conrovesy for Lubavitshers is already over!
    if you follow the threads out there, you’d have realized that there is virtually UNIVERSAL CONSENSUS by those for it or against it, that the Rebbe’s approach to similar matters be adopted,
    namely that, Experts in the relevant areas scrutinize every practice, techniques and principle taught by COTS and discover if there is anything harmful/AZ to be removed.

    so far Rabbi Hecht has not been approached by even a single shred of evidence that ANYONE WAS ADVERSELY DAMAGED or CLAIMED TO SEE TRACES OF A”Z

    Reply
  • 9. Jacob wrote:

    The unfortunate and telling story is that the Jewish “costume” they employ is working for this group because our youth DO in fact want a Jewish theme in their life.
    Yet, the current system is not compelling and satisfying.
    How about a “call of the elders” to wake up and figure out how to make today’s youth feel proud to be Chasidim, to want to master the rich concepts of Chasidus and to have a sense of our rich history – The Gaon Yackov?
    Instead of continuing the pettiness that would make any intelligent child want to search elsewhere.

    Reply
  • 10. I agree with Rabbi Hecht wrote:

    Someone who was there said exactly the same words that it’s cult before Rabbi Hecht. Some of the things maybe make sense and can be benefit and for some people it can hurt them. Because they reveal your problem and then u can deal with it but on the other hand when a person knows his problem and don’t know how to deal with it, then the situation can be bad.
    Btw I heard part of the course is meditation. I just wanted to tell you that Shturen had an article that the Rebbe had a conversation with a professor regarding Yoga that it’s Avoida Zara.
    Here is the link: http://www.shturem.org/index.php?section=news&id=19526

    Reply
  • 11. The truth wrote:

    It is interesting how during the winter when there is a krirus it is making us fight one another.

    If we would all just sit back and relax it would help us all.

    Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you are gonna get. Everyone has their own troubles and ways to deal with it. Some use cots, some use drugs and most use chassidus.

    The world is a big place just waiting to be filled with love.

    Let us all live together in peace and harmony

    Reply
  • 13. cool wrote:

    I hears about people who need and loves to go to the program many times a year
    ANd now they have ADVANCED program ( only if you graduated from the “transformation program”
    Its exactly as Landmark, they have these different levels and then they have a training program for you to become a leader
    I think that I am going to give it a try
    sounds misterious

    Reply
  • 16. Elder of zion wrote:

    Im no fan of shofar but neither am i a fan of behrman or his PAC. he’s mentor in politician lekking does not have the support of the community, they threw him out it would be nice if he would stop hanging out with him. Also mr. Behrman why does your twitter feed say @chabadlubavitch noone allowed you to speak politis in the name of lubavitch

    Reply
  • 19. rr2y wrote:

    it sounds very emotional based, and not scientific at all. One opinion, another opinion……
    fact is that many people have healed through it, and have gone on to lead happy and productive lives. If some people did not, then maybe they needed something else, but truth is that the quality of this arguement is not of the highest calibur. Why publicly trash this org which has helped people and has not caused any overt misdeed. This is just odd.

    Reply
    • 20. moshe der g wrote:

      because it is mind controlling cult..
      the tactics used are cultish ..

      open your eyes and see

  • 22. Sad to see wrote:

    Sad to see such self-promoting-Wannabee-Leaders happy to rekindle machlokes just to score some attention.

    you gotta try to be less transparent nextime especially if your thirst for power is greater than the best interest of the community.

    perhaps if you had some humility and personal guidance yourself you would not struggle soo much in trying to establish yoursef

    Reply
  • 23. Activist wrote:

    Dear Cult members
    You are busted.
    It’s a free country and you need not explain yourselves .
    It’s ok to be part of any cult or any group in the USA.
    But to recruit people in the name of therapist than he or she needs to be licensed for this activities .

    Reply
  • 25. Question wrote:

    Now that you established the cult as none jewish let us ask just few questions
    A please tell everyone the Seder CHASIDUS on shabbes morning and the davening shabbes.
    B please tell everyone the Seder nigunim
    C is the food kosher ? Who is the machshir ?
    The armed rubber or tge molester ?

    Reply
  • 26. La'Aniyas Dayti wrote:

    From my limited experience on this phenomenon, it appears to me that this kind of approach was used by Reb Gronem in Lubavitch, just over a century ago. In his classic style farbrengen, as mashpia, he would gently, if publicly, identify the needs of individuals – after having leveled the (ego) playing field. Mashke could have played a part, but not in th substance-abuse style of today’s farbrengens (often called a kiddush and even a party, the latter being more to the point of a kedusha-less binge session.)

    My past efforts to have mashpia training in some form, have gone unnoticed. Perhaps because (i) the concept of a dominant leader is foreign to Chabad today; (ii) the award of the title mashpia appears to be fixed on “idealogues”, who are in possession of THE set answer (mantra) to every issue; or to the dispensation of Toras Hachasidus in an extremely broad manner, that is almost cancelled by the two dimensional comprehension of the presentation.

    Reply
    • 27. moshe der g wrote:

      hashem hashem
      ” the concept of a dominat leader …”

      and simcha … is a dominant leader … cult cult cult
      brainwashed cool aid drinkers

  • 28. yaakov you usually do better wrote:

    Sorry yaakov but this is a lousy opinion. You’re comparing your lchaim pamphlet to life complexities.

    Reply
  • 29. opposite of chassidus wrote:

    -Iggeres HaKodesh of Tanya, chapter 11, says all of the pain and yessurim come directly from Hashem and are really hidden good and to deny this is like denying Hashem CV” And when one realizes and thinks deeply on this, that all of the pain, and apparent bad things in their life are all from Hashem, and are all really good– with complete Emunah– then the good will become revealed.

    -Screaming about all the “pain” in one’s life without acknowledging that it is all from Hashem and realizing that only good comes from Hashem– and without acknowledging the “hashgacha pratis” that this perceived “pain” in one’s life was “packaged made” from Hashem to you– (and was perhaps some sort of tikkun or cleansing of your neshamah etc.)— is this the way of chassidus?

    -People are also ignoring that many of these techniques/practices/ideas being promoted by this group come directly from Scientology– which is a christian group– as well as zen buhdissim: lookup “landmark forum”, “EST”, “emclear”, and “scientology” and you will see exactly where all these things come from.

    -there are trained professional therapists/psychologists/psychiatrists people can go to, as well as group therapy sessions, that have always been there to deal with people’s psychological/emotional issues. Therapy is work over time– not a one-time “instant fix-all”

    -If one thinks about it critically it is quite obvious that this thing is being run like a money-making scam– don’t be duped– don’t fall for it!!!!

    -this is the case of the “treasure buried under our feet”– we don’t need to look elsewhere– we have chassidus– the crown jewel– the deepest secrets– we need people in our community thinking new creative ways how to make the chassidus more applicable/practical/real etc. Perhaps a weekend retreat that makes people apply chassidus to their lives in a new way and to deal with their problems/challenges etc.– but coming from people who are immersed in learning chassidus– not from people pulling from christian and buhdists sources and trying to masquerade it as Jewish. What are we coming to????

    Reply
    • 30. Rabbi Hecht -an expert- said its Kosher & even sends ppl wrote:

      You wrote:
      “all of the pain and yessurim come directly from Hashem and are really hidden good”
      “to deny this is like denying Hashem CV”
      Question:
      So your way of applying that Igeres11 is to say that “Going to a treatment which helps us get free from the pain –Advil- is Denying that its from H’ and good?
      The Rebbe himself cried, screamed, from pain, when chalanged, he said, “VEN ES TUT VEI, SHRAIT MEN”
      Another time in the Lameds, the Rebbe yelled at farbrengem “Bist A Moro SHchoirah? NEM PIL”
      The Rebbeh was never against using Psycholodical or Psycheatric or Even Meditational Methods to help calm one’s anxieties and nerves (from past Trauma)

      You wrote:
      “when one realizes and thinks deeply on this, that all of the pain, and apparent bad things in their life are all from Hashem, and are all really good– with complete Emunah– then the good will become revealed”

      Question:
      Just bec “Oidcha H’ Ki Onafta be” doesn’t mean that the trauma does nat need healing and a way (tools) to rise above it. Using tools to rise above Trauma, does not deny, that they were hidden good from H’, perhaps a tikun or a way to appreciate and stop the pain of others!

      You wrote:
      “without acknowledging the “hashgacha pratis” that this “pain” in one’s life was “packaged made” from Hashem to you– (and was perhaps some sort of tikkun or cleansing of your neshamah etc.)— is this the way of chassidus?”
      Granted, One of the points COTS teaches you, is that perhaps the good in benefit of tou recognizing the Trauma you suffered from, can and will B’HP. Help you save others from that suffering! There is no judgement that this suffering is itself not B’HP, the main focus is to not allow it, (the pain of the past) to cause more pain today and to others in the future.

      You wrote:
      “these techniques are based on A”Z”
      Question:
      Isent it the Rebbe’s shita, that tools (even meditation and nerve healing tools) used by A”Z are not b’etzem Bad, and can (and should) be separated, extracted, elevated from their use by AZ cults, and instead used for their inherent value and benefit to as many ppl as possible who can gain from it.

      You wrote:
      “Go to Longterm Psychologists etc not an “instant fix-all”
      Answer:
      Cots agrees with that,
      And encourages those who have the need, to seek longterm psychological/Psychiatric treatment.
      Cots, gives awareness and tools, Not instant solutions.

      You wrote:
      “-this is the case of the “treasure buried under our feet”– we don’t need to look elsewhere– we have chassidus– the crown jewel– the deepest secrets– we need people in our community thinking new creative ways how to make the chassidus more applicable/practical/real etc. Perhaps a weekend retreat that makes people apply chassidus to their lives in a new way and to deal with their problems/challenges etc.– but coming from people who are immersed in learning chassidus—“
      Answer:
      This last point you wrote I agree with 1000%
      However, until that happens Cots should be used at least for those who get Haskama to go, since many of the principles and Hachlatos are in perfect alignment with chasidus. (unless someone is to klein kepeldik to see how, either bec he knows not chasidus, or doesn’t comprehend whats taught at Cots, those types –weak intelligences- Takeh shouldn’t go)

  • 31. no one special wrote:

    Anyone who competes against the establishment is the enemy. Most of the opinions stated against you are emotional & lack substance. Mentioning The Rebbe’s letter is a red herring being used to make the ignorant appear to have a basis for their opinion.
    Anything that involves helping a fellow Jew (assuming that no respected Rov disagrees) so continue AND GROW.

    Reply
    • 32. moshe der g wrote:

      yes
      going against the establishment ??
      what planet are you on ?

      this is mind manipulation not approved by and doctor or psychiatrist..

      would you go to your car mechanic to have your tooth pulled ?

      same here

      it is a cult

  • 34. Rebbe wrote:

    Dear fellow chasidim,

    I was zoicha to be a bachur until 1990 and then got married and went to Kolel.

    I lived the crucial years of a persons “growing up” years near the Rebbe.

    Let me state the following as fact: There isn’t a problem on this earth that the Rebbe didn’t deal with. There isn’t an issue that arrises now tha

    Reply
  • 35. Shturem wrote:

    i guess the cult members were able to hack shturem even though thy try very hard the others.
    cult is a cult and the leaders get rich and richer

    Reply
  • 37. K wrote:

    When a Chabad rabbi announced that the Kabbalah Center is a cult, he was sued and it cost him a fortune in legal fees to defend a claim of libel and slander.

    I was twice bankrupt, once when I lost a lawsuit and once when I won a lawsuit, because either way, if you win or lose, expect financial ruin.

    Hecht not only “clarified”, but did a full 180, from denouncing to practically endorsing the COTS. His clarification is as close to an apology as possible without sounding like a total fool. But don;t be fooled: This typically happens as a “settlement” after being threatened with civil legal action.

    I can’t figure out what Behrman is adding other then trying to give a non-opinion by saying nothing in so many ways.

    Reply
  • 38. want clicks? wrote:

    sorry, ch.info. you’ll never pass the 50 comment mark… You have too much integrity.

    Want clicks?

    Post an interview with the rabonim who endorsed shofar. They are listed on the shofar website.

    Reply
  • 40. Avrohom Gordon wrote:

    With minimal research, (a 5 minute google search on LGAT) anyone can easily see that LGAT techniques and practices have been called “cult like” by a number of psychologists, both clinical and academic. There are also at least two peer reviewed scientific papers that analyze LGAT and argue that groups who use this practice are cults or “Cult Like”.

    Apart from the fact that LGAT is controversial, surely the fact that there are mental health professionals who refer to this alone should make any sensible person wary.

    Reply
  • 41. don't be so jealous wrote:

    I think all of the so-called lubavitch deoh zogers are just jealous thata litvishe BT is running successful therapy/ imspirational seminars. Whatever COTS do is a lot less cultish than an average weekend at machon chana/ machon alte/ hadar hatorah/ morristown tiferes.
    Why do so many CHers go is because where can they find an erliche mashpia and a farbrengen where you are surrounded with friends and it’s safe to discuss what’s on the heart.

    Reply
  • 42. BEHRMAN wrote:

    You are a little late to the party. Shea Hecht and Yitzchak Shochat collected several hundred comments between them. If you are trying to join the party, here is a newsflash. No one is listening. Well, 24 people did.

    Reply
  • 43. Werner Erhard and EST/Forum/Landmark wrote:

    In 1991, CBS 60 minutes ran an expose on the founder of EST, Werner Erhard (aka John Paul Rosenberg– NOT Jewish, BH), a former used car salesman who took Zen-Buddhist ideas combined with some new-agey feel good techniques and created a multimillion dollar scam operation, promising quick fix enlightenment. Most disturbing, “Erhard is accused by family members of beating his wife and children, and raping a daughter, while still giving seminars on how to have relationships that work!” This guy frischling has repackaged Erhard’s cultic practices and rebranded them as something Jewish. This group’s ideas are rooted in Erhard’s dirty practices! Every person who has attended a weekend should get counseling and work to extricate frischling’s toxic ideology from their brains, which, unfortunately, is not an easy process. L’havdil, we have a Rebbe whose teachings are rooted in Kedusha. Watch out– this guy frischling has already captured their souls. That is why you are hearing so many passionate defenses of the group on these posts! Concerned parents should organize a concerted drive to rid the schools of anyone who is involved with this group and their cult leader.

    Reply
  • 44. Benny Forer wrote:

    Im shocked at this article, which has pretty much nothing to say. I have never been to a COTS event, and dont intend on going – thus, I dont speak to the matter. Mr. Behrman also hasnt been to COTS, yet he speaks as if he’s authority – he isnt.

    Secondly, Mr. Behrman isnt a lawyer. Its nice that he thinks COTS has no case (without really providing any explanation at all for his “expert” opinion), but his opinion and analysis are truly worthless…

    so why publish this worthless “op-ed”?

    Reply
  • 46. To Benny Forer wrote:

    You can’t read for someone who claims to be educated. The blog post says Rabbinic Court! This has nothing to do with lawyers.

    You’re an angry man. The Shofar might do you some good.

    Reply
  • 48. Why did the "Call of the …" get to so many fine Lubavitchers? wrote:

    Why so many fine Lubavitchers?

    Because Chabad Chassidim as a group, are the most advanced in Avoidas Hashem, because they learn and live Pnimiyus Toiras Moshe, (especially Toras Moshe Shebidorenu) and are really on the road out of their personal Mitzraim.

    Amalek is a klippa that ultimately is a lifeless shell, yet it is a parasite that needs to feed off life from somewhere.

    Amalek can’t attack a Jew when he is completely in Mitzraim nor can he get to a Jew that is firmly in Eretz yisroel, Amalek can only attack a Yid that is “on the road” going out of (his personal) Mitzraim.

    Precisely who does Amalek attack?

    Amalek preys on the stragglers, Amalek hijacks the energy of the Yid as he struggles to keep pace and get out of (his personal ) Mitzraim.

    How does Amalek attack?

    By force of inserting doubt into the journey and struggles of the Jewish inner child. “Tell me what hurts you my dear” “oh yes you do have a problem, and don’t you want to get out of your personal Mitzraim?” “admit it you are not all pure and good that you believed you were” ” you are a failure” “say it, scream it, louder… I am a failure” “oh now you are finally being real” ” you really are a failure”

    Amaleck’s final solution.

    “From now on you need to get real, only do things that you can first understand, disregard all irrational aspects of Moshe’s teaching until you will be fully congruent with it as part of your new well-being” (…like never. because Torahas Moshe is Hashem’s infinite will and wisdom).

    My fellow Chabad Chossid.

    They saved you and got to you, when you came forth with your personal struggle, they made you vulnerable before them. But my fellow chassid the Alter Rebbe teaches us that we come to this world to workout our Middos and challenges, you are not guilty of having weaknesses, you are not a failure. every time you overcome your personal struggle when you fight the fight of the Beinnuni you bring a new light into your Nishamah soul and body and ultimately bring a new light of the Shchina into the whole world and universe and all of seder Hishtalshilus

    Amalek is the Yetzer Hara, as it takes up residence in the heart of every one of us normal Yiddin.

    We can, and we will be victorious over the darkness and klipa of Amalek, we will do our avoidas hashem with true joy as we rejoice in Hashems joy of Dirah Bitachtoinim.

    With wishes for the imminent complete redemption with Moshiach Tzidkainu, when we will be able to serve hashem with a perfect heart.

    With love,
    Your Brother

    Reply
  • 49. IT SAYS IN TANYA wrote:

    NUMBER 29…PUTS ITS DOWN PROPERLY, REALLY UNDERSTANDING G-DS POWER IN THIS PHYSICAL WORLD AND HOW HE CONTROLS EVERYTHING ALLOWS FOR ONES ISSUES AND DARKNESS TO QUICKLY TURN TO LIGHT, IN YOUR MIND AND IN ACTUALITY, THE ALTER REBBE WROTE THIS CLEARLY AND DIRECTLY IN TANYA ITSELF.

    Reply
  • 50. ShoshanaOT wrote:

    COS is far from a cult. It is an anti-cult process, teaching men and women to think for themselves and take responsibility for their lives with Torah and Hashem as one’s true guide. Leaders are mentors but ultimately one must face his or her own personal relationship to truly be a servant of Hashem and Jew. That is what our ancestors taught us if we truly embody their lives and teachings.

    Reply
  • 51. Aryehleib wrote:

    Publishing lushen hara is usser and low
    A website cannot publish lush on hara even though it is merely allowing others to post.

    Reading it is also usser.

    Just saying

    Reply

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