Rabbi Hecht Clarifies: Call of the Shofar a ‘Kosher Cult’

After being misrepresented Rabbi Shea Hecht took the opportunity to clarify his position with CrownHeights.info on the on the controversial ‘Call of the Shofar’ movement, reiterating that it is a cult – albeit a ‘kosher’ one.

As a veteran ‘cultbuster’ and expert on the subject, Rabbi Hecht was recently called upon to clarify as to whether the organization, a growing phenomenon in the Orthodox Jewish community, is indeed a cult.

Rabbi Hecht answered in the affirmative, leading many to believe that he had denounced the organization and discourages anyone from attending. Some went so far as to conclude that being a “cult” means that participation in their sessions is the equivalent of Avodah Zarah.

In the interview, Rabbi Hecht took the opportunity to clarify his position on the matter.

“Yes,” he said, “Call of the Shofar is a cult,” because they use certain signature cult tactics to manipulate and ‘take control of people’s minds.’ “But that doesn’t mean they are treif,” he continued, “because it is possible to use cult tactics for Kedusha.”

As to whether the movement classifies as Avodah Zarah, Rabbi Hecht was unequivocal: “It is not Avodah Zarah. However, don’t fool yourself into thinking that this is some form of Chassidus, for it is not that either. It is just one thing – Therapy.”

Rabbi Hecht went so far as to encourage those who feel they will benefit from these therapeutic sessions to go ahead and attend Call of the Shofar’s three-day seminars.

On the other hand, emphasized Rabbi Hecht, if one feels he doesn’t require this form of therapy, he should stay away. “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,” he said.

This statement by Rabbi Hecht runs contrary to those who, irresponsibly, promote ‘Call of the Shofar’ as a ‘one size fits all’ and legitimate program that is appropriate for all Chasidim regardless of need.

At the conclusion of the interview, Rabbi Hecht urged anyone with further questions on the matter to contact him personally, offering to take the time and offer guidance on the matter to anyone who feels he or she needs it.

85 Comments

  • 1. Anonymous wrote:

    so if i do chitas and rambam and go to farbrangens and still have emotional problems i shouldnt go??

    Sorry that makes zero sense….

    Reply
    • 2. Citizen Berel wrote:

      Emotional problems!

      Toot.

      {{{{{{{{CALL OF THE SHOFAR}}}}}}}}

      Toot.

      {{{{{{{{FEELING BETTER}}}}}}}}

      Toot.

      All better now.

    • 3. "still have emotional problems" wrote:

      Then you are sick, and you need to go see a therapist or a psychologist or a psychiatrist, whichever will have you cured

  • 4. happy wrote:

    sounds like an endorsement!
    true not everyone but many ppl today struggle emotionally with real issues even if they wont admit

    Reply
  • 6. FACTS wrote:

    1. their training are based on avodah zarah
    2. staff was trained by frischling (so it doesnt matter if he is/was there)
    3. the rebbe obviously didn’t mean specifically “transcendental …” anything coming from avodah zara is not kosher
    4. they removed it from their website
    5. Frischling isn’t an authority to extract the kosher stuff from avodah zarah
    6. their rabbis aren’t someone me or you know and they are not Mumchim in inyanei nefashos
    7. $700 is NOT a lot of money for a 3 day hotel/meals
    8. registration is run by a questionable person
    9. people that went aren’t the professional opnion i will seek if i need this or not. Therapists with PHDs and MAshpiim/rabonim dealing with these issues on a daily basis are.
    10. they are claiming it is chassidus and tora. what chasidus? what torah?
    11. People that are stating that Tanya cant heal or help people with mental issues have not learned tanya well. “the issue (chassidus/tanya) isn’t the issue, the issue (your mental help) is your issue (your not learning chassidus right) with the issue (tanya)

    Reply
    • 7. her are the answers u asked for... ;) wrote:

      1. their training are based on avodah zarah?
      ANSWER:
      according to the Rebbe, Tools, (even those tools used by A”Z, are not inherently bad) Aderaba, the Rebbe wanted, the tools to be seen as neutral, and to be used for Non A”Z benefits!

      2. staff was trained by frischling (so it doesnt matter if he is/was there)
      ANSWER:
      Thats not the Rebbe’s shita, you wont find a source for that endless logic!!! clearly, it is possible to extract and isolate the techniques from their AZ serving past use.

      3. the rebbe obviously didn’t mean specifically “transcendental …” anything coming from avodah zara is not kosher
      ANSWER:
      Everyone agrees on that!!
      Theres a difference between, based ON A”Z vs extracted tool (also) USED by various A”Zs.
      Nuonced but Significant distinction!

      4. they removed it from their website
      ANSWER:
      No one seems to have any clue, not even u! What AZ was (removed from) on the website! an empty allegation is empty, archive.com or even just explain the “supposed” allegation… what exactly was seen? by whom? be specific pls! letovas haklal!

      5. Frischling isn’t an authority to extract the kosher stuff from avodah zarah
      ANSWER:
      Correct! He has had plenty of PhDs, MDs, and Respected Rabbonim do that part for him (of examining and determining whether the tools have any traces of Tuma left), it was smart of him to get Recognized Rabbis for that vetting and Daas Torah approval.

      6. their rabbis aren’t someone me or you know and they are not Mumchim in inyanei nefashos
      ANSWER:
      Rabbi Twersky is well respected in Lubavitch circles and had a close kesher with our Rebbe! the beginning of ur point 6, contradicts the second point u make in 6.

      7. $700 is NOT a lot of money for a 3 day hotel/meals
      ANSWER:
      for some it is!, actually, the more it costs someone the more invested they are to walk out with lasting Hachlatos (shsh dont tell anyone their secret) expensive is smart,

      8. registration is run by a questionable person
      ANSWER:
      Your slanderous attack to smear someone in this vague baseless irrefutable way is transparent for what it is low and unclassy of u!

      9. people that went aren’t the professional opnion i will seek if i need this or not. Therapists with PHDs and MAshpiim/rabonim dealing with these issues on a daily basis are.
      ANSWER:
      On this i fully agree with u, present the recommendation by a cots friend to ur Rav/Pro…

      10. they are claiming it is chassidus and tora. what chasidus? what torah?
      ANSWER:
      IT IS NOT TORAH, they encourage u to implement many Torah/Chasidus principles, read the list of 15 examples)

      11. People that are stating that Tanya cant heal or help people with mental issues have not learned tanya well. “the issue (chassidus/tanya) isn’t the issue, the issue (your mental help) is your issue (your not learning chassidus right) with the issue (tanya)
      ANSWER:
      For some, Btochon based anxiety issues, u are correct, that Tanya (properly applied) will help!! however, some issues A mashpia will redirect u to a Pro.

      the Rebbeh once screamed at farbrengen “Bist a moroShchoira? Nem PIL!!!”

  • 8. Threaten by a lawsuit wrote:

    threat of a Libel Lawsuit usually gets this reaction to pacify the Plaintiff. Common is a “retraction” or, as in this case, a “clarification” to remove the threatened legal action..

    Reply
    • 9. Naaa, more like wrote:

      a website who regularly over sensualizes everything took key words and advantage of his letter and the hot topic for its own benefit hurting many in the process.

      Rabbi Hecht simply clarified himself for the same of these people and out of disgust of the site which misquoted him.

    • 10. 5 you are correct! wrote:

      Kosher cult is an oxymoron. Shea Hecht was muscled into this ridiculous sort of retraction.

  • 11. I went to COTS wrote:

    Shea Hecht has lost all respect. He never attended a COTS workshop, and makes up nonsense. There is no aspect of a cult in COTS. In-fact if COTS is a colt for asking the participants to put away their phones, then Lubavitch is most certainly a cult.

    We follow a leader that goes unquestioned, we can’t associate with the outside world, we go on street corners and recruit other to join (mivtzoyim).

    So let’s stop with all this nonsense calling it a cult. It’s an amazing therapeutic weekend where people can take a lot of good away from it. I know that it has saved many marriages and built stronger relationships with ones children and wives.

    No one is saying COTS is for everyone, however I believe it can be beneficial for many people. You don’t have to be sick, or not normal to go there. In my group of 40 there were all very normal (mashpiem, and rabbi’s) that attended and it helped them build a stronger everlasting relationship with their loved ones.

    I hope you see the truth for what it is
    DL

    Reply
    • 12. Frum Jew wrote:

      אמרו חכמים, אם דומה הרב למלאך ה’ צבאות, תורה יבקשו מפיהו; ואם לאו, אל יבקשו תורה מפיהו

      רמב”ם הלכות תלמוד תורה פרק ד

      For anybody to think of this as a replacement for what Chassidus has to offer and they are looking for another type of teacher to replace the system that the Rebbeiim instituted, think again.

      It cannot be that anyone who doesn’t live by the standards that Chassidus demands, that he should communicate to you true Chassidus.

    • 13. First rule of a cult is making you believe it is not one!!! wrote:

      Not going against this thing in anyway b/c i am not knowledgeable on the matter but when you say that Lubavitch is a cult than you really have no clue as to what Shea Hecht did his whole life!!!
      1. the Rebbe embraced technology

      2. Mivtzoyim is to bring someone who is already in, closer!!!

      3. we don’t charge $750 for a weekend!!!

      4. we tend to be dysfunctional with money unlike a real Cult!

      and i can go on but i am not bored enough to continue!!

  • 14. pinkus safeir wrote:

    very rare letter from the Rebbe from 5742
    scary to see how cautious and strong the Rebbe writes about the issue – “there is surely no need to emphasize how strictly one must regard any suspicion of A.Z., even the remotest”. here’s the letter:

    5742
    Dr. _________
    Miami Beach, Fl.

    Greeting and Blessing:

    After the long interval, I was especially pleased to receive your letter. May G-d, whose benevolent Providence extends to each and everyone, lead you in the way of the fullest utilization of your abilities to help others, and help yourself, in strict accord with the Torah. This is also the way of Hatzlacha in the fulfillment of your heart’s desires for good.

    I have underscored the words “in strict accord,” because in the field of Jewish Meditation one cannot overemphasize the great caution that is required to steer clear from even the slightest admixture of Avoda Zara (idolatry) – or even the suspicion of A.Z. I bring this up here because I have received complaints about some practitioners of Jewish Meditation that some aspects of their practices are not in accord with the Shulchan Aruch. I do not know the writer personally, but since we are dealing with a highly sensitive and serious area, I cannot ignore such reports. Moreover, it appears that the complaints are basically connected with the fact that many of those who practice Jewish Meditation are not experts on Halacha, particularly on the intricacies of Avoda Zara. Of course, however well meaning a Jew is, the fact that one is an M.D. or Ph.D. clearly indicates that he had devoted considerable time to obtain these degrees and, to that extent, he has not been able to consecrate his time and attention to Torah and Halacha. I use the term “consecrate” advisedly, for this is what proper Torah study demands.

    For this reason, it has been my advice to those Ph.D.’s and M.D.’s who wish to enter the field of Jewish Meditation, that even if they also have Rabbinical Ordination (Smicha), they should seek the advice and guidance of a competent and experienced Rav, who is an expert in those sections of the Shulchan Aruch which deal with these questions. To be sure, a Rav Moreh Hora’ah is expected to be proficient in all of the Shulchan Aruch, but there are Rabbanim who have specialized in this particular field, and they are competent to rule whether this or that practice has any suspicion of A.Z. And there is surely no need to emphasize how strictly one must regard any suspicion of A.Z., even the remotest.

    In these days of confusion and misconception, additional precaution must be taken to avoid anything, however innocent in itself – if it can be misconstrued by a patient or by a colleague as a Hetter for similar treatment or methods which may not be as innocent of A.Z.

    I must emphasize again that the above is no reflection in any way on the Torah knowledge and commitment of any person. But because no person can be fully objective in a matter in which one is personally involved, especially if it is a dedicated involvement, it is important to seek the opinion of a completely objective and disinterested Rabbinic authority.

    With blessing for Hatzlacha in all above,
    /the Rebbe’s signature/

    Reply
    • 15. You're off topic here wrote:

      This letter from the Rebbe pertains to Jewish Meditation.
      I think you’re stretching things to apply it to marital therapy or anything else other than Jewish Meditation.

  • 19. so disappointed wrote:

    Shea Hecht’s original statement contained complete lies and twisting of the truth. In just one article he has publicly done so many Averos (including embarrassing people- which equals murder!, giving someone a bad name, lashon harah, sheker to name a few) that I don’t understand how anyone could consider his opinion a Torah-based one. It is truly sad that our community has leaders with such bad midot that are setting such a horrible example of sinat chinam.

    Reply
    • 20. For some reason wrote:

      I didn’t want his opinion as a Torah based one, I wanted it as a “Cult-expert”. Torah says that in every case you speak to the experts IN THAT FiELD.

    • 21. question wrote:

      Would you take responsibility and tell people to go to this program?
      Shea is saying there is some issues there, and the letter from the Rebbe published warns that if there is even a question one should stay away. So how to you take the upon yourself to tell others to go to such a place?!

  • 23. Citizen Berel wrote:

    Call of the Shofar.

    What hear I?

    Call of the shofar.
    Call of the shofar.
    Call of the shofar.
    Call of the shofar.

    It’s (not) a cult. It’s a vitamin. It’s antibiotics. Call of the shofar is.

    It’s (not) avoida zorah!

    It’s calling — the shofar.

    Toot. Toot toot toot!

    TOOT
    TOOT
    TOOT
    TOOT

    Reply
  • 26. pinkus safeir wrote:

    The REBBE says in a Letter:
    “I have always been wary of any method that deprives a person of the free exercise of his will”.
    the letter is dated 21 adar 2 5738:
    It is relevent to this issue: I would like to make a further point, though entirely not in my domain, namely, in reference to hypnosis as one of the techniques used in psychotherapy, as
    mentioned in your letter.
    I have always been wary of any method that deprives a person of the free exercise of his will, and which puts him in the power of another person, even temporarily – except, of course, in case of pikuach nefesh [saving a life]. Certainly I would not favor the use of such a method on a wider scale, least of all to encourage psychologists and psychiatrists enrolled in our program to use it.

    Reply
  • 27. Pyramid Scheme, no needs based discount wrote:

    =cult.

    Challenge can anyone ever go for free or scholarship rate even needs based. If the answer in no (which it is) then we no it is not lishma….

    Reply
  • 28. Dear Kool-Aid drinkers wrote:

    You are so brainwashed & under the thumb of your CULT (sorry, COTS) leader you refuse to consider that you might be wrong & COTS is dangerous. I get it. It’s because if you don’t have COTS you don’t have anything.

    There are many people in the world who are lacking in clarity & confidence & in order to function (even basically) they have to be controlled by someone or something. When that goes, they fall apart. We saw it after Gimmel Tammuz, because a small minority were totally lost. Their whole avodas Hashem was based not on Hashem & Torah values but on the Rebbe. Once the Rebbe wasn’t here b’guf they fell apart.

    You need help but you’re too insecure to ask for it and you’re afraid to let go of the string. I feel sorry for you but to accuse Rabbi Hecht of not knowing what he’s talking about is crazy. He is the expert on Jews and cults. Deep down you know it but you don’t have anything except COTS to keep you standing. It’s very sad and I hope you can find the strength and support to get out.

    Reply
  • 29. Yitzchok Halevi wrote:

    Rabbi Hecht, I know you and respect you.
    That having been said, I can not see that there should be something as a “Kosher Cult”. You described (in your definition), that mind control is part of what defines a cult.
    In Yiddishkeit, the idea of “mind control” runs totally contrary to the concept of B’chira. Once mind control takes place, B’chira is compromised. It stands to reason then, that it can not be “Kosher” and therefore “Kosher Cult” is impossible.

    Reply
  • 30. A theraputic cult? wrote:

    If it’s therapy and they’re not therapists, then they’re breaking the law. If they don’t have licensed mental health professionals on staff, then what does Shia Hecht say?! I’m sure he knows that they don’t. It’s mind control, but its ok?! If you’re sick, then go to a cult?! And if your healthy, stay away?! It’s based on avoda zora but it’s kosher?! The contradictions are breathtaking!!! Sounds like backpedaling. Intimidation maybe? Was he threatened with a law suit? That’s what the other “cults” he referred to do with their detractors. I wouldn’t hesitate to run away from this stuff. What will they say when there’s an irreversible tragedy linked to this group? RL

    Reply
  • 31. Wow wrote:

    I dont get it:

    1. Is it a cult or not?
    2. Is it avodah zarah or not?

    Shea, you cant call it something and then change your mind. It cant be avodah zarah for some and not for others.

    Bottom line, Shea and his minion’s opinions should never be trusted. You spoke authoritatively about a group you know nothing about. You literally spoke loshon horah about klal yisroel. An, absolute embarresment. Shame on you Shea.

    Reply
  • 34. watch the video wrote:

    then you’ll understand what cots is about
    and i doubt any sane (and certainly frum) person will still want to go

    Reply
  • 35. RMMHB wrote:

    I Agree with much of Reb Shea’s take and outlook
    one point that i think he did not properly express is what defines functional and healthy
    it is not if your saying chaitas rambam mashpia farbrengen – while doing so may help a person maintain a healthier happier life it will not resolve strong and progressing inner conflicts (especially pre existing ones or such stemming from forms of abuse / major rejection / failures etc…)
    you can be doing all that but if you cannot properly come home and be interested in your kids and family, or if everyday you truly resent the job that your in or your boss etc.. to a degree that it dysfunctions you that you begin shutting down / looking for escapes / unable to relax / pain etc… then this defines lack of ability to function where its time to seek help to take a healthier approach and if regular help fails (i.e. a good chaver or respected mashpia advice) turn to something that can help you as long as its kosher. (if cots is kosher we must hear from a Chassidisher Moreh Horaah)
    the other point probably of less interest is that reb shea your are not fully correct of your understanding of abizrayhu deavodah zarah but that is not for this comment forum but you can look it up in gemara and encyclopedia or here http://chabadpedia.co.il/index.php?title=%D7%A2%D7%91%D7%95%D7%93%D7%94_%D7%96%D7%A8%D7%94

    Reply
  • 37. watch the video wrote:

    after you see the video and how cults play with your mind i doubt any sane person (certainly a frum person!) will want to go to cots!!

    Reply
  • 39. Incoherent wrote:

    How is this therapy if there are no therapists there.

    Rabbi hecht, can you point to a therapist ahi tjink a that this is good?

    Reply
  • 40. tzfatim wrote:

    who are the people going to COTS?
    BTs? Meshichistm?
    I think that COTS is not a problem for a BT ,aderaba, he is going to use it for kedusha ( I am a BT Mysef)
    I also think that Moshichistm can benefit from COTS , they have emotional problems,( dollars ,etc,it’s like crazy) and COTS can re program them toward a good direction
    I also think that any FFB that is close to Fry out, can really benefit from COTS
    or also a FFB who is abusing his wife, kids, or thinking about divorce, or a divorcee who is not giving the get ,they will also benefit from COTS
    I would definite send the tzfatim to COTS
    Its not for everybody, but MOST ppl in CH would benefit

    Reply
  • 41. No one at COTS is licensed wrote:

    Not one person at Call of the Shofar is a licensed therapist or psychologist. Shouldn’t that concern you. At a place that offers therapy, none of the staff are therapists?

    Am I missing something?

    How come?

    It is all about the money–a social worker or psychologist would want to be paid more. A person off the street trained by Simcha can get away with being paid less.

    People, use your brains.

    If you want therapy–go to group therapy conducted by a licensed social worker/psychologist…

    Call of the Shofar gives you a temporary high. If that is what you want–by all means, go ahead. Spend 1000 of dollars on a temporary high….

    Reply
  • 42. lchaim wrote wrote:

    I dont understand the point of this whole thing.

    1. If you need a therapist. get one
    2. If you need a medication then get.
    3. If you need chasiddus there is so much out there.
    kvuis eteem letorah.
    4. if you need chumash, gemarah then learn.
    5. if you have issues in your marriage. go to counseling.

    I think this is a great opportunity to focus on the positive of what chassidus and torah is all about.

    Just look what happened with a famous yid who started with lubavitch and took his own path and today his daughter joined the reform movement.

    keep it simple. keep it real. daven everyday. chitas rambam. kabalos oil. hergel nase teva sheini

    its all there!!! drink it up. go to the ohel. daven away!!

    Moshaich now!

    Reply
  • 43. I'm confused wrote:

    Rabbi Hecht, can you please clarify?

    This seems to be a very different tune then the letter you wrote in which you said that its a cult and that people should stay away- and this is against the rebbes hora. Ect ect, Now its a good cult for some people who can use therapy? (!) Please clarify. I’m sure I’m not the only one confused

    Reply
  • 44. More Confusion wrote:

    Here’s a direct quote from Rabbi Hecht’s letter: I want to stress that while I have been told that R’ Simcha and his staff are wonderful humanbeings, let’s remember that all of his sources for the material he teaches are from sources that are classified as cults or at least “avazrayu d’avoda zara.”

    How am I supposed to reconcile that with what he’s saying now? I really don’t understand. If he’s essentially saying that all of their sources are treif, why would he now endorse them for anyone? I expect politicians to play the spin game, but we’re not dealing with politicians here.

    Reply
  • 46. NoYechi770InJerusalem wrote:

    What about in Shea’s own building (824 EP/Hadar HaTorah)?
    The yechi cult is taking place in his own building/mosad.
    Rabbi Yisroel Jacobson,A”H & Rabb JJ Hecht,A”H are turning over in their graves over this shanda taking place in the great mosad they built.
    Even the Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yankel Goldberg,Shlit”a runs out of the bais medrash when they start up with the yech mantra.
    Wouldn’t it be prudent for him to get rid of the cult like activities in his own building?

    Reply
  • 47. What???????? wrote:

    How is he saying that this it therapeutic and he will endorse going here, that he sent people there, if you have emotional issues that are not cured by …. You should go there, that it may be better than therapy?

    Call of the shofar can legitimately take those comments and promote it.

    And then say: that opening a person up without oeodfessionals can be a problem, they brainwash to keep coming back. And all the other things that we hear.

    Rabbi hecht I think you need a new clarification.

    Reply
  • 48. I went! wrote:

    Cots does NOT in Anyway Claim to replace Chasidus

    It simply reminds u to IMPLEMENT CHASIDUS!
    Including the importance of:
    1. Routine Cheshbin Hanefesh
    2. Brius Haguf (a klain lecheleh in guf…)
    3. Routine Duch to Mashpia (yedid mavin)
    4. Practice True (selfless) Ahavas yisroel
    5. Avoid Atzvus
    6. Attend (real) Farbrengens (where everyone is there for self improvement “vee amul”)
    7. “Zai a pnimi” whatever your doing, be fully focused.
    8. Hachlatos, (with your ALR) set positive Goals to accomplish
    9. “Al yovesh mipnei hamaligim” don’t succumb to peer pressure, strive to do what’s right, bec it’s right, not for “mah yomru habrios”
    10. Shmirs Haloshon, use Positive and Accurate language. (How one speaks has koiach, Letav U’Lemutav)
    11. Focus on improving Sholom Bayis and Chinuch
    12. Remember our real joy and thirst is to be ReUnited with H’
    13. Listen to what people are really saying, (the need behind their words) “VeOhavta LeReAcho Komocha”
    14. Be Dan Lekaf zechus! (Perek 30)
    15. See another beyond his shel, “Oisin nafshom Ikar vgufam..

    Whoever is afraid that we think ANY answers are not from chasidus, THEY Davka THEY prove that ALL the “good stuff” is already IN CHASIDUS!

    It’s unfortunate that soo many of us, needed COTS to help us realize how USEFUL and PRACTICAL chasidus really was all along!!!

    Reply
  • 49. Shofar participant wrote:

    I don’t know what his definition if cult is – but I plan on watching the video he made reference to. Even if it is a cult based on that, I have no problem with calling it a kosher cult, and having gone to a kosher cult as he said. Only there’s a lot of “negative press” with the name ‘cult’ so I would avoid calling it that straight out.

    I don’t agree that’s it’s antibiotics bc antibiotics kill. As it’s name demonstrates by it’s meaning – “anti life”. Only there is merit for an ill person because it kills the diseases as well. Shofar uses some intense methods; they however do not destroy or harm. Also, the imbalances that Shofar helps heal, is not some rare thing that a few select individuals suffer from, but a widespread epidemic that almost each one of us experience. We all suffer from insecurity, fear that we are not enough to be loved and such common “life issues” that no one is without. This is what Shifar addresses.

    Reply
  • 50. Wake up Yidden wrote:

    COTS fulfills a HUGE need, that of real hartzige connections, like of yesteryear. Use this controversy as a call for action, to strengthen our own community needs. Put your outreach on hold and do some serious inreach.
    Being a shliach doesnt mean your haskama is authentic certification. Not at all.

    Reply
  • 51. YY2 wrote:

    as far as I’ve seen, the men who have gone to this, remain frum, and seem even to have more of a chayus in their family life and in their yiddishkeit. It may not look the same as how it did years ago, to work on an issue, but does Jewish Community watch against molestation look like anything we ever had in the alter heim?Things are changing, but if something is run by a shomer shabbos, and the people are healing to be better Jews, then I am not clear why this is suddenly cropping up. One person who has experience crops up and says he decides that this is not ok, and its to be believed? doesnt make sense to me. The people seem to be doing well who go to it. Anyone can make an arguement which ever way they want it to go, so it might also help to look at the results from people who have gone. Its ok for people with emotional scars to pass it on to their kids and then the kids grow up and are destined to live with that pain, or missing normal life skills? That doesnt make sense either….which is why we have Crown Heights / Jewish community watch. How more important is it to help people heal, when you can’t stop what is going wrong in their upbringing. What if it was YOU who had pain and needed healing? Tell us what else is out there to help those people be more whole, healthy, happy people. Some how people have a right to heal from emotional pain….

    Reply
  • 52. out of towner wrote:

    This is just a symptom of the free fall that Lubavitch has experienced for the past twenty years.Those who care about real Lubavitch should buy some land upstate and do what the Skverer Rebbe did;a shtetl with tznius,with no computers,and yes,where only Yiddish is spoken.Otherwise we will soon become the Hassidic wing of modern Orthodoxy.

    Reply
  • 54. cs wrote:

    Rabbi shea Hecht does great work in many areas but I will say I was somewhat disappointed that he didn’t make any mention of my dear dad Rabbi y sufrin who is a lubavitcher also and is cousins with shea and had/ does work endless, tireless hours doing cultbusting in England..

    Reply
  • 55. Be Grateful wrote:

    If you are living in a healthy marriage. Be thankful to Hashem that you dont need this program.

    If its helping other to strengthem their marriages and be present for their wives and chilldren then kol hakavod to this program!

    Reply
  • 57. A theraputic cult? wrote:

    There is nothing new in this, it’s been around since the 60s. Rabbi Hecht knows this very well. These self-appointed gurus of self-awareness promising true happiness and fulfillment are mostly con artists who prey on others’ vulnerabilities. Read the article linked below about how two “life coaches” and “facilitators” recently achieved their ultimate happiness! This man and this group are just another iteration of the same voodoo that has deluded and, in many instances, damaged individuals and even entire families for decades in America and beyond. What they are really about is MONEY, and at the expense of your neshama. Getting people to curse their parents and hate themselves in order to break them down and then “rebuild” them is against everything we believe in. Can there be a mitvah ha’bah b’aveira? It’s neither vitamin nor antibiotic, Rabbi Hecht. It’s poison. If they have intimidated you into backpedaling, think of what the Rebbe would do in such a case. Would he issue a “clarification”? No one could put fear into the Rebbe except the Aibishter. If you need help, go to a reputable, trained, legitimate therapist. We all need to grow and improve, and life is not easy. Go to your rebbe, daven better, learn more, hug your kids, and send these “facilitators” packing.

    Self-Help Suicides and the Danger of Positive Thinking …
    http://www.businessweek.com/…/self-help-suicides-and-the-danger-of-positive…‎
    Jun 6, 2013 – No one will ever truly know the inner demons that haunted Lynne Rosen and John Littig. Their choice of weapon—helium—is hailed by the …

    Reply
  • 58. levi part 2 wrote:

    Since its formation in 1991, Landmark Worldwide LLC has initiated several lawsuits around the world, pressing defamation actions against authors and journalists who have intimated that it is a cult. Critics of Landmark have portrayed these actions as an assault on free speech or an attempt to suppress legitimate comment, whereas Landmark Education has insisted that it only seeks to have inaccurate statements corrected and to protect its products from unfair disparagement.[48][49] In addition, other actions have been brought by individuals who have been required by their employers to attend seminars delivered by Landmark and Vanto. Landmark has also initiated actions against websites such as Google and the Internet Archive to remove material it deems defamatory and to protect the privacy and confidentiality of participants in its courses.[50]

    Reply
  • 59. COL is irresponsible! wrote:

    They went and posted his unclear letter with sensational headlines, now that R’ Shea has issued this much clearer video (and to a great deal, a retraction or at least major clarification), they are silent.

    COL if you are reading this, you have the DUTY to post R’ Shea’s clarification with the same prominence!

    Reply
  • 60. levi both parts wrote:

    Journalists Amelia Hill with The Observer and Karin Badt from The Huffington Post have witnessed the Landmark Forum and concluded that, in their view, it is not a cult. Hill wrote, “It is … simple common sense delivered in an environment of startling intensity.” Badt noted the organisation’s emphasis on “‘spreading the word’ of the Landmark forum as a sign of the participants’ ‘integrity'” in recounting her personal experience of an introductory “Landmark Forum” course. Part of this theme included repeated comparisons between program participants and Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi.[40] Badt also noted that, “At the end of the day, I found the Forum innocuous. No cult, no radical religion: an inspiring, entertaining introduction of good solid techniques of self-reflection, with an appropriate emphasis on action and transformation (not change)”, pointing instead to problems lying with uncritical participants.[23]

    And

    Since its formation in 1991, Landmark Worldwide LLC has initiated several lawsuits around the world, pressing defamation actions against authors and journalists who have intimated that it is a cult. Critics of Landmark have portrayed these actions as an assault on free speech or an attempt to suppress legitimate comment, whereas Landmark Education has insisted that it only seeks to have inaccurate statements corrected and to protect its products from unfair disparagement.[48][49] In addition, other actions have been brought by individuals who have been required by their employers to attend seminars delivered by Landmark and Vanto. Landmark has also initiated actions against websites such as Google and the Internet Archive to remove material it deems defamatory and to protect the privacy and confidentiality of participants in its courses.[50]

    Reply
  • 61. Att Reb Shea Hecht wrote:

    Thank you for issuing this clarification.

    You have a responsibility to issue the same type of clarification on the same forum that your letter went out with screaming headlines on.

    90% of the people do not know of your clarification. Do you want Rabbeim in OT to be thrown out because since your letter went out, they are now seen as nuts and Ovdei AZ?!

    Do you want people to be shamed in public because of this misunderstanding?

    Obviously not. So please make sure your clarification goes out with the same prominence as your letter with the screaming headline.

    Reply
  • 62. Shea Hecht, Figure Yourself Out wrote:

    Stop being wishy-washy and take one position. Why are you now ENCOURAGING people to go to a program that you feel might be avodah zara???

    Is it or is it not avodah zara??

    Reply
  • 63. be smart wrote:

    Rabbi Shea is telling that
    IF you are emotional disturbed, he sends you to COTS, if you fit in one of the following scenarios
    1)you are going to kill someone,
    2) divorce your wife,
    3)abandonate your kids,
    4)scream Yechi, shvil
    5)go do dollars on Sundays ,
    6)you are going to make up that you see the Rebbe b’gashmius
    7) telling people that the Rebbe is G-d
    COTS can help you to find peace,love,balance, direct you toward other more valuable and healthier pursuits

    Reply
  • 66. Milhouse wrote:

    Landmark is definitely a cult. It’s based on an earlier cult, est. But it has just enough truth in it that people can actually be helped by it. See here

    Reply
  • 67. confused italiano wrote:

    Im lost… whats this whole call of the shofar thing? Where does it take place? Also, I thought they only blow shofar in the month of eluk. It takes a lot of chutspah to go adding days of the year ehere we can blow shofar. Whats going on?

    Reply
  • 69. Sound Familiar??? wrote:

    From Cults In Our Midst
    http://www.ex-premie.org/singer/#imagery

    Some of the psychotherapy cults and thought-reform groups use guided imagery to regress members back to childhood. The purpose is to stir up recall of past pain and loneliness and, at the same time, induce members to blame their parents for allowing them to be alone and neglected when they were children. The following brief sample of a regression technique comes from a man who had been in a group that used a great deal of visualization. He was told:

    Close your eyes and go back in time to your childhood. See yourself at about age six. It is like a dream. you see yourself in a woods. You are you young and all alone. You walk between the trees to a clearing in the center. You see an old wall with a wooden gate that opens easily. You step inside, look around. you see some toys from when you were very young. The stuffed animal you loved, but it’s cast aside, all alone and neglected. You look over across the way and see some clothes torn. You see the blanket you used to take to bed with you. You see your old bed across the way. You begin to feel as lonely now as you did as a little kid in bed, all alone. Who did you long for? Did they come? Why are you crying all alone in your bed? Think about all those lonely times and all those broken promises. Dad forgetting to come home to play, Mom not coming to put you to bed. All those broken promises. They are still deep inside, pulling at you, you are crying out alone and no one comes.

    This guided imagery has the psychological goal of stirring up emotions, causing you, the group member, to return to childhood memories and recapture sadness. It also has the goal of implying that there are even more painful memories yet to be found, intimating that your parents caused all the miseries in your life. This allows the leader then to show you the way to happiness through learning his message and way of life: to come to find your new family and to feel loved here, blame those awful parents and don’t go near them.
    Guided imagery can have any content, and the group process of hearing others cry and sob as they recall past traumas has a powerful impact, for it induces a contagion of feeling and participation that can be heady for most persons.

    I urge everyone to read the entire article.

    Reply
  • 70. Discredited pshyclogical practice wrote:

    My wife is a renowned pshycologist in NJ I discussed the postings on the numerous chabad websites. She told me it is a very DANGEROUS way of treating people and is not practiced by any professionals. The bottom line is stay away from this discredited mumbo jumbo it can be harmfull.

    Reply
  • 71. To the Husband of the Renowned Psychologist wrote:

    If your wife is so renowned, then let her share her opinion herself. If she’s willing to pass judgment based only on your descriptions of “postings on the numerous Chabad websites,” then I question if her renown is deserved.

    Reply
  • 72. Calls for full disclosure!? wrote:

    Most normal people fear cults and their members, and justifiably so. Why don’t you disclose your identity? A COTS member should have self-confidence!

    Reply
  • 75. LGATs wrote:

    Mass Marathon Trainings
    An excerpt from “The Politics of Transformation: Recruitment – Indoctrination Processes in a Mass Marathon Psychology Organization”
    Published by St. Martin’s Press 1993
    By Philip Cushman, Ph.D.

    Mass marathon training is usually based on the belief that it is a universal truth that all human beings will have problems in life until they develop deep cathartic psychological insight, experience completely their every feeling, and live only in the present moment (see Brewer, 1975; Bry, 1976; Rhinehart, 1976). According to this ideology all defenses are bad and must be destroyed. They shape their group exercises in order to uncover and intensify the participants’ underlying conflicts and deficits. Everyone must be exposed to these exercises; there are no exceptions. When all defenses are destroyed, they claim there is literally no limit to what each individual can accomplish.
    Yet there is research that contradicts this universal claim. Applebaum (1976) reported on the results of the Psychotherapy Research Project of the Henninger Foundation, which attempted to better understand the effects of psychological insight in the treatment of patients who had ego-function difficulties and severe characterological problems. After insight-oriented treatment. a substantial number of patients were found to have changed for the worse. The data confirmed that the “screened-off aspects of one’s self” are hidden for a reason; for some types of people the conflicts that necessitated the screening off should remain hidden. Psychology, Applebaum argued, has to recognize the factors, which impinge upon whether, when, how much, and what kind of insight a particular person in particular circumstances should be helped to achieve. We need to know . . . the patient’s capacities in order to design the best amount, kind, and timing of insight. (1976, pp. 205-206)

    The data demonstrated Applebaum’s contention that differential diagnosis and a differential treatment plan is crucial in effective psychotherapy. This conclusion challenges the universal and absolutist claims of insight oriented mass marathon groups. Applebaum warned that “Until we give up the pipe dream of insight as a universal good or a universal bad, we and our patients will, at times, be injured by its dangerous edge.” (1976. p. 206)
    Just as Applebaum criticized those who considered the indiscriminate use of insight a universal therapeutic panaceas so too did Hampden-Turner (1976) attack those who treat human growth like a consumer product, indiscriminately applying certain techniques to every customer who appears with a blank check. He vigorously disagreed with the ethics of “The pop supermarket, the idea that you can purchase a “peak” here and a “high” there, and go psycho-shopping for prepackaged experiences…in fact human growth is not like a product at all, and we vitiate it utterly by pandering to the consumer ethos.” (1976, p. 3)

    His critique focused particularly upon the highly structured, authoritarian, insight-oriented marathon workshops. Some aspects of humanistic psychology, he argued, seem· “…to have almost forgotten that our most precious human values are achieved by indirection as opposed to the means ends rationality of industrial production. . . I seriously question any high that has been programmed in advance.” (1976, pp. 1-2)
    He voiced his disagreement with psychological ideologies that discount or deny the significance of the sociohistorical and economic realities of the situation in which the client lives. These ideologies instead argue for the grandiose delusion of the ultimate limitlessness of the individual. To the organizations that teach this ideology he posed a provoking question: “If we are not aware of what the economy does to us, are we self aware at all? Any genuine search for truth must remind us of the things we cannot change.” (1576, P. 3)
    In this way Hampden-Turner raised an issue that Sampson (1981) expanded upon. Sampson criticized cognitive psychology (the single most prominent aspect of the ideology of many mass marathon organizations) for its “subjectivist reduction.” By this he meant the regressive tendency to discount the nonsubjective world by considering it to be either a hallucination or subject to the total control of the individual. According to some mass marathon organizations, human fetuses choose their parents, female victims choose to be raped, and Vietnamese children chose to be bombed. The regressive aspects of this ideology seem to be readily apparent.
    Sampson demonstrated how a regressive psychological doctrine can impact on political activity. He argued that an ideology both accurately expresses the “zeitgeist” of the era and may also inaccurately distort the facts in order to serve the ruling elite. He explained how cognitivism as an ideology serves the status quo of power and privilege in American society by teaching individuals to reinterpret their internal response to a painful experience rather than to work at rearranging the external situation so that it could better facilitate personal and communal well being.
    Humanistic psychology owes much to Lewin’s “laboratory movement, ” which originally developed the encounter-group format at the Bethel Institute. Mass marathon psychotherapy organizations claim that they are within the legitimate tradition of this movement. They claim that their training techniques, which include severe milieu control and a rigid ideology, are taken directly from the encounter movement of years past. And yet Gottschalk and Pattison’s (1969) study of the history of T-groups and the laboratory movement appears to refute that claim. They found that the laboratory movement was originally an attempt to encourage democracy within community action groups. It was composed of three types of groups: T-groups, task-oriented groups dedicated to teaching about group process, and intervention labs whose goals were action-oriented community improvement programs. The authors found that the original unified effort diverged into an increasing number of activities, each with different philosophical foundations and agendas. The shift in the 1950s to “individual growth. . . . self knowledge, to actualization and maturation” (1969, p. 4) was a clear deviation from the founding philosophy.

    They reported that T-group participants sometimes complained of the hidden. agendas, group norms, and covert values of charismatic group leaders and their loyal followers.
    They found that the trainer and various group members are calling upon them to stop certain ways of behaving, talking, thinking, and feeling, and that different ways of behaving are being prescribed. (p. 12)
    Also the T-group was found to consciously evoke dramatic reactions in the participants, which often involved an exaggeration of impulsive traits and personality styles.
    Gottschalk and Pattison isolated 13 liabilities of encounter groups, some of which are similar to characteristics of most current mass marathon psychotherapy training sessions:
    They lack adequate participant-selection criteria.
    They lack reliable norms, supervision, and adequate training for leaders.
    They lack clearly defined responsibility.
    They sometimes foster pseudoauthenticity and pseudoreality.
    They sometimes foster inappropriate patterns of relationships.
    They sometimes ignore the necessity and utility of ego defenses.
    They sometimes teach the covert value of total exposure instead of valuing personal differences.
    They sometimes foster impulsive personality styles and behavioral strategies.
    They sometimes devalue critical thinking in favor of “experiencing” without self-analysis or reflection.
    They sometimes ignore stated goals, misrepresent their actual techniques, and obfuscate their real agenda.
    They sometimes focus too much on structural self-awareness techniques and misplace the goal of democratic education; as a result participants may learn more about themselves and less about group process.
    They pay inadequate attention to decisions regarding time limitations. This may lead to increased pressure on some participants to unconsciously “fabricate” a cure.
    They fail to adequately consider the “psychonoxious” or deleterious effects of group participation (or] adverse countertransference reactions. (1969, p. 13)
    As a result, participants and leaders may unconsciously distort their feelings and responses when reporting to researchers about the group or recruiting for future groups. This might result in a deceptive “oversell” that could undermine informed consent and lead to unrealistic regressive expectations in new recruits, the specific type of problems that have been found to lead to psychological casualties (see Yalom & Lieberman, 1972, below). Since these liabilities are so similar to the techniques used in some mass marathon training’s, they may also cause psychological damage in that setting as well.
    In a significant study with far-reaching consequences for the study of mass marathon training’s, Yalom and Lieberman (1972) observed in 209 undergraduate subjects the negative effects of participation in an encounter group. Over the course of 10 weeks, 18 groups met for 30 hours; there were also 150 fifty control subjects who did not attend any group.
    Each group was run by a leader who was chosen because he was an excellent representative of one of 10 ideological schools of encounter (T-groups, Gestalt, Rogerian-marathon, psychodrama, psychoanalytic, Transactional Analysis, sensory awareness, Synanon, personal growth, black-white encounter, and leaderless). Each was given complete freedom.
    Yalom and Lieberman’s primary interest was in assessing the types and causes of psychiatric “casualties.” The operational definition of a casualty was “an enduring, significant, negative outcome which . . . was caused by…participation in the group” (1972, p. 223). There is little doubt that the careful, conservative manner in which the study was conducted tended to minimize negative results and reduce the risk to subjects (1972, p. 228). The authors developed a system for identifying subjects who were harmed. Their definition of this subsample and their means of locating it were characteristically conservative. Subjects were included in the casualty subsample only when they had experienced “enduring” negative change and “…as a direct result of . . . [their] experience in the encounter group became more psychologically distressed and/or employed more maladaptive mechanisms of defense.” (1972. p. 228)
    Also, the experience must have been proven to be the responsible element in the psychological decompensation. For example, one subject committed suicide during the study and was not counted as a casualty because the suicide could have been caused from past encounter group experiences.
    In a startling finding, Yalom and Lieberman reported that 9.4% of the subjects met their stringent criteria and were therefore identified as casualties. The authors viewed this as a serious challenge to the entire movement.
    The authors also determined that it was neither the psychological traits of the subjects (i.e., predispositional factors) nor the ideology of the leaders (i.e., doctrinal factors) that determined the casualty rate. Instead, surprisingly, it was the style of leadership that was primary. Leaders who were aggressive, stimulating, intrusive, confrontive, challenging, personally revealing, and authoritarian were the leaders who caused the casualties.
    Specifically these leaders often unilaterally structured the group’s events. Their focus was on the individual rather than group process. They provided a comprehensive intellectual framework with which to understand one’s self and one’s world. They exercised firm control and were “ready, willing and able” to take over for participants and guide them to “enlightenment” (1972, p. 236). They were People who were charismatic leaders: they had a universal message to deliver, a foolproof technique to use, and a cause to recruit for. They were uninhibited in their attempts to convert all the participants in their group. These characteristics are clearly duplicated by many mass marathon trainers. The findings corroborated Gottschalk and Pattison’s 1969 conclusions and again call into question many tactics used by mass marathon organizations.
    Of the categories that caused casualties, “rejection” was the most damaging. “Failure to achieve unrealistic goals” was the second most dangerous category. Each of these subjects reported being pressed for a breakthrough without being able to deliver. “Leader attack”-“group attack” tied for third. The fact that participants were restrained from leaving, that they had “no place to hide,” was thought to be a crucial element. “Group pressure to experience and express feelings” also caused casualties. When subjects couldn’t comply, they felt a “sense of hollowness” which led to a “deficient or empty self-image” (1972, p. 243).
    Interestingly, many subjects who demographically resembled the casualty subsample didn’t have negative experiences. Yalom and Lieberman found that they had more realistic expectations for the experience, they were not lonely or depressed, they remained uninvolved (i.e. “…they did not enter into a public confessional and therefore maintained their objectivity and their ‘observing ego'”), they dropped out of the group, they depended on a positive self-concept when they were negatively criticized by the group, or they used an outside reference group to bolster their own beliefs when in conflict with a group norm.
    The authors suggested that a questionnaire that detects unrealistic expectations would be a helpful counterindicator when attempting to predict which potential participants would be at risk. In summary, Yalom and Lieberman stressed that casualties were caused by the style and techniques of the leader, and by recruitment and selection practices.
    The groups were determined to be dangerous when:
    Leaders had rigid, unbending beliefs about what participants should experience and believe, how they should behave in the group. and when they should change.
    Leaders had no sense of differential diagnosis and assessment skills, valued cathartic emotional breakthroughs as the ultimate therapeutic experience, and sadistically pressed to create or force a breakthrough in every participant.
    Leaders had an evangelical system of belief that was the one single pathway to salvation.
    Leaders were true believers and sealed their doctrine off from discomforting data or disquieting results and tended to discount a poor result by, “blaming the victim.”
    Yalom and Lieberman concluded by again emphasizing the crucial importance of informed consent. “Our best means of prevention,” they maintained, remains the type of group the subject enters, and our best means for prevention is self-selection. If responsible public education can teach prospective encounter group members about what they can expect in terms of process, risks, and profits from a certain type of group, then and only then can they make an informed decision about membership. (p. 253)

    It is instructive to note that many mass marathon organizations are conducting their training in the exact manner found by Yalom and Lieberman to cause the greatest number of psychiatric casualties

    Reply
    • 76. Anonymous wrote:

      Wow. Right on the money, my friend. I was sent to one of these programs as a child. It was not religious based. The “leaders” acted in exactly the same way that the article says caused the “psychiatric casualties”. Certain vulnerable types should NEVER be allowed to participate in these wacko programs. I was thankfully very astute and mature for my age and never let myself get emotionally attached to the process. I believe this is what saved me from being a “psychiatric casualty”.

  • 77. ShoshanaOT wrote:

    I feel very sad for the decision by Chabad Crown Heights leaders concerning COS. Are they creating what they fear, a cult-like adherence to only their own path? I feel sorry for their community, and the short sighted leadership, who chose to speak from a misguided ignorance. I pray Hashem will bring them the light of wisdom, not the darkness of fear. May COS continue to guide thousands of people who seek personal growth to deepen their connection to Hashem and Torah. May Hashem bless COS with continued success in helping others to help themselves and their families and communities. I am blessed to be see the wonderful results of their personal growth weekends.

    Reply
  • 78. ShoshanaOT wrote:

    Someone mentioned the cost of the weekend. Did you ever wonder what the profits are? Just the cost of staffing (1:1 most of the times), lodging, food (excellent chabad kosher), transportation of teachers etc is most of the fees. I paid a lot to send my daughter to a CHABAD camp and did not complain. if you are a professional as I am, this is less then the cost of a professional workshop by far.

    Reply
  • 79. Financials wrote:

    EIN 33-1119637
    Name in IRS Master File CALL OF THE SHOFAR INC
    Street Address
    City, State, Zip BALTIMORE , MD 21209-3929
    NTEE Code B60
    NTEE Classification Adult, Continuing Education
    NTEE Type Educational Institutions and Related Activities
    Classification Educational Organization
    Subsection 501(c)(3) (View the list of codes)
    Activities
    Foundation Status Organization that normally receives no more than one-third of its support from gross investment income and unrelated business income and at the same time more than one-third of its support from contributions, fees, and gross receipts related to exempt purposes. 509(a)(2)
    Deductibility Contributions are deductible
    Affiliation Independent – the organization is an independent organization or an independent auxiliary (i.e., not affiliated with a National, Regional, or Geographic grouping of organizations).
    Group Name [Not Applicable]
    Exempt Organization Status Unconditional Exemption
    Ruling Date March, 2006
    Asset Amount $16,314
    Income Amount $241,981
    Form 990 Revenue Amount $241,981
    Latest Form 990 Return December, 2012
    Filing Requirement 990 (all other) or 990EZ return
    Fiscal Year End December
    IRS Forms 990
    (provided courtesy of Foundation Center) (Log In or Register Now to View Forms 990!) December, 2011
    December, 2010
    December, 2009
    December, 2008
    December, 2007

    Reply
  • 80. Alison J. wrote:

    I have no idea if it is a cult or not. One thing is for sure, a cult is good for NO ONE.

    Reply
  • 81. New Statement From Shea Hecht wrote:

    Statement from Shea Hecht: I Attended…. Now What?

    Posted Friday, Jan 3 2014 12:01am in Chabad News

    Since the publicizing of my letter over two weeks ago, hundreds of people have contacted me regarding the Call of the Shofar. Many express appreciation, applauding my courage in taking a stand, while many others strongly criticize me for the very same. Numerous friends and neighbors in the community came forward and confided some of their personal journeys with COTS. You entrusted me with your private moments, your triumphs and your frustrations. Many of you have asked, “True, you were a deprogrammer for many years, but without ever personally attending COTS, how is your opinion so unshakable?”

    First of all, around a year ago, when I first heard about COTS, I, as a counselor, was interested in the self-help methods that were used. With an open mind and an eager attitude, I attended one of their meetings, which was led by the director of the group. As I sat in the room at this Call of the Shofar meeting, I realized that eleven of the fourteen men in attendance had previously attended COTS. No one at the meeting spoke about any methodology used or about any specifics at all. The only topic discussed was the amazing benefit I would reap if I would attend a COTS weekend.

    I want to remind you that for a decade of my life, I lived and breathed cults and spent weeks at a time with cult members. As I sat at this meeting, I began to feel an old yet very familiar gut feeling, similar to what I would feel when infiltrating cults many years ago. At that point, I began to question and challenge the director about the origins of his methods, and he told me that he bases his ideas on eastern religions and other self-help groups like the Mankind Project.

    Since that time, I have heard and read a lot more about the Call of the Shofar, both from attendees and from friends who are professionals in the fields of hypnotherapy, NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) deprogramming and mind control in general. One colleague in particular spent many hours researching COTS online, and also read all of the recent back and forth on COL. He came back to me with the strongest of condemnations and insists that COTS is not simply “avazrayu d’avoda zara” as I ascertained in my letter. Based on what the director himself has stated about his own background and the roots of his methods, some of the fundamental COTS techniques are based on Buddhist practices. This therapist insists, along with others, that we are not dealing with “avazrayu d’avoda zara”, but that some of the origins of COTS are avoda zara mamash. Therefore, it is completely irrelevant whether I or others have personally attended a COTS retreat or not. When the source of a program has roots in avoda zara, the inherent problems are self-understood.

    The question many of you have asked now is, if instead of achieving the self-improvement I sought, I was instead duped and brainwashed, how do I get this out of my system? If I did something wrong, how can I rectify this? Once again, for those who want to understand the concepts of programming and brainwashing, they should watch the film Captive Minds or study other sources to research the topic.

    In answer to these questions, the good news is that it is much easier to become deprogrammed voluntarily. Much stronger methods that you may be familiar with from reading about cult deprogrammings are only necessary when the deprogrammings are involuntary.

    Here are some suggestions that have been successfully used for voluntary deprogramming. The following types of exercises are suggested based on a person’s personality type in order to be most effective.

    – If you are a person motivated by intellect, for the next 40 days, take a few minutes of study each day to concentrate on the ruchniusdike concept of free choice and the importance of a true teacher and a leader. My father once received a hora’ah from the Rebbe that 40 days is a form of permanence.

    – If you are a person motivated by kabolas ol, take 5 minutes a day for the next 40 days repeating kapitel vav in Tehillim, thinking about how you desire to serve Hashem through a true and proper path. If it is helpful, carefully read the English translation as well.

    – If you are a person motivated by emotion, spend 5 minutes a day singing a niggun of the Alter Rebbe or our Rebbe, for example, and have in mind that if you had any thoughts against Torah, Mitzvos and darkei Chasidus while participating in COTS, they should be purged from your subconscious.

    – If you are a person motivated by nature, go to a beautiful quiet place, such as a park or lake for around an hour approximately 5 times in the next 40 days and again, think about ridding your mind of any thoughts which are against Torah, Mitzvos and darkei Chassidus.

    While these suggestions may sound mild and even useless, what must be realized is that the conscious mind is stronger than the subconscious mind. The conscious mind can purge things that have affected you, even if they entered your mind subconsciously. Commanding the subconscious mind what you want to accomplish can effectively do the job.

    Most importantly, how do you know that you’ve accomplished your goal and that you are free of any effects of brainwashing?

    When you have feelings of resentment toward the cult, you know that you’ve reached the finish line. When some of the admiration, fantasy and love for COTS has turned into resentment and possibly even outrage for the time taken from your family, for the money spent, for the exercises that you were somehow made willing to do, you know you have been deprogrammed. This may take more than more or less than 40 days- each person is different.

    Another important point to bear in mind is that anger toward the person who encouraged you to attend COTS is likely misplaced, since that person was almost certainly brainwashed himself.

    Most importantly, the cult convinced you to go out and influence someone else to join. If you did this, I urge you to go back to that person and apologize, using whatever influence you have to inform him that there are pagan practices used by this group.

    This Sunday evening, iy”H, I hope to address the community in order to more thoroughly explain some of these points, including the often underestimated power and misunderstood issues of brainwashing, programming and deprogramming.

    As we prepare ourselves for the day of Yud Shvat, the day of the coronation of our Rebbe, may we strengthen our hiskashrus to the Rebbe, the nasi of our generation.

    Reply
  • 82. Ananoymous wrote:

    I went to Call of the Shofar three years ago. It has helped me tremendously – till this day, I did not have severe emotional problems, and I am observant Jew part of the wider orthodox Jewish community. I am disturbed by Rabbi Hect’s comments and while Call of the Shofar is doing something ‘revolutionary , it is in terms of few people are taking the initiative to truly help people open up to their true inner selves and potential life has to offer. Tanya or Torah cannot DIRECTLY help everyone, and can’t even help emotionally stable people DIRECTLY take their lives to a new level of connection with themselves, hashem, and others. I love Chabad and while every ‘sect’ has its problems this asifa and attack on Call of the Shofar I view as a weakness whether they see it as a threat with so many Chabad people being enticed by call of the Shofar or simply not being open enough to consider other opinions outside of the Rebbe to be legitamite. Im disappointed. Rabbi Hechts suggestions are not viable!

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  • 83. Abba Cohen wrote:

    I can’t imagine that R. Hecht would misinterpret the Rebbe but as far as meditation as a practice it seems clear that the Rebbie saw it as essentially good – as judged from his own words!

    “The sun, the moon, and the stars are necessary for life of earth. They bring about manifold goodness. However, they also have been worshipped as false gods. One might ask (as the Talmud asks): “Since they have been worshipped as false gods, shouldn’t they be destroyed? However, should G-d destroy the world because of the foolishness of the idol-worshipers?” The same concept applies in regard to meditation. Though essentially good, meditation can also be destructive. There are those who have connected meditation to actually bowing down to an idol or a man and worshipping it or him, bringing incense before them etc.”

    – translation from 13 Tamuz 5739 Fabrengen

    original recording: http://www.chabad.org/therebbe/livingtorah/player_cdo/aid/858581/jewish/Kosher-Meditation.htm

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  • 84. Meditation Can Also Be Inherintly Harmful wrote:

    Meditation can be kosher or treif, we all know that. But meditating as avoda zoro is not limited to deities and idols. Meditating on the “self” can also fall into this category. It’s not so simple. And since COTS seems to place an extreme emphasis on the “self”, it is no stretch to hypothesize that meditation as advocated by a man with a proclaimed background in many forms of avoda zoro is just that. Let’s see just exactly what COTS teaches insofar as meditation is concerned and lets hear a detailed description of how and in what context it is used at these retreats. Then we can take the conversation out of the hypothetical and into something more fact based.

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  • 85. Shui wrote:

    I have found Rabbi Hecht’s book, Confessions of a Jewish Cultbuster to be very helpful in understanding this controversy.

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