Attending the Call of the Shofar is a unique experience. It is very difficult to describe, and therefore when we finish the program, we struggle for words to explain what the last 72 hours were all about. Most of us who went through the program have never experienced something like COTS before, so we cannot even compare it to anything. This makes it very difficult and frustrating for the witch-hunters to take down, without looking foolish themselves. In spite of the face-paint and nose-rings, it’s hard to throw a spear at something, when you don’t know what it is.
The most common attack is that COTS is a new Chassidus, or is a Torah class, and therefore it is assur because Simcha isn’t frum (or not frum enough). This is absurd as is discussed in the post Is Simcha Frum.
The next attack is that COTS is a cult, therefore prohibited. In addition to Shea Hecht backtracking on that statement, eventually calling COTS a Kosher Cult (it now has his “KC” hechsher!), the accusation of cult itself was lambasted by the American Psychiatric Association and the US legal system. For a good laugh, check out Heshy Fried’s article on Shea Hecht.
Recently, one of the more active commentators on this blog (thank you again Eli Katz!) explains that RDC (Rabbi Dovid Cohen) based a psak forbidding Shofar on the basis that COTS is therapy, and according to Rav Moshe Feinstein, you can only go to a frum therapist. First of all, I’m not sure anybody knows of this, because tons of people go to therapists all the time who are not frum. As a matter of fact, the JCC here in Chicago, supported by many frum people and sitting in the heart of the frum part of the city, has attached to it a whole therapy center which services the community. Most, if not all, of the therapists are not frum. But that isn’t really relevant. What is relevant, and perhaps something that RDC should have looked into, is that Call of the Shofar is not therapy.
Newsflash: COTS is not Therapy
In addition to the COTS website specifically stating that they do not provide any therapy, a quick google search on “What is Therapy” brings up Noah Rubenstein’s excellent site, goodtherapy.org, where he discusses what therapy is:
Therapy, or psychotherapy, is the process of meeting with a therapist for the purpose of resolving problematic behaviors, beliefs, feelings, and/or somatic responses (sensations in the body). Therapy can address and resolve a large number of specific concerns, issues, and symptoms.
This is not what the Call of the Shofar is about. COTS is a self-help program not designed in any way to resolve any specific problematic behavior, or change your beliefs or sensations in the body. Again, a misunderstanding. But hey, during a witch-hunt, let’s not let the facts get in the way.
Let’s pretend that COTS is Therapy!
Ok, just for fun, let’s make two huge leaps of faith: 1) let’s pretend that COTS is therapy, and 2) that you can only go to “frum” therapists. So hypothetically, can Simcha now move over, and let other “frum” people run the program? Guess what, he already did! He isn’t even here in the USA anymore, and he has other frum Jews running the program! If they are not frum-enough, can we put a nice frum Lakewooder (approved by RDC of course) in charge and have him run the program? Now is it OK?
“But Simcha invented it, and he is not FRUM!” screams the crowd, dressed in their loincloth, baring their teeth and brandishing their weapons. Well guess what, 100% of all therapies taught and practiced today, even by frum people, were thought of, designed, and developed by NOT frum people, (many of whom were mamash koferim). There is no “therapy” today if not for Freud, Adler & Jung, the founding father’s of the profession. There are no techniques, theories, and exercises that didn’t stem from Frankel, Minuchin & Bowen. There are no licensed schools that do not teach Carl Rogers, Virginia Satir, and Fritz Perls as a part of the foundation. There are no licensed frum therapists today that are not significantly (if not wholly) based on the ideas, concepts, and teachings of these giants in the field.
I take that back, there was one — Nechemya Weberman. He is in jail for 103 years. Unfortunately, he has become the world’s poster-boy for “Frum Therapy” not-based on the above mentioned leaders.
Bottom line – there is a witch-hunt going on, based on fear and ignorance. Simcha is not a therapist, and the Call of the Shofar is not therapy. And even if he was a therapist, and not frum, Crown Heights wouldn’t relent, RDC wouldn’t relent, if Simcha stepped down and let somebody else who is frum-enough take over. Nothing matters – because when you are hunting, the game ain’t over until the prey is dead.