Jan 24, 2014
Chabad Rabbis Ban "Call of Shofar"

Chabad's official rabbinic body has concluded an extensive investigation into the "Call of the Shofar" and found it to be "dangerous."

By COLlive reporter

The rabbinic body of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in North America has issued a ruling that participation in the controversial self-help program "Call of the Shofar" is forbidden according to Jewish law.

The "Central Committee of Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbis in the United States and Canada," also known as Vaad Rabbonei Lubavitch, wrote in a letter dated Thursday, 22 Shevat 5774, that the decision was the result of an extensive investigation.

It was signed by its executive members (in order of appearance): Rabbi Dovid Schochet of Toronto, Canada; Rabbi Elimelech Zwiebel of Morristown, NJ; Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky of Brooklyn, NY; Rabbi Zusha Winner of Brighton Beach, NY; Rabbi Yisroel Rosenfeld of Pittsburgh, PA.

Their letter in Hebrew reads (free translation):

"In response to the questions of many about participation in the program "Call of the Shofar," we are informing that according to the testimony from a number of participants, and a number of knowledgeable experts, and after reading many documents, it is explicitly proven that the above mentioned program has in it things that were learned from foreign organizations, Heaven forbid."

They write that they concluded that the program "includes exercises and speeches that not only are not according to the spirit of Torah and chassidus, but rather a peculiar way that has in it several prohibitive matters, and this isn't the place to elaborate."

They concluded: "Because of all of the above, we have concluded that this program is dangerous and it is forbidden to participate in it."

A source at Vaad Rabbonei Lubavitch told COLlive.com that the ruling was done following "an accumulative 50 hours of extensive investigation that combed through documents, analyzed programs, interviewed participants and did endless research."

He said that while some complained that the rabbinical body took its time to produce a ruling, the rabbis wanted to cover every possible aspect to reach a definitive and decisive conclusion.

COLlive.com was told that a "Kol Koreh" call is currently being signed by rabbis, roshei yeshiva and mashpiim offering a working plan to those that have participated in any of the weekend retreats, workshops, conference calls and other contact with the program.

FOLLOW UP TO OUTCRY

The Call of the Shofar has come under heavy fire since first being exposed on COLive.com in December 2013. The inroads it gained within the Crown Heights community and Chabad followers has enraged many, leading to an "urgent gathering" attended by some 2,000 people.

Simcha Frischling, founder of the "Call of the Shofar" who recently relocated to Australia, told a Jewish newspaper that of its 2,000 participants, mostly men, he estimates that "maybe 90 percent of them could be considered Lubavitch community members."

The program has been openly recruiting participants in Chabad circles for around two years and held weekend retreats at a mansion owned by a Lubavitcher family in Morristown, NJ. A recent statement from Frischling showed the program's mailing address to be a private home on Lefferts Avenue in Crown Heights.

Articles by mind-control and cult experts and admissions by the program's past participants said that Shofar, also called by its initials, "COTS," is a "cult" and uses "mind-controlling techniques."

The hotly debated conversation also discussed the proper way to deal with life's challenges. As a result, new shiurim were established in Crown Heights and schools are reporting that parents are taking greater interest in the education of their children.

Two new weekly webcasts on COLlive.com, presented by preeminent Chabad scholar Rabbi Yoel Kahn and best-selling author Rabbi Simon Jacobson, have been started, discussing timely matters and concerns and their application according to the teachings of chassidus.

These classes join the long-running programs "Shabbos Night Live" with Rabbi Shmuel Butman, Executive of Lubavitch Youth Organization, and insights into halacha by Rabbi Nachman Wilhelm, Dean of OnlineSmicha.com and ongoing broadcasts of farbrengens and lectures.

DEVELOPMENTS AT OHOLEI TORAH

The Oholei Torah educational institute for boys in Crown Heights reported this week that a number of staff members who have attended sessions of COTS were individually interviewed by Raphael Aron, Director of Cult Counseling of Melbourne, Australia.

"Mr. Aron has reported to the Oholei Torah board that he is satisfied that these staff members have since disassociated themselves from this organization and any of its practices," said Rabbi Joseph Rosenfeld, Oholei Torah's Executive Director.

"We also accepted the staff member's assurances that they will continue to attend therapy as needed. Mr. Aron will be continuing to monitor the situation in the future as well," Rosenfeld wrote, adding that the school is "looking to expand its many exciting and interesting approaches in presenting and dealing with the issues and questions in today's environment."

Rosenfeld said that he plans to incorporate professional, chassidishe and respected lecturers and guidance counselors to help the staff and students "better deal with and relate to everyday life struggling issues with a positive and happy attitude."


THE COVERAGE ON COLlive:
+ Man Behind "Call of the Shofar"
+ Rabbi Hecht: "Call of the Shofar is a Cult
+ Rabbi Y Schochet: Call of the Void
+ What Really Happens at "Shofar"
+ Op-Ed: The Call Is Simply a Symptom
+ Rabbis Convene Urgent Gathering
+ 2000 at "Urgent Gathering"
+ R' Yoel Kahn's Full Speech
+ Cult Expert Explains Dangers
+ Oholei Torah Staff Issue Statement
+ Bochurim Protest School Firing
+ Confessions of a 'Shofar' Staffer
+ Oholei Torah Reinstates Teachers
+ How to Detox from 'Shofar'
+ Comedy: The Call of the Puppet



Most Read Most Comments




Opinions and Comments
1
Vaad rabonei Lubavitch is a month late
Vaad rabonei Lubavitch is a month late
(1/24/2014 2:52:58 PM)
2
Shofar
Simcha was a fine little shofar.

As Simcha grew, he became very proud of the noise that he could make.

One day, Simcha was looking at the people around him as he was sounding his plaintive cry. Simcha did not like what he saw; not at all! The people stopped what they were doing, and grew very serious. Why, some people even had tears in their eyes!

“This will not do!” thought Simcha. “I think people should enjoy freedom and be happy!”

So Simcha began to travel the world in search of a better way. In one place he learned how to attract more attention. In another place he learned new tunes to play. In yet another place he learned that he could touch people on a deeper level.

Simcha came back home and began tooting his horn. This was no ordinary shofar anymore! No, indeed; this was a shofar that had people flock around it. The tunes this shofar played made them feel good. The people would scream out in harmony with the ‘new’ tunes that Simcha played, and leave laughing light headedly.

“Come and hear Simcha!” people called gaily to their friends.

Simcha was so proud. “Look how much good I am doing with my new ways!” he thought. “People are so happy now that I changed my tune. I can relate to them, and they to me!”

Slowly, Simcha began to notice something.

The gaiety and light headedness that he was inspiring, was not really making the people better.

As time wore on, the light headedness was replaced by empty headedness, and the gaiety was replaced by cold indifference to what really mattered.

Simcha began to consider what the real call of his shofar represented.

A feeble cry indeed, but one that came from the very depth of his G-dly being, not from the recesses of his physical psyche.

A cry that started from the narrow side of the shofar, and required great effort and input to sound.

A cry that inspired serious introspection by those who heard it, even fear and trembling; but that fear served as the “beginning of wisdom” that led those putting in the requisite effort to the solid ground of the Neshama’s self-esteem and joyous existence.

A cry that truly gave meaning to the verse “Celebrate in trembling!”

A cry that told a tale of the chain of tradition; of a puff of air in the tiny opening of the shofar that could thunder only as a result of the great big opening on the other side - the great ancestory that the Jewish People share.

A cry that resonates the message of “Come back home!” rather than “Go out and explore!”

A cry that identifies the real connection that we share with each other - at the depth and essence of our soul, not merely with interlocked ankles and wrists.

A cry that calls “Abba! I love you!” rather than “Dad! You’ve wronged me!”

A cry that reveals instead of a song that shrouds in cliches and secrets.

Simcha discovered his real self. The soul of his shofar. He discarded the fruity tooting and went back to the call of his Neshama.

Tekiyah Gedolah! Welcome home Simcha! Welcome home all our dear brothers and sisters!
(1/24/2014 3:02:26 PM)
3
Vaad :-)
as usual the "vaad" is too little, too late...
(1/24/2014 3:10:23 PM)
4
wow
thanks col for stopping shofar
(1/24/2014 3:13:20 PM)
5
finally finished
hook line and sinker! THE END!!!!
(1/24/2014 3:17:31 PM)
6
Oh well
Well I just signed up. Can't wait
(1/24/2014 3:18:31 PM)
7
It's about time!
It's about time people actually did research on this before passing judgement.

Thank You for clarity!
(1/24/2014 3:21:58 PM)
8
serious learning would help
Rather than more therapists and lectures, ot should get a serious curriculum that teaches Tania and Chaya starting from earlier grades, rather than the fluff they give the kids all the way through school. Get a grip, kids need and want information, knowledge, and tools. Let them feel educated in a real and meaningful way, let them have knowledgeable teachers who care ( rather than the teachers and staff just making rules and computer generated reports) and we will go along way to avoid these kinds of situations. Time for oholei torah to get real.
(1/24/2014 3:22:14 PM)
9
90% participants were lubavitchers
The other 10% were invited by them. This was basically a chabad program that either flopped or imploded.
(1/24/2014 3:23:01 PM)
10
Finally
This is is laid to rest. I salute the Rabbonim who had the guts and courage to stand up to this movement who encroached on peoples lives in the name of openness and professionalism . This is also a time for action for community activists to provide assistance to families in need of professional intervention in a Kosher way.
(1/24/2014 3:27:21 PM)
11
Baruch Hashem!!!
What a relief, we have been waiting to hear from the Rabbonim on this matter.

Thank G-d those in charge and those who know did the proper research and finally put this horrible matter to rest. Now we can move on as a community in the right direction.
Hopefully those that were duped into this guy's crazy schemes will be able to get the help they need to get back to their normal selves.
(1/24/2014 3:46:50 PM)
12
Late
I hope that next time someone's life is hanging in the air, Vaad won't take so long to give their input... Sad
(1/24/2014 3:47:10 PM)
13
To # 6
Lol... you rock. your comment made my day :D
(1/24/2014 3:48:52 PM)
14
To those that say the Vaad is "Late"
We had plenty of others telling us until now that COTS is a disaster. What was needed was a through investigation by professionals - which takes time to do. If they had come out with this earlier it wouldnt have been complete research and might not have been correct!
(1/24/2014 3:49:26 PM)
15
BDE Simcha Frishling ZAL
The end of a sad parsha
(1/24/2014 4:08:27 PM)
16
Hakadosh Baruch Hu is pleased
Thank you Rabbis - We can enter this Shabbos with pride. The Aibishter is glad that his kinderlach are sanctifying His Name
todays Chumash: "And you shall worship the Lord, your God, and He will bless your food and your drink, and I will remove illness from your midst." Shabat Shalom. Hoping to greet Moshiach now!!
(1/24/2014 4:08:32 PM)
17
Meir
BS"D to to #13 & -one doesn't joke about anothers tzuros, The comment was completely tasteless
(1/24/2014 4:11:13 PM)
18
shluchim
Not just oholei Torah pushing this, mamosh shluchim getting their community members to go. Is Mr. Aron evaluating them to see if they are fit to lead their communities now?
(1/24/2014 4:40:11 PM)
19
Good news...BUT!
Yes, It's great to see the Emes coming out!
All the 100s or 1000s of Unzerer Heiliker Neshamos, that went through the program, what do they do now? What do we do now with them?

I suggest, just as the were "Changed" in only three days, they CAN be reversed in only three days.

My detail plan will be exposed after Shabos Kodesh.

YES, they can be helped.

Code name "Min Hameitzar"

(1/24/2014 4:41:57 PM)
20
yeah
me boro eileh
(1/24/2014 5:14:22 PM)
21
11213.org
If u want to learn real Chassidus for ur practical everyday life check out 11213.org
(1/24/2014 6:17:42 PM)
22
Mushka
11213.org gave me a new lease on life.
Literally.
(1/25/2014 6:38:06 PM)
23
BDE
can u put up the shiva info for COTS?:)

GLAD ITS OVER......
(1/25/2014 7:00:58 PM)
24
finally!!!!
Its over!!!:-)
(1/25/2014 7:08:37 PM)
25
Requiem For A Mishuggeneh
He/they should have a refuah sheleima...elsewhere.

And those who endorsed, supported, or "facilitated" this k'fira should to t'shuva, which should include speaking out loudly and clearly so that other false prophets of "self-awareness" and "releasing your true potential" can never again gain a foothold in Klall Yisrael. Ma Tovu Ohalecha Yaacov, Mishkanosecha Yisrael.
(1/25/2014 7:10:19 PM)
26
HEY!
23, you rock!!
2, pardon my ignorance but what language do you speak, didn't get it
(1/25/2014 8:13:35 PM)
27
BARUCH HASHEM
but i hope all participants do to a deep re-direction/teshuva...

to those who say this was late..guess what? if paskened earlier ppl say "they didnt do enuf research...'

basically SF was found to be void of any yiras shomaim which is needed when giving others direction in Avodas Hashem.

TO 6, if youre looking for avoda zara there are a lot of cheaper places, you dont need to spend so much $

thank you Rebbe for saving us from this machala but now we need your help to repair the damage that was done.

may all those who need therapy get it the right way, and may all those who need inspiration find a mashpia that will guide them.
(1/25/2014 8:20:14 PM)
28
Glad
That we got out of this klipa
(1/25/2014 8:24:12 PM)
29
IMHO
This whole situation arose from the constant looking for something new and better which is pervasive in Chabad chinuch.Every so often there's an all new and improved teaching program forced on us by the honholah because it turns out that up' till now we were doing it all wrong.Yes we can all learn and improve but these programs aren't Torah mi sinai;only Torah is mi sinai. Our rebeim gave us the best possible system for chinuch and life.Let's stop looking elsewhere!!!
(1/25/2014 11:11:44 PM)
30
Lol #2
Great
(1/25/2014 11:51:08 PM)
31
11213 is the place to be
you have questions??

rabbi manis friedman has answers
(1/26/2014 12:30:36 AM)
32
BH it is over
Thank you for finishing this up.
(1/26/2014 12:45:39 AM)
33
Mordy #2
Once again, no details are provided as to exactly what about the program is assur.
(1/26/2014 1:03:49 AM)
34
Dont get
Why Pasken a new Psak Din if you already Paskend it like a month before???
(1/26/2014 4:07:35 AM)
35
question
why isn't it in English for the non-hebrew readers?
(1/26/2014 6:05:38 AM)
36
to #2
There are lines in there that are so appropriate to what really went on there. I very much enjoyed reading your little story. You have real talent.
(1/26/2014 8:29:47 AM)
37
Words of a P'sak
This was a gilui daas based on p'sak. The maarei mekomos would follow. It happens this way all of the time when rabbonim are trying to protect the community.

(1/26/2014 9:23:11 AM)
38
The Real Danger of COTS
The real danger of COTS is if someone genuinely needs psychological help, he will seek COTS hoping for immediate relief from his emotional distress. In my interview of several attendees, they reported that they attended with some prior knowledge that they were depressed, anxious, moody and/or upset. Some of the COTS program activities involved hour long breathing and visualization techniques that are designed to break down the person. These strategies created observable psychological problems in some people: “I was throwing myself up against a wall”. “I saw a guy take his clothes off and run outside naked”, “The techniques made me feel that I could accomplish anything…I started to feel manic…At some later time, I ended up in the hospital for a week”.

These men may have needed valid psychological assistance prior, during and/or after COTS. These techniques and other strategies that are used do not necessarily support health and wellness particularly when the individual is not well. Some of the attendees were and are at increased psychological risk. In psychology conferences and workshops, there are always trained therapists available for intervention and prevention work. . Expert, on-site psychological assistance and psychological referrals are not provided at the COTS trainings (Koocher and Keith-Spiegel, 2008).

ii. Childhood trauma is a potentially dangerous area to explore with an individual without the presence of an expertly trained therapist with thousands of hours of supervised clinical care and ongoing training. Buried memories are hidden for a reason! The mind can only handle so much in order to get up and function each day. Defense mechanisms are coping strategies, often unconscious, that keeps out painful memories and events, and reduces anxieties generated by threats from unknown or uncomfortable places.

Pressured digging up of personal traumas and sensitive information can overwhelm the psychological defenses and make a person very ill; potentially creating psychological and/or physical problems. Decompensation of the personality is a very real problem when the techniques that COTS are applied!! COTS can put undue pressure on their attendees to identify early history traumas and problems. When the men verbalize their early pains, they are rewarded with applause, attention and hugs from the others. There is a desire to come up with some event or unhappy memory to share in the group. That is called “group think” and not supportive of good positive changes in a secure environment.

Evidence-based psychotherapeutic interventions have been proven to help individuals with trauma. The techniques are administered by highly trained professionals with years of education, supervised experience, continuing education classes and experience (Herman, 1997; Hersen & Rosqvist, 2008; Courtouis & Ford, 2009; De Angelis, 2008; Foa, 2009; Briere & Scott, 2012; Van der Kolk-numerous articles)

iii. Egocentric and manipulated narcissistic behaviors are characteristics that are entrained, supported and enhanced by the COTS program. An individual’s self worth is built up to the point of fantasy that he is now omnipotent and cannot make any mistakes in relationships. "Daniel Shaw has written a fascinating book that places his personal psychological journey in the well-researched context of his larger compelling theory of traumatic narcissism. Inspired by his own experience in a cult with a guru whom he eventually came to see as a traumatizing narcissist, and enlivened with numerous clinical case examples, this absorbing and far-ranging book traces the history of traumatic narcissism from ancient times to the vagaries of the current political scene." - Sheldon Bach, PhD, Adjunct Clinical Professor of Psychology, NYU Post Doctorial Program in Psychoanalysis (Shaw, 2013).

iv. COTS requires attendees to “lock their legs with a partner and put their hand on the other man’s heart, and then stare into each other’s eyes” for indefinite periods of time. The psychological risks and potential damage of this exercise is high. Latent or manifest homosexuality, personal secrets and physical boundary issues are possibly confronted in this exercise. Individuals can literally fall apart emotionally and feel increased levels of anxiety. This is not a place to encourage change. Yet, COTs sees this place of vulnerability as a perfect opportunity to create newly defined self perspectives. Attendees, their spouses and family members report that their relationships have been changed for the worse.

v. Second hand information from two sources: A man who attended COTS became very upset and attempted suicide by throwing himself under a train. Thank g d he was saved. Tearing down defenses and weakening individuals can possibly create a host of problems where a person has no resources to turn to in their feelings of despair and isolation. This problem has to be closely examined and prevented with all available resources to ensure that no harm is created or enhanced.

vi. “Carpet work” is a regular strategy that is used in the COTS training. Carpet work usually involves intensive self disclosure. The specifics of this technique are documented in other reports (Pollen, 2013). After the group work, each individual is confronted by the leader and is led to places where they are crying, screaming and for moments inconsolable. This can be a destructive influence on the mental health of the participant. In a bona fide psychotherapy setting, each individual is most carefully evaluated for their mental health status, their internal psychological structures, their psychological, family and early history, their coping strategies, their resources, their strengths and their challenges. COTS does not evaluate individuals who are entering their training program. It puts individuals at risk for serious mental problems and potential decompensation. Evidence-based psychotherapy techniques do not list these intervention strategies (Fisher, 2006; Freeman & Power, 2007; Youngner et al., 2013),
(1/26/2014 11:12:07 AM)
39
Lubavitcher Yeshiva
As parent of children in LY, I am very concerned that they are not addressing the issue. My son's melamed and the assistant principal were attendees at cots but I have yet to hear of any action on LY part to correct the problem and reassure the parents.

Rabbi Simpson, we are waiting for you to take action.
(1/26/2014 12:24:55 PM)
40
Thank you
Vaad Rabonai Lubavitch for addressing this issue and coming out with a clear psak.
We hope that you continue to deal with the core of this issue to work with the rabbonim of our kehilos and see why this happened in the first place, see the deep needs of our people and start implementing the Rebbes directives in making mashpiim in kehilos, encouraging asei lecho rav, truly not yotze tzu zain, mivtza torah, hafotzas hamaayonos also to our people who may be a bit chutza etc. etc.
(1/26/2014 1:42:17 PM)
41
People need Direction
95% of people look up to leadership and need it. Every Shul in CH should have a Rav or Mashpia. This is what the Rebbe wanted.
(1/26/2014 2:04:25 PM)
42
Techniques in the COTS
There are many different techniques in the COTS weekend trainings where the individual is confronted with his weaknesses, inadequacies and poor internal psychological structures. There is a quick fix mentality where the individual is rapidly brought up to feel wonderful after their “breakdown”.
COTS hones in on what they can do the tear down the participants self- esteem.
One participant wrote the following: “When they do the shouting the scream: I matter, be there for me , love me, accept me for who I am, I'm good enough. Then the instructor screams at you to say it louder and louder. Like an animal, *** (curse words) animal. This goes on for each person for about 10 minutes. This is also why, if you notice the call of the shofar guys come back from the weekend with no voice because they were screaming “I Matter” or be there for me, love me, accept me for who I am”.
The goal is to “create breakdowns of the self” and manipulate people to question the very essence of who they are. Evidence based psychotherapy with a seasoned therapist would beg to differ on these techniques. The ethics and laws that psychologists and mental health counselors are bound by do not include these strategies.
Cognitive Dissonance: Noted psychologist Leon Festinger’s idea of the Cognitive Dissonance phenomenon is well-known to many psychologists and Large Group Awareness leaders The empirically proven phenomenon of Cognitive Dissonance reveals that most people lack the ability to deal with “dissonance” of two conflicting self-perceptions or personal, cognitive images of themselves.
Fetinger (1957) addressed the following in his seminal work:

• “Any factors which increase the importance of some particular group as a comparison group for some particular opinion or ability will increase the pressure toward uniformity concerning that ability or opinion within that group.

• If persons who are very divergent from one's own opinion or ability are perceived as different from oneself on attributes consistent with the divergence, the tendency to narrow the range of comparability becomes stronger.

• When there is a range of opinion or ability in a group, the relative strength of the three manifestations of pressures toward uniformity will be different for those who are close to the mode of the group than those who are distant from the mode. Specifically, those close to the mode of the group will have stronger tendencies to change the positions of others, relatively weaker tendencies to narrow the range of comparison, and much weaker tendencies to change their position compared to those who are distant from the mode of the group” (1957).
Here is an example of how cognitive dissonance can be determined: In the specific context of group participation and paying for a Call of the Shofar training, the dissonance can be experienced as follows: Perception #1: “I can see through scams, I am smart and savvy to others who may take advantage of me” and Perception #2: “I may have just been tricked into investing time, energy and money, where I am away from my family, and I don’t know if this is the way I want to spend a Shabbos…but everyone else is not saying anything so what am I to think”
Most people will be incapable of finding a center point where they can withstand that type of critical self-assessment to realize that sometimes we do get tricked or scammed. The mind will likely work overtime on a pre/subconscious level to reconcile Perception #2 in an opposite direction, thereby to justify that the thing they spent so much time, energy and money upon really is very worthwhile. Interestingly, some people will thereafter be highly motivated to convince lots of other people to also come invest in it to prove to themselves that they made the right choice.
Where are the mature development strategies and teachings? To build self esteem from the inside out takes time and an authentic process to architect a healthy confidence. Research shows that 72 hours of intensive mind control will not make for long term enhancement of an individual’s self esteem and self worth. For example, what about teaching the following in a healthy manner in an evidence based training program with licensed professionals: Courage, Humility, Mindfulness, Gratitude, Altruism, Tolerance, Compassionate behaviors, Forgiveness, Humor, Emotional self-regulation and Emotional self-sufficiency. Taking the strengths of the individual and adding value and building on the positive resources are key to healthy development and positive self image and identification .
c. Isolation and Deprivation:
One of the most frightening things in COTS is how the leader isolates the attendees and uses methods of sleep deprivation and constant “programming “in order get control of the attendees in the seminars. Attendees are not allowed to use their cell phones, they are required to be silent unless directed otherwise and are allowed little sleep. Interviews with wives of men who attended COTS stated that “my husband was now different”, hard to relate to, seemed to care less about their concerns, was always talking about COTS and how they are changed individual, and that they could not share what actually went on in the program. One wife told me that she and the other wives in her community have noticed no positive changes in the behaviors of their husbands.
An attendee of the COTS said that he was aware that his critical thinking was changed and reduced when he was in the program. This made him feel unsure of who he was and he felt ongoing discomfort with what was happening to him.
d. Dependent and Secretive Directives:
The aim of Call of the Shofar is to make the attendees depend on the group while they are there for the weekend, and be involved in follow-up weekly meetings in person or via phone conferencing. They are specifically told not to discuss the methodology with outside individuals. However, they can’t stop talking about their experiences and how they feel empowered with a new lease on life. We have observed former attendees who continue to attend near weekly meetings of COTS who will derail social conversations so that they can talk about their COTS experiences.
The participants are told that they really can’t tell you all the insights pertaining to real God-Realization, because they appear to want people to stay confined to membership within this organization and environment of specialized lingo, processes, and structure.
Good programs with good leaders who have established professional training encourage participants to share their stories, their learning experiences and their process with others. Groups with mind control directives do not encourage outside sharing about the strategies and special programming.
e. Life changes and redefining priorities
Shabbos is a time for simcha, elevated spirituality, time to daven with kavanah, sharing stories and dvar torahs and rest. At COTS, none of these opportunities are fulfilled. The requirements are for silence during all meals, rushed davening on Shabbos morning, listening only to the leader speak and philosophize, minimized self thoughts and restricted sleep. This is contrary to Jewish norms.
One parent stated that our loved one dropped out of his lifelong path of his religion and expressed that the Call of the Shofar program had taught him a new and experiential way of relating to G d”.
Kippahs falling off: “We saw a facilitator take off his yarmulke for an exercise or the yarmulka of a participant fell off and he didn’t put I back on…” This type of behavior enforces the attitude that following halachah might take on new perspectives.
f. Marital and Family Challenges:

We listened and this is what we found out overall:

One size fits all those who go are convinced by this weekend that there problems are solved no matter how deep rooted they are. Attendees are subtly pressured to find childhood problems to rage against. To not find a problem is to stand out as not doing the work. The leader will call you for more “Carpet Work” where he will work to break you down. One parent told me that his son found one isolated problem in his relationship with his father. The leader played on it and the father-son problems were specifically highlighted in the way it played out in the group process. It created problems in the family and with his spouse.

If there are marital problems the spouse who went to COTS doesn’t hear the other partner’s needs or problems. How can there be a problem that needs to be addressed if one thinks he’s so caring etc. and they are cured of everything. It must be the imagination of the partner if problems exist. Men are told that they can send their spouse to the weekend and marital bliss will likely be attained.

With women that were interviewed, they said that they did not want to hear of any more conversations about COTS and feel that they are being disenfranchised. We did not speak to any women who reported healthy, positive results of COTS in their marriage.

A single man who has attended COTS could begin marriage with the same attitude that he has no work cut out for him in building a relationship because he’s invincible. This false sense of all is well where nothing can go wrong is a potential potion for disaster.

g. “Magical thinking”:

The individual leaves with a sense that all is well by this magical weekend. Many of the attendees think they feel the best they have ever felt and the most in control of their lives, but that very thing is the most insidious part of the training. The sense of euphoria is sometimes short lived resulting in a deeper crash once reality sets in.

The weekend is also based on a false brotherhood or sisterhood you have to agree or you feel isolated a whole weekend which puts tremendous pressure on the individual to join the euphoria.

h. The Potential Impact of COTS on leaders of the Jewish Community:

A serious noted problem is that attendees of COTS are Rabbis, shluchim and mechanchim. After attending the COTS program, these men can come back enamored with the “magical” techniques with influences of an improved self and a powerful sense of self worth. Reports indicate that some of these men then become proponents and recommend COTS to individuals who are under their influence. On the one hand, attendees are told that they are not to talk about the methods or speak too much about COTS but yet, are given cards at the end of the weekend where they are to list potential new recruits and sometimes encouraged to tell their congregants, students and supporters about COTS.

We have observed and heard how rabbis who have attended COTS, have caused dysfunction in marital unity because they recommended people to attend. It should also be noted that we have heard that individuals including rabbis who recruit new members to COTS receive monetary commissions.

There is serious concern that even if these attendees who agree not to attend any further COTS programs, they are left with possible damage and new influences in their persona and interactions. They might need professional intervention by licensed therapists to undo the harm and clear their minds of the subtle brainwashing that may have occurred. Just by stating that they will not attend any more COTS programs does not necessarily rid them of the negative manipulations that they have endured.

The little research conducted on the outcomes of these types of Large group Awareness Training (LGAT) programs where there are no licensed mental health professionals on-site “doesn't find them effective at prompting positive change. Most participants find the experience profoundly moving — and many people believe that such an emotionally intense event must necessarily produce psychological improvement. Consequently, an overwhelming majority of participants, when surveyed afterward, say their lives were changed for the better. However, several studies have found that while participants say their LGAT experiences improve their lives, there was no positive effect, or a small, short-lived one, on their actual psychological problems and behavior”( Szalavitz, 2006).

Any “group therapy” must be ethical and follow guidelines that protect their clients: Clients need to be allowed to do the following in a self-help, therapy or mental health intervention program-some ideas but certainly not a comprehensive list:
(1/26/2014 2:29:56 PM)
43
An Expert Opinion
#38

This well-written analysis speaks powerfully of the psychological dangers of COTS and lists extant case histories of damage already inflicted by this remarkably irresponsible program.

It is my fervent hope that this information will be widely distributed and that includes to past participants in COTS programs as well as community leaders who may have unwittingly endorsed the group or its founder.

The actions taken by Chabad-Lubovitch leaders is laudable and consoling. But much more needs to be done to undue the widespread damage this group may have caused to countless individuals and to prevent any similar group or individual from conducting these for-profit toxic workshops within the broader Jewish community.

From a rabbinic perspective, the information contained in this professionally written piece alone should be more than sufficient to issue a condemnation of COTS and any similar program on the basis of Lo Samod Al Daam Re'echa. Furthermore, in light of the now-public information about COTS, anyone who's name remains as endorsing this individual, his programs, or philosophies, is at risk of sharing liability for any damages to individuals or their families.

Thank you to the author. You have performed an important community service.
(1/26/2014 2:50:23 PM)
44
To #40
There is a letter from the Rebbe from 15 Shvat 5709 to Rabbi Shlomo Chaim Keselman, who lived in Paris at that time, where he writes that the ikar of hafotzas hamaayonos is to be mekasher Iden with the Rebbe. I think your correct when you write that we need to dedicate time for hafotzas hamaayonos for our own people, to give they a true feeling of connection to the Rebbe through all of the ways which you write, and also, as the Rebbe writes in that letter, through maamad.
Thank you
(1/26/2014 2:55:48 PM)
45
To #39.
You have the gall to incriminate Melamdim, but no courage to state your name?? Such lack of respect for our teachers is a big part of OUR problem!

Shame on YOU!

With love,
Someone who doesn't work in ULY, currently, HM
(1/26/2014 3:04:56 PM)
46
follow up on 31
just purchased a raffle ticket - rabbifriedman.org/raffle to support the org of such good work.
(1/26/2014 3:16:09 PM)
47
To all the "experts"
How about putting your name?
(1/26/2014 3:48:09 PM)
48
DAMAGE CONTROL and DENIAL of DANGER by CERTAIN SHLUCHIM and RABONIM
The damage cots has done is far reaching. It is not only mechanchim that are already known but many others. Im chas vsholom not calling for a witch hunt . However shluchim and rabonim who have attended still claim that the Vaad has got it wrong. To quote one Rav Cots has goten a bad rap the Rabonim realy dont understand, It has helped many people in my community.BH the psak will hopefully stop many from going. However those that have been brainwashed will believe in it despite the psak.Unfortunately I know of this attitude first hand in a chabad community. The first step in tshuva is to admit the wrong. What is to be done when the leader and mentor of a community quitely still endorses it sings its praise and still tells his flock all is well.
(1/26/2014 4:04:09 PM)
49
Forget COTS and even therapy....
a lot better to get a coach type of Mashpia to help figure things out, sort your life out and move forward in a new derech al pi chassidus without all these brainwashing techniques.

I would recommend you finding a frum coach / mashpia, such as Ilana at ilana.worldcoaching at gmail she will do a free 30 minute session via skype and see if she can help you.

The important thing for those who wish to move forward in life is to make changes in your actions.

Hatzlacha Rabbah !!


(1/26/2014 4:37:51 PM)
50
excuse mw
This is an insult to the Rabbanim of Crown Heights , who came out a month ago against it. As if we couldn't take their word for it and needed these Rabbis statement.
(1/26/2014 4:39:25 PM)
51
to 50 not everything is politics. This is achdus among all rabonim to adress a very dangerous phenomenom
Its not an insult. Many people were saying that the original psak was done in haste without proper research, this is a follow up with professional research documents submited.
(1/26/2014 4:52:58 PM)
52
hello
if a person has an issue he should go to a licensed therapist who has been trained to deal with psychological issues.
(1/26/2014 5:37:08 PM)
53
collive
Of course their is no mention, but the real thanks goes to a Woman in our community who with great courage removed this Magefa from our midst, Thank You Collive!
(1/26/2014 6:28:08 PM)
54
IMHO-to #49
coaching is another naya sach that can be very damaging. a mashpia based on the 'rebbe's directives is not necessarily the same thing as a life coach.
(1/26/2014 6:47:47 PM)
55
thank you oholei torah
..i hope ALL staff is really deprogrammed;

ALL OTHER SCHOOLS MUST FOLLOW and deal with this!!

PARENTS dont sit back- YOUR sons rebbi/principal may very well still be under the effects...!

(1/26/2014 8:25:27 PM)
56
A MUST READ!
Hello editor,

Please be advised that I am the first author and psychologist of the report entitled: "A Psychological Perspective of Call of the Shofar".

I see in comments #38 and 42 that someone posted part of my report.

In all fairness and in the spirit of understanding what is happening with COTS attendees, I have decided to release the report to your website.

As requested by senior leaders, my original report was submitted to them. I hope that this submission will serve to further highlight the issues inherent in COTS and have it serve as a means to protect and serve the community.

All the best to you.
Hatzlacha rabah.

Here is the full document: http://bit.ly/COTSreview
(1/26/2014 9:01:34 PM)
57
from the author of the document partially provided in #38 and 42
Thank you to #43. We worked very hard to interview across a broad based spectrum, hire an excellent research investigator and spend many hours to put this report together.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to post.
(1/26/2014 9:16:21 PM)
58
to 45 from 39 Lubavitcher Yeshiva
The allegations I made are true.

As a parent knowing what we know now about Cots, I have every right to demand that LY take action. Every responsible parent should do the same.

The information I mentioned is public knowledge, as these staff speak openly about their attendance. Yet, I did not mention their names and I therefore don't feel that I need to mention my name.
(1/26/2014 10:26:50 PM)
59
to # 53...know of what you speak....
....what do you think was the intention the Alter Rebbe had in Tanya if not to provide ways for people to change themselves in a positive way..?.

Thats what coaching is, Helping and guiding to discard one's old and destructive habits and create new positive habits that are based on logic and sechel, not middos based on bad habits.

Its not a new thing and much less self centred and self focused than therapy.
(1/26/2014 10:49:38 PM)
60
to the author
be advised

with a simple conversation with an actual facilitator of the program many of your issues can be resolved.

What you are missing in the report is the other side of the coin.

For a perspn maing an attempt on research, your research is simply inconclusive without an actual conversation with one of the senior facilitators.

I respect your judgments and you are entitled to your opinion. The reality is that I think you are mistaken in some of your research methods. The methodology done on your psychological perspective is incomplete and doesn't cut it.

The same way COTS won't employ the people that you are interviewing to actually run or facilitate on a workshop, does not qualify them to have a substantiative opinion when it comes to you rendering a judgment.

I am not arguing for COTS, I am just simply encouraging you to put out a well rounded report.
(1/26/2014 11:13:00 PM)
61
Mashpia advertisement
Maybe now is the time for mashpiim to start advertising their services on COL, so the ones seeking guidance will know where to go
(1/26/2014 11:21:18 PM)
62
CHINUCH OF OUR CHILDREN IN DANGER !!!!!!!!!!
IT is a must to protect our children the hanholoh of mosdos have to do an extensive evaluation of the long term efects of the cots brainwashing of the mechanchim.These mechanchim were not just one time participants. They were preaching the cots mantra. Sending precious neshomos to the program.Of course if their job is on the line they will retract. Those people who pressured the mosdos to rehire these individuals were recless in thier actions.A thorough profesional deprograming is needede before they should be in any position to be mashpiim. A leave of absence would be a more level headed action .A panel of Rabonim should then speak with them to certify that thier hashkofos have not been tainted.Any professional will advise that brainwashing is not lost overnight.Now that the phsycological report has been posted for all to read is it not prudent to give these mechanchim a leave of absence before they asume thier positions. Pressure from gvirim is not right in this dangerous situation.PARENTS SHOULD BE CONCERENED] Any less is failing our children.
(1/26/2014 11:51:23 PM)
63
LY BR
How about teachers in Beis Rivka & LY Crown St. who went?
(1/27/2014 1:51:50 AM)
64
Rav Shmuel Kaminetzky Removed endoresment!!
R Kaminetzky sent his lawyers after SF. His endoresment was removed from site. BH.
(1/27/2014 2:00:35 AM)
65
Response to 38, 42, 55
To 55,
I do commend you for making an effort to rationally and professionally assess COTS.
However, there are a few issues that scream for attention.
1.Firstly, it is clear from your article that this is NOT an halachic or hashkofic issue at all!! Rather it is a debate if powerful short weekend psychology retreats are beneficial or not. This is purely an academic and professional issue and has nothing to do with the beis Din. The beis Din has never issues a pask against sugar, fat, or any other medical drug that has endless studies showing it to be dangerous. Why suddenly here is the Beis Din getting involved in the debate if this a good approach to therapy or not?
2. My next issue with your paper is that you attack the entire program based on the fact that their techniques are too overwhelming for certain individuals. You state that individuals who are not stable enough can experience negative reactions from the exercises. This is a valid point but can be easily remedied with a much more rigorous screening process of those who are admitted to the weekend. Why are you throwing out the baby with the bathwater?? Instead of saying the whole program is counterproductive and dangerous, a more honest assessment would be to say that “for the candidate who is able to handle it can be great and the right screening process needs to be implemented”. Making back and white blanket statements does not seem to be the right way to go.
3. You make an effort to throw COTS under the bus because it does not have long lasting effects. No one has ever claimed that it can replace therapy. It is a program that can start or empower a healing process that would then need to be integrated and perhaps continued with a therapist latter on. Just because it does not fix the entire issue forever does not mean that it does not have value. For a particular person such an intense workshop could be exactly what they need to get over the next hurdle in their healing process. Again, no one is saying it is a onetime fix everything deal, it is just a piece if the healing puzzle. So why are you discrediting it because it doesn’t magically fix everything forever?
4. Ironically after criticizing COTS for not really having long lasting affects, you attack it for having follow up sessions to internalize the work that needs to be done.
5. It also seems that you managed to ignore the many individuals who had positive results from COTS and somehow interviewed only those with negative or confused experiences. I know of many wives who are very happy their husbands went to COTS and that it undoubtedly helped better their marriage.
(1/27/2014 2:29:22 AM)
66
number 55 "A MUST READ"
thanks for posting this - the average person cannot understand mind control and brainwashing. The persons who attend these type of programs are under some sort of spell caused by brainwashing - attendees all returned from the program with the same niggun. "you must go - it's fantastic - I can't describe it - you have to go and experience it yourself - it is just incredible - I'll even pay for you" these were the exact same lines used by those that attended. They were all programmed r'l.
It's truly frightening! So difficult to believe and understand - yet it was festering right under our noses. The satan was very subtle. It was unable to infiltrate by coming at us with straight forward missionaries so it found it's way into our midst with clever pretenses. The COTS program is basically a statue (an idol) dressed in a kapata. In fact Frishling took a mixture of the Landmark (landmark was banned in France) techniques and some other cult techniques. So much of his program stems from his prior involvement with other religions (AZ religions) especially Zen Buddhism. Anyone with a clear mind can realize that there is nothing safe about being associated with this program.
IY”H with combined efforts we can repair the damages and hopefully improve in our avodas Hashem and our attitudes towards one another. We must stop the few who have invested large sums of money from resurrecting this no matter how they dress it up!!!
Sadly they got sucked in but they must not take anyone with them – it won’t save them it will merely sink both.
Moshiach now!!!
(1/27/2014 2:33:45 AM)
67
Pikuach Nefesh
Pikuach Nefesh issues is really what is so problematic at COTS. Unprofessional and uncertified people can drive clients to suicide. Several individuals in CH are extremely embarrassed since some of their marital and family issues they had were displayed in public at COTS. Halacha states that Al Chet is recited quietly. At COTS, in a state of frenzy people talk and shout out their innermost problems and pains. In Yechidus, we conveyed to the Rebbe the innermost problems and issues we had. The Rebbe with his Neshoma Klolis, felt and experienced our pain and with his counsel and saintly blessing helped us. Are we replacing this with COTS and Simcha F, Chas V'Sholom.
(1/27/2014 12:36:49 PM)
68
End of the Discussion
An approximately 5-hour 2-part meeting was recently held in Brooklyn. The meeting was attended by the founder/director of COTS, 4 esteemed rabbonim, and was chaired by Rabbi Dovid Cohen, a noted posek with a background in mental health. Rabbi Cohen's reputation speaks for itself.

At the meeting, documents were submitted by respected mental health professionals with the highest degree of credibility that COTS is both harmful and dangerous from a medical-mental-health perspective. Rabbonim spoke to numerous halachick problems with the COTS program. Testimony was submitted by former COTS attendees and staffers that gave highly detailed and alarming descriptions of so-called "exercises" that occur at COTS retreats. Examples of mental and emotional breakdowns were detailed, including one alleged attempted suicide and one participant running from the Morristown facility and stripping naked.

The reported behavior of the founder/director at the meeting included heckling, jumping to his feet, punching his head, and otherwise disturbing displays.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Rabbi Cohen found that the founder/director possessed k'fira and that by extension so did his program, and that if asked he would respond that it is assur to go to COTS. The reason Rabbi Cohen's p'sak is not being published at this time is out of deference to the rabbonim who had unwittingly endorsed COTS, it is assumed. This p'sak cannot be ignored nor flippantly dismissed by anyone claiming to be a Ben Torah.
(1/27/2014 1:23:44 PM)
69
To #65
To #65
Response to 38, 42, 55
To 55,

1. On point #1 I fully agree with you, Rabbonim will pasken what they need to according to Halacha, which also includes issues of medicine and Hashkafa based on the facts presented to them, and their assessment of these facts and the Halacha how it applies in this case.

Clearly, the author of the report does not purport to represent the Rabbonim, nor does he attempt to explain the Psak of Rabbonim by claiming that his report is the reason. Perhaps he sent his report to the Rabbonim and it factored in the psak as another detail, but certainly there is no open connection between this professional report and the Psak of the Rabbonim.

The author clearly does not present himself as an Halachic authority, I tried to read the report several times and I failed to see any such claim in this report.

As far as the Rabbonim are concerned, I fail to see why Rabbonim can’t tell you what to eat or not to eat, or what treatment you may take or you may not take, if they see that there is a problem according to Halacha? My reading of the Psak clearly says that going to COTS is forbidden according to halacha, without any reference to the problematic psychological aspect of COTS.

Factually I see the Rabbonim behaving like Rabbonim, and the author of the psychological report as a psychologist, I fail to see any connection between the Psak and the report, so where do you come off mixing up the two and blaming one on the other?

2. On point two, the author is clearly addressing your concern by stating that in order to determine properly who qualifies for this treatment (if one can call it such) you must be a professional, and there are no professionals running this program, and COTS will never allow any professionals to run their program (unless they first do the program as clients and become affected and brainwashed first), because no professional will ever allow this program to continue at all.

So from a professional point of view, the problem is not with the water, but with a dead rotten decomposing baby which is spreading disease, to which there is no other remedy but complete burial.

You have to decide once and for all, is COTS for healthy people? Then the Rabbonim Paskened that it is absolutely forbidden! Is COTS for sick people, then the professional psychologists say it is very dangerous, so then again it is forbidden!

You can’t claim that it’s ok for sick people because it does no harm for healthy ones, and from the other side of your mouth you claim that it’s good for healthy people because sick people need this treatment…..

Absurdity at its peak…. Tekia Gedola!

3. On point 5, I just ask you how do you know that he ignored any individuals who had positive results. Maybe he did hear them out and he came to this conclusion exactly because of what they told him?

The main problem with your accusation is, that many of those who claim that they were helped by COTS say so because they have been brainwashed, and they cannot see anything wrong with themselves. Isn’t this what COTS was meant to teach over the weekend? I AM GOOD! I AM PERFECT! I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT! On top of my lungs!!!

Anybody I spoke to (who tried to convince me to go) and who claimed that their sholom bayis improved as a result of COTS, for some odd reason, this was not the opinion of their wives and other family members. Go figure.
(1/27/2014 3:18:26 PM)
70
To # 61
GREAT IDEA ! ! !
And L'Maase
(1/27/2014 3:46:41 PM)
71
Ossur, Ossur, Ossur
20 Years since gimmel Tammuz approaching, the pain for many of us is great. The words "Ossur, Ossur, Ossur" will not sooth this pain, this great cry from within.

The way I see it, there are two groups of people, the cold and the warm people. The ones screaming ossur are the cold blooded people who can live with the status quo forever. The more emotional, warm, and caring people are hurting inside. COTS was a forum with which to open up and meet likeminded people with deep feelings for life, family, friends. Ossur this Ossur that will by far not fill the void many of us have.

People who actually care about the feelings of many who went will have to put their heads together to really find an alternative to COTS. Just Ossering this will put a bandaid on this for year, or two, but there is real pain inside many NORMAL people which chassidus was there to address.

I guess, the question is, who is there out there that the Rebbe placed in his position to care about the flock?,
(1/27/2014 10:37:05 PM)
72
#77
You make a good point. Chazal said it even better, though: Sur mei rah v'asei tov. First we must sur mei rah, which is what we're seeing with this matter. But you are correct, the shleimus will come through tshuva, which means bringing ourselves and others closer to the Eibishter. Al shlosha d'varim ha'olam omeid: al a Torah, v'al ha'avoda, v'gemilus chasadim.
(1/27/2014 11:26:05 PM)
73
to number71
It’s sad that you are so unhappy. I too am terribly saddened that we have been leaderless for TOO many years. Keeping extremely involved and helping others is an excellent way to fill the void. If you reach out and find a way to get involved with chesed / community projects etc your whole attitude will change. It need not be huge involvements. After saying Moide Ani get busy with something other than your private affairs then your whole day will take on a different flavor. I am not suggesting you do not matter but it cannot be only about oneself. I fear that is the reason COTS was so appealing, yet that concept is dangerous and destructive. It’s like a drug that leaves one in a terrible place after the high. The high is built on faulty ingredients and therefore it is impossible to last and is counter productive – after the high some are actually ill and in need of medical and psychological assistance. Although COTS’ teachings does not believe in Moshiach we have been taught that Moshiach is our goal. By removing this hope during a three day retreat one is essentially stripped of their true purpose. I cannot imagine what it must be like to find oneself so lost – like being in a forest w/o a compass, food or any means of communication. TORAH AVODAH AND GEMILAS CHASSADIM IS THE ANSWER. Yes, it’s old fashioned but has kept us alive for nearly six thousand years. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. Haven’t we seen over and over again that all these temporary new fangled “fix all” gimmicks come and go faster than we can blink? I pray that you find comfort in the “old” ways. I pray you find a real purpose in your daily life – good friends certainly help. My wishes are most sincere and come from the heart. Moshiach now!!

(1/29/2014 10:21:37 AM)
74
Gad frenkel
To the author of the report. I am curious as to why you are remaining anonymous. As to your methodology, could you please be a bit more specific. How many people did you actually interview? How were they selected?
(2/3/2014 5:33:59 PM)
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