Dec 16, 2013
"Call of the Shofar is a Cult"

Rabbi Shea Hecht, a long-time counselor and cultbuster, says the Call of the Shofar uses mind-controlling techniques.

This following was written by Rabbi Shea Hecht, a veteran community activist whose expertise centers on family crisis intervention, at-risk youth, drugs and cults counselor. It was written around 3 months ago in response to a question by a yeshiva bochur. At Rabbi Hecht's request, we are posting it following the conversation with the founder of the Call of the Shofar. The organization has since deleted some of the references on their website which is reflected in the letter.

28th of Tishrei, 5774
Dear Yossi,

Let me begin by commenting that I admire your persistence. Many have come to me with the same question you have, but you followed through and pushed me to take a stand.

I would like to remind you of my background. For ten years of my life, I was a full-time cult deprogrammer. I spent my time getting young Jewish people out of cults. I researched cults, chased down young people involved in cults and did both voluntary and involuntary deprogrammings.

Throughout the years I was involved in the field, I met with hundreds of cult members from tens of different cults. I wish I could say that I was always successful, but of course I cant say that. At the very least, I hope that I provided inspiration and hope to those I met. I personally would attend casual meetings of cult members and I was also involved with individuals who infiltrated the cults. I often worked together with other cult deprogrammers and have actually met with some cult leaders as well.

To my knowledge I am the foremost expert on cults in Chabad today, and I have extensive experience in dealing with mind-controlling cults. In fact, my 1985 book, Confessions of a Jewish Cultbuster, was recently revised and reprinted.

One of the lessons of my book is that ANYONE CAN BE BRAINWASHED INTO A CULT.

You ask my opinion on "The Call of the Shofar." I personally attended one of their meetings and I met with a number of young men and women who were involved and attended seminars led by The Call of the Shofar. I also spent time researching them on their website.

I will begin by saying that I believe that the Call of the Shofar is a cult. Having said that, I stress that it is possible to have a pareve cult which has intrinsic value.

Why then do I use the word cult? The reason I use that word is to address the fact that they use mind-controlling techniques. One technique typically used by such cults, which is employed by the Call of the Shofar as well, is keeping a person completely isolated from the outside world. For example, taking away a person's watch, making a person close his phone and limiting his conversation with others.

If it was simply knowledge that they were sharing with you, they would not need to put you into a mind-altered state in order to accomplish this. One frame of reference I use is a documentary film produced in Toronto over thirty years ago called Captive Minds. This 56 minute film studies the mind-controlling such groups use.

It is important to note that when the Rebbe spoke about meditation (at a Farbrengen on 13 Tammuz 1979), he used words such as "avoda zara," "avazrayu d'avoda zara" (accessories to idol worship), "cults" and "gurus."

From my understanding, although the Rebbe clearly stated that there is a potential benefit to some from meditation, the Rebbe was clear that it should be looked upon as medicine for someone suffering from an illness, and just like medicine can harm one who is not sick, so too can such methods harm those who are healthy.

The Rebbe pointed out that if someone wanted to reap the benefits of meditation that are used in these cults, it should only be medical professionals who seek to do that. In fact, prior to the above-mentioned farbrengen, the Rebbe wrote a letter to four different doctors, including Dr. Yehuda Landes of San Francisco, CA and Dr. Jeffrey Applebaum of Queens, NY, and asked these doctors to look into how the benefits of meditation can be separated from the aspects of avoda zara.

Again, I cannot stress strongly enough, that even if it is "klipas noga," as in the case the Rebbe was addressing, it is only to be used for the sick and will harm the healthy.

Some are claiming that going to the Call of the Shofar has changed their lives forever. It is a known fact that these self-help cults only provide people with short-lived relief from their issues.

When you visit the website of the Call of the Shofar, the sources listed by R Simcha Frischling himself are tied in with avoda zara and "avazrayu d'avoda zara."

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." Therefore we must be fully aware that not everyone is qualified to extract the kosher benefits.

On a personal note, the Call of the Shofar has bothered me from the start. In addition to the above-mentioned issues, the fact that they run their seminars over Shabbos bothers me. Shabbos should be spent on learning and davening and is not the time for therapy and seminars, even for healing purposes.

In summary, my opinion is based on the words of the Rebbe in the above-mentioned sicha and in a letter written to Rabbi Yaacov Landau of Bnei Brak on the 25th of Tamuz, 1977. (The Rebbe's sicha in audio or text).

The fact that the Rebbe uses such strong language of avoda zara and "avazrayu d'avoda zara" illustrates the severity of the issue at hand. At best, unless a person is ill, it is certainly problematic to go to the Call of the Shofar. As chassidim, all we have are the words of our Rebbe and the words of our Rebbe are emphatic and clear. At best it can be used as medicine and medicine is only for the sick.

Wishing you much success in all your endeavors, and I hope that my answers have clarified the matter for you. If you or anyone else has any further questions on this matter, please feel free to contact me at or to call my office at 718-735-0213.

Most Read Most Comments

Opinions and Comments
The man is talking truth
(12/16/2013 11:44:30 PM)
I can't believe he calls it a cult because the program dos not want you to have distractions. its like saying yeshivas should allow cell phones in zal or else there a cult.

(12/16/2013 11:48:50 PM)
just because they use cult techniques doesnt make them a cult
(12/16/2013 11:50:05 PM)
Good finally a true approach coming from an open minded educated rabbi!
This is so soothing! I was having plans of joining shofar and got really confused with all the comments and I wasn't sure how to go about. Thank you Rabbi Hecht for busting this cult and saving my neshama! Thank GD someone knowledgable spoke up an gave an educated answer to this shofar thing!
(12/16/2013 11:51:01 PM)
I'm in a quagmire
If I say you're right that it's a cult so I'm giving into something I don't believe is true. On the other hand if I say it's not true, it's not a cult people will just say I'm so deep into the cult I just don't realize! Grrrrrrr I'm feeling very frustrated
(12/16/2013 11:55:02 PM)
Party over
That was fun, we can all go home now.
(12/16/2013 11:56:50 PM)
Educated in eastern spirituality
I'm a Baal tshuva and I spent 15 years in Tibet and India studying eastern spirituality and religion. I was once interested in shofar and checked out their website. What I saw shocked me they had ideas that came right out of avoda Zara mamash and I made the wise decision to stay away. Lately I was approached by someone which told me he searched the site and couldn't find a trace of avoda zara and I was confused thinking maybe I was dreaming when I read that on their site. Now Boruch Hashem I see I'm right and Rabbi Hecht a very smart rabbi says it has avoda zara in it. They must have realized and removed it from their site.
(12/16/2013 11:59:37 PM)
what are you talking about
You must not know the Program
(12/17/2013 12:00:15 AM)
a big yasher koyach!
for posting this letter!

Unfortunately, lately with the darkness of exile some people get confused. and that even on basic stuff.

we're chsidim! we're proud of it. this is our path. chasidus is the remedy for all sickness. yes this is the truth. I know that some people want to weaken this point, but let's be honest this isn't coming from too much knowledge of chasidus or so.

chevre, we're all brothers and sisters! we already have our stuff and this is the best that you won't be able to find anywhere. so let's get focused. let add in our learning, knowing, thinking and understanding of chasidus. let add in our hiskashrus to the rebbe, let add in listening to the rebbe's inyonim begining with rambam etc and I'm sure that this will make us happier and healthier people.

This is not my own opinion but the rebbe's, and this is the absolute and ultimate truth.

(obviously, people who have real psychological sicknesses (because of trauma's etc) , it is a different issue. but bh must of us aren't like that.)

A loving chossid.
(12/17/2013 12:02:01 AM)
I went I shofar and this is sooo true!
I was in shofar and felt all the "wonderful" experiences but it all felt weird. Now it all makes sence, I was in a cult and I was brainwashed! Thank GD rabbi Hecht came out with a response and will save many lives.
(12/17/2013 12:02:22 AM)
bh this article will save lives!
I've been saying it since this cult came out just like comment 42 said in r simchas article it's klipah mamesh and heipesh chasidus
(12/17/2013 12:03:32 AM)
1st comment
(12/17/2013 12:04:04 AM)
thank you
thank you for the clarity and I feel that those who have used their positions in the community to promote this organization should remember the words in the Ethics of our Fathers, Chachamim hizharu bidivraichem
(12/17/2013 12:04:07 AM)
The red rabbi hits the nail on the head!
Wow! Shea does it again. Truth as it is in its fullest. Here is someone which is a professional cult buster and has gone to shofar and he is letting us know the truth. Finally!
(12/17/2013 12:04:47 AM)
End the COTS
Wow, finally someone powerful in the fruma velt is standing up and stating his opinion on the matter. If someone so knowledgable in the area of cults and brainwashing feels this way about shofar, it should serve as a red flag for everyone else. Hopefully this will cause the mashpiim and mechanchim to reconsider their thoughts on this "wonderful and life chaging" program.
(12/17/2013 12:06:19 AM)
Shea encouraged many pple to go
I know as a fact Shea Hecht sponsored many people to atend the call of the shofar workshops.
(12/17/2013 12:06:22 AM)
Flawed Premise
With all due respect to Rabbi Hecht: The Rebbes letter mentioned speaks of (transcendental) meditation wich is "mind altering". At no point of the work shop was I subject to a mind altering meditation or hypnosis.

While I do trust your expertise in the topic of "cults", Your saying that some people will be "ruined by therapy" would be a lot more credible if I'd feel you understood the subtleties of mental health.

PS Anything that may be sourced in AZ is "separated from AZ" as you quoted the Rebbe to say.
(12/17/2013 12:09:55 AM)
Thank you
Thank you Rabbi Hecht for ridding this Tumah from our midst. This is the beginning of the downfall of 'call of the shofar', and I'm glad about that, its been plaguing our community for much to long.
May this bring to ' ' together with Moshiach now!
(12/17/2013 12:10:37 AM)
I've been saying it's a cult all along.... I'm glad someone like rabbi hecht, an authority on these things took a firm stand.. Shkoack! #TakingAwayWatches #cult #Sternberg
(12/17/2013 12:15:00 AM)
Couldn't agree more with what he said and I like the Shabbas stuff that he said
(12/17/2013 12:15:18 AM)
BH someone is not embaresed to srand for the truth!! Thanks Rabbi HrchtB
(12/17/2013 12:15:40 AM)
All we have are the words of the Rebbe
Those words are 10000% true! Finally someone normal with brains gives an educated chasidishe response.
(12/17/2013 12:18:20 AM)
yeshiva bochur
Some Yeshivas take away phones and block off communications to the outside world in certain aspects.They also forbid you from learning certain materials does that classify it as a cult acc2 u??
(12/17/2013 12:25:37 AM)
To Oholei Torah
How can you have a shlomo sterinberg if he tells bochurim to go to this (myself included)?
(12/17/2013 12:32:01 AM)
looks dangerous
I am not a posek
But this call of shofar sounds dangerous
(12/17/2013 12:39:10 AM)
there is a boss
very proud that Rabbi Hecht is coming out clearly in this issue a real show of leadsership!
(12/17/2013 12:42:01 AM)
If a cult's characteristics are mind-controlling techniques such as keeping a person completely isolated from the outside world, how would that be different than any ultra-orthodox culture, including lubavitch?
(12/17/2013 12:45:42 AM)
People lived without cellphones for years.
Every classroom environment discourages conversation.

The workshop is about getting in touch with yourself and feelings. Cell phones, petty conversation, and always having to have a handle on the time, all diffuse and confuse that.

Is shabbos cultish?
To be honest- perhaps somewhat! Is that WRONG?
Rabbi Hecht, please rethink your statement.

*Been to two COTS workshops.
(12/17/2013 12:51:09 AM)
To add
I know some of the speakers at the shofar, they have serious issues in their life, I really feel bad for all those who went to get advise and help from such disturbed people, very sad.

Thank you rabbi Hecht
(12/17/2013 12:51:30 AM)
The shliach in the community went to the call shofar and loved it He endorsed them and they sent emails with his recommendation for people to go
I am Baal Teshuvah and when they described what they did, I could not beleived that the rabbi was ok with this Avoda zara
I didn"t want to say anything not to contradict the rabbi, of course I am not a posek but I was 100% sure that is AZ kind
it was a brainwashed
this is a copy oth the goyshe program, ( if you see the reviews of the goyshe program , people distroyed their lifes, they stop talking to friends, etc, everything around them is klipa and they are the holy ones, really scary
there are many levels in the goyshe program, wow, is crazy
BH Rabbi Hecht come sup with this to save many korbanos
(12/17/2013 12:54:40 AM)
So what if it's a cult?
If it strengthens people in yiddishkeit and their relationship Ben adom l'chaveiro I don't see the issue here....
(12/17/2013 12:56:51 AM)
Not Impressed
Rabbi Shea's examples of mind control are pretty weak (turning off cell phones), and he doesn't really give any specific examples of how these seminars are avoda zara.

There are some very big mashpiim that have attended these seminars and haven't come to the same conclusions to my knowledge. They have a lot less yeshus as well. Why don't you ask them first as they represent Daas Torah much more so than Rabbi Shea.

Disclaimer: I never went to Shofar, and I love Rabbi Shea. I just don't think he is making a clear argument here.
(12/17/2013 1:02:39 AM)
to 30#
You don't see the issue because most probably you are brainwashed
(12/17/2013 1:03:03 AM)
hipnosis tecnique on front page of their website
The front page of the call of the shofar website has a picture of the guy that slowly changes. anyone who knows a bit about hypnosis knows that looking at something that changes slowly and steadily is hypnotic. don't believe me? try looking at it for 30 seconds. youl see
(12/17/2013 1:08:40 AM)
To #32
I wouldn't want to shame anyone, but the two mashpiim that went and advocate this program (hint: they work in the same moisad) are known to have mental issues and depression.

Mashpiim by definition are people of emotion. What we need here is people of the brain. A clear halachic stance from a brave posek who will investigate this and come out whether it is assur or mutar.
(12/17/2013 1:13:29 AM)
so true
#34 has a point although i know 00000 about hypnosis. i think if he uses hypnosis and mind control (which many counselors do) he should be upfront about it and get people who are comfortable with using such techniques (which many people are especially if they are "sick")
(12/17/2013 1:13:58 AM)
Rabbi Hecht is a BIG PRO on all these stuff!

I trust whatever he says about cults
(12/17/2013 1:15:50 AM)
To #14
And everyone else: Shea Hecht never claimed to have gone to Shofar. He said that he attended a meeting with simcha. Everything else is based on hearsay'
(12/17/2013 1:18:45 AM)
it may be good may be bad but i will NOT!!! be the guinea pig
(12/17/2013 1:18:55 AM)
the blind leading the blind
thats what comes to mind after reading this poorly argued op-ed and the comments.
(12/17/2013 1:20:59 AM)
So after bashing an organization

You're speaking loshon hara on two mashpiim and hinting who they are? How dare you?!
(12/17/2013 1:21:11 AM)
dear shia
chapter and vs please re meditation

clearly ur words r in conflict w the Rebbe's letter
(12/17/2013 1:22:50 AM)
What is a yeshiva??
FRom R hecht i take it that Yeshiva is a cult. perhaps a positive one, a cult nevertheless.
The Rosh yshiva/mashpia a guru.
(12/17/2013 1:23:46 AM)
Please show original sources
And concrete tuma az examples

Such strong accusations need transparent igros and sichos to back it up

For all to be able to scrutinize
(12/17/2013 1:27:53 AM)
Berry Schwartz
I did not want to do this but as Shea Hecht has decided to publicly speak out against Shofar, I feel I have a responsibility to write this.

Shea Hecht called me yesterday evening (Sunday evening). I was shocked at the way he conducted himself. He had never gone to Shofar and when I asked him how he knew about it he said he spoke to a few bochurim. It seemed like he didn't care to do much research.

Right from the start, he was chaotic and disorganized. He went on a long ramble about Chabad these days and yeshivas and generally seemed to be off topic.

I asked him what the basic ideas that Shofar teaches are and he couldn't answer me. I asked him what his credentials are as he is not a mashpia or chassidic expert and conversely he is also not a mental health professional AND he kept saying Simcha has no credentials so clearly credentials were a big deal for him. Believe it or not he told me that it's like he has credentials since he only failed his exam by 1 question. I have no idea what exam he was talking about.

He kept talking about simcha this and simcha that. I asked him if he is aware that the program is not built around simcha. In fact, simcha did not lead my group and I only saw simcha a couple times when he spoke. He did not respond.

He seemed confused internally as well. One second he said it's a great thing and that he has sent numerous guys to Shofar. The next second he said its avoda zara. Then he qualified that it's only for sick guys. I asked him what sick means. Am I sick if I am always stressed out from parnassa concerns and can't be present and attentive to my wife and kids? He hedged and wouldn't answer.

He also told me that no real chassidic mashpi'im endorse it. When I told him three mashpi'im who have personally endorsed it to me, he said that doesn't matter.

He told me it's a money cult. I pointed out to him that I used to pay a therapist 100 dollars for an hour and here its $650 for three full days of therapy, workshops, 5 star food and lodgings. He did not respond.

Speaking more substantively, his points are hard to take seriously and seem to stem from his lack of awareness of how the world works. I told him many weekend retreats demand all cell phones be turned off and wifi as well. I was on a 5 day farm-retreat where phones were taken away. Many corporate weekends where CEO's pay thousands of dollars per day require all communication be turned off.

In general he was totally off target as shofar does not take away phones. No one took my phone or anyone else's on my weekend. We were told to treasure this time and try to not call anyone and maintain focus. I applaud Shofar taking the weekend seriously. By his definition of a cult, all yeshivot are cults.

It seems there is a trend of people within highly insular religious communities being deemed experts in a given field when they lack any expertise in it and know only slightly more then the next fellow.

The fact that this is becoming such an issue is truly laughable. Let me be clear. The issue is NOT shofar. It is the fact that the SYSTEM is being confronted with its own dysfunction and being shown that religious, conscientious and thoughtful lubavitchers are going elsewhere to attain a joyous, empowered life.

Lastly, a good friend and wise person emailed me the following:

"The phrase "Chasidus has all the answers" must be dissected.

A) the term Chasidus refers to what? A specific book? An aggregate of books? A principle? An aggregate of principals? A certain personality? An aggregate of personalities?

Once that is specified, the question becomes: "all the answers TO WHAT?" Addiction? Stress? Depression? Ocd? Adhd? The whole DSM? Half? Only one axis? WHAT - for G-ds sake?

C) Once that is specified, the question becomes: how do you know? Was it told to you by an authority of the material? Is he an authority on the "problems" as well? Doers the material itself suggest so? If so: where?

D) Once that is resolved, the question becomes: ok. Lets see if its true!... Let us study the given texts, ideas, or personalities, as the case may be, with an open mind and lets so if the claim is true.

E) Even if I can see with my mind eye that it is true, is my heart - my me - aligned with it?

F) If not does that "make me something"? Am I condemned? Less than?

Before this process happens: there is NO maturity on the conversation! Its simply blind cultish adherence to something that we have no idea is even true!!!
(12/17/2013 1:27:57 AM)
Why R Shea Hecht is WRONG
Lets take it point by point.

Fact: I went to one COTS weekend, appreciated it and I think it helped me in many ways.

- The "no contact with outer world". Basically optional and makes a lot of sense, it's simple: They want you to concentrate in what you are doing. And btw, there is a time to make a phone call erev shabbos and sunday. The no-watch thing also makes sense for same reason.

- "If it was simply knowledge that they were sharing with you, they would not need to put you into a mind-altered state in order to accomplish this." Mind altered? Really? Not so much. And by the way talking about "mind altered", what about saying lechiam at Farbrengens? No alcohol or any substances allowed at COTS.

- "On Shabbos". When else should it be? Monday-Wednesday? Give me a break...

- I spoke to MANIS FRIEDMAN about COTS and he told me that one of the clear indicators of a cult is if it's followers think/say: "Everyone must go" it's "Gd's gift to Humanity", "It will solve all of your problems", well, that's clearly not the case. Ppl asked me after my weekend if they should go and I didnt tell them yes, I shared with them what it was and told them if they think they can benefit cool, but if not, they can be great without it. It's like therapy. And such is the APPROACH of many people I know who went. The same was with the ppl that went before me and I approached them about it, it wasn't a "you must go! for sure!"

- R Hecht writes that he attended "One of their meetings", I'm just not sure if he means by that a full weekend or one of the followup meetups. Big difference. Just pointing that out.

- Important to clarify: Ppl use the word "Join" Shofar. It's not something you join, it's something you "do", "experience" and then move-on in life, it's not a recurring thing. Yes, there are group meetups in some cities but most people (I would estimate 80% but I don't know for sure), including myself, dont go to these and just attend the weekend and learn some guidelines/tools and try to apply them to life and Vayter! you move on! It's not a "group"/"community" (although it can obviously be that ppl that go there have a common language like everything that is of common interests which unites people which share such...).

- His reference to the Rebbe is off, factually. As others already pointed out. (Which btw shows a basic understanding of either what the Rebbe was talking about, COTS or both).


- R Hecht writes: that there exists "Pareve cult which has intrinsic value." So??? Then what's the big deal? As a previous commenter said, so let's say it is a cult? If it's not bad (ie. halachically or psychologically wrong) the big whoop! call it whatever you want! If it helps people (which it does in a tremendous way, quantitatively as well as qualitatively) then great! Cult Shmult!

There is more but this should suffice for now. Gd bless y'all!
(12/17/2013 1:28:53 AM)
These "mashpim" should lose their title of mashpiim
They are overwhelmed because it's something "different" ,persuasive,brainwashing, but for we BTs we know that this is tuma disguised with Torah values that only can contaminate our minds and neshamos
BH we have chassidus,nigla farbrengens ,
(12/17/2013 1:29:09 AM)
Whats needed now
Whats needed now is a chabad alternative and a rav, who gives a written psak, inc 'heichan dantuni' specifics

Otherwise this is a cheap jealous shot
(12/17/2013 1:30:44 AM)
To 35
What kind of mashpiim are these?
Mental issues and being appointed to influence ,guide and be role models for us?
What's going on?
Are we all crazy?
Please come on
(12/17/2013 1:32:18 AM)

My son went to this program. His friend talked him into going with him. He was a happy, normal bochur. After the first weekend he came back totally changed. Angry and bitter.Whereas he was always very giving, he became selfish and for lack of a better word, meanspirited. . seeing everyone and everything in a bad light. Thinking he had to be totally open he would deeply hurt those
closest to him. He went twice.This was about a year ago. B"H he is back to
his old self.
Thank you Rabbi Hecht for this letter. You validated all my

(12/17/2013 1:39:36 AM)
The Jewish/Lubavitch system
If someone came from outside of our sect and analysed our indoctrination process about the nature of reality/history/undeniable truths/pressure to conform/looking different/feeling chosen and better/locked away from any new knowledge of the modern world/holding on to our strict customs and rituals/ looking down on someone who doubts the established truths of the group-at times excommunicating them when they develop enough emotional/mental strength to not fall prey to the social/family/community pressure to stay quiet and remain a good soldier of our leader the messiah and redeemer who never died and is with us either physically or in a spiritual way....always watching and helping us...having group sessions with alcohol where we fall into a trans of a euphoric high on how awesome we are and how much we are loved over all others...etc...

the list can go on and on....

I work in mental health and I can tell you most of us are straight up brainwashed !! I believe that their are many wonderful outcomes because of the brainwash like less drugs/pregnant girls/ more meaning and structure/sense of purpose....

Still. At times i wonder what is worse...
1 living in a fantasy world with more protection and purpose

2 living a more open and free life and taking on the challenges that comes with it..

If the shofar helps peoples marriages/lives...They let them do what they do...If its not totally avodah zara....

The main thing is we have to develope a way to make sure children are being taken care of and not abandoned ..So far this is the only jewish organized group that runs a successful program that helps jewish people....Make a better one like you like it and if its good then the problem will be solved..Until then the mental health of our brothers and sisters and first priority

Thank you
(12/17/2013 1:43:48 AM)
ITS NEEDED unfortunately there are no in house alternatives
the main value they offer is
1. Brotherhood and belonging, by a strong and loyal bond, reminiscent of the chasidim of yesteryear

2. Deep and intense introspection and self awareness, reminiscent of the Ch.H"N of chasidim of yesteryear

3. Self improvement, Goals to work towards, in the areas of Middos, Family duties, Avoda im hazulas etc


I hope that the right people come together to do this right, since theres obviousely a great need and benefit for our (poen-minded) community members.

just imagine how the Tznius (self esteem) issues will be solved, the Substance abuse (emotional neglect) issues will be solved, Shiduch crises, (Bochurim and girls will be far more focused, goal oriented, and accomplished, not as confused or immersed in the influences of Hollywood and its hollow urealistic lies
(12/17/2013 1:47:23 AM)
anyone smell who i smell?
...In fact, my 1985 book, Confessions of a Jewish Cultbuster, was recently revised and reprinted. ...

(12/17/2013 1:50:53 AM)
'''I will begin by saying that I believe that the Call of the Shofar is a cult. Having said that, I stress that it is possible to have a pareve cult which has intrinsic value.''
so is it against HALACHA?
(12/17/2013 1:53:34 AM)
Shlomo Sternberg
How can Oholei Torah let him teach when he encourages all of his Talmidim to go to a cult?!

Oholei Torah, you must stand up! He is teaching Kfirah to our children!

A worried parent
(12/17/2013 1:55:46 AM)
No cult in the world isolates its victim for only 3 days a year

Wasent the rebbe against, tv, news papers, mingling socializing w outsiders?

Isent temporary isolation a useful tool to maximize gain?
(12/17/2013 2:00:05 AM)
Thank you Rabbi Hecht for taking a stand
would be interesting to know if Rabbi Leibel wolf from Melbourne has an opinion, he is big on meditation and may have received some guidance from the Rebbe on these matters.
(12/17/2013 2:01:23 AM)

(12/17/2013 2:16:04 AM)
Chaim S
I have, worked for Rabbi Hecht for a long time now, he is also a close friend of mine, and i have discussed my own (negative) experience with him.

Whoever disagrees with Rabbi Hecht who has helped many people get out of cults! read the book he wrote! who else in chabad wrote a book, and has a degree in cult busting?!

If you think Rabbi Twersky PhD knows better than Rabbi Hecht, thats a sign that you have already been brainwashed!

To accuse Rabbi Hecht of promoting his book, or profile oh pohleez! thats absurd! why would he!

bottom-line dont talk to any mashpiyim, Rabbonim, shluchim who say its kosher and beneficial!! stay far away from them!!!

Its against Halacha!!!
Its against Chasidus!!!
Its clearly Avoda Zarah!!!

Any improvements to sholom bayis etc is fake phony, he has brainwashed you to say these things!

just as the weekend is ASUR (ask any Rov) its also ASUR to participate in any of the follow up meetings here in Crown Heights!
(12/17/2013 2:24:48 AM)
Let's clarify something R' Shea wrote here - and how the title portrays this:

R' Shea said COTS is indeed a cult and uses mind-controlling techniques. But he did not say they are using it for the bad or destroying people's lives. For all we know, they are helping people who need the help.

What he is warning is that since they are using a cult method, the founder or any "master" might one day decide to use his influence on others for the bad, the followers will gladly comply and then we have a huge problem at our doorstep.
(12/17/2013 2:30:13 AM)
turning off cell phone is the ONLY example?!

cant you bring any other examples of A"Z?!
Real cults force you to abstain from contact longterm!!!

not on a focussed weekend which starts on Friday after noon and ends Sunday afternoon!

sounds like Shea Has some other agenda here,

Dearest Shea, You will need to find some actual experts who have degrees in the field to save your face! go for it, lets see what you can come up with.

re the A"Z attack, the Rebbe (u misquoted) was specifically referring to Transcendental Meditation, the Rebbe in many letters specifically aloows, and encourages (no tracedental) Meditation as beneficial!!!!! and to be done in a kosher environment, with Kosher food and Mikvah available!

even a little bit of research (study) in the Rebbe's letters on this very topic, reveals how ignorant and misrepresenting you were to the Rebbe's publicised views on the matter!!

go learn and brush up on your research before you rush to promote your self in such a reckless and irresponsible manner.


Your next "damage control piece" better include

Thank you!
(12/17/2013 2:37:12 AM)
The CAT/COTS is out of the bag
This comment was posted on the first article and I think it's very telling:

A COTS alumni - Shimon Seringersky
I am a COTS alumni and I'm part of the Crown Heights Shofar group. I just received an email which caused me to be nauseated with the whole shofar thing and it made me realize how it's all a fake. I got an email from a master (staff) at shofar, M. L. Which stated the following: "Please go to and set the record straight about Call of the Shofar.
Moshe." This got me to realize how we are brainwashed and we have a goal to brainwash other uch!! That's really disgusting! If its true and it helps and it's not about money why is shofar so worried and is sending out ALL it's alumni to comment positive on collive!?
Their email ends off by saying "Important notice and agreement: Everyone on this list made an in-person commitment to confidentiality at their first CH meeting. This includes protecting the identity of anyone else they may meet at the meeting and anything that someone else shares. This commitment extends to all activities of our group including this email group. If you do not agree to this, please immediately remove yourself from our group" I have decided to leave this cult. This is horrible.
Shimon S.
(12/16/2013 10:51:36 PM)
(12/17/2013 2:47:06 AM)
Didnt he Rebbe's letter specifically encourage a Kosher/Shomer shabbos program be offered?
Rabbi Hecht, please address all the letters from the Rebbe promoting a retreat which does not include the worship of the sun and moon.

i heard the entire audio, read the letters, the Rebbe was ONLY negating:
1. specifically TM (not regular meditation)
2. the worship of objects of nature (sun, moon etc).

it is grossly disingenuous of you to claim the Rebbe was categorically against any retreat using meditation! the exact opposite is true! READ the letters!
(12/17/2013 2:49:46 AM)
to 34 and 36
your right i went on the website
and it made me really dizzy
its just crazy
and anyone who dosent agree with rabbi hecht is probably brainwashed himself!
(12/17/2013 2:53:11 AM)
REAL lubavichers are seeing through the PHONIES in the (phony nepotistic aspects) of the "System"
There is a difference between "Authentic Chabad" which is very life enhancing, VS. some elements in the "System" who are entrenched with little merit to keep those positions.

I agree with Berry "conscientious and thoughtful lubavitchers are going elsewhere to attain a joyous, empowered life"
"elswhere" not to the "IN-AUTHENTIC" pseudo chabad pretenders,

REAL CHABAD, is not the same as what passes today for most "farbrengens,

most farbrengens today are a FAR CRY, from the REAL CHABAD, our rich heritage and teachings demand!

notice, those most threatened are the Entrenched, Nepotistic types,
those for it are the REAL mashpiyim, Mechanchim who dont need to take a pol before they make a move,

Only one question needs to be asked before you make a decision as a Lubavicher,
"Is it in line with Halacha and Chasidus?"
only your personal Rav is to have sayaata dshmaya in answering that question (according to the Rebbe)
if your Rav has a need for further investigation and consultation he shal do that before he gives you his hadracha)
(12/17/2013 3:03:26 AM)
I agree that it feels like a cult
Here is my opinion:

I week after a friend of mine went to one of the Call of the Shofar gatherings, he sends me an email saying I MUST GO, i asked him why should i go and he started using all these high vocabulary words to describe it.

He wouldnt share what he did there, or anything with detail, just high vocabulary words to try and convince me to go.

I immediately called a mutual friend of ours and asked him, if well our friend went off the deep end.

And he also agreed that somthing is really weird, we know this person for a while and all of the sudden hes talking so weird and working so hard to convince me to go to this.

I understand he was looking out for my wellbeing, but if i say ok ill look into it, then just stop there dont keep pushing...

Anything that comes with force or makes you uncomfortable, something has got to be wrong.

I didnt go and I am happy i didnt and ever since my friend went to that gathering he has not been the same just really weird....
(12/17/2013 3:09:05 AM)
re "Avoid cell phone use" i didnt and i regret it
i was busted using my cell phone a few times, each time i was spotted, a staff memebr waited till i was done then later approached me and expalined to me that i should avoid emai, and ohone calls as much as possible, in order to be able to gain the most from the self awareness, (via Hisbodedus) that can best be gained via, Focussing inward, rather than distracted by say to day "inbox and voicmail tasks"

i stil encourage ppl to go, since i did gain much in the area of realizing how powerful my every move is towards shapping and nurturing my childrens emotional development and wellbeing.

Its worth every penny!

Havent noticed any Avoda Zara,

Last i checked, all the Rebbe's letters are against Transidental Meditation, never against regular Hisbonenus as a technique of relaxation and concentration

research the Rebbe's igros for yourself, dont take any Rabbi's second hand word for it, Pro or Con
(12/17/2013 3:13:30 AM)
I know someone who went It doesnt help it just convinces them
One of them was molested as a child and only came
Out and spoke about it at the age of 65
(12/17/2013 3:17:35 AM)
it feels like a cult, TRUE
i felt the same when i first came to chabad!

as Rabbi Hecht himself admitted,

Cult like, does not in and of itself, render a movement or program, Asur, or Counter productive.

Labeling something cult like, is Ok with me, since Chabad, according to most Cult experts, has many cult like elements.

The opperative question has to be,
Do they worship a central figure?

On the retreat i took part in, Simcha was in Australia!

i have never obsessed about him, i knda think, the Value from the weekend has little todo with Simcha, his name was not even mentioned in any formal way at any part or exercise!!!

Cults are built arround a figure of adderation and Loyalty,

The only figure that this weekend mentioned and promoted loyalty to was Our Neshama's inner most desire (aka Yechida wants to cleve unto Hashem) and Hashem!

before Shea mocks and smaers something which has Zero A"Z, Vechokarta Vedorashta Heiteiv

by not doing so, he has rendered himself, and any future (defensive) follow up, Biased and tainted by his desire to save face, over his rush to render judgement before a thorough first hand investigation
(12/17/2013 3:24:44 AM)
ViHaMayvin Yovin
Der Aidem iz a shkik schver. Both are bitter resentful individuals. Absolutely no Ahavas Yisroel except if it scores them points. Proof of the pudding is in the eating. Yodayim yedei Esau. ViHamayvin Yovin.
(12/17/2013 3:29:50 AM)
Respectful rebuttal to Rabbi Hecht
Your op-ed, is big on accusation, and short on specificity!

(12/17/2013 3:38:08 AM)
to: 59 Chaim S. REALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?
i cant tell if your being sarcastic or seriouse!

are you by any chance the Chaim S. who was hurt by a staff member on the May 6, 2013, weekend in morristown?

if so, it all makes sense now,

you went to your employer Rabbi Hecht and vilified the program to him bec you had a negative experience,

FYI: the Staff memeber who mistreated you in public later aditted it to everyone behind your back after you stompped out.

we all felt bad, it was disgusting of him, and an abuse of his role and responsibility!

Know this, what you have experienced is NOT shofar, it was an aberration, and unjustified! go get your refund!
(12/17/2013 3:44:21 AM)
A Chabad Kosher Alternative
My conclusion:

Keep the REAL FARBY aspect of it!

GET REID OF ANY SPOOKY SHTICK which scares off the feeble and insecure amongst us!

We all need this type of REAL farbrenegns!

if the dropping the shtick allows more ppl to attend, then lets "reform" and adapt.

Didnt the Rebbe's letter specifically recommend ONGOING MODIFICATION AND ADAPTATION to maximize the number of participants.
(12/17/2013 3:50:44 AM)
Dovid Meshchaninov
With all due respect, Rabbi Hechts points dont make any sense to me. He has lost all credibility in my eyes for so carelessly throwing around such a word like cult and justifying it with points that dont hold water at all.

1) The entire point that it should be used only for the sick does not make any sense. The program is designed to help foster more self awareness and understanding. What is wrong with that? Is he suggesting that everyone wait until they are sick before trying to understand themselves and their inner life struggles better?

2) The whole comparison to meditation is not appropriate. The Rebbe was referring to deep meditations that produce an almost hypnotic affect, and can bring one to a mind-altered state. That has nothing to do with the COTS program, the program has exercises to help you deepen your self awareness, but nothing they do is mind-altering or hypnosis like, so his entire reference to the Rebbes Sicha and letter doesnt stand. It seems like Rabbi Hecht it quoting the Rebbe to sound reliable and trustworthy but in reality he is quoting something that that has no relevance to the COTS program or the discussion at hand.

3) It is done over shabbos, not as an ideal but because that is when people have time to go, most participants are adults who have jobs.

4) As has been already mentioned in a few posts, not using phones is just a suggestion to help participants be present to the seminar and think about the issues at hand and not distract themselves with work/friend/or family (just like yeshiva). The seminar is three days! that it not even remotely the same as cults that require no outside contact for months, years, or forever.

I am truly saddened that Rabbi Hecht has decided to try to put a bad name on an organization that has and will continue to do so much good and healing in our community.
I am confident that the help they have brought and will continue to bring to others is making Hashem and the Rebbe proud and Moshiach closer!
(12/17/2013 3:56:03 AM)
i know the author of #7 he's ffb (and an Oholei T.nik t boot)!
Just examine his diction: ..."by someone which told me he searched" some WHICH told you???


if u want to tarnish a good cause, do so with more class and substance, pointing to A"Z then saying actually, its not on the site but trust me i saw it, cmon!


for the benefit of the public you wish to protect:
What A"Z did you see, on the site, which you claim was since removed?

looking forward to your direct answer (w/o skirting the issue)

Thank u!
(12/17/2013 4:00:41 AM)
If all the comments till yours were not clear...your story sheds the light on the RAT. Their "terms and conditions' at the end of your comment EXPOSE the cultish style of HIDING THINGS UNDER THE CARPET. Anyone who has read about cults knows this...

This is an open distinction with, LEHAVDIL, Lubavitcher Yeshivas where there are NO SECRETS in the lessons, and all is natural. B"H Shea Hecht has exposed them!
(12/17/2013 4:03:22 AM)
a cult about Hashem, (and being a better father, husband etc) is a good cult.
Chabad, is a good cult!

I challenge Rabbi Hecht to present a single trained expert (not a self appointed expert) who examined cots and determined that-it is a bad cult or in anyway against Torah or the many letters of the Rebbe (promoting Kosher retreats involving meditation).
(12/17/2013 4:12:01 AM)
Mordy #2
I can only share what I've seen, which is that a number of local anash have gone and changed for the better; no negative effects that I can see. While they speak very highly of it, no one has pressured me to attend. I think Shea THE AMAZING CULT-BUSTER is way off here.

As for #62, sending an email saying "if we've helped you, please give us a good review without breaking confidentiality" is good business practice. "YOU WILL BURN unless you give us a review" is cult-ish. Learn the difference.
(12/17/2013 4:19:40 AM)
to 53...
This "game" with posts about this topic started on your looney tune leader's end with his interview where he can't stop looking away from the camera, can't stop smirking and can't stop lying.

He was so happy to do the interview with one of his followers because he saw the money symbols in his eyes.

So this important response from Rabbi Shea Hect is in no way a sales pitch for his book. And you know that. But you feel you have to go down kicking defending the honor of your hairless leader. It's ok nothing will happen and the world won't explode if the man in the black shirt packs his bags and goes back to living quietly in Baltimore, Maryland. He can go back to working for "Emclear" which is definitely not based on Chassidus and sounds like one step away from Scientology.

Listen, I feel bad for your guru. I heard he is poor. Which if true means he is rather foolish too because you have to have a real "issue with the issue" and it takes talent not to make money if your getting $750 x 40 in one weekend.

Even if this post is just about a book, which is clearly not the case and you knew that when you wrote the comment... the book is about $17.50 not $750.00. So I am more worried about you running around pushing your friends to join you in the looney bin.

Oh great one, if you are reading this I am sorry if it hurts. I do feel bad for you. I understand, it's a tough world and you need money to live. But you can't be sneaky and dishonest. That's not the way to go. I don't want you to get depressed. It's ok, hopefully your followers will let this go and we won't need major deprogramming events in Crown Heights. You can do Teshuvah. I just think it would be best if you just go and relax and take it easy and lay low. Give it up. But if you need some Tzedkah, there are many wonderful people in this world and they would be happy to give so you can feed your family. In all serious: If you took down your website, stopped working at "Emclear" and never spoke of this again. I would be happy to give you something to help you get on your feet. Maybe not $750 but I would be happy to help with what I can.

Dear followers,

I know this is hard to take. I know it' hard to swallow, you feel cheated, burned, used and taken advantage of. You must wonder how it could have happened to you. As stated in the article "it can happen to anybody". So don't beat yourself up over it. And once you were in, you 'weren't thinking clearly. You may want to deny the fact that the party is over and feel you have to keep defending it. You don't. You might feel like it will be too difficult to admit you were wrong. But guess what? You don't have to. You don't have to come out to your family and friends "I was wrong!". Just don't mention it. When it comes up in conversation, don't say anything. This will blow over. People will forget about it. Nobody has to know you went. Nobody has to know you got into it. It's over. It's fine. Your fine. But please: If you don't wanna look really foolish - jump ship now. You didn't start this group, you don't have stocks in the company. You won't gain by holding on any longer. As for the "Rabbis, and Shluchim" who got invloved too... There was at least one Lubavitcher on top who was in it for the money and helped hook this cult up with certain schools etc. Other's may have gotten trapped as well. They will back down too. Just because they are still "in" doesn't mean you can't be "out". Again, you don't need to defend their honor either.

There is always some good mixed with the bad. You met new people, people who are trying to improve etc. If you met new friedns, keep in touch. You don't need a leader. Just each other. In genearl if a person would have a Maspiah (a person you respect who can be subjective) and friends, they will do well in life.

As far as parents of children in Crown Heights Yeshivas are concerned: You can demand that your Yeshiva stop allowing teachers involved in this cult to teach in Yeshiva anymore. The last thing you need is your child coming home from school talking with a new language about "well-being", being "real" and being "present".

This is a wake up call. Hug your children. Always be respectful to your spouse. Have someone you can talk to when something is troubling you. Don't burden your children or spouse with it. Eat healthy, exercise, get enough sleep... Do everything you can to live a good life and treat everyone like you want to be treated. We can all improve and we will improve so we won't need another wake up call like this again.
(12/17/2013 4:21:39 AM)
59 made baseless claims re Shea's success and cridentials visavi Cultbusting
1. In all the years he spent as an expert cultbuster, how many people has he supposedly saved? If you read (carefully)his op-ed, you'll notice the answer...

2. Credentials, Professional degree, Professional training? THAT'S RIGHT! NON!

3. Oh, yes, he did right a book which he opportunisticly promotes, how convinant? To work that into the narrative of his oped, no no! No ulterior motives here, no shameless plugging of his "revised" book.

Does he really think the public is soo naive? As to not notice his obvious agenda (he is guilty of exactly what he accuses simcha of) $$$,

That's why he is vague on evidence and elaborate on sensationalistic accusatio
(12/17/2013 4:26:40 AM)
according to the Rebbe's letter
The retreat must be open to adapt and modify, in order to improve and maximize the number of people it can benefit and attract.

It's false to say the Rebbe is against any meditation or spirituality retreat! Just ask Rabbi Wolf from Melbourne
(12/17/2013 4:47:00 AM)
Real charade is an ideology, a way of life, defined and elucidate by its Rebbeyim who had Reach Hakodesh.

What is very dangerous and UNchabad, is to make decisions without following the system the Rebbe implored us to follow,ie Ash Lecha Rav.
For the Ray to have Sayaata Dshmaya, he must be agenda free. Ie not promoting his book etc etc

He must be a Yedid UMavin too,

The three questions to inequality a Rav (says the Rebbe) is
1. Is he a Anav,
2. Is he a Rachman,
3. Is he a Gomel Chasdan

Each of the above must be overtly present, in order for the Ray to be relied on for Hadracha (to be confident that they are channeling Sayaata Dshmaya)

Tip:. Be wary of any Rav who gets defensive as to whether he himself has a Rav.
(12/17/2013 5:00:13 AM)
i looove 61's clarity
Dearest Rabbi Shea...

Please include inside your next "damage control piece"

Thank you!
(12/17/2013 5:01:29 AM)
"Al Yoivesh Mipnei Hamaligim"
Those who anonymously mock COTS,

If u mean well, why dont u just encourage those ur concerened about to consult their "ALR" (aseh lecha Rav).
isent that the guaranteed way, the Rebbeh says to discover HIS answer, HIS hadracha, haskama, and bracha?

my Rav, did research, and concluded, using the test of "outcome" he told me to go for it, since his research revealed that the "outcome" was very productive for those who he knew personally attended,

for me, it only strengthened my ability to Have Ahavas Hashem, Ahavas Hatorah and Ahavas Yisroel.

i know many dozens who went, ONLY one of them seems o have remained selfish and Unhelped by the experience.
(12/17/2013 5:11:39 AM)
Dont drink the kool-aid!
I was just reading up on Jim Jones the other day and now this pops up, hashgacha protis? Just kidding

I am an alumni of oholei torah shiur daled (sternberg etc) and can honestly say that on the surface r' sternberg looks like an erliche yid, davens and learns like a chossid should. But him as a teacher/mashpia is a completely different story. Period. If my friends had "issues" (v"dal") they wouldnt even begin to think of approaching r' sternberg about them because of the name which r' sternberg has made for himself in the yeshiva world (his chosen area of expertise). They would simply call up their past roshei yeshivos/mashpiim etc and have a nice long long-distance mashpia/bochur relationship over the phone. Is this what yeshivos are supposed to be? I dont think there was 1 bochur my year of OT that would call r' sternberg HIS mashpia. Why? Because they didnt feel the emes'keit which you would get from the "old school" mashpiim. Rabbi levin in staten island. Rabbi "Pinya" korf in crown heights. Rabbi schapiro in la. Rabbi wagner in toronto. To name but a few of todays dying breed of world class mashpiim who a bochur could talk to and be assured that they are recieving the point of view which is most suitable for where they are in that point of their lives. Not some "hybrid" mashpia who can give you the point of view of tanya (l'dugma) as well as the latest "life changing/altering proven techniques" imported over night from tibet (l'havdil). Obviously this "comment" only concerns bochurim, so i dont need any bashers saying "ya, but what about XYZ" because i am only talking about MY relative age group ("graduated" OTU within the last 3 years) because thats the only experience i can speak from.
(12/17/2013 5:19:29 AM)
from a fan of COTS concept (not necessarily a fan of COTS staff/directors)
truth be told, i gained much from the Chasidisheh components of the weekend,
namely, the Old fashioned REAL farbrengen, between a circle of truly caring friends.

having said that,

i do wish to address a very thoughtful and poignant questioned raised by Berry Schwartz (Post#45)

he asked:

Does Chasidus really claim to address and solve ALL types of problems?


There is always a Torah-based (incl Chasidus) response to any given situation a jew may encounter!
let me explain, albeit extremely briefly.
1. Most day to day routine situations are addressed by Halacha directly
2. Where there is an a typical situation, A local Rav (expert in Halacha) is consulted and followed, as instructed in Deuteronomy "Kechol Asher Yorucha"
3. Re challanges or ilnesses outside of a Rav's training and expertise, "Hatorah Nitna Reshus LeHarofeh Lerapos" A Rav will then re-direct you to a proven expert, (Shulchan Aruch requires 3 successful treatments in a row, to be rendered a reliable expert).

The Rebbe has added, that in matters of significant mental or physical health, one should seek the opinion of 2 experts! (if they disagree, to seek a third opinion and follow the majority). thereby attracting birchas Hashem, while respecting (Hashem's preference for the preservation of) the natural order.

(apologies if this was too condensed)

(12/17/2013 5:35:37 AM)
You wanna save lives?? The women in CH need this more urgently than the men!
the number of girls and women in crown heights who are clearly suffering inside from low self esteem etc is truly very troubling and sad to see.

instead of rebuking them (as, jeopardizing their family's well-being and protection against harm etc) we need to offer them such programs, to help them heal (and get over their resentment at a system which has drifted away from its AUTHENTIC chabad teachings and practices).

If our schools were run more as a meritocracy, and not nepotism, then the Teachers, Staff and Administrators would be that much more qualified, and genuinely worthy of being Mechanech our most vulnerable.

The fact that soo many of our Mosdos are schools have soo few trained and caring mechanchim is a huge cause of the self esteem crises we see in our children/daughters.

We cannot wait for the "system" to get back on track with genuine chasidic values, in the meantime, our hurt daughters, need something authentic, something truly chasidish, such as a COTS weekend which has all the elements that are good and powerful about it, without any of the (turn-off) shtick.

Solving the self esteem crises, will lead directly to saving lives VeDal...

and yes, whats at steak warrants promoting COTS even as is.

Every Mechanech should participate in a program/Therapy which helpss them function from a place of giving and caring and get their own issues out of the way. (sadly most mechanchim today are unable to offer true chasidishe values since they themselves have much unresolved internal work to do)

-from someone who deals with local CH mechanchim and the sad fallout on a daily bases.
(12/17/2013 6:25:25 AM)
From someone who knows. A few facts
Every true professional who runs such a program would;

1. Strongly discourage anyone for talking to anyone about his experience within 30 days of attending. It is considerd very destructive.

2. Would not only now encourage but not allow participants to meet each other in groups.

3. Would never use the peer marketing tactics used. There is a good reason why by using those tactics he would lose his license from any professional credential.

This is besides for the problem that he got his training from very questionable places and is not at the caliber of others who were able to seperate the good from the bad.

(12/17/2013 6:31:17 AM)
So a few of you have mentioned how he took his teachings tuma. How about him being in a mental institution? I'm not c"v knocking him and wish a refua shleima! but his program aint gona be my mashpia.
(12/17/2013 6:32:57 AM)
It's all about the money!!!!!
People have to realize this whole thing is ALL ABOUT THE MONEY. No matter if it helps people or not, these guys only care about the next dollar bill.
(12/17/2013 6:34:38 AM)
900 bucks to save my soul?
If I have to pay 900 bucks for a class on how to live its a cult. The website looks like a cult.
(12/17/2013 6:43:49 AM)
To Berry:
From everything I hear you are a well meaning guy.

If you think that simcha is more coherent than Shea you are really caught up bad.

Any rov or mashpia who mistakenly endorsed this needs to get the word out that they changed their minds.

I personally know two respected people who went there and yelled out to the whole works how great it is and now landed and really regrets it. It's hard to say so publicly.

I am not commenting on the cult issue, but they have some extremely irresponsible practices (including getting someone to a raw state who is not under mental health care) and they promote this in very suspicious ways.

(12/17/2013 7:11:20 AM)
This is the most rediculous post I have ever read .
(12/17/2013 7:13:09 AM)
Open minded and did research.
The consensus that I heard from anyone with professional experience, is that IF this placr is good for anyone, it would be for someone who is already seeing a professional for mental health and has gone a long period without having a breakthrough. This program seems to create such a breakthrough. However having a breakthrough without professional health is either meaningless or destructive. I am not commenting and religion or cult issues.
(12/17/2013 7:15:08 AM)
To #66
I had the exact same experience!
A good friend of mine went and came back very weird.
He wouldn't do the same things he had enjoyed doing, including giving a shiur for some men in our shul!
There were many other changes and strange behaviors that I do not wish to disclose.
Now our only interaction is about how I MUST GO.
He has become a recruiter for them, constantly pressuring people.

I am so thankful that Rabbi Hecht has clarified things a bit.
There can definetly be good effects from therapy, but only for those who need it. There are, however, other (probably better) routes of therapy out there that are safer and more in the individuals control.

Beatiful article and the comments allow those confused to share in our confusion and clarify things!
(12/17/2013 7:18:50 AM)
a very revealing email circulating to members of COTS

Agree with R M F.

Getting hung up on the approval of others -who are scared/bitter/envious- accomplishes little, and subtracts from what we each should be focusing our energy on, -in my case, i should focus on my own well-being and that of my family-.

Remember, to those of us who are merely concerned about setting the record straight for the sake of those who have not yet benefited...
keep in mind, most people are not stupid, and can easily see through the flimsy attacks geared at stigmatizing COTS.
If someone is the type to be open to and embrace new (kosher) growth oriented tools etc... the naysayers will hardly dissuade them! since thoughtful people know theirs two sides... and will investigate further.

i dont see much need in answering more than one time, any legitimate attack levied by those who mock or question, to intelligently rebut one time each substantive argument, sounds responsible to me, however to keep rehashing over and over sounds pointless and smells of insecurity and the need for others approval.

Love you all! Have an awesome day!!
(12/17/2013 7:27:48 AM)
I don't know this group B"H but I DO know cults. I was suckered in to one with a promise of a certain change & it definitely did work. I was told if I followed their program (based on 12 steps) XY&Z would happen. It did, but I also went a bit cuckoo & it definitely affected my family life. I did everything according to what the group said and my family suffered. They weren't the most important thing anymore in my life, it was all about doing what the group said.

I've been reading about this group & I saw that some people were thrilled with the results. They say things like my family life is better, I'm able to deal with things & so on. Everything is great, until it isn't. giving over your whole being to something that takes your free will away is dangerous. Of course, they will say you joined from your own free will, but what happens after that is controled by someone else. So really you don't have free will.

I hope one day followers see the truth. The sad thing is, when they do want to leave, they haven't got anything else because their whole avodah was based on the group's philosophy. They fall apart and don't know what to do next because they gave themselves over 100% to the group. it's like kicking a crutch away from a cripple - they fall over.

I hope I explained my experiences and I wish you all well.

PS I turned to Shea Hecht & he helped me see the truth & I was able to get back to normal. Yes, the issue that made me reach out became an issue again, but I was able to live with it.
(12/17/2013 7:28:13 AM)
Then what is "hizboinanus " supposed to be?
(12/17/2013 7:30:50 AM)
Anything "shofar" as in shofar all year long or "Jews" who have them all year round, is a cult. Shorfars are for the high holidays for traditional Jews who think these cults need to define themselves as non Jews. Thanks.
(12/17/2013 7:31:12 AM)
I don't always agree with Shea Hecht but I have said this foe over a year. My husband spent $650 to go for shabbos & although he loved it, it was a total waste of money. for $650 we could have both went to a nice hotel for shabbos all inclusive & we would have both enjoyed it
(12/17/2013 7:58:16 AM)
as a parent of children in yeshiva I feel that any teacher that was part of this cult has no business being in chinuch. We will have to find out which teachers are part of it and make them known
(12/17/2013 8:33:59 AM)
G-D's so called give to humanity
There it goes poof! Gone! All those fantasizing about shofar and its magical effect on people, it's a cult, it's avoda Zara.
(12/17/2013 8:36:33 AM)
Disappointed in Reb Shea's sloppy and sweeping generalizations
seems a bit, sloppy at best. and jealouse or self promying at worst,

Whats his real motive?

i dont see, how he streached the Rebbe's words to taint All of the legitiate kosher options the Rebbe himself encouraged?

please explain

Maybe Rabbi Wolf in Australia can shed some light, as he has received much guidance re Kosher Meditation, as apposed to Rabbi Hecht
(12/17/2013 8:38:49 AM)
Please explain yeshiva
How is this any different than yeshiva where cell phone and Internet is forbidden. yeshiva is for years not just a few days. Not to mention the mind altered state of farbrengens etc
(12/17/2013 8:41:27 AM)
old timer
anyone remember EST?
the Call of the Shofar uses much of the same technique, although it is "an iron fist clothed in a velvet glove"
if you live long enough, you see that things never change.....the yetzer Harah is a clever chap who recycles his ideas into newer and fancier clothing.....

Living with a chassidishe hartz and seeing the world with chassidishe oigen is the only way to live a happy and fulfilling life
(12/17/2013 8:43:31 AM)
What a letter
With such a letter all those giving negative comments MUST be from this cult and are commanded to set records straight by their cult leaders. I am a COTS alumni - Shimon Seringersky
I am a COTS alumni and I'm part of the Crown Heights Shofar group. I just received an email which caused me to be nauseated with the whole shofar thing and it made me realize how it's all a fake. I got an email from a master (staff) at shofar, M. L. Which stated the following: "Please go to and set the record straight about Call of the Shofar.
Moshe." This got me to realize how we are brainwashed and we have a goal to brainwash other uch!! That's really disgusting! If its true and it helps and it's not about money why is shofar so worried and is sending out ALL it's alumni to comment positive on collive!?
Their email ends off by saying "Important notice and agreement: Everyone on this list made an in-person commitment to confidentiality at their first CH meeting. This includes protecting the identity of anyone else they may meet at the meeting and anything that someone else shares. This commitment extends to all activities of our group including this email group. If you do not agree to this, please immediately remove yourself from our group" I have decided to leave this cult. This is horrible.
Shimon S.
(12/17/2013 8:49:37 AM)
Oholei Torah
Is it appropriate for a Mashpia to talk about COTS with bachurim in ZAL????
(12/17/2013 9:07:48 AM)
I am so disturbed:
The relish and delight with which fellow Jews and Chassidim are deriding their brothers; gleefully swooping down. Whatever the program may be, we need to treat each other with respect. The vast majority of the people attending this program, do so from a desire to grow and be in more loving relationships. There is nothing evil happening here. There is no need for a crusade.
(12/17/2013 9:16:43 AM)
The first article!!
The first article was BRIMMING with positive comments about COTS, and all of a sudden 100 comments against it FINNALY surface. Can you really convince me that the 200+ individuals in the first article are ALL brainwashed???? So what if you have 100 comments against it- 200+ are for it, and it's a long shot to say all those people are messed up. The comments on this article isn't any better than the positive comments of the first article.
(12/17/2013 9:19:35 AM)
Chayim Yaakov sholomon
I'm a Baal tshuvah and shliach and I went to shofar

With my pre-frum experience and being a Buddhist and a person involved with eastern spirituality, I found it shocking and horrible that so many ideas and exercises from shofar are directly from eastern religions and spirituality which stems from klipah and Avoda Zarah R"l. Shofar is clearly inspired by non pure sources the man behind shofar works for an organization which purifies people with a fusion of eastern spirituality and western psychology. The organization is called emclear you can search them on google. The man behind shofar is actually an official counselor of this avoda Zara based program he does the branch in Maryland. Search on google frischling emclear Maryland and you'll see it as first link for yourself. It's the most darkest Golus that mashpiyim, mechanchim, shluchim and chassidishe yud den are caught up in klipa and sitrah achara and avoda zara. Oy meh hoyo lonu!!! Ad mosay!!!
(12/17/2013 9:19:37 AM)
more info please

Dear rabbi hecht you say people should avoid the call of the shofar and stated specific reasons. please, in order for us to follow your instructions site more specific examples with more clear explanations of exactly what's wrong.
for the record I also ask my doctor when he tells me to take a medication to first explain it to me the exact chemical issue that my body is going through and to write a 20 page dissertation on the precise method that this drug will help me. when I ask a rov a shyla I also first demand to see me which rabbis a signed on his smecha I then go back to check each of those rabbis who signed their semicha for at least three generations I then demand that they write a full teshuva on exactly how and why he ruled the way he did
(12/17/2013 9:21:47 AM)
The mashpia must be fired!
Until will everyone relize how much nonsense he is trying to put in the younger generation?!
(12/17/2013 9:32:10 AM)
Smart man
This guy gets $30,000 for a weekend and gets to hear 40 people's Lashon Hara...
(12/17/2013 9:33:25 AM)
My husband went
Although he seems happier in general, he is more self centered and less compassionate. I think the tools are valuable if you can incorporate them into your lives but getting people to that broken point without proper support to keep them "together" can be very detrimental. Let the ideas be taught without the whole weekend thing. It is a derivative of the Landmark and EST technique so it has cult leanings.
(12/17/2013 9:37:15 AM)
I haven't read all the posts before me so this point may have been made already.

I attended a Call of the Shofar weekend seminar, although we ere encouraged not to use our phones and have conversations with others and put away our watches. This was not enforced and those who needed were able to use their phones etc.

How about in our yeshivas and schools? Adult students aren't allowed to use their phones or have conversations with others? Would you call that a cult?
(12/17/2013 9:52:33 AM)
I can't believe
I'm the guy who is not happy all the time but I'm not looking to feel "good" and "happy" and I also don't know about cults (I do know rabbi Hecht knows )
My issue is this mashpia thing
All the mashpim are debating that we should teach only the rebbehs chasidus (which I agree because through the mareh mekomos you can learn all chasidus)
How is it possible for a mashpiah to recommend this even if it's good does the mashpiah not know that maybe because it is so good and great is the first indicator that it's bad

We need some advice and thank you sheah for yours
(12/17/2013 9:54:08 AM)
Why so nuts?
I went, it was ok. I saw lots of guys seek inside themselves to be open and sensitive men and better jews. At one of the highest points, all I imagined was being as close as possible to my wife and children no matter what happens; taking full responsibility as a Jewish husband and father. its not Moshiach, but it helped lots of guys focus on what is really brewing inside them. if someone sees this as "THE" answer, then they have issues even without the call of the shofar. Yiddishkeit as taught by our Rebbe is the real guide and this is a nice tool to get in touch with emotions. (if someone has high blood pressure, chassidus will not cure it. Many people are SO EMOTIONALLY DYSFUNCTIONAL, and these exercises are 1 of 100's of ways to help become aware of the inner landscape, that's all; nothing more) Yosef Kap, crown heights.
(12/17/2013 9:54:34 AM)
still a fan of cots But...
I do agree, there are some aspects that can be improved upon, without compromising the main benefit it offers,
(12/17/2013 10:03:47 AM)
question and comment
has anyone had any psychological damage from Shofar?
I tend to agree with #32 and those similar to that. Just because Shea made himself a cult buster doesnt give him the right to bust this. He never sent anyone to a therapist before? He has healed everyone himself? What could he recommend? Truth is that yes, alot of rabbonim and "big" community people have taken part in it. Nobody seems to have felt that anyone was damaged or sustained any negative results.
Look at it from the other many men have been "negatively brainwashed" by their unhealthy fathers who were either not there for them, or actually worse than that. What does he suggest then? Nothing? alot of men need healing. I don't understand what a game this is, all of a sudden someone decides to trash something which rabbonim have been to and seem to have come out with positive results which allow them to be more whole. Why take that away from them.
(12/17/2013 10:04:03 AM)
Ok the only way that I can disprove what shea is saying (fyi I have tremendous respect for the man but he is misinformed) is by looking at the ppl that went all of them walk out w more yiras shomayim and ahavas yisroel and other impirtant jewish values...
(12/17/2013 10:06:10 AM)
its not perfect, true
It's not helpful to 100% of Patricipants , true!

Is it therefore .AZ?
Is it therefore Against Torah Chasidus?
(12/17/2013 10:08:16 AM)
To #82
If it is true that in fact the rebbe says these are the three criteria .... Then it is time to sift out the true mashpiim in yeshiva.... They are the ones who interact directly with our bochurim.

(12/17/2013 10:09:17 AM)
cant trust anyone
yes unfortunately over here with all these comments i cant trust a single one. i know of many articles where people who are kids have posted themselves as parents, i do not know whether the same is being done here in regard to random people claiming they have been to shofar when really they haven't but this is a side issue.

one thing is clear if there is machloykes regarding the call of the shofar it cant be ALL CLEAR CUT especially when an expert has talked out against it.

then you have those idiots who decide ,wow if such a professional talked out against it id like to check it out!! unfortunately we had such idiots earlier when rabbi schochet talked out against rabbi boetachs book and people were commenting that now that it was talked out against i for sure want to read it and bla bla bla. point is if a doctor tells you not to try something you DONT it could kill you!! (in this case spiritually which is even worse) so heed the doctors words listen to Rabbi Hecht and STAY AWAY!!!!
(12/17/2013 10:11:49 AM)
part of the problem is
Since cots participants are not very into public approval there is likely gonna be very little in the way of defending
Cots in thus thread, those who are looking for the facts will
Find it even if most of the here are by the same
1 or 2 nay sayers with allot of free time on his hands

I agree with 96

Unless new legitimate arguments are raised and require clarification, don't expect repeats and effectiveness by those who have a life and are in support of t cots
(12/17/2013 10:16:46 AM)
To Shea Hecht
With all due respect, I hope you can take responsibility for all the people who are suffering and because of what you wrote, will not go to Shofar and get help.
It is evident that you do not know the facts about Shofar.
You should come out with an apology letter to fix the damage you have caused!
(12/17/2013 10:18:46 AM)
agree with 103
It's sloppy and unproffessional

And doesn't seem like a strong case
(12/17/2013 10:22:49 AM)
Just got back from a weekend there
It's a wonderful program! The they give you tools to live a life from a place of well being. There is no stira to chasiddus actually they go hand in hand.
Regarding Rabbi Shea: Did he ever look through the workbook they provide and see what it's all about? And all you col commentators, ad usuall, you make comments that are simply foolish. I'm a greatful that I had the opportunity to go- and I commit myself to continue living life from a place of well being. Much love
(12/17/2013 10:24:08 AM)
is shea a professional?
The list of Rabbis and DOs on the testimonial page is extensive

Is Rabbi Hecht smarter than ALL OF THEM?
(12/17/2013 10:24:53 AM)
Not Relevant to Yeshiva
All these nasty comments about Yeshiva are disgusting. No one has their watches taken away. Phones cannot be used even in goyishe schools during school hours; students must leave them outside in a phone locker. Every yeshiva or nonJewish school wants to create a disturbance-free "oasis" that is conducive to study, and in the case of yeshiva, for chassidishkeit. (Also, if you truly think and really believe yeshiva is mind-altering your son, you should not be sending him there.)
(12/17/2013 10:28:01 AM)
Shimon S
Why do you allow people to change your mind so easily. Of course the shofar wants to defend themselves and not loose their participants. Does that really make them a cult? Has there been anything at the workshop or philosophy been counter to Torah and yodishkiet? When there is opposition to something it shows there is a something. Anyway. I wish you well.
(12/17/2013 10:35:52 AM)
COTS is an adaptation of a goyshe program. I hope you know this
In this goyshe program ,people have to become Recruters,this is the all thing and the Mitzvah ,to become recruters
If you pay more you have a program to become a seminary and make your own program
It's all about money,you change you feel better at the beginning,only you,but people around you sees you as weird,you lose many of your friends,you became a recruiter
In the goyshe version ( most probably they are going to develop more levels in the Jewish version too) there are more advanced week ends. , until you advance to the top level and the you can become the leader
It's a very dangerous brainwash experience that is not for the good,it's all about money and losing interest for other people only thinking about you and you and you
(12/17/2013 10:36:15 AM)
Thank you COL for bring this up!
I am so pleased that this Shofar has been getting attention so that people can express what they really think about it. I have never been there and never plan on going however here is some I would to share with the reader about my experiences with people who have gone there.

A few points, multiple people who have participated in shofar came back trying to convince me and some of my friends to also participate. One of them I asked what goes on there, He told me that itss amazing, my life has changed. I asked him to tell me some details, he tells me that you have no go to a place where you have no connection to the outside world for 3 days, you turn your phone off and dont speak to anyone who is not there. That threw a red flag, anything that will restrict my freedom from something that is completely permissible from the Torahs point of view and any program that wants to take it away these freedoms, does not sound good to me. Then he told me that he lost his voice because he screamed and cried all night for three nights, out of pain. I knew that this program is not for me. What really got me was that he was not the only person who approached me trying to convince me to go.

What is interesting is that these people have gone many places and done other things in their lives which they have enjoyed and found success, but never before have they come to me to convince me to join.

What amazes me is that people who went go back again and they probably will go back more times as they have wrote in their comments, that as well is a scary thought. If I went to a course on any subject or matter I would not want to go back and hear the same thing over again, even if there are some variations to the first way I heard it. Unless it is Torah and then its connecting with Hashem ...
(12/17/2013 10:37:42 AM)
A major issue that needs stressing
My main concern with Call of the Shofar and why it's hepach Chassidus and hepach Yidishkeit is that is solely focused on ME, MYSELF AND I.
(12/17/2013 10:40:48 AM)
Please write in yours shidduch profile if you attendeded COTS
I don't want to expose my kids to this new religion
(12/17/2013 10:44:11 AM)
I really wish the the Rabbi would given his opinion with out put labels on The Call of the Shofar. The Rabbi is entitled to his opinions but really should make assumptions if he has not dealt with it first hand. The Rabbi should go to a weekend and talk to Rabbi Frishling and then he can make whatever conclusions he wants. We all need to be care and think before we put stuff out there it can have implications on real Jews.
(12/17/2013 10:45:39 AM)
Endorsed by a leading mashpia in Crown Heights
Rabbi Sternberg is one of the leading Mashpiem in Crown Heights and very much in touch with the reality of "heintega" bochurim and yungerleit. His endorsement of a program as this does and should carry much weight. It is sad that there are those out there that have a tendency to pour cold water on anything that is out of the norm, not realizing the negative effect this has on countless individuals. Rabbi Sternberg has always been on the forefront on the issues affecting the current world matzav and we owe him a tremendous amount of hakoras hatov for stepping up in times that the other Rabonim and mashpiem dont have the guts or know-how to.
(12/17/2013 10:47:18 AM)
to #9
"The phrase "Chasidus has all the answers" must be dissected.

A) the term Chasidus refers to what? A specific book? An aggregate of books? A principle? An aggregate of principals? A certain personality? An aggregate of personalities?

Once that is specified, the question becomes: "all the answers TO WHAT?" Addiction? Stress? Depression? Ocd? Adhd? The whole DSM? Half? Only one axis? WHAT - for G-ds sake?

C) Once that is specified, the question becomes: how do you know? Was it told to you by an authority of the material? Is he an authority on the "problems" as well? Doers the material itself suggest so? If so: where?

D) Once that is resolved, the question becomes: ok. Lets see if its true!... Let us study the given texts, ideas, or personalities, as the case may be, with an open mind and lets so if the claim is true.

E) Even if I can see with my mind eye that it is true, is my heart - my me - aligned with it?

F) If not does that "make me something"? Am I condemned? Less than?

Before this process happens: there is NO maturity on the conversation! Its simply blind cultish adherence to something that we have no idea is even true!!!
(12/17/2013 10:52:25 AM)
Thank you Rabbi Hecht
Thank you for speaking the truth. I upsets me to see so many in the frum community fall prey to schemes and snake oil salesman. From COTS to the anti vaccine crowd to the homeopothy scan, people are being suckered left and right.
(12/17/2013 11:10:58 AM)
Mordy #2
To #106, etc.

Asking for good reviews when your company is getting trashed by a "cult buster" and a reminder of confidentiality is not indicative of cultish behavior. Good grief; have you ever seen a real cult and what they do? Have you ever seen people destroyed, hollowed out and barely able to speak their native language after years in cults? Requesting online reviews is a great big nothing.

As for the cost, motivational weekends for my profession (Real Estate) run into the thousands. $600-$1000 is nothing for this sort of thing; room and board alone probably costs them upwards of $450 each.

I've never gone to COTS, but I know many who have, and no one here has come up with any real argument against them. It sounds like every other motivational retreat that I get invited to along with breathless reviews. If it helps you, great. If not, just move along.
(12/17/2013 11:17:36 AM)
Berry, can you please answer #88?
I heard those complaints before.
(12/17/2013 11:20:22 AM)
reply to 133
you are absolutely incorrect. its all based on klal-prat-klal. if you don't know what i mean, then you obviously are talking from ignorance of the concept that COTS is teaching
(12/17/2013 11:25:01 AM)
Does Chassidus have the answers?
This letter landed in my email inbox just as the Shofar debate gained steam. I post it not to compare an organization's method's to apikorsus, but to share the Rebbe's view of "Mochin Digadlus"--something may well be beneficial, but it must even so be handled with extreme care by professionals. "Therapy" is not for everyone; everyone can benefit from specific forms of therapy to treat specific symptoms and causes.

To my mind, coming back from a retreat and announcing "This is for everyone" is in itself suspect. The letter:

By the Grace G-d
11th of Adar, 5726
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Bronx, N.Y. 10472

Greeting and Blessing:

I am in receipt of your letter in which you question the wisdom of the issur to study apikorsus in view of the fact that it seems to you right that G-d should want everyone to study all he can about theology and every point of view, even to the extent of doubting the very existence of G-d, etc.

Needless to say, a letter is hardly the proper medium to discuss such a matter adequately. This should not be necessary, inasmuch as there are many Rabbonim and Roshei Yeshivos in your neighborhood with whom you could discuss this and similar questions at length.

However, inasmuch as you took the trouble to write to me, I will attempt to answer at least your first question, as briefly as possible. I will do so by referring to the well-known saying of the Rambam who, as you know was the Great Codifier (including in his Code also the above-mentioned issur), and at the same time was also one of the greatest physicians that ever lived. As the Rambam expressed it, the body and the soul have very much in common insofar as treatment of diseases is concerned.

Bearing the above in mind, let us now consider the fact that when one is desirous of doing research in a highly contagious disease, it is of course necessary first to have the proper preparation and training in order not only to hope to achieve anything, but also to prevent contacting that disease. Moreover, this kind of research is not done for the sake of curiosity or just as a pastime. Only that person is justified in placing himself in certain danger to his own health (for with all precautionary measures, there is always an element of risk involved), who can hope to bring some good to humanity, and thereby alleviate the suffering of others or even eliminate the disease. This calls for certain qualifications, and one would not expect a boy who is just out of high school to begin such a dangerous research. And even after many years of study ad preparation and maturity, it is not everyone that is qualified to do this kind of work.

What has been said above in regard to diseases of the body is also true in every detail in regard to the diseases of the soul. Especially when it concerns apikorsus, since this is directly ad essentially connected with the very well-being of the soul, to such an extent that it could possibly undermine and cripple one's faith in Hashem Chaim, and lead to the very opposite of chaim.

It would be possible to elaborate on the above a great deal, but I trust that what has been said will suffice to answer your question. I will add however, another point. It is unnecessary to emphasize the relative importance of the body and the soul, since the former is temporary and the latter is everlasting, but there is a further simple consideration: any physical disorder can be easily discovered, and if caught in time, can be cured, since a physical disorder is immediately connected with physical discomfort, which serves as a warning and signal. However, in a spiritual disorder, it is possible that years may pass by without being aware of the dangerous course upon which one has embarked or drifted. So much so that there can be a total disorientation and distortion, to the extent of "calling light - darkness, and darkness- light," which is the height of spiritual disease.

I note what you write about your being brought up in an orthodox environment. I trust that you are continuing this golden chain of tradition. And although you write that you have been exposed to "contemporary thought," I trust that you have also made a study of Jewish history. If so, you will have seen that what is generally considered as "contemporary" Judaism, namely Reform and Conservative, is nothing really new. As a matter of history, we have had in every generation deviationist movements trying to break away from the mainstream of Torah yiddishkeit, yet hoping to remain within it. As early as Mattan Torah and only a few weeks afterwards, there were already the Golden Calf worshippers, and so it went from generation to generation, down to Mendelssohn, the father of Reform. However, as you thumb through the pages of Jewish History, one can see at once what happened to all deviationists. Either they completely returned to the Jewish fold, as was the case of the majority of the Golden Calf worshippers, or they were completely lost, as was the case with the minority. Similarly, with those who came under the influence of Mendelssohn. Many of them returned to the traditional faith of their ancestors, while the minority completely assimilated and converted.

There is a well known and wise old saying that the past should serve as a lesson for the future. It is easy to see where deviation from the right way, the way of the Torah and mitzvos, leads. Even if one wishes to make a change insofar as one is personally concerned, and argues that this is his own personal affair, this still does not preclude all others to try and help him. The analogy would be of one who wishes to jump from a bridge and claims that this is his own personal affair. In that case no one would question the duty of everyone within reach to try to help him, to mobilize the police etc.

With blessing,
(12/17/2013 11:33:23 AM)
I like Rabbi Hecht but he really dropped the ball on this one
I'm trying to make sense if his sweeping comparison and use of the Rebbe's words, sorry! I don't see, how he uses the Rebbe's words to knock this program

So far,
No one has answered any of the requests for concrete examples which demonstrate that this is harmful, avodas Zara, or not the type of retreat the Rebbe encouraged

The burden of proof is on Shea to prove
A) that he knows their philosophy, and tactics
B) that any one if them is contrary to an igros or Halacha

Until then, this seems like a shameless plug if his "revised" book, he made sure to mention.
(12/17/2013 11:57:27 AM)
Here is what Wikipedia defines as a cult
Find all this on Wikipedia cults in our midst

"Keep the person unaware of what is going on and how attempts to psychologically condition him or her are directed in a step-by-step manner.

Potential new members are led, step by step, through a behavioral-change program without being aware of the final agenda or full content of the group. The goal may be to make them deployable agents for the leadership, to get them to buy more courses, or get them to make a deeper commitment, depending on the leader's aim and desires.

Control the person's social and/or physical environment; especially control the person's time.

Through various methods, newer members are kept busy and led to think about the group and its content during as much of their waking time as possible.

Systematically create a sense of powerlessness in the person.

This is accomplished by getting members away from their normal social support group for a period of time and into an environment where the majority of people are already group members.
The members serve as models of the attitudes and behaviors of the group and speak an in-group language.
Strip members of their main occupation (quit jobs, drop out of school) or source of income or have them turn over their income (or the majority of) to the group.
Once the target is stripped of their usual support network, their confidence in their own perception erodes.
As the target's sense of powerlessness increases, their good judgment and understanding of the world are diminished. (ordinary view of reality is destabilized)
As the group attacks the target's previous worldview, it causes the target distress and inner confusion; yet they are not allowed to speak about this confusion or object to it - leadership suppresses questions and counters resistance.
This process is sped up if the targeted individual or individuals are kept tired - the cult will take deliberate actions to keep the target constantly busy.

Manipulate a system of rewards, punishments and experiences in such a way as to inhibit behavior that reflects the person's former social identity.

Manipulation of experiences can be accomplished through various methods of trance induction, including leaders using such techniques as paced speaking patterns, guided imagery, chanting, long prayer sessions or lectures, and lengthy meditation sessions.
the target's old beliefs and patterns of behavior are defined as irrelevant or evil. Leadership wants these old patterns eliminated, so the member must suppress them.
Members get positive feedback for conforming to the group's beliefs and behaviors and negative feedback for old beliefs and behavior.

The group manipulates a system of rewards, punishments, and experiences in order to promote learning the group's ideology or belief system and group-approved behaviors.

Good behavior, demonstrating an understanding and acceptance of the group's beliefs, and compliance are rewarded while questioning, expressing doubts or criticizing are met with disapproval, redress and possible rejection. Anyone who asks a question is made to feel there is something inherently disordered about them to be questioning.
The only feedback members get is from the group; they become totally dependent upon the rewards given by those who control the environment.
Members must learn varying amounts of new information about the beliefs of the group and the behaviors expected by the group.
The more complicated and filled with contradictions the new system is and the more difficult it is to learn, the more effective the conversion process will be.
Esteem and affection from peers is very important to new recruits. Approval comes from having the new member's behaviors and thought patterns conform to the models (members). Members' relationship with peers is threatened whenever they fail to learn or display new behaviors. Over time, the easy solution to the insecurity generated by the difficulties of learning the new system is to inhibit any display of doubtsnew recruits simply acquiesce, affirm and act as if they do understand and accept the new ideology.

Put forth a closed system of logic and an authoritarian structure that permits no feedback and refuses to be modified except by leadership approval or executive order.

The group has a top-down, pyramid structure. The leaders must have verbal ways of never losing.
Members are not allowed to question, criticize or complain. If they do, the leaders allege the member is defective, not the organization or the beliefs.
The targeted individual is treated as always intellectually incorrect or unjust, while conversely the system, its leaders and its beliefs are always automatically, and by default, considered as absolutely just.
Conversion or remolding of the individual member happens in a closed system. As members learn to modify their behavior in order to be accepted in this closed system, they changebegin to speak the languagewhich serves to further isolate them from their prior beliefs and behaviors."

In conclution, I've been to shofar and shofar fits most of these cult methods. Shea is 100% right.
(12/17/2013 12:00:13 PM)
proof of the pudding
people are coming out of there weird. i know personally a bochur who looked like a zombie and it was through lots of TLC and tears and prayers that he is back in the land of the living. In what kind of setting is a person encouraged to take off their clothes in public in the name of therapy
(12/17/2013 12:09:05 PM)
To 101
Regardless of your own personal issues (clearly more than a few, if you're so inclined to comment with such disregard), Berry was at least man enough to publicly share his own experienced opinions, and in his real name. You? You bash anonymously, and almost certainly (you reek of that type) ignorantly. Go look in the mirror and make sure you do a good din vcheshbon tonight before you go publically belittling anyone else. Shame on you. Pity on your family. No I don't know Berry at all but I have a whole lot more respect for him than the likes of your sorry self. All this having nothing to do with call of the shofar, I only happen to be perusing the comments as the discussion peaked my curiosity. If you don't yet have a job or life "Mr. 10-", perhaps it's time you enrolled in something. Anything to keep your mind busy and perhaps your heart in beat. Start with Life 101...
(12/17/2013 12:17:54 PM)
To the Mockers
Had u tried to stigmatize and discredit this program a year ago, you would've stood a chance to misrepresent it.

Too late nearly 500 lubavitchers already know what it is first hand, and have already appreciated its life enhancing fruit, for all to see, their spouses, mechunochim, and friends have all witnesses the positive changes,

It's like trying to deny that igros kodesh works, maybe right after gimul Tammuz, u could have had some luck and argued that it doesn't, today the cat is out of the bag, everyone knows and uses it, bec there are already too many beneficiaries to deny that igros really works!

Same here, ur a bit too late, to mock this as, ineffective (for most) or against Halacha/chasidus
Since dozens of well known shluchim, Mashpiyim, talmidei chachomim Yodea Sefer went, and found NO, NON whatsoever Aspects that are AZ or even a trace thereof.

So good luck in trying to rewrite history, too late

It works, and no Rov in the world will say he investigated it and paskend it to be AZ

There are numerous Rabbis and Drs who overtly endorsed and approved it
See the list and letters in the website
(12/17/2013 12:20:09 PM)
Shofar is NOT for everyone
Most ppl I know who web have gaind from it.
(12/17/2013 12:31:58 PM)
With all due respect
Rabbi sternberg may be a mashpia who knows more about the challenges than any other. That does not mean he knows that solutions to those challenges. He may be boki in chassidus, have spoke to hundreds of bochurim and yungerliet about their demons, but how would he know if this is safe or not??? Just because there is no other solution to the issues (yet) it doesnt mean this one is safe or not just another, bigger, problem. Does rabbi sternberg have the training in Cults? Does he know about Landmark? EMC? the other dangerous elements out there?

(12/17/2013 12:35:49 PM)
There are many cults that host seminars and not everyone who goes gets caught in.

It seems like here, some people get caught up in the system. They feel the need to keep going back.

They receive discounts for recruiting people.

I want these people to proclaim whether they get these discounts.

Please I'm telling you. Stay away.
(12/17/2013 12:39:43 PM)
Lay It Out for All to See
Rabbi Hecht's letter alleges that "when you visit the website of the Call of the Shofar, the sources listed by R Simcha Frischling himself are tied in with avoda zara and 'avazrayu d'avoda zara.'"

Specifically, what is he referring to? It's possible to view the website of Call of the Shofar the way it looked all the way back to 2007 by visiting I tried myself to find any hint or reference to avoda zara on their website in many of its older versions, and I did not find any. Maybe the Call of the Shofar is a cult, and maybe it isn't, but if the allegation is being made, at least let it be an open one for any reasonable person to evaluate for himself.

Labeling COTS a cult with no evidence (or with fabrications) will only undermine the credibility of the one making the accusation.
(12/17/2013 12:40:30 PM)
Thank you Rabbi Hecht
I have gone to cots ( may the name of evil . . . .. ) A Lubavitcher I know texeted me " " i was surprised at receiving such a website .So i checked it out ,and it was one weird website ! I flipped out , and called the yougerman " what is this " ? i asked in wonderment, " its a cult "
"no no no " he assured me its gonna teach you how to . . . . . . . . .( he know i was going throw some normal life challenge ) after i tried to receive some coherent explanation as to what goes on at the weekend all i got was " trust me you'll thank me for it " or "I guarantee you'r $$$$ back.

unfortunately ( gam zu litoyvah) i went . I am not gona go into the nitty griity of what goes on at theire weekend , because that's not the point . From the blindfold dancing ( and feeling someone move you to the side ) to the other activity's thee do , i thought "something feels sick and dark and fishy . But i made the mistake of thinking that just because other lubavitchers attended the weekend that means it o.k. . i wanted to speak up about my misgivings about the program . the thing is that if i do then that indicates somethings wrong with me . in there(cots) lingo i"m in a story ( imagination ) because cots is well being .

I know an individual that was not keeping seder n yeshivah ( it happens to people of all ages for different reasons )
and he was referred to cots my a well meaning friend . the guy came back not knowing what is wrong with him but was sure that something was wrong with him .

(12/17/2013 12:40:58 PM)
To: #46
, it's not a recurring thing. Yes, there are group meetups in some cities but most people (I would estimate 80% but I don't know for sure), including myself, dont go to these and just attend the weekend and learn some

I Know a community member a School Rebbe , he attended now 3 weekends , why is he gointg back idf its not a cult ?
(12/17/2013 12:42:17 PM)
Where is GEON Yaakov , Yiddisher Chasidisher pride??
This is the result of having an empty "puste" kop! Take your Yiddisher Chassidisher Geon Yakov and busy yourself al hatorah veavoda and you will have happy,purposeful and rich lives!!! You will also save yourself lots of money by not running to thes yukels and fadrying yourself and others around you a kop!!!
(12/17/2013 12:47:41 PM)
Shliach and COTS attendee
People have written that cots has ideas that are similar to budisum and avoda Zara. Keep in mind that those same ideas are in chassidus, that doesn't make chassidus flase. The source of the ideas are based in chassidus, so what if others took it and claimed it theirs.

NONE of the shofar ideas contradict Torah or Chsiddus in any way. They are in fact perfectly aligned.

Why all the insecurity?
(12/17/2013 12:48:15 PM)
Lots of misinformation on this thread
1. They require you to have the time, there's a time to eat, a time for Davening etc. my watch was never taken from me!

2. Cell phones, my cell phone was never taken from me either, I was discouraged from making phone calls unrelated to The subject at hand. Friday I did use the my phone a few times, staff knew and had no problem with it, as long as I reassured them that I'm aware that distractions can subtract, one I made it clear that I'm aware, they left me alone and trusted me, a real colt would punish u for outside contact!

3. First thing after shabbos they encouraged me to call my wife/loved ones! (Not business catchup, only family and close meaningful relationships).

4. Before we left, they told us, this is not for everyone, and we should not go around recruiting anyone we can, we should instead focus on our own growth for the first few weeks, only thereafter can we encourage (not insist) ppl we care about who may be shayach to gain and appreciate it to listen in to a phone call testimonial conference.

I'm not at all surprised that the truly happy shofer alumni are not wasting their time on this thread, those who made up their minds have nothing to learn, those who are less knee jerk, will think for themselves, sift through all the repetitive attacks (apparently by the same few bitter typers) and will discuss it with alum and a personal Rav and make an informed decision
(12/17/2013 12:48:41 PM)
For myself it was a good choice
Bderech sheAdam Rotzeh, shom molichin oisoi

Even though I went and am pleased with what I gained from it,
It did become obvious to me that it's not for everyone
And In every group there will be one or two resentful ppl bec of how much they paid and got nothing for it.

I suspect that 90% of the negative comments are coming from one or two bitter ppl, who have reasons to be resentful
(12/17/2013 12:52:33 PM)
Call of The Shofar Saves LIVES!
Call of The Shofar has saved so many lives, you should all be ashamed of yourselves! Don't hate things that you don't understand folks. How can you shame something you don't understand? Get educated.
(12/17/2013 12:59:09 PM)
Agreed 117

Good on you 117. Well said. I'm a total outsider of all of this but one thing that is so clear here is that it's all SAME OLD. The Shechuna by and large is (always has been) afraid of change. Wake up people! Your children, the children of this century need it! Yes the Torah and Chassidus of 'old' are our guide and light, but if you don't know how best to direct and protect a flame from outside forces (wind, etc) and plenty of inside 'forces' that manage to diminish from rather than keep alight and bright our precious flames, then you are doing no service for the kinderlach, bochurim, and yungerleit whoe ARE our future. Just like there is a time when grandparents accept they are out of touch with the technological advancements of today's world, so too the 'elterer' amongst us have oft lost touch with the advancements (sometimes regressions, admittedly) of today's young ones. And most of all the causes behind that. Times are changing, we are changing, the world we (DO) live in is changing! Stick to your core but mir darf leben MIT dem tzeit. If all of your focus is on traditions and methods that have been buried in the ground, (just for the sake of tradition, familiarity) then that is where you may well see the future of 'your' children's yiddishkeit go.

Don't be afraid of change, as I fear this saga may lead people to become. Extremism, to any side, is dangerous. If something like Shofar manages to make otherwise adrift yidden more anchored, settled, introspective and attentive to all areas of their Jewish, Frum life, then strength to them.

I have never been on one of these programs (I'm female) nor do I have anything to do with them. But I know of 2 people who have been on the weekends and I am not alarmed by it/them, rather, impressed. I am also not surprised by R' Shea's response, nor, sadly, by any of the closed minded responses here. Just open your minds people, you don't know the half of what is going on in the minds and souls of many misguided and disillusioned REAL people in your midst. Some are living under the same roof as you. Sharing your bedroom. Only they may not call it living. Are you in touch with what is going on? As long as they are able to seek out something more; guidance and help where needed (any kind that is not dangerous to their beings), then they are on the road upwards. The only people to be pitied or concerned about are those who mock them and look down when, given their stance, they should be looking up. Wishing you all inner peace, so you can help affect some outer peace all around you...

(12/17/2013 1:02:20 PM)
The Rebbe's approach (see the letter)
Instead of mocking and vilifying... To encourage it to be done in a Kosher way!

For it to continually adopt. Modify and improve so that the good within it is preserved and the shuts is increasingly eliminated

It's clear that some ppl (perhaps the same person posting over and over) are not here to build and help, rather their here to destroy and spew their bitterness and blame it on the Rebbe's guidance

The Rebbe, clearly encouraged a Kosher Meditation program devoid of any idolatrous components

Is anyone here calming that COTS has or is in any way shape or form smuggling in idolatrous we views or practices?

If yes? Please speak up and Be direct and specific
Until then your true colors have been exposed! Ur bitter, resentful, and doing your best to put down a program which u either know little about or sadly u feel wasted ur money and were embarrassed to request ur refund

Either way
U owe it to the public -who u seek to protect- to share for all, specifically what is the AZ!
Please don't avoid this direct pointed, and Germaine question
Thank you!
(12/17/2013 1:07:07 PM)
Why all the hostility from the anti shofar types???
U sound soo bitter and resentful!!

Why are u soo tzukratzed that soo many of ur fellow chasidim are happy and had a successful experience??

U really need to discuss ur resentment with a professional, seriously!

If it's Shea, or his family I totally understand, the only way to save face after such a reckless and sloppy piece is by turning up the attacks, if that's what's happening, I'm really sooty for u
Everyone will respect and admire you allot more if u simply come out and own the fact that ur comparisons were very sloppy and knee jerk
(12/17/2013 1:13:11 PM)
There's no need to knock this program
Perhaps a few small modifications to make it less distasteful to those who look at everything from the goyesheh connotation and can't escape that association
(12/17/2013 1:23:34 PM)
Maskilim on gekumn tzum shtetel.......un lachen oyf eden
(12/17/2013 1:25:20 PM)
Such hatefilled venom from the anti shofar camp, surely not mitzad hakdusha
This program obviously has allot of good for many people!

Therefore it should not be categorically stigmatized or vilified!
Rather if there is something wrong with it, let a Rav investigate and suggest modifications that need to be implemented to make this Kosher as the Rebbe wanted it.
If a Rav determines that this is full fledged AZ beyond redemption (I highly doubt), then
A Chabad Kosher Alternative should be developed, since clearly, there are good chasidim elements within this which is offering much value to manny!

My conclusion:

Keep the REAL FARBY aspect of it!

GET REID OF ANY SPOOKY SHTICK which scares off the feeble and insecure amongst us!

We all need this type of REAL farbrenegns!

if the dropping the shtick allows more ppl to attend, then lets "reform" and adapt.

Didnt the Rebbe's letter specifically recommend ONGOING MODIFICATION AND ADAPTATION to maximize the number of participants.
(12/17/2013 1:35:09 PM)
Go to professional group therapy
The problem with Call of the Shofar is that it takes advantage of uneducated and vulnerable individuals who are disillusioned with the community and the schools they went to-- (and to a certain degree, rightly so).

When a Crown Heightser goes to Call of the Shofar and hears ideas which they never heard about before, and it resonates with them(as it should, psychology is a science and is the study of how our mind works) and for many of them their emotions are being validated(where as before among their family,schools, and community) they were never validated.

However, it is coming from the wrong place. The practices and the way they conduct their program is highly questionable. Especially when the director and staff are not licensed social workers/psychologists etc.(and trust me, to be licensed is VERY IMPORTANT)

If you want an experiential experience, and psychotherapy has not given you the "breakthrough"-- go to group therapy. A group that is run by a TRAINED, EXPERIENCED, AND LICENSED PSYCHOLOGIST.

Please don't let Call of the Shofar take advantage of your naivete, lack of education, and vulnerability (and your bank account).

(12/17/2013 1:36:10 PM)
People who went
I know a few people who went .They were self centered before and now feel validated tob e self centered.Ofcourse they love it!
(12/17/2013 1:37:26 PM)
It's funny yet sad to note the irony of how so many commentators are rushing to agree the R' Hecht's clearly uniformed and self contradicting position about COTS being a cult. Not asking him to prove his statements, not trying to understand it for yourself, just blindly agreeing with whatever helps you not have to question the status-qua of the life you lead...that my friends sounds like a function of cult member thinking-or lack thereof. I feel sorry for those of you are so afraid to actually consider the possibility of tools for healthier emotional living coming from a source other than your own. Take a moment to consider that. Allow yourself to feel sad about it. I know its scary. But's I'ts good. It's healthy.
(12/17/2013 1:40:33 PM)
You do sund like you have issues and glad u tried to look after them...but afraid u went to the wrong place.
If MANIS F said a cult is when participants encourage and recruit "everyone they know to go"...SORRY THIS IS A CULT!! ;(
I have PERSONALLY had this happen by participants and many of my friends did WITHOUT us complaining about having ANY issues.

Simcha you could not look straight into the camera for longer than 2 seconds and I was creeped out from the were fidgety too, if body movements tell anything yours would be an amber alert!
(12/17/2013 1:49:04 PM)
reply to 141
Indeed I have not been there nor would I ever consider going to such a program. Rather, my comment is based on speaking to a 3 people who were there, and further from seeing comments from others. You clearly have fallen into their trap. I know some (especially those brainwashed by a"z) won't agree with this, but people don't need a seminar why and how they should love themselves. Notice, Torah does not command that. Reason being: we don't need to be taught to love ourselves because we naturally do already! That's why it states "Love you fellow AS YOURSELF". You already love yourself and so you must be commanded to love others just as much. And those that say, "That's not true. I hate myself..." -- well, they love themselves the most. I have seen clearly that this program teaches ppl to love themselves and even hate others -- their parents, teachers and even friends who "pressured" them into wearing a hat and jacket, for example.

This program is a wolf in lamb's clothing devouring our Chassidim.
(12/17/2013 1:49:33 PM)
Rabbi Heller
I was told by someone who directly spoke to Harav Heller that at first people told him things that sounded good and so he said it seemed okay to go. But now that he hears other things about the call of the shofar (the truth), he said it appears to be assur to attend.
(12/17/2013 1:51:06 PM)
Dearest Shea,

You will need to find some actual experts who have degrees in the field to save your face! go for it, lets see what you can come up with.

re the A"Z attack, the Rebbe (u misquoted) was specifically referring to Transcendental Meditation, the Rebbe in many letters specifically aloows, and encourages (no tracedental) Meditation as beneficial!!!!! and to be done in a kosher environment, with Kosher food and Mikvah available!

even a little bit of research (study) in the Rebbe's letters on this very topic, reveals how ignorant and misrepresenting you were to the Rebbe's publicised views on the matter!!

go learn and brush up on your research before you rush to promote your self in such a reckless and irresponsible manner.


Your next "damage control piece" better include
(12/17/2013 1:52:11 PM)
U ppl. Don't realize I was"parve" until I hear most comments from participants...u come out very defensive of any negative view to COTS and encourage "everyone to go".
Do u not read all participants comments as almost identical, as if they can no longer think for themselves and have any objectivity?!
I know someone who just came back from an invigorating, relaxing & amazing vacation with her family, and guess what? Though she had a most amazing experience and surely would advise anyone who inquires, she didn't come back "brainwashing" all her friends that they MUST go!
What a concept?,
(12/17/2013 1:55:05 PM)
Chasidus and Torah has all the answers indeed
That does not negate the Torah view that for specialized topics one should consult an expert in the respective field. (A foot doctor, Heart doctor, etc)

OCD, ADHD, childhood emotional neglect, chasidus (according to the Rebbe) requires us to go to experts (as defined in Halacha)
(12/17/2013 1:57:43 PM)
103 nailed it!
1. Rabbi Wolf (not Shea) has direct hadracha from the Rebbe re kosher meditation

2. He is suspiciously vague and quiet when pressed for specifics, detailing AZ or Apikursus within COTS

3. I'm unimpressed by Shea's sweeping generalizations, his statement is wishy washy, vague, without any clear link to the Rebbe's criteria for AZ
(12/17/2013 2:10:21 PM)
Slippery Slope
I have friends who went to COTS. It's on shabbos- fine-- it's a self- help experience for yidden with other yidden who are observing shabbos- great. Next thing I knew they went to another self-help experience- this time with goyim, led by a goy, on our holy shabbos! I should have maybe said something but i didn't because they would think i'm just closeminded and it wouldn't have entered their hearts.

I don't have an opinion of COTS but please adhere to chazal "Do not trust yourself AD YOM MISASO- until the day you die! Be firm in holding your standards, do not let the yetzer hara make you comfortable with something mutar so he can get u to do something assur.
(12/17/2013 2:10:23 PM)
Let a Rov decide
Since Shea is beating around the bush, let a Rov examine the program start to finish and make a determination whether it's Kosher or needs surgery

Stop all the overt hostility please!

Where does that all come from??
(12/17/2013 2:13:58 PM)
For those who seek:
Greeting and Blessing.

Avoda Zara literally means foreign workings. In Torah and Judaism, and the Nature of Hashem (Elokim) and His creation, the focal point of development and positivity is humility and gratitude, producing unity and happiness. Torah has prescribed what one should do, and these outcomes result.

To suggest one also employ foreign workings (incorporated around Torah) for spiritual health is to suggest that the workings of Torah itself and Judaism is insufficient to achieve the same, and that added, foreign, workings (with Torah concepts incorporated therein) should, G-d forbid, be added to one's Jewish life.

With regard to the advice given to some, that foreign aspects be removed from various workings (meditation, meditative exercises etc), to in-affect produce a "Kosher" alternative, is apparently to make available the 'physical' health benefits, and removing any aspect of spiritual health benefits, which a Jew need only look to Torah for.

There is the added concern that simpletons and fools are afforded titles of leadership and authority with regard to others, with underlings in service of their will and "wisdom", causing a risk that the leadership be motivated by ego, self-importance, and personal ideas (though mangled in order to remain "in-line" with Torah), carrying on to those who are subject to their leadership, risking the creation of a culture, the workings of which, however mangled not to appear overtly counter to Torah, inherently in contrast to the path of Torah, and humility and gratitude, and after all is said, foreign to the workings of Torah, a foreign additive to the prescriptions of Torah, despite incorporating aspects of of Torah and general knowledge.

With Blessing,

M. M.

"Birchas hedyot al tihiye kaloh bi'einecho:"
(Let not the Blessing of a commoner be taken lightly in your eyes.)

Note: Hisbonenut is a personal journey of thoughtfulness (vis a vis mindfulness) into the greatness of Hashem.
(12/17/2013 2:14:32 PM)
terrible program
It's a terrible program all the guys my age that went there came out weird
(12/17/2013 2:23:46 PM)
a real chossid
You don't need sychologist if you learn chassidis
and you don't need kollege if you go on mitzoyim
(12/17/2013 2:24:04 PM)
Cult=Pyramid scheme
Because of the pyramid aspect it is obviously a cult. Here is the Challenge: They do not offer FREE weekends (even on a "needs based" basis) so obviously it is NOT lishma. Every sheker has truth and every evil has good and this program seems to have much of both but bottom line $$$$

(12/17/2013 2:28:38 PM)
a letter to ALL SHOFAR ALUM
Please, Read this i received from a fellow alumni i respect:

Seeking the approval of others -who are scared/bitter/envious- accomplishes little!
and subtracts from what we each should be focusing on, -What Hashem needs of you, (chitas, minyin, etc) What you wife and children need of you (time, love attention),

If you have an extra available moment, why not find a way to help at home! go learn a maamer, better yet, call a mushpa who can use a friendly phone call!

Remember, to those of us who are concerned about setting the record straight for the sake of those who have not yet benefited from COTS,
keep in mind,
most people are not stupid, and can easily see through the flimsy attempts to stigmatize and name call attendees of COTS.

If someone is the type to be open/embrace new (kosher) growth oriented tools, such a person wont easily be impressed by the naysayers vague sweeping attacks (which dont hold up under close scrutiny).
An intelligent soul will investigate further!

i dont feel much of a need in answer any attack more than once JUST for the sake of those who may assume that no answer = shtikah kehodaah

to intelligently rebut ONE TIME each substantive argument, sounds responsible to me,
to keep rehashing over and over sounds pointless and comes from the same place of insecurity the bitter types are operating from.

Love you all! Have an awesome day!!
(12/17/2013 2:36:35 PM)
On a similar note...
I read a book by a Chassidic Rabbi essentially setting out to show that not only are Anonymous meetings not against Torah, but that it's methodology is in Torah and Judaism.

This is when it dawned upon me...
Going to Anonymous meetings would essentially be suggesting that I must go outside of Torah and Judaism to reach what is inherently within Torah and Judaism.

I then realized that instead of seeking elsewhere (in whatever regard) I ought to be taking Torah and Judaism more seriously, as if my life depends on it, like Anons do with their ways, instead of approaching Torah like some side-show. I realized that my failings had more to do with not taking Bitohoin seriously in a practical way, and not incorporating such basic human necessities, such as cheshbon hanefesh, and private hisbonenus, into my Torah life.

No longer is Minchoh something I do from 3pm-3:30pm with some other fellows, but rather when I leave the clock behind and remember that I am totally dependent on Hashem. No longer is cheshbon hanefesh something I imagine the saintly do, but it is a daily practice to forgive myself and others, and focus on the ways and manners in which to do increase in goodness, and assess my accomplishment, what works and what needs more focus.

I never needed Anonymous, I only needed to realize that I am insignificant in the sense of my 'self', and that my life and wellbeing depends on Hashem, and His direction in Torah.

Now I go to farbrengen's with a hint of humility, and make lechaim with a hint of restraint, and make the best out of what is offered, and offer anything I can to facilitate the improvement of others.

I am no longer seeking foreign solutions like "kosher" Anonymous, alcohol and food, or outside cultish collective casual hyptnosis, I seek only the guidance of Torah, looking for it's maybe too often overlooked hidden treasures (total bitachon, cheshbon hanefesh, among others), to enrich my life, and successfully so, in the most real and down-to-earth way, drawing light into every facet of my being in every step of my Yiddishkeit.

Thank you Hashem.
I Love you Hashem.
I Love your Torah.
I want only You.

(12/17/2013 2:39:37 PM)
absurd to compare to yeshiva
Yeshivas do not deny bochurim phones. In fact, most yeshivas have multiple public phones. They deny them cell phones aka libraries of innapropriate materials. If you can't figure out why you have issues. They also don't like rampant use because it increases chances of flirting... but I never saw a yeshiva dissuade moderate phone usage.
(12/17/2013 2:41:54 PM)
Robin Garbose
People who are vulnerable to persuasion and mind control are simply at a vulnerable moment in their life, which is something common to all of us And vulnerability, especially for the artist, is good and essential. It just needs to be protected, like under the wings of the Rebbe, and not exploited. I believe there are some strong red flags here that require closer scrutiny and consideration. This is my assessment after reading most of the posts. I would recommend Steven Hassan's book Combatting Cult Mind Control to understand better how persuasive manipulation works. I have been involved with the Counter Cult movement in this country during my time directing at America's Most Wanted.
(12/17/2013 2:53:33 PM)
Carpet Work for Reb Shea
What's the data?

The data is there exists a program with a set of rules in order to help one with person growth.

What's the thinking?
Maybe people will judge my lubavitch community that our very own Chassidus is not enough and we need to look outside.

What's the feeling?
I don't feel good enough on my own. I need to prove to people that we are important in order to feel good about myself.

I want to feel good enough!!! I want to feel accepted!!!


(12/17/2013 2:57:23 PM)
Thank you
Thank you Rabbi Hecht!!!!
The 'mashpiim' that were pulled into this must come out publicly and say theyve made a mistake and were misguided and/or leave their mashpia post.
Hashem have rachmonos on our children!
(12/17/2013 3:18:47 PM)
where do theses ideas come from !?!?!?
this is insane this guy is been to every tuma in the book and is proud enough to put them on his bio
if you google friscling wordpress you will see a list of trainings note he wasnt just there as a participant but was trained how to give this tuma to other people
hashem yishmor !!
heres the list i googled the orgs and wrote a little definition for each of them
Steven Frischling

A journey to conscious relationship

Partial list of trainings:

Rabbinic certification through Perchei Shoshanim in Israel - online smicha

Ongoing study partner in Judaic Studies

Studies in Yeshiva Ohr Samayach, Monsey, New York

George Pransky, Psychologist, author, founder Pransky Inst.

Landmark Education (formely EST) - Scientology like self-help group (based on Zen Buddhism) accused of using cult-like methods

Dr. Richard Moss, author and teacher - self-help group with idea's taken from spiritual and psychoanalytic literature, as well as poetry, and mythology.

Jessica Dibb, founder of Inspiration Community - Jessicas background reflects a rich diversity that includes: classical training at the National Academy of Ballet and Theatre Arts and performance experience with the Royal Ballet of England and the Bolshoi Ballet of Russia; yoga and meditation practice since she was 14, including four years at an ashram;

Sandra Sherer (Dayashakti), founder of Wave Work - selfhelp based on Buddhism and yoga

John Ruskin, author of Emotional Clearing 1999 - Based on a unique fusion of proven Eastern spiritual and Western psychological principles

The Mankind Project (Formerly New Warrior) - as its origins in the mythopoetic men's movement accused by some of being a cult, they do some weird thing including dancing around naked .
(12/17/2013 3:21:59 PM)
Most shofar guys are like me
We gained from it, but wer not die hard fans pushing everybody all the time

That's just propaganda by the naysayers
(12/17/2013 3:30:07 PM)
Rabbi Hecht, Please Clarify
I respect Rabbi Hecht and read his letter with an open mind. I have never participated in Call of the Shofar nor do I plan to. So many people in the community seem to know about it that I'd like to have at least a passing familiarity with what it's all about.

Rabbi Hecht is undoubtedly familiar with many cults and cult members, but this letter does nothing to support his position as an expert in the field. He can claim that COTS is a cult, but it's only fair to back that up somehow. I don't see that he did. I respectfully ask Rabbi Hecht to clarify the following points in his letter:

1) He says that COTS is a cult because they use mind-controlling techniques. The proof? No watches, no phones, and conversation with others is limited. He later says that the seminars are held over Shabbos. Everything he lists as mind control fits Shabbos observance, so where does that leave us? Even on a weekday, all seminars require people to pay attention in order to benefit and learn, so I see no problem there either. The watch thing is unusual, but our minds don't become silly putty just because we don't know what time it is. Rabbi Hecht hasn't demonstrated that COTS uses mind-control techniques.

2) He references the Rebbe's sicha about meditation. COTS is not meditation, so what is the specific relevance? Rabbi Hecht spends a lot of time stressing that meditation is only for the sick, implying that COTS is not for healthy people, but the connection between COTS and meditation is never established. Rabbi Hecht hasn't identified any reason that people should stay away from COTS based on the meditation references.

3) He says, "It is a known fact that these self-help cults only provide people with short-lived relief from their issues." It's not a known fact to me, and aside from that point, Rabbi Hecht hasn't shown that COTS is a self-help cult at all. No evidence means no conclusion.

4) Avoda zara? Ok... Accessories to avoda zara? Alright... Tell us what they are. Apparently they were taken off the COTS website, so nobody can verify it anymore. Somehow, that seems too convenient. Rabbi Hecht, give us the specifics, please.

5) I honestly can't believe that Rabbi Hecht said the following (emphasis added): "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.'" Where did the inspiration from that one come from? COTS is really 100% sourced from cults and accessories to avoda zara? Rabbi Hecht did not support this claim with any proof at all and it seems like an extreme exaggeration and over-simplification.
(12/17/2013 3:33:59 PM)
Email i got from Rabbi Sternberg
this is part of a email i got from Rabbi Sternberg today
"I appreciate the information you sent me regarding the call of the Shofar Org.
Although I have not researched the matter thoroughly, the information I've seen worries me. And in particular after hearing today that Rabbi Hecht wrote a letter stating that it is a cult, I am even more concerned. I respect his opinion, especially on this topic. All this tells me that I have to investigate further before I come to the conclusion on the subject.
So I feel that the responsible thing for me to do is to put my approval for the organization on hold until it's clear beyond all doubt that there is nothing problematic with it.
If it becomes clear to me that there is even a hint of a problem in the organization, I will have no problem to make it clear to everyone that I made a mistake! But I have no desire to rush to conclusions based on the Media Lynch on the org or on myself.
I hope to talk to experts on this subject and to Rabonim, in the near future, in order to reach a educated conclusion. and I will let you know as soon as I do.
I want to make it clear to you that people blow things out of proportion regarding my involvement in this organization. I was never of the opinion that this is for everyone, and i sent only those that i strongly felt needed it. Especially regarding bochurim in yeshiva.
I hope it was not a mistake, but if it was I will be the first one to admit it.
Please let me know if you hear any more information on this matter."
(12/17/2013 3:38:10 PM)
Why is cots asking for grateful participants to set the record str8?
Perhaps to help future ppl! Duh!

Nothing particularly cultish abt that

Haroitzeh litois, yiteh!

Those who can't afford it, or who have a need to believe its a cult and AZ, good for u, don't go, and keep being miserable!

The thing is, most alumni don't have a need to set the record str8, they are happy and focused on their family's...

Those who are sincere abt knowing all the facts, are smart enough to what's going on
(12/17/2013 3:46:44 PM)
86 wow! thank you!
Most useful comment ever!!
(12/17/2013 3:57:58 PM)
it seems that for the majority of people commenting here, their entire source of info is either from their friends who went to cots, or the two article's here on COL and the comments.



Research the program on google!!!

Landmark Forum and COTS are 99% identical.

There is a HUGE amount of information available on landmark forum, and it takes only a few key strokes to access it.
it is full of information like their schedule, and many times you can get a breakdown, of the MANY MANY cult tactics and brainwashing tactics used in the seminars.
PLEASE don't be so lazy as to expect shea hecht to have to enumerate every single point. as that is ridiculous.

And PLEASE don't take a subjective and unfortunately brainwashed berry schwartz's word as an unbiased and trusted source of info. as like he says himself, he is very involved with COTS, and has been many times.

Berry thank you for helping to bring COTS to the disccusion table. it was starting to get out of hand, and the publicity has been a great way to show that it is a cult, and detrimental to one's personal psyche.

Your emotional and irrational sense of defensiveness which is clearly displayed by anyone who goes to COTS or landmark are the surest sign of your subjectiveness.

My advice to those that went. get over it. it's another experience you had. now you can move on in life, and attempt a new healthy direction.
the know it all who actually researches things!
(12/17/2013 4:18:29 PM)
So sad that the sheep are following an uneducated leader. Stop listening to Shea.
(12/17/2013 4:19:18 PM)
I totally agree
(12/17/2013 4:22:24 PM)
Thank you! Rabbi hecht
Puts his name on the article does not hide his face I went there and felt I was in a trap wanted to walk home on shabbos
And the reason it's on shabbos that you can't leave if your frum and that charge good to thank you shea hecht
(12/17/2013 4:23:18 PM)
As a child growing up my dad was always home for shabbos I don't remember a shabbos in 30 years that my parents were not home for shabbos and my dad traveled a lot who makes a program on shabbos to separate a cupple ? Thank you rabbi shea people stay away from this colt anyone that tries to send there child there or spouse are putting them in harms way have have mercy on us and bring moshiach now!
(12/17/2013 4:30:21 PM)
no cell phones in yeshiva
Bc they don't want u wasting your time reading these comments (with your cellphone)in the bathroom, during sedar girsa, when u belong in zal! (And doing other things with your phone....) chevra! Stop wasting time, and let's learn torah!
(12/17/2013 4:33:17 PM)
Ty shea hecht for pointing out the darkness
The Friedike Rebbe says
We live in a galus that ppl look at darkness and see light.and vice versa...
Yup its a dark and sad galus.
(berry, shea hecht didnt attack u its not a personal issue cots didnt teach u not to take things personally)
(12/17/2013 4:42:43 PM)
Of concern to me
Of concern to me is the language COTS followers use; you MUST join because it will change your life... save your marriage... enable yourself to be a decent parent... etc.

The dramatics make me concerned. Sounds kind of like "your cousin you don't know who is a prince in Nigeria left $12 million to you" or "URGENT: DOCUMENT FROM YOUR ACCOUNTANT" etc.

A reputable company will use a moderate tone, like enroll your child in our math center because we have achieved great results with increasing children's test scores and getting them excited to learn again. Not; "Join our math center because we're changing lives and preventing suicide and getting failures into Harvard and making sure that our enrollees end up to all be rags to riches stories....

In Short: Beware of companies that engage in making wild claims.
(12/17/2013 4:52:46 PM)
Rushing to judgement
COTS is run by good people who have had a very significant positive impact on many. Let's just try to be more aware of the potential loss of a good thing and real-harm to good people that could come from rushing to judgement.

Everything that's ever been done has had its critics. This sort of forum makes it easy to hide behind divisive words. Our words are more powerful than we might know. Imagine how much more achdus we could create by being slower to judge and place something in a category or a label.
(12/17/2013 5:14:11 PM)
Somebody want to make a Chassidus retreat ? AKA leaving your family and communications devices for a 3 day weekend just to learn Chassidus ALL DAY. No farbrenging, no mashke (til maybe the way end), no gossiping about controversial topics, just learning and working on self. Pur Chassidus.?I would join.
(12/17/2013 5:34:52 PM)
Can we get a haskamah from a mental health professional?
(12/17/2013 5:41:57 PM)
I totally agree.
I have read Rabbi Hecht's "Confessions of a Jewish Cultbuster" and this man is the most knowledgable rabbi in this area.
You would be foolish not to listen!
(12/17/2013 5:47:31 PM)
Shea is a fraud
If the Call of the Shofar is a cult like Hecht claims than he should be putting his money where his mouth is and going after this organization to protect the community. If its not a cult and he does not have any valid claims against the Shofar, than do not make baseless claims as if they were fact. As well, He says he is a professional Cult buster, who gave him that title?

(12/17/2013 5:47:57 PM)
Thank you Rabbi Hecht!
Finally, a sane opinion.
(12/17/2013 6:00:53 PM)
The differnce between a cult and a religion is one can be rationally explained to be a divine truth and one appeals solely to our emotional side., although tthey both might be able to justify themselves by an incredible outcome. If you believe in any cult or any reliigion or for that matter even yourself you can overcome addictions and feel great. This i beleive to be the fundemental differece bet our yeshivas and this new cult. our yeshivas atleast proclaim to be teaching us and our children a torah passed down from mount sinia given in the presence of millions of jews!! this includes chasidus! and the stuff mashpiim should be talking about at farbrengens,ya some of them gotta go. THIS CULT THOUGH EXPLICITLEY STATES THAT ITS TACTICS DONT ORIGINATE IN A DIVINE TRUTH AND ARE JUSTIFIED SOLELY BY THEIR OUTCOME. THAT IS THE DEFINITION OF A CULT. So although it may have helped people in great ways rabbi shea says pareve...but a cult it is nonetheless....WHEN YOU START CALLING IT AUTHENTIC JUDAISM THAT IS WHERE THE DANGER FOR THE RELIGIOUS START and when they start giving out drugs to their staunchest beleivers ........... how can u complain. maybe it works?
(12/17/2013 6:01:11 PM)
to 138
Anti vaccine is cultish?! Are you high?! If I say that I don't want intervention to treat an illness that I don't have, I'm cultish?! Whatever. You are free to live your life as you please. It's called live and let live. BTW, I got the flu vaccine (coerced by my employer) and guess what? I had so much pain in my forearm for two weeks and 5 days after the vaccine, I got the flu!

The majority of PRO vaccine people are NOT cultish, but then there is the fringe like yourself who are, and feel just because I took the vaccine, everyone must. Like those people who think because I went to COTS, everyone must...
(12/17/2013 6:14:29 PM)
i must say although rabbi hecht didnt elaborate about the reason why cots is bad however the point of phones i think isnt to hard to understand in a yeshiva they take away your phones as a distraction however call your parents as much as youd like (not to say we are speaking about adults) however there is no program which prohibits access with the world for a weekend its not like they are asking you to shut off your phone for session this is a tequiniqe used especielly for adults in cults
(12/17/2013 7:03:44 PM)
whats wrong if its a cult????????????????????????????????????????????
bc then even if it makes you a better person YOU arent a better person youre just brainwashed! and torah is all abt being the best person YOU could be not to be the best person possible (if it means not being you arent being you bc youre brainwashed)
(12/17/2013 7:17:07 PM)
If a Christian takes a Jewish concept, does that make it Christian?
If other religions have elements of truth mixed into their shtusim, the truth is no less truth and not suddenly false or pasul,

I can speak for myself, non of the concepts espoused by any of my instructors were foreign to Torah or chasidus!!!
Aderabeh! Only an insecure mind with too much one track minded taint from other religions gets stuck with the "this reminds me of AZ" complex
(12/17/2013 7:29:03 PM)
My husband went
It changed NoThing in him!!!! For a week he was all into it!!!!
After a few weeks he said it was the biggest waste of time ever!!!!! He felt like it had just played with his mind and not let him think for himself!!! He was not allowed to use his cell phone!!!
(12/17/2013 7:30:20 PM)
Since people in the chasidic world are wary and suspicious of people and mentors who aren't chasidic,I predict that someone will open a COTS according to Chabad principles..There is definitely a need for change and self growth awareness.May this be a beginning to improved mental wellbeing and better relationships!
(12/17/2013 7:32:02 PM)
real men!
If he is a community leadernand there is so much controversy over the matter,why wouldn't Shea go see for himself what it a all about?I like strong community leaders with values that actually give a darn!
(12/17/2013 7:36:54 PM)
the Rebbe would encourage it
if need be the Rebbe would also encourage modifications if a Rav/Posek found something not 100% Kosher

To outright, attack, and denigrate a program which has resulted in dozens of genuinely chasidisheh farbrengens in CH and beyond etc etc, has benefited soo many ppl's avodas H', Ahavas Yisroel etc such animosity does not come from Tzad Hakdusha, thats forsure!
(12/17/2013 7:37:27 PM)
Rabbi Shea Hecht is an expert!!!!!!
My friend was in a cult rabbi Hecht saved his life!!!!
His opinion matters !!!!
(12/17/2013 7:48:59 PM)
to shliach /155
So if Simcha Frischling makes a Michael Jackson song into a nigun, it becomes kadosh vetahor just like the Rebbeim that converted goyishe songs? A Rebbe has the ability to elevate klipa. Enough said.
(12/17/2013 7:51:46 PM)
181 Thank you!
147 good analogy!
160 yes, that is the Rebbe's approach in the letter re Kosher retreat
164 yes, hate = smells like klipa,
171 Dont hold ur breath for Shea to answer SPECIFICS
173 correct, Chasidus does require us to utilize proven experts (Based on results, Simcha is an expert)
174 correct, Rabbi Wolf (not hecht) was instructed re Kosher Meditation
176 Yes, let a Rov investigate and decide!
(12/17/2013 8:08:14 PM)
Re: Robin Garbose!!!!
I was so excited to see your name here! It's always good to hear from you- even if it's just as comment on collive. Thank you for the book suggestion. I will definitely read it. Much hatlzlacha with all the amazing work that YOU do in promoting art and vulnerability with the protection of the Rebbe's haraos.

(12/17/2013 8:42:35 PM)
The Pro Shofar types are not the ones commenting,
part of the benefits of Shofar, is that your not preocupied or emotionally invested in the approval of others.

instead, your in a secure place, and free to persue what really matters to you!

most of the Pro Shofar comments, seem to be comming from, sincere readers, genuinely disappointed by Rabbi Shea's unsubstantiated assertions!

every intelligent comment seems to be begging for SPECIFICITY from shea, to backup his claims with concrete Facts and Sources.
(12/17/2013 8:46:32 PM)
A Psychiatrist responds
I am a psychiatrist for many years and I participated in this workshop about 2 years ago. I can only comment on the one time I attended and Simcha was the leader then.
It is not a cult, people talk about cell phones not being able to be used, well it was Shabbos, but motzei shabbos, in my room I called my wife, no one stopped me. It wasnt as if we were being held hostage!! I had a room in the hotel, as did everyone else, just like in every other shabbaton. This was no different from other intense learning shabbatons I have been on, just different learning experiences.
Regarding the program they want you to focus on your internal emotions, so they try remove distractions from your outside everyday world. Isnt that what Shabbos is about, focusing on the Kavannah of the day. There was no major meditation as far as I can remember
It is supposed to be confidential what goes on in the workshop, but I can assure you there is nothing in the workshop that is mildly dangerous or odd. No one broke shabbaos, I have been to many Shabbos fabrengens, when a lot worse has transpired.
I respect Rabbi Hechts expertize, but he never attended a shabbaton, so I am surprised he makes these sweeping statements. I also am surprised that he feels this was avoda zara, if I had had any inkling of this I would have bolted immediately, I felt Simcha led it in a very Torahdic way.
I have not looked at their website, so I cant comment on their references.
Simcha doesn't have any official mental health training, but he has learned by experience which is often more valuable, however I have tons of training, and I feel this program is being besmirched. Absolutely it is not for everyone, there is no magic pill here.
I personally got a little out of it and thought it was an interesting experience, however it did make an impact on several of the other attendees, but like anything else you cant expect one weekend to have a permanent lasting effect. You need ongoing follow up.
(12/17/2013 8:54:00 PM)
Klal, Prat, Klal,
a central theme of Shofar Not landmark
G-d, and Dvekus, the yearning of each soul to reconnect to its source, Shofar, NOT LANDMARK!
Kosher food, Mikvah, Davening,
No one confiscates your watch or cell phone at shofar!!

There are soo may central differences between the two!
(otherwise, Simcha would get sued)
Its a very inaccurate to claim that Shofar is Landmark!

nice try though
(12/17/2013 8:56:37 PM)
Oy vey
OK, all you COTS grads; stop freaking out! Remember the deep breathing techniques and meditate until the sad feeling that you've been outed passes.
You know what's so sad? 8 bochurim from Yeshiva learn an entire chelek of Likutei Sichos inside out, and there are EIGHT comments. Some nutty guy comes up with a way to make money and 400 people are jumping out of the woodwork to weigh in on the issue!
-The mayor of TO
(12/17/2013 8:57:52 PM)
Some people
continuously search for the next new thing that will some how fix their lives. While this is tragically predictable from a secular American,it is pathetic and heartt breaking from unz. We have a Rebbe.
(12/17/2013 9:06:55 PM)
Rabbi Heacht, please reply on point to the sensible questions asked to backup your claims
Not to do so, can be construed as not having any concrete facts to support and prove your dangerouse claims
(12/17/2013 9:08:02 PM)
to 156

You say:

2. Cell phones, my cell phone was never taken from me either, I was discouraged from making phone calls unrelated to The subject at hand. Friday I did use the my phone a few times, staff knew and had no problem with it, as long as I reassured them that I'm aware that distractions can subtract, one I made it clear that I'm aware, they left me alone and trusted me, a real colt would punish u for outside contact!

Are you not aware of how manipulative that is!!!!???? They had to know, and you had to justify??? What in the world?
(12/17/2013 9:10:10 PM)
Just a suggestion....
Rabbi Sternberg, don't you think a mashpia of your level should investigate a program in great depths BEFORE you send one single bochur there?! And frankly with all due respect why can't you utilize what we HAVE - the Tanya to influence boys?
(12/17/2013 9:12:16 PM)
Why so few comments from the hundreds of Shofar grads??
Shofar grads tend not to care to much about Maligim, they have lives to focus on, and loved ones to cherish with their free time!

im only typing now (as a grad) bec im taking a Bathroom break!

my interest in setting the record streight stems from concern for those who may otherwise benefit from Shofar, but thanks to reckless ppl's fears and ulteriour motives, they may get the wrong idea as to what its really all about!

as jews the only way to make a compitant decission is via consulting real (trained) experts who care about your wellbeing, aka Yedid Mavin, aka Aseh Lecha Rav...

please dont take, agenda driven attacks as fact! there are many ignorant ppl out there many may very well be innocent and well intentioned,
however, ONLY a trained expert, is to be consulted and followed on such matters of import.
(12/17/2013 9:22:20 PM)
chabad melamed
hi everyone,i am a shofaree i went and i continue up with shofar meetings weekly!
my experience:after learning in our Yeshivois ,in the system,not missing one seder chasidus my entire bochor life ,learning Nigla /CHASSIDUS trying to connect ,going to Mashpiim to help me,not getting the help,going on shlichus,and getting into negative behaviors that would be throwing out EVERYTHING,Shofar saved me!!!
giving me a wake up call and the tools ,not a quick fix ! but the tools to use ,if i work with them .that is my choice ,daily .all the critisim is shtusim.if you have questions and are interested email me :,all the brochos,ive seen it change lives ,of balei batim,shluchim,fathers and mothers ,bringing more Rebbe ,bringing Moshiach closer!!!!!
(12/17/2013 9:22:52 PM)
WHY is what goes on in the program confidential? Does that alone not STINK of something?
(12/17/2013 9:27:38 PM)
reply to 226
They did not want me to waste my $650. by getting carried away, wih email, voicemail, and buisness related distractions,

as soon as they realized i was ONLY discussing Shofar related matterial, and not being distracted by (subtracting) work, they had no problem with it!

they were looking out for me, to gain the most, by remaining focussed, and not wasting this limited time on distractions which would subtract from the agenda at hand,
(agenda being, Introspection, aka Cheshbon hanefesh, Getting intouch with aspects of my inner emotional world which on a normal day get berried, and suppressed,)

again, if you dont understand, the difference between, Focusing on Shofar work, BS outside distractions, then this response was a waste of my time.
(12/17/2013 9:30:25 PM)
to 226: the staff are fellow Lubavicher volunteers!
who want u to maximize your gain from the time and $ invested,

for them to make sure i realize that distractions, will subtract from my focus, that is not manipulation by money hungry bosses, that is brotherly concern for my best interest and gain!!
(12/17/2013 9:33:25 PM)
Can you Clarify
"..I stress that it is possible to have a pareve cult which has intrinsic value."

-Rabbi Shea Hecht

So would you say that COTS is a pareve cult with intrinsic value, why or why not?

The conclusion of this letter seems very ambiguous, on the on hand you say it's a cult, which implies that it's a bad thing, but on the other hand you say that it's possible to have a pareve cult with intrinsic value, what is your opinion on COTS?
(12/17/2013 9:33:51 PM)
Thank you and very good
(12/17/2013 9:36:53 PM)
Rabbi sternberg Did investigate extensively!
Including speaking to Rabbi Heller and experts as well as going down there in person and scrutinizing every single statement and technique to see if it's in any way in conflict with chasidus and Torah
(12/17/2013 9:45:38 PM)
i READ all the comments and im angered to see people that were never at the program , yet are Specialists in everything that is done during the weekend, so 90 percent of the comments means nothing because its ALL HERE-SAY.
I am a member and staffed a few times, everyone there is just trying their best better themselves; going there is not saying you are against chasidus, nor does it mean you are trying to run away from Judaism; life is a journey and we are trying to find comfort, meaning and stability.
(12/17/2013 10:07:39 PM)
The Rebbe (Clarity)
In the link below the Rebbe differentiates between

1. "Transcendental Meditation" (idolatry, or on its border).
2. "Meditation" (Kosher, but for 'sick')
3. "Kabbalah Meditation" "WORTHY AND COMMENDABLE"
(12/17/2013 10:14:04 PM)
Do you need to take drugs to KNOW they're bad?
Why all the talk about Shea Hecht not going to a weekend program? You think his opinion isn't worth jack because he didn't see it first-hand?

I know if I do cocaine it is dangerous and could kill me. I don't have to do it to prove it. So why don't you just accept that Shea Hecht is an authority on cults and he knows what he's talking about.
(12/17/2013 10:38:08 PM)
still not clear.
Why would a mashpia feel the need to include this program into a bochur's day to day? why not follow what what has been implemented for many many years in Lubavitch?
(12/17/2013 10:45:11 PM)
reply to 230
All therapy is confidential!! attendees shared very personal information amongst the group
(12/17/2013 11:07:42 PM)
I thought that chassidus was so powerful and as the Alter Rebbe writes than in the Tanya you have an answer to any question in avoid as Hashem
Now instead to have chabad houses just support landmark or call of the shofar to save lives
No more money for shluchim that they have to go themselves to COTS to save their lifes
I can't believe how a chossid can fell so low and chose ego instead of bittul. Rl. Cv cv. Not to say shluchim. Mashpiim and Rabbonim should come up urgent with a psak din and not let ruin everything what the Rebbe lived for
Moshiach now !!
(12/17/2013 11:13:40 PM)
Rabbi sternberg
Rabbi sternberg may or may not be a good mashpia for bochurim, but he is not a rov nor professional (phd etc.) and as such he has no right to be telling anybody, least of all young impressionable young minds, without their parents consent, to go to such places! Whether or not its cult.
(12/17/2013 11:20:38 PM)
Quote from review of LANDMARK! BEWARE
"Paul Derengowski, formerly of the Christian cult-watch group, thinks that Landmark "has theological implications." Since the training seems to emphasize that one's past and current beliefs are hindering self-growth, it is easy to see why defenders of traditional religions would fear such programs as Landmark Forum. In effect, to those who are members of traditional faiths, programs such as Landmark are saying: your religion is a hindrance to becoming your true self."

What should Judaism or CHABAD say?!
I don't think I need to say more.
(12/17/2013 11:23:09 PM)
Let's stay strong
To all fellow COTS members let us remain strong and not allow the negative energy affect out commitment and devotion to out inner call of the Shofar. Let us continue living wholesome and meaningful lives. Let us tune to the beauty of our essence. Let us strain our ears to pick up the ultimate call of the shofar when only wholesomeness and beauty will reign.
(12/17/2013 11:30:02 PM)
Quote Review of LANDMARK
"The training emphasizes not only how to communicate better but how to relate better to those around you, as it forces the participant to reflect on and examine his or her life. Such courses, if they are really good, will inspire many people to create themselves anew. Many will see positive effects immediately. In fact, many are so impressed that they want to share the experience with others. They become zealots and recruiters for the program. Part of their zealotry, however, derives from the intense pressure put on them to bring their friends and family into the program, and to sign up for follow-up courses. The main marketing tool Landmark uses is high-pressure direct contact with participants, including phone calls that border on harassment, according to some participants. Some critics even think that recruitment is the main goal of the program (Faltenmayer)."

If you read up on LANDMARK, COTS pretty much seems to mirror it albeit in the deceitful context of it being sourced in Torah, perhaps to encourage suspecting Frum Jews, who'd be rightly skeptical of a program such as LANDMARK.
The overly zealous recruitment heard from COTS participants to whomever they possibly can seems more than strikingly similar.
I have to say this consistent pressure to all friends, acquaintances & family for their need to join as well was the initial red-flag for me.
(12/17/2013 11:30:52 PM)
to 240
That is such non-sense. Nobody asked for the client's files. They asked for the schedule and the template of the program. The only one's outing the client's issues are COTS themselves. By writing; they're saving marriages, lives....
(12/17/2013 11:34:31 PM)
To Rabbi Sternberg's email (comment #190):
You email is even more shocking than your involvement and recruitment of bochurim for COTS.

It's easy to brush off criticism and say "media lynch," but you are playing with people's lives. And not regular people. We are talking about young bochurim who have their whole life ahead of them.

How will your "sorry" change that? How will your admission of a mistake rectify the damage you caused?

Sending bochurim to a workshop you yourself admit that you have "not researched the matter thoroughly" can be considered spiritual / mental / emotional molestation.

The parents entrust Oholei Torah and its hanhala with the lives of their sons. They're not babies, but they are still not adults with life experience. They have blind faith in a mashpia, and you took advantage of it and them.

You waited for the media to bring serious concerns to your attention. Shouldn't you have investigated this before meddling with neshamos of our youth? Shouldn't you have spoken to "experts on this subject" before offering our bochurim as prey?

You write that you put your "approval" for COTS on "hold." Does that mean that the bochurim you threw into their net also put their lives on "hold"?!

You write "I hope it was not a mistake" - and what if it was? What if you investigate and find that it is indeed a cult, will you work to pull them out the pit or will a simple "sorry" suffice?

This is astonishing and beyond belief how such a scandal could have happened in front of our eyes. This would never fly in other chassidishe communities were people are accountable for what they do...

Why is it that we go out of our way to make sure that meat we eat is Lubavitch shechitah and that the shochet is a yire shamayim, yet are careless with the people dealing with our children?

Who is taking responsibility for this?
(12/17/2013 11:59:49 PM)
U r 1000% right
maybe his job should also be on "hold"!!!!
(12/18/2013 12:22:25 AM)
Rabbi Hecht all I can say is thank you!
My wife sent me there I kept telling her it's a cult if any one knows what a cult is its rabbi shea Hecht does tx
(12/18/2013 12:29:43 AM)
Thank you, Rabbi Shea
Thank you for consistently having the courage of your convictions. Thank you for taking the time and trouble and risk of speaking up and signing your name to your statements. Thank you for bringing back common sense. Thank you for always making time to help the N'shei Chabad Newsletter when we needed you. To readers of this website-- If you liked what Rabbi Shea wrote here, and it resonated with you, and had the ring of truth to it, then I would highly recommend the new "Confessions of a Jewish Cultbuster" (the one printed in 2013).
-Rishe Deitsch
N'shei Chabad Newsletter
(12/18/2013 12:31:15 AM)
In my opinion all teachers, mechanchim, rabbis, mashpiim and shluchim that participate IN COTS have to be removed from their positions temporarily
They are brainwashed and don't realize the terrible and damaging influence they are providing to other jews
ACTION is need URGENT before is too late
Many people going to these Landmark are going ,rl to FRY out. They are not going to need the Iddishkait, they are not going to "need Hashem:" RL,
this is Landmark path, and COTS is an adaptation with a jewish twist
Please, wake up! wake up before is too late
(12/18/2013 12:39:27 AM)
Mordy #2
To #247 etc.

Rabbi Sternberg sent bouchrim on a very few occasions to the program based on what seemed to be good results, If someone (like, I dunno, maybe Shea Hecht) can clearly explain why there's a problem with it, he'll stop. You're talking like he's been encouraging bouchrim to join the Syrian army or something. Calm down and let him look into it... do you really think mashpi'im never make mistakes?
(12/18/2013 12:47:25 AM)
To 249
Does it really boil down to capitalism?
(12/18/2013 12:52:31 AM)
To #238
To #238
Do you need to take drugs to KNOW they're bad?
As you yourself said: No. But what if someone told you: "this is cocaine" when you've tried it, and clearly know it isn't? No matter what he says, it's not, nor will it ever be cocaine! This is the issue with Rabbi Hecht's assertion.
Just because an "expert" makes a claim, doesn't change what the program really is.
(12/18/2013 1:00:17 AM)
This article by "the author". Is only creating a machloikois... another excuse to fight.

The Jewish peoples suffering is not because of "cults"and all that so-called nonsense... Rather because of sinas chinom.

Its time for some FREE LOVE!

Stop the hate. Stop the instigation. Stop destroying our Nation!

Start to Love. Start to Care. Start drawing Near.

Am Yisroel Chai! When we are United! no matter your personal opinion. This is definitely not the way for us to bring Moshiach.

Whether you are "for"or "against". We are all brothers and sisters. Maybe we can learn a lesson that we should all make a cheshbon hanefesh. - Ahavas Yisroel.

Food for thought:

The Dor ha'floga only got dispersed - and not destroyed... even though they went up against G-d Himself!

The lesson is self explanatory: Clearly! it is far worse to fight with one another... then even going against G-d.

As long as we are UNITED.
(12/18/2013 1:22:44 AM)
Thank you Rabbi Shea
Shea's letter, I understand, was addressed to an individual so it was not meant to explain and prove in detail why he thinks what he does. That, I suspect, cannot easily be done in a letter anyhow. It is also too difficult to explain in an article or two how he concludes what he does based on thousands of hours over a decade of work if not more with people who were brainwashed by cults working to deprogram them. Anybody who reads up well on hypnosis and manipulation of the mind used by cults or dictators will get a better idea of why Shea is saying what he's saying after just looking at their website or talking to people who went to the program or just by reading some of the comments on here. I myself spoke to several people who went to that program and some of them seemed to be doing fine and even seemingly gained from it, but, some looked like something weird had happened to them psychologically. The tactics they use are very powerful and also very dangerous. They can help people but also destroy.. Even some who have been helped, however, once they stop going to the program for a while may run into some problems psychologically...
Mendel Marozov
(12/18/2013 1:34:42 AM)
Sternberg's summer program in Naparnak
I was there this year, when one night he decided that he will make a secret Farbrengen... We come into a room close the lights.... I start getting chills... He makes us promise that we won't tell anybody what we will be doing... He tells us that we should tell everyone all of our problems...
At the time is was to scared to say anything. But now that I see what he was trying to do...
(12/18/2013 1:53:23 AM)
# 251 u r 100%
t u marozov
(12/18/2013 2:05:50 AM)
The Emperors Clothes
Whoever knows this story will be very familiar with all that has transpired.

Thank You Rabbi Shea Hecht for being the one who had the courage to come out public-ally and proclaim "Have we all lost our senses?? Can't you all see how ludicrous this all is??"

That said, from what I've observed first hand from people who have attended is that there is SOME merit to the program.

1. See the famous story of the Friediker Rebbe on the train where a bunch of "scholars" are discussing the virtues of different political systems and whether Torah agrees etc., and the FR says that in each system there is a bit of truth, which in itself came from Torah. See the beginning of Kuntres Inyonoh Shel Toras ha'Chassidus for this very fundamental story.

2. Tanya IS the answer for everything, but we can't always see it. One may need some professional help to help him reach the level where the AR's words can be absorbed etc.

3.The COTS method is RADICAL, as in SOME CASES RADICAL treatment is called for; similar to the BITUSH the AR describes in ch.29. Of course, just as in Tanya, Bitush is meant to be used only in the most EXTREME situations, so too here.
In other words, AFTER exhausting ALL other avenues of straight-forward-direct chassidus-torah advice, and still not seeing progress, - AND IT'S A MATTER OF "LIFE OR DEATH" (to save a marriage, or a suicidal yeshiva student etc.), then, obviously, if one believes the person will benefit. SURE!!
(y'know like when they say "you've hit rock-bottom, and the only way left to go is up").

4. All those that suggested it (from the Mechanchim, Mashpiim and Shluchim) meant well, and their intention was totally lishmoh. And maybe even in desperation.
So, a mistake is a mistake. They got caught up in "the lie". There is no "magic bullet". And nothing but nothing is as relevant as Torah and Chassidus. But just as in the story of The Emperors Clothes, they didn't want to look like the "stupid" ones, so they peddled what they believed "addressed the issues". New "things" always look more attractive, hip, progressive, in-tune etc..Sadly, I believe if they would've just tried to "sell" the words of the Rabbeim with the same fiery enthusiasm, I think they would've seen more success, and in turn, the need to send someone to such a radical program would have been dramatically diminished.

5. I'll go out on a limb over here, and make a prediction. I don't believe too many Rabonim will come out with an outright p'sak of ISUR (if any...); what will hopefully happen, is that the "Getchkeh" of COTS will finally fall, and people will seriously seriously deliberate whether it is a consideration at all. As it should have been all along. It got out of hand. A craze, a fad, the "new drug" of choice. It should've always been viewed as medication only for people who need it, AND following the WARNING on the label.

That said. As many have already pointed out. If this is something that SHOULD be used BECAUSE it is so IMPORTANT etc., then somehow we should ensure that educators and leaders in the community should learn and adapt some of the positive aspects of COTS, and use it to help people. Then we can just take out of the equation the whole "money" issue.

And finally, also as many have pointed out, find a good chassidisher person, with both genuine yiras shomyim and common sense and consult with him before embarking on any adventurous soul-searching journeys.

In honor of the upcoming end of the 200th yr. of the Alter Rebbe's Hilula - 24th of Teves - maybe this whole saga was meant for all of us to take a good look at reviving the GEVALDIKER SHTUREM of the POWER OF TANYA to TRANSFORM LIVES.
THAT is the subject matter we should all be discussing.

(12/18/2013 2:19:13 AM)
Buddhism is not necessarily A"Z.
1) See Jewish Meditation by Aryeh Kaplan where he proves that meditation has its roots in Judaism and is not "borrowed" from other religions,

2) Although meditation is an ancient Buddhist practice and Simcha may have learned some of it's technique and philosophy from them, it is simply a science and art and has nothing to do with Buddhism or being Buddhist, as I am sure you are aware. (I would say it's Al Derech someone learning actual, scientific medicine from other religions.)
Either way, there isn't much un-true or "Hepech" stuff in Buddhism and similar religions, which have very similar Shitos to Chassidus and Kabbalah. Most often, it's either the same truth only in a "Kankan chodosh", or only part of the truth.
(12/18/2013 4:51:19 AM)
The truth remains true.

The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.
- Winston Churchill
(12/18/2013 5:58:42 AM)
What's tragic is that there are so many brainwashed COTS Culties out there. Or maybe they're terrified of giving it up. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid & get out of this cult as fast as you can. If you need help in dealing with it, Shea Hecht knows what to do & nobody does it better. I've seen him in action, deprogramming.

You are all PROGRAMMED & BRAINWASHED. You think not but you are. Classic.
(12/18/2013 7:50:56 AM)
244 sound brainwashed
Your COTS lingo is consistent with other members.
You also happen to sound "programmed".
Others please beware before you begin speaking as such. Life changing, better intuned to my wife & kids, well being...u all sound like a prerecorded zombie, sorry.
Just keep saying this to yourself so at least you keep believing it.
And I've heard the classic now..."you must go!" And then also as if to intrigue when there are naysayers, "it's not for everyone" ;)
Hmmmm, it is and it isn't for everyone...ok you all sound sane
(12/18/2013 8:03:18 AM)
COTS members
So you say you're too busy to comment but one of your leaders or staff members as you call it, sent the urgent email for all of you to positively respond.
Someone else took a "bathroom break" (he certainly sounds like someone brainwashed him not to be in the internet to waste precious family time...unless you're in the bathroom, hope he had Shmiras Einayim as well there).
And, plenty more seemed to take "this precious family time" away from "their precious family" for the cause.

It's fine you want to comment as everyone else but please don't burden us with the "too busy with focusing on..." to comment when plenty have commented and been requested to by your very own staff who put you in seclusion to focus on yourself, wife & children.
(12/18/2013 8:11:50 AM)
I don't know if anyone will read this
As an individual who is going through personal life challenges I can see the temptation to attend such a program, but as my psychiatrist shared with me recently that expecting one weekend to change everything is not realistic in the long term.

Whether a cult or not, I don't worry at this point, but if you need personal help see a recognised professional in the field, NOT someone who has developed a program without having formal qualifications, in fact it could be seriously detrimental.
(12/18/2013 8:25:03 AM)
Reply to 239
Shofar IS WHAT HAS WORKED in lubavich for many years

Only those who haven't gone can think it's some new invention

Cheshbin hanefesh
Taking responsibility
Circle of truly caring fellow chasidim
Food that is very healthy and mehudar lemahdrin
Contemplating and refocusing on our relationship with Hashem
The list goes on and on
Other than some if the (rapid ice breaking techniques/tools) what happens (and what works) IS 1000% chasidus!!!!

It's what has worked for hundreds of years!!

Unfortunately it took This program to restore and reintroduce practices from Authentic chasidus to those who were relying on a (corrupted) system, which has strayed from its own rich roots and practices (thanks to nepotism, where connections over rule merit and quality).
(12/18/2013 8:25:10 AM)
Cheshbin H"n + bitush + Deep unity + Hisbonenus on H' + Real Farby + Hachlatos = Chasidus (aka The good within Shofar)
If there is any shtus within shofar, let 2 Rabbonim (Davka) scrutinize and if need be, paskin (what is the Shtus or Avoda Zara to be removed!

Soo far not a single Rov, Mashpia, Shliach, Mechanech, Talmid chochom Yodea Sefer, pin pointed any specifics which clash with Torah, Chadidus, or Halacha,
(12/18/2013 8:42:49 AM)
I have commented challenging Shea for specifics
I'm not from Cots never have been

Just want some clarity please

If u make accusations please back it up

(12/18/2013 8:45:22 AM)
Shofar is just fine.
I attended a shofar weekend several years ago and from one weekend seminar, I still experience positive residual benefits. My interpersonal relationships have been enhanced since my participation in Call of the Shofar. And I have seen many men lead more fulfilling lives after participating in it. I saw no aspects of the organization being a cult and I'm quite surprised by all the negative responses here by Rabbi Hecht. My wife particpated in the Women's program and it has positively enhanced her life and that was from only one weekend experience. Shofar works, it is a fantastic orginazation and it has saved the lives of many men. I suggest those pointing their fingers at Call of the Shofar take a hard look at themselves. You probably need a program like Call of the Shofar more than anyone.
(12/18/2013 9:10:39 AM)
beautiful Sicha of the Rebbe on "THIS IS CHASSIDUS syndrome!!
a Sicha describing the Taava of searching "out there" for new Yiddishkeit - that makes you feel good etc.
and that not only people will fall for it, their going to preach that "THIS IS YIDDISHKEIT" "THIS IS CHASSIDUS"...
but in truth...
check out farbrengen 13 Tammuz 5729 Sicha 5. you wont regret it!!
(12/18/2013 9:21:51 AM)
Landmark education
Rabbi Hecht, is landmark a cult? Hundreds upon hundreds of frummies attend, landmark originated in EST, which took from scientology. Ummm, landmark is far more a hidden ebola virus sitting in people's neshamas. People go to all these teachings because we don't have real teachers teaching the deep spiritual inheritance we have in kabbalah and chassidus. We are being fed malnutrition and people think that's what it really is. Oiy.
(12/18/2013 9:39:57 AM)
why does everyone have to go
most therepists do not recommend people to come. only people that need it. the fact that everyone in crown heights HAS TO GO shows it is obviously not the real deal. this isint a dentist its a therapist.
(12/18/2013 9:50:57 AM)
i have read through until comment 50
and I wanna just say that SS and NS r both mashpiim who THRIVE and wake up every morning for CONTROVERSY!! No surprise they endorsed this cult...its not the first time they said FACTS without knowing what they're talking about...
(12/18/2013 10:51:23 AM)
Lets just assume - theoretically - that you are brainwashed and have drank the Koolaid of the system.
Then your very words would only affirm that!!! It would be laughable to listen to someone so brainwashed as yourself and blinded by phony cult leaders as shea hecht.

Sadly, you are so so so deep into it and you have no idea!!! You only believe you have a mind but meantime it has been hijacked by the system. You never realized how many times the mashpia made no sense to you because you were made to believe that if you did realize - you'd be a "nifrad", "baal ha'bos", "misnaged", "Porek oil", "dor ha'shishinik" and the list of manipulative scare tactics is endless.

I am pained by what you are enduring and by what all of the members of the systems cult are enduring.

And if you have not the smallest fiber of a thinking-mind left to see my point... you are gone!!! Bye. Bye.
(12/18/2013 10:56:00 AM)
The Origin of COTS
Olimpics seems to be just sports but its origin is A"Z therefore no one will kosher olimpics today. I don't know the origin of the philosophy of COTS, but reading from the posts it seems to come out from eastern cults that are based in tuma. So what is the difference between COTS and olimpics??? The fact as we see from these posts that many in our community have attended this becomes an urgent shala for a rav and I am sure our rabonim will look into it and will issue a psak. In my humble opinion for bochurim this is out of the question they ought not be introduced to this. A true Mashpia should understand the nefesh of his talmid and give him a true hadracha in avodas hakodesh based on the chasiddus of our rabaiim. Look in the hakdomo in Tanya ach byodai umakirai koamina... Umi shedatoy ketzora... The alter rebbe does not advise to go to mind altering sessions rather look in Tanya for advice.

Nachman Sanowicz
(12/18/2013 11:22:36 AM)
Agent Emes knew it the whole time!
The Shofar isn't Koshar!!!
(12/18/2013 11:23:56 AM)

Thanks Berry Shwartz for bringing the sicha in chelek 35 to my attention. Very beautiful! "Hatorah Lo Nitna L'malachei Hashareis"!

(12/18/2013 12:10:22 PM)
RESPONSE TO Nachman Sanowicz
Only those who haven't gone can think it's some new invention

Cheshbin hanefesh
Taking responsibility
Circle of truly caring fellow chasidim
Food that is very healthy and mehudar lemahdrin
Contemplating and refocusing on our relationship with Hashem
The list goes on and on
Other than some if the (rapid ice breaking techniques/tools) what happens (and what works) IS 1000% chasidus!!!!

It's what has worked for hundreds of years!!

Unfortunately it took This program to restore and reintroduce practices from Authentic chasidus to those who were relying on a (corrupted) system, which has strayed from its own rich roots and practices (thanks to nepotism, where connections over rule merit and quality).
(12/18/2013 12:17:09 PM)
The most important thing.
Based on all these comments, i believe that there is one thing that we can all agree on.

Before you go, please consult a Rov and a mental health professional personally for your case. Don't learn from anyone else and what a rov and mental health professional told them.

It is extremely important that we all agree to this. Please write, agree with (whatever number this comment is) if you agree.

Thank you
(12/18/2013 12:21:59 PM)
COTS is the first step of Landmark program with a jewish twist to make it sound "kosher"
When this first step is going to be saturated they are going to introduce the advanced step, and this is going to become very dangerous, because the idea is to free yourself from everything (meaning no need to rely in G d that are deemed fantasy") and you are completly trapped and programmed to a live of love ,giving, enjoyment but empty of Torah
any religion,in their eyes is a cult, and they are like a cult to go out from your old cult"
(12/18/2013 12:36:43 PM)
why on SHABBOS?!
Could it be that the fact that the seminars are scheduled over shabbos (besides the issues that Rabbi Hecht brings up) is that this way they can use religion to cut the precipitants off from the outside world.

If it was during the week, it would look cult-like. But since in can be blamed on SHABBOS of course you are naturally cut off from the world.
(12/18/2013 12:41:37 PM)
What motivates you?
in " it states: . This theme and belief is very prevalent in Halacha and very much emphasized in the Rebbes teachings.

From cursory glance at the interview with Simcha, it seems that they dont put much emphasis on this angle

Yes, the most healthy relationship with Hashem and indeed the goal - should be one of true love. But until we get there, we still need to follow all Halochos and our treasured Minhagim Mitoch Shelo Lishma, and hope to arrive at the Lishma very soon (and work very hard towards this goal).
(12/18/2013 12:43:55 PM)
From Robin Garbose
I have chosen to put my name on my posts because I have experience in combatting cult mind control. There are many ways in which manipulative people/groups exert influence. I am bothered by this group's recruitment techniques. I am bothered by the euphoria participants are reporting. I am bothered by the loved ones who are concerned about personality changes. I am concerned about the Eastern influence and similarities to EST and the Forum. Of course participants want to connect in a real way, and I am concerned that their vulnerability is being exploited. Groups that practice deceptive persuasion use the bait of truth as well as love-bombing to recruit members. Everyone needs to get educated on the subtle and insidious practices of mind control. Their leader, Mr. Frischling, needs to be thoroughly vetted by experts. I would suggest consulting Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh of Kfar Chabad who is an expert on these matters. The hundreds of posts speak for themselves, and, at the very least, contain many alarming red flags.
(12/18/2013 12:45:00 PM)
I believe the Rebbe is against hypnosis (in almost all instances)
(12/18/2013 12:51:27 PM)
they dont use hypnosys
ur always in control of ur free will
(12/18/2013 12:55:57 PM)
kosher alternative to landmark = the Rebbe's will!!!
precisely what the Rebbe encouraged

see the Letter yourself!

ty collive
(12/18/2013 12:58:10 PM)
Let a Rov decide (Vechokarta Vedorashta Hetev, something that hasent happened yet + a statement including SPECIFICS aka Heichan Dantuni)
Since Shea is beating around the bush, let a Rov examine the program start to finish and make a determination whether it's Kosher or needs surgery

Stop all the overt hostility please!

Where does that all come from??
(12/18/2013 1:14:28 PM)
worth re-posting a Chasidisher & Balanced comment
he calls himself: "agbag"
and is titled:
"from a fan of COTS concept (not necessarily a fan of COTS staff/directors)"

truth be told, i gained much from the Chasidisheh components included in the weekend,
namely, the Old fashioned REAL farbrengen, between a circle of truly caring friends.

there maybe room for modification and improvements, as the Rebbe wrote in the Letter -encouraging kosher retreats.

having said that,

i do wish to address a very thoughtful and poignant questioned raised by Berry Schwartz (Post#45)

he asked:

Does Chasidus really claim to address and solve ALL types of problems?


There is always a Torah-based (incl Chasidus) response to any given situation a jew may encounter!
let me explain, albeit extremely briefly.
1. Most day to day routine situations are addressed by Halacha directly
2. Where there is an a typical situation, A local Rav (expert in Halacha) is consulted and followed, as instructed in Deuteronomy "Kechol Asher Yorucha"
3. Re challanges or ilnesses outside of a Rav's training and expertise, "Hatorah Nitna Reshus LeHarofeh Lerapos" A Rav will then re-direct you to a proven expert, (Shulchan Aruch requires 3 successful treatments in a row, to be rendered a reliable expert).

The Rebbe has added, that in matters of significant mental or physical health, one should seek the opinion of 2 experts! (if they disagree, to seek a third opinion and follow the majority). thereby attracting birchas Hashem, while respecting (Hashem's preference for the preservation of) the natural order.

(apologies if this was too condensed)

(12/18/2013 1:22:08 PM)
it seems
Other than some of the (rapid ice breaking techniques/tools) what happens (and what works) IS 1000% chasidus!!!!

even if other religiouns have some overlap with truth, doesnt make the kosher version Treif or Pasul
(12/18/2013 1:38:51 PM)
to 284
Instead making statements with a Blanket statement like "I believe the Rebbe is against hypnosis (in almost all instances)" kindly back up your statements with a sicha, maamar, letter etc. Otherwise it is just an anonymous opinion which we have plenty already. A Lubavitch Ruv needs to investigate this and come up with a Psak, until such time, there is a cheskas kashrus on every yid.
(12/18/2013 1:40:03 PM)
My husband went
My husband went

And he made a great strides at improving his life, my kids and i are getting to enjoy the befits,
a more caring and helpfully husband more sensitive to our kids and their needs.
the list goes on and on..

so you can all debate all you want, knock yourself out...
I know the effects it had on my life.
(12/18/2013 1:53:04 PM)
Group's Board of Directors
Board Members

From Robin Garbose For the vetting process:

Board of Directors

Louis J. Kolom, CPA Lincolnwood, IL

Since 1996, Mr. Kolom has served and continues to serve as President, CEO, Chairman and Director of First Equity Corp. and 1st Equity Bank. Since 2003, Mr. Kolom serves as Chairman, Director and employee of Northwest Equity Corp. and 1 st Equity Bank Northwest. Mr. Kolom has extensive experience in bank lending, investments, finance and operations and extensive exposure to business transactions. Louis is active on his synagogue board and has served on various school boards.

Steven Frischling Baltimore, MD

Simcha is the founder and executive director of Call of the Shofar. For the past 10 years he has worked, both in the US and Israel, with hundreds of men and women through the programs that he creates. He continues to develop and run a wide range of wellness programs employing a unique system of cutting edge healing modalities firmly grounded in Torah principles.

Michael Elman, M.D. Baltimore, MD

Michael, a practicing ophthalmologist of 30+ years, is the owner of the Elman Retina Group. He is Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and current Director of Retina Surgery at Franklin Square Hospital. He is deeply active in many community service and philanthropic activities. Michael is a widely respected member and a pillar of the Baltimore Jewish Community.

Vlad Gutin New York, NY

During his 13 years with Goldman Sachs, Vlad served as Managing Director and Co-Head of the Specialty Finance Group. He is currently a Senior Partner and co-founder of TZP group LLC, a private equity firm. Vlad is a member of Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York City and recipient of National Jewish Outreach Programs Young Leadership Award.

Shmuel Solomon Rosh Pina, Israel

Shmuel is an angel investor and principal at Arizal Services LLC. He participates on board of directors of private and public companies. Shmuel is a successful entrepreneur and business executive with over 30 years experience in the legal, financial and information technology industries.

Todd Miller Milwaukee, WI

Joe Carmen Queens, NY


Board of Rabbinic Advisers

Rabbi Michel Twerski Congregation Beth Jehudah, Milwaukee, WI

Rabbi Dr. Yitzchak Breitowitz Yeshivas Ohr Sameach, Jerusalem, Israel

Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer Shearith Israel Congregation Baltimore, MD

(12/18/2013 1:59:49 PM)
for the record
I did the workshop years ago in israel
I asked my mashgiach and even a gadol and a therapist they all said go and that they hope I will be matzliach. at one point I actually opened one of the igros and the rebbe gave me His approval to my understanding

there are plenty of workshops that dont happen on shabbos, its done on shabbos usually because it is convenient.
There was a time where these workshops happened in Israel from saturday night through monday afternoon. the confidentiality that participants agree to are just in terms of what other participants shared and other peoples identitys that through their own choice dont want people to know that they were there.

in terms of the ideas presented and the processes, they are totally acceptable to be shared.

Ideas shared are not deemed THE truth and could be dropped after the workshop. ongoing followup is encouraged and for most of it there is no charge i.e. weekly meetings etc. when there is a workshop there is a charge for it and i think that makes sense to it but you aren't pressured to do it in the slightest.

Landmark fills out a whole ball room or auditorium and it is one dynamic speaker speaking the entire time, that isnt the nature of the program

Silence is encouraged till motze shabbos and by then most of the people are schmoozing anyway. there is plenty of time for davening. phones are discouraged but if you need to make a call its fine. to my understanding its not a money making scheme simply because nobody is under any financial obligation after the workshop. you are encouraged to recruit people that you think it wil be shayach for and would benefit... Shofar encourages therapy and to "keep searching" it doesnt claim to have "answers" or the "answer"

By now there are two genral oppinions

like and dislike

even if you dislike it its fine, don't do the program

if you do like it and it makes sense to you then ok talk to whoever you want to talk to and make a decision.

Shofar didnt claim to be for everybody or every person, nobody "needs" to do it. for some people that have gone they get way too over enthusiastic in how they give it over. The interview didnt seem to be promotional, if it was wouldnt they have made a half decent one]?

I consider myself an open minded individual, I just find it funny that most people on this thread are trusting Shea for the sole reason that they recognize the name, and know him by reputation. thats all fine and dandy and should be encouraged. but to me he is as unfamiliar to me as simcha is to you. so his oppinion doesnt hold that much water, the same way yours doesnt.

the only hope i have is that this sinas chinam that you have for your fellow man your fellow yid, not shter Moshiach even more

(12/18/2013 2:14:10 PM)
#67 - Always consult a Rov
I have to take issue with your statement: research the Rebbe's igros for yourself, dont take any Rabbi's second hand word for it, Pro or Con.

Although you may not have meant it, this is categorically AGAINST the hadracha of the Rebbe. The Rebbe stated that one must ALWAYS consult with a competent CHASSIDISHE Rov on any matter of doubt, not just rely on his interpretation of the Rebbes igros etc. . Dont think you are the biggest . You must talk with your or a . This way you will be sure that your conduct is in accordance with Halacha and the of our dear Rebbe.
(12/18/2013 2:37:56 PM)
Wow! So far from the truth. I went to the woman's program. Had an amazing experience, moved on and incorporated a tremendous amount from the program into my life. I would absolutely encourage my kids to go when they get older.
(12/18/2013 2:46:49 PM)
Cult Buster
Call of the Shofar is trying to bust the wounds of the culture of indifference, family abuse both physically and verbally and the deffening silence in our communities. The institutionalisation of Torah and spirituality has with it's LIGHT also brought darkness into the lives of many. Call of the shofar is a needed asset to manifesting a healthy Torah community.
(12/18/2013 2:46:51 PM)
A Poshite Yiddine
Would you eat food with a questionable hechsher?

Just because you read the ingredient listing and see nothing wrong with it, you'd assume that it is kosher?

And if you saw someone else eating it, would you just rely on that?

No one knows as much about cults and mind control as Rabbi Shea Hecht. If he says its no good, its no good.

I trust his analysis.

(12/18/2013 3:13:10 PM)
Go to professional group therapy
The problem with Call of the Shofar is that it takes advantage of uneducated and vulnerable individuals who are disillusioned with the community and the schools they went to-- (and to a certain degree, rightly so).

When a Crown Heightser goes to Call of the Shofar and hears ideas which they never heard about before, and it resonates with them(as it should, psychology is a science and is the study of how our mind works) and for many of them their emotions are being validated(where as before among their family,schools, and community) they were never validated.

However, it is coming from the wrong place. The practices and the way they conduct their program is highly questionable. Especially when the director and staff are not licensed social workers/psychologists etc.(and trust me, to be licensed is VERY IMPORTANT)

If you want an experiential experience, and psychotherapy has not given you the "breakthrough"-- go to group therapy. A group that is run by a TRAINED, EXPERIENCED, AND LICENSED PSYCHOLOGIST.

Please don't let Call of the Shofar take advantage of your naivete, lack of education, and vulnerability (and your bank account).
(12/18/2013 3:27:30 PM)

Check out the article/video "my parents brainwashed me".
In a similar vain I would like to say - this is not brainwash - It's education. Educated me on the following essential topics I never did recieve from my parents, teachers and learning: (Shofar has "brainwashed" me) To love, to listen, to be aware, to feel, to be real, to be closer to Hashem, to take responsibility for my life, to think kind things about myself and about others, to be strong, to be healthy, to live a life of joy and freedom.
(12/18/2013 3:45:48 PM)
look at what he writes about Chasidus! (Berry Shwartz), red flag folks
'Its simply blind cultish adherence to something that we have no idea is even true!!!'

Just on this line from COTS i would never go there or send any relative or friend.
(12/18/2013 3:47:41 PM)
even if it has changed peoples lives for the better...
even if this workshop has improved peoples lives--- the fact that the source of it might be avoda zara- and alot of people- knowing this- are still rushing to go to it and defend it- really scares me.
We need Moshiach Now.
(12/18/2013 4:32:46 PM)
To #300
How do you know its true? Have you experienced "Chasidus" solve your problems? If so, share it! Which problems, which maamer and how did the maamer solve your problem.

We'd love to hear.

I'm not saying its not possible. All I'm saying is that everyone always spits out the slogan "Chasidus has all the answers". But have they experienced that? If yes, great! Lets get the details. They would help countless people. If not, well... HOW DO YOU KNOW THEN???
(12/18/2013 4:42:02 PM)
to 299
How dare! How do you even dare to compare a young teen-proud of the education his parents gave him by standing up for what is right and your experience in a mind-controlling cult since it was clearly difficult for you to embrace the gift you already grew up with.
(12/18/2013 4:51:39 PM)
Chocolatte, chabad-light and mishichistim
(12/18/2013 4:55:05 PM)
Striving to be better
Avodah - we all want to be better people. We
ALL have issues that Hashem deals us.

This is another tool enabling us to 'work on
ourselves & our issues'. Most of the participants
are intelligent, functioning adults. (Not down &
outs as u've portrayed) If u look at our 'dear, somewhat dysfunctional' community, it seems clear that most people would benefit tremendously. Because 'shofar' is Unfamiliar, it is being judged from total misconception and lack of info. The concepts are not 'new', but Chassidis applied in a practical way. (Another type of tool - like adahan, rabbi twerski,
Etc.) The Rebbe loved innovation - you will live more mindfully
aka with kavanah. Don't be afraid. There is so much to gain-
at a time when many are in deep pain and want to improve
Themselves, & their family situation.

(12/18/2013 5:30:27 PM)
Similar to:
A new person arriving in crown heights and viewing
it from the outside, versus living here and understanding
the culture from the inside.

The person viewing from the outside
Forms opinions based on his previous
Experience and has no framework to process
new info.

Same here. You have NO previous experience
to enable you to process this from the outside.

So you are coming to a conclusion based on....????

(12/18/2013 5:46:06 PM)
Ay like some have pointed out already
Just because it has helped some doesn't mean it's safe for everyone and just because they don't openly practice avoda zora doesn't make it kosher. There are many who get caught in Buddhist or Hinduism practices and beliefs through meditation or yoga not realizing it's avoda zora. Just because they don't talk about hypnosis doesn't mean they don't use hypnotic techniques which unless you are familiar with these you would not have any idea that that is what they are and from what was described to me by some who attended this is what they are to my knowledge of the subject and those are some of the kinds of techniques used by cults. All my above mentioned points would take extensive time and effort to expound on for everyone to understand who aren't familiar with these. I would gladly discuss and explain it and show material sources to any rav who is interested. But I would suppose that Reb Shea can do the same better than me as he dealt with this extensively also with the help of rabonim and health professionals at the time.
Mendel Marozov
(12/18/2013 7:32:02 PM)
I would sent the tzfatim to COTS
(12/18/2013 7:46:08 PM)
Most cogent comment -
(12/18/2013 8:03:16 PM)
Stop with the bashing and all if you dont even know what youre talking about!
WOW!! so many people commenting!
what i say is whoever comments, before of after the comment, write whether or not you went. i guarantee at least 95% of people who are writing, didnt even go to COTS (myself included), so how can you have an opinion??!?!
(12/18/2013 8:39:26 PM)
to #310
exactly! and i bet the people who are bashing it are the ones who need it most! i personally didnt go, but i have a few close friends and family who did go, and i see a very positive change in them!
true, medicine, cults etc. is good for the ill and can be harmful for the healthy. but you know what? the things COTS are dealing with, i would like to meet one person (besides for the rebbe) who has no issues in those matters! until moshiach comes, no one will be completely "healthy" in those matters. COTS is helping us recognize those issues and problems. its there for our benefit!
(12/18/2013 8:49:16 PM)
Thank you rabbi for opening my eyes to the danger of cults. NOW I SEE THEY'RE EVERYWHERE!!! Just today i went to court and the judge told me to put away my phone and not talk while court was in session. I immediately recognized the mind-controlling techniques and got out of there fast, but not before, "I told him that he was a cult idolator and against the G-d of Israel." Then I went to the library and, you won't believe this, but the Librarian told me to put away my phone and stop talking. I even saw idolotrous books on the shelf. There was a clock in the libraray, but it was suspiciously BROKEN!!. You'd be proud of me. I recognized what she was trying to do, so I smashed the figureen of an eagle they had atop the flag pole and booked. I figured the only safe place was shul. Now, I know you're not going to believe this, but the rabbi told me to put away my cell phone and stop talking while people were trying to daven. RABBI!! I DON'T KNOW WHERE TO GO. Please advice. I can not function without your words of guidance.
(12/18/2013 8:59:51 PM)
Thank you Rabbi Hecht
Mashpiim, Rabbonim, Community Leaders, Principals, Shluchim, Husbands, Bochurim, etc, etc...

Please at least take Rabbi Hecht's concerns seriously enough to have second thoughts and investigate further. It is true that people need help and it is true that COTS makes people feel good...but the fact that something feels good is not a reason to conclude that it is healthy. There are many substances and behaviors that feel good. The better they feel the more likely they can be dangerous.

Also remember...just because your life doesn't feel like a Hollywood movie doesn't mean you are sick. Real life is hard work. That's the way Hashem designed it...
(12/18/2013 9:17:25 PM)
This is a MAD HOUSE
I did not go to COTS. I know people who did. Now:

The hysteria here is insane.

Does anyone here ever think for themselves?

Shea Hecht is a good man, but do you think he is the be all and end all on this issue? (Besides, he clearly is not very sure about it himself).

Since a lot of us have trouble with nuance, we apparently need people to use black and white terminology like "cult" or "not a cult" to know how to interpret life.

Everyone (?) knows that calling something a cult is very subjective. Yes, some groups clearly are, but it can be easily used against many innocent others (ask people who became frum what kind of reactions they often got).

The rational thing to do here by people like Shea AND Rabbonim (who must do a FULL Chakira Vedrisha) is to assess the matter on its own merits and not simply to LABEL it so that everyone should "run for the hills."


Has this person Simcha been spoken to at length before he was tarred and feathered?

Has R' Shea even presented a clear and coherent iron clad case before the screaming headline went out "COTS is a Cult!"?

Has anyone considered the ramifications of turning 500 Anash into perceived pariahs, simply based on weak research, no full and thorough consultation with Rabbonim?

Has anyone talked to the respected figures (Rabbis Twersky and Breitowitz - both world renowned and respected within Lubavitch circles as well) listed on the COTS website to hear what they have to say?

a) COTS may or may not be good and beneficial, it certainly has helped many, and it has been unhelpful and perhaps counter-productive to others.

b) It certainly has some unusual aspects about it, indeed, it is not your typical seminar weekend.

c) Yes, it appears to draw on methodologies and techniques used in places like Landmark.

d) It certainly is not something for "everyone to go to."

With all that being said,

a) let's deal with this like adults and not like schoolyard children (who need to resort to categorize their world in black and white with "names" only).

b) recommendations need to come forth from respected and qualified rabbonim who investigate the matter thoroughly, which means TALKING TO ALL SIDES, and to a variety of qualified experts, and taking their time in doing so. And they can start with Rabbis Twersky and Breitowitz who apparently allowed their names to be listed.


And to the people who bandied about the frightening term "Avodah Zorah". Please! Is that based on even a shred of evidence? I heard detailed reports from people who went and there is absolutely NOTHING to imply that.

Avizdreihu d'Avodah Zorah comes up in meditations based on Eastern Religions where people are asked to mediate on AZ types of thoughts. No one has shown there to be anything like this in COTS.


To R' Shea and all of the other people out there who really care:

Scare tactics backfire. Sure you scare away the masses, but those who are more discerning and think for themselves can smell it out, and when they do, you lose all credibility in their eyes. If you speak honestly and accurately about the issues, they might hear your point, but if you exaggerate and throw labels around, you have no chance with them.


I realize that this is post 300 and whatever, but I hope you guys out there will read this and really chew it over.

- Yaakov
(12/19/2013 2:03:25 AM)
Apologies to 294, I stand corrected! You are absolutely Right!
I should have been more clear in my comment 67

Here is the full quote from my comment
After I quote it, here, I shall clarify my intended point, hopefully more clearly,
Referring to ppl who (without source to back it up) claim the Rebbe wrote X, the Rebbe wrote Y, etc etc
Re those unsubstantiated claims (made even by Rabbis) I wrote:

Havent noticed any Avoda Zara,

Last i checked, all the Rebbe's letters are against Transidental Meditation, never against regular Hisbonenus as a technique of relaxation and concentration

"research (request to see/verify) the Rebbe's igros for yourself, (that what is being claimed in the name of Igros, actually exists) dont take any Rabbi's second hand (claim that the Igros exists as fact, trust but verify, it's risky to just trust his memory) word for it, Pro or Con"

If anybody claims something in the Rebbe's name, it's ok to trust them, but don't repeat it AS FACT till you saw the (claimed) written source, first hand.

Too often, statements attributed to the Rebbe (even by Rabbis) can't be tracked down when pressed for the source.

In general, there is a halachic principle, that even to a Rov/Dayan, who's psak IS Daas Torah, he must show "hechan dantuni"!!! Chapter and verse Torah sources to backup his Psak.

If the Rav refuses, his psak is rendered Invalid (not to be relied on).

I hope that clears things up. I should've been more clear!!!!
(12/19/2013 2:22:04 AM)
to # 302
Chasidus actually did answer a very profound philosophical existential question for me when i was a teenager after months of searching for the meaning of life ( i did not come from a school that taught chasidus), its actually in Tanya... to question Chasidus is like to question Torah and that for me with all due respect, smells like Kfira
(12/19/2013 2:27:42 AM)
I feel its helpful and useful to those that need it
I feel its helpful and useful to those that need it and I know someone personally who it helped out a lot. I feel that there are many journeys in life and some people need that based on their past and others have other interests that it may be harmful too and we need to understand that different poeple have different needs based on their trauma 's and or experiences. I feel that it is not ok to bash something good for some yet important to make aware that it is not for everyone. And to som e more heallthier ones can be not good for since they already lead a healthy lifestyle. I firmly believe that when people go through trauma and I know first hand this person that did and went there and it was very good for her - it gave her the support she needed - its not ok to bash. Some people need that strong structure to learn from their past and make positive decisions for the future and others dont. For the time being not everyone goes thru traumatic experiences in their life and not everyone needs this. But those that do it will haunt them for the rest of their life if they cant get the proper support.

Me personally I know myself, I am intuitive more than the average individual and when I looked into going I googled him and listened to some classes and I came to the conclusion not to go. Reason being and this was before this article came out. Reason I chose not to go was that I saw that the way he was explaining the parshah was making a tzadik look like a regular person with regular challanges. And I know from the rebbes teachings thats not the case. And I appreciated at the moment if I am going to spend my time learning Id rather learn an explanation from the rebbe that has a greater understanding than us human beings. And teaches us in a positive light.
I feel though there are many people out there that need his program for personal traumas that they went through in their life - in order that it does not control them. And their decisions.

And in regards to mind altering techniques I am aware that the yeshiva system today uses mind altering techniques - by dicatating individuals how to respond to the teacher. And many of famous rabbis - in their way of speech. Ive heard talk I
(12/19/2013 4:24:09 AM)
My computer sent the comment and i wasnt done sorry...
So as I was saying many rabbis today in the their speaches use mind altering techniques such as telling people how t hey should think and telling them how they think until now is not good enough. Theres one particular rabbi i have in mind and he is very popular in chabad however i will not say his name and i would say he falls into this category a lot faster then this guy and the way i heard him talk. Its a boundary issue when people talk in ways of controlling others. Such as ...if a mother will do this.....or if a rabbi says.... That's not your real question....thats a mind altering technique because it confuses makes you forget what you want and how you got there to begin with. However I heard this person simcha i googled him and i would say thats not the case. what i would say is the case here is that he allows people to start thinking about themselves and allows them to be proactive in the future by thinking about themself and their goals in life. As pirkei avos says you have know where you come from and where you're going. to some people that may seem as avoda zara but to others that are willing to be vulnerable it is not. And will allow them to let go of their fears that are blocking them from getting ahead in life.

All the best!
(12/19/2013 4:34:05 AM)
Thank you collive!
For facilitating this lively yet necessary forum!

The benefits of having an important topic such as this discussed and dissected openly is obvious!

In my case, I know I have learnt some very good and insightful points from both sides of this discussion.

I do wish to point out, a Klal the Rebbe once mentioned re "How should a Chosid react to critisism (or even just hints of reservations) raised by a fellow chossid, who thinks something we are doing is wrong/questionable/lacking?

The Rebbe answers this, this too is b'hashgacha pratis, (it was shown to us from above...) That someone has reservations... About our conduct, we should therefore take the challenger's opinion and present it to our "A.L. Rav".

Even if we our selves have no question or reservation!
But only since Hashem had this objection brought to your attention, that alone Obligates you now to run it by your "Aseh Lecha Rav".

As a biased grad from COTS myself, I have had difficulty seeing how the sicha Rabbi Hecht sighted above, leads him to his conclusion, even though, from his oped, I doubt how well he investigated COTS and how well he studied the sicha, (and thus naturally I doubt his conclusions as well), never the less, since he has raised the issue as problematic, this fact (as explained) requires every chossid (follower) of the Rebbe to follow the Rebbe's instruction, "to consult your Rav" before you decide to go to COTS.

I say this, despite having strong doubts re Rabbi Hecht's due diligence in his effort to carefully learn the sicha and his hersey research of COTS tactics.

Even though he is not a trained expet, had he seemed to know the sicha & COTS details well, I would have been more inclined to buy into his conclusions.

(12/19/2013 5:30:29 AM)
COTS is the best way to sneak chasidus to those who didn't realize ALL it's practical Real-world value
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 (commenting) is afraid that COTS goers think that "The shofar-grass is greener" R"L...
ADERABA! The exact opposite was accomplished (for most thoughtful participants),
What COTS helped demonstrate, better than any Mashpia ever could have, is HOW REALLY BEAUTIFUL, LIFE-ENHANCING and PRACTICAL chasidus really is!
Davka at COTS and via COTS have many (for the very first time) realized how ALL the "good stuff" about COTS, are ideas and practices already IN CHASIDUS!

We just needed to take it (Tanya, Kuntres Umayan...) more literally than the way some of our chasidus-teachers (unconsciously) taught it to us, transmitting their own lack of confidence in the material. (Their own non-literal attitudes and beliefs about the material got conveyed in between the lines)

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

-fan of agbag
(12/19/2013 6:58:05 AM)
a lesson from the Baal Shem Tov
It is by hashgacha pratis that these articles and comments are here for so many of us now. What lesson can each of us derive from this event? For me, it points to the source of the big hole inside of me- the deep thirst/hunger to experience the chassidic life I read about in Memoirs, but dont find. In my community, the so called farbrengens are anything but. Some of my friends and I got together on our own, and the shluchim (head shliach and many of his married children shluchim.....), nixed it because we didn't go through official channels.
I personally wouldn't go to COTS, but it sounds like it is pointing to a great need unfulfilled in Chabad.

(12/19/2013 8:41:41 AM)
to #320
If that's the case, then why are are there people lessening their shmiras hamitzvos or minhagim, e.g. those mentioned in the video
1. walking without a hat (when he did before)
2. Not staying up on Shvuos night
3. reduction or cessation of Shmiras Shabbos
(12/19/2013 10:12:46 AM)
This is a Cult beware
Frischling and his cohorts are running a slick financial operation. They are raking in huge $. They are using persuasive recruitment techniques targeting disillusioned young men in particular preying upon their vulnerability. Their web page features testimonial of Avraham Sutton-- I personally heard Sutton make derogatory comments about the Rebbe in a class he was teaching. Sounds like Shea Hecht was pressured to retract with a threat of a libel lawsuit. The euphoric testimonials and aggressive defense seen in these posts by his followers are further proof. The inner circle of his guys were directed to come on this website and respond to criticism. There is a Facebook frenzy of defenders. These guys are lining their pockets with cash while these young men are becoming captives to their persuasion. Everyone please get educated! There is a cult in our midst! Frischling is charismatic and wants to take over the void left by the Rebbe's physical absence. Sound the alarms! This is the Hassidic Kabbalah Center, rooted in greed and exploiting vulnerability! I guarantee that every Lubov who experienced abuse in his life is running to this guy!
(12/19/2013 10:49:15 AM)

(12/19/2013 11:32:41 AM)
mosh der g
it would be nice if there was a way that we can be 100% from every poster that claims they did not go to COTS and then go on and plug it here..
if they are saying the truth

all i know if walks like a duck quacks like a duck smells like a duck it is a duck ...

this seems to sure all problems in life for people ..

we should close all psychiatric and physiologist office and hospital and send them for a 3 day weekend and poof they are cured

wait i am sending this to obamacare they might endorse it and save money on health care
(12/19/2013 12:13:21 PM)
Although im a proponent of COTS, as beneficial to many ppl!
i do have to agree with the legitimate concern raised by #322

even if for most healthier guys who attend, it proves to strengthen their Yiddishkeit,
There are some week links, (week in terms of their comprehession of the value, benefit and importance of Mitzvos Maasiyos, and Minhogei Yisroel)
for those, Amei HaOratzim!
especially those who are not inclined to grasp, subtle distinctions,
for them, (their over simplistic comprehension renders) this program, counter productive!

Since the Program has not been emphasizing enough the VALUE, and necessity for a Jew to be in alignment with Shulchan Aruch (aka G-ds will).

yes, at the end of the program, Hirschling spends 30min, telling the group, "Dont make any substancial changes or decissions for at least a month or two, since some (feeble amei horatzim) may have misconstrued the concept of inner freedom, as demonstrated 30min into the "interview

1. walking without a hat (when he did before only for peer pressure)
2. Not staying up on Shvuos night (when he did before only for peer pressure)
3. reduction or cessation of Shmiras Shabbos

the problem is, that such Klain kepeldikeh, guys, may not even have enough judgement to consult a ALRav before deciding to attend.

My experience was, that this program is mostly beneficial to the more learned (in chasidus) and emotionally mature amungst us, those who have gross gaps in their Hashkafa of what chasidus really theologically should not go, as they wont recognize how its all affirming chasidus, instead they will ignorantly assume that THIS COTS thing is Competing with chasidus and impressively so.

Certain week minds, should be discouraged from going!
(12/19/2013 1:39:59 PM)
From the website: no calls allowed
People here have commented that they have been able to use their phones.

I took a peek at the FAQ on the website and saw the following:
Once the weekend starts, can I call my family, friends, or workplace?
No. If you think there is some reason why you need to make outside calls, you need to speak with a staff member before the weekend starts
(12/20/2013 10:36:21 AM)
re Phones:
Hammaseh Huoo Haikar!

i was there,

Lemaaseh, is what ACTUALLY COUNTS, not waht is said on a school's handbook ,policy!

The fact is, noone took away anyone's phones! PERIOD.

b'poel mamosh, what matters (cult wise) is what actually happens)
(12/20/2013 11:09:28 AM)
Rabbi Dr Yitzchak Breitowitz
He's a very respectful Rabbi and part of the Board of Rabbinic Advisers... He is also a Mayanot Professor in Yerushalaim... I would love to know what he thinks about COTS after R' Hecht respond.
(12/20/2013 12:35:28 PM)
In my group
The cell phone and email ban was not enforced
And I don't think it was good how lax they were re distractions
(12/20/2013 3:36:50 PM)
call up the big rabbi's and poskim that gave haskamot to the program...IF YOU DON'T KNOW for sure that it is dangerous 100%..then its an issur doriisa of LOSHON HARA..the rebbi wouldn't be happy about that...
(12/21/2013 12:36:48 PM)
(12/21/2013 9:19:40 PM)
Is it a cult
I had a close friend get involved with this stuff. He kept trying to convince me to go to a retreat but I did not feel very comfortable at all. He would not give me any details and just kept saying how amazing it is and how it would improve my spirituality. PS He's not frum anymore and wont hardly talk to his friends anymore. What's the difference if it's a cult or not if this is what can happen to you? Who are these shofar people and where did they come from? I'm glad I didn't go.
(12/21/2013 11:19:05 PM)
If you are interested to know who is this Frischling
Please do some research on Steven Frischling and you will see for you self where he is taking all his stuff.
I dont understand the mosad ohalei Torah how they still keep the 2 Mashpiam that went to to this colt they should be expelled
(12/22/2013 12:29:32 AM)
when in doubt - leave it out
this is a good policy to live by with everything.
Why are those that did attend feel so bent out of shape at this being deemed unkosher?
the reaction to the critics of this "program" only acts as confirmation that it is a cult after all.
(12/22/2013 1:25:02 AM)
Shofar weekend...what really goes on
There are too many labels here. What happens at shofar weekend? Simply, people are encouraged to show up and feel what they feel and think what they think. In an environment where most, if not all people can relate to those thoughts and. feelings. And a common theme that many people discover is how we live under our own hyper critical judgements of how we think that we aren't good enough. Its not about blaming others for the real pain that we experienced in our lives. It's about being truthful, open and taking down the fortress of protective armor that makes us very small in our own minds and hearts. And there is an opportunity, to see those judgements for the sheker they are. And to be amongst friends, who help us to see how beautiful we are. No one is magically transformed, but a man has a better opportunity to leave the workshop feeling empowered and having some insight, hopefully , that the thoughts he generates significantly impact his wellbeing and connections to himself, others and Hashem. And acquire some tools he can use to make a difference. It takes guts to make changes, but in the end, we have to live with ourselves...and also be honest and assess the impact on others we have by not addressing our negative behaviors. The weekend is about principals of relationships. Not from the head...but from the head and heart. And a rare opportunity to be amongst chevra in a way where your experience of achdus is the furthest thing possible from all of the labels that are showing up on this blog. Ber Pear, Baltimore
(12/29/2013 10:34:14 PM)
I went 5 years ago, and have not been in contact since.
You may expect to tell you that I'm now so disconnected, i see the truth that it's a cult. I can honestly say it's not a cult. It gave me skills which i use in my everyday life to understand the source of my ""natural" netios. I use skills from the seminar EVERY DAY. I daven better because of it. I am more accepting of people because of it.

Of course they don't allow phones. The weekend is a time for intraspection, not calling other people.( Imagine if Ploni felt that every time his wife asked him what he did that day, he felt judged. What would it be like to have his wife call during the seminar???) It's about learning how to live in the "now", something which probably most people spamming hate messages have never done.

Some people comment about the cult-like sign of people being unashamed to stand "naked" in front of a group. I remember that feeling, and it was truly there. But i can still tap into that moment - That moment was the first time in my life i experienced a world of ABSOLUTELY NO SINAS CHINAM. People could stand emotionally or even physically naked in front of the group because everyone is in a place of complete care and understanding of the other person. Unfortunately, in today's world, i have yet to experience a similar level of understanding in any group.

There's a very good reason people don't talk about what goes on. A friend of mine actually told me about one of the exercises, and it ruined my experience of that exercise. The exercises are there to trigger a realization of an emotional block or an appreciation of an emotional desire. When i knew of one exercise, i was thinking during the exercise about what my friend experienced...I was deterred from experiencing the exercise from purely MY world.

Some people may not grow from it. I had a friend who went who checked the sports game and wore a watch the whole time. He didn't do any exercises because he felt they were too "weird". He was allowed to opt out. Nobody forced him to do anything.

People will likely make changes after the seminar. I remember walking out and realizing that i wanted to listen to music during the ride home in order that my mind has something to preoccupy itself with - a pointless activity. I then chose to talk to people and delve into myself instead of wasting time listening to my ipod.

I think it's immature to judge a program without having been in it.

R.H. - Israel
(12/31/2013 1:11:30 PM)
From an amateur cult researcher with cult-ensnared chevra
Not mentioned here is that Call of the Shofar is based on ManKind Project (MKP) and their "New Warrior Training Adventure" weekend. MKP does all sorts of wacky stuff- worshipping actual avodah zarah, public dancing in the nude, etc. MKP does the usual cult brainwashing stuff common to LGAT's (large group awareness training cults). Ie, sleep/food deprivation, no cellphones or outside books, etc. Two frum friends of mine got ensnared by this one. However, I was under the impression that Call of the Shofar toned this down. Someone from Jews For Judaism told me that if someone likes lgat cults and they are frum, they can do worse than Call of the Shofar. I actually sent a friend of mine (who had previously gone to Landmark and other lgat cults) there. He did well. He brought along a friend the second time, and his friend damaged his shalom bayis. Rabbi Twersky, who gives his haskamah, says he stands by his haskamah, as nothing wacky is going on there.
(12/31/2013 9:41:01 PM)
Two thumbs up Rabbi Hecht
As the story unfolds more and more I just realized how right Rabbi Hecht was when he made his comments. Thank you Rabbi Hecht you are definitely a professional in this field.
(1/1/2014 8:30:11 AM)
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