Call of the Shofar
|Motto||Jewish Wisdom as a Framework for Personal Growth|
|Founder||Steven Simcha Frischling|
|Headquarters||Baltimore, MD, US|
Call of the Shofar is an organization based in Baltimore, US, focusing on personal and relational transformation. Call of the Shofar offers workshops assisting individuals to enhance their personal relationships. The organization's director is Steven (Simcha) Frischling.
Some have termed Call of the Shofar programs as "cultlike" and have compared them to LGAT groups such as Landmark Forum, and the Mankind Project. Call of the Shofar members have voiced their contention to these designations.
Call of the Shofar frequently weekend workshops in Baltimore, Maryland, Morristown, New Jersey and Israel. Other previous locations include Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Toronto, Ontario, Canada and Los Angeles, California.
Follow-up groups are regularly held in Baltimore, Maryland, Silver Spring, Maryland, area in Brooklyn, New York, Monsey, New York, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Los Angeles, California and Jerusalem, Israel.
Though the organization had been in operation for several years, Call of the Shofar had received little media attention up until December 2013. Following the publication of an interview with Frischling, the program received extensive coverage on news blogs and social media. Reviews of the program were mixed. The Call of the Shofar director publicly responded to the allegation posed by many rabbis and professional therapists that his program was a cult.
Reception in the Chabad community
The program has received mixed to unfavorable reviews from the Chabad community. Rabbi Shea Hecht has dubbed the program a "kosher cult" (also a "parve cult"). Rabbis Yaakov Schwei and Yosef Braun of the Crown Heights Beth Din (Rabbinical court) declared that attending programs run by the organization is forbidden under Jewish law. They were joined by the "Vaad Rabbonei Lubavitch" ("Central Committee of Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbis in the United States and Canada").
While several Chabad rabbis denounced Call of the Shofar, others defended the desire of the program's attendees for seeking spiritual growth. The existing rabbinical approbations supporting Call of the Shofar were called into question by some within the Chabad community, while individual Chabad members have also spoken out in the organization's favor.
Call of the Shofar Response
In an interview with the Baltimore Jewish Times, Rabbi Frischling denied the charges of being a cult leader. Frischling stated that his organization has rabbinical approbations from Rabbi Yaacov Hopfer, of Baltimore's Congregation Shearith Israel, Rabbi Michel Twerski of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky of Philadelphia. Kamenetzky's approbation was withdrawn following the unfavorable reviews by rabbis in the Chabad community. An additional approbation was added from Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz, of Yeshivas Ohr Sameach, Jerusalem, Israel.
An official statement by Friscling was published in the Call of the Shofar website stating that Call of the Shofar programs comply with Jewish law.
Reception in the broader Jewish community
Call of the Shofar received several favorable reviews from members of the general Jewish community, and received letters of support by several Jewish psychologists.
- Jewish Resources: Call of the Shofar. United Jewish Federations.
- Who We Are: Board Members. CalloftheShofar.com.
- Schwartz, Dovber. Interview with Simcha Frischling. HealthyJudaism.com.
- Interview with Simcha Frischling. Collive.com.
- Shamberg, Bentzion. Tom Kippur. The Way of Returning. Huffington Post.
- Call of the Shofar raises alarm in Chasidic community. Baltimore Jewish Times.
- Cult Expert Weighs In. Collive.com.
- Behrman, Yaacov. Call of the Shofar. The Brooklyn Reader. bkreader.com. Dec 20, 2013.
- Dickter, Adam. Views on Cultish Retreats Varies Wildly. The Jewish Week. Feb 26, 2014. Accessed March 10, 2014.
- Official Statement. Call of the Shofar. calloftheshofar.org. Accessed February 17, 2014.
- Seasons of Transformation Weekend Workshop. Call of the Shofar. calloftheshofar.org. Accessed May 26, 2014.
- Advanced Workshop. Call of the Shofar. calloftheshofar.org. Accessed May 26, 2014.
- Community Program Follow-up Groups. Call of the Shofar. calloftheshofar.org. Accessed May 26, 2014.
- Weekly TeleConference with Simcha. Call of the Shofar. calloftheshofar.org. Accessed May 26, 2014.
- Private Consultation. Call of the Shofar. calloftheshofar.org. Accessed May 26, 2014.
- Event Calendar. Call of the Shofar. calloftheshofar.org. Accessed May 26, 2014.
- Dickter, Adam. Chabad Leaders Clamp Down on Unorthodox Group Therapy Sessions. The Jewish Week. February 19, 2014. Accessed February 21, 2014.
- Rabbi Hecht Clarifies: Call of the Shofar is a Kosher Cult. CrownHeights.info.
- "Call of the Shofar is a cult". Collive.com.
- Line, Chabad On. "Cult Expert Explains Dangers". collive.
- Line, Chabad On. "Oholei Torah Staff Issue Statement". collive.
- Line, Chabad On. "Chabad Rabbis Ban "Call of Shofar"". collive.
- "Vaad Rabonei Lubavitch Prohibits Attending COTS". crownheights.info.
- Schochet, Yitzchok. Call of the Void. Collive. collive.com. December 19, 2013. Accessed February 21, 2014.
- "Videos: Rabbi Shea Hecht Q&A on Call of the Shofar". crownheights.info.
- "Cult Experts Weigh In on COTS Damage Control". crownheights.info.
- Lew, Chana. Call of my Shofar. Chanalew.com. August 26, 2011. Accessed February 21, 2014.
- Board Members. Call of the Shofar. calloftheshofar.org. Accessed February 17, 2014.
- Dickter, Adam. The Man Behind Call of the Shofar. The Jewish Week. February 19, 2014. Accessed February 21, 2014.