“No, really, please, seriously, explain to me the difference!” The fireworks were flying in a meeting staged last week at Yale Hillel prefacing the search for a new Orthodox campus rabbi. Yale Hillel, like many Hillels across the country, are in a state of change, shifting and adapting to make room for new priorities, and it was therefore not surprising (though perhaps, to some, unwelcome), when the Hillel executive staff announced that the job description for the new rabbi would differ somewhat from what it has been in the past. To be precise, the new Orthodox rabbi would be expected to do “campus engagement.” What is engagement? Engagement is an organized programmatic attempt to reach out to students who are, as of yet, uninvolved in campus Jewish life, and to encourage them to become involved. As such, engagement can include many things. Often, and sometimes disproportionately, it means drinking coffee with students you’ve never met before. Sometimes it means organizing really cool campus-wide events that will attract as-of-yet-uninvolved Jewish students. It is unquestionably a mission that should be taken seriously. Given that a university like Yale has thousands of Jewish students, the vast majority of whom have not set foot in its Center for Jewish Life, it stands to reason that the institutional Jewish presence on campus would want to try to maximize its impact by stepping up outreach attempts to reach a greater part of its target base. In fact, non-Orthodox rabbis at Yale have been doing engagement work for years, to great acclaim and success. The fact that Orthodox rabbis have been, so to speak, off the bandwagon would appear an anomaly. So yeah, go for it! Have him do outreach! What’s the problem? The problem, as many see it, is this: There are already Orthodox rabbis doing outreach work on campus – just not for Hillel. You know of whom I speak – kiruv rabbis: Jovial behatted Chabad rabbis on street corners, asking you whether you are Jewish and want to put on tefillin. Equally jovial Eish Hatorah rabbis running private Jewish learning sessions and seminars or trips to Israel. At their best, these characters serve to bring traditional Jewish knowledge, identity, and culture to hosts of those who would otherwise be wholly on the outside. At their worst, they just give you the willies. In the general culture, kiruv rabbis tend to get a bad rap. And anything that is associated with or smacks of kiruv is generally viewed askance. And that is why the skeptical sitters at our meeting were demanding to know: “Engagement, huh? And what, exactly, is the difference between that and kiruv?” I’m not sure there is one.