Thanks for your email. Kind of amusing to read an academic deconstruction of a quick synopsis I wrote. One day I hope people will put as much thought into breaking down the teachings as well. :)
I understand one doesn't usually see two different synopses for the same event, but also there are very few, if any, such events that target such extremely diverse worlds. As I am sure you know - there are events that are usually run for the frum world, and others that run for a kiruv audience, and then there are self-help development seminars, say, that run for a secular audience. But rarely is one product appealing to such a diverse crowd. We see that as a wonderful opportunity for unity, but it comes with certain challenges, to make all types feel comfortable and understood.
I would say the necessity for two different synopses was motivated by the following factors:
- THE OBVIOUS: There are key words that describe the content/product to the Orthodox crowd as well as appeal to their primary motivation, that secular people would just not know what they are: emunah, ahavas Hashem, tikkun hamiddos. So the secular world needs a translation.
- MORE THAN LANGUAGE: That must be a translation not just of meaning, but also of motivation. For example, I can translate the word emunah into the commonly used English equivalent - "faith". But what secular person wants to see a seminar on faith? So than you have the interesting marketing challenge - well what would appeal to the secular crowd? They want states of spiritual experience.
- THIS IS WHERE IT GETS DEEP: So then isn't it a bait and switch? You are pretending to teach about spiritual experience but really just teaching about emunah? So here is the joke - because perhaps the secular understanding of the mindful, meditational spiritual experience is a truer definition of emunah than what the average Orthodox person may perceive emunah is. So then in some senses, the irony is (and we even discuss this in the seminar) the the secular terms are in fact truer than the current religious understandings of the Hebrew words. So in some sense the Orthodox attending are getting the bait and switch. I don't think this is ultimately inauthentic because in the end we are just teaching the texts on the page, and by the end of the seminar what we do is translate the words out of English and Hebrew into the most important language of our generation - the language of experience. And from that point, we are all speaking the same language. Or more importantly - what ever different languages we are all speaking - we all now have the same meaning. And I think that is both deep and beautiful.
- CULTURALLY: One other issue that I should mention is that there are certain key words that may be attractive to one group but off-putting to the other. For example "Kabbalah". In the secular Jewish world - nobody wants to hear about Torah, because everyone knows Torah is uncool and uninteresting and old-school. But Kabbalah, is something new and different and exotic. (Of course one could argue that the Kabbalah Centre has tainted that image, and even secular Jews are over the concept by now, but let's keep this simple for the sake of this discussion.) For the Orthodox people however the word Kabbalah undermines the credibility of the seminar - as they would reply - no one that knows real kabbalah teaches it the masses, so you must be a fake. So they need to know the program is grounded with traditional ideas and that even the psychological and mystical are related to more "acceptable" teachings of chassidus and mussar. I could say to the secular audience we are teaching mussar and chassidus, but that itself is both meaningless and un-interesting to them...hence two synopses.
Many blessings to you both in the work that you do,