We often hear stories of parents or friends that were living a comfortable conservative or reform lifestyle, and then, after a trip to Aish or a visit by Chabad, they take a hard turn to Orthodoxy, often of a serious fundamentalist variety. Often the parents or friends are left wondering why? They thought they had provided a comfortable and socially conscious approach to religion. Why had their kids chosen such an intolerant form of the religion. We had an article posted recently and there are tons of similar stories. Every single one a victim of pretty much standard missionary tactics.
The reason why they are so easily victimized is because of the book, specifically in this case the Torah.
The problem arises because while less-fundamentalist versions of Judaism don't necessarily follow the Torah, they still venerate it. They still believe that it was God's divine gift. And they teach this to the kids. The book is important.
Now when the kids grow up, they start looking around and they find some people who actually take the book seriously. Perhaps they say, "If it's God's gift to humanity, then, shouldn't we be taking it seriously?" Because they don't necessarily have the tools (Hebrew) to examine it themselves, they're susceptible to cherry-picked verses and explanations. They can be presented with a very fundamentalist viewpoint, modernized by out-of-context quotes and sketchy interpretations. And they eat it up. They eat it up, because they have been taught their whole life that the book is the key.
And yes, this is the exact same thing that happens in "radical Islam" recruitment. It's why moderate Islam is inherently unstable, just like conservative Jewry, continually losing people to the left (secularism) or the right (fundamentalism). It's why moderate Islamist are continually fighting and uphill and losing battle against the fundamentalists. Part of me wonders if the only difference between Judaism and Islam in this regard is the size and the relative power they wield. If Judaism had the number of adherents of Islam, would it be guilty of the same sorts of atrocities? As Einstein said,
As far as my experience goes, they [the Jewish People] are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power.