On entering certain ‘kiruv’ yeshivot one is sometimes asked to sign a pledge to compensate an institution financially in the future for time spent – when payment is not possible or the participant is unwilling to pay at the time.
If a pledge/document was signed whilst a participant was not really a practising Jew, with the yeshiva acknowledging the unlikelihood of the pledge being fulfiled, and with the participant being (in my mind) not in the position to sign as an equal party and possibly vulnerable (see concept of undue influence in contract law) – would such a pledge be valid?
Does it matter if the institution displayed problematic outlooks, and/or used questionable kiruv tactics to persuade/manipulate participants to join in the first place (some tactics resembling more those used by missionaries than Jewish values)
Thank you in advance
It sounds like you are not too happy with this institution.
When a person pledges money to a torah institution or another tzedakah, it is considered like a neder to give the tzedakah and it should be given. In your case, where you actually signed that you would give compensation, it is even more applicable. Besides, even if you are not happy with the yeshiva, you still ate and sleep there, and this did cost them money, to which they would be entitled to compensation.
The fact that you were not religious at the time doesn’t really change the halacha, as irreligious people have the same obligations as religious people do. Also the fact that you don’t like the hashkafic outlooks or the tactics that they use, while you do not have to make donations to them in the future, monetary obligations that you may have to them should be kept.
At the end of the day, the money that you would be giving them will be helping other people become closer to torah, and that zechus will be yours.