As Purim approaches, thousands of Israeli children and families grapple with poverty
This past Sunday evening I received a frantic call from a close friend, a 52-year-old father and grandfather who has spent the past 27 summers in the Monticello area. He pleaded with me to inform the frum public of what his eyes had seen – and his heart simply did not want to believe.
These are his words:
This past Motzoei Shabbos, July 28, I received a phone call from a Brooklyn Rav asking me to gather some friends and their wives and go to Broadway (the main street) in Monticello in order to provide some adult supervision and responsible sets of eyes to the “scene” in front of a pool hall situated there.
I got there at about 12:45 a.m. – at least fifteen minutes before any of our friends arrived. As I was the only Orthodox adult present at the time, I got an unvarnished look at the proceedings. What I saw was beyond my wildest nightmares. Inside the pool hall and spilling out into the street were hundreds of frum boys and girls hanging out, cavorting, drinking, and snorting drugs.
The kids ran the full range of Orthodox Jewry – children from very chassidish to Modern Orthodox homes. The behavior of the boys and the dress code of the girls were simply beyond belief. In fact, it was hard to believe that these were frum kids – until you spoke to them.
Please don’t think for a moment that this was a gathering of only “at-risk kids.” Dozens of cars stopped by, and what you would call mainstream boys and girls got out to see what was going on. Many of them joined the party, at least as observers. A few of the kids told us that they and their friends rented bungalows in non-Jewish colonies or rooms in hotels throughout the Catskills where they party from Thursday night until Monday morning – including Shabbos.
We circulated among the kids and tried talking to them, begging them to come home with us. We offered them a place to stay and some food to eat – for the night, or perhaps an invitation for the coming Shabbos. It was most painful to see that underneath the bravado and in-your-face mannerisms were scared kids and tortured Yiddishe neshamos.
Rabbi Horowitz, please beg each and every parent of unmarried children who are in the Catskills and not in a structured, supervised camp setting to make 110 percent certain of their whereabouts, particularly on Motzoei Shabbasos – even if their kids say they are going for a slice of pizza or bowling with some friends. What might begin as an innocent night of fun may turn tragic – physically and spiritually.
Over the past generation, the number of our sons and daughters achieving success in our community has grown exponentially. However, our teens-at-risk population has been growing at least as rapidly. And along with their swelling ranks comes a sense of camaraderie and boldness.
Thirty years ago, mischief for the vast majority of our kids was a camp prank or raid. Ten years ago, kids were hanging out and experimenting with the boundaries that our community would tolerate. Today, our disenfranchised children are forming their own community.
Do you know where your children are?
About the Author: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam and founder and director of Agudath Israel's Project Y.E.S.
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Dear Rabbi Horowitz:
We were taken aback when our 18-year-old son just called us from Eretz Yisrael (we live in Europe) and told us that he was coming home and wants to immediately go to work. He said that he is wasting his time in yeshiva, and just can’t take it anymore. He said that he will “run away from home” if we don’t allow him to go to work.
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