Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.
Without question we need learned leaders, but not all of our children can, or should, be rabbis. I often receive phone calls from rabbis seeking advice on how to deal with a “certain young man” who will spend twenty-four hours a day, every day, in the bet midrash. While the rabbi may see it as a sign of some underlying problem, the young man’s peers are often envious of him for sitting up all night and learning. Dedication, commitment and hard work are necessary for success in any endeavor, but there is a line of commitment that, when crossed, may result in pathology.
The social and financial implications of this lifestyle are obvious. If all our young men are in the bet midrash, then by virtue of this logic those who are not in the bet midrash are not “our” young men. If all our young men are in the bet midrash, where will our doctors, lawyers, accountants and businessmen come from? Who will be able to pay for yeshiva tuition, or, more to the point, where will living funds come from?
A more insidious corollary to the vicissitudes of the current dating scene is the problem of domestic violence. It is a commonly held belief in our community that the rates of domestic violence are exceptionally low. If this violence does exist, the reasoning goes, it can be eliminated by seeing to it that our children do not marry someone raised in a family where there has been domestic violence.
Both these beliefs are fallacious. Research has shown that the rate of domestic violence in the Jewish community, including the Orthodox community, are virtually the same as in the secular world. Further, children raised in a home where violence occurred are not necessarily more likely to be violent; in fact, they may even be less prone to violence. We are teaching our young adults to ignore the research data and follow a belief system that may end up being destructive.
Domestic violence is an ill that must be addressed, not ignored. But here, too, insularity causes further difficulties. There is good reason to believe that in many situations where men are violent there is an underlying depression that may need aggressive psychological treatment. But if it’s found out that an individual had a depression or was being treated for it, that could easily impact on his or his siblings or his children’s ability to get a shidduch.
Similar inconsistencies exist in dealing with the problems of substance abuse, sexual abuse, and even learning disabilities. We have disengaged from the reality of research that shows rates for these ills are virtually the same among the Orthodox as they are in the secular world. But when an attempt is made to address these problems, it is often done in ways that ignore or even deny the best intervention methods currently known. (And, going back to the shidduch scene, if God forbid someone in a family has suffered from one of these ills, that is enough to taint all the children, marking them as poor marital risks.)
What makes for a good match today most often relates to how many chumras or stringencies one chooses to follow. There is no questioning or rational discussion of where the chumras come from, how realistic they may be, and whether or not they apply. The only reaction is an automatic one. The literal is always chosen above the allegorical. If someone said it, it therefore must be real. And if you follow it, you will find a better shidduch for yourself or your child.
But this is superficial behavior. Just as changing the clothes worn by a substance abuser or a thief will not change his or her behavior, adding chumras gives us no insight into the inner workings of an individual’s personality.
Because we have become more insular, we have begun to lose our rationality. Questions of halacha resolved years ago return to the fore despite a lack of change or new information, and a more stringent, even strident, approach is applied. This approach strongly presumes that the more we disengage from society the healthier we become. I believe, as do most other frum mental health professionals, that the opposite is true.
About the Author: Dr. Michael J. Salamon is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the author of numerous articles and books, most recently “Abuse in the Jewish Community” (Urim Publications).
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Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.
The question of anti-Semitism in Europe today is truly tied to the issue of immigration.
Polls indicate that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis.
Emigration from Israel is at an all-time low, far lower than immigration to Israel from Europe.
Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters: “‘Klinghoffer’ is justified as ‘a work of art’…This is an outrage.”
Do you seriously think that as you kidnap our children we should medically treat and help yours?
Sometimes collective action against the heinous acts of the majority is not enough. The world should not only support the blockade of Gaza; it must enforce the dismantling of Hamas.
The Arab Spring has challenged Jordan with the task of gradual reform with regard to its monarchy.
Israel offered Syria the entire Golan Heights, only to find that the Syrians were demanding MORE!
Israeli hasbara too can be described at best as pathetic, at worst non existent.
A ‘good news’ story from the Nepal avalanche disaster to warm your heart. Take out your Kleenex.
Journalists see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as morality play: Israel=evil; Palestine=innocent
Warsaw Ghetto: At its height, the Nazis walled in some 500,000 Jews within the1.3 square mile area.
While police officers face dangers every day on the job, Jews also face danger in their daily lives.
sympathy: Feeling sorrow or pity for another’s tribulations; Empathy:sharing an emotional experience
The recent conviction of an unlicensed therapist in one of our communities has led to serious soul searching on the part of some and confusion for many others. The most strident argument of his supporters is that he was convicted without proof; that the accuser made up the story to get back at her community and directed her anger at this amateur counselor.
Mental health specialists tend to speak about their patients according to a classification referred to as the DSM, which stands for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This classification system was first published in 1952 by the American Psychiatric Association as a method to classify mental disorders and develop a statistical baseline through which disorders can be understood, studied and treated. It is not the only classification system available.
The New York Times got it right. In an editorial published on Thursday May 19, the Times castigated the Vatican for issuing “flimsy guidelines” for combating the sexual abuse of children by the clerical hierarchy.
We may not want to accept it, but abuse occurs everywhere, even in our own communities. The effects of abuse are devastating and long lasting – not only on those individuals who are abused but on their families as well. Even one act of abuse against a person, regardless of age, can have a significantly negative impact that may last a lifetime.
Did you hear the speech President Obama delivered in Cairo week before last? I don’t mean just the words but the sound, the tone, the delivery – the way he actually articulated his sentences, the cadences, the pauses and the breaks for applause.
I am a child of the ‘60s. I learned to play guitar to music from the Rabbis’ Sons, Shlomo Carlebach and Lennon and McCartney. When we had a kumsitz at our youth functions we would intersperse Simon and Garfunkel music with songs from the Six-Day War. In 1970 I accompanied Rabbi Carlebach when he played an impromptu concert at Zion Square in Jerusalem.
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