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September 1, 2015 / 17 Elul, 5775
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Why Are We Losing Our Children? (Part I)


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We all yearn to feel that we are part of something special. We all seek respect and acceptance for simply being who we are.

More than twenty years ago, I was invited to give shiurim on the small Caribbean island of Curacao. Located in a virtually unknown part of the globe, the Mikve Israel synagogue in Willemstad was built in 1732 and is the oldest synagogue still in use in the Western Hemisphere. My friend and I went to speak at the newer, Orthodox shul, which was founded within the past century. After circling the island numerous times in search of the shul, I finally pulled over to ask for directions. Not being fluent in the local language of Papiamentu, I handed the slip of paper with the address to the kind man who stopped to assist me. He spent the next 15 minutes guiding me to the other side of the tiny country, not leaving me until I pulled up to the front door of the shul. When I thanked him, he said that this is their way; to make sure a stranger gets to his destination. I experienced this chesed many times over the next week, and more than two decades later, I still cherish the warm and welcoming way I was treated.

We all seek to be surrounded by people who care, to be part of something special and larger than ourselves. The special feeling of being part of a warm, respectful family is the feeling that should be generated by simply being a member of the large Jewish nation. Just as the Torah commands us to help the stranger – even when he is our enemy – whose mode of transportation has become disabled on the road, so too it is incumbent upon all of us to extend ourselves, with warmth, to those around us. I firmly believe that one who feels loved and respected in his home and in his community will yearn to stay in that positive atmosphere. Why would a person have the need to go somewhere else, if where he is now is a place of comfort, happiness and growth? Making children feel warm and comfortable in our homes, schools and shuls is the most important way we can help them continue on the path we have chartered for them in our homes, schools, and shuls. A person who feels special at home is likely to want to replicate that environment in the future.

Why do kids go off the derech? The question itself generates further questions. There is clearly no single explanation that covers all of those who choose to stray from the path of Torah. Some may wonder what the point there is then in asking the question – let’s just focus on helping them return. My intent in writing this series is not to point the finger of blame or to trivialize what may be a painful interaction of multiple factors that contribute to many of our children leaving the path of our heritage. My goal is to share insights from my more than twenty years of experience and to suggest some important issues that we, as a community, can work on to help strengthen our children’s bonds to the eternal values of Torah and our Creator.

Many summers ago, I gave a series of shiurim in Ohr Someach Jerusalem on living a spiritual life in the 20th century. A sixty-year-old man sat in every class and diligently took notes on everything I said. Many decades his junior, his interest in learning was very motivating to me as a rebbe, and his enthusiasm was infectious to the rest of the students. When he missed a day, he explained that he had gone to Europe for a business meeting. He was a successful businessman, but Torah was his new passion. He had lived a life without Torah for four decades, and was now enthusiastically embracing his newfound heritage.

Then he told us his story. As a young man, he decided to leave the secular world of his parents and embrace the religious life that his grandfather so fervently adhered to. One Shabbos morning he awoke with tremendous excitement and went to the local shul to begin his new lifestyle. He found an empty seat in the front and picked up a prayer book with no English translation, and, while exhilarated that he was in the house of Hashem, was also nervous because he did not know how to daven.

About the Author: Rabbi Gil Frieman is the pulpit Rabbi of Jewish Center Nachlat Zion, the home of Ohr Naava. He is certified as a shochet, sofer, and has given lectures in the United States, Canada, and throughout Eretz Yisroel. Rabbi Frieman is currently the American Director of seminaries Darchei Binah, Afikei Torah, and Chochmas Lev in Eretz Yisroel, and teaches in Nefesh High School, Camp Tubby during the summers, and lectures weekly at Ohr Naava. In addition, Rabbi Frieman teaches all tracks in Ateres Naava Seminary. He is a highly anticipated speaker on TorahAnytime.com where he speaks live most Wednesday nights at 9:00pm EST.

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One Response to “Why Are We Losing Our Children? (Part I)”

  1. As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and he is us." The Association of German National Jews. They were no different from the many leftist Jewish groups in America today. Max Naumann leader of the group supported Hitler in the early days pushing assimilation and integration. It is the same ideology, extant here. In 1934 they stated "we have always held the well-being of the German people and the fatherland, to which we feel inextricably linked, above our own well-being. Thus we greeted the results of January, 1933, even though it has brought hardship for us personally". The liberal today no longer practices Judaism, no longer even knows what we observant Jews believe in. They are ve'echad she'eino yodea lish'ol. Past the tam. They do not even connect. His religion is secular humanism. My own mother saw these people bring Hitler to power. She says the The Association of German National Jews was just one group. There were many like minded Jews. These people will be the capos when the fascists declare a dictatorship here to promote their modern fascism; a one world government and religion, blocked only by Orthodox Judiasm and like minded Christians. Once exploited, they will be next. Like Pol Pot in Cambodia, the intellectual liberals were used, then taken. RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG

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