I was fortunate enough to meet Captain Eilon Even-Esh – with whom I was extremely impressed – at a Shabbaton where we were both forum presenters. Our conversation focused on a subject of great importance to both of us: bullies in the yeshiva system.
As a mother and grandmother, I wonder what my reaction would be if one of my children or grandchildren faced the demeaning experience of being bullied by his or her peers. In addition, I think about those who have spoken about the bullying experience and how they felt helpless to do anything to change the situation. I am concerned about children who have relatively good self-esteem, yet are still being bullied by their classmates in and out of yeshiva. Parents have told me that even after making numerous calls to yeshiva heads to complain about the harassment their children are facing, they still feel powerless in their quest to overcome this daunting problem.
So when I met Even-Esh, I realized that Hashem was clearly sending me a shaliach to assist me in my attempt to help the community solve this difficult problem, one that is adversely affecting so many of our children.
My daughter, Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, and I have written columns on the issue of bullying. We also did a radio show this summer on the subject. Despite our efforts, I didn’t possess enough knowledge to alleviate the pain I’ve experienced through the eyes of mothers’ personal struggles with their bullied children.
Even-Esh, who was in a special-forces unit in the IDF where he learned hand-to-hand combat (Krav Maga) and who also served in the USMC where he learned the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP), believes that bullying is an issue with few real solutions. The bully won’t listen to the scolding parent while a bully’s parents are often in denial or are too passive to correct their children’s behavior in the proper manner. The real antidote, Even-Esh says, is to empower the children being bullied.
Given his background, Even-Esh feels that the majority of karate classes for children – currently being offered to our community as solutions to the bullying crisis – provide fairly good outlets for physical fitness and self-confidence. But he believes that the techniques being taught are typically not effective in a real self-defense or bullying situations. The captain teaches a form of Krav Maga that is very simple, effective and easy to remember. The end result is that he creates a very steep learning curve with many students feeling more confident. Many are able to fend off a bully after only one lesson.
For example, I know a boy who attained an orange belt in martial arts. But in just one class with Even-Esh he learned more about how to handle bullies, along with specific techniques in self-defense, than he did in many previous martial arts classes.
Even-Esh is now training this boy and many other yeshiva boys around the country in Krav Maga. He teaches them practical methods to deal effectively with the bullies in their lives.
As a therapist, I know that these child bullies often struggle with serious self-esteem problems and bully others to feel momentarily better about their situation. The victims, however, still hurt from the bully’s taunts and threats. Dealing with bullies is often alien to our young sons who have parents who try to speak with each other with great love and respect.
Please remember that teaching middos is absolutely essential when instructing a child to defend himself or herself; after all, our mandate is to raise solid Torah-observant Jews. With this in mind, Even-Esh inculcates Torah and middos into his work and has even created the unique concept of a middos contract that his students sign. The contract emphasizes that all the taught techniques are to be utilized in a manner that is consistent with being a true ben Torah. This curriculum emphasizes the need for a ben Torah to defend himself as opposed to a ben Torah needing to accept being a victim.
Even-Esh’s work is potentially a true gift to bullying victims in our community as well as to those suffering from the pain of bullying others. He serves as an example of how to properly channel the true energies of bnei Torah. I recommend that all of my readers who are struggling to protect their children from bullies, as well as to adults coping with stress, anger and aggression issues, contact Captain Even-Esh. He can be reached at 917-376-3637. He is available for personal and group appointments.Dr. Yael Respler
About the Author: Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at www.jewishpress.com and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at www.dryaelrespler.com.
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