web analytics
May 27, 2015 / 9 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Off The Derech And The Community

 (Names and situation changed)


 


Our communities, unfortunately, are faced with many crises in today’s world. One that has become quite familiar to well spouses and others is children that are off the derech (no longer religious). In my interviews with well spouses I came across two stories that I think can teach us a great deal about how we as individuals in a community can help and hinder a child as he struggles with his feelings about being religious.

 

Dan was a well spouse. He had five sons. They had all made their adjustment to his wife’s chronic illness differently. Four of his son’s had taken different religious paths. One had been attracted to Chassidus, another to a Modern Orthodox academic path. The other two fell somewhere in between. Yet they all got along well and enjoyed each other’s company. The fifth son had, however, become irreligious.

 

Despite his pain, Dan kept his fifth son close, doing everything he could to not have him go further and further down the irreligious path, while trying to bring him closer. His fifth son was his most sensitive. Dan tried to overlook the change in clothes, the earring, the tattoo and all the other trappings and stay focused on the wonderful, caring, giving son that was under all the exteriors.

 

It was not uncommon for community members to criticize Dan’s son if they saw him not helping his chronically ill mother to the degree they thought was proper. They were always quick to offer him criticism, compare him to a sibling, and tell him how awful he was for worrying his parents.

 

Dan decided to take advantage of a day when his son had no school and took him along to his day of work. His son accompanied him from one kosher establishment to the next. They had time to chat in the car between stores and Dan thought the day was progressing well. Dan had been able to listen to his son’s feelings and his son was finally being open and honest about just how angry he felt about illness, confused about religion and his place in the community. It was the first time in a long time he was not hiding behind silence.

 

And so the day went well until they entered the last store. When the owner asked about the boy (as each of the other store owners had) Dan introduced his son. The storekeeper’s eyes widened. “That’s your son?!” He yelled. “Aren’t you ashamed of how he looks…of who he is? No wonder his mother is so sick.”

 

Dan was swift to react. He told the storekeeper how proud he was of his son and of his wonderful “middos.” He told of how much he did for his mother. And then, he told the storekeeper that he should get to know his son, instead of judging him by how he looked. Years later, when Dan’s son had come back to leading a religious life, he confided to his father how the man’s comments had made him feel justified for his off-the-derech behaviour. It verified, to him, that the community hadn’t accepted him and therefore he didn’t belong. He also told his dad that it was his Dad’s comments of pride in him, despite his appearance, that had help push him to consider coming back to a religious way of life.

 

When children are off the derech, or are thinking about going off, they will often expect − and almost look for − negative comments from people within the community.

 

(Unfortunately, they are rarely disappointed.) They behave in a manner or dress in a manner that seems to almost dare anyone to make a comment. These comments only serve to justify their feelings of not fitting in and reinforce their decision to leave the community.

It is very important for community members to be careful of what they say and how they say it. Negative comments serve only to push these children, and any children, further away and, in their mind, justify where they are going.

 

The issue of going off the derech is a complicated one. There is no one cause or one contributing factor. But being positive and finding positive things to say to all our teens can only contribute to a feeling of belonging and can’t help but encourage them to want to belong to our community instead of distancing themselves from it. This is something we can all do. And you never know when your positive comment may be the one to have a child rethink leaving the fold.

 

You can contact me at annnovick@hotmail.com

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Off The Derech And The Community”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Organization President Mohammad Sarafraz.
US Claims ‘No More Extensions’ on Nuclear Talks with Iran
Latest Sections Stories
Road sign in Russian and Yiddish greeting visitors on the road just outside Birobidzhan. (photo by Ben G. Frank)

Birobidzhan railway station sign is the world’s only one spelling the town’s name in Yiddish letters

Ayelet Shaked

She’s seen as a poster child for The Jewish Home’s efforts to reach beyond its Orthodox base.

Teens-Twenties-logo

Girls don’t usually learn Gemara. Everyone knows that.

Lewis-052215-Jewish-Soldiers-logo

Mordechai and his men shared a strong mutual loyalty.

“Can I wear tefillin in the bathroom?” That was the question US Private Nuchim Lebensohn wrote to Mike Tress, president of the Agudath Israel Youth Council, in a letter dated November 18, 1942. Lebensohn was not your typical young American GI. Polish by birth, he was forty-three years old and married when he was drafted […]

To what extent is your child displaying defiance?

This therapist kept focusing on how “I could do better,” never on how we could make the marriage work.

Mistrust that has lingered after the fiasco in Ferguson, Missouri, has edged the issue forward.

“The observance of a kosher diet is a key tenet of Judaism, and one which no state has the right to deny,” said Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy of the Orthodox Union.

Two weeks of intense learning in the classroom about Israel culminated with Yom Ha’Atzmaut. Students attended sessions with their teachers and learned about history, culture, military power, advocacy, slang, cooking, and more.

The nations of the world left the vessel to sit rotting in the water during one of the coldest winters in decades and with its starving and freezing passengers abandoned.

Rabbi Yisroel Edelman, the synagogue’s spiritual leader, declared, “The Young Israel of Deerfield Beach is looking forward to our partnership with the OU. The impact the OU has brought to Jewish communities throughout the country through its outreach and educational resources is enormous and we anticipate the same for our community in Deerfield Beach as well.”

Our goal here is to offer you recipes that you can make on Yom Tov with ingredients you might just have in the house. Enjoy and chag sameach!

More Articles from Ann Novick

When one is blind one learns to use Braille to read. When one cannot walk, a wheelchair gives mobility. Sign language allows a mute person to speak and ocular implants assist in hearing when one is deaf. These are all compensatory strategies that help a person function despite his disability. But compensatory strategies are not just for physical problems. Understanding our psychological weaknesses and setting up our lives to ensure that we are not tempted to repeat our past mistakes, is as necessary as any aid to the disabled.

Well spouses have often discovered that their friends and relatives, despite their closeness to the situation, often don’t realize the tremendous emotional impact living with chronic illness has on the family. With the best intentions, suggestions, ideas and criticism are offered, based on the non-experience of those with healthy families. Even when the good intentioned get a taste of the difficulties, it is sometimes not enough for them to then identify and understand what the family of the chronically ill must face on a constant basis.

Over the past two weeks I have shared letters from a therapist and a well spouse. Both of the letters gave personal insights into the process of losing hope, how we react when that happens and some ways of coping when test scores, diagnosis and just simple repetitive behavior indicate that change for the better is impossible.

Dear Ann,

I’ve read your last few articles on psycho-neurological testing (Oct.8-22) with interest. As a therapist who has counseled couples dealing with chronic illness, I’d like to give you another perspective.

Dear Ann,

Your articles on the Neuro-Psychological Testing were right on (October 8-22). My husband underwent testing twice and your articles explained it things exactly the way they were. Besides the test, we also tried therapy.

Very often when we can’t face our big hurts or big loses we focus on the little ones. We can discuss those. We can cry over the small loses, be angry at the smaller hurts even though it may look trite and sound ridiculous to others.

Over the last two weeks we have been discussing one way in which well spouses can determine whether behavior displayed by their ill partners is caused by their illness or is a way they have chosen to act. We have focused on Psycho-Neurological testing, what it can tell us, as well as its pros and cons.

Last week I discussed a question that haunts many well spouses: not knowing if the difficult and often inappropriate behavior frequently displayed by their partners are caused by the disease and therefore not-controllable, or if the behavior is a choice the spouse makes and can therefore be changed. This doubt can be the source of much frustration and many marital disagreements. One way of alleviating this doubt is by having a psycho- neurological work up done. But that path is not so simple.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/off-the-derech-and-the-community/2008/04/16/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: