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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Assemblyman Dov Hikind’

Remembering Gush Katif

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

           Tisha B’Av is approaching, and with it, the awe-inspiring and painful memories I felt in when I visited Gush Katif, on a mission with Assemblyman Dov Hikind.


Three years ago I wrote to Anita Tucker, apologizing for never having offered her my personal support.  She had poured out her heart in an e-mail on Tisha B’Av, relating how she had just bought a used treadmill.  “I really feel just right on that walking machine – it fits our present situation perfectly.  I extend endless energies to move forward and no matter how hard I try and how much effort I exert I always end up in the same place.”

            June 2005 was a ridiculous time to pick myself up and go to Gush Katif.  But I sensed and knew what was at stake.  And I’ve never been able to fool and deceive myself when reality stares me in the face.  I remembered a short note I carry with me in my wallet.  The Klausenberg Rebbe, who lost his wife and 11 children during the Holocaust, once said that he thanks G-d that when Jews suffered so terribly he suffered with them and was not spared.  I picked up the phone and called Hikind’s office.  I booked my ticket and told my children, “I HAVE to go.”



Morag, Former Settlement in Gush Katif


            I think about Gush Katif every day.  The orange ribbon, faded and tattered, hangs from my car’s side window.  An orange bracelet hangs over a picture frame.  My e-mail address is l’zecher hachurban.  I have unbelievable, breath taking, moving and heart soaring pictures of Gush Katif, a world that was maliciously destroyed.  Did one have to be a Biblical prophet to see the ramifications and disaster of that destruction? 


In my mind I can still see Rav Avrohom Holtzberg from Crown Heights holding on to a tallit-wrapped Torah, on the plane and on the buses, carrying it until he could deliver it to one of the yishuvim.  I can picture the meals, the speeches and emotions at Neve Dekalim, whose mayor when addressing the crowd closed with the words, Hashem oz l’amo yeten, Hashem y’varech etchem b’shalom.  I see the beautiful shuls, homes and greenhouses.  I remember being welcomed with the sound of children singing heiveinu shalom aleichem in Netzarim; rushing to Sderot to offer support when a rocket fell in a living room, when it was not yet business as usual. I remember the cemetery, the davening mincha and saying Tehillim there.  I close my eyes and envision Kerem Atzmona where trees and shrubs were planted in honor of Suzanne Davis by her family.  I still have a picture of two of her grandsons lovingly and carefully planting one of those trees.  And all the time the words, Al kol eileh andal takor et ha’tikvah…” resound through my head and bring me to tears. 



Neve Dekalim, Former Settlement in Gush Katif



The unforgettable kumzitz we participated in brought back memories of kumzitzim in front of Har Hertzel when I attended seminary in Bayit VeGan.  I remember the unforgettable faces of the children being taught by the Zilberman method.  I see the gigantic nursery at Atzmona and hear the “come back in six months and you’ll see how everything’s grown, etc.”  And finally I remember the sea at the aptly named, Shirat Hayam. 


And the shuls, the shuls, the shuls.  I can’t speak for the Almighty, but I was all for blowing them up so that they not be used for the filthy purposes they are now being used for.  I can’t argue about kedushah rishona and kedushah shniya and all the justifications, both on the left and on the right. 


To me it seems simple.  The Arabs have one goal in mind – to destroy us.  Their faith is absolute, they are determined, and nothing stands in their way.  Think of leaving your children in a car to be blown up at a checkpoint as long as it also kills Israelis.  The terrorists at Entebbe were angels compared to the Arafat-bred Palestinians of today.  We tremble before them, instead of trembling before G-d.  They know it, and they smirk as we play into their foul hands.  The plain fact is that we have lost our resolve and are unfortunately, often governed by Jews who are not Jews.  The Jews in Gush Katif  lived ON the sand – the geniuses who maliciously removed the Jews of Gush Katif from their lands and homes – live with their heads IN the sand. 



Shul in Netzarim, Former Settlement in Gush Katif


            I walked around Gush Katif, looked at the people, the skies, the sea, the greenhouses, the nurseries and shuls.  Every day I listened to their stories and their mesirat nefesh, theirpurpose and total belief in G-d and in what they were doing.  They had an inner glow about them, a nachat ruach. The same look many Israelis had in the late 1950s and 1960s when I had the zechut to live in Israel and to sense what the people of Gush Katuf were feeling – hatzneia lechet im Elokecha. 

            Why use the word disengagement – disengagement from what?  It seems to me that we “disengaged” from our core, our Jewishness.  G-d and I never “disengaged” from each other.  He and my people, my fellow Jews are the essence of my being.  They are what defines us as Jews.  The Jews of Gush Katif truly defined themselves as Jews.  I said it then and I’ll say it again, that G-d will surely punish us for what we have done and for what we permitted.  During this period of time we cry for what our enemies have done to us throughout the ages.  To that we must now add what we have done to ourselves.  I see it as no coincidence that the expulsion was planned for right after Tisha B’Av. 

            I wanted to share with Anita Tucker that before I had read her e-mail, I had read a fascinating article by Yosef Y. Jacobson entitled “Intimacy in Flames.”  I wanted to share parts of it with her, to emphasize our bitachon, our optimism and everlasting love of G-d, and to try to offer some words of comfort to her.   

            The Talmud relates a profoundly strange incident that occurred moments before the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash:  When the pagans entered the Holy Temple, they saw the cherubs cleaving to each other…the “Holy of Holies” was seen as the spiritual epicenter of the universe.  Two golden cherubs – two winged figures, one male and one female – were located in the “Holy of Holies.” These cherubs represented the relationship between the cosmic groom and bride, between G-d and His people.

            Tradition teaches that when the relationship between G-d and His people was sour the two faces were turned away from each other, as when spouses turn from each other in anger.  When the relationship was good, the cherubs would face each other.  And when the love between G-d and His bride (Israel) was at its peak, the cherubs would embrace “as a man cleaves to his wife.” 

            When the enemies of Israel invaded the Temple…there they saw the cherubs embracing each other.  They dragged them out of the Temple and into the streets, vulgarizing their sacred significance. This seems bizarre…the relationship between G-d and His people was at its lowest possible point, for that was the reason for the destruction and the subsequent exile.  The Jews were about to become estranged from G-d for millennia.  The manifest presence of divinity in the world, via the Temple in Jerusalem, would cease; Jews and G-d would now be exiled from each other. 

            Yet, paradoxically, it was precisely at that moment that the cherubs were intertwined, symbolizing the most profound relationship between G-d and Israel.  How are we to understand this?

            Rav Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezrich gives the following explanation:  Based on the injunction of the sages that a man ought to consort with his wife prior to leaving home on a journey, the Maggid suggested that G-d, prior to His long journey away from home, expressed His intimacy with the Jewish people.  Prior to the onset of a long exile, the cherubs were intertwined, representing the intimacy preceding the journey. 

            What the Chassidic master was attempting to convey through this dazzling metaphor…was that at the moment of the destruction, G-d impregnated (metaphorically speaking) a seed of life within the Jewish soul; He implanted within His people a piece of Himself.  And for two millennia, this “seed” has sustained us.  The groom may have seemingly departed and been consciously concealed, often to an extreme, yet a piece of His essence was embedded within the Jewish people; a spark of divinity was sown into the Jewish heart. 

             Many empires, religions and cultures attempted to demonstrate to the Jewishpeople that their role in the scheme of creation has ended, or that it had never begun, luring them into the surrounding prevailing culture.  But the intimacy they experienced with G-d just moments before He “departed” left its indelible mark.  It imbued them with a vision, a dream and an unshakable commitment.  Throughout their journeys, often filled with extraordinary anguish, they clung to their belief that between them and the Almighty existed a covenant.  They not only absorbed the “seed,” they fertilized it, developed it and transformed it into a living organism. 

            At the moment the Temple was about to be engulfed in flames, redemption wasborn.  The intimacy between G-d and Israel at that fateful time produced a hidden seed that would eventually bring healing to a broken world.  The acknowledgement of generations of sages that Moshiach was born on the ninth of Av is testimony to the intimacy that has accompanied the milieu of estrangement and exile. Now we simply wait for the birth.  Nachamu, nachamu ami, yomar Elokeichem             I thanked Anita for showing the way.  And I thanked her for letting me pour out my heart to her and to G-d on that Tisha B’Av. 

            Tisha B’Av is again approaching.  Our situation seems bleaker, and even morefrightening.  I wish I could rise to the level of Rabi Akiva who laughed as he saw wolves walk on Har HaBayit.  But I am mired down in the here-and-now, fearful and lost in the destruction. 

            Yet, I feel and live that “seed of life” within my Jewish soul that Hashem  implanted in all of us.  It will continue to sustain me, to nurture me, and to help us all light up the darkness. 

            And in front of my eyes, I see the image of the people of Gush Katif and I remember.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communites – 7/03/09

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Dear Rachel,

Abuse is rampant in the Jewish community. How can I say that it is rampant? Well, I am a survivor of abuse. Including myself, I know of five people who were abused within a two-block radius. That is five people too many.

Dov Hikind has already gotten hundreds of calls from abuse survivors. This means there are probably thousands of Orthodox Jewish people who were, or are still being abused.

The abuse that I suffered could have been entirely prevented if I had been educated about this topic at a young age, but schools don’t address the issue. I went through the Bais Yaakov system and not one teacher discussed this topic. If I had been told the basics, nothing detailed, then my abuse wouldn’t have started in the first place.

As a result of not knowing about this topic, I suffered in silence for four terrible years. I am now traumatized for life. Even just walking out of my house brings horrific memories to my mind. I now suffer every day from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder.

Schools need to talk about this issue. Without knowledge, the chain just continues. Shoving the topic under the rug does not make it disappear. Is the Jewish community afraid that something terrible will happen if they educate their children?

I asked my therapist why she doesn’t go to schools to teach children on a basic level about the topic of abuse. She replied that schools won’t allow her to.

Jewish children need to be educated on the topic of abuse.

Guy Finley [in his book, The Secret of Letting Go] writes, “Trying to forget a fear is like trying to hold an inflated basketball under the water. It takes all of your strength and attention, and in time it must pop to the surface.” Making believe that abuse does not occur in our communities makes the entire situation one hundred times worse. It rears its ugly head in other ways. For me, my body is covered with scars, since that was the only way I knew how to deal with so much inner pain.

With education, the chain can be broken. An ounce of prevention is worth more than a thousand pounds of cure.

Some people may say, okay, let’s only tell the girls since it occurs only among young girls. Of the five people whom I know to have been abused, two of them are boys. Education is the only road to prevention. Without education, the chain just continues.

Do something about the situation. Stop the chain. Today.

Concerned about the future of Klal Yisrael

Dear Concerned,

Yes, the horrific scourge of abuse has been eating away at our hapless young, the injustice being the longstanding reluctance of individuals in a position of influence to pay heed to the unthinkable occurring in their midst.

Yes, we have been rudely awakened from our innocent slumber. To be sure, ours is a refined culture, one that is shaped by age-old Torah statutes that sculpt our way of life. Many of us, until recent times, would never have believed any of our people capable of perpetrating this type of heinous abuse.

Some will blame naiveté, others tend to accuse us of being ignorant, but even the world-wise among us were (and still are) of the conviction that such deviant behavior is an aberration in our community. As difficult as it may be for a suffering victim to accept, relative to secular society, abuse in our collective communities – though having gone unchecked for too long now – is not as widespread as the concentration of recent news flashes would have us believe.

But, alas, even one victim is too many, and as a charitable and good-natured people, our hearts cry along with every single victim we are made aware of. Every son and daughter is everyone’s son and daughter.

Courageous leaders such as Assemblyman Dov Hikind and noted educator Rabbi Yakov Horowitz are to be lauded for their tireless efforts to weed the bad seed from our beautiful garden. Moreover, they should have the support and backing of every decent, caring and clear-thinking Jewish soul.

You are totally justified in your outrage. You have suffered horrendous physical and emotional pain that most of us, thankfully, cannot begin to fathom.

Yes, we are responsible for one another, and yes, it is the duty of those in whose care we entrust our children to educate and enlighten them. (Parents must do their part and not rely solely on the school system.)

And, yet, the concept of our schools indoctrinating our young and innocent in the subject of abuse, (exposing their pure intellect to the existence of deviancy), is a difficult one to digest and relatively foreign to us as a whole. In this light it is understandable that your teachers did not think to warn you, to alert you and your peers to the ugliness that they never imagined would infiltrate our own private circles.

Now that the stark reality has hit us hard, we have no choice but to accept that we cannot rely on the insulation of our communities to protect our vulnerable young against predators, to concede that the era of innocence (if it ever truly existed outside of wishful thinking) is no more, and to unite in “arming” our children by educating them against unsuspected dangers that can chas v’shalom be their ruin.

Thank you for baring your pain and torment in the hope of sparing others the same.

May you know complete healing and merit to bask in endless joy of your own beautiful garden.

Please send your personal stories, thoughts and opinions to rachel@jewishpress.com

Deal With It: Becoming Part Of The Solution

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

One of the positive outcomes of the brouhaha regarding the harassment of Dr. Benzion Twerski – which led to his resignation from Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s panel on child abuse – was the realization on the part of many members of our community that they cannot afford to sit on the sidelines any longer. However, the question arises: “What can I do to become part of the solution?”

Last week, someone posted a comment on my website that sums up that sentiment pretty well in a short, but-to-the-point comment. Referring to Dr. Twerski’s treatment, she writes, “This is an outrage! This is horrible! But what can I, as an individual, do about this?”

Well, al regel achas (on one foot), here are some thoughts:

For starters, we should resist the knee-jerk reaction of blaming “the gedolim” for everything. These attacks are not constructive and will not save the fingernail of even one child. If you are disappointed or even upset with the response of rabbinic leadership to the abuse issue, “Deal With It,” as the kids say. And do something constructive with your passion and energy.

In the early 1990s, I was an eighth-grade rebbi and frustrated to tears at what “the system” was doing to the weaker talmidim I was teaching. I wrote a column, “An Ounce of Prevention,” submitted it to a mainstream publication, The Jewish Observer, which ran it, despite the fact that it pointed out fundamental flaws in our chinuch system.

At the age of 36, I was given an open microphone by Rabbi Moshe Sherer, zt”l – with no scripting whatsoever – at the 2006 Agudah Convention at a plenary session with 4,000 delegates, hundreds of rabbonim and several members of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah present.

I have proudly served as a department head of Agudath Israel for 12 years now in my capacity as director of Project Y.E.S. and never once have any of the gedolim, shlita, even suggested to me that I tone down my writings or remarks despite the fact that I am, well, outspoken at times (okay – often).

I was invited to several meetings of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah and the Rabbinic Board of Torah U’Mesorah to share feedback with our roshei yeshivos, shlita, about the at-risk-kids and their parents. And whenever I have the zechus of spending time with our gedolim, shlita, they thank me for my efforts to improve things for our children and offer their assistance.

So, if you want to make positive change in the arena of abuse prevention – and we all know that much change is sorely needed – roll up your sleeves and become part of the solution instead of complaining or just hoping that things will improve on their own.

· Organize lectures in your community to train parents and educators how to speak to their children about safety, privacy and personal space. These are very easily done in a Torah-appropriate manner. Awareness saves lives. It is just that simple. You cannot follow your children around for the rest of their lives, but you can teach them to have the self-confidence to ward off predators. My experience has shown me that pedophiles have a twisted sixth sense that immediately lets them know which kids are “safe” to molest and which are not. The ignorant and unaware ones are always the “safest.” To quote U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

· Reward and support the moderate, progressive educators. It is so frustrating to watch child-friendly programs get shot down time and again by judgmental communal attitudes. Principals who give children sufficient playtime get their schools branded as shvache (weak) mosdos. Schools that are tolerant in their admission policies or with the misdeeds of their students are often shunned and relegated to second-hand status. The result is that there are lots and lots of really great people in our chinuch system whose hands are frozen on the wheel – afraid to do reasonable things for the kids because they rightfully assume that it will be the “kiss of death” for their schools. I keep seeing this time and again – and I keep listening to such educators complaining to me that their hands are tied by parental pressure. “They” (our gedolim) didn’t create this mindset. We did. And we must stop this self-destructive behavior if we would like to see our schools initiate much-needed abuse-prevention programs.

· Do your homework and see what you can do to support organizations whose mission it is to prevent abuse and treat its victims. There are quite a number of established organizations that have programs for abuse prevention and/or treatment and several, which have been created over the past few years to address this issue.

One such effort is “Project Innocent Heart” (innocentheart.org, mail@innocentheart.org) founded by my dear friend, Dr. Sam Lupin and his wife Lynda, in memory of their beloved daughter Lois, a”h, who tragically passed away after a long bout with cancer. Innocent Heart is a visionary project looking to train therapists, help parents and educators teach their children about safety, and provide abuse victims with professional therapy on a sliding-scale payment basis.

Dr. Lupin prepared a budget that would allow for the treatment of 10 abused children in the first year – a number he felt was far more than a new, unadvertised program would attract. Well, six months later there are 25 children receiving help, and whenever I see Dr. Lupin in shul or around town, he tells me how he takes calls from parents of victims that leave him sickened and heartbroken, and he wonders how he will continue to fund this program.

So drop him a line and offer your support. Contact your local bikur cholim or other communal agencies and ask if they are providing services for abuse victims – and then offer to give your time and some of your charity funds to support their efforts.

To quote the Mishnah, “The day is short and there is much work to do.” We all know what the problems and challenges are regarding the abused and molested children in our community.

Let’s finally, “Deal With It.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/deal-with-it-becoming-part-of-the-solution/2008/09/24/

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