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December 6, 2016 / 6 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘child’

The Miracle Of A Child

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

There is a mystery at the heart of Jewish existence, engraved into the first syllables of our recorded time.

The first words of God to Abraham were: “Go out from your land, your birthplace, and your father’s house . . . And I will make you a great nation . . .”

In the next chapter there is another promise: “I will make your children like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust of the earth, so shall your offspring be counted.”

Two chapters later comes a third: “God took him outside and said, ‘Look at the heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’ Then He said to him, ‘So shall your children be.’”

Finally, the fourth: “Your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.”

Four escalating promises: Abraham would be the father of a great nation, as many as the dust of the earth and the stars of the sky. He would be the father not of one nation but of many. What, though, was the reality? Early in the story, we read that Abraham was “very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.” He had everything except one thing – a child. Then God appeared to Abraham and said, “Your reward will be very great.”

Until now, Abraham has been silent. Now, something within him breaks, and he asks: “O Lord God, what will you give me if I remain childless?” The first recorded words of Abraham to God are a plea for there to be future generations. The first Jew feared he would be the last.

Then a child is born. Sarah gives Abraham her handmaid Hagar, hoping that she will give him a child. She gives birth to a son whose name is Ishmael, meaning “God has heard.” Abraham’s prayer has been answered, or so we think. But in the next chapter, that hope is destroyed. Yes, says God, Ishmael will be blessed. He will be the father of twelve princes and a great nation. But he is not the child of Jewish destiny, and one day Abraham will have to part from him.

This pains Abraham deeply. He pleads: “If only Ishmael might live under Your blessing.” Later, when Sarah drives Ishmael away, we read that “This distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son.” Nonetheless, the decree remains. God insists that Abraham will have a son by Sarah. Both laugh. How can it be? They are old. Sarah is post-menopausal. Yet against possibility, the son is born. His name is Isaac, meaning “laughter”:

Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

Finally, the story seems to have a happy ending. After all the promises and prayers, Abraham and Sarah at last have a child. Then come the words which, in all the intervening centuries, have not lost their power to shock:

After these things, God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I will show you.”

Abraham takes his son, travels for three days, climbs the mountain, prepares the wood, ties his son, takes the knife and raises his hand. Then a voice is heard from heaven: “Do not lay a hand on the boy.” The trial is over. Isaac lives.

Why all the promises and disappointments? Why the hope so often raised, so often unfulfilled? Why delay? Why Ishmael? Why the binding? Why put Abraham and Sarah through the agony of thinking that the son for whom they have waited for so long is about to die?

There are many answers in our tradition, but one transcends all others. We cherish what we wait for and what we most risk losing. Life is full of wonders. The birth of a child is a miracle. Yet, precisely because these things are natural, we take them for granted, forgetting that nature has an architect, and history an author.

Judaism is a sustained discipline in not taking life for granted. We were the people born in slavery so that we would value freedom. We were the nation always small, so that we would know that strength does not lie in numbers but in the faith that begets courage. Our ancestors walked through the valley of the shadow of death, so that we could never forget the sanctity of life.

Throughout history, Jews were called on to value children. Our entire value system is built on it. Our citadels are schools, our passion, education, and our greatest heroes, teachers. The seder service on Pesach can only begin with questions asked by a child. On the first day of the New Year, we read not about the creation of the universe but about the birth of a child – Isaac to Sarah, Samuel to Hannah. Ours is a supremely child-centered faith.

That is why, at the dawn of Jewish time, God put Abraham and Sarah through these trials – the long wait, the unmet hope, the binding itself – so that neither they nor their descendants would ever take children for granted. Every child is a miracle. Being a parent is the closest we get to God – bringing life into being through an act of love.

Today, when too many children live in poverty and illiteracy, dying for lack of medical attention because those who rule nations are focused on fighting the battles of the past rather than shaping a safe future, it is a lesson the world has not yet learned. For the sake of humanity it must, for the tragedy is vast and the hour is late.

 

Adapted from “Covenant & Conversation,” a collection of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s parshiyot hashavua essays, published by Maggid Books, an imprint of Koren Publishers Jerusalem, in conjunction with the Orthodox Union.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Young Jewish Child Hurt in Stoning Attack Near Tekoa

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

A five-year-old child was hurt Sunday afternoon when Arab terrorists attacked the car in which he was riding as it traveled south between the Jewish community of Tekoa and the Amos Junction in eastern Gush Etzion.

The child was injured by flying glass from the windshield as it was smashed upon impact from the rocks that were thrown. He was treated at the scene and then evacuated to Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center in Jerusalem with a head injury.

Travelers in a second vehicle, traveling north, also came under a stoning attack on the same road by Arab terrorists at around the same time, but escaped injury, although their vehicle was also damaged.

Israeli security forces were deployed to search the area for the attackers.

Hana Levi Julian

Orthodox Needs Addressed At Florida’s Largest Child Welfare Event

Monday, October 10th, 2016

Mark Rosenberg, director of operations at Jewish Community Watch, delivered a presentation at the largest child welfare event in Florida, the 2016 Child Protection Summit, sponsored by the Florida Department of Children and Families.

The annual event, which began September 7 at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes in Orlando, drew over 2,800 child welfare professionals.

Jewish Community Watch is a nonprofit organization dedicated to combating child abuse, specifically child molestation, within the Jewish community. Founded in 2011, it has quickly established itself as the leading organization dealing with this issue, having had much success educating the public about the prevalence of child abuse and how to prevent it. It has also acted as a support system for victims throughout the healing process, including working with law enforcement and investigators to report abuse.

In addition to his role at JCW, Rosenberg is a long time chaplain to multiple law enforcement agencies and the director of Chesed Shel Emes (CSE) Florida Division. Well aware of the unique struggles survivors in the frum community face, Rosenberg’s presentation educated the gathered professionals about the intricacies of his community and how to best help victims and their families. His in-depth talk covered the rich familial and communal culture of religious Jewry as well as the sensitivities often involved in reporting abuse.

The summit was attended by attorneys, case managers, child advocates, child protective investigators and supervisors, child protection team staff, child welfare trainers, court staff, DCF staff, relative and non-relative caregivers, foster and adoptive parents, guardians ad litem, judges, law enforcement, juvenile justice professionals, educators, service providers, and youth.

“I am blessed to have had the opportunity to bridge the gap between child care survivors, investigators, law enforcement and the Jewish community,” said Rosenberg. “Thanks to Jewish Community Watch, as well as many other organizations and individuals, the Jewish community has taken tremendous strides toward understanding and combating child abuse. I hope that as a result of our presentation on the intricacies of our community, these professionals can do their job with an increased sensitivity, creating a fluid relationship between all parties that can result in ridding the community of this horrific issue.”

The groundwork for the presentation was put in place during a March meeting in Tallahassee between Florida Department of Children and Families secretary Mike Carrol, chief of staff Jane Johnson, Rabbi Schneur Oirechman, and Chaplain Mark Rosenberg. Secretary Carrol suggested that Rosenberg prepare a presentation for the investigation community on the various needs and circumstances of the Orthodox community.

“Florida is the state with the second largest Jewish population in the U.S and the secretary saw this as an important endeavor,” said Rosenberg. “On behalf of the Jewish community, we graciously thank Secretary Carroll for having devoted his entire career to protecting vulnerable children and for inviting us and giving us the opportunity to participate in the summit.”

Shelley Benveniste

Preparing Your Child For A Successful School Year

Monday, September 19th, 2016

The new school year has just begun and with it comes a whole host of obstacles and challenges that can hinder your child’s success.

The best way to prepare children for a good year is to sit down with them, in a quiet space, and discuss the expectations, responsibilities and, perhaps, any fears they might have about the coming year. Some children are nervous about getting up on time for the bus, others with keeping up with the homework and some with social expectations. Listen to your children, emphasizing the positive growth they experienced last year, no matter how small, and role-play any potentially challenging scenarios. Remind them that last year came and went, and so will this coming one.

The number one way to avoid many of the typical challenges that could delay a child’s success and growth in the coming years is by utilizing a well-thought out routine. Speak with your child about a typical day, and delegate which of you would be responsible for what. It would be a good idea for him or her to write down or draw a list of the responsibilities. It’s a great memory tool and will ensure a good day in school and at home.

For example, the list could include:

Clean laundry – Parent is responsible for providing clean laundry, child is responsible for laying out his clothes the night before and telling parent if a particular item is needed for the coming day.

Backpack – Child is responsible for bringing home notes to parent, parent signs all the notes, child repacks backpack for next day.

Lunch – Parent will do the shopping, child will help prepare lunch and make sure dirty containers are in the sink every afternoon, etc.

The list should be as extensive as possible and will provide a framework for a child to feel empowered and in control of his daily schedule.

Homework

You may have seen the new policy issued by a public school that announced the extension of the school day and less homework. Until our schools implement that policy, we are faced not only with long school days, but plenty of homework to complete afterwards. Afternoons are precious, as the hours seem to disappear before it is time to go to bed.

It is best to avoid playdates during the week so that when a child comes home from school, he can focus on dinner and completing his homework in a quiet, relaxed manner. Ask the child if he would prefer to do homework as soon as he comes home so that he can relax the rest of the evening, or after dinner, when he has had a chance to take a break.

Bedtime

Very little throws a child off his routine than an irregular bedtime. Until the teen years, a typical child needs approximately 11 hours of sleep a night. Making an early bed time a regular habit is the easiest way to avoid any fights about going to bed.

Food

A child who is early to bed is early to rise, and that gives her ample opportunity to eat a hearty breakfast with whole grains and healthy protein. A solid breakfast paired with healthy snacks will help the child avoid indulging in the fast foods most schools call lunch, thereby enabling her to continue focusing on her afternoon classes, instead of falling into a carb-induced coma. For those parents who are courageous enough to avoid school lunches completely, it is best to prepare the fixings the night before, and have your child take the early morning time to pack his lunch box.

There will be times when you and your child will get overwhelmed with the responsibilities of an older grade, but remember as we head into the new year that after finishing a 12-week summer vacation and approaching a month of Jewish holidays, quickly followed by Chanukah, mid-winter vacation, etc., etc., there is hardly any school anyways, and the year will be over, hopefully for the better, before you know it.

Pnina Baim

300 Orthodox Rabbis Unite To Combat Child Sexual Abuse Epidemic

Monday, August 29th, 2016

In an unprecedented step, 300 Orthodox rabbis signed a proclamation regarding child safety in the Orthodox Jewish community. In it, the rabbis call upon synagogues and schools are called upon to adopt certain preventative measures outlined in the document in order to deter child abuse and child sexual abuse. The signatories invited to sign this proclamation consisted of member rabbis of the Orthodox Union (OU), Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and Yeshiva University (YU).

Some of the proclamation’s prominent signers include: Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, Av Beth Din, Beth Din of America; Rabbi Mark Dratch, Executive Vice President, RCA; Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO, OU Kosher; Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Executive Vice President Emeritus, OU; Rabbi Zevulun Charlop, Dean Emeritus, RIETS, YU; Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, Rabbi, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and Principal at Ramaz School; and Rabbi Emanuel Feldman, Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Beth Jacob of Atlanta. Rabbi Mark Dratch, who assisted in spearheading this initiative, applauded the “overwhelming support” of the signers and appeals to all communities “to implement the policies advocated in this statement.”

The proclamation commences by honoring the memories of the individuals in the Orthodox Jewish community who tragically have committed suicide as a result of enduring child sexual abuse. The gravity of this issue is linked in the proclamation to a passage in the Torah, “Do not stand by while your fellow’s blood is being spilled” (Leviticus). Prominent signer Rabbi Hershel Billet, Rabbi, Young Israel of Woodmere, succinctly expressed the gravity of the effects of child sexual abuse: “Every sexual abuser is a potential murderer. They destroy the souls of their victims and at times cause the death of their victims.”

The proclamation stresses, “We condemn attempts to ignore allegations of child sexual abuse. These efforts are harmful, contrary to Jewish law, and immoral. The reporting of reasonable suspicions of all forms of child abuse and neglect directly and promptly to the civil authorities is a requirement of Jewish law.” Exclusive to this proclamation is the clear assertion that, “there is no need for people acting responsibly to seek rabbinic approval prior to reporting.”

“Since abuse of children is a life threatening crime, we must report immediately,” Rabbi Billet said. “We must trust responsible civil authorities in a just country to be able to separate fact from fiction.” Claims that “snitching” to secular authorities about a Jewish sex offender is prohibited clearly has no basis in Jewish law. Michael Salamon, PhD, clinical psychologist and noted expert in this field, said, “The longer it takes to report the more time the abuser has to keep abusing and creating alibis. Only trained investigators with proper professional team support (e.g. police, medical, etc.) can investigate. Asking anyone else about reporting just delays or confounds or completely derails a proper investigation. That is why so many abusers have been able to move to different communities and continue to abuse.” Signer Rabbi Yosef Blau, Senior Mashgiach Ruchani, RIETS/YU, said, “Requiring a victim of sexual abuse to first gain approval from a rabbi or therapist before reporting the abuse to the authorities is damaging to the victim, whose credibility has been questioned, and hampers the investigation by possibly affecting the description of what occurred.

“Rabbis who have been consulted have often used concerns for the image of the community to discourage the victim and his or her family from speaking to the police.” Dr. Salamon said that “Therapists can lose their license if they attempt to investigate. Be aware that the overwhelming majority of reports – in the vicinity of 95%, or more – are accurate. It takes a lot for someone to finally come forward and tell someone that they have been abused.” The fear that without rabbis sifting through allegations there would be a high percentage of false allegations is similarly incorrect.

Jewish Press Staff

To Prey or To Pray: Child Molesters in Shul

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

In life, we all have our heroes. And I, like everyone else, have a few people whom I consider heroes. One of those heroes is a survivor. No, not of the Holocaust–but her own personal Holocaust. Rivka Joseph is a survivor of molestation, abuse and other horrors that she had to face. Fortunately for many others, she is not only a survivor but also an advocate in the arena of child sexual abuse. With regularity, I follow her posts and the various threads in which she comments.

This afternoon, I began to follow a post of her’s and also even commented on it. That thread (for which I have her permission to share and can be seen on her Facebook page link above) discusses a very important topic. Convicted sex offenders, child molesters: Do they have a right to pray in a synagogue. Should a shul open its doors to a child sex abuser? Should we worry that the abuser is there to PREY and not to PRAY? Should we try to be welcoming and perhaps enable this soul to repent in our midst?

The answer to that question is a resounding NO! Under no circumstances should a convicted child sex offender be permitted in the walls of a shul. No exceptions! You chose to molest, rape, fondle, abuse a child: YOU HAVE FORFEITED YOUR PRIVILEGE TO PRAY WHERE KIDS ARE PRESENT! Why in the world would you even think it would be ok? On what planet would it be ok to put a child molester into a place (shul) that is supposed to be a safe environment?

If you want to have a minyan, ask nine other men to come over to your house and daven with them. But, never ever feel you are entitled to go to a place where children are davening. Rather than listen to MY words, listen to the words of an expert–Rivka Joseph:

“There are a number of reasons why we cannot allow these abusers in our shuls. The first being that it is impossible to keep an eye on our children every single second in shul. That is not a reflection on our parenting. It is the reality of life- and good parents allow their children age appropriate autonomy. Shul should be a safe place for our children, somewhere were they feel comfortable coming to daven and hear the Torah. It should be associated with pleasant memories, not ones of abuse.
The second reason is that when you allow someone into the shul, the children view that person as someone who is “OK.” That is where the grooming process starts, even if no abuse happens within the shul walls. If the abuser approaches a child later and says “come on, you remember me. You see me all the time in Shul on Shabbat,” then, the child associates this person with someone who is good and ok to be with. This is a very dangerous road to go down.”

I echo every word Rivka says in her post. And it is for this reason I urge every single shul to have a WRITTEN policy in their by-laws that strictly prohibits convicted child sex abusers from EVER entering into their building. Shuls have rules about which caterer can work in their kitchen out of concern to maintain a high level of Kashrut. Yet, in most cases, these same shuls are bereft of a policy regarding molesters.

We, as a community, have a responsibility to our children! We can not foster a situation in which our children are not safe. Please, in the strongest terms possible, I urge you to take action at your next Board Meeting or through whatever mechanism you use in your shul to pass a motion to add rules that will protect your children–our children. And never say “it won’t happen here.” That kind of statement, sadly, has led to many children becoming victims of child sexual abuse.

Rav Zev Shandalov

No Child Should Be A Castaway

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

Many years ago, my maternal zaidie, HaRav HaGaon HaTzaddik Tzvi Hirsh HaKohn, zt”l, who was an eminent rosh yeshiva in Hungary as well as the chief rabbi of Budapest, pointed out the difficulty in comprehending the passage in the Torah (Genesis 25) that states Yitzchak loved Eisav because of the venison (game) Eisav brought him.

Can anyone imagine that Yitzchak – a tzaddik, the epitome of sanctity and spirituality who was prepared to be sacrificed and who offered his life to G-d, who was bound on the altar and saw angels hovering over him shedding tears, whose soul reached the heavens above – would love Eisav because he brought him venison? Is it venison Yitzchak yearns for? Can such a scenario be conceivable?

“So how do we understand this?” my zeidie asked.

He then proceeded to explain that the word in the Torah that is used for venison is tzayid, which also means “weapon.” The very fact that the holy patriarch was able to love his wayward, wicked son is the weapon with which he was able to defend all Jews who strayed from the path.

“If I, a man of flesh and blood, am able to love my son unconditionally, surely You, Almighty G-d, whose compassion and love are infinite, have to love us, Your children, unconditionally”…and that was the most powerful defense the Jewish people had.

To illustrate this passage, my grandfather related the story of the Rebbe of Tzernovitz. He too had a rebellious son. The members of his congregation were so outraged by the boy’s behavior, and so fearful he might have a terrible influence on the other young people in the community, that they appointed a committee to take the matter up with the Rebbe himself. They were certain that once he was made aware of the problem, he would banish his son.

It was a few days before Yom Kippur when they came to the Rebbe’s house. They found him immersed in penitential prayers.

“Almighty G-d,” the Rebbe’s voice came piercing through the door. “I know full well that we, Your people, are not deserving of Your favor. I admit that we have transgressed Your commandments, but nevertheless, I beseech You to forgive and bless us with a year of good and plenty. And should You argue that I have no basis on which to make such a request because Your Jewish people are not deserving of Your bounty, then I will tell You that others may not, but I, the Rabbi of Tzernovitz do, for I am a father, and my son has also rebelled against me. And yet, I tell you my G-d, that if someone were to suggest that I disown him, that I cast him away from my sight, I would throw that person out, for no matter what, my son is still my son.”

The members of the committee, hearing the prayer of their Rebbe, trembled with shame. Without uttering a word, they left.

Now, unbeknownst to the Rebbe and to the committee, the errant son also heard his father’s prayer. Unable to contain himself, he broke down and wept inconsolably. In the midst of his tears, the boy made a silent vow that he would justify his father’s unbounded love.

Indeed, this has always been the Jewish attitude toward our rebellious children, Every parent must consider that casting a child out may cause him to further fail. At least while he is at home, he still sees a Shabbos, a Yom Tov; he still hears the voices of his parents, even if it appears that he doesn’t listen, doesn’t hear.

Moreover, while he is at home the parents can engage someone who has experience with such children and can work with them. Most important, the child will know in his heart that his parents love him unconditionally – and that, in and of itself, is strengthening.

Our patriarchs, our matriarchs, and our sages knew that in the neshamah of every Jewish child is a pintele Yid, and even if it appears to be smoldering, that pintele Yid can be reignited and overnight become a powerful flame. We dare not lose sight of that.

Nevertheless, there are many parents who voice their concern about keeping such a child at home. They fear he could destroy the shidduch opportunities of siblings. They fear he might influence other children in the family to go off the derech.

Oh, I am well aware of the arguments people put forth – “It’s easier to follow the bad than the good”; “It’s easier to fall through the cracks than to stand up straight and walk on the path of Torah”; “It wouldn’t work, my son/daughter is too far gone – he/she just won’t listen”; ”If they try, they will just end up in a nasty fight”; “Rebbetzin, you don’t begin to understand what goes on in our house – my son comes home at crazy hours and don’t know where he was or what he is up to, he drinks, he smokes….”; “You can’t imagine how he/she dresses. It’s an embarrassment!”

I know all that, yet I will tell you the power of love is the only thing that can reach them. Yes, the power of unconditional love and kindness goes a long, long way – and I speak from real experience rather than from some abstract theory.

It is with this approach that I established Hineni and have reached out to our people. This teaching that my holy parents engraved upon my heart has guided me throughout my life.

I have dealt with many teenagers who have been cast out of their homes and schools, and once again I must emphasize that the most potent way to reach them is with berachos and love. I am not saying this is easy. It is a terrible nisayon for all concerned.

I understand it is easy to be overcome by rage, but we have to bear in mind the consequences and ask ourselves what will be accomplished if we yell and scream and call the teenager derogatory names. On the other hand, if I hold my temper, respond calmly, and show him I am sad rather than mad, I have a shot at reaching him. Not in vain did our sages teach us: “Who is wise? – He who foresees the future.”

Obviously, our sages were not referring to prophecy, but to foreseeing the consequences of our actions.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/no-child-should-be-a-castaway/2016/08/04/

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