Raising children with ample love and attention is crucial, as has been stressed in this column numerous times.
Not long ago we also devoted space to the subject of discipline, discussing its merits as well as the disadvantages of resorting to the “strap” as a means of keeping children in line.
Recently, an engaging young man happened to come to our attention. Once a shattered soul, Mendy (not his real name) has surmounted enormous odds and, Baruch Hashem, finds himself today in a much better place with confidence in his future prospects.
We are grateful to Mendy for giving us the okay to offer our readers a glimpse into his past and some highlights of his struggles and triumphs. It is our hope that Mendy’s powerful message will penetrate the reader’s heart and will touch lives in a positive way.
Rachel: Mendy, today at the age of 24 you are wise and mature beyond your years, and yet not so long ago you were a mixed up kid who had no idea what planet he was on, let alone able to focus on life ahead. How and when did you spiral so badly out of control as to lose any sense of time and reason?
Mendy: For as far back as I can remember, I was unhappy. Not only were my parents always quarrelling, but my siblings and I suffered endless abuse.
Did you at least find some peace and solace during those hours you were in school, away from home?
Not at all. In the cheder I attended through fifth grade [in Brooklyn] I was bullied by other kids and got hit almost every day.
You mean the other children beat up on you? Couldn’t you get the rebbe or principal to intervene and put a stop to this?
Well, not exactly. I got hit by the rebbe because I wasn’t keeping up or when I was slow in responding
What happened after the fifth grade?
I transferred to a yeshiva in Far Rockaway which was much better for me, but the home situation didn’t improve. When I was 16, my parents made aliya in the hopes of salvaging their broken relationship.
Did the move to Israel prove to be a positive one for you personally?
Hardly. My parents actually ended up separating before long, eventually divorcing, but that didn’t do anything to still my mother’s rage.
Your mother “raged” even after your parents were separated and your father was no longer living in the house? Whom did she rage at?
Here’s an example of the type of incident we were exposed to. My mother once took a bottle of apple juice away from my younger brother because she didn’t want him drinking it. She then poured the contents over his head and began beating him with the bottle.
Didn’t you guys have older siblings to lean on for physical and emotional support?
No. Two of my older brothers stayed behind in New York. They had actually moved out of the house much earlier, just as soon as they were financially able to be on their own.
How did you cope with so much misery?
If you call hanging out with the wrong crowd, drinking and doing drugs coping
What about your father? What was your relationship with him like?
After he moved out of the house I saw him only occasionally, but we were not close. However, I’ll never forget his reaction when I once told him how low I had sunk and divulged to him the bad things I was into. To his credit he said he still loved me, that I was still his son. That’s more than I ever got from my mother.
So how did you finally crawl out of the gutter?
An “angel” from America actually plucked me off the streets (in Israel) and arranged for me to stay at Ohr Samayach, which became my new home.
And you transformed right then and there?
Not quite. My mother could no longer torment me, but my friends and the bad habits I was into were still very much a part of my daily existence.
I suppose your mind could take you back to many low points in your young life, but how would you describe your lowest?
I had gone out with friends to have a good time I remember that it was my 18th birthday. We partied and drank, and I became very drunk. My “friends” ended up abandoning me, and there I was, stranded in the middle of the street, stone drunk, retching and feeling more miserable and alone than I had ever felt in my whole life. I still recall the endless flow of tears streaming down my face.
How did you pick yourself up and get past that night?
Somehow, out of the blue, a guy whom I had gone to yeshiva with in Far Rockaway happened by. He recognized me, helped me to my feet and got a cab to take me home.
What did that horrible experience do for you?
It was a sobering lesson. I never wanted to experience such feelings of helplessness and loneliness again and was determined to crawl out of the hole I was in, no matter what it would take.
So how did you finally make it back here to American shores?
The same person who had originally arranged for me to stay at Ohr Samayach eventually scheduled and supervised my trip back to Brooklyn.
Let’s see if I got this right: A virtual stranger picks up your signals of distress on an Israeli street and not only helps you escape the clutches of parental abuse but perseveres until he manages to save you from self-destructing by bringing you back here.
Do angels like that really exist among us?
To Be Continued
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