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October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘frum’

Credible Suspicion

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Note from Harry Maryles: Yet again I am going to dispense with my usual pre Yom Tov D’var Torah and cross post this important message from Rabbi Yakov Horowtiz’s website. I’m sorry to have to post on such a sad subject on the eve of one of our most joyous holidays. But the urgency of this matter compels me to do so.

Rabbi Necheyia Weberman is about to begin his trial on charges of sexually abusing of a young girl. One may recall the massive fundraising event held on Rabbi Weberman’s behalf. One may also recall that that some of his supporters were caught by authorities trying to bribe the chief witness (the victim) in this case to drop the charges. I think we can be sure that his community will continue to do everything they can to get him acquitted.

To put it the way Rabbi Horowitz did, Rabbi Nechemia Weberman deserves his day in court. Let us do what we can to make sure that on that “day” justice will indeed be served. His words follow:

After many delays and much legal wrangling, Nechemia Weberman will finally stand trial in Brooklyn Criminal Court on October 30th for allegedly abusing a young girl in the Williamsburg community over a period of three years — beginning when she was 12-years old.

Mr. Weberman is entitled to his day in court and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Having said that, quoting the Halachic terms employed in the Teshuva of Rav Elyashiv zt”l, there is clearly far more than raglayim l’davar (credible suspicion) in this case. In fact, all indications point to the inescapable conclusion that something is very, very wrong here.

What Parents Need to Know

One of the most important things frum parents – especially those in the “heimish” community – ought to be developing is a deep understanding of the norms and accepted practice in the mental health profession. Gaining this would allow devoted and caring parents the ability to obtain suitable professional help for their children who need it, and avoid the trauma associated with following the recommendations made by untrained, well-meaning folks (unfortunately, an all too frequent occurrence, one which sometimes creates horrific results).

Moreover, it would help undo the denial and cognitive dissonance of those who defend Weberman — by pointing out how disturbing were the circumstances of his “treatment” of the young girls referred to him.

Don’t Ignore the Warning Signs

Think of it this way. Wouldn’t alarm bells go off in your mind if a doctor performed an invasive procedure without using latex gloves or if he/she picked up a used syringe to give you an injection? Wouldn’t you think it strange if you were a single mother and were requested to meet with your son’s Rebbe or principal at 9 p.m. one evening in a deserted Yeshiva building to discuss your son’s progress?

What Went Wrong

Well, those of us familiar with the do’s and don’ts of accepted practice in the mental health profession saw similar blaring warning lights in our minds, as should have occurred when the facts were made public that Weberman:

(1) Had unregulated access to many girls over a number of years in his inappropriate and illegal role as their unlicensed “therapist.”

(2) Had these young girls referred to him for counseling by very Chassidish schools, whose general level of gender separation far exceeds those of the typical “Bais Yakov” (and it would be exceedingly rare for non-Chassidish girls’ schools to regularly refer their Talmidos to a male therapist)

(3) Engaged in private, unsupervised counseling sessions with young girls — often in an office/apartment that contained a working bedroom — violating all norms of yichud and tzniyus.

In addition to all these disturbing facts, it has become clear that these serious allegations are in fact not isolated ones. In fact, since Mr. Weberman’s arrest, I was personally contacted by immediate family members of four additional alleged victims of his who are afraid to come forward, and those of us close to the community have heard similar reports from others as well.

All the victims – none of whom know each other and all of whom are terrified to go to the authorities because of fear of backlash from the community – report striking similarities in the MO of Weberman (his manner of working), fueling suspicion that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

What is most chilling is that each and every one of his victims who came to us is currently married; meaning that (1) this has been going on for a very long time and (2) if there are current victims who are single, they are even more terrified than the married women of coming forward, for fear that going public will ruin their chances of doing a decent shidduch.

Weberman’s case may very well be our community’s most important abuse trial during our lifetimes. It is imperative that we have a huge turnout in support of this courageous young lady who, may she be gezunt andge’bentched, is determined to see this through to the end so others won’t suffer like she did. Unbearable pressure is being brought to bear against her and her family to drop the case, which is one of the reasons that a show of support is so important.

Now That You Know

Those of us who work with abuse survivors respectfully implore you to please, please stand with this victim on October 30th and with the other silent and silenced victims who are watching this case unfold very carefully and with all survivors of abuse and molestation.

Please pass this on to your friends and family members and I hope to see you at the trial, heeding the timeless charge of Yeshayahu (Isaiah) (1:16) to “Seek justice [and] strengthen the victim.”

Visit the Emes Ve-Emunah blog.

The Secret of Turning Misery into Happiness

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

By writing this letter I hope that my pain and frustration will cease.

While growing up, my mother had a tough and determined nature and always had the whip in hand when running the family. Contrary to her, my father was always kind, giving and forgiving.

My family was moderately Orthodox, but gradually my mother became more haredi. She changed her style of dress in conformity with the haredi dress code. She then forced all of us to become haredi.

I was about the age of 12, not too old (but still not too young) to willingly change. In all due respect to my mother, she impatiently forced and tortured me to change. She labeled me as the modern, “goyish” one. Her strictness, hitting and threats made me cry. I once felt like I was about to have a nervous breakdown but, baruch Hashem, it did not happen. All this led me to begin despising what I considered to be a lifestyle of frum meshugasim.

At 14 I was sent to a well-known yeshiva in Israel where I got some relief – but only a little. Whenever I called or came home, I was heavily criticized. My mother constantly saw me as a non-Jew.

In my mind, I hoped that life would sparkle when I got married. At least then I’d live my own life. When shadchanim started calling, I made it clear to my mom that with my greatest appreciation to her, I had a duty to outline my own independent future that was not parallel to hers. I begged her to please bring forth love and peace to my life and to find someone with whom I had more in common. I wanted a wife that would not dress or act as frum as my mother. As you can expect, she immediately refused, telling me that this was not an option. She decided that my wife would be just like her – including n the way she dressed.

Feeling like a prisoner, I went along with a shidduch she wanted for me. Baruch Hashem, the girl was sweet and beloved. But I held out hope that after the wedding I’d be able to ask my wife to gradually change. I knew this could cause problems, but I was hopeful.

Sadly, after 12 years of marriage and six children, my situation is the same; my wife is unwilling to change. As a matter of fact, contrary to what I had hoped for, the opposite is happening: my wife wants me to change. She says that I am too modern and should become more frum.

On the positive side we both understand each other’s position. I appreciate her for her good middos, and she appreciates me for studying Torah. But arguments about our differences abound, and our lives are so miserable – filled with darkness and seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel.

Dr. Respler, please help me. Thank you.
Anonymous

Dr. Yael and Dr. Orit reply:

Dear Anonymous:

Despite our best intentions to help bring an end to your pain, it is unrealistic for you to expect us to do so based on an anonymous letter. Nonetheless we will do our best to deal with the issues you raised in a general manner, while at the same time suggest that you seek professional help and speak to a rav that you trust.

The fact that your wife has good middos is probably more important than you realize. You appear to have many correct values and it seems that much of what you are upset about revolves around other issues that have little to do with your inner feelings. Are these issues really important to you? Do you think that you can reach some sort of compromise with your wife, where you meet somewhere in the middle regarding the other issues?

You write about being miserable in your marriage, but that does not come from disagreements about “some issues.” When did the way people dress and act become everything we stand for? Do you and your wife share any of the same views? Of course you will have challenges if you want to raise your children differently from each other and if you have different views on Yiddishkeit, but if you want to remain frum (which seems apparent from your letter) and both of you are willing to compromise there is no reason to allow these issues to make your lives miserable.

Gulliver’s Sukkah

Friday, September 28th, 2012

A Toldos Aharon child is playing with the frum equivalent of a doll house in Jerusalem. And, as you can see from the dangling power cord, his little marvel of a sukkah even has light in it at night. Perfection.

Nancy and I received delivery on our first “eternal sukkah” yesterday, and since it was too much of a schlep to take it upstairs, we decided to start building it right there and then, in the parking lot behind our building.

Following the instructions on a crumbled piece of paper, we put the thing together the wrong way so many times, until a kind neighbor—who also attends my shul—and his son, a crafty boy—couldn’t stand seeing our suffering and offered a helping hand.

It was a little like the Amish barn raising, I suppose, where all the neighbors get together and help a newlywed couple build their first barn.

We continued to do everything twice and three times – tied down the wooden slats for the roof schach, then took them down to wrap the frame first with the tarp that came with the sukkah. Then, seeing as we connected the door upside-down, we had to make adjustments there.

The sun was beating on me, I drank one of those useful little supermarket water bottles in a single gulp and move on to the next one, my entire body ached, I stood tall on a ladder where I had no business doing a balancing act – but in the end we did it, with the door right side up and the window finally not facing the wall, and the schach nicely spread on top.

For 30 years we’ve been celebrating Sukkot in the communal sukkah at 577 Grand Street, where you share the sukkah meal experience with a hundred neighbors. And while we have are some lovely memories from those meals, it will be a thrill to have our sukkot in Netanya, in our own sukkah.

The neighborhood cats have been showing a keen interest in the new structure and are trying to figure out a way to get in. We hope the tarp zippers will hold… Also, there’s a guy parked right next to our sukkah. He has the whole, near-empty parking lot, but, no – he has to park next to our little candy box picture of a sukkah.

Friday I’m going to park our own Chevy there, to block him. All I need is for some semi-conscious driver to back into my precious… No…

A gut yontif!

Revaluing Motherhood

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

It is ten o’clock in the morning. I am at a local park with my daughter. A number of children are climbing and sliding, imbibing the fresh air. In their orbit are a smaller number of women, some milling around on foot, others sitting on the benches conversing and minding strollers. Trailing my own child, I play a silent game: Who is a Mommy? Which, if any, of these women (who range from lovingly attentive to disturbingly disengaged) are the children’s mothers, and which are babysitters?

These days, a majority of women in the frum community go to work. Whatever the calculus, few make a full-time occupation of childrearing. This is not a value judgment but a fact. Whereas frum women juggling career and family once felt alone and disparaged, their struggles and triumphs are now much better appreciated within the Orthodox community. Whether in Flatbush, Teaneck, or Yerushalayim, it’s not hard for a stressed-out working mother to find fellow gainfully employed n’shei chayil who know just what she’s going through.

Those of us who toil full-time in motherhood have become a minority, our numbers decreasing as the younger generation embarks on family-building in a Jewish world where working mothers are the norm.

When I was a child, only a couple of my friends’ mothers worked. Both worked in the neighborhood, one on a part-time schedule. No one was picked up by a babysitter, though grandparents figured prominently at pickup time. There were afternoon play dates, occasional midday runs to school to drop off a forgotten assignment or permission slip, and a generally less frenetic sense of pacing. Today, a majority of mothers in my children’s schools work in some capacity outside the home. The landscape has changed. The cultural tide has shifted.

Undoubtedly, financial pressure is the primary factor that has led so many Orthodox women into the workforce. I am not, chas v’shalom, here to criticize working mothers or judge the very personal calculations that go into each woman’s decision. It is what it is, as they say. Living a religious life, raising a frum family – in many cases just getting by at all – takes an awful lot of money these days. (Even without expensive vacations or Jacadi yontiff outfits for the kids.) And regardless of the reasons behind it, working does not, in and of itself, make one a lesser mother, or a better one, any more than not working does.

Good parenting is, as our pediatrician would say, “multi-factorial.”

Before I go further, let me offer a little background. I worked for several years after college in the publishing field, then (still single) returned to school for a law degree, then (newly married) worked in that field for a couple of years, and then, after the birth of my first child, took maternity leave and never went back.

Here I am, five years later, a stay-at-home mother (I prefer the term “full-time mother”). We are neither rich nor poor. There is no money tree in our backyard – living in an apartment, we don’t actually have a backyard – so we struggle like the rest of the masses. But my being there to care for our children – physically, emotionally, spiritually – is of supreme value to my husband and me, and with siyata d’Shmaya we have managed so far.

And let me tell you: It’s lonely out here. When my oldest was a baby, I was part of a Mommy & Me group organized by another frum mother. Of the six women who participated, half now work. When my second child was a baby, a friend and I wanted to organize a Mommy & Me group but had a hard time finding enough Mommies to join. Eventually, we managed to form a small group, which included one babysitter and two mothers who have since gone back to work. Last year, I joined a women’s rosh chodesh group that meets, with babies and toddlers in tow, to watch a Torah-inspired video presentation one morning each month. Now, as we try to shore up membership for the new Jewish calendar year, it’s harder than ever to find women who are available to come.

No, I am not looking for sympathy. I feel truly fortunate to be in this position. But it is worth noting that full-time mothers these days are hard-pressed to find the kind of moms-in-the-trenches camaraderie that provided much-needed support to similarly situated women in the past.

All You Need Is Breslov

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

A planeload of frum guys made its way on Wednesday to Uman, in the Ukraine, for the Rosh Hashanah festivities, despite some unexpected delays (wildcat strike) at Ben Gurion airport. As most everyone visiting these pages knows, Uman is the burial place of Reb Nachman of Breslov.

Reb Nachman, the great grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of modern chassidut, taught us how to speak to God in regular conversation “as you would with a best friend.” And he taught us about hitbodedut – self-seclusion, through which we can establish a close, personal relationship with God and gain an understanding of ourselves.

I don’t expect there will be much room for seclusion in Uman this coming holiday, what with thousands of Breslovers roaming the streets and packing every standing edifice. But, maybe, if you’re really good at it, you can find yourself even in a huge crowd.

Struggling With Homosexuality

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

The interplay between Torah values and psychological/societal ethics has always been an interest of mine.  I find beauty in the challenge of trying to straddle the fence between the two worlds.    At one point in history, the field of psychology was dominated by Sigmund Freud’s (often considered to be the “father of psychology”) ideas of sexuality and determinism (technically, that we do not have free-will).  The world of Torah rejected most of Freud’s views and thus rejected most of the world of psychology.   Besides, the Torah world viewed most mental health issues as being Hashkafic or religious issues and so they were reticent towards sending people to therapists and not Rabbonim to deal with issues.

But the divide between psychology and Torah was not only because the Torah world rejected psychology.  Oh no, psychology had very few pleasant things to say about religion in the early days.  Although Jewish, Freud rejected religion as being a form of neurosis (or a mental disorder) for most of his life.  Many psychologists in the early and mid-twentieth century (and some until today) often tried convincing their patients that religion was either a symptom of a mental disorder or a major contributor to their mental health problems.

Boruch Hashem we live in a world where the field of mental health is much more congruous with Torah.  The last fifteen years has seen an explosion of frum mental health professionals.  There are therapists who work across the spectrum of frumkeit and there are Rabbonim in all communities who refer their constituents to therapists when needed.

However, there continue to be issues in the mental health world that challenge frumkeit.  The current most publicized controversial topic is how we as a community handle situations of child molestation.  Licensed mental health professionals have a legal obligation to report situations of abuse to the authorities.   Mental health professionals usually advocate this point of view.  Many Rabonnim and frum institutions do not agree that this it is right to report these allegations to the secular authorities and, at the very least, limit reporting in some way due to socio-religious values.

Another very sensitive topic where modern psychological thinking conflicts with Torah views is the issue of homosexuality.  The Gemarah in Kiddushin (82a) indicates that homosexuality is not something that Jews have to deal with because “Jews are not suspect to be homosexual”.  In fact the Rambam (Issurei Biah 22:2) uses this Gemarah as a basis for a Halachik ruling.

On the other hand, Freud has suggested that all people, by nature, are created with some inherent homosexual desire. The world today is filled with gay rights activists (many of them mental health professionals), frum ones as well.  So, how do we understand this Gemara and Rambam in the light of the many people who present to therapy struggling with this issue?  How to understand the divide between the Torah’s values and what the secular world suggests, quite vehemently, as being the only way to look at things?  It is an issue that unfortunately causes so much pain and suffering in our community and is often completely misunderstood by many people.  More significantly, it is an issue that is being raised more frequently in mine and my colleague’s offices.   In writing this article, I hope to raise awareness that therapy can help people who struggle with homosexuality.

While I do not work solely with people who struggle with homosexuality, the following are some vignettes of the types of situations that present themselves in my office.  I have fabricated these cases to protect the anonymity of the people I actually work with but they accurately reflect the content of my work.  Shloimy is a 16-year-old boy who was found to be acting on his desires with a peer in Yeshivah.  He has been admonished by the Mashgiach in the past but this has not stopped Shloimy’s behavior.  The Mashgiach has involved Shloimy’s parents and suggested that Shloimy discuss things with a therapist to help him better understand his sexuality.  Shloimy agrees.

Dovid is a 25-year-old Yeshiva bochur learning in a prominent Yeshivish Yeshiva.  He has been going out on Shidduch dates with different women for the last two years.  He has recently told his Rosh Hayeshiva that his anxiety connected to dating has to do with his years of confusion about his sexual attraction to other men.  Although Dovid has rarely acted on these desires, the sheer fact that he has them causes him significant uncomfortability, you see- Dovid has no feelings of attraction to women.

Preventing Wedding Waste And Wedding Waist

Friday, August 17th, 2012

With the Three Weeks and its social restrictions as they pertain to simchas behind us, heimishe Yidden everywhere are “dusting off” their party clothes, taking their jewelry out of the safe and getting ready to attend a multitude of weddings – with some people invited out on an almost daily basis.

While all weddings are beautiful – some are more “beautiful” than others, with no expense spared by the chosson and kallah’s proud parents, to provide a magnificent send off for their children as they begin their new life together.

Which is a great thing – may we all know from simchas – but a reality that can also be problematic. For after attending lovely, opulent weddings over the years, I have come to the conclusion that for both host and guest, extravagant weddings, like cigarettes, are quite enjoyable (so they insist) but are bad for you – physically and financially.

Many of the young men getting married intend to spend several years learning, or are in college/graduate school. This means that someone will have to provide the funds to pay the bills. Since the couple will likely have a family sooner than later, and the wife will work part time – or full time and have a chunk of her salary go to pay for childcare -the burden of support often falls on one or both sets of in-laws.

Supporting the young couple, often in the style they are accustomed to, means that their parents, even if they are relatively “comfortable,” have an additional financial obligation that is not fiscally or physically healthy. Don’t forget, these middle-aged mothers and fathers (aging baby-boomers) are likely paying several yeshiva/seminary tuitions, as well as dealing with the extra daily expenses of living an Orthodox lifestyle.

Therefore the question begs to be asked – wouldn’t it be more sensible to make a less lavish, less expensive simcha, and use the money saved to pay a year’s rent for the new couple? Since there are so many expenditures in setting up the young couple’s household, why not minimize the pressure on the ones paying the bills?

For those who are very wealthy and “money is no object” and can afford to make a big splash for their kids, wouldn’t it be a mitzvah (in the merit of a happy life for their children) if the parents made a less lavish simcha and instead donate the money to a hachnasat kallah organization, so that those in real need can have a wedding they can remember with pride?

So, how does one cut down on one’s wedding expense, yet make a simcha the guests will still thoroughly enjoy?

Since food is arguably the biggest expense, (kosher food seems to be getting more and more costly, especially when the simcha is out of the New York metropolitan area), why not just serve less food? So much of it is wasted anyhow.

I suggest the baal simcha provide either a smorgasboard before the chuppah, with several hot and cold choices, or a dinner after the chuppahbut not both. Most guests eat to their fill at the smorg, which often contains fish, chicken and beef dishes, as well as pasta, vegetable and fruit salads. There is no need, a mere hour or so later, to provide a multi-course dinner, followed by a mouth-watering, calorie-laden Viennese table, resplendent with cakes, pastries, nuts, candy etc.

Instead, after the chuppah, a small dessert table should suffice, perhaps with some light salads, allowing the guests to wander around and socialize (as opposed to being seated and meeting only the guests at the table). That would allow for more dancing, which could last an hour or two after the young couple makes their appearance. No doubt the emotionally exhausted chassan and kallah would appreciate being left alone a bit sooner than later, especially with a full week of sheva brachot ahead of them.

At any rate, since most of the guests have gorged themselves at the smorgasboard, much of the food offered at the dinner is barely eaten. Just how much can a person consume? While some leftover food can be given to food pantries, much is thrown out. A piece of beef that obviously was partially eaten by a guest who wanted to taste the lovely piece of meat on his plate but was too full – from fressing at the smorg – to actually eat it, ends up in the garbage. A sad, unnecessary waste of food and money.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/on-our-own/preventing-wedding-waste-and-wedding-waist/2012/08/17/

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