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November 24, 2014 / 2 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Miami Beach’

Charter-School Debate Roils U.S. Orthodox Communities

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

The Yeshiva Elementary School, an Orthodox institution in Miami Beach with about 450 students, was in dire straits in late 2008. It was behind on payroll, in significant debt and facing financial collapse.

So its administration contemplated taking what would have been a revolutionary step: splitting the school for grades K-8 into two distinct institutions – one for religious studies, one for secular studies. Like most Jewish day schools, Yeshiva Elementary had a dual curriculum encompassing both spheres of study.

Under the proposed plan, secular subjects would be taught in a publicly funded charter school that would be open to students of all religious backgrounds. Jewish studies would be taught later in the day at an off-site, private supplementary school.

In tough times, the plan could reduce overall operating costs passed on to the parents by hundreds of thousands of dollars, and school officials said that a respected rabbinic authority had granted them a heter, or religious exemption, to pursue the charter school option. But when the administration brought the proposal to its parent body, the idea triggered vehement objections – and opponents, who were urged on by at least one local synagogue, lined up several prominent rabbis to speak out against the idea.

The opponents “had a meeting and came up with a ruling that it should not be done,” said one school official who did not wish to be identified. “We are not planning to go against the gedolei Yisrael,” or leading sages.

Though the plan was shot down, the very fact that an institution like Yeshiva Elementary – a school on the right of the religious spectrum – would

even consider such an option underscores the scope and urgency of the financial challenges facing the Orthodox world as it attempts to maintain its decades-old commitment to universal day school education. And it also reflects the growing willingness of some parents and school officials to consider more affordable alternatives.

For several years some have pushed charter schools, which receive government funds but are exempt from many regulations, as an alternative for Jewish children outside the Orthodox world. The Ben Gamla Hebrew Charter School, for example, generated headlines and debate when it opened in 2007 in Hollywood, Fla., pledging to teach Hebrew and Jewish history and culture, but not religion. In New York, a group backed by philanthropist Michael Steinhardt and others recently gained approval to open a charter school in Brooklyn and now plans to seek approval to open similar schools elsewhere.

But charter schools have long been a tough sell for those, especially in Orthodox circles, who are wary of sending their children to school with non-Jewish children or too many Jewish children from irreligious households. And there is the issue of the curriculum: Many Orthodox parents and educators do not see Hebrew language studies as a satisfactory alternative to Jewish and biblical instruction.

So even though the Ben Gamla school offers supplementary Jewish studies outside of its state-sponsored course load, many Orthodox families in the area have never seen it as an alternative to day schools.

“No one wants in dealing with the tuition crisis to water down Jewish education,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, the dean of the Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future in Manhattan. “But you are finding for the first time a whole bunch of organizations across denominational lines in the Jewish community all focused on this.”

Indeed, JESNA and the Lippman Kanfer Institute recently published a 47-page study on how day schools could cut costs. The survey, which was developed in conjunction with a number of organizations and institutions, including Yeshiva University, also suggested several alternatives to day schools – among them charter schools.

Rabbi Saul Zucker, the director of the Orthodox Union’s Department of Day School and Educational Services, spent the first few days in March in Florida consulting with some of the founders of the Ben Gamla school to see if there was a way to adapt the model to better serve the Orthodox.

In some areas, an increasing number of Orthodox parents are openly advocating for some way to integrate their students into the public school system.

In late February, several hundred parents attended a meeting in Englewood, N.J., to discuss creating a Hebrew immersion program within the town’s public school system that could open as soon as the 2009-10 school year. And in the Five Towns of Long Island, N.Y., a heavily Jewish area, Orthodox parents are mulling the creation of a supplementary school system, according to Marvin Schick, the senior consultant to the Avi Chai Foundation, which has spent millions of dollars helping to seed and expand day schools.

But such ideas are still likely to be a tough sell in the Orthodox community, especially on the furthest right edge of the spectrum – as evidenced by the quick kibosh put on the Yeshiva Elementary proposal.

From the beginning, the haredi establishment has given charter schools the resounding thumbs down.

“We are not pro-charter schools. They are not replacements for a yeshiva education, and anyone who can imagine they could be are fooling themselves,” the spokesman for the Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America, Rabbi Avi Shafran, told JTA.

“There is no end around the fact that Jewish education is a Jewish education and that can only happen in a Jewish institution with a Jewish curriculum. And because our nation does not permit religious instruction in public schools, there is no way to avoid the need that Jewish parents have for yeshivas.”

Agudath Israel, rather, is advocating that the Jewish community see day school and yeshiva education as a communal responsibility and that philanthropists large and small step up to help make it more affordable. In addition, Agudah has been a fierce proponent of school vouchers, with the hopes of providing new streams of revenue that could be used to reduce tuition costs.

Nicki Salfer, a consultant on the Yeshiva Elementary project who also runs charter schools in Cleveland and Miami serving homebound, hospital-bound and special needs children from religious families, has seen firsthand the reluctance of the haredi community to consider charter schools.

Five years ago Salfter started Virtual Schoolhouse, her charter school in Cleveland, specifically to help Jewish special needs children, securing the cooperation of every local Jewish day school. The school, which now educates 500 students in total, once boasted 300 Jewish ones, but the figure has dropped to 100 because “a lot of the parents decided that they didn’t want their kids with non-Jewish kids,” she said.

“They are desperately afraid of something like this and losing control of the secular education, and being forced to teach evolution and sex ed, the standard stuff you learn in a public school,” she said.

Getting involved in the process at Yeshiva Elementary, she added, felt like she had “walked into a war zone.”

Though many parents supported the charter school initiative, other Yeshiva Elementary parents were so concerned that they immediately raised upwards of $100,000 to help the school become financially solvent, at least temporarily.

“They don’t understand that we do have control over the education” at charter schools, Salfer said. “We just have to follow state standards, as does any state school. They have this perspective and they are wrong, and it will take a long time to change that perspective.” (JTA)

Charter-School Debate Roils U.S. Orthodox Communities

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009


The Yeshiva Elementary School, an Orthodox institution in Miami Beach with about 450 students, was in dire straits in late 2008. It was behind on payroll, in significant debt and facing financial collapse.


So its administration contemplated taking what would have been a revolutionary step: splitting the school for grades K-8 into two distinct institutions – one for religious studies, one for secular studies. Like most Jewish day schools, Yeshiva Elementary had a dual curriculum encompassing both spheres of study.


Under the proposed plan, secular subjects would be taught in a publicly funded charter school that would be open to students of all religious backgrounds. Jewish studies would be taught later in the day at an off-site, private supplementary school.


In tough times, the plan could reduce overall operating costs passed on to the parents by hundreds of thousands of dollars, and school officials said that a respected rabbinic authority had granted them a heter, or religious exemption, to pursue the charter school option. But when the administration brought the proposal to its parent body, the idea triggered vehement objections – and opponents, who were urged on by at least one local synagogue, lined up several prominent rabbis to speak out against the idea.


The opponents “had a meeting and came up with a ruling that it should not be done,” said one school official who did not wish to be identified. “We are not planning to go against the gedolei Yisrael,” or leading sages.


Though the plan was shot down, the very fact that an institution like Yeshiva Elementary – a school on the right of the religious spectrum – would


even consider such an option underscores the scope and urgency of the financial challenges facing the Orthodox world as it attempts to maintain its decades-old commitment to universal day school education. And it also reflects the growing willingness of some parents and school officials to consider more affordable alternatives.


For several years some have pushed charter schools, which receive government funds but are exempt from many regulations, as an alternative for Jewish children outside the Orthodox world. The Ben Gamla Hebrew Charter School, for example, generated headlines and debate when it opened in 2007 in Hollywood, Fla., pledging to teach Hebrew and Jewish history and culture, but not religion. In New York, a group backed by philanthropist Michael Steinhardt and others recently gained approval to open a charter school in Brooklyn and now plans to seek approval to open similar schools elsewhere.


But charter schools have long been a tough sell for those, especially in Orthodox circles, who are wary of sending their children to school with non-Jewish children or too many Jewish children from irreligious households. And there is the issue of the curriculum: Many Orthodox parents and educators do not see Hebrew language studies as a satisfactory alternative to Jewish and biblical instruction.


So even though the Ben Gamla school offers supplementary Jewish studies outside of its state-sponsored course load, many Orthodox families in the area have never seen it as an alternative to day schools.


“No one wants in dealing with the tuition crisis to water down Jewish education,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, the dean of the Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future in Manhattan. “But you are finding for the first time a whole bunch of organizations across denominational lines in the Jewish community all focused on this.”


Indeed, JESNA and the Lippman Kanfer Institute recently published a 47-page study on how day schools could cut costs. The survey, which was developed in conjunction with a number of organizations and institutions, including Yeshiva University, also suggested several alternatives to day schools – among them charter schools.


Rabbi Saul Zucker, the director of the Orthodox Union’s Department of Day School and Educational Services, spent the first few days in March in Florida consulting with some of the founders of the Ben Gamla school to see if there was a way to adapt the model to better serve the Orthodox.


In some areas, an increasing number of Orthodox parents are openly advocating for some way to integrate their students into the public school system.


In late February, several hundred parents attended a meeting in Englewood, N.J., to discuss creating a Hebrew immersion program within the town’s public school system that could open as soon as the 2009-10 school year. And in the Five Towns of Long Island, N.Y., a heavily Jewish area, Orthodox parents are mulling the creation of a supplementary school system, according to Marvin Schick, the senior consultant to the Avi Chai Foundation, which has spent millions of dollars helping to seed and expand day schools.


But such ideas are still likely to be a tough sell in the Orthodox community, especially on the furthest right edge of the spectrum – as evidenced by the quick kibosh put on the Yeshiva Elementary proposal.


From the beginning, the haredi establishment has given charter schools the resounding thumbs down.


“We are not pro-charter schools. They are not replacements for a yeshiva education, and anyone who can imagine they could be are fooling themselves,” the spokesman for the Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America, Rabbi Avi Shafran, told JTA.


“There is no end around the fact that Jewish education is a Jewish education and that can only happen in a Jewish institution with a Jewish curriculum. And because our nation does not permit religious instruction in public schools, there is no way to avoid the need that Jewish parents have for yeshivas.”


Agudath Israel, rather, is advocating that the Jewish community see day school and yeshiva education as a communal responsibility and that philanthropists large and small step up to help make it more affordable. In addition, Agudah has been a fierce proponent of school vouchers, with the hopes of providing new streams of revenue that could be used to reduce tuition costs.


Nicki Salfer, a consultant on the Yeshiva Elementary project who also runs charter schools in Cleveland and Miami serving homebound, hospital-bound and special needs children from religious families, has seen firsthand the reluctance of the haredi community to consider charter schools.


Five years ago Salfter started Virtual Schoolhouse, her charter school in Cleveland, specifically to help Jewish special needs children, securing the cooperation of every local Jewish day school. The school, which now educates 500 students in total, once boasted 300 Jewish ones, but the figure has dropped to 100 because “a lot of the parents decided that they didn’t want their kids with non-Jewish kids,” she said.


“They are desperately afraid of something like this and losing control of the secular education, and being forced to teach evolution and sex ed, the standard stuff you learn in a public school,” she said.


Getting involved in the process at Yeshiva Elementary, she added, felt like she had “walked into a war zone.”


Though many parents supported the charter school initiative, other Yeshiva Elementary parents were so concerned that they immediately raised upwards of $100,000 to help the school become financially solvent, at least temporarily.


“They don’t understand that we do have control over the education” at charter schools, Salfer said. “We just have to follow state standards, as does any state school. They have this perspective and they are wrong, and it will take a long time to change that perspective.” (JTA)

Leaving The Fold

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

I grew up in a Modern Orthodox Jewish community in Miami Beach. Nearly all of my childhood friends remain observant. But that kind of predictability – whereby those raised observant could be expected remain so – is a thing of the past. Every week I meet and receive e-mails from formerly observant teenagers and twenty-somethings who have left Orthodoxy. This includes a not insignificant number of chassidic youth.

When I joined Chabad before my bar mitzvah, it was almost unthinkable that children from that community – the majority of whom give their lives to the Jewish people by choosing to go to the far corners of the globe on shlichus – would choose to be non-observant. That is no longer the case today.

The same is true of other chassidic communities. I recall a lecture I gave at the 92nd Street Y a few years back when several former Satmar chassidim came up as a group to introduce themselves. They had no yarmulkes or beards and a few had tattoos. I much appreciated their candor in sharing with me how far they had drifted from Judaism, but wondered what could have so thoroughly alienated them from their heritage.

I ask the same question of the non-practicing chassidic youth who often join us for Shabbat and holiday dinners at our home.

Several theories are offered as to why some Orthodox young people are leaving. Many believe it is because Orthodoxy is no longer insulated from mainstream society. Still others argue it is simple mathematics: with more Orthodox children being born, it makes sense that a larger number will choose to leave Judaism.

One rabbi told me we should focus not on the growing number who leave but on the overwhelming majority who choose to stay put, which, numerically speaking, is quite an achievement.

Perhaps. But for Orthodox Jews, who have long advocated – rightly so – that education is the key to observance, it should be simply unacceptable to see a significant number of young people rejecting a Torah lifestyle.

I cannot claim to know all the causes for their exit, but I have learned this about disaffected Orthodox youth: a big part of the problem is distracted parenting. We in the Orthodox community justifiably pride ourselves on our strong families. But because of our large families and our considerable religious duties, Orthodox parents usually face greater pressures than those faced by parents in other communities.

The net result is that we are sometimes not as engaged with our children as we ought to be and delegate their Jewish upbringing to teachers and the general community.

Take synagogue, for example. More and more shuls are creating youth services where the expectation is that young children will not pray with their parents but will immediately be farmed off to a youth director. Is that a good thing? Isn’t it a parent’s responsibility to teach a child to behave in synagogue and pray rather than have the child go to a youth service where he or she is given pretzels and taught to sing Adon Olam?

And even if the youth service is as comprehensive as the main service, isn’t this the one day a week a father gets to pray with his children?

We may also want to begin questioning at what age it is appropriate for children to be sent away from home to yeshiva. To be sure, a dormitory experience can be very rewarding, as it was for me from the age of fourteen. But there is no substitute for a child receiving the affirmation of loving parents. We need to open more yeshivas in more places so that youngsters won’t need to be sent out of town at too young an age.

There is no mitzvah to save the entire world even as our own children go lost. As we think about the various ways we can improve ourselves in the coming year, being better parents should be at the very top of the list.


Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the international bestselling author of 20 books. His website is www.shmuley.com.

Marital Roles (Conclusion)

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

Is It Really Such A “Big Deal”?
(Or Is It A Power Play?)

Are you the kind of spouse that dominates your partner by finding everything “major”? Consider the following to help you have some insight into whether this description is true of you or your spouse:

1. Make a list of how many things this past month you considered “major” – things you felt strongly about. Your spouse should do the same for him/herself. Be honest with yourselves. If you felt it necessary to disagree with your spouse, or if your spouse agreed but you would have made a clamor if he or she had not, then it’s “major”. What does your list look like?

2. Make a similar list of how many things you feel your spouse considered “major,” this week. Your spouse should do the same in regard to you.

3. Review your lists together. Did you find many more things to be considered “major” than your spouse? If you and your spouse disagree about whether one of you considered something “major” (for example, you say he found haggadas a major issue and he says he didn’t), talk it out. Perhaps your spouse doesn’t realize how forceful he is.

Sometimes people disagree for the sake of disagreeing and not because it means so much to them. They need to realize they are doing this. Create a signal with your spouse that asks whether this is a moment when he or she is feeling strongly about something, or if he or she is simply playing “devil’s advocate”. The signal can be something as simple as asking, “Is this major to you?” On the other hand, look at the possibility that your spouse isn’t really making a big fuss about things. Perhaps when he asks a simple question like, “Why do you think the boys need to change karate schools?” you take it to mean he’s second-guessing you and disagreeing. Maybe it really isn’t “major” to him but rather that he just wants to feel part of certain decisions.

4. Look deeper within yourselves. If you realize that you’re finding too many things “major,” work to try to understand the reason. Perhaps you’re trying to overpower your spouse so you can feel more “in control.” Are you feeling weak in this relationship, or do you feel that others in your past have pushed you around? Are you overcompensating for feeling unheard in past years, by making sure you’re heard too much in your marriage?

Are you following your parents’ marital pattern and creating a similar relationship, in which one spouse carries the strong opinion? Ask yourself, “Who else in my life had strong opinions?” On the other hand, if you never find anything important enough to have a strong opinion about, consider that as much of the problem. What stops you from having strong feelings about something? Are you afraid to stand up for yourself? Discuss these deeper issues and learn about each other, while resolving to help each other change in the future.

This is the last of my series on developing proper “roles” for your marriage in order to argue less and develop a healthier atmosphere for your family. Whatever you decide together will be right for your “couple-hood,” will unite both of you and allow each of you to approach those areas with the confidence that you’re not alone in your marital work.

RABBI NEUMAN is a Florida licensed psychotherapist and author of two books, Helping Your Kids Cope With Divorce the Sandcastles Way (Random House) and Emotional Infidelity, How to Affair-proof Your Marriage and Other Secrets to a Great Relationship (Crown). He and his work have been featured many times on The Oprah Show, Today, The View and in People, Time and elsewhere. He lives with his wife and five children in Miami Beach, Florida. For more information on his work, visit www.mgaryneuman.com or e-mail changingfamilies@mgaryneuman.com.

Marital Roles (Fourth Of Five Parts)

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

Is It Worth The Argument?

(It’s A Lose-Lose Situation When The Goal Is To Win)

  Although in my past columns I’ve discussed the importance of inviting differences into life in or­der to grow through seeing other perspectives, there is a good reason to limit discussion of your dif­ferences when it comes to making decisions. There are very few decisions in life worth fighting for. If it will not be included in your memoirs, it isn’t worth the disagree­ment. That china pattern or model of TV can’t be impor­tant enough to upset the one you love, or threaten the warm marriage you want. To show each other why you think differently is fascinating and even fun, but when it comes to making a decision, you don’t want to feel as though you need to prove your point to your spouse.

Respecting differences means listening to and under­standing your spouse. When all you care about is winning or proving your point, I guarantee you’re not truly lis­tening. So when it comes to a decision, state your opin­ion, listen to your spouse and allow the person in charge of that area to make the ultimate decision, because your partnership has placed that spouse in that role.

This is how any other successful system works. Partners know that there will be disagreements that will not always be easily resolved. So the person in charge of that department should genuinely listen to his or her partner’s opinion, discuss it and consider all or part of it when making the decision. We can’t put all our energy into each decision. So we split the decisions. We are not avoiding our differences, but using them stra­tegically in a way that respects the many demands our busy schedules place on us.

What has always fascinated me about the time and energy we put into decision making is that we seldom truly know whether we’ve made the right decision. Decisions have a way of revisiting you, years in the fu­ture. You can point to something you once thought was a bad decision and then, years later, realize something great happened because of it. Consider three major de­cisions you’ve made in your life. Were they the “right” decisions? Are you sure today that if you had done some­thing differently, it would have been better or worse? Did these decisions cause the exact outcome you antici­pated? Few people I’ve counseled can draw a straight line from point A to point B.

Before making a decision with your spouse, remem­ber that right or wrong doesn’t enter into the discussion as much as understanding each other’s feelings and thoughts Through the ability to make a joint decision, you and your spouse will feel closer. Ultimately, that feel­ing is more important to your lives than the outcome of any specific decision. After all, if you and your spouse have a horrible fight over an investment, and in the end you make money on the investment, is your quality of life better compared with the love you drained out of your marriage? What is your priority?

When couples fight about a decision regarding their children, I explain that no matter what the outcome of the decision, it can’t possibly outweigh the damage the children will suffer because the marriage had to sustain such fighting, When a couple told me they had fought openly and bitterly for days about which board­ing school they should send their “difficult” child to, I felt so sad for this “difficult” child. I sympathized with the parents’ stress and their wish to do what was best for their child, but they had lost sight of what was really important. Couples who fight like this over childcare is­sues are not helping their children. Ironically, they for­get that what is truly going to help their children more than the “right” decision is a warm, loving home, which begins with a warm, loving marriage.

 

RABBI NEUMAN is a Florida licensed psychotherapist and author of two books, Helping Your Kids Cope With Divorce the Sandcastles Way (Random House) and Emotional Infidelity, How to Affair-proof Your Marriage and Other Secrets to a Great Relationship (Crown). He and his work have been featured many times on The Oprah Show, Today, The View and in People, Time and elsewhere. He lives with his wife and five children in Miami Beach, Florida. For more information on his work, visit www.mgaryneuman.com or e-mail changingfamilies@mgaryneuman.com.

Marital Roles (Third Of Five Parts)

Wednesday, April 19th, 2006

Making A Game Plan

(It Needn’t Be Carved In Stone)

I know that most people will look at the list below and ask, “C’mon, who does this kind of thing in their marriage?” The answer is, couples that want to be happily married and fight less. If you and your spouse already have a system in place that works for both of you, stick to it. But for many, they are resentful of so many roles they feel they’ve been “forced” into. They want the opportunity to reconsider their roles and how they could better work with their spouse in making their family and lives work smoother.

Consider the exercise below, if even as a tool to just talk with your spouse about the kinds of roles you’ve taken on or agreed to in the past and consider if there could be changes that would help you both.

Creating Your Management System

Step 1: Together, create a general list of areas that need care.

For example: childcare, work, food, clothing (pur­chasing), housecleaning, home maintenance, financial management, social (calendar arrangement, purchas­ing gifts), transportation and pet care.

Next, list responsibilities that take place during certain periods of the year: vacations, holidays, birth­days and anniversaries. After you’ve completed your list, write each item on a separate piece of paper as a heading at the top of its own page. You’ll need plenty of room for step 2.

Step 2: List as many duties as you can create under each item.

Yes, it’s time-consuming, but your goal is to be sure you and your spouse understand what is required of each of you. If you only write something general, such as “food,” you may not realize that the category includes making up the shopping list, organizing coupons, going to the store or shopping online, putting groceries away, preparing menus, cooking meals and doing the dishes afterward. The more detailed your list is, the less room you leave for uncertainty and unspoken assumptions (“I thought you were in charge of ____.”)

For example, childcare responsibilities might be divided into general care (feeding, clothing, bathing, haircuts); education (supervising homework, reading with your child, hiring tutors, communication with teachers, yeshiva); healthcare (medical and dental checkups, visits to eye doctors, etc.); extracurricu­lar activities (play dates, sports, music lessons, class trips); family recreation (outings and other activities); and so on. Financial management might include in­vesting, paying bills, balancing the checkbook, doing the income taxes, reading up on investment strategies, meeting with financial planners, organizing receipts, and so on.

Step 3: Place your initials with the number 1 to the left of the specific responsibilities you would most like to be involved in. Place your initials with the number 2 to the left of the items you think you are most capable of handling. Even if you already have your initials and number in the same spot, put your initials there for the second time with the number 2 next to it.

Next, place your initials and the number 3 to the right of any items you feel you are not capable of be­ing responsible for. Finally, place your initials and the number 4 to the right of anything you strongly prefer not having much to do with.

Be honest about your preferences. It’s foolish not to choose an area of responsibility you’re good at be­cause you don’t want to seem “retro,” old-fashioned or stereotypical. Freedom comes from choosing from the heart, not from media messages, the advice of friends and family, or any other barometer.

The two of you are now clear on your preferences and your sense of where each of you could best serve the family union. Begin to discuss which areas you want to temporarily adopt as your own. Start with the areas that you’ve marked with a 1 or a 2, indicating that you would like to be involved in that area and that you also feel capable of handling it. You may even want to break down certain responsibilities even further. Perhaps you would like to be in charge of your chil­dren’s Torah schooling while your spouse would be in charge of their secular schooling. Or your spouse will be responsible for math, and you will supervise your child’s writing and science.

Marital Roles (Second Of Five Parts)

Wednesday, April 12th, 2006

Taking And Sharing Responsibility
(And What Works For You)

Partnership doesn’t mean equality in skill. It means equality in responsibility and ownership. Show me business partners who have to meet about every single decision and hash it out until they both agree on a course of action, and I will show you bankruptcy proceedings. How can business partners, with so many decisions to be made, afford to stop everything to discuss and agree on the most miniscule problems? The purpose of any partnership is to bring two people together, with each having something the other does not have. This way, the partnership is stronger than the individuals in it. If each of the partners possess the same abilities, and expertise in the same areas, how will their being partners benefit the business?

Marriage is no different. We marry knowing that we are very different from our spouse but that we share a variety of unique strengths and weaknesses. If we’re mirror images in every area, then we haven’t made ourselves much better by coming together.

Even if there are areas in which you are unsure if either of you has a better or more skilled approach, you still can’t afford the time and energy to discuss “every china pattern.” Like any successful partnership, you and your spouse will have to create a clear system of management. Although it may seem odd to reduce this system to a written exercise, it is simply good “business” to develop it, on paper, for clarification. Unspoken assumptions are the enemy of a great marriage. Because we acquire new strengths as we continue in life, we cannot accept roles forever based on the limited self-knowledge of today. You’ll have to revise your management system regularly. We can only try our best and see if we can properly manage our part of the partnership.

Being in charge of “your share of the list” doesn’t mean that you are solely responsible for that area. Remember that as a partnership, both of you are ultimately responsible. You may well have to help your partner whenever you see the need, or simply when you have the extra energy to do so. But what these roles now offer you is the right to take the initiative about a particular item on the “list” without feeling you have to ask permission or prove your point of view every time you wish to make a decision.

Certain duties are too large not to share. Childcare is a simple example. You will probably need to split responsibilities for taking charge of the children’s meals; buying, washing, and caring for their clothing; supervising their homework; taking them for preventive care checkups and to activities, etc. You may find that getting the children ready in the morning is a joint responsibility. Both of you may agree to get up at the same time and work together to cook breakfast, make lunches, get the little ones dressed and drive them to school.

Childcare is a particularly complicated issue for so many couples, because presently, women make up more than half the workforce, yet are often imprisoned by traditional values that dictate women should do more of the childcare, or make the childcare arrangements. Yet, we know that today, men are far more capable of caring for children than was believed years ago. We’ve also learned how important fathers are to children. For example, in my work with divorcing couples, I have seen divorced dads show their gift at caring for their children, and these children have shown wonderful positive responses to their dads’ attention. Men – for your child’s sake as well as the sake of the marriage, become an involved parent. Challenge traditional roles, and do what works uniquely for you. Don’t convince yourself that a wife is simply “better” at parenting. Families benefit hugely from two involved parents. There will be certain areas of childcare – Sunday family days, for example – that both of you may want to participate in jointly.

With this understanding and commitment to find your own unique marital management system, you can have the permission to make daily decisions comfortably without any argument. However, there are two rules:

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/marital-roles-second-of-five-parts/2006/04/12/

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