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October 1, 2014 / 7 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘NO’

Box Of Chocolates

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

The other night, after having a truly bad day where nothing seemed to go right, I jokingly changed my Facebook status to “I have had one of those awful, miserable, terrible days! And there is NO chocolate in the house!”

I immediately received more than 10 responses, offering me sympathy and virtual chocolate. Despite the late hour, my next-door neighbor offered to let me come over to get whatever candy bars she had in her house. I love my online girl friends, but declined the candy bars. However, I enjoyed the sympathy – and ate that all up. But over the next few days, my craving for some real chocolate kept nagging at me.

Thursday rolled around and I was having another stressful day while doing my usual shopping in the local Trader Joe’s grocery store. I had a specific list with a specific cash budget. After loading my cart with the items on my list I made the horrible mistake (or perhaps a part of me intended to do this all along) of going past the store’s amazing chocolate candy section. At least six different containers of fancy chocolate-covered candies called to me, begging to be purchased, and somehow I was able to resist the urge. Though I lingered and salivated, I eventually forced myself to keep to my list and budget and move to the checkout lane. While waiting there, the invisible bubble above my head was working overtime.

I started thinking: “Maybe I should just run out of line and grab the chocolate caramels. After all, $3.99 won’t break the budget. I should have enough money … maybe if I put something else back. Or I can get the chocolate-covered pretzels; they’re less money … Oh, the chocolate-covered cashews sound so delish…” And so it went until, before I knew it, I was completely checked out and it was time to pay. I had spent so much time thinking that my window of opportunity to get any chocolate treat for myself was gone. So I came back to reality and paid the bill. And just as I was about to push my cart away, the cashier handed me a gift-wrapped box.

“These are for you,” she said cheerfully.

“What’s this?” I asked, confused.

“We’re giving out boxes of chocolates today. Enjoy.”

I almost got lightheaded from the shock of what she’d just said, considering what I’d just obsessed over just seconds ago.

“Wait,” I asked, “Why are you giving free chocolate to people?”

“We just are. It’s a goodwill promotion, so enjoy them. They’re really good.”

On the back of the gift-wrapped box was the information sticker with ingredients – and right there was a reliable kosher symbol. I could have cried with joy. Despite the fact that the cashier from Trader Joe’s just handed me the box, I knew from my very soul that God had just handed me this box of chocolate.

“Wow, this is so nice. I am really going to enjoy these [chocolates]. Thank you so much,” I gushed to the cashier. But my sentiments were intended more toward the Almighty!

Then I noticed that the cashier was looking at me in a strange way, and it dawned on me that I might be acting slightly goofy while fussing too long over the candy and lingering in her line, refusing to move on. So I took my spiritual box of chocolate and put it in my cart, and left thinking about how special this experience was. I drove home with a huge smile on my face, knowing that not only did I get a free box of candy but I also got a divine gift that let me know that ultimately I don’t have to post my true feelings on Facebook. I also knew that God is always listening to my heart and knows what’s going on with me. He is with me every step of the way, lending me sympathy and support – even when there is no chocolate in my house!

How Can We Prevent Abuse?

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Chaya’s older yeshiva-bochur brother told her that there was no problem with his touching her body. He told her it wasn’t against the Torah, and he seemed to know a lot more Torah than she did at the tender age of 6. He continued to touch her first over her clothes, but as the years passed, the abuse progressed to actual rape. Eventually he got married and started a family, appearing to function just fine to nearly everyone in the community. However, he left his younger sister, now in her late twenties, crippled – emotionally, sexually and spiritually.

There are over fifty young women with backgrounds extremely similar to Chaya’s in just one very recently formed support group for women. They all grew up in frum homes and they have all been sexually abused. They are the tip of the iceberg, just now becoming visible. They are just the most courageous young women, who have (just barely) emerged first. The vast majority of survivors live in tremendous fear of telling their stories (even to another survivor of abuse) for many understandable reasons.

What’s the silver lining, when this type of abuse has been going on for many years? (In some families, this seems to be a “heritage” that has been passed from one generation to the next.) The silver lining is that now, as thank G-d, the abuse is starting to come to light, and each previously isolated victim is starting to learn that he or she is not the only one with this secret corrosive problem, we finally have the opportunity to take necessary constructive actions. Now, not only can we support those who are already victims, and this is sorely needed, but also thanks to the many brave survivors of abuse who are finally, painfully starting to share their stories, we can do even more. We can implement effective education on prevention in order to stop the growth of abuse from continuing in our communities.

Of course, it’s not only teenage older brothers or cousins who can become sexual abusers. Uncles turn out to be frequently cited as perpetrators as well as, neighbors and fathers of friends. A trusted family member or family friend commits approximately 80 percent of sexual abuse, with roughly 15 percent being committed by teachers, coaches, youth group leaders or clergy. Less than 5 percent of sexual abusers are strangers to their victims. This makes sense because gaining the trust of the victim is a prerequisite in the grooming process leading to sexual abuse occurring and not being reported.

Why has the sexual abuse of children become such a pervasive problem in our community, when our core values are diametrically opposed to this lowest and cruelest kind of behavior? It’s this simple: For generations, frum perpetrators were allowed to get away with it. A few sick individuals were tolerated in every one of our neighborhoods. Each of these sick individuals typically scars more than 100 children. Many of the victims who have been molested repeatedly, grow up and sexually abuse other children, creating thousands of victims. That is how the problem has increased exponentially – it has gone unchecked. Silence may be golden, but not when abuse is involved. Abuse thrives in silence.

Chaya, at age 6, needs to be taught that she has the right to say “NO!” to any unwanted touch – even if it’s from an older brother or an uncle. Hershel, at age 4, needs to be told that nobody should touch him in the private areas that are covered by his bathing suit, unless it is for health or hygienic purposes, even if it is his babysitter or his stepfather. Rivka, at age 9, needs to learn to tell a trusted parent as soon as possible if anybody attempts to touch her in a confusing way.

Yeshiva students need to get specific information about sexual topics outside of their Gemara Nashim. Their normal surge in hormones needs to be acknowledged and addressed. Clear-cut directives about not touching younger girls and boys, even if they are siblings or cousins, the addictive pull of acting on sexual urges, and the usefulness of physical activity in decreasing their urges by positively channeling their energy, is much more productive than denial.

Parents need to be taught to report abuse to child protective services or the police. Expert professionals are needed when dealing with these serious and dangerous problems that are beyond our capabilities. The most compassionate thing that can happen to perpetrators is for them to be caught and stopped as early as detected. The earliest point of all is beforehand – so prevention is of paramount importance.

In most states, parents and students in public schools have been required to learn basic information about protection from sexual abuse for over twenty years. Parents of students in our day schools still feel unequipped to be proactive in protecting their children from predators. The students in our day schools are unprepared to respond to advances from familiar adults unless they are clearly instructed about this very real possibility.

Educational materials appropriate for all for all age children, including our teens, needs to be made available for use in our day schools, our yeshivas, and our homes. One place to access this essential curriculum is from Mrs. Debbie Fox, at Jewish Family Services in Los Angeles. She has spearheaded the creation of great resources for frum youth on this topic. (Literature and videos are available by contacting Mrs. Fox at dfox@jfsla.org.) If groups of parents request their school’s involvement, they can be even more effective in implementing this critical programming. By increasing awareness and making prevention education a top priority, we can greatly minimize the proliferation of abuse.

The darkest form of education has been going on for far too long behind our own closed doors. Can we now end the strong resistance to seeing what has been happening and open up these same doors to light?

Thank you, Chaya. You are a real woman of valor, teaching us so painfully what we weren’t facing.

Bracha Goetz is the author of ten children’s books, including Aliza in MitzvahLand, What Do You See at Home? and The Invisible Book. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children. To enjoy Bracha’s presentations for both women and children, you’re welcome to email bgoetzster@gmail.com.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 3/13/09

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Esther – An Update (Part 1)

Dear Readers,

Many of you will no doubt recall the columns that were devoted to “Esther” who had first written of her heartache and her guilt-ridden conscience back in May of last year. Gradually we learned that Esther (the name she chose to veil her real identity) was just barely facing and surviving each day in her prolonged state of wretchedness brought on by events of years back…

Esther let us in on her feelings of devastation, enormous guilt and unending sorrow over the death of a fine young man whom she believed she had “killed” with her insolent rejection. In her own words… “Twenty-three years ago I murdered a wonderful young man and haven’t had a day of true peace ever since.” (Chronicles 5-16-08)

Were that not enough of a burden to bear, she then suffered a mother’s worst nightmare when her then-husband left her and absconded with their two young sons. “They were stolen from me,” Esther wrote of her harrowing ordeal. “When my children vanished, I died a million times over the years. As a mother, my heart bleeds and cries and is torn apart.”

We cried along with Esther and this column did what little it could to lift some of the poor woman’s melancholy and to offer her hope of “…being reunited with the children you carried under your heart and whom you were so cruelly dispossessed of.” Our response to her second letter (Chronicles 8-1-08) expressed the consolation that “G-d has instilled in the human heart of a parent a special bond to his/her child and in the heart of a child a special feeling for his/her parent – a kesher not easily broken.” (Chronicles 8-8-08)

Unbeknownst to Esther at the time, across the globe the column was being read by none other than one of her sons – who lost little precious time in contacting whom he had a hunch was his birth mother, whom he was separated from when he was but a toddler.

Following an emotional reunion of mother and long-lost son who, it turned out, resides in Israel with his wife and young daughter, Esther wrote to us again (Chronicles 10-31-08) – this time with her spirits somewhat uplifted. “You saved my life and brought me back not only a son but a full-fledged family! I am suddenly very aware that there is happiness and joy in the world and the tears of both keep mingling…”

Having returned from her trip abroad where she spent the Yamim Tovim with her son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter, Esther updated us: “You can imagine that over the holiday season we talked for hours on end, catching up on lost years – my son’s growing-up years in particular. At one point I asked him to let me meet his stepmother. (He calls her Ima… and me they called Ima’le!)

Happy ending, one might conclude, by any stretch of the imagination. But wait – there’s more. While her son continues to be a beacon of light to the mother he was fortunate to become newly acquainted with and for whom he displays the greatest respect and love, Esther has been experiencing a roller coaster of emotions.

“I’m really, really thinking about my son urging me to move to Israel,” Esther confided in an e-mail exchange. “I don’t have anything here…but I never thought of Israel because after all I had nothing there either. What would YOU do IF you were in my exact position?”

As she was mulling the pros and cons (were there any cons?), her tenderheartedness shone through – despite all the hardships she had suffered: “What do I do? If I go, I’ll be closer to a family I never had and I want very much to be close to. On the other hand, am I going to infringe on the adoptive mother? Will I be stepping into her territory ?”

And then – Esther’s dilemma suddenly became miniscule when the Mumbai tragedy struck. It was broadcast around the world and Esther was beside herself with grief. She cried along with Moishe’le: “I am devastated. I was watching the funerals in Israel…and watched how little Moishe is crying for his ‘Ima.’I’m still crying for the poor, wonderful souls that were torn away…”

True, Esther was one of many thousands of devastated souls, but with everything that she had been through, I worried about Esther’s fragile new beginning and dared to ask her if she still cried over “Aaron” – the man whom she had loved yet had spurned so many years ago. “NO. I do not cry any more,” she replied. “I still have a strong yearning (is that the word?) for that long ago time…and the wish that I had done things differently. But my newfound family gives me a lot of energy.” I sighed with relief; Baruch Hashem…

In the meanwhile, the subject of aliyah kept resurfacing. “I have been discussing it with my son and his wife. They call often and every conversation includes the discussion of why I should not stay and why I should come.”

Esther’s boss (“a very nice man and nice to me always…”), her employer for years now, has not only encouraged his devoted employee to “to think about it [moving to Israel] in a positive way” – he furthered her motivation by telling her that he’d give her three months pay to help her along in her new start. “I almost hugged him!” wrote Esther in another of our e-mail exchanges.

By mid-December, she finally had it down pat: She would go to Israel to be with her family for Pesach, would assess her surroundings and hopefully come away with a more definitive decision about moving there and about the where-to-settle issue.

Esther, I was discovering, was more than just softhearted. She was also considerate and very grounded in her thinking: “…Close enough to my son, I guess, but far enough not to be in their way…”

(To be continued)

The ‘Easy’ Way Out

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

        The other day I was shopping at a large supermarket and happened to go down the frozen foods aisle, past the endless freezers containing every imaginable flavor, shape and size of ice cream.  Usually I don’t buy. I’m like a tourist – just passing through. But I do like to glance, in case by some miracle, they’ve come up with a no-fat, no- sugar, melt-in-your mouth-version that makes your taste buds tingle with joy – but has fewer calories than a leaf of lettuce.

 

         The ear shattering screeching of a boy about three-years old, sitting in his mother’s shopping cart, quickly diverted my attention. His shrieks were leveled at his mother, a young woman wearing a sheitel,  demanding that she buy a particular ice cream novelty. She said no in a rather noncommittal voice and ignored him as she looked in the ice cream case. At which point he upped the volume and howled even louder for the ice cream he wanted.

 

          I was torn between hurrying out of that section of the store to save my hearing or covering my ears with my hands and sticking around to see the end result of this tug-of war.

 

         This boy was blessed with a set of lungs any self-respecting chazzan would envy, and he kept up his high-pitched whining. His mother still kept her back to him as she rummaged through the freezer.

 

          I marveled that none of the employees came running to see the cause of this explosion. Perhaps then the mother would have been motivated to turn to him and in a very firm voice tell him, “NO, be quiet!” instead of allowing him to disturb the peace.

 

         But she did not do this. What she did do, to my horror, was take out a six-pack box of ice cream – obviously the one her son wanted – and put it in the cart. She then proceeded to share her concern with him that, “Totty was going to be angry” at her for purchasing this ice cream because it was so expensive.

 

         When he looked at her blankly, she repeated it. It seemed that the adult was asking permission from the child to allow her to do what she knew was best. I wondered if she thought that explaining to a three-year-old why she shouldn’t buy something would ultimately convince him to change his mind.

 

         It seemed she believed that a pre-nursery-age child would see the logic of her argument – that purchasing a less costly substitute was a fiscally sound idea. One that would also enhance shalom bayis – and consequently the child would change his mind and allow her to put the item back in the freezer.

 

         But of course he didn’t. He was a toddler who wanted his ice cream.

 

         I stood there feeling very, very sorry for her. She was facing a long arduous journey on the road of life, because she was allowing her child to do the driving. I debated whether or not I should run after her and tell her she was making a tremendous mistake, one that if continued, would come to haunt her in the future.

 

         I wanted to tell her that it might be the easy way out to give into a child’s tantrum and gain his good will. But ultimately ” the easy way out” could eventually lead to a “no way out” with a socially dysfunctional teenager/young adult, spoiled and insecure.

 

         This mother had failed the test that her child had unknowingly put her through: setting limits. Children know that they are just that – children. To them the world is at once fascinating but confusing, wondrous but scary. They WANT their parents, who they view as their guardians and protectors, to be in charge. Being in the driver’s seat terrifies them. 

 

          They desperately need to hear “No” or “You can’t do that.” Limits, boundaries and restrictions reassure them and make them feel safe. They really want them – despite their highly vocal protests to the contrary.

 

         “Giving in” occasionally because of special circumstances is okay, but if this kind of parenting is the norm, then both child and parents are in for a lot of grief. Children who are used to having the world revolve around them and their every whim catered to will be in for a very rude awakening when they grow up. They will discover that the rest of the planet will not kow-tow to them. They risk being social misfits unable to relate to their more mature and realistic peers.

 

         Kids who were allowed to be in control way before they were intellectually and emotionally equipped can lack self-esteem. The message these kids likely internalized over the years was  “You didn’t care enough to stop me from myself.”  This too will hamper their ability to make it in the adult world.

 

         I ended up not going after this young mother. Her nerves already frazzled, I sensed she would not appreciate that I didn’t mind my own business.

 

         So she walked away out of sight, the ice cream in the cart and the child finally quiet – until the candy aisle, no doubt.

On The Difference Between Murderers And Freedom Fighters

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2004
Moments after the latest bus bombing in Jerusalem this morning (January 29th), the group claiming responsibility, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, identified its action as an expression of “freedom fighting.” Plainly, however, there is NO cause on the face of this bleeding planet that can ever warrant the deliberate mutilation and murder of defenseless civilians riding on a municipal bus. Those who can find cause for celebration amidst the mangled and burned bodies of young children must always be called by their correct name. By any reasonable standard of civilized human behavior these celebrants support a uniquely unheroic form of slaughterer, a contemptible dreamer who discovers sheer ecstasy only in massacre and who sees in unrestrained terrorism a gloriously sacrificial form of religious worship.

What is plainly evident to reasonable human beings is also an incontestable part of current international law. Supporters of Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens frequently claim that the insurgent force is directed against an “occupation, ” and therefore warrants “any means
necessary.” From the standpoint of authoritative international rules of behavior, this claim is entirely incorrect. Even where the use of insurgent force may be justified – and in the case of the Palestinians such justification is hotly debatable – deliberate attacks upon noncombatants are always illegal. Indeed, there is no more ancient and sacred principle of law than the immutable imperative to protect the innocent.

“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” There is NO basis in law for this especially facile and shallow expression. The issue here is not one of subjective interpretation. On the contrary, there do exist precise and settled criteria that are readily available to distinguish the terrorist from the freedom fighter. According to international law, any insurgent who intentionally causes the explosive incineration of men, women and children at lunch or at prayer or at a wedding ceremony or on a bus is a TERRORIST! Period!

It is true that certain insurgencies can be judged lawful. Yet, even these insurgencies MUST always conform to the laws of war. The ends can never justify the means in international law. Never. Where the insurgent group resorts to unjust means, as in the case of exploding a public bus, its actions are unambiguously terroristic.

How shall we know precisely when insurgent means are just or unjust? The determinable standards that must be applied in judgment are known in law as Just Cause and Just Means. These standards, and these standards alone, allow us to differentiate lawful insurgency from terrorism.

National liberation movements that fail to meet the test of Just Means are NOT protected as lawful or legitimate. Leaving aside the very doubtful argument that Palestinian organizations meet the standards of “national liberation,” especially after the prior Barak Government offered the PA/PLO control of over 97% of West Bank (Judea/Samaria) and Gaza, it is assuredly clear that they do not meet the standards of discrimination, proportionality and military necessity. These formal standards, applicable under the Laws of War, have been applied to insurgent organizations by the common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and by the two protocols to these Conventions of 1977. They are binding upon ALL combatants by virtue of both customary and conventional international law.

The ends CAN NEVER justify the means. As in the case of war between states, every use of force by insurgents must be judged twice, once with regard to the justness of the objective (in this case, the avowed objective is a Palestinian state built upon the charred ruins of a dismembered Israel) and once with regard to the justness of the means used in pursuit of that objective. A Palestinian organization that deliberately targets indiscriminately with intent to maximize pain and suffering can never claim to be “freedom fighters.”

American and European supporters of a Palestinian State presume that it will be part of a “two-state solution,” that is, that the new Arab state will exist side-by-side with the existing Jewish State. Yet, this presumption is dismissed everywhere in the Arab/Islamic world. Indeed, the “Map of Palestine” at the official website of the Palestinian National Authority includes all of Israel. There are NOT two states on this map; only one. Palestinian insurgents who resort to terrorism against Israel will never acknowledge that a Jewish State has any right to endure. Why should this should be so difficult to understand today, when even the most “moderate” Palestinians themselves have been so cartographically honest on their own website?

Terrorist crimes, as part of a broader category called CRIMEN CONTRA OMNES (crimes against all), mandate universal cooperation in apprehension and punishment. In this connection, as punishers of “grave breaches” under international law, all states are expected to search out
and prosecute, or extradite, individual terrorist perpetrators. In NO circumstances are any states permitted to characterize terrorists as “freedom fighters.” This is especially the case for the United States, which incorporates all international law as the “supreme law of the land” at Article 6 of the Constitution, and which was formed by the Founding Fathers according to the timeless principles of Natural Law.

Palestinian terrorists are NOT “freedom fighters.” They are “Common Enemies of Mankind” who exceed all moral and legal authority in their persistently barbarous attacks upon Israeli citizens. They should always be called by their correct name.

 

2004 The Jewish Press. All Rights Reserved

LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is the author of many books and articles dealing with terrorism and international law.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/on-the-difference-between-murderers-and-freedom-fighters/2004/03/03/

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