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January 24, 2017 / 26 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘parents’

Baalei Teshuva, Geirim And Their Parents: Is It Possible To ‘Grow Together’?

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Sara dialed her mother’s number again, and this time she took a deep breath and waited for her to answer.

“Hi, Mom.  I need to ask you a few things about the wedding.”

“Do we have to start a conversation right away with an argument, especially when you are so far away,” her mother, already feeling burdened by the strange wedding her daughter was planning, answered a little too quickly.

“I’m sorry that my wedding is so hard for you to talk about,” Sara held back the tears and tried to keep a calm voice.

“Believe me, dear, I am very excited for you and happy that you are going to have the wedding near home so I can have all my friends (whom you grew up with, and who know you and care so much about you). You just have asked for a lot of changes. I mean, why do we need a – what did you call it – mechitza? You think my friends are going to dance separately from their husbands?  Listen, it is all very nice that you want an Orthodox wedding, but don’t forget who is paying for this event.”hirsch-110416-wedding

“Mom, I really appreciate that you and Dad are willing to pay for the wedding, but it needs to be comfortable for Yaacov and me.”

“Yaacov? Oh, Jason.  I keep forgetting his new name.  And what about our comfort? And the comfort of our guests and older relatives?  First, you needed it to be kosher. Fine, even if it is more money. Then you want some crazy band to come from New York City when your brother would be willing to bring his friends to play. They make a very nice band, especially with that lovely girl who has such a beautiful voice. Why you need some unknown band just because all the players are men, I don’t know.  What ever happened to your feminist side?  And now you want the dancing to be separate behind a tent! Is that another demand from your rabbis?”

“Mom, I know it’s a lot of changes. But remember when you told me that you didn’t like your wedding. Your mother made all the decisions – what dress you were going to wear, the place, the day. She didn’t even let you sleep in your own bed the night before because she had so many guests.  Everything was for everyone else.  I really appreciate that you are trying to let me have it my way.”

“Yeah, but your way was the way my mother wanted it for me.  In a hotel.  With some old Orthodox rabbi who doesn’t even know English!”


The issues that parents of baalei teshuva (BT) and converts, as well as children of mixed marriages, need to contend with are diverse and can lead to fallout, pain or, at the very least, a few misunderstandings.

Aliza Bulow who teaches and guides rebbetzins in the kiruv world is more than aware of these hazards. As many of you will recall from the feature we did on her (Jewess By Choice), Aliza is a ger herself and many of her students are BTs.

hirsch-110416-babyAliza considers herself and her family very fortunate in that she and her non-Jewish mother, Oralee Stiles, enjoy an extremely close relationship. In fact, they wrote a book, “Growing Together” (which is available at www.abiteoftorah.com/my-book-growing-together.html), offering their advice on the many issues that parents and their more religious or different faith children need to contend with.

In it, Aliza explains normative Orthodox Judaism – from Shabbos and holiday rituals to the dating process, weddings and other issues that families need to understand. The book also addresses the various journeys baalei teshuva usually experience and inflict on their parents. It is a road map, providing parents with information on what to expect. Oralee joins in by enlightening us with her outside perspective looking into our world.  They have given us a glimpse of how to achieve a winning relationship – by learning to share their lives, children and experiences together.

As Aliza and Oralee write, “There are two contrasting ways for the same parents to react to their observant child in the same set of circumstances: judgmental disapproval or loving acceptance.” And it goes both ways.  It is their hope that the book will help families build a bridge to a beautiful relationship.

Dealing with either non-religious or non-Jewish grandparents can be an opening for an intense relationship; whether volatile or compassionate, remains the question.  Does the BT and convert demand certain dress codes and behaviors from their own parents or do they just explain to their children that their grandparents are different from their friends?hirsch-110416-grandson

Non-religious or non-Jewish grandparents of Orthodox grandchildren may not be comfortable with long sleeves in the summer, but may be sensitive to their grandchildren’s friends’ looks and agree to dress the part. It is a process to find the middle ground that works for both sides.

Aliza warns that in the beginning, when a BT experiences great excitement in regards to his or her new life, there is a great temptation to try to “convert” his or her parents (at least that is how the parents feel), which only causes uneasiness and misunderstandings – especially if the parents accuse the child of joining a new religion and/or cult.

Parents who see their children take the Judaism much more seriously than they had ever intended to, which can entail not only creating a new lifestyle but also the intentional discarding of their parent’s values (which could be from social action, theater, higher education, golf, etc.) can be very hurt. Parents feel either rejected or threatened, which in either case makes the process a difficult one. For parents of converts, however, the process can be altogether different.

“Jews always ask me, ‘How did your parents take your conversion?’” Aliza explains, “That is such a Jewish question. Jews count every Jew. Unless the parents and/or immediate family are very religious and think their children and grandchildren will burn in hell if they convert, many Christians are happy if their children believe in G-d, the Old Testament and try to do good things. They may also feel the conversion is temporary.”

“How can you have a daughter who is Jewish?” and “When are you going to become Jewish?” are questions Oralee would be asked. Her answer: “When Hashem lets me know that I should become Jewish I will, but so far He hasn’t told me.”

Oralee remembers when Aliza had first converted; a Jewish woman came up to her and asked, “How could you let your daughter convert to Judaism?” which Oralee found surprising.  She hadn’t thought of the Jewish difficulties her daughter might face, which may be what this woman was alluding to, but truly Oralee’s first thought was, “I let? I had nothing to do with it; Aliza was so committed to the idea. Yet, years later” she reflected, “if she had become part of a cult like Hari Krishna or something – I would have tried my best to ‘not let’ her, but being Jewish was not a problem for me.”

“We really didn’t have many hardships or rough spots,” she continues. “As Aliza became more observant, she told me I couldn’t turn on the fire when I wanted to cook for them; I felt hurt by that change. Yet, for the most part, I have found that my life has been enriched by what I have learned about Judaism, [not speaking] lashon hora, modesty in dress, the cycle of the holidays and Shabbos. I have grown from my daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren.”

Devorah Hirsch

Study: Children of Parents Who Were Babies in the Holocaust More Prone to schizophrenia

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Results of a new study at the University of Haifa have shown no difference in the risk of developing schizophrenia between second-generation Holocaust survivors and those whose parents were not exposed to the Holocaust. However, an examination of various sub-groups showed that second-generation survivors whose parents were babies during the Holocaust are at higher risk of suffering from a more severe course of schizophrenia.

“Likely these are transmitted from the parental environment to the child,” Prof. Stephen Levine, the lead author of the study, commented. The study was undertaken by Levine and Prof. Itzhak Levav of the Department of Community Mental Health at the University of Haifa, together with Inna Pugachova, Rinat Yoffe and Yifat Becher from Israel’s Ministry of Health. The study, published in Schizophrenia Research, was based on information on 51,233 individuals who immigrated to Israel through 1966, and was made possible thanks to the cooperation of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Health, with funds from Israel Science Foundation.

The study’s population included individuals who experienced the Holocaust directly, while the comparison group was comprised of individuals who immigrated to Israel before the Holocaust began in their countries of origin. All the second-generation subjects were born between 1948 and 1989, and were followed through 2014 to ascertain whether or not they suffered from schizophrenia.

The question of the impact of exposure to the Holocaust among second-generation survivors is the subject of disagreement among researchers. Clinical-based studies have found that trauma increases psychopathology in the offspring of Holocaust survivors, while community based studies have found that there is no such effect among adults, as noted by Levav and collaborators in two large representative samples in Israel.

The researchers sought to examine whether parental Holocaust exposure is associated with schizophrenia among second-generation survivors. The good news is that the association was not significant.

However, a more specific inquiry showed that offspring of mothers with Holocaust exposure in the womb only were 1.7 times more likely to have a more severe course of the disorder. Similarly, offspring of mothers exposed to the Holocaust in the womb and thereafter were 1.5 more likely to have a more severe course than persons not exposed. Offspring of fathers exposed in the womb and thereafter were 1.5 times more likely, and those whose fathers had been exposed at ages 1–2 had offspring whose risk of having a worse course of the disorder was higher than persons not exposed.

Transgenerational genocide exposure was unrelated to the risk of schizophrenia in the offspring, but was related to a course of deterioration in schizophrenia during selected parental critical periods of early life. This implies an epigenetic mechanism – namely arising from environmental influences on the way genes expressed themselves. The findings inform health policy decision makers about refugees who suffered from extreme adversity, and extend existing results regarding the transgenerational transfer of the effects of famine and stress in parental early life.


Helping Jewish Children Of Incarcerated Parents Have A Summer Camp Experience

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Having a loved one in prison is a transformative and painful journey for an entire family. Spouses, children, parents, and siblings are affected by the experience. Often there is sorrow and shame, anger and depression. Children are especially impacted. They want their dad (or mom) to come home. They feel deserted and afraid. Wives (or husbands) also suffer. They are alone with all responsibilities and often have less money coming in to cover expenses.

It was already June and Anna Katz, the mother of three from northern California, didn’t know how she would keep her kids busy all summer. After her husband made a bad business decision that landed him in prison in February 2014, life as she knew it came to an abrupt end. With her meager income, and no longer able to rely on a steady paycheck from her husband, Katz could barely afford the basics. Paying for summer camp for her children seemed out of the question.

“I was worried about my daughter,” she said. “It’s so easy for kids to make the wrong choices and take a darker path. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be able to afford camp.”

The Aleph Institute stepped in. A nonprofit based in Florida, with additional offices in New York and Los Angeles, Aleph works to serve the needs of Jewish prisoners and their families throughout the U.S. prison system.

In 2011, Aleph launched the Summer Camp Placement and Scholarship Initiative, since renamed “The Aleph Institute Jonathan Stampler Camp Fund.” The endowment enables hundreds of children with parents in correctional facilities to attend Jewish summer camp by arranging all the logistics from beginning to end, while offering generous subsidies and scholarships to make camp a reality.

Aleph’s family services director Rabbi Shua Brook had been in touch with the family since shortly after the husband’s incarceration. The worried mother said, “The rabbis at Aleph were and still are my human angels here on earth. They became my extended family, helping in every detail of our life.”

Realizing the children had no summer plans and had never attended a Jewish camp, Rabbi Brook offered a full camp scholarship for all three kids, and found donors willing to cover the cost. The 13- and 11-year-old boys flew to overnight camps in the northeast while the youngest stayed in a local Jewish day camp. This summer, all three children have returned to those overnight camps and are having a blast.

Although Aleph helps hundreds of families with their urgent necessities – covering costs of housing, food, utility bills, etc. – and advocates for a long term solution of the family’s financial and emotional needs, Brook feels that certain “luxury” items, like camp can have an incredible impact on a child’s life.

“The benefits of camp are many,” he says. “First, it provides the parent at home going through the torture of having a spouse in prison a much needed respite. Also, it creates a fun and meaningful experience for the kids, in which they can make new friends and explore essential Jewish values. It helps the entire family have a positive Jewish experience and become more involved with their local Jewish community.”

This summer alone, Aleph sent 96 children to Jewish camps across the country. Forty-One children are attending overnight camps such as CTeen Heritage Quest, CTeen Xtreme, Camp L’man Achai, and CGI Poconos among others.

To reach out to Aleph for someone in need or to donate, e-mail family@aleph-institute.org.

The Aleph Institute, founded in 1981 at the direction of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and headed by Rabbis Sholom and Aaron Lipskar, provides crucial financial, emotional, and spiritual assistance to thousands of shattered families – helping them persevere through extraordinary crises – while providing support for their loved ones in prison and mental institutions. Aleph’s benevolent mandate also encompasses spiritual assistance to thousands of soldiers in the United States Armed Forces across the globe.

Shelley Benveniste

2014 Gaza War Parents Demand Investigation of Operation’s Conduct, High Losses

Monday, July 25th, 2016

Two years after Operation Protective Edge, in which 66 IDF soldiers and five civilians were killed, the bereaved families of the fallen are demanding an independent committee to examine the preparations for the war, the way it was conducted, and the lessons to be learned.

The 32 families on Sunday demanded in a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Liberman that a state commission headed by a judge investigate the government’s decision-making process throughout the war.

In their letter, the families mentioned the fact that the Knesset Foreign and Security Committee had been asked to examine the events of the 2014 war and has yet to issue a report. One report that had been produced by the committee was shelved because of the 2015 elections. Referring to the same committee’s publicized intent to renew its investigation, the families argued it made no sense to “reconvene a committee that has already investigated the events and opted not to publish its conclusions.”

“Even if the decision to shelve the conclusions was made by a different person than the current committee head, it would be inappropriate to renew the discussion after such a long period of time, and it could appear as a lack of transparency or exterior pressures which do not belong in an investigation of this scope,” the families wrote.

On the evening of June 12, 2014, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and later murdered in Judea and Samaria by Hamas operatives. Their bodies were discovered on June 30. Israel retaliated with air strikes on Gaza in which 3 Arabs were killed and a dozen injured. Hamas retaliated with rockets that were fired at Israeli civilian centers wounding three people. On July 7, 80 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip, and the Netanyahu security cabinet decided to launch a counter-terrorist operation. The IDF bombarded targets in the Gaza Strip with artillery and airstrikes, and Hamas continued to fire rockets and mortar shells into Israel. A cease-fire proposal was announced by the Egyptian government and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on July 14, and the Israeli government accepted it and stopped the attacks on the morning of July 15. But Hamas rejected the ceasefire and the war was renewed. By July 16 the death toll in Gaza had reached 200.

On July 16, Hamas and Islamic Jihad offered a 10-year truce with ten conditions, including lifting of the Gaza blockade and the release of prisoners who were re-arrested after being released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap. Israel refused those terms. On July 17, a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire, proposed by the UN, took place. But a few hours before the ceasefire was to start, 13 armed Hamas terrorists emerging from a tunnel on the Israeli side of the Gaza border. The IDF destroyed the tunnel’s exit, ending the incursion.

After the ceasefire, the IDF launched a ground offensive on the Gaza Strip, aimed at destroying the terror tunnels crossing under the Israeli border. On July 20, the IDF entered Shuja’iyya in Gaza City and encountered heavy resistance. Thirteen IDF soldiers were killed, including two Americans serving in Israel. Seven of the IDF soldiers were killed as their armored vehicle was hit by an anti-tank rocket or an improvised explosive device, and three were killed in clashes with terrorists. Three IDF soldiers were trapped in a burning house. In the next 24 hours, three more IDF soldiers were killed in Shuja’iyya.

Shortly after the battle, twenty civilians from Shuja’iyya were shot for protesting against Hamas. Hamas said it had executed Israeli spies.

On August 3, the IDF pulled most of its ground forces out of the Gaza Strip after completing the destruction of 32 terror tunnels. On August 5 Israel announced that it had arrested Hossam Kawasmeh, suspected of having organized the killing of the three teenagers. According to court documents, Kawasmeh stated that Hamas members in Gaza financed the recruitment and arming of the killers.


15-Year-Old Must Leave Parents’ Settlement Home on Military Administrative Order

Monday, June 20th, 2016

GOC Home Front Command Chief Maj. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg on Sunday rejected a plea by the parents of a 15-year-old boy who had been ordered to leave his home three weeks ago by an administrative decree, one of the last such decrees issued under former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. Eisenberg ordered the minor to be out of his parents’ home and the community of Yitzhar in Samaria by 9 AM Monday.

The administrative order forbids the minor to set foot in Judea and Samaria, and he must observe a nightly curfew at the home of his grandparents, in Petach Tikvah. When it turned out that the Petach Tikvah address was not available, the minor received a temporary stay, pending the hearing on Sunday this week.

It should be noted that the administrative decree does not specify what past actions of the boy in question merited the expulsion from his home environment, other than a general statement about his being a threat to national security.

At the hearing, attorney Chai Haber from the legal aid society Honenu, told representatives of the Major General that his client had nowhere to go. He noted that it is next to impossible to get anyone to agree to board the minor because police are known to keep a close watch on curfew detainees and pay late-night visits to their addresses, knocking on doors and waking up entire neighborhoods.

The Major General’s response has been that the minor must nevertheless vacate his parents premises by 9 AM as ordered.

The minor’s father said on Monday morning, “My son has nowhere to go, he lives here, his family lives here, it’s inconceivable that one day they’d present him with an order of evacuation. The impact of such an expulsion on a minor are unacceptable. Who will take responsibility? Who will care for my child? The Major General sleeps well with his children in his home while my son is being thrown out to the street. We cannot accept this.”

David Israel

Honoring Abusive Parents (Kiddushin 31a)

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

Damah the son of Netinah, the same man who turned down a fortune rather than wake his father for the key of the treasure box, was once sitting in state among the noblemen of Rome, dressed in a gold embroidered silk cloak. All of a sudden the door flew open and in walked his mother. She strode over to him, ripped the gold cloak from his shoulders, banged her fists on his head, and spit in his face. And Damah remained silent.

The sages asked Rabbi Eliezer, “To what extremes does Kibbud Av V’eim oblige one to go? To the point that if your father throws your money into the sea, you should remain silent?” Rav Hunah used to tear up his son’s precious silks in front of him and then watch to see if his son became angry. The mother of Rav Assi demanded the impossible of him. Find me a husband,” she demanded, “who is as young and handsome as you are.” Being unable to fulfill her impossible requests, Rav Assi left his mother and traveled to another country.

All of these cases have one feature in common. The parents, by straining the tolerance of their children to the breaking point, pushed them to the brink of disrespect.

A parent may not beat his grown child because this may lead the child to react and beat his parent, an action that in Jewish law carries the death penalty. Similarly, a parent may not abuse the privilege of Kibbud Av V’eim because by so doing the parent is violating the biblical prohibition of lifnei iver lo titein michshol, which means one should not cause the unsuspecting to sin.

The Shulchan Aruch cautions: “A parent should not overburden their children and should not be fastidious in their insistence on respect but should rather be forgiving and turn a blind eye, for a parent may waive the duty of respect.” If the great Abraham could wait over his nomadic guests and if God himself could lead His people through the desert and waive His honor, surely, parents can find it in them to do the same.

If one finds oneself a victim of such abuse, one may, rather than run the risk of reactive disrespect, take action to prevent the abuse from occurring, or at least to remove oneself from the situation. Accordingly, the Rema rules that one may prevent one’s parent from throwing one’s money into the sea and one may even sue them for the return of the money if one was unable to prevent it.

The Aruch HaShulchan rules that if one finds oneself in a situation where, like Damah the son of Netinah, one is about to be publicly embarrassed by one’s parents, action may be discreetly taken to bar their entry. And the Lashon Riaz rules that if one’s parents are people of evil ways, who abusive and torment their children, one may avoid contact with them and even leave for another country as Rav Assi did.

Indeed the Torah does not command one to love one’s parents as it commands one to love God. Loving God is an emotion that wells up inside us in reaction to the love God has for us. Where there is love there is automatic respect. If parents show love for their children, respect will automatically be part of the love children return to their parents. Some people however, are not blessed with parents who love them like God loves his children. Such parents are still entitled to respect but they must not abuse the privilege.

All of this is perhaps inherent in the order in which the Talmud proscribes the duty of parents toward children and the duty of children toward parents. First the Talmud discusses the father’s duty to teach his child Torah, help the child marry, and teach the child a profession. Only then does the Talmud discuss the duty of the child to honor the parents. Perhaps the lesson is that the parent who puts his or her child’s welfare before his or her own earns the love of the child. And where there is love, there is respect.

Raphael Grunfeld

Honoring One’s Parents

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

There are three partners in the creation of man. According to the Talmud, the father contributes to the formation of the child’s bones, sinews, nails, brain, and the white of the eye. The mother provides the skin, the flesh, the hair, and the black of the eye. God provides the soul, the facial countenance, eyesight, hearing, the power of speech, the ability to walk, insight, and understanding. Accordingly, in this triangle of creation parents are to be respected and revered in the same way that one respects and fears God Himself.

One demonstrates reverence, morah, for one’s parents by not standing or sitting in their place, by standing up when they enter the room, by not contradicting them, and by not addressing them or referring to them by their first names.

One demonstrates respect, kavod, by providing for their physical needs, including feeding and clothing them and taking them places when they can no longer take care of themselves. The expenses involved in providing for the physical needs of one’s parents should be defrayed by the parents if the parents have the means or by their children if they have the means and the parents do not.

If one cannot afford it, one is not required by the halacha do go into debt to defray the expenses. One is required, however, to do whatever one physically can to make one’s parents comfortable, unless this would involve loss of work required for one’s daily existence. As part of the duty to honor one’s parents, when we talk about them after their death we should refer to them as “my parent for whom I should be an atonement,” and after twelve months, “my parent of saintly blessed memory – zecher tzaddik livrachah.”

From the use of the word tira’u, which is written in the plural form, the rabbis derive that the duty to revere and honor one’s parents applies to both sons and daughters. A married woman is, however exempt from the duties involved in honoring and revering her parents if her husband objects to their performance.

When performing the duties of kibbud av va’aim in front of one’s parents, one should do so with a smile, not begrudgingly. The attitude when providing is more important than the monetary value of the services provided.

The duty of kibbud av va’aim applies also to one’s stepparent during the lifetime of one’s biological parent and, if possible, thereafter. The duty also extends to one’s older siblings and to one’s grandparents, but to a lesser extent. One is not obliged to perform kibbud av va’aim duties for one’s parents-in-law. Parents-in-law should, however, be given the same deference given to all one’s elders.

If one witnesses a parent about to transgress a Torah law, one should be careful not to embarrass him or her. One should couch one’s language in a question form, like “Father, doesn’t the Torah say one should not…” If one receives competing requests from one’s mother and one’s father and it is impossible to fulfill both simultaneously, the order, according to the halacha, is father first and then mother. If, however, the parents are divorced, one may decide for oneself which request to fulfill first. If one is busy with another mitzvah, such as going to a funeral, and one’s parents require one’s attention, one should try to find somebody else to go to the funeral (unless no one is available, in which case one should go oneself).

There are extreme examples of kibbud av va’aim. Perhaps the most famous example is the incident with the jeweler Damah the son of Netinah of Ashkelon. One afternoon, the rabbis urgently needed two jewels for the shoulder straps of the high priest’s garment. So they came to his door with a fortune in hand. But the key to the chest that contained the precious stones was lying under his father’s pillow and Dama’s father was sleeping at the time. Rather than disturb his father, Damah sent the rabbis elsewhere.

Raphael Grunfeld

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/halacha-hashkafa/honoring-ones-parents/2016/05/05/

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