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October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

The Repercussions Of Divorce

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

In your August 24 column, What Can Prevent Marriage, you eloquently discussed how losing a parent at a young age may cause someone to have a hard time getting married. As you made clear this is because of a deep-rooted fear of getting closer to someone and facing the possibility of loss.

Here’s my issue: my parents got divorced when I was young, and I am afraid the same things will happen to me. You see, not only are my parents divorced, two of my siblings – along with an uncle and an aunt – are also divorced. I feel as if divorce runs in my family, and even the married people who I am close with don’t seem to be to happy.

I am writing to you hoping you can address this issue and possibly calm my fears. Dr. Respler, if someone comes from a divorced home and divorce is prevalent in his or her family, does it make the fearful person more afraid of getting married?

I am a young man with many options, but I am afraid of ending up divorced – and miserable. Please help me understand this issue (it would be most appreciated if you would include research to document some of your suggestions).

I want to be able to get married!

Frustrated

Dr. Yael Respler and Dr. Orit Respler-Herman offer the following reply:

Dear Frustrated:

Let me say that we do understand your dilemma. Based on our experience your fear is somewhat valid, as children from a divorced home are more likely to get divorced. That being said, there are many other factors that come into play that can affect a person’s marriage.

There are many individuals who have grown up in a divorced home and have wonderful, happy marriages. There are others, though, who grew up in an intact family but end up get divorced. The manner in which the divorce takes place also plays a role in how the children are reared. For example, if for whatever reason a couple decides to get divorced but ensures that it is amicable to the point that their children are shielded from its details and one (or both) of the parties remarries and is in a healthy and happy marriage, the chances of the children having happy marriages are much greater. The reality is that many children of divorced parents, whether the divorces were amicable or non-amicable, are happily married.

Research shows that growing up as a product of divorced parents significantly increases the likelihood of a child terminating his or her own marriage. Children from divorced homes in America are more likely to get married as teens and marry someone who is also a child of divorced parents. This also increases the likelihood of getting divorced. Research also shows that children from divorced homes are one-third less likely to marry if they are over age 20 when the divorce takes place (Wolfinger, 2005).

More recent research indicates that children from divorced homes have an increased risk of having difficult relationships and marriages (Cui & Fincham, 2010). However, expanded research was conducted to understand why this is so. The two most important factors: conflict managment and commitment to marriage.

One of the main ways children learn about relationships is by watching their parents interact. If children see their parents communicate in a positive fashion, they are more apt to communicate this way with their siblings or peers – as children often copy their parents’ styles of communication. How conflict is handled and how quickly parents become angry seem to have a particularly powerful effect on children’s own skills in dealing with others. Cui and Fincham (see above) found that children raised in households in which their parents do not manage conflict or disagreement well are more likely to have similar difficulties in their own relationships.

Parents also sometimes connect their feelings of commitment to their relationships. Cui and Fincham found that children with divorced parents have less positive attitudes toward marriage and a lower commitment to sustaining romantic attachments. Specifically, when these young people come across difficulties or are somewhat unhappy with the relationship they’re in, they are more likely to end the relationship – as compared to young people whose parents stay married. This finding also extends to marriage, whereby children with divorced parents were less likely to remain in the marriage – as compared to children from intact families.

Back To School

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

What is the most impressive accomplishment in professional sports?

What is that question doing in this newspaper?

One of the lessons Ben Azzai teaches us in Pirkei Avos is al t’hi maflig l’chol davar, which means there is potential value in everything in Hashem’s world (Tiferes Yisrael on Avos 4:3). We might even be able to derive a musar haskal from professional sports.

In most sports, there is a champion. Every year, someone wins the Davis Cup, the Stanley Cup, the Superbowl, and the World Series. How would you determine which of those is the most impressive achievement?

Perhaps the most impressive achievement is none of those. Perhaps the most prestigious title is the one that no one wins, year after year. Perhaps the crowning achievement in professional sports is the Triple Crown of Racing, which no horse has won since Affirmed won it in 1978.

A victory so seldom achieved is an impressive achievement. And I think there’s a musar haskal for each of us, particularly as parents.

Rabi Shimon taught: There are three crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of kehuna, and the crown of malchus. (Avos 4:13) That is our triple crown.

How can each of us aspire to all three crowns? How many of us are kohanim? How many of us are descendants of Dovid Hamelech? And if many of us can only aspire to the crown of Torah, what is the lesson for us in knowing that there are two other crowns?

According to Rabi Yitzchak Izaak Chaver, each of the three of the crowns bears significance for every one of us:

The crown of kahuna alludes to service, the positive mitzvos.

The crown of malchus alludes to self-restraint, the negative mitzvos.

The crown of Torah alludes to knowledge, to learn for the sake of Torah. (Ohr Torah, cited by Misivta Avos, kaftor v’ferach page 62)

How does this apply to you and your child?

There are three areas of achievement for a child: social, behavioral, and academic.

You want your school-age child to have friends, to cooperate with teachers, and to master the lessons that she is taught.

You want your pre-schooler to play nicely with other children, to sit in the circle when the morah says it is circle time, and to learn shapes, colors, numbers, and the aleph-bais.

Learning appropriate social skills incorporates positive mitzvos such as v’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha and b’tzedek tishpote amisecha.

You want your child to achieve the crown of kahuna, to form friendships by expressing kindness, patience, and generosity.

Cooperation with teachers includes the negative mitzvah of al tasur.

You want your child to attain the crown of malchus, to learn self-restraint, to reign in impulsive behaviors and desires.

Torah encompasses all of the above as well as the study of Torah itself.

You hope your child will acquire the crown of Torah; that he will see the joy of Torah in others and strive to gain it for himself.

You want your child to win the Triple Crown. Sometimes, I hope, he will. When he falls short in one or two areas, don’t be discouraged; be concerned.

How do you express concern? How do you help your child when she is struggling in one of these areas?

Please join me for a Webinar on how to address these and other back to school issues, including How to Talk to Your Child’s Teacher, How to Get Homework Done Without Tears (yours or theirs!), and Effective Study Habits.

Log on at Frumtherapist.com on Thursday, September 6 at 11:30 AM for a LIVE, INTERACTIVE 45 minute presentation* about: Homework – Has it been a struggle to get started, get it completed, get it right? Or even to find out if any homework was assigned?

Test grades – how does your child study? Is memorization hard for him? Doe she have trouble with comprehension? Conversations with rebbeim and teachers – what to ask, how to initiate and how to respond.

Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with specialties in marriage, relationships, and parenting. He works with parents and educators, and conducts parenting seminars for shuls and organizations. He can be reached at 718-344-6575.

*The webinar is sponsored by The Jewish Press.

Title: Explaining Life: The Wisdom of Modern Jewish Poetry, 1960-2010

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Title: Explaining Life: The Wisdom of Modern Jewish Poetry, 1960-2010
Author: Eleanor Ehrenkranz
Reviewed by E. Mangel

The poems in this collection, Explaining Life: The Wisdom of Modern Jewish Poetry, 1960-2010 – some written originally in Yiddish and Hebrew – do “pierce the heart,” and educate it as well. These are poems about major issues in daily life – love, loss, alienation, family relationships, the after-effects of war, death and renewal – which help us reflect on how we are living and suggest possible ways to cope with and to improve our lives.

Facing difficult situations directly by pinpointing scenes from life is a poet’s job. And it is a cathartic experience for the reader. A mother’s suffering when her son goes off to one of the many wars in Israel, does “encapsulate the agony of the Middle East” in Dina Yehuda’s Soldier Son:

now twenty one, you aim at unseen enemies as rocket propelled grenades smash through windows
in abandoned houses in villages whose names
I can’t pronounce.
God’s voice shatters the cedars of Lebanon
your voice shatters my heart.

And sometimes loss is depicted in a more whimsical way, as in Branch Library by Edward Hirsch:

I wish I could find that skinny, long-beaked boywho perched in the branches of the old branch library.
I’d give anything to find that birdy boy again
bursting out into the dusky blue afternoon
with his satchel of scrawls and scribbles,
radiating heat, singing with joy.

The loss of carefree childhood is eloquently depicted here, with a sun-filled picture of a bookish young boy.

The section on love is comprised of a variety of expressions. The beginning of courtship is illustrated by Ruth Whitman in the poem Your Call as she writes about a girl waiting a long time for a phone call that finally comes:

When your voice – like fire from a star –Burst through the kitchen telephone
And I saw light, sunlight on the branches
As I took you in.

Each section of this book gives us poems which may either help us recollect tiny incidents from our lives, or portray possible vignettes. In the Renewal section, Yehoshua November does both. In his Partners in Creation he claims that God creates the world, again and again, in different ways:

the way a child’s world is renewedwhen he comes home from school
and his father and mother
still live in the same house,
and he hears them talking at the kitchen table.

And in his In the Unseeable World, he creates a possible, mystical connection between God and man when he depicts a passerby watching a man praying inside a shul. The man stretches his arms heavenward and “Hashem’s/long arms reach through the eternal/water and the firmament/and His hands cleave/ to the hands of the man who is praying,” but the man passing by just says, “Oh, why does he waste his energy, what does he hope to touch?” The believer achieves his goal but the nonbeliever sees and receives nothing, is the message.

Further enlightenment comes from Jacob Glatstein’s Praying the Sunset Prayer in which Glatstein teaches the importance of the third and last prayer of the day that Orthodox Jewish men say at evening time:

The day is departing with a quiet kiss.It lies open at your feet
while you stand saying the blessings.
how you age with the days
that keep dawning,
how you bring your lived-out day
as a gift to eternity.

Many poems in this book deal with mother-daughter and mother-son relationships, some sad, some humorous. Other poems relate father-son, father-daughter relationships which are tender.

The book has something for everyone to feel and to respond to.

Climbing to the Top: A Story of Strength

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

A few years ago, Shalom was wandering the streets of Israel after he was thrown out of his high school for refusing to come to class.  Now – only four years later – Shalom is completing a commander’s course is an elite unit of the Israel Defense Forces and already has dreams to study engineering after he finishes officer’s school. What can Shalom’s complete turn-around - from high school dropout to motivated and disciplined IDF commander – be attributed to?

The answer can be found about a thirty minute drive from Jerusalem, in a special center called “Menifa.”

Menifa- Leverage for Life is a nonprofit organization that was founded in Israel in 2004. The mission of the organization is to prevent at-risk youth from dropping out of high school and to reintegrate detached youth into normative frameworks. Menifa establishes learning centers in existing high schools for teens who are in acute danger of dropping out of school and for those who have already detached from the educational system.  These centers are alternative full-time learning programs for the struggling teens.  Since its establishment, Menifa has operated 130 such programs around Israel.

One of Menifa’s centers lies on a farm approximately thirty minutes away from Jerusalem.  This center accepts boys between the ages of fourteen and eighteen.  Most of them come from broken homes or from families who are in financial straits.  The boys in this program have been involved in either alcohol or drug abuse or other destructive behaviors.  Shalom is one of the boys who came to this center after having no other place to turn to.

Shalom struggled in a regular high school framework.  He was kicked out of school in the 11th grade and he did not know where he would spend the next year, until he received a call from a man named Ariel who introduced himself from the organization Menifa.  Ariel invited Shalom to meet him and learn more about Menifa.

“It turned out to be my best year of school,” Shalom explains. “The staff gave us the freedom to choose what we wanted to learn and how and when. We wanted to come out of choice and out of a desire to take responsibility.”

In addition to the regular academic courses that they are offered, the boys have daily activities that provide them with social and emotional reinforcement and help build their life skills. The boys also clean the center every day and prepare lunch as a group in the kitchen. These group activities help instill in the boys a sense of teamwork and responsibility for oneself and others.

The youth are drawn to the center because of its unique approach that places an emphasis on the staff-student connection and on interpersonal relationships. Every morning, the center’s life coach, Yaniv greets each boy with a giant bear hug, bringing an instant smile to their faces. He calls the boys each morning to wake them up and to make sure they come to the center. He also makes house calls where he visits the boys and meets with their parents to help strengthen the parent-child relationship.

The relationships that the students form with the staff play an important role in their rehabilitation and return to normative functioning. “One of the most powerful experiences for me was the many intimate conversations I had with Ariel [the center’s coordinator] and my life coach from Menifa,” Shalom explains.  “I spoke to them about issues that were bothering me in my life.  I always felt comfortable speaking with them at eye level, without fear that they would react negatively.”

“Before the end of the school year, I had much hesitation whether I should enlist in the IDF immediately or first enroll in a pre-military preparatory academy,” Shalom continues.  “After many deep conversations with Ariel, I decided to enroll in a preparatory academy with two other friends from Menifa.  I believe this was the most important decision I ever made in my life and I have no doubt that Menifa led me to this choice,” he says.

‘My Joy In Judaism Has Disappeared’

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Last week I shared a letter from a disillusioned 38-year-old single woman. Raised in a secular family, she followed the usual pattern of the last couple of generations, placing marriage on the back burner in favor of relationships.

Having gone through many boyfriends, she experienced the painful futility of investing many years in “relationships” only to discover it was all for naught. The final step of marriage and raising a family never happened.

At thirty-eight she is a successful junior partner at a law firm but, she wrote, it’s all meaningless. Her dream of becoming a wife and mother never materialized. A friend invited her to come to my Torah classes where she discovered the Jewish way of family life based upon the sanctity of marriage. She is deeply pained and frustrated that she made this discovery too late. If only she had been raised with such values, how different her life would have been.

The letter evoked much discussion and I received many e-mails. The following is one of them.

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,

I am addressing this to the woman whose letter you featured in your column last week:

Like you, I grew up in a Reform home. Like you, I have been in and out of relationships since high school. Like you, I have also achieved professional success. Like you, I am thirty-eight years old and lament the fact that my biological clock has ticked away as I remain single. Yet, unlike you, I am an Orthodox Jew.

At the age of twenty-nine I met a man who was Orthodox. I liked him, but he gave me the “buts” as to why it would never work – one of which was the fact that at the time I was not Orthodox. I tried to prove him wrong and started attending classes. And pretty soon I recognized that my connection to Judaism and spirituality had less to do with him and more to do with the fact that I thought I had found the truth. I thought that by becoming religious I had found the blueprint of the universe that would lead to the happiest life I could live, which included something fundamental to being an Orthodox Jew: a beautiful husband and family.

At the age of thirty-two I quit a lucrative job to learn full time in Israel. After a year I returned home and went back to work – crying every day because I wasn’t fulfilling my potential as a wife and mother.

Years ticked by and most of my friends got married. One by one they left me behind, entering a world I only hope to know, leading me to make new friends again. As I get older, my friends get younger as there are fewer and fewer women my age who are single. These younger friends are also getting married and they feel guilty for even telling me they are engaged.

I have been to countless rabbis, received berachot, davened, etc. I have seen countless therapists – some religious, some not – trying to “fix” whatever is wrong with me that has rendered me single. I have read countless books on faith, trying hard to believe that G-d actually loves me and somehow this will all work out – that going to other people’s families for Shabbat and Yom Tov meals is somehow good for me; that some way, somehow, all this pain is good for my soul.

I wonder what might have happened if I hadn’t become religious. By secular standards I am still what people call “a catch,” but with every passing day I become less and less marketable in the frum world, with ages of suggested men exponentially increasing – fifty five has recently become an “appropriate” suggestion, along with the seemingly obligatory warning that I shouldn’t be so “picky.” If you knew me and my dating history, you’d know I was anything but picky. I just feel unlucky in this area of my life.

You, at least, can be angry at yourself or angry at your ex. I have done everything “right” according to rabbinic tradition and am just left with anger at G-d.

It is embarrassing to admit I am angry with G-d when so many people have suffered so much more than the pain of despairing over not having a family. And yet, just as you regret your choices, I am starting to regret mine. I feel G-d has forgotten me.

OU To Host Annual Marriage Enrichment Retreat

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

The Orthodox Union will hold its seventh Marriage Enrichment Retreat from Friday, July 13through Sunday, July 15 at the Hudson Valley Resort and Spa in Kerhonkson, New York.

The adults-only weekend is geared toward happily married couples who wish to learn to communicate and relate on a deeper emotional level. Free from their daily distractions and routines, couples will be able to concentrate on one another and strengthen their marriage commitment.

“In the medical, accounting, and legal professions, people need continuing education credits to [complement] their credentials,” OU National Director of Community Services and Special Projects Frank Buchweitz told The Jewish Press.

“Many people think they are supposed to go into marriage knowing how to navigate it successfully. The retreat provides continuing credits for people to strengthen their relationships.”

Rachel Pill, LCSW, a popular presenter back for her fourth retreat, told The Jewish Press that “so often we are bombarded with what is wrong in our community, and this retreat is focused on the positive. It gives couples an opportunity to really focus on each other and to learn new things, gain some tips and spend the whole weekend listening to great speakers.”

Workshops such as “Make Your Good Marriage a GREAT Marriage,” “Enrich Your Relationship,” and “Enhance Your Communication Skills” will provide building blocks for lasting relationships, as will special presentations from OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Steven Weil and his wife, Yael. Buffet-style meals provide opportunities to create new relationships with people from across the country representing a wide cross-section of Orthodoxy.

Judy and Dovid Landman wrote of their experience at the retreat: “Our fears of hashkafic discordance went unfounded as we saw and heard the high caliber of the speakers and were treated to some beautiful divrei Torah. We came away relaxed and rejuvenated both physically and spiritually and were ready to synchronize all that we had learned.”

The Landmans were particularly inspired by “the array of people who attended the retreat. There was every color of the Jewish rainbow present – truly a sense of mah tovu ohalecha Yaakov. After all, we were all here for the same purpose, no matter what hue you represented in that rainbow.”

Editor’s Note: Cost includes hotel, meals, workshops, and tips for waitstaff. Spots are almost sold out, so call Hannah Farkas at 212-613- 8351 for more information and to register.

Leaving The ‘Zero’ Life Behind

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I grew up a secular Jew in a Reform home. Once a year, on the High Holidays, I attended temple. My brother married a non-Jew and no one in the family was upset about it. As a matter of fact, most of my cousins are intermarried. I am thirty-eight years old, a litigation attorney who works for what most people regard as a prestigious law firm.

I have been in and out of relationships going as far back as my senior year in high school. Marriage was something I felt had to be put on the back burner until I was established and successful in my career. When I was thirty-two I was promoted and became a junior partner in my firm. I told my boyfriend I was ready to get married.

He said he, too, wanted to get married but wasn’t quite ready. He wanted to make some more money and achieve the goals he had set for himself in business. My boyfriend was in finance, and as you know the stock market is a roller coaster, so while he agreed we should get married there was always some reason to delay. If it wasn’t money it was something else.

One of my close friends became observant, and it was you who influenced her to make that change in her life. We come from the same background; we were high school friends, grew up in the same community and our families went to the same temple. While we attended different universities, we always kept in touch and went on many double dates. On weekends we played tennis. But then we grew apart and – I write this with the utmost respect – it was you, Rebbetzin, who caused the rift.

My friend stumbled upon your classes purely by accident and she started to go regularly to the Hineni Heritage Center. It seemed that overnight she started to behave strangely. She refused to eat at the restaurants we’d always enjoyed. She refused to have dinner at our home. She told us she had decided to keep kosher. I couldn’t believe that my friend, who was such an enlightened person, would get bogged down with all that nonsense. I always believed this kosher business was some ancient superstition, but I couldn’t convince her and she stubbornly clung to her new way of life.

When we were discussing it one evening, she challenged me: “What difference does it make to you whether I eat seafood or not, or whether I eat pork chops? Are you telling me you are willing to terminate years of friendship because I changed my choice of food? What if I went on a diet and limited myself to what a doctor prescribed? Would that bring an end to our relationship? So if God, whom I believe to be the Doctor of all Doctors, prescribed His diet for me, why should that bother you?”

I didn’t have any good answers. Nevertheless, I felt angry and couldn’t explain why. I decided to try to bury my resentment and take a tolerant view of her diet. But it didn’t end there. Whereas in the past we would have so much fun on Saturdays shopping and picking up great bargains, she now stayed home, went to her synagogue and had Sabbath meals with her new friends. She had become a person I no longer recognized. We still had some uncomfortable conversations in which she presented me with arguments I had difficulty responding to but rejected just the same.

“Are you telling me our friendship is based on Saturday shopping sprees?” she asked. “Is that what it’s all about? Are you prepared to end our relationship because I believe Saturday is the holy Sabbath, a day on which I want to connect with G-d rather than go to Bloomingdale’s? Is that so terrible?”

Our friendship became increasingly strained, and she tried to persuade me to attend your Hineni Torah classes. I refused. But my friend didn’t give up. She kept badgering me to go just once and listen to you. So I finally went. I was prepared to hate it, to tell her that, just as I had thought, this whole thing was superstition. But you were totally different from what I had anticipated. Your words spoke to me. I felt as if you knew my life.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/leaving-the-zero-life-behind/2012/06/20/

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