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October 27, 2016 / 25 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

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.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Social Skills Around The Clock

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

7am: The Morning Rush



“Let’s go. Get out of bed. You are already ten minutes late.”

“I’m coming.”

“That’s what you always say, but why aren’t you dressed yet? And where is your backpack?”

“Oh, right.”


The alarm clock rings and Chaim pulls his pillow over his head to stifle the screeching noise. Mornings are Chaim’s least favorite part of the day; they always end in someone yelling. In truth, mornings are difficult for most of us, but particularly so for those who struggle with basic skills that are labeled “executive function” skills.

Executive Function Disorder

In order to recognize Executive Function Disorder, it is important to understand what executive skills are. Among the individual skills that allow people to self-regulate are:

Planning: the ability to create a roadmap to reach a goal. This also includes the ability to focus only on what is important.

Organization: the ability to keep track of multiple sets of information and materials.

Time management: the ability to understand how much time one has, and to figure out how to divide it in order to meet a goal.

Working memory: the ability to hold information in mind even while performing other tasks.

Metacognition: the ability to self-monitor and recognize when you are doing something poorly or well.

Response inhibition: the ability to think before you speak or act.

Sustained attention: the ability to attend to a situation or task in spite of distraction, fatigue or boredom.

People who suffer from Executive Function Disorder lack many of these abilities. This can lead to persistent lateness, impulsive behavior, and the inability to complete any task completely.


In the book, Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents: A Practical Guide to Assessment and Intervention, the authors suggest a hands-on approach when dealing with children. This step-by-step method is formulated to help children develop the skills they need to successfully finish their schoolwork and function as competent adults in the workforce:

Step 1: Describe the problem behaviors, which might be not following the morning routines on schooldays or forgetting to hand in homework assignments. Be as specific as possible when describing the problem behavior – talk about the action – not the child.

Step 2: Set a goal, which should relate directly to the problem behavior. For example, if the problem behavior is not following morning routines, then the goal should be, “Ezra will get up, say modeh ani, brush his teeth, get dressed and eat breakfast.”

Step 3: Establish a procedure or set of steps to reach the goal, which is usually done by creating a checklist. The visual information on the checklist can help reorient your child towards the task at hand.

Step 4: Supervise the child following the procedure – especially at the beginning. Some supervisory steps include: reminding the child to begin the procedure; prompting the child to continue with each step; observing the child as each step is performed; providing feedback to help improve performance and praising the child when each step is completed successfully

Step 5: Evaluate process and make changes if necessary. Once you see your child run through the procedure, you might notice the moments where he gets caught up. During this step, you can modify the procedure to prevent those breakdowns.

Step 6: Fade the supervisionwhen your child gets the hang of the procedure. This does not mean you should take away the checklist or your praise, but instead, attempt to allow the procedure to run its course without your reminders.

10:30am: Recess

“We need another person to play kickball.”

“Well, we could ask Chaim.”

“Nah, he’d just say no.”

“Or, maybe he would wander off in the middle.”

“Maybe we should just play something else.”

Making it through the morning rush and the bulk of his Hebrew classes, Chaim’s class finally had morning recess. For most of the class, recess was the best time of the day, but for Chaim, recess was the most dreaded. Instead of participating in sports like the other children, Chaim wandered aimlessly around the yard. After three years, his classmates recognized that Chaim was not completely like them. While they had originally tried to get him to join in their games, now they left him alone.

Non-Verbal Communication

In reality, Chaim’s problem came down to his inability to read non-verbal cues. Here are some instances of positive non-verbal communication:

Rifka Schonfeld

Stuff Couples Say! Stuff My Date Says!

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Beineinu and Choice of the Heart (COH) will be holding their annual Symposium this Thursday night, May 17th, at Heichal Shlomo in Jerusalem. With well over 100 singles and young couples already registered, organizers may have to close the doors if maximum capacity is reached before the event starts.

Beineinu, which is the Singles division of the International Young Israel Movement – Israel Region, runs year-round programming for orthodox and traditional singles from throughout Israel in the 28-42 age range. These well attended functions are frequented by new immigrants from around the globe together with native Israelis.

Choice of the Heart is aimed at getting new marriages off to a great start and solidifying the relationship between husband and wife. COH offers courses and workshops designed to cover topics that couples usually have to deal with in the first year/s of marriage that can become stumbling blocks such as: communication, finance and more.

Micki Lavin-Pell, Director of Beineinu commented: “We are very excited about this event. The early registration shows that singles and couples are looking for guidance in dating and relationship building. We are happy to be here as a much needed resource. Beineninu, in its two years of existence, has proved to be the organization of choice for singes in Israel thanks to our interactive and dynamic programs.”

Sherrie Miller, Director of Choice of the Heart stated: “In South Africa the equivalent  of our workshops is a pre-requisite to getting married under the Rabbanut in an attempt to make sure that every marriage has the greatest chance of success. Choice of the Heart strives to do the same here in Israel.”

The event will begin with a keynote address by Dr. David Ribner – Professor at Bar-Ilan University  and co-author of ‘Et Le’ehov’ followed by workshops led by Sherrie  (“Communication – make your partner your BFF”) and Micki (“How to avoid marrying a Jerk or Jerkette”) for both couples and singles.

If you would like further information or to cover the event on Thursday May 17th starting at 7:30 PM contact: Daniel Meyer – iyimisrael@gmail.com/ 0544826649

Jewish Press Staff

The Power of Human Interaction

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Four stories, four sets of relationships, four life lessons. In one short week from January 15-22, 2012, my world was altered forever by the stories, relationships and life lessons experienced on the Center for Jewish Future mission to help build an irrigating tilapia farm for the small Mexican village of Muchucuxcah.

My first story is about food and Cecelia, Maxamillia, Anastasia, Phenomelia, Porfafelia and Claudina, the ladies of the kitchen. All over the world, relationships are built around food. Although food is a necessity, the experience of preparing, presenting and eating the food creates a story that is unique to each culture. In Muchucuxcah, the food was prepared by the kitchen ladies. The food was spicy Mexican. But the story is not about the food but about the experience that surrounded the preparation of the food. The kitchen ladies dressed in the most beautiful and colorful hand made dresses and always presented themselves with smiles that stretched a mile wide. Although I could not speak their language, I managed to build a deep connection with them. We danced together, laughed together and exchanged numerous hugs every day. And I learned from these simple kitchen ladies about the power of gratitude and appreciation. It was truly amazing to see individuals who have so little but still manage to appreciate so much.

My second story is about love and courage and one of the children of the village. I was sitting on the ground taking pictures of the kids playing soccer when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and saw a little girl in worn out clothing with a string in her hand. She asked me in Spanish, “Are you Susie?” to which I responded with a smile, “Yes, how did you know that?” She explained to me that she remembered me from our visit to her school the previous day. This brought tears to my eyes. In my broken Spanish, I asked her what her name was and she told me her name was “Rayena Yasmine.” I gave her a hug and asked her if she wanted to play with me. She pulled out her string and taught me a few tricks on my hand. I was humbled by courage of this eight year old Muchucuxcan girl who stepped out of her comfort zone to create a relationship with me, a 19 year old American girl. We played and laughed until I walked her home. Rayena Yasmine taught me about courage but also about the power of love to break down cultural, religious, racial and socioeconomic barriers.

My third story is about how achieving meaningfulness together with happiness and two modest Italians. One night, we met with Sigues Mundo and his wife, Angela, the directors and inspiration behind El Hombre Sobre la Tierra (HST), the non government organization (NGO) with which we worked. Sigues Mundo is Italian by birth but spent many years of his life traveling, volunteering in many countries in need and educating himself in the real life issues at play in the world. In 1994, he and his wife founded HST to “work with communities in Yucatán and Campeche to promote environmental sustainability and food self-sufficiency, advance the integration of women in the economy and strengthen the capacity of grassroots groups.” (visit ajws.org for more information).

Sigues Mundo is one of those inspiring people you may only meet one time in your life. He told our group that we each have a role in this world a – to lead a life that we love. It is our goal to find the thing that we love doing because only then will we reach our ultimate happiness and since happiness is contagious, we will then succeed in bringing happiness to others. Sigues Mundo loves helping people and loves learning about our world, so he created HST in order to live each day doing what he loves. And he taught me to dig deeply into my own consciousness and find what truly makes me happy. I learned that I love human interaction and I love children and with Sigues Mundo in mind, I am dedicated to leading a life interacting with children to bring meaning and happiness into their lives.

My final story is about the power of one and a man named Rodolfo. Rodolfo is a 30 year Mexican with a wife and a 2 year old daughter. He works for El Hombre Sobre la Tierra and dedicates his life to helping others. Everyday our group would arrive at the work cite and transport rocks with our bare hands from the forest to the area where the tilapia pond was going to be built. Around 2 hours into our work I would always find Rodolfo chiseling at the ground in attempt to extract a rock from deep within the soil.

Susie Senders

Shidduch Challenges – How To Find The Right One

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Several weeks ago, in response to a letter from by a young woman in her thirties who wrote of the painful plight of singles, I wrote a column that has since mushroomed into a series of articles.

Originally I had planned to devote one or two columns to the subject, but the response from readers has been so overwhelming that it’s necessitated a more involved response.

In my last column I explained that making a shidduch has never been easy and that there always have been obstacles. Nevertheless, each period is different, and this week I will focus on our generation.

These difficulties apply equally to every segment of the Jewish population, and while Orthodox singles are more insulated from cultural influences, the rippling effects have impacted all of us. So the questions remain: Why can’t singles get married? What went wrong?

There are no pat answers. Many contributing factors come into play. Years ago, singles lived at home until they married. Parents were actively involved in helping their children find mates. At the very least, they pressed them to get on with it and establish their own homes. Today, however, things are different. No sooner have young people graduated from high school than they are on their way, and even if they should at some point move back home, parents often adopt a “laissez-faire” attitude when it comes to their children marrying.

Moreover, our culture encourages young people to focus on their careers while marriage is placed on the back burner. This has taken a devastating toll. Immersed in their professions, young women see their biological clocks tick on and on. They have been misled into believing they have all the time in the world, only to realize one day that years have passed and can never be retrieved. Though this is a tragedy that affects both genders, women are hit harder, not only because of their biological clocks but because by nature they are nest builders.

While it’s become fashionable for women to believe they can have children even into their forties – and, yes, there are some wonderful stories that make great copy – in real life things are quite different. Even if by some stroke of luck a woman in her forties finds her soul mate, the road to childbearing can be filled with much heartache and painful and expensive medical treatment.

A successful young woman in the corporate world came to consult with me about finding a mate. “Rebbetzin,” she said, “I have an elderly, widowed mother. I call her every day and visit her at least once a week, but I am haunted by a terrible thought. Who will visit me when I am her age? I always thought you could have it all – a successful career, marriage, children – but the truth is that men, even if they are on in years, can combine marriage and parenthood with a successful career, but this is not so simple for women. We’ve lost the best years of our lives. We’ve been misled.”

Whose fault is it? It doesn’t matter. An entire generation has been led down the garden path. Though it may be true that that men fare better in the singles world, experience has taught me that they are also suffering. Many sincerely desire to marry but can’t – they suffer from “commitment phobia.”

To be sure, there are many factors that render them phobic (these sometimes apply to women as well). Many men no longer feel they have to get married. They can just as easily have “relationships.” But these relationships not only are a negation of our Torah way of life, they come with a high price and leave indelible marks on one’s soul. You cannot be intimate with someone and then cancel that person out without consequences. Even if one is in denial, the heart, the mind, and the soul have long memories.

Little wonder, then, that today’s singles carry heavy baggage and with each passing year pick up even more, all of which mitigates against committing to marriage.

Additionally, the active social lives many singles lead serve to mask their feelings of loneliness. There is always a plethora of activities to keep them believing they are doing their all to pursue a match – whereas in reality they are just going from date to date, gathering to gathering, singles event to singles event.

I met a young man while I was speaking at a convention. I had seen him some years ago at our Hineni organization, and I asked how he was doing.

“I’m still single” he said. “Any recommendations?”

I thought for a moment and suggested a lovely young woman who had been coming to my classes. “I know her,” he said. “We are friends. She is not for me, and to be honest with you, Rebbetzin, I didn’t wait all this time to settle now!”

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Who Do You Think You Are?

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

From 1986 through 2004 Regesh Family and Child Services ran a renowned residential treatment program for difficult and at-risk youth and children.  Over the many years of providing residential, as well as outpatient care, we realized that children and youth with symptoms of an attachment disorder acted out the most and were difficult children to make immediate progress with.  These children always required more long-term care and much caring and patience.  These children display defiance, opposition or, maybe worst of all, indifference.  A child with insecure attachment or an attachment disorder doesn’t have the skills necessary to bond with caregivers or build meaningful relationships.  The behaviors of these children leave adults exhausted, angry and often feeling helpless and hopeless.

Attachment problems fall on a spectrum, from mild problems that are easily addressed to the most serious form, known as reactive attachment disorder.  It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss the various types or their treatments.  However, in brief, attachment disorders are the result of negative experiences in a child’s earliest developmental stage and early relationships.  If a young child feels repeatedly abandoned, isolated, powerless, or uncared for—for whatever reason—he or she will learn that other people can’t be depended on and that the world is a dangerous and frightening place.  Consequently, their behavior reflects these feelings.  Some causes of this phenomenon include, but are not limited to: infants with teenage mothers, infants with extended hospital stays, parents who do not give the required attention to the child or parents whose attention and caring are inconsistent (that is, sometimes they are there for the child while other times they cannot be relied on).  Other conditions leading to possible attachment problems include the young child who gets attention only by acting out or displaying other extreme behaviors; a young child or baby who is mistreated or abused, or a baby or young child who is moved from one caregiver to another (this can be the result of adoption, foster care or the loss of a parent).

Healthy attachment, like trust, begins in infancy.  The infant quickly learns that when he/she feels discomfort, i.e. from being wet, hungry or in pain, there will be someone, a caregiver, usually a mother, there to relieve the discomfort.  This first stage of developing trust leads to the development of an attachment between the infant and the caregiver.  The infant develops a clear preference for being with, and interacting with, those specific caregivers over lesser known individuals.  Thus, without proper attachment to this primary individual, the child’s emotional and nurturing needs are not met. When the normal attachment process does not occur, children develop abnormal relationships with caregivers, leading to potential serious mental health and behavioral issues.  Due to the pervasive nature of this disorder, subsequent interpersonal relationships, such as the development of normal peer and ultimately romantic relationships in later childhood are often distorted.  In addition to unconditional loving and consistent parenting, therapy is often required to work with such children and adolescents.

Why am I giving you all this background?  Lately I hear a common theme in the attitudes of at-risk youth.  Perhaps you have heard it as well.  It goes like this: “Who do you think you are?”  “You have no right to tell me what to do.”  “You can’t make me” or the challenge “Try to make me.”  The theme is the same; the parent, caregiver, teacher does not have any rights or better, any connection or relationship with the youth, in his or her mind.  There seems to be a disconnect between the child and the adult.

Why do kids do what we ask of them?  Really, think about this question.  At what age does a child make up his own mind to do as he wants, not as you want?  (This is a whole article within itself). When do we no longer have the “power” to “make” a child do what we want?

Edwin Schild

A Variety Of Blends

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

When I became the mom of a blended family more that fifteen years ago, I imagined that there were only two possible options: either we blended or we didn’t, and blending was the definitive goal.  It was my theory that the best blends were the ones that were seamless; so integrated that you were not able to detect where one family unit originally ended and the other began.  I am almost embarrassed to admit it, but for some reason it brought me great pleasure when people would look at my daughter and assume she was my husband’s biological child.  There was a sense of completeness when we were out and about with our four children, two from his first marriage and two from mine, and I would often fantasize that this is the way it always had been and always would be; we were meant to be a cohesive group. I think back with joy to when our four younger “shared” or “connector” children were added to our blend and acquaintances would comment on how similar they looked to their older half siblings. Funny as that might seem I was convinced that these were signs from above that we were doing something right!

Now that I am older and more experienced at this “blended family” thing, I have come to realize that there are actually some perfectly full-fledged “blended” families that are not that blended at all, and they seem to be just fine.

When I look at my friends who are also step-moms I do not notice any concern over the fact that they see their stepchildren as just that: stepchildren, rather than embracing them as their own. It doesn’t seem to irk them that their stepchildren call them by their first names rather than Mom or some version thereof. They claim not to lose sleep over what their step kids are up to. You can plainly see that they love these children; they just choose to leave the worrying to the “real mom and dad.” In fact I recently asked an acquaintance, whom I knew has several older stepchildren and just became a grandmother, if her new grandson was her first grandchild. Her response gave me much to think about and was the catalyst that got my mind working on this article. She answered that her new grandson was her first, but that her husband had two young grandchildren. What struck me is that this couple had actually been married over twenty years and she still thought of her husband’s children from his previous marriage as his and not hers.

Honestly, when I think about it, there might just be something positive in adopting this kind of attitude. These women are perfectly good stepmothers; they are caring, compassionate, warm women. I certainly do not consider myself a better stepmother simply because my stepchildren call me “Mommy” or that when I am asked how many children I have I automatically respond eight instead of just counting the six that I gave birth to.

Self-evaluation is often a complicated and emotional journey and I sometimes wonder why creating this “normal” family unit was so important to me.  Why did I need that validation of the strong role I played in my stepchildren’s lives? Why did I need to be recognized?

Over the years, time and experiences has changed us – and our needs have changed as well.  I believe that at the beginning of our relationship, my stepchildren and I all needed to feel that closeness that comes with being acknowledged as parent and child. We were all wounded from the process of divorce and the challenges of blending. Making that commitment to each other, letting the world know that we were indeed a “real family” was in a sense making a statement that our bond was valid and long term. It was reassuring and stabilizing at a time when we needed to feel that stability.

Yehudit Levinson

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/a-variety-of-blends/2011/11/24/

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