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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Respect’

Chief Rabbis & Politics

Monday, August 5th, 2013

I have never been a fan of chief rabbis. Anyone appointed by committees, politicians, or bureaucrats is suspect in my eyes. Perhaps my antipathy is rooted in the days when both Napoleon and the czar appointed state chief rabbis whom they approved of because they were likely to support their agendas. I can say with confidence that, in general, the greatest rabbis, whether intellectually or spiritually, have never been interested in public appointments.

I don’t mean to say that all chief rabbis have been duds. Israel’s Chief Rabbis Abraham Isaac Kook, Isaac Herzog, and Uziel were great men by any criteria. Chief Rabbi Goren was a dynamic overachiever and a fearless innovator. Some, like Ovadiah Yosef, have been great scholars but poor spokesmen. But there have been too many others who were undiplomatic, corrupt, or ineffective. The reason can simply be put down to politics. When appointments are made by groups of political appointees (or self-appointed grandees) they invariably make the wrong decisions. Neither is public acclaim a reliable test of the best person for the job. Those who seek or need public recognition are rarely willing or able to take the tough and controversial stands that are the mark of genuine leadership.

Israel recently appointed two chief rabbis, both the sons of previous chief rabbis. I do not know either of them. But remarks I have seen attributed to them leave me deeply depressed that they will reflect a xenophobic, narrow perspective and shrink from trying to humanize the rabbinate. The political maneuvering, the arm twisting, the deals behind closed doors all point to a corrupt system. And once gain the innovative, the exciting have lost out. If a good man ever emerges it is despite the system not because of it. Nepotism is a poor way of producing great leaders. Yet throughout Jewish religious institutions nepotism is the norm rather than the exception. Yeshivot nowadays are often big family businesses (as indeed are most Chasidic dynasties).

Israel has two chief rabbis, one Ashkenazi and the other Sefardi. This in itself is evidence of how flawed the system is, that in a small religion such as ours religious leadership cannot work together. In addition, in Israel, there is a huge disconnect between the religious leadership and the common person, between the state rabbinate and the Charedi world, which has its own authorities. Indeed the Charedi world always rubbished and abused the state rabbinate until, in the desperate search for jobs for the boys and power, it began to infiltrate and then take much of it over. Once again it has ensured that its candidates have got the jobs.

One of the first words in Ivrit I learnt was “protektsia” (yes, I know it comes from Russian). “Vitamin P” meant you could not get anywhere in Israeli life, from top to bottom, religious or secular, without knowing someone or having someone pull strings in your behalf. So it was and so it largely remains. When this disease infects religion, it loses its moral authority.

But surely, you will say, Judaism requires one to respect one’s religious leaders. In theory this is so. The Torah commands respect for princes and scholars. Our liturgy is full of references to their importance. But there are two very distinct types of leadership in our tradition. The prophet and the judge emerged through merit. That’s probably why there were women judges and prophets. Rabbis as a rule were the result of meritocracy (the rabbinic dynasties that began with Hillel wanted to have their cake and eat it). On the other hand, the priesthood and the monarchy were both hereditary, and both failed. Most of the Jewish kings were idolatrous, evil men, and most priests showed more interest in money and power than Divine service.

Moshe typified the meritocracy. This was why he always defended himself by referring to his spotless record. It is true we say that in each generation we must accept the leader, Jephtah in his generation as the equivalent of Samuel in his. But I believe that has another meaning, of the need to accept the best we can get.

“Pray for the welfare of the ruling powers because otherwise humans would swallow each other up,” says the Mishna. That very Hobbesian idea underpins our modern secular states. But as Locke argued, if the king failed to do his job, you could and should get rid of him. This is why we pray for the State wherever we live, even as we may try our best to vote out whoever the current prime minister is. We in the West have recently experienced the irrational hysteria over a royal baby. I have no interest in ordinary people being elevated to positions of power or even symbolic authority simply on the basis of birth. There are enough inequalities in life of rank and wealth. I like the fact that we can vote people out of office as much as in. If I choose to respect someone, it is on the basis of the respect he or she earns, not the position they have been given. The diploma should be greater than the diaper.

I look forward to Elijah’s arrival. I hope he will not try to reinstate the monarchy. But I am pretty sure he will not insist on two kings, one Ashkenazi and the other Sefardi.

One of the reasons for so much disillusion with religion is precisely this disconnect between how its leaders too often behave and speak and their own purported religious values. The more we see how susceptible religious leadership is to money, power, and fame, the less good the religion they represent looks. I don’t care too much what politicians like Spitzer or Weiner get up to, and if people want to vote for them that’s their problem. But when religious leadership behaves like political leadership, something is very wrong.

Egyptian President Giving Chutzpah a Bad Name, Lecturing the US on Respect

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

Who said beggars can’t be choosers? You would have expected the president of a country in risk of losing financial support to the tune of between $2 and $5 billion to approach his first visit to his benefactor’s home with appropriate humility – hat in hand would be nice, a lowered stare, some discernible respect.

If that’s how you thought Egypt’s new Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, would appear on the eve of his coming visit to New York City, you were mistaken.

Instead of stressing his friendship and loyalty to a country which, despite its own economic woes, is generously helping to feed his 80 million plus citizens, Morsi is actually lecturing the United States, saying it needs to “fundamentally change its approach to the Arab world, showing greater respect for its values and helping build a Palestinian state, if it hoped to overcome decades of pent-up anger.”

For the record, since 1979, an annual contribution which totals, give or take, $30 billion has yielded the United States “decades of pent-up anger.”

If they came to me, I could have gotten them the same pent-up anger for less than half that cost…

Morsi is defying the boundaries Chutzpa in his NY Times interview on Saturday. And it appears the Times was taking it all in, hook, line, sinker, worms, stinking fish, you name it.

“He said it was up to Washington to repair relations with the Arab world and to revitalize the alliance with Egypt, long a cornerstone of regional stability,” summarize reporters David D. Kirkpatrick and Steven Erlanger.

Yes, the U.S. used to depend on Egypt for regional stability, but that was when a certain President Hosni Mubarak would crack the whip to keep America’s enemies (including Morsi) behind bars, and the Palestinians in line. That cornerstone has gone the way of the Shah of Iran, replaced by a regime with better ties with Iran and Hizbollah than with Washington or, God forbid, Israel.

Responding to hushed complaints from the State Dept. and the White House that his government had waited 48 hours while the mobs were charging and scaling the walls of the American embassy and burning the American flag, Morsi said “We took our time” in order to avoid an explosive backlash.

There was nothing spontaneous about those demonstrations, just as there was never any doubt that they were being permitted to flame up just so much. If the mobs stayed 48 hours outside the embassy it’s because they were told to stay; if they didn’t penetrate the embassy perimeter it’s because they obeyed directives; Morsi first had to send a message to the Americans, and then, when he was good and ready, he ordered the mobs dispersed.

The message was: Egypt is a tinderbox of repressed anti-American hatred and only I, Mohamed Morsi, can stop it – should I see fit to do so.

Cornerstone, shmornerstone, what Morsi is delivering are threats, unabashed, open faced and lethal. He is telling the U.S. that without him, its Mid-East assets will go up in flames. He can be likened to the mobster who walks into a businessman’s office and apologizes profusely for dropping an expensive vase on the floor. What a shame if more things get broken, right?

Then, naturally, there’s Israel. Morsi “argued that Americans ‘have a special responsibility’ for the Palestinians because the United States had signed the 1978 Camp David accord. The agreement called for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank and Gaza to make way for full Palestinian self-rule. ‘As long as peace and justice are not fulfilled for the Palestinians, then the treaty remains unfulfilled,’ he said.”

You got it? In effect, there is no longer an Egyptian obligation to honor the peace treaty with Israel, because Israel has not fulfilled its obligation under the treaty – not to Egypt, there even Morsi would admit every last morsel of land has been returned to its former owner – but to a third party.

This means that, from this point forward, any Israeli attempt to enforce the mutually binding peace agreement with Egypt could be met with a boldfaced refusal.

This would include the heavy armor Egypt has been bringing into the Sinai, in violation of the peace treaty, and which it takes back, for now, following Israeli and American pressure.

At some point – in the very near future – the Egyptians will insist on maintaining a regular military force in the Sinai, tanks and artillery included, and then the only option open to Israel would be to go to war over those violations.

Or accept them tacitly, as its many friends in the West would undoubtedly counsel.

The blog Elder of Ziyon charges the NY Times with a blatant lie over their unquestioning quote of Morsi’s assertion regarding Camp David and the Palestinians: “Camp David does not say that there will necessarily be a Palestinian Arab state in the West Bank and Gaza. It most certainly says nothing about a full Israeli withdrawal from the territories, only that its final status (and, by implication, its borders) will be up for negotiation after a transition period.” (I recommend the full article, if only for Monday morning water cooler talking points).

Morsi told the Times he sees “absolutely no conflict” between his loyalty to the Muslim Brotherhood and his vows to govern on behalf of all, including members of the Christian minority or those with more secular views.

It reminded me of Woody Allen’s quote: “And the lion will lie down with the lamb, but the lamb won’t get much sleep.” Those Christian Copts have been treated to some heavy governing since the Brothers’ president has been in charge.

I’ll be spending the next six weeks in deep prayer for the Republicans to retain their hold on the U.S. House of Representatives (the Senate will very likely remain in the Democrats’ possession, perhaps with several key gains). I’ll be praying not because I have much sympathy for the way they’ve conducted themselves over the past two years – some of it was hard to watch. I only want them to keep the House so that Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen will remain Chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee.

She is the only one willing to stand up to the Administration on aid to Egypt, and she has suspended this aid last week in light of Morsi’s lackluster defense of the primary American asset in his capital.

I trust that she will continue to inspire our foreign policy in her persistent and very effective way. At a time when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is close to tears when she wails over those ungrateful Libyans who dare kill Americans after all we’ve done to free them from tyranny – I feel much better with a closed-fisted Hispanic warrior from Florida drawing a line in the sand for Mr. Morsi.

I’ll bet she’ll even make him take off his hat indoors…

One final word about Chutzpah – it could be argued that our own Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been doing his own bit of lecturing to the U.S. while accepting some $3 billion a year in aid. Fair enough. But I fail to recall the last time a frenzied Jewish mob scaled the walls of the American embassy on HaYarkon Street to burn the flag. They might scale those walls if Red Hot Chili Peppers were visiting inside, though.

Happy 5773 From The Yishai Fleisher Show

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai is joined by alternative peace activist Baruch Widen, to talk about the nature of Rosh Hashana and how the true meaning of the holiday is not being observed.  They move on to talk about the need for both love and respect in all types of relationships and how it does not exist in the relationship between the west and a majority of the nations in the Middle East and end the segment by discussing the return of the Jewish Warrior to the world and get a quick check in from Malkah about Rosh Hashana preparations in the Fleisher home.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

America Needs a New Civil Space Policy

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Other nations are not waiting for the US to decide what kind of space policy it wants.

China is moving ahead with its independent manned space program. On June 18, 2012, a Chinese Shenzhou capsule, with China’s first female Taikonaut aboard, docked with China’s new space station. This Chinese mission is most likely meant to show that China is winning a new space race with the United States.

In January 2013, whatever the new administration, it will almost certainly not consider civil space policy to be one of its top priorities – civil space being the government’s non-military space program. The most important part of that is NASA; other parts include NOAA for civilian weather satellites and the FAA office of commercial space transportation for licensing commercial space launches.

If, in the first few weeks, space questions arise at all, restoring the 22% (or more) cuts made by the current administration to America’s military space programs will take precedence over decisions on the future of NASA. The European Space Agency has, at least for the moment, given up on major new cooperative space exploration programs with NASA. Further, the confused management of the US Space Agency has discouraged most of the world’s space organizations from joining with Americans on any serious new projects.

This situation is the opposite of the goal which the Obama administration set for itself in the June 2010 National Space Policy. The White House policy makers said then that they wanted to “expand international cooperation on mutually beneficial space activities to broaden and extend the benefits of space …”

International partnerships for space exploration are certainly being developed — only without the United States.

It is hard nevertheless to imagine that the question, “What do we do about NASA?” can be long postponed: the US government’s military space and civilian space (which mostly means NASA) are two sides of the same coin. The same firms that support the military’s essential space functions also support NASA’s science and exploration programs. The stress on major civil space programs — caused by a combination of complex requirements, underfunding and poor management — means that in early 2013, several of the most important programs, including the Mars exploration project and the James Webb Space Telescope, will be in even deeper trouble than they already are.

Any new administration will at some point have to face the incredibly incompetent way in which the future of scientific research on the International Space Station (ISS) has been handled. To put it bluntly, the same woman who was in charge of writing the specifications for the body which is to supervise science on the ISS, is now a senior officer in the institution that won the contract. This involves, at the very least, what used to be called “the appearance of impropriety.” Until the new administration and NASA take dramatic action to separate themselves from this mess, investigations and litigation will probably ensure that very little science will be done on the station.

Moreover, to save money for the very costly and behind-schedule Webb Space Telescope — managed by the Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland, and the pet project of the powerful and sometimes feared Democratic Senator, Barbara Milkulski — the rest of NASA’s science programs have been gutted. This plunder has been especially true of the planetary science missions: future Mars exploration programs have been canceled, and the planned “Flagship” mission to the outer planets has been postponed to the point where it is doubtful it will fly anytime within the next decade.

The manned space exploration program is a shambles. The commercial space projects are taking baby steps at a time where giant ones are needed. One hopes that the so-called “New Space” companies will find a way to thrive in this environment, but they are, with the exception of SpaceX, nowhere near ready to fly paying passengers into orbit, and will not be ready for some years to come.

In the early morning of May 22, 2012, SpaceX, based in Hawthorn California, finally launched its Dragon ISS resupply capsule on the company’s own Falcon 9 rocket. This was only the third Falcon 9 launch and the first since December of 2010. Three days later, on May 25th, the Dragon capsule was successfully berthed onto the space station. There is nothing unusual about a complex space launch vehicle taking more time than expected to perfect. For a private firm such as SpaceX, however, it has been an expensive process that has, no doubt, hurt its bottom line, at least for the short term.

The SpaceX Dragon’s launch was carried out under the terms of the Bush-era Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. In 2007 and 2008, NASA was planning to extend the COTS contract to cover transporting people, as well as cargo, to the ISS under the so-called COTS-D program. Now, instead of the commercial program being a useful auxiliary to NASA’s main human exploration plans, COTS-D was renamed the Commercial Crew and Cargo Development program (CCDev) and, after that re-renaming, is now named the Commercial Crew Program (CCP). NASA created this program to build vehicles that would take over the entire job of carrying people and cargo from Earth to orbit and back, a task was formerly performed by the Space Shuttle.

Congress rejected that approach; at present a stalemate exists between those who support giving the entire job to the so-called “commercial” industry and those who are pushing for a compromise. The compromise which the Obama administration reluctantly accepted in 2010 was that NASA would continue to develop the Orion capsule for possible missions to the asteroids, the Moon or Mars, and that NASA would begin work on a new rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS), which closely resembled the heavy-lift Ares V, a part of the Bush era Constellation Return-to-the-Moon Program. The SLS, like the Ares V, will, in theory, be able to lift more than 120 tons of payload into the Earth’s orbit — more than any other rocket in history. The current leadership at NASA, however, has been less than enthusiastic about the SLS program and has tried to undermine it every chance they got.

So how, in January 2013, could a new President restore NASA’s place as a world leader in science, technology and exploration? Perhaps by following three relatively-simple-to-understand principles:

Number OneRespect the US Constitution

Congress is a co-equal branch of the government. As such, it may be incredibly frustrating to deal with at times; however, its role as the keeper of the national purse must be acknowledged. The Obama administration’s cancellation of the Constellation program, which aimed to return Americans to the Moon and eventually land US astronauts on Mars, was nothing short of an act of political vandalism. Constellation had been carefully crafted, with considerable input from senior Senators and Representatives from both political parties. Killing Constellation poisoned NASA’s relations with the men and women on Capitol Hill. Until there is new leadership at the space agency and also at the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, the bitterness and anger will endure.

Number Two: Set Clear Goals

People are tired of hearing about President Kennedy’s 1961 instructions to NASA to “within this decade, land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth.” The Apollo program was a product of a unique time and place. The US will never again devote more than 2% of GDP to NASA as it did in the mid 1960s. If the country were to spend even 1% of its annual wealth on NASA, it would look like a miracle.

Yet, reduced funding is no excuse for allowing the space agency to disaggregate into a unconnected set of programs which not only cannibalize each other, but which are often canceled after spending billions with nothing to show for them. A Back-to-the-Moon-and-on-to-Mars program is still the most sensible, and doable, long term goal. Humanity needs to explore and settle new worlds, and America needs to be at the forefront of those efforts.

Number Three: Reform the Way NASA Does Business

As with many other Federal agencies and departments, the waste that results from starting and then canceling programs dwarfs any other form of governmental waste. The cancellation of the Constellation program, after more than 9 billion dollars had been spent on it, was merely one example of this practice. Few foreign governments habitually start, and then kill, expensive national programs with the same reckless disregard for the national purse or the national interest as do our leaders in Washington DC.

To carry out these reforms not only does NASA desperately need to fix its management problems, such as the ones which have led to the wild cost overruns in the Webb Space Telescope program, but above all NASA needs new leaders in Washington. Any President should look soon into a top-to-bottom, radical reform and simplification of the gigantic and complex Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR). America’s FAR are rivaled only in their Kafkaesque complexity and lack of rationality by America’s Tax Code.

Done correctly, such reforms would save the government hundreds of billions of dollars over the next ten years, not only at the Defense Department, but also at NASA. FAR reform would free up cash inside the NASA budget for research, science and exploration.

It should be noted that both of NASA’s commercial programs, COTS and the CCP, have been carried out under the “Space Act Agreement” law. This legislation has enabled the COTS and CCP contractors to build their vehicles to fill NASA crew and cargo transportation needs without having to fulfill the costly and time consuming requirements of the Federal Acquisition Regulations. This raises the question: Why doesn’t NASA ask all its contractors to work under the Space Act Agreement rules?

It needs to be clearly understood America’s civil space program is just as much an instrument of national power as the US Navy or the State Department. It is to be hoped that the President and Congress will in the future recognize this fact.

Originally published by the Gatestone Institute.

Grace and Respect

Monday, June 25th, 2012

This morning as I passed a bus stop, I saw a crowd of people waiting to get on the bus. My car was positioned in such a way that I was angling to get out of the lane and the bus has sort of cut in front and blocked me so I was forced into patience. There were quite a few people waiting to get on – no, not in a line. Israelis don’t do lines. But what struck me was how everyone sort of held back and let an elderly man slowly get on the bus and no one really seemed to be impatient.

There is, in Israel, a built-in respect for the elderly. I have so many thoughts still kicking around my head about the President’s Conference. Here’s another one.

One of the panels was on Israel’s Security in the Aftermath of the Arab Spring. It featured the following speakers:

–Ambassador Moshe Arens, Israel: former Minister of Defense

–Professor Anthony Cordesman, USA: Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy

–Professor Yehezkel Dror, Israel: Professor of Political Science, Emeritus, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

–Lt. Gen. (Res.) Dan Halutz, Israel: Former Chief of the General Staff

–Brig. Gen. (Res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, Israel

Of these names, I was most familiar with Moshe Arens and Dan Halutz so I decided to attend. I think Moshe Arens is terrific and Dan Halutz an idiot. Yes, I’m being unfair to Halutz, but I believe much of the mess of the Second Lebanon War and many deaths fall on his head, as does some of the so-called Disengagement Plan (which disengaged us from 20+ thriving Jewish communities in Gaza in exchange for engaging us with thousands of rockets). The rest of the panel was unknown or lesser known.

What you had was four men – all Israelis speaking in Hebrew, and one American, Anthony Cordesman.The microphone system was failing and annoying, the room overstuffed with people. At one point, Cordesman was speaking when Professor Yehezkel Dror began to make a comment. Israelis love to debate, to talk – and yes, sometimes to interrupt in the middle of an interesting discussion. It’s a bad habit in the western world, even rude – and while it isn’t loved in Israel, it’s just something that happens and we are relaxed enough to take it in stride. You cut back in, you talk, you communicate. What you never do is embarrass the other person.

Cordesman isn’t Israeli. He turned to Professor Dror and proceeded to rudely take him to task – in front of a few hundred people. Professor Dror apologized, but Cordesman continued his criticism of Dror’s interruption. The audience was silent but many people looked up in surprise. The woman sitting next to me was using earphones because she obviously did not understand Hebrew. I was listening to the discussions – Hebrew and English without any assistance. Seconds after I looked up at Cordesman in surprise at the harsh way in which he spoke, the woman next to me gasped and looked at me. We both agreed – how incredibly rude this Cordesman was.

Later, I looked up Cordesman and found that he was 72 years old; I looked up Professor Dror and found out he was 84. In my book, respect for your elders applies here. The mood in the room seemed different after Cordesman lashed out at Professor Dror. In many ways, I think it was not a reflection of anything that Cordesman said, so much as a violation of something that is ingrained in Israelis. You may not like what an older person says, but they have earned the right to be respected.

I walked out of the room thinking of something else. The bloggers at the conference were given the honor of a private session with President Shimon Peres. I have never liked Peres. I hate his politics. I feel he is terribly weak as a leader and to some extent believe he cared more for his own career than the needs of the people of Israel. He has lost every election he ever ran in and has an abysmal record…until…until he became President of Israel and there, seems to have grown into something so much more than he was.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Daughters-in-Law: the Whining, Maligning and Outshining…

Dear Rachel,

A few weeks ago a doting grandmother wrote about her spoilsport daughter-in-law who rejected her mother-in-law’s thoughtful gifts for her grandchildren (Chronicles 5-18).

I couldn’t help but be reminded of a friend’s non-stop whining over her in-laws’ neglect to outfit their grandchildren with new clothing for Yom Tov (as they’d apparently done in the past).

Rachel, my friend is far from needy. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t dawn on her that her in-laws may have experienced a financial crunch and just couldn’t come through the way they have on previous occasions.

Whatever their reason, who says in-laws – or parents – are obligated to “wardrobe” their grandchildren? She has the gall to complain about their “slacking” devotion. This goes to prove that it doesn’t pay to spoil children — whether they’re little or grown.

Seems like a “thank you, but you didn’t really have to” is quickly becoming a thing of the past, with thoughtlessness and greed replacing good old fashioned hakaras hatovand heartfelt appreciation.

Her whining is disgraceful

Dear Rachel,

In regards to the mother-in-law who was so eager to please her granddaughters for their birthday only to have her daughter-in-law stop her cold, this just corroborates my long-held view that mothers-in-law are, for the most part, unfairly maligned and that too many daughters-in-law need to take a step back and do a self-evaluation of their own attitudes towards their in-laws.

My husband and I were once over by some friends when the paternal grandparents were visiting with their grandchildren. At one point, when Grandpa – a jovial fellow with a slight build – was bouncing his 4-year old grandson on his knee, the kid’s mother took a double take and abruptly left the room.

I followed her to see what was up and couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. She was reaching for a phone, while insisting (to her husband) that she was going to call the police because her poor baby was going sustain a brain injury with the way his father (her father-in-law) was carrying on. Hello? This was a 4-year old, not an infant, having a grand old time with his grandfather. Was this woman out of her mind?

We’ve since learned that there is no love lost between this daughter-in-law and her in-laws, whom she treats like lepers. My husband and I have known her in-laws forever, and they happen to be the sweetest couple and wouldn’t so much as hurt a fly. In fact, they have other married children whom they get along with just fine.

Respect begets respect

Dear Rachel,

For years now I’ve been meaning to write to your column but wasn’t sure that it would be appropriate for me to do so. Let’s be honest: it’s people’s tzoros and complaints that make for an interesting read. And I have only words of praise, not criticism. Reading about the disillusioned mother-in-law, however, has prompted me to speak my thoughts.

I am a mother-in-law who baruch Hashem gets on well with all of our children (where daughters-in-law outnumber daughters). Some of them call me daily, some weekly, and some whenever they can manage to carve time out of their hectic schedules to touch base. Be that as it may, I don’t wait for kavod; if I don’t hear from a daughter-in-law for several days, I pick up the phone and call.

I can just hear the gasps – call?? Why not just text? For a recipe ingredient, maybe, but texting won’t do for a meaningful two-way conversation. Besides, I’m not adept at text abbreviations, nor am I into heavy cell use. For that matter, my weekend plan doesn’t offer me much leeway – and that’s the way I like it.

None of our children live close by, but all of them know that they are welcome to invite themselves over for a Shabbos or Yom Tov, or just to drop in for a visit. All they need to do is call to let us know of their plans and make sure we will be here. None has ever said simply, “we’re coming.” It’s always a “we’d like to come…are you okay with it? If you’re not up for it, we can make it another time.”

Social Skills Around The Clock

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

7am: The Morning Rush

“CHAIM!”

“Hmm…”

“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.”

“Chaim!”

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.

Solutions

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:

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/social-skills-around-the-clock/2012/05/17/

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