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August 22, 2014 / 26 Av, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘School’

Meet a 19-Year-Old Explosives Expert

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Growing up, it was uncommon for students from Corporal Dylan Ostrin’s International school to join the IDF, let alone stay in Israel. However, she had a specific vision for herself: she wanted to be in the Combat Engineering Corps.

Corporal Dylan Ostrin made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) from the US at the age of seven with her family. After moving from Texas and California, Cpl. Ostrin spent much of her school years at an international school where the students were children of foreign residents, such as diplomats, who did not have a connection to the land, history or culture and did not plan on making their lives in Israel. Tailoring to this crowd, her school provided an education devoid of Israeli identity, including the idea of joining the IDF. “My school’s point of view was to graduate and go as far away from Israel as possible for college,” said Cpl. Ostrin.

For her, joining the army was not the norm, unlike most people who grow up in Israel. “I see it as a privilege to be able to serve my country and I was not prepared to give that privilege up.”

Today, Cpl. Ostrin is an explosives instructor in the Combat Engineering Corps. She teaches all things explosive: from how to handle the explosives themselves to utilizing them in operations, such as gaining access to buildings. The soldiers she leads are mainly reservists who come back for their annual duty, ranging in age from 22 to 40 and sometimes more. Cpl. Ostrin loves working with reservists because it is satisfying to see reservists relearn things they might not have done in years.

“[Reservists] come out of their everyday life to do this, [leaving] their family, their work,” she explained. “They don’t have anyone to force them to listen. So I really have to show them how much I know in order to keep their attention.”

Though she loves her job, Cpl. Ostrin has dealt with hardships during her service. First, due to a filing error, she was placed in the wrong course for several months. She fought for what she wanted, including writing letters, making phone calls, begging her higher ups and even spending a whole day trying to convince different placement officers. They finally agreed to correct the situation.

After all the stress of trying to get into the right training track, Cpl. Ostrin received some hard news that would affect every aspect of her life. Due to a job promotion, her parents were leaving Israel and moving to the U.K. When her mother presented the situation to her and her brother, Cpl. Ostrin at first told them they should not leave. However, she later realized she is independent enough to thrive on her own, thanks to the new sense of independence she learned from serving in the IDF.

“If my parents would have told me they were leaving before I entered the army, I don’t know how I would have dealt with it. But the army teaches you certain skills that force you to become your own person and be independent,” she said.

Since her parents moved, Cpl. Ostrin has been getting by as a lone soldier, especially thanks to her fellow soldiers. She said have become more like family than just friends. They have invited Cpl. Ostrin and her brother over holidays, weekends, and when she was sick, her fellow soldiers picked her up from to take her to doctor appointments.

Now that things have settled down, Cpl Ostrin is enjoying every minute of her job. She has already begun receiving job offers to work on bomb squads and similar security-related teams both in Israel and abroad, but is focusing on the present. “Serving in the army, in a job I wanted to do, is more rewarding than anything else. I’m doing it for the good of the people around me and the good of the country.”

Census Debunks Arab Demographic Threat

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Jewish and Arab birth rates indicate that the percentage of school children in the Israeli educational system who are Jewish will grow by 2019 while the percentage of Arabs will decline.

The Central Bureau of Statistics reported Tuesday that the Jewish percentage will rise by one percentage point, from 73 to 74 percent, and the Arab percentage will decline by a point, from 27 to 26 percent.

Previous warnings of a growing Arab population were based on birth rates that no longer are valid. The latest statistics show that there will be 12 percent more children in the Hebrew education system by 2019 but only 10 percent more in the Arab system.

One reason for the decrease in the Arab birth rate might be due to Arab families enjoying a higher quality of life and becoming part of the “middle class” that usually is accompanied by smaller families. The change also indicates that Arabs in Israel do not share the ideology of the Bedouin and fundamentalist Muslim communities that promote larger families as part of the “resistance” movement to eliminate a Jewish majority in Israel.

However, birth rates among Haredi and modern orthodox Jews remain high, one of the reasons that the supposed Arab demographic threat in Judea and Samaria also is exaggerated.

The estimated number of school children also indicates that the Haredi birth rate has declined but still is far higher than in other Jewish sectors in Israel. The annual growth rate in the Haredi primary educations schools is expected to drop from 4.7 percent, for the period from 2001 until 2012, to 3.6 percent by 2019. The rate in the secondary school system is forecast to drop by nearly 50 percent, from 4 percent to 2.3 percent.

The growth rate in state secular and religious schools will increase, but only to 1.43 percent in the primary school system, according to the Bureau of Statistics.

Children in Haredi schools will comprise 31 percent of the total primary school population by 2019, 50 percent more than the 21 percent recorded in the past 11-year period.

Following a Passion for Sports to Israel

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Just a few miles north of Tel Aviv, along Israel’s glistening, Mediterranean beaches, lies the Wingate Institute. Wingate, Israel’s leading sports institute, is a global leader in professional fitness and health education, and boasts Israel’s only Olympic training ground. Featuring everything from gym instruction to yoga to Krav Maga (Israel-developed martial arts), Wingate is a world-renowned institution that has everything an aspiring athlete is looking for.

The World Betar Movement, another of Israel’s foremost institutes since 1923, has teamed up with Wingate to open a new program for young aspiring athletes around the world. Called ‘Betar-Wingate,’ this cooperation offers a unique five-month program at the Wingate Institute, in which young adults from around the world will be able to receive worldwide-recognized certification and qualify as a professional physical fitness and health instructors.

Open to young adults aged 20-30 from anywhere in the world (provided they can keep up with the English language instruction) the program takes place under the auspices of Masa Israel, a joint project of the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel, which offers substantial scholarships towards long-term programs In Israel.

“I chose this program because it’s a wonderful opportunity for me to live in Israel and come back with a profession I can work at,” says Ben, one of the program participants. “I’m crazy about fitness, so it’s a great way to both promote my career and have a meaningful experience while doing it.”

Muscle force testing, cardiovascular and posture training, gym training practice, anatomy, nutrition, gym management, and first aid are only a few of the extensive range of courses offered in this five month program. Participants will also be able to choose from a large range of electives, from nautical sports to yoga, ballroom dancing to martial arts, and more.

Additionally, while the program itself offers a Hebrew language training course, participants will also be able to experience ‘the real Israel’, either by enjoying organized trips in Israel (included in the course), by participating in combined classes with Israeli students, or by taking advantage of the course’s phenomenal location in the center of Israel, close to the hubbub and nightlife of the most fashionable and cultured city in Israel, Tel Aviv.

Graduates of the course will become skilled, professional instructors of physical fitness and health. Upon completion, they will be certified with the title of “gym instructor” from Wingate Academic College, a certification that’s recognized worldwide. With it, the graduates will be able to train and work as a trainer anywhere in the world – and Wingate guarantees that they will assist any and all of them with whatever help is needed, if they ever run into bureaucratic difficulties.

Not only are graduates guaranteed assistance anywhere in the world, but, if the five month taste of Israel whets their appetite for more, the municipality of Ra’anana, where course participants will be living, is on board to guarantee course graduates jobs in the city.

“I am very excited about attending and participating in the Betar-Wingate program,” says Jordana, from Memphis, TN. “I am excited to receive an opportunity to not only enhance my knowledge at one of the most prestigious athletic focused schools, but get to do this in Israel. Betar-wingate allows me the opportunity to learn with other participants who share the same ideals as myself, which in itself is an amazing opportunity. I can’t wait for the fall and all that this program will do for myself and others!”

Finally, a complementary diving course will be offered to participants who then sign up a friend for this program.

For more information and to register, please contact Noga Caspi, program coordinator, at noga@betar.org.il or visit http://betar.org.il/wingate/.

An American Tragedy in Steubenville

Monday, March 18th, 2013

A significant number of American values failures came together to create the tragedy in Stuebenville, where two teenage High School football stars, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl.

Foremost among them is the American tragedy of sexualizing teen girls at an age where they are not yet women. Madonna sexualized herself in her mid twenties. Brittney Spears brought the age down to about eighteen. Not young enough for you? Miley Cyrus reduced it further to sixteen. One wonders when our culture will feel that even sixteen is not a young enough age to sexually exploit girls.

Then there is the issue of sports as an emerging religion where those gifted to be athletes feel a sense of entitlement that often has them crossing lines to their own detriment. The idea that two High School football stars would think it acceptable to post pictures of a nude sixteen year old to their friends on social media shows how they thought the normal rules did not apply them. And this would be true even if there weren’t the far more serious conviction on rape. How sad that two young men have ruined their lives and done so much damage to a defenseless victim.

Next is the growing culture of alcohol abuse by minors. Alcohol played a central role in this unfolding tragedy with the essential argument on the part of the prosecution that the girl in question was so drunk there was no possible way she could give consent. One wonders why our youth are so inclined to heavy drink. Is it mere experimentation or is something deeper at work? Are they already, at so young an age, as unhappy as adults who have been battered by life and are therefore drinking negative emotions away? After all, no one in America really portrays the teen years as a bowl of cherries.

I passed my later teen years in an all-male environment in Yeshiva where the focus of my life was study. I certainly was a lot happier than the co-ed environment in which I was immersed in my early teen years where peer pressure, popularity among the girls, and a general self-consciousness made my life less enjoyable than it should have been.

Then there is the general tragedy of the absence of responsible parenting in America. The biggest question for me in this heartrending story was where were the parents? Where were they when the three teens left one party at 12:30 am to go to another? Where were they to monitor extreme drunkenness on the part of people not old enough to vote?

Many African-American young men are not raised with a father’s guiding hand. I was astonished, therefore, at the honesty displayed by Malik Richmond’s father, Nathaniel, when he said in a CNN interview that he had walked over to his son right after the guilty verdict and told him he loved him, essentially for the very first time. “I haven’t been involved in Malik’s life like I should have been at those early years. And I want to stress that parents should be more involved in their child’s life… be a parent and not a friend.”

No one is better qualified to address this issue than President Obama who also grew up without his father and is by all accounts a very loving and involved parent himself. The President has addressed the subject only lightly, but it’s time that he make this an all-out campaign.

But the greatest tragedy made manifest in Steubenville is the attitude of teenage men toward girls. Immanuel Kant wrote that the definition of immorality is treating a fellow human being as a means rather than an end. The abomination of American slavery was that a white child was taught to see a black child as a walking bale of cotton. Slavery trained a white man to see a black woman as lacking the same spark of the divine that lent him his humanity. When he looked upon the woman, she was stripped of her own dreams, her own opinions, her own aspirations. She was nothing but an extension of the white slave owner’s drives and ambitions. Like a third arm she existed to simply to do his chores.

A Time for Zero Tolerance and a Time for Tolerance

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

I have never been sexually abused. I therefore have no real way of identifying with the pain suffered by victims of abuse. All I can do is take the word of the victim about the pain they suffer. And of course observe the tragic consequences when the depression a victim falls into as a result of both the abuse the reaction to them by their community. Those consequences are sometimes so severe that they end up in suicide for the victim.

Recent events here in Chicago have once again resulted in a resurfacing of this issue. I am not going to name names. Full disclosure requires me to say that I know and admire some of the people involved. But I am not in a position to interview them. Nor am I in a position to judge them since I do not know all the details of the case. But based on what has surfaced so far in the public square I feel the need to speak out so as to be consistent in my approach to sex abuse.

Here is what I know so far.

An 18 year old female victim who is a student at a religious school here in Chicago posted on her Facebook page about the sex abuse she suffered. When officials at the school discovered this, they asked her in a very insensitive way to remove it as that violated the school’s code for use of social media. She was severely reprimanded for this violation and unless she removed the ‘offensive’ content from her Facebook page she faced a possible expulsion.

The outrage from some in the “victims’ advocates” community against officials of the school came fast and furious… defending the victim’s right to express her pain in any way she saw fit. They condemned the official response of the school. Some are even asking heads to roll. That is the way some see it – calling it a no tolerance policy. I call it ‘slash and burn’ policy.

I completely understand a no tolerance policy when it comes to sex abuse and fully support it. The question arises when such a policy is extended to secondary concerns – important though they may be.

Should there be a slash and burn policy in every case where an official errs in how they handle the pain of a victim? Should the welfare of a fine institution with exceptional leaders be destroyed because someone made a mistake? Should the career and good name of someone who has contributed so much – and many decades of service – be instantly destroyed because of a few poorly chosen words – hurtful though they may have been?

I don’t think that’s right.

Personally, I do not think the response was appropriate. There is little doubt that victim was hurt beyond anyone’s imagination by the abuse she received. And she was once again hurt here. Based on what is public knowledge about this case – this should not have been done. The response seemed cruel to me.

In defense of the institution, they have every right to set a policy for the use of social media and demand that it be followed. And I fully support a school’s right to carry out whatever consequences they spell out in their literature for violations of that policy.

On the other very legitimate hand, doing so in this case – especially the way in which it was done – was using very poor judgment in my view. A school’s right to carry out its policies does not mean they can’t use discretion when it is warranted. When it comes to victims of abuse, there is no better time to use that discretion. What was warranted here was compassion.

I do not fault the school for telling the victim that she should not have used social media to express her pain. This does not stifle her from expressing it. All it does is limit who will have access to it. No matter how much pain a victim suffers, it does not give them the right to use a shotgun approach to disseminating it to the world. There are other – far better ways to do that. Like speaking with parents; or counselors who are experienced in these issues; or a sympathetic teacher; of even a group of intimate friends.

Achdus with Chabad

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

I don’t know how they do it. But I am jealous of them. Chabad is perhaps the most successful group in Orthodoxy at raising money for their causes. Their sources are often not even the wealthy Jews of Orthodoxy. And their organizational skills are legendary. They are probably better than anyone at maximizing the “bang for the buck.”

This is the one thing that struck me about a recent article in the Forward:

Chabad operates 1,000 preschools worldwide, including 300 in Israel and 400 in the United States. In 2010, Chabad launched a special early childhood initiative called The Machne Israel David and Lara Slager Early Childhood Initiative. In the past two and half years, this fund helped in the creation of 45 new preschools (most in North America, and two each in Argentina, South Africa and Australia). There are plans to create another 100 over the next four years.

While it is true that their emphasis on reaching out to secular Jews of necessity requires them to disengage from areas of high Orthodox concentration and thereby have less contact with wealthy Orthodox philanthropists – that doesn’t mean they are going to be successful at raising funds from the secular and unaffiliated Jewish philanthropist.

But – necessity is the mother of invention I guess, and somehow they manage to appeal to those donors to fund their projects.

As I have said many times, no one can touch Chabad outreach in terms of sheer numbers. They have probably gotten more people to be observant, than all the other Kiruv groups put together. And it is projects like the above that enable them to do it.

This is why I am jealous of them. Not in any harmful ‘evil eye’ sense. I am jealous that the rest of Orthodoxy cannot match them. We have done rather well in recent years raising money among our own for various projects. But it is no secret that we are still very far from having the money we need just to support one institution – Jewish education.

I don’t have to convince any Orthodox parent – even the more affluent ones – about the pressures of tuition. That is a subject that has been well covered here before. Long story short, tuitions are so high that even families with incomes well into 6 figures are sometimes given scholarships. Especially if they have a big family. It is also no secret that tuition does not cover the typical school budgets. Nor do most of those budgets even pay their teachers what they deserve.

Not that Lubavitch doesn’t have similar problems. But that’s because the huge sums of money they raise for outreach purposes do not go towards their communities own educational needs. That money goes almost exclusively for outreach programs and schools.

Nonetheless, the fact that they are so successful at spreading out and spreading the word of God through His Torah is something to be admired.

I have not dealt with Chabad in quite some time. But those who been reading this blog for awhile know of my criticisms – not the least of which is their obsession to one degree or another with their Rebbe as Moshiach. Even though he died well over a decade ago. Although things have quieted down quite a bit on that front, I don’t think they have given up on that very troubling idea.

Among other criticisms I have of them is one that bears on the subject of this post. They are not really integrated with the rest of Orthodoxy. While there is definitely some cross fertilization between us, it is not because they actively seek it. To the extent that they do, they tend to do it only on their own terms. Or on an individual basis and not an organizational one.

The evidence for this is the fact that unlike the rest of Orthodoxy, their children – with rare exception – attend only their own Chabad schools. They have built an empire of separation. Which is an irony of sorts when you consider that their primary concern is outreach to fellow Jews. But the truth is that outreach is so important to them that consider integration with the rest of Orthodoxy to be of secondary or tertiary importance. At least that is what it seem like to me.

One reason they are so separated from the rest of Orthodoxy – is the way they do outreach. Every Jewish soul they reach is convinced to believe that Chabad equals Judaism. They never distinguish (at least not at first) between an exclusively Lubavitch Minhag and Halacha. They teach their own customs as though they were Halacha. So that in most cases, if someone becomes religious through them, they become a Lubavitcher. Their community grows through outreach while their members become just as separated from the rest of the Orthodox community as are Lubavitchers from birth.

And so it goes. Chabad continues to be wildly successful at outreach while having little to do with the rest of the Orthodox community unless they are in control. Like the annual Simchas Torah concert they host for Chicago on Chol HaMoed Sukkos. It is their event.

It wasn’t always like that. When I was in elementary school in Detroit at Yeshivath Beth Yehuda – a pioneer Torah U’Mesorah school – two of my very beloved teachers there were Lubavitcher Chasidim. And Lubavitchers sent their children to that school. We were integrated. I believe that the same thing was true all around the country through most of the sixties (with the possible exception of New York where separate schools may have already existed). Lubavitch was just one type of observant Jew among many types that attended the same schools.

As they grew in number here in Chicago – and feeling that mainstream day schools and high schools did not pay sufficient attention to Chabad in general and the Rebbe in particular they started setting up their own schools which focus heavily on Chabad and the Rebbe.

Fast forward to today and we have 2 girls high schools right across the street from each other. One Lubavitch and one Beis Ya’akov. And the girls have absolutely nothing to do with each other. I don’t see that as progress. I see it as contributing to the divide between us. Year after year; class after class.

And that bothers me. Chabad’s strengths would serve all of us well If we could become more integrated. It would take a lot of tolerance on both sides. And it would take a willful and purposeful approach to doing so. And a bit of compromise. Lubavitch would have to stop being so proprietary and the rest of Orthodoxy would have to become a little more tolerant. Their efficient fundraising and organizational skills would serve Judaism as a whole much better if we could integrate and use those skills for common purpose. And integration with the rest of Orthodoxy would expand Chabad’s outreach to even greater heights combining and sharing with other non Chabad outreach groups. Making them both more effective.

I’m not saying that this is all that doable. There are certainly many obstacles. Some of which may be insurmountable. But I wish it were. Wouldn’t it be great for example if those two girls’ schools would combine? I’d love to see it. But it will probably never happen.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Ten Ways to Help Newtown’s Grieving Families

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, several people have contacted me, asking how to help the families who lost young children because our family suffered its own tragedy. After my 13-year-old son Koby and his friend Yosef Ish Ran were murdered by terrorists here in Israel in 2001, I was sure that when I went outside, the whole world would have changed. That the sky would have turned red and the trees returned to rocks. I thought that there was no way that I or the world would survive my loss.

Grieving requires a new language.

Because the language once used to speak of art projects and homework and work and what’s for dinner no longer suffices. A new language must be learned instead that questions where God is and how such pain and sadness can exist in the world and how on earth we can contain this suffering and anger which threatens to undo us, as individuals and as a community. It asks: How can we live with the absence?

I can’t tell the families how to go on because at this point there is no going on. There is only the hard business of grieving. It is a job in itself. It requires courage and patience to face the emptiness and the longing and the loss and the horror and the might have been, and the if only. If only I had kept him home from school. If only we had never moved to this town. If only Lanzo had had no guns in his house.

There is no such thing as closure for the victims’ families. But there may eventually be disclosure, a sense of mission. My family began the Koby Mandell Foundation, which runs healing programs and camps for 500 bereaved children each summer. The only way to rise from tragedy is to create meaning. And the first step in the victims’ families’ journey toward creating meaning is to receive kindness.

When your life is torpedoed there is often no way to continue. The ship is sinking and you can’t bail out enough water to save yourself. No, you are dependent on the kindness of strangers. And here is the point: it’s the community that will save these families by keeping them afloat. Even when they feel that they would prefer to drown.

Everybody is talking about gun control, which is necessary. But what keeps communities safe is talking, knowing what is going on in each other’s homes, reaching out to each other because it’s okay to ask if the other is okay.

So I say this to the people of Newtown. Continue to reach out. The grieving families no doubt are receiving a lot of help right now. But eventually that help will go away. The families will be left alone. Stay with them for the long run.

I would give anything not to have learned the vital importance of loving words, helpful deeds and the embrace of community. But I hope my experience can provide guidance that will help ease the pain of others.

So here are ten ways to help Newtown’s grieving families:

1. Sometimes words can cheapen or even desecrate. It is important to use words sparingly. Let the mourning family set the tone.

2. Even if you missed the funeral, you can still visit or call the person, even if it is months or even a year later. It is better to make the connection. And the family needs ongoing support. They will receive a lot of attention at first, and then slowly, the attention and care fades away. Be there for the long run.

3. Even if you don’t know the person that well, the family will feel honored by your presence. It tells them that the person who is gone matters.

4. Every person has something to give to a person in pain. One person may not be good with words but can cook or bring drinks or pick up the other child from soccer. Know what you are good at and use that talent or skill to help the family.

5. Keep calling. Don’t tell the person that they should call you if they need you. You are responsible for calling them. You are there to support them. Don’t expect anything back from them.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/ten-ways-to-help-newtowns-grieving-families/2012/12/28/

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