web analytics
July 29, 2014 / 2 Av, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 

Posts Tagged ‘Third Ave’

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 3/25/11

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

The following letters are in response to Am I for real? (Chronicles, February 18)

 

My Dear Friend,

I could have written your letter. I too am a frum woman, married for many years, with wonderful and healthy children B”H.  My husband functions normally to the outside world, but inside the house it’s a different story. He angers easily, rages, has distorted thinking, makes false (and negative) accusations (and believes and acts on them), twists my words, is unstable and so much more.

I began to question my own sanity. I have developed physical and emotional symptoms as a way to cope with the insanity in my home. He can be a terror, yet, at other times, he can be so sweet and loving.

Within the past year, I have done much research on borderline personality disorder and have recognized that my husband suffers from this very serious and complex mental disorder. You must research this condition and see if the behavior/symptoms fit those of your husband. Please read the book Stop Walking on Eggshells by Mason and Kreger. When I read it, lightbulb after lightbulb went off for me; I felt the author was describing all the craziness that goes on in my home.

At the core of the borderline condition is a deep-seated fear of abandonment/rejection. This would explain your husband’s rages when you are not physically available to him, even though the reasons may be totally rational to you and me. People with BPD are not rational. They operate on a purely emotional level and are unable to regulate their emotions.

Since they can hide their craziness from the rest of the world, those who suffer the most are those closest to them. You must get help for yourself since people with BPD are not likely to admit to having a problem. You need to be strong and healthy for your children. Read as much as you can about this disorder, get a therapist who understands what you are going through and begin to reclaim your life.

You are not crazy. You are involved with a severely disordered individual who can bring you down with him. Don’t let it happen.

I wish you much hatzlacha with this very big nisayon, and if you wish to be in touch with me, please do so through Rachel.

A long-suffering victim

 

Dear Rachel,

I think you overlooked a very important part of her letter. She says that her husband is “constantly losing his temper, screaming, yelling and hitting the kids.”

I grew up with a father like that. He made my mother’s life miserable and we all carry scars from living with a man who often exploded and lashed out, most often for minor things. I remember him going nuts because he thought I put too much coffee in my own coffee cup. Another time he went ballistic because he felt the stream of water was too much while I was washing the dishes.

Something has to be done to protect the children. The woman who wrote the letter needs counseling on how to deal with her husband and the abuses he inflicts on their children.  Marriage counseling is important for the marriage, but whether she chooses to do that or speak to a spiritual advisor, someone has to look out for those children.

If the mother cannot discuss intimacy issues with her husband (as when they need to be apart), I highly doubt she is doing much to protect those poor children from their out-of-control father.  They are sure to suffer some psychological damage, as I did.

Been there…

 

Dear Readers,

Unfortunately, it is difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain the root of one’s problem from a single letter with scant information. If the troubled wife will heed our advice and seek professional counsel to help her deal with her problematic marital relationship, its negative impact on their children will be appropriately addressed and dealt with.

Thank you for weighing in with your informative comments, which are obviously based on your own experiences. Experience, as they say, is the best teacher. By sharing yours, you not only help countless others cope more effectively with their own circumstances but also give them strength in the knowledge that they are not alone and that help is within reach.

* * * * *

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to  rachel@jewishpress.com  or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 3/18/11

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Dear Rachel,

I read your columns avidly and have been meaning to write to you. I appreciate the advice you give people and was hoping you could share some insight into an issue that has been bothering me – namely the prevailing self-centered narcissistic behaviors among the younger generation (older adults can be equally guilty). Mind you, I’m a female in my mid 20′s.

I used to think my parents were being too critical of young people, but, as time passes, I see their point more and more. I don’t know if the actions I have experienced are based in selfishness or cluelessness and can’t help but wonder what values their parents nurtured them with.

Please allow me to share some of my personal experiences in order for you to understand where I am coming from. While there are those with sterling characters who are truly altruistic and care about others, most people I know would rather limit their generosity and compassion to those whom they are close with. For example, my husband and I were moving to another apartment. We politely asked people we knew to help us move our belongings, but they made apologetic excuses as to why they weren’t able to spare thirty minutes to help us settle in.  At the same time, someone in the neighborhood had a baby and everyone seemed to drop what he or she was doing to help the new parents and arrange meals for them. The best they could do for us was to advise us to hire moving service.

We ended up moving most of our things by ourselves. I’m sorry that I sound bitter, but I could only put up with that kind of attitude from people for so long. We are seldom included in social affairs. No one really made the effort to welcome us when we first moved in. We had to announce our arrival to everyone. We were invited out for Shabbos meals but were inevitably placed at the end of the table and ignored throughout the entire meal.

Prior to my wedding, I asked people to help with shtick. Some were more than happy to help; some were a little more reluctant, while others tried to evade the whole thing, yet I would see them helping their other friends whenever they were asked to. One of them even changed her plans so she could attend a friend’s wedding out of the country.

There were those who didn’t want to attend my bridal shower, claiming they were busy, but yet managed to spare time to hang out with their friends. Maybe it’s me, but it seems like every time I ask people for a favor (and I don’t ask that often), they make it seem like an imposition while they will go out of their way for their closest friends anytime.

I find this attitude to be hurtful and immature above all. I’m trying to understand where people are coming from. Should I accept that people are more selfish than they used to be? Or do they no longer know any better? If you can give charity to complete strangers, how can you not help a neighbor out? Does one need to be a family member or close friend to earn your favors? How are we supposed to emphasize the importance of chesed to our children when we won’t live up to it?

I thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts in this matter and anticipate your response.

 

Community (lack of) values

 

Dear Values,

You ask whether people are more selfish than they used to be. That’s sort of an odd question coming from a person in her twenties. No offense intended, but how far back can you go in recalling how people “used to be?” Or are you simply repeating your mother’s words.

The world has surely changed. People can’t seem to find much extra time for anything these days. Aside from the fact that more and more wives have joined the work force, out of necessity, families, especially among the orthodox, are generally larger than they were in the years right after the war and that gives people plenty of things to be occupied with in their own homes. This is without taking into account the time frittered away at computers, on cell phones and other such gadgets.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the source of your problem without being there in person, but maybe the neighborhood you chose to move into is simply unsuited to you. Keeping in mind that not everyone relates to everyone else and not everyone is of the friendly, social or outgoing type, there are others who like to keep to themselves, preferring to be in the company of family members and close friends. For some, it’s all they have time for.

You say you asked “people you knew” to help move your belongings. Again, there is no way to know what your “belongings” consisted of, but not everybody is in a position to assist with lifting or carrying heavy items, and unless you were relying on really close buddies, your better bet would have been, as some advised you, to hire a professional mover.

This is not to say that immature, selfish and stuck-up people don’t exist, but just the same, as a rule, it is far better and wiser not to resort to relying on others to do things for you, unless you absolutely have no choice. Moreover, why would you want to feel indebted to anyone, let alone wish to burden someone?

While extending an extra hand to those in need is most admirable and, yes, a chesed, most people don’t like being imposed upon or made to feel that they are being taken advantage of. (Chances are that the couple that had the baby didn’t ask for help; it was given freely.)

I know a man who, when sitting at his own table, will never ask anyone – be it family member or guest – to pass a napkin or any other item that is not within his reach. Rather, he pushes his chair back, stands up on his own two feet and fetches the item himself. His response to anyone questioning his quirky modus operandi: “What am I, an invalid?”

His method may be extreme, but his message is noteworthy.

Speaking of messages, Purim offers a wonderful opportunity to reach out in a non-intrusive way to anyone whom you simply haven’t gotten around to be in touch with. Mend a rift, right a slight, or just convey you care via a delivery of shalach manos. The idea of extending gifts of food to one another on Purim was initiated in order to emphasize our unity, in joy and in friendship.

Simchas Purim!

* * * * *

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to  rachel@jewishpress.com  or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 2/18/11

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Dear Rachel,

Though I don’t think I can be helped, I write this letter to warn others.

I have been married for a good many years now and have Baruch Hashem wonderful, healthy children. I don’t know why I didn’t see it before, but I think my husband is crazy. He is constantly losing his temper, screaming, yelling and hitting the kids.

What’s more, he keeps track of the times we are intimate, and Heaven forbid if I am tired, he loses it completely and rants about having missed a day.

The other night I was exhausted and fell asleep. The next day he was so enraged he wouldn’t talk to me. Unfortunately (or fortunately), on the following night physical intimacy became not possible.

It was then that a horrible thought crept into my mind: maybe I shouldn’t tell him of my unclean state; he wouldn’t know, and at least then he wouldn’t rage at me.

Can you imagine that, Rachel? I, a Bais Yaakov girl who know the halachos and the ramifications of defying them, was willing to risk it all just to push off that crazy anger of his.

The anger issue is something I didn’t see all those years ago when we were going out; it has surfaced only lately. Do men go through some crazy pre-menopausal stage? Or is he a sick man in need of therapy? I almost wish he wouldn’t be so interested in me.

If only I’d be writing this letter simply to vent about my spouse’s anger and to warn singles to be on the lookout for anger issues on their shidduch dates. But unhappily I confess that I’ve been harboring ideas of doing dreadful things – something that should never have crossed the mind of a frum bas-Yisrael to begin with.

Am I for real?

Dear Real,

If your husband’s anger issue has indeed only recently surfaced (the trigger for his anger may have been festering for a much longer period of time), can it perchance be due to stress he’s been experiencing? Many families have taken a quite a beating as a result of the economic downturn of late. Has your husband suffered any financial instability or job loss? Can an accumulation of unpaid bills be weighing heavily on his mind? The pressure of such a burden can challenge the equilibrium of an otherwise calm and rational mind.

This is not to attempt to justify the kind of behavior your husband has displayed, but knowing the source of his frustration may move you to be a more sympathetic and understanding helpmate. A burden shared becomes a burden more bearable; together you may be able to come up with some viable solutions for your troubling situation.

Some men, it should be noted, do suffer from a perpetual state of immaturity, as when a husband feels that he vies with his children for his wife’s attention and/or is resentful of the time and attention he perceives his wife lavishing on their kids.

Then again, maybe you’ve been neglecting your spouse without being conscious of doing so. You speak of exhaustion. Are you too tired at the end of the day to spend some relaxed time with your husband, to sit down and eat dinner together instead of coldly placing his food on the table as you run to complete unfinished chores, leaving him to eat by himself?

Whether any of the above applies to you or not, it would seem that you have both sadly lost (or simply misplaced) the art of meaningful dialogue and communication. An emotional connection and a meeting of minds are components at least as vital to the health of a marriage as is physical closeness. Intimacy, as we like to refer to it, is not “intimate” at all when it becomes merely an obligatory mechanical function.

As for the “forbidden” acts you have entertained, thankfully we are called to account for our deeds, not our thoughts. But why would you even consider tampering with the safety valve Hashem provided us with? The rules, the laws of Niddah, actually fortify the marital relationship; they afford you some blissful downtime during which you can collect yourself and maybe even catch up on some beauty sleep – while they train your husband in the art of self-control and teach him not to take you for granted.

About your question as to whether your husband may be experiencing a form of pre-menopause, many aging men do. Moodiness, fatigue, weight gain and depression are some of the giveaway symptoms of male-menopause, also referred to as androgen decline, literally a decrease in production of the male hormone testosterone. The reduced level of this hormone leads to a decrease in sex drive – virtually eliminating your husband’s chances of being menopausal.

Please consider marital counseling, or at least a private discussion with a spiritual mentor. Not only will this help you strengthen your resolve never to act upon your impulse but may result in getting to the root of your husband’s anger.

Things may not be as complicated as they seem, and it is for your benefit to do everything you can to iron out the kinks that are impeding your happiness. Rekindling the love you once felt for one another and renewing the close friendship you once shared are well worth your trouble and time.

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 2/11/11

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Will the Open-Minded Please Stand Up? Please Stand Up!

 Dear Rachel,     

                     

I read a very nice story about a non-religious man who bought a silver mezuzah for his rabbi. Upon receiving the beautiful gift, the rabbi realizes there is no klaf inside and asks in bewilderment, “Did the mezuzah come with anything else?”

 

The man’s response: “Yes, it came with instructions inside. But I was sure you know how to use it, so I threw it out.”

 

This man, thinking that the mezuzah‘s beautiful silver exterior is what mattered, failed to realize that its true value was hidden inside.

 

We all truly believe that we are open-minded and nonjudgmental, but are we really? Why is it that when we see a boy wearing jeans or a colored shirt we automatically size him up and pass judgment on him? How is it that a pair of pants or any other item of clothing, tells us so much about the person whom we really don’t know at all.

 

People’s best answer to this question is that these clothing are associated with non-Jews. I can see where they are coming from, but what about the girls who wear Juicy or Uggs? Why is it that these girls will turn down a shidduch because of jeans, yet they get away scot-free?

 

On a date in a restaurant with a young lady, I once pointed out a young man who was wearing jeans. “Now what’s wrong with those pants?” I asked her. She replied, “He looks goyish.”

 

What makes these pants so cursed in our communities? Which leader made these pants so looked down upon? Was it that he didn’t like the fit of his jeans so he made them assur to everyone else?

 

I grew up in a very open-minded home. As a family we traveled the world and encountered thousands of different people. My siblings and I have worked in many Jewish organizations and have met with countless frum people – most of them special, helpful and giving. We never judged a person by his or hers clothes but by his or her actions alone. That’s what we were taught and I believe that to be the way to live. Passing judgment on someone’s clothes is not only closed-minded but causes you lose out on meeting thousands of wonderful people.

 

When it comes to shidduchim, the colored or white shirt question has to be one of the funnier ones asked. How does a shirt define one’s yiddishkeit? Does wearing a white shirt give you special learning powers that a colored one doesn’t? 

 

A girl asked me on a date, “Why do you have to wear a colored shirt when the majority of your yeshiva wears only white? Why do you have to be different?” Honestly, I never really thought about it; trust me that when I wake up for minyan and put my hand in my closet, it’s first shirt come, first shirt on.

 

I asked in return, “Is my davening or learning any different in a colored shirt than my chavrusa‘s davening or learning in a white shirt?” I told this “open-minded” girl that if my rebbe walked into shiur wearing a blue, green or – dare I say it – pink shirt, I’m sure my rebbe‘s shiur would have the same intensity and awesomeness as if he would have walked in wearing a white shirt. Since she surprised me with her question, I was totally winging it and said, “It’s not the shirt or pants that make you what you are, it’s your actions. A shirt doesn’t tell me if you’re sweet or sensitive or generous.”

 

Now I’m not going to get into the game of dating, that if you wear and act a certain way you are a certain type and you’ll be set up with certain girls. Everyone can play this game, but wouldn’t you want a person who is honest? One who doesn’t feel the pressure of society to conform and can be his own man?

 

By all means, I’m not saying that people should be walking around in inappropriate clothing, but what’s wrong with a nice ironed colored shirt on a Tuesday? Why can’t we be individuals and dress the way we want without society treating us as outcasts? Or does everyone have to be on the conveyor belt of society?

 

Well, I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I would rather be on the minority side of the open-minded and judge everyone favorably and solely on their deeds, rather than on the majority side of “open-minded” and judge anyone that looks different than yourself unfavorably.

 

So I ask again, will the open minded -

 

Please stand up!

 

Dear Stand-Up Guy,

 

Your argument has merit, but perhaps you are taking things a bit too far.

 

Appropriately, one of the topics addressed in this week’s parsha of Tetzaveh concerns the bigdei Kehuna, the priestly garments. Considerable space, in fact, is allotted to this discussion, which focuses (gasp!) on the external appearance of the Kohanim. Now why would the Torah be stressing external beauty over inner values? Simply put, our outer “skin” reflects our interior workings. When we are immersed in divine service, it is only proper that it be reflected in a dignified manner.

 

White, as we are aware, represents purity and humility; hence Chassidim tend to wear white shirts, to symbolize their continuous avodas Hashem. Whereas the average chassid (or any of us) don’t necessarily spend all day learning and/or praying, all our doings in this world are meant to fortify us in our duty to the service of Hashem.

 

Now the white-shirt dress code is not exclusive to the chassidic sect. Take the white-shirted boys in yeshiva, for instance. Aside from exuding a purity of soul, one must concede that the young Torah scholars can better concentrate on their task at hand when there are no colors, stripes or designer labels to distract them.

 

Does this all mean that the color of your shirt or a preference for jeans make you less of a man? Nonsense!

 

Do girls/boys in the shidduch parsha sometimes have their priorities skewed? Alas, too often!

 

But there’s no need to fret if a girl turns you down on account of your jeans; just see it as a sign that she wasn’t meant for you. Every pot has its lid, but you are more likely to find your right fit in your own backyard, so to speak. (Different communities, sects or circles adapt their own manner of acceptable attire.)

 

Personally, I love white. When it snows, no one’s grass is greener, no one’s lawn more opulent – we all look alike. These Chassidim, they’re definitely onto something.

 


We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com  or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 1/28/11

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Readers Speak

Dear Rachel,

Reading the responses you received regarding an elderly mother who gives the daughter who cares for her a very hard time (Chronicles, 11-19-2010), how true is the saying of our fathers: “Al tadun et chavercha ad sh’tagiah limkomo” – don’t judge another person till you find yourself in his place, or the saying about walking in someone else’s moccasins.

It is obvious that none of those writers really know what it is to be in the company of such a person day in and day out.

The only one who had a good point was “Suffering is for fools” (Chronicles 12-31-2010) who wrote, “Maybe the mom has a psychiatric problem that causes her to act like she does.”

I, too, must wonder whether that mother was a well person (psychologically and emotionally) to begin with. I talk from experience.

Before I became aware of being verbally and psychologically abused by my mother, she should live and be well, I suffered a lot.

At that time I was teaching elementary school children and there was a workbook put out about derech eretz.

In that booklet I found a din, a Jewish law that says yes, we have to honor our parents, but the onus is on the parent to make sure that the child will BE ABLE to keep this mitzvah and not put stumbling blocks in his/her path to perform this most difficult commandment.

How glad I was to learn this! It freed me of my guilt.

My mother, G-d bless her, is in an assisted living facility. I call her every day. I’ve learned that at certain times of the day she’s more amenable to pleasant conversation and I try to avoid calling at other times.

I visit her about twice a week. Sometimes the visit goes well, other times she starts out with negativity and accusations.

When I try to reason with her, I get caught up in a state of deep discomfiture, so when I feel I’ve had my fill, I detach myself from her with love, and leave.

What a blessing. I’m glad that in your response (Chronicles11-26-2010) you suggested to her the possibility of placing her mother in an assistant living facility. It’s a G-d sent concept for many a “frustrated” family.

Walking in those moccasins

Dear Rachel,

Many of the replies to the woman caring for an elderly parent stressed the privilege of being able to do so and the importance of the mitzvah of kibbud eim. This approach is totally on target and not to be taken lightly.

But… the writer says she has been doing it for a while and she is afraid it may “end badly” or disrupt her “family harmony.” She is not being flippant about her responsibilities. In fact, she is writing because she is so torn about making such a weighty decision.

If she is brave enough to say she is finding it difficult, she needs to be listened to carefully, her concerns seriously weighed and various options and solutions considered. She should discuss it with a compassionate and wise rav or friend.

There are no absolute answers and solutions, just values that have to be weighed carefully – and marital harmony is an equally important value to be considered.

Malky Shaulson, LCSW

Dear Rachel,

“Why am I still single?” (Chronicles 12-24-2010) reflects upon a myriad of causes she believes as being responsible for today’s single crisis. I don’t think she is correct in her assessment. At least, I don’t find myself in the circle of single friends who share these issues. For my friends and myself, it is the men who have those issues.

I did, however, appreciate your response to her immensely. Just sign me

A Sane Single

Dear Rachel,

In your response to the single who lists some keen observations regarding the single scene, you were pretty much on the mark, but I respectfully disagree with you on one point that may on the surface seem superficial.

“Why am I still single?” cites a “dowdy physical appearance” with “easily curable physical defects like a huge nose” as one of the obstacles some singles create for themselves – to which you remark: “neither a weight issue nor a large nose seems to have hindered countless singles from acquiring a spouse.”

Be that as it may, Rachel, in my neighborhood there are two sisters from a lovely family, both in their late thirties and still single. The bigger rachmonus is that with all their wonderful attributes they pay no heed to their appearance.

Both have small pale faces with huge noses, dress unfashionably and wear absolutely no makeup – ever.

Though we should all be focusing on the inside of a person rather than on outward appearances, it would be very difficult for anyone, let alone a boy seeking his mate, to get past that first impression.

I don’t mean to offend the many readers with imperfect noses (mine is certainly no model of perfection). In fact, I know a couple of people with prominent noses who are attractive and engaging and far from dowdy. (Think Barbra Streisand.) For that matter, how many of us can truly claim to be “viewable” when facing ourselves in the mirror first thing in the morning?

The right hair-do, enhancing makeup and suitably flattering wardrobe are mandatory for those on the lookout for their intended. Ideally, it is a mother’s job to teach her daughter of these necessities, but in the case of an absentee mom (literally or figuratively), friends, relatives and even teachers shouldn’t hesitate to step into the role and encourage a makeover.

First impressions count

Dear Rachel,

In my opinion, much too much emphasis is being placed on physical attributes and many viable shidduchim are thus being passed up.

Reminds me of the Yiddish saying, “a sheina ponim hot imzinsteh frahnd” meaning literally “a pretty face has free friends.” This of course implies that beauty garners undeserved attention. Let’s not forget that beauty is as beauty does – it is one’s middos that render one beautiful, inside and out.

* * * * *

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 1/21/11

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Mendy’s Story (Part II)

In last week’s column, readers became acquainted with Mendy, one of six siblings who grew up in a dysfunctional home where their parents never saw eye-to-eye and managed to make life utterly miserable for their children in the process.

Mendy’s turbulent upbringing exposed him to abuse not only at his mother’s hand, but also by his so-called educators who would resort to hitting him when he wasn’t up to par – in accordance with the rebbe’s standards for learning and behavior.

Things improved somewhat for Mendy when he transferred to a yeshiva in Far Rockaway (from Borough Park), but his respite was not to last. At the age of 16, he made aliya with his parents and some of his siblings. (Two older brothers stayed behind, as they had moved out of their parents’ home much earlier.)

While this move abroad was designed as an attempt (ultimately failing) to salvage his parents’ rocky marriage, it uprooted Mendy from his much-improved environment, in a Far Rockaway dorm, and cast him right back into bleak surroundings completely devoid of any human warmth, let alone love.

It didn’t take Mendy long to search out undesirable friends and to rush headlong into the illusory comfort of alcohol, drugs and the like.

When Mendy was about 17 – his parents were separated by then – a Good Samaritan, a New Yorker, recognized Mendy’s desperate straits and arranged for him to stay at Ohr Samayach. Though Mendy was thus spared the anguish of his suffering at home, he didn’t exactly make an instant turnabout (of his way of life).

Mendy subsequently encountered a nightmarish ordeal that started out as his 18th birthday celebration with so-called friends and ended with their abandoning him in the middle of nowhere, leaving him in a wretched and drunken state all by himself – a haunting experience that gave rise to a fierce determination never to be faced with such loneliness and misery again.

With the help of a benefactor who appears at his side, Mendy not only escapes his mother’s abuse but is rescued from a self-destructive lifestyle.

Our curiosity is piqued

Rachel: Mendy, may we reveal the identity of this person who materialized like an angel from heaven to save you from your slide into a bottomless pit?

Mendy: Sure, I don’t see why not. He is a well-known figure [in the Orthodox Jewish community] and is known for his philanthropy. His name is Moshe Binik.

What accommodations did he make for you upon your arrival in New York?

I was introduced to someone else, another stranger to me at the time, who lives with his wife and children in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn and who has made it his life’s mission to rescue boys who are “lost” and homeless.

With your background and history, and the frazzled physical and emotional state I can just imagine you were in when you arrived here, what made you place your trust in someone you had never before known or met?

Well, to be honest, I didn’t. It’s not like I had where to go, so I figured I’d take advantage of a seemingly generous man’s offer, do my own thing and abscond once I’d get back on my feet.

How did that (your plan) end up working out?

I had never experienced a real family life. This man – and his incredible wife – taught me what family is. I also learned about the beauty of Shabbos and experienced real Yiddishkeit.

You say he “taught” you. Did he give you lessons? Did you attend a class?

No, nothing like that. He “taught” me simply by example. His home was open to me. He and his wife and their children embraced me as though I had always been part of their family and accepted me the way I was. I learned by observing them and came away with my own conclusions.

Did you live with this family in their home?

No. This man, Avi Fishoff (whom Moshe Binik put me in touch with), settled me into a comfortable home not far from his own. They have this second house – known as Home Sweet Home – especially set up to accommodate kids who are in need of a home away from home. [Avi initially intuits who would benefit from his guidance and the warmth he and his family altruistically dole out.]

You returned here at the age of 19; today you’re 25. Obviously, Avi’s confidence in you was well-placed. How far have you come since the time you first became acquainted with the Fishoffs?

To give you a good indication, this past Chanukah we had a get-together with all the “graduates” of Avi Fishoff’s generosity – fifty to sixty of us. When I first settled into HSH, there was one other boy there. The average stay there is about a year; mine was 14 months. Today some of these boys are married with families. All of us have improved the quality of our lives, to say the least. Today I live on my own, strive to work part-time, have a learning shiur every night and volunteer at Home Sweet Home to help others down on their luck.

What about your blood relatives? Are you in touch with them?

I’ve heard nothing from or about my mother (and two younger siblings who stayed with her). I have become closer to my father, though; he visits here every so often, and we are otherwise in touch by phone on a regular basis. Family is important, you know. I am also close to my older brothers.

Do you have any advice for parents?

Unconditional love! Never close the door on your kid’s pain. Explore it and try to fix it. Shutting a kid out is detrimental and will only make things worse.

Mendy, you – like your wonderful mentors – have a heart of gold. Your past ordeals have given you a resilience and maturity beyond your years. May Hashem continue to light your path, and may you find strength and hatzlocha in all your noble pursuits.

Note to readers: Avi Fishoff mentors parents of kids in crisis and can be contacted atAviFishoff@aol.com. Avi does not charge a fee for his counsel but welcomes donations in any denomination towards the upkeep of Home Sweet Home, which is run by volunteers only. Parents of “kids in pain” can also inquire about a free anonymous support group.

Any reader in a position to offer Mendy assistance in the way of a viable livelihood or shidduch can contact Mendy through this column at Rachel@jewishpress.com.

* * * * *

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 1/14/11

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Dear Readers,

Raising children with ample love and attention is crucial, as has been stressed in this column numerous times.

Not long ago we also devoted space to the subject of discipline, discussing its merits as well as the disadvantages of resorting to the “strap” as a means of keeping children in line.

Recently, an engaging young man happened to come to our attention. Once a shattered soul, Mendy (not his real name) has surmounted enormous odds and, Baruch Hashem, finds himself today in a much better place with confidence in his future prospects.

We are grateful to Mendy for giving us the okay to offer our readers a glimpse into his past and some highlights of his struggles and triumphs. It is our hope that Mendy’s powerful message will penetrate the reader’s heart and will touch lives in a positive way.

Rachel: Mendy, today at the age of 24 you are wise and mature beyond your years, and yet not so long ago you were a mixed up kid who had no idea what planet he was on, let alone able to focus on life ahead. How and when did you spiral so badly out of control as to lose any sense of time and reason?

Mendy: For as far back as I can remember, I was unhappy. Not only were my parents always quarrelling, but my siblings and I suffered endless abuse.

Did you at least find some peace and solace during those hours you were in school, away from home?

Not at all. In the cheder I attended through fifth grade [in Brooklyn] I was bullied by other kids and got hit almost every day.

You mean the other children beat up on you? Couldn’t you get the rebbe or principal to intervene and put a stop to this?

Well, not exactly. I got hit by the rebbe because I wasn’t keeping up or when I was slow in responding

What happened after the fifth grade?

I transferred to a yeshiva in Far Rockaway which was much better for me, but the home situation didn’t improve. When I was 16, my parents made aliya in the hopes of salvaging their broken relationship.

Did the move to Israel prove to be a positive one for you personally?

Hardly. My parents actually ended up separating before long, eventually divorcing, but that didn’t do anything to still my mother’s rage.

Your mother “raged” even after your parents were separated and your father was no longer living in the house? Whom did she rage at?

Here’s an example of the type of incident we were exposed to. My mother once took a bottle of apple juice away from my younger brother because she didn’t want him drinking it. She then poured the contents over his head and began beating him with the bottle.

Didn’t you guys have older siblings to lean on for physical and emotional support?

No. Two of my older brothers stayed behind in New York. They had actually moved out of the house much earlier, just as soon as they were financially able to be on their own.

How did you cope with so much misery?

If you call hanging out with the wrong crowd, drinking and doing drugs coping

What about your father? What was your relationship with him like?

After he moved out of the house I saw him only occasionally, but we were not close. However, I’ll never forget his reaction when I once told him how low I had sunk and divulged to him the bad things I was into. To his credit he said he still loved me, that I was still his son. That’s more than I ever got from my mother.

So how did you finally crawl out of the gutter?

An “angel” from America actually plucked me off the streets (in Israel) and arranged for me to stay at Ohr Samayach, which became my new home.

And you transformed right then and there?

Not quite. My mother could no longer torment me, but my friends and the bad habits I was into were still very much a part of my daily existence.

I suppose your mind could take you back to many low points in your young life, but how would you describe your lowest?

I had gone out with friends to have a good time I remember that it was my 18th birthday. We partied and drank, and I became very drunk. My “friends” ended up abandoning me, and there I was, stranded in the middle of the street, stone drunk, retching and feeling more miserable and alone than I had ever felt in my whole life. I still recall the endless flow of tears streaming down my face.

How did you pick yourself up and get past that night?

Somehow, out of the blue, a guy whom I had gone to yeshiva with in Far Rockaway happened by. He recognized me, helped me to my feet and got a cab to take me home.

What did that horrible experience do for you?

It was a sobering lesson. I never wanted to experience such feelings of helplessness and loneliness again and was determined to crawl out of the hole I was in, no matter what it would take.

So how did you finally make it back here to American shores?

The same person who had originally arranged for me to stay at Ohr Samayach eventually scheduled and supervised my trip back to Brooklyn.

Let’s see if I got this right: A virtual stranger picks up your signals of distress on an Israeli street and not only helps you escape the clutches of parental abuse but perseveres until he manages to save you from self-destructing by bringing you back here.

Do angels like that really exist among us?

To Be Continued

* * * * *

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-487/2011/01/12/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: