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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘youth’

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Five: A Husband For Ruchel

Monday, July 16th, 2012

The next morning, Hevedke was waiting out on the road when Tevye and his Zionist entourage took up their journey. The two men stared at one another in silence.

“He has more guts than I thought,” Tevye brooded, giving the reins of the wagon a whip.

Hava was hoping that her father would give Hevedke a chance to prove his sincerity, but there was no sign of conciliation in her father’s angry expression. Hava herself was confused. Her heart was torn between a man she still loved, and the realization that the bond between them could never be sanctified as long as he belonged to the tormentors of her people. It wasn’t enough that Hevedke was ashamed of the evil decrees of the Czar. Unless he tore up all ties to his religion and his past, he would always remain one of them. Even if he were to fast a hundred days to prove his love for Hava, that would not be enough. Hava knew that he loved her. He had to prove he loved God by taking on the yoke of her people. Though Hava felt compassion and pity for Hevedke, she didn’t plead with her father to accept him into the fold. If she had listened to her parents in the first place, the whole painful situation would never have occurred. Now she wanted to make amends for the breach she had rent in the family. She wanted to be faithful to her father. She wanted to show her mother in Heaven that she was sorry for the pain she had caused. So sitting beside her father as their wagon drove down the road, Hava fought off her desire to gaze at the man she had lived with only a short time before. She stared forward at the future as if Hevedke did not exist, as if they had never crossed paths, trusting that one way or the other, God would restore peace to her torn, aching heart.

That evening they reached the Jewish shtetl of Branosk. The ultra-religious community was smaller than the Jewish community of Anatevka, but the sights, sounds, and smells were the same. The same wooden porches, tiled roofs, and shutters. The same sagging, weathered barns which stood erect by a miracle. The same aroma of horses, chickens, and soups. The same beards and black skullcaps on the men, and kerchiefs and shawls on the women. Even the fiery red sunset had been stolen from Anatevka and pasted over the Branosk forest.

The villagers rushed out of their houses when they heard that pioneers on the way to the Promised Land had arrived in the shtetl. Children and teenagers crowded around Tevye’s wagon. They all wore the caps and long curling peyes sidelocks which distinguished the Branosk community. Apparently, they had seen other Zionists, but the sight of Tevye, a bearded, God fearing Jew among them, was a novelty to be sure. Ben Zion jumped up on a porch and tried to deliver a spirited harangue, inviting the townspeople to throw off the yoke of the Russians and join them in rebuilding the ancient Jewish homeland, but he only drew heckles and a rotten tomato. Tevye and his daughters attracted a far larger crowd.

Where was he going, they wanted to know? To Eretz Yisrael, he answered, the Land of Israel. With the heretics, they asked? Tevye said that by accident they were traveling together, for safety along the way. But, Tevye assured them, his family was headed for a settlement more religious than the city of Vilna – in God’s Chosen Land. What could be better than that? For hadn’t they heard? The great Baron Rothschild, may he live several lifetimes, was building “frum,” God fearing communities throughout the Holy Land. Everyone who came got a villa and acres of orchards bursting with olives, pomegranates, fig trees, and dates.

People bombarded Tevye with questions. He answered with authority, as if he truly knew, as if he were the Baron’s agent, auctioning off parcels of land. When a question came his way for which he did not have an answer, he responded with a verse or two of Torah. One thing was clear – the expulsion which had hit Anatevka was sure to reach Branosk. Surely they had heard that the Czar’s Cossacks had been thundering throughout Russia, slaughtering thousands of Jews. Now was the time to flee for their lives. Now was the time to stop praying for God to take them to Zion, and let their feet do the talking instead.

Climbing to the Top: A Story of Strength

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel to Support New Immigrant College Students

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Israel’s government has budgeted more than $10 million to provide college scholarships and Hebrew language schools to new immigrants.

The Cabinet decision Sunday to continue to support financially the Immigrant Absorption Ministry Student Authority is “ensuring the continuation of its joint projects with the Jewish Agency which, due to budgetary constraints, faced uncertain futures,” according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office

The money will be made available immediately “so as not to harm registration and the start of the academic year for immigrant students,” the statement said.

In recent years, the student authority has assisted approximately 6,500 students a year, one-third of whom are from Ethiopia, and it is “a significant factor in the decision of young people who are eligible to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return.”

Under the decision, the government will also support some 90 Hebrew language schools, and four youth villages for youth at risk operated by the Education Ministry.

The Jewish Agency for Israel praised the decision, saying it would allow the Jewish Agency to concentrate on increasing and encouraging aliyah while the government “will assume responsibility for the olim from the moment they arrive in Israel.”

Israeli Olympic Team Announced

Monday, June 25th, 2012

The Olympic Committee of Israel approved its list of 36 athletes to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London on Sunday.

A final spot will be reserved for a youth ticket to be earned pending the outcome of the European Athletics Championships.

Male Representatives of Israel are Zohar Zemiro for Marathon, Misha Zilberman for Singles Badminton, Alexander Shatilov and Felix Aronovich for Artisitic Individual All-around Gymnastics, Golan Pollack, Ioseb Palelashvili and Ariel Zeevi for Judo, Shahar Zubari for Sailboard, Gideon Kliger and Eran Sela for  470 Sailing, Sergy Rikhter for 10 meter rifle shooting, and Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or, Imri Ganiel, Yonatan Kopelev, Gal Nevo and Yakov-Yan Toumarking for  Swimming races,

Female Representatives of Israel are Jillian Schwartz for Pole vault, Valeria Maksiuta for Artisitic Individual All-around Gymnastics, Neta Rivkin for Rhythmic Individual All-around Gymnastics, Alice Schlesinger for  Judo, Lee Korzits for Sailboard, Nufar Edelman for Laser Radial Sailing, Vered Buskila and Gil Cohen for 470 Sailing, Amit Ivry for Swimming races, Anastasia Gloushkov and Inna Yoffe for Synchronized Swimming, and Shahar Peer for Singles Tennis.

Keeping Our Children Safe

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

How do we teach our children to keep themselves safe from the adult predators in our midst? Are our schools teaching them what they need to know? Are parents teaching our youth what they need to know? Does your child feel safe enough to approach you if their personal space is being invaded? How do you know?

Parents and Educators:
How do you teach the skills needed?

Most abusers are not what we picture in our minds. In other words they are not the repulsive dirty man sitting on a park bench. In fact, most abusers are youths themselves.

More parents and schools need to teach children these basics. Teach your children to say, NO, GO, and TELL you or another parent/parental figure when other children or an adult does something that they know is wrong – or even just feels not right. Unfortunately, most parents admit to not speaking to their children about these issues. I know it is uncomfortable for some, but there are ways parents can speak to their children about staying safe from abuse, without compromising their morality.

The secondary – and more devastating – trauma that children (and later adults) have with sexual abuse is that they feel that they cannot tell anyone, or if they do tell someone, their reports will be discounted. If more children would have the courage and self esteem to speak out, and more parents and educators would have the ability to trust and listen to children when they talk, our world, their world, would be a safer one.

Remember: Children with one or more of the following attributes have an increased risk of being abused:

* Good at keeping secrets. * Often not believed by adults. * Children with poor social skills. * Children with few friends. * Children who crave adult attention.

Some basic tips on how to teach your children to be safe:

* Invite your children to speak to you about anything they would like. You do not have to force a child to speak to you; the invitation is the most important part of the message. Children need to know that they can come to you if they need to. A child who feels comfortable sharing uncomfortable conversations with his or her parents has a much lower risk of suffering the trauma of abuse and the secondary trauma of feeling as if he or she is at fault and/or cannot share experiences with others.

* Ensure that your children know that they can inform you if something or someone makes them feel uncomfortable.

* Teach them that they can share this with you even if the person is a brother, uncle, aunt, cousin, teacher, babysitters, stranger, or family friend.

* Children need to be taught this at a young age (4-8).

* Do not tell children that if anything ever happens something bad will happen to the person who did it. First, you cannot guarantee that. Second, very often, it is someone with who they have a close relationship and may want to protect.

* Model themes related to safety so that your children can become aware if others are violating their rights. These include modeling healthy respect of physical and emotional boundaries; modeling the respect of privacy amongst family members within the home; and modeling the ability to talk about sensitive feelings in an appropriate manner.

* If you know of a child who often seeks close relationships with adults, find him/her a mentor, before he finds his own (or the adult finds him).

It’s My Opinion: Protecting Our Children

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary recently testified in a court hearing against ex-Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. The testimony he gave before the jury was sickening on two counts: He described witnessing the alleged details of a sexual assault on a minor child and he admitted he was not vigilant in exposing what he saw. The incident, according to McQueary, took place over ten years ago.

Sandusky had been a greatly admired man. He headed a popular youth charity that funded camps and projects focused on at-risk kids. The coach was a stellar figure in the community.

Despite stunning testimony by McQueary and three alleged victims, Sandusky denies the charges. He is accused of abusing 10 minor children over a 15-year span. He is charged with 52 criminal counts involving these alleged assaults.

McQueary said he went to head football coach Joe Paterno the day after witnessing the incident and to Penn State officials a week later. He spoke of being vague and non-explicate when explaining the incident.

“Mind your own business” has become a catch phrase of contemporary culture. We all have our own troubles. We all have our own worries. We hesitate adding to them.

The Jewish nation has another take on the issue. The Torah admonishes that we cannot “stand idly by.”

Most educators and youth leaders are fine and dedicated individuals who care about the youngsters in their charge. The impact that they have on young lives can be incredibly positive.

A minority, unfortunately, gravitate to children for other reasons. Their impact is always devastating.

We are now in the more relaxed summer season. Children’s activities are less structured. Sleepovers, field trips and camp experiences are the standard. Parents, grandparents and administrators need to be especially vigilant.

Let your children know they can and should go to you with anything that makes them uncomfortable. Let your children know they can say “no” even to an authority figure. Keep the door of communication wide open.

Jewish Residents Apprehensive as Peace Now, Arabs, Count the Days for Migron’s Fall

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

A group of young children parade in a circle, waving Israeli flags against the clear blue sky. They are directed by several youth leaders who are trying to keep the kids in line. It is a few days before Israel’s Independence Day and Migron is preparing for the upcoming festive ceremony, held for the entire community.

Some of the mothers come out to watch their children perform. Among them stands Aviela Deitch, originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who has been living for the past year in Migron, a tiny community of 49 families, located 14 miles north of Jerusalem. She lives in a small mobile home with her husband and six children, in a community considered “illegal” and “unauthorized,” and even marked as a “wildcat outpost” by those who oppose its existence – and subsequently described as such in the international press.

For Aviela, the terminology does not matter.

“We chose to live here because we wanted our children to know the responsibility of building a community in a place that has wonderful people,” she says to the Tazpit News Agency.

Migron children preparing for Israel's Independence Day. Photo: Anav Silverman, / Tazpit News Agency.

Migron children preparing for Israel's Independence Day. Photo: Anav Silverman, / Tazpit News Agency.

“There is a certain quality of life in Migron and a very strong sense of community. The youth are bright and polite and their parents are involved. Our children attend great schools in nearby communities, while the younger ones go to Migron’s community daycare and kindergarten. There is almost a zero-percent crime rate.”

Established in 1999, Migron is made up of mostly young professionals who served in the IDF and national service, graduated from universities, with many now working primarily in social work, special education, rehabilitation, elderly care, computer programming and mechanical engineering.

Until 2006, the residents of Migron lived quietly, certain that their children would continue to flourish in a safe and happy environment embodied by the values of their community.

“I couldn’t imagine raising my kids anywhere else,” says Itay Harel, one of Migron’s founders who established the community 13 years ago.

But an unexpected battle began after the Israeli anti-settlement movement Peace Now, which aims to eliminate any Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria, to be replaced by a Palestinian state, claimed that Migron was settled on privately owned Arab land.

“Who are these organizations to dictate to us where our homes should be?” asks Harel. “We received the proper authorization to establish this community over a decade ago.”

Migron residents claim that the Arabs were not even aware that they supposedly “owned” the land until Peace Now instigated the petition on their behalf.

In an unprecedented ruling in August 2011, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of Peace Now’s attorney and ordered the government to evict the Migron settlers. The evacuation and dismantling of Migron is scheduled to take place this coming August.

Itay Harel says that the land was barren when he first arrived. “No Arabs were living in this area. There was nothing here when we came to set up this community, which was one reason why we chose build here in the first place,” he says, pointing out the rocky landscape.

Harel runs a horseback-riding therapy clinic for youth at risk with his wife. “Our clinic currently caters to 80 children from across the country, many of whom come from broken homes and could not fit in a traditional school system. They have abused drugs and alcohol, and some are physically-challenged. They are given necessary life-tools and skills through the therapeutic experience of learning to ride and maneuver horses”

An idealistic 38-year-old social worker, Harel speaks warmly about the Migron community. “I helped found Migron with the idea that it would serve as pillar for troubled youth.” He says.

The Israeli government identified Migron as a necessary strategic development, standing as it does on a hill overlooking a busy main road, the site of Arab shootings that left countless Israelis dead in the valley below during the Second Intifada of 2000-2005. The Israeli government set up the electrical lines, the running water and the infrastructure for a functioning sewage, as well as a telephone system. It also provided families with mobile homes which are still in use today.

The Key to Greatness

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Most people never achieve their full potential, either, because they don’t really know themselves, and don’t know where their potential lies, or because they have some barrier in their way.

Meir Kahane knew himself. Even when he was a teenager, he knew that he wanted to help the Jewish People as much as he could. He recognized that Jewish identity and the true practice of Torah had been distorted by the exile and by life in foreign non-Jewish lands. Stemming from this, he recognized the great dangers of assimilation and yearned with a towering passion to cry out and warn his beloved brothers and sisters. He knew what he wanted. He understood his potential. But there was a barrier in his way. He stuttered. That’s right – Rabbi Meir Kahane, perhaps the most dynamic Jewish orator of our time, a speaker capable of inflaming hearts and inspiring the masses, a par-excellence TV debater who chopped the glib intellectual banter of opponents into tiny insignificant scraps, he had a bothersome stutter in his youth, which had to be mastered in order to fulfill his dream of reaching out to the Jewish People.

This is how he did it, as revealed in the gripping biography, Rabbi Meir Kahane – His Life and Thought, written by his wife.

He overcame his barrier. Through his example, we can learn to overcome ours.

Rabbi Meir Kahane – His Life and Thought

From Chapter Three

During his high school years, Meir began to stutter, or at least to become conscious of it. A classmate said he did not stutter when they were together in fourth grade; if he did she would have been aware of it, because her own brother stuttered.

When Meir was 20 and attending the Mirrer Yeshiva rabbinical seminary during the day and Brooklyn College at night, he decided to do something about his stuttering. In July 1952 he enrolled in the Martin Hall Institute for Speech Disorders in Bristol, Rhode Island. In a summary written for a therapist at Martin Hall, Meir related:

“When I was 9 years old my parents gave me a book for my birthday, titled, ‘So to Speak: A Practical Training Course for Developing a Beautiful Speaking Voice.” I did not know then why they gave me the book. In grade school I had no trouble. I recited in class and acted in plays. I recall going to the office, speaking to the principal, Rabbi Braverman, about skipping a grade, and to Mr. Hirsch about being the valedictorian. I was not afraid then.

“In high school I had no trouble, as far as I remember, during the first and second terms [the first year] – except that I would rather read [aloud] than speak in classes. I had trouble speaking in Rabbi Feivelson’s class, and I think he expressed surprise, but I had no trouble speaking to kids or teachers informally. Once in class, Farber poked me to say I stuttered in reading … even though I was better in reading than in talking…. The teacher definitely expressed surprise. I also had trouble in French class. (I think I was AFRAID.) I also had trouble in English at Lincoln giving reports.

“I spoke up in class, especially English … recited, etc. I approached Rabbi Zuroff about a Begin meeting. I was definitely much better conversationally than now, and had no trouble speaking to girls. My friend Victor confirms this.”

One of the most difficult things for a stutterer is making phone calls. Meir names the friends he phoned easily and those he was afraid to call. He has a fuzzy memory of being nervous about making calls for his father. He recalled a Betar meeting where he could not talk to two girls. He was afraid to speak up at the Betar convention, but he overcame his fear, and a friend assured him that he had not stuttered. In college, Meir’s fear of stuttering became worse. He wrote:

“I did do some speaking in class … though in History, I was afraid but wasn’t BODILY afraid…. I was afraid to give a report in economic geography, and walked out of the Bible Hebrew class. I was deathly afraid of speech in my last term. In fact, I dropped a previous speech class when the teacher said I stuttered. I had bad trouble asking for transcripts. I showed a paper to the guidance counselor [instead of speaking]. I stammered controllably at interviews. I had trouble answering when attendance was taken. I was afraid to talk up in sociology…. When I was 19, I couldn’t ask for a stapler at Macy’s.”

Some stutterers discover that they cease stuttering when they are distracted from their usual speech patterns. Almost any novel stimulus, such as tapping a finger, swinging the arms, or stamping a foot, can serve as a distraction (until the novelty wears off). Meir’s trick was to blink, as he did on various occasions in later years.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/the-key-to-greatness/2012/06/06/

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