Friday, March 25, 2011

A Word from the Director: 3/25/2011

We live in such confusing and challenging times. The world around us changes in a flash. Japan, one of the most powerful countries in the world, is in crisis and their people can’t even drink water over concerns regarding radiation. The United States is at war with Libya. And our beloved land has to deal with terror attacks and bus bombings again. I lived in Israel for seventeen years and lived through many attacks, funerals, shiva visits, hatzala zaka, people stopping to visit Israel, survivors, and amputees with families. We all look for answers and there aren’t any good ones. We hope for the best and maybe one day we will understand.

Our kids are just as confused. As much as we try to shelter our kids from everything around, we can’t. We have to create an environment where our kids can participate in discussion, in a safe and comfortable place. We mustn’t overexpose them to everything, but let them know that we want them to come to us to discuss things and not get the information elsewhere. Our kids are bombarded with messages around them day in and day out - either from the media or the billboards and everywhere else. We have to learn to communicate with them. Our kids are not naïve; we may be the ones who are naïve, to think that our kids don’t see everything going on. We live in a large Jewish community, baruch Hashem. We have to remember that going three blocks north and three blocks south, is out of the community. We have a responsibility to give them a reason to stay connected to Yiddishkeit. We have to make it passionate and not just a routine. If we don’t then they will find passion elsewhere. We know that it’s not real out there - but they don’t; what they see is exciting and appears to be real. We have to learn and to teach our kids to communicate with us. How many times do I hear from parents and Rebbeim “I can’t believe my kids are into that and hanging around with them!” I am speaking to myself and letting you eavesdrop; chas veshalom I should give mussar!

For all of you with high school graduates for kids: It is so important that you go to yeshiva - but which yeshiva? Many of the boys will go to Eretz Yisroel for a year or two. I have been getting so many calls from concerned parents regarding where to send their kids. What type of yeshiva, how much freedom does it have, etc. Eretz Yisroel is awesome but there are plenty of challenges and dangers. We have a good relationship with many of the boys’ yeshivas. If we can help or at least be a good sounding board, please feel free to call.

One final point: I have dealt with many kids and their parents this week. It is crucial that parents are on the same page when dealing with issues. If kids see that their parents have conflicting ideas, they will take advantage of that and point fingers at one parent over the other, knowing they have support from one of the two. We parents don’t have to agree on everything, but we do have to have to put on a united front for many issues when we deal with our kids.

May this week be a quieter and calmer week for all of us.

Good Shabbos

Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Word from the Director: 3/18/2011

Today, Erev Purim, is the one day that the kids all want to get to school early. They get to dress out of uniform for carnival, treats, and assemblies and just have a great time in school. It is nice to watch and see that they are so excited about the Yom Tov. How many times are we too tired on Shabbos and during the week to spend time with the kids and appreciate their personalities and stories and everything about them? We all have our ideas what Purim should look be like and what we want to happen during the day. This year, Purim falls right after Shabbos so we can all get our well-needed rest so we can dedicate the day to spend with our kids. We don’t know what it means to them. Often we belittle ourselves and don’t realize that our kids want and need to spend time with us. We live in a world where kids are searching to belong and feel accepted. Often they search for that because we don’t create a home environment where they are comfortable and want to be part of. The most important thing for our kids is to have a home where they are number one. For children, they have to want to be home, to be comfortable and to know that we love them and want to spend time with them. If we raise our kids that way then when they get older, they grow up with more self confidence and have a better chance of succeeding - which is what we all want for them.

This week we opened our gym and the boys are learning how to use the various machines. We are teaching them how to be responsible and share space with others. We are teaching them the safety issues involved, and how to take care of the equipment. I try to impress upon them the amount of effort put in by members of the community, either financially or with their time, to make this happen for them.

I feel the need to publicize the unbelievable accomplishment of Avi Menter who finished Masechet Megila with Rabbi Neuberger, shlita. Avi was the driving force and with unbelievable consistency was able to accomplish this beautiful goal. We should continue with such amazing success stories.

I feel the need to emphasize this: please be available to drive your teens wherever they need to go. We don’t know if they may be under the influence even slightly and for the safety of our kids, take away the keys. If you see someone who appears to be driving in a suspicious manner, pull him over and try to deal with the situation. We all want Purim to be a fun and healthy Yom Tov for all.

Many of our boys have volunteered to help raise some funds for us to continue our programs for them by collecting on Purim. This is a wonderful opportunity for them to be involved and show a hakaras hatov and learn how to give back. Please open your hearts and help us to help our community’s teens.

Have a wonderful Shabbos and a freilechen Purim!

Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Word from the Director: 3/11/2011

This past week was very busy. Last night we had a Rav here from Eretz Yisroel who has a program very similar to ours. It was interesting to see that many of the situations and challenges are very similar with our teens and young adults. Baruch Hashem there are many fine institutions in the community that work with teens that come from secular homes. Our niche is working with teens that come from orthodox homes and that somewhere along the line have become disenchanted with their environment. There are many reasons why that would happen. Often there may be a family situation or crisis which changes the homeostasis of that individual; often what may have been the norm yesterday now comes into doubt. For the most part, I believe that many of our students feel that there is something different about them, that they do not fit the mold, and that they have failed to reach the expectations of their family and even community. One of our goals at Aish Tamid is to work with each individual and to build a program for him based on where he is at this moment. It is our job to create a realistic expectation for the student.

Every person without exception has the ability to be successful. Unfortunately, we are not born with a handbook and for some it takes longer to figure out what our strengths are. This past week I had the opportunity to meet with Rabbi Yonah Landau. The purpose was to discuss the creation of a work project for our group of boys that could be their own. I have many kids here who have talents and I am constantly looking for community projects for three reasons. The first reason is many of the boys are generally bored and this keeps them busy; second, it makes them feel productive by helping others; third, when they are put to the challenge with new projects they find strengths they never realized they had. For many, conventional school does not work, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t learn a vocation or a trade which they can feel good about. We have been successful in creating a safe place where kids are comfortable with mentors - an educational component, with the spiritual component, and of course the fun component - and our gym will hopefully open soon. I just feel that learning a vocation is the next step for many of our kids.

Again, anyone who would like to volunteer with this project should be in touch with me.

Have a wonderful Shabbos!

Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Word from the Director: 3/4/2011

This week has been rather challenging. One of our students whom we were close with for many years tragically passed away. Any death is difficult but he was young and had his whole life ahead of him. As you can imagine, the family is going through immense pain and grief. He was a very unhealthy kid. And we tried with in so many different avenues. And the hours we spent supporting the family all we can say was that we tried to be there for the kid and for his parents. At the end of the day, the mantra that rings through my head multiple times a day is that we cannot help somebody who is not ready to be helped. It is painful because naturally, we all want to help and fix problems but it is unfortunately not up to us. I would just like to add that when we see kids that we think are screwing up their lives, instead of us looking at them in a scornful way remember they are crying out to us and asking us to try to understand them and not to be scared of how they look and how they are behaving. I was at a seminar that discussed teenagers and they spoke about the girl that was acting out and all the teachers hating her for acting like a “slut”. Instead of hating her and blaming her find out why she is behaving that way and reach out to her, there is a reason why she is behaving accordingly.

In other news, we want to thank Brigitte Wintner for sponsoring a dinner for thirty-plus guys the other night. The boys were very touched and the food was awesome. If you would like to donate or sponsor a dinner, please let us know.

One of our boys who had taken an EMT course years ago took his test this week and passed. We are very excited about his accomplishment. After much nudging, he and I finally agreed to let him take my car to take the test.

The gym is looking awesome. The movers brought the machines this week and our dear Eliott Dolin stayed until after 8 pm last night to help the workers finish putting them together. We thank Eliott for his dedication.

We should hear only good news and simcha as Rosh Chodesh enters this week. Have a wonderful Shabbos!

Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff