Friday, May 27, 2011

A Word from the Director: 5/27/2011

Aside from our ongoing boys program, we have also been very busy with the creation of our new girls program. We have met with many educators and principals and they have embraced the program enthusiastically. We have secured a location – at least for the next few months – and we are very excited to get started. The program will be in the Hancock Park area (not at Aish Tamid’s building, of course). We have received many calls expressing interest from parents and community leaders, and many women who have volunteered to help get involved. The staff will consist of a therapist and other adult therapeutic coaches – all women of course. The goal is to create a place where girls can feel comfortable and safe outside of their homes; a non-judgmental environment where they can have fun with their peers, talk and ask questions – with adults who will care for them and serve as role models.

This is a monumental moment in our city. Until now, nothing like this has been created for the community and I have been ecstatic by the response I’ve received. Many of us until now have had this notion that there are only challenges with teenaged males. This is certainly not the case and the challenges vary. Many girls also slip through the cracks despite good intentions and great parenting. The need for confidentiality applies everywhere, but we understand the significance it has especially in our community. In the diamond business there are stones that are easier to cut and shine and there are others that need extra precision and more work. They are all diamonds just the same, but some might just need a bit more attention. Every child is a diamond. We at Aish Tamid feel that they too can be outstanding citizens and can be tremendous assets to Klal Yisroel. We believe that with the proper support and care our teens can reach their maximum potential, make their parents proud, and shine brilliantly!

Aish Tamid’s success lies in our ability to collaborate with parents, teachers and community leaders. If you have a daughter or know of a female student who is struggling, please get in touch with us. We are always available for parents and teachers, with support, referrals and guidance.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Word from the Director: 5/20/2011

Aish Tamid will be open this Saturday night for a special Drop-In Center event. We will all be meeting at the building at 9:30 PM and visiting Rabbi Wolf for his Lag B’Omer Meron experience soon afterwards. Many of the boys are unfamiliar with this unique celebration. I hope that it will be a fun and inspirational evening for all!

This week I attended a lecture given by Mrs. Rochel Wise from Philadelphia. I invited parents to join as well. Mrs. Wise is a parenting coach who lectures around the country, focusing on discussing parents’ relationships with teenagers. She bases her principles on what she calls ‘Choice Theory’, emphasizing the importance of relationships. The two important factors that I picked up from her were as follows: First, many parents have issues with their teenagers because the transition from child to teenager poses many new challenges. Parents often feel that they lose control during this period of the child’s growth. Up until now, the parents have made all the decisions. From here on, the teenager now begins to make his or her own decisions, and this is often where a number of conflicts begin to arise. Since we cannot make decisions for them forever, our goal as parents is to teach them how to make healthy decisions. My second takeaway from Mrs. Wise’s lecture was that often times, the conflicts between parents and their teenagers stem from the parents taking offense to the child’s decisions and behaviors. A parent may perceive this as a personal attack, but if they stay calm, they will realize that it is not a personal attack at all. Knowing this, it will enable them to maintain a healthier and more positive relationship with their children.

We are in the exciting process of creating a girls’ program to address their unique issues and needs. The girls’ program will differ from Aish Tamid’s Drop-In Center for the boys, and will held at a different location. We have recently hired a frum therapist and we will keep you updated as the program develops. If you have any questions or know any teen girls that need mentoring or help, please call the office at 323-634-0505.

We started a learning program this week with Rabbi Zvi Boyarsky from The Aleph Institute. Rabbi Boyarsky is teaching a course in fundamental Judaism, based on a curriculum that was specifically created for teens. Hopefully it will deepen their appreciation for their homeland, national history, and Jewish identity.

We would like to thank Ron Luberman, an exercise trainer who has volunteered his time to help out at the gym. He has a tremendous amount of experience and the boys look to him for instruction.

Taking Responsibility for Our Actions:

Teens often feel invincible and infallible. As parents, we have to teach our children that they have to be responsible for their behavior, and that there will always be consequences for their actions. In the news this past week, we have learned of leaders and public figures who have acted immorally and seemingly gotten away with it… at least for a while. We must learn that we are accountable in all aspects – in our relationships, taking tests at school, dealing with money, etc. Unfortunately, we do not have to look too far to find examples of people whose lives and careers have been destroyed because of bad decisions and impulsive behavior. I believe the message is an important one for teens, as they grow up thinking they are invincible.

I’d like to share a portion of a letter that we received from a parent on the East Coast:
“We really appreciate your involvement during the latest ordeal. Being so far away, it was a comfort for us knowing you were there, helping and guiding us. Your advice was very much appreciated and valuable.”
It gives me a good feeling to know that Aish Tamid is truly making a difference.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff

Friday, May 13, 2011

D'var Torah: The Journey

The Journey by Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff

This week was a very sad one for Lakers fans. The Lakers were tossed out of the playoffs because of their humiliating performance. If you think about it, it was really sad for one individual in particular. That man was Phil Jackson. Imagine leading a first rate team and losing in such a shameful and upsetting fashion. What does the loss say about him as a person? Do we look at his 20 years as one of the greatest coaches of all time or do we look at the last disappointing season? What should define him, his career, and his life?

We are raised as very goal oriented people. We are always moving towards the next stage in life, whether graduating high school, getting through college, landing a good job, etc. The question can be asked though, what if the final goal isn’t accomplished? Do we view the whole attempt as a failure, or are there other things gained over the journey?

I’d like to suggest that the journey and process is often more important than the end result. When someone starts college, do we believe that the goal is just to get through college at all costs, or is the goal about facing the challenges in day to day life? In Judaism, we believe that it’s the journey. The Mishna in Pirkei Avos says “it is not up to us to complete the work.” We have to put in effort and deal with the day-to-day issues and challenges. What is accomplished at the end is not always in our control. R’ Nechunia ben Hakanah wrote a Tefillah that he recited when he entered and exited the Beis Medrash. The Tefillah says that we thank Hashem because we work hard learning Torah and we earn reward, while the others (who do not study Torah) work hard and do not receive reward. This raises a disturbing question. We know that, for example, if a contractor works hard and builds a beautiful house, he gets paid for what he accomplishes. How can the Tefillah say that those who work do not get rewarded, when we see countless examples of people being rewarded for their accomplishments?

The answer is that when one learns Torah, it is not so much about how much was achieved and what was completed. Rather, Torah study is the only occupation in which you get rewarded for your effort. The message to us is that life is not just about the accomplishments. Life is about applying effort and overcoming the day-to-day struggles that face each and every one of us. Having said this, looking back at the coach’s career, the fact that the conclusion was not as triumphant as would have been expected does not take away from the greatness of his career.

We too have lofty goals and aspirations. The question should be posed however, are we capable of enjoying and appreciating the processes and the day-to-day routines, or are we too focused on the final goal that the daily routines become meaningless to us? For example, in college there are students who receive grades through unethical methods because the only goal in their minds is of graduating. Others however, while wanting to graduate, appreciate the ongoing challenges of working hard to get their grades with integrity and honesty. We need to learn to focus on our daily life and the everyday challenges and to appreciate life as a journey, as opposed to only focusing on the end result. The goal is progress, not perfection.

Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff

A Word from the Director: 5/13/2011

This week at Aish Tamid we resumed our GED/CSHPE tutoring program with Eli Korobkin. We have a few new students who just started, in addition to those who have been here all year – all of whom are working diligently to further their education. Many of them will be taking their tests in June, b’ezrat Hashem. We wish them much success! If you know of anybody who needs assistance in preparing to take their high school equivalency exams, please have them call us.

We currently have about thirty to forty boys who frequent our center on a daily basis. They come to study, socialize, work out in the gym, speak to me, or just hang out. They also come to eat! We would like to thank Jeff of Jeff’s Gourmet for sponsoring a wonderful dinner this week. The boys loved it! As you can imagine, feeding so many boys throughout the week can be rather costly. Please call us if you would like to sponsor a dinner.

I sometimes feel like a shadchan – but not for marriages! This week I was involved with local teens currently unhappy in New York, looking for new yeshivas to attend. I spent many hours speaking with them and their parents to discuss their needs. I was also in constant contact with parents with teens with special needs looking for support groups and new yeshivas for their sons. We are constantly updating our resources for the variety of needs of our community, providing assistance and counseling for teens and offering support systems for their parents.

One of our latest projects has been constructing a gym for the boys to use, morning, day and night. The gym provides a healthy outlet for them and can help to boost their self-confidence. This week we even had a trainer volunteer some hours to explain to the boys some techniques. Some of the boys recently discussed purchasing a new water cooler for the gym. I would like to thank Yehuda Gamzo for contributing to this goal. It is great to see our youth taking proactive steps to help out. On this topic, I’d also like to thank Yehuda Rosen and Avi Adler who volunteered a day in court this week in support of a friend who had a case which, baruch Hashem, was successful. Though I could not attend, I was able to monitor what was happening because they were there to keep me updated. We try to encourage our students to be supportive and empathetic towards others. We find in this parsha there are many situations that discuss helping other people. Even when people make mistakes, they still deserve the support and help from others to enable them to get back on their feet.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Word from the Director: 5/6/2011

We had a very busy week at Aish Tamid, as I met many new people – both teenagers and young adults. As many of you know, Aish Tamid offers community service hours for those who need it. It gives us the opportunity to meet people and try to see if there are ways that we can assist them, as we try to create or find an opportunity for them to get their hours completed. We try to create opportunities for them that will be meaningful. Because of these mandated community service hours, participants have created long-term relationships with Aish Tamid. Many of them have continued to stay connected with us long after the hours are done.

This week I had the opportunity to meet with two young individuals that left an unbelievable impression upon me. These two individuals – one of them who experienced traumatic events in his life, and the other who got involved in very risky behavior at a very young age – have both grown to become resilient teenagers. They both have a long way to go but they both have this insatiable drive to succeed and pick up the pieces of their lives. The easy way is for them to give up and just let their lives take them in whatever direction it may. But they have such a spirit and a drive to succeed, that they have overcome many challenges in their day to day lives. These kids will one day become mentors and leaders because of the effort they made to overcome their challenges.

Many challenges in our life are overwhelming and often seem unfair and we don’t understand why they happen to us. However, we have to learn to view these challenges as opportunities for growth. We need to teach our children that life’s challenges are meant to help us be the best we can be. This week I was truly inspired by two young men who have been very successful in accomplishing this goal.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff