Friday, June 24, 2011

A Word from the Director: 6/24/2011

With the school year just ending, we at Aish Tamid have participated in graduations at Valley Torah, Yeshiva Gedolah, Toras Emes and more. Many of our students have also taken their high school equivalency exams (GED or CHSPE). We are all very excited about the boys’ accomplishments and wish them congratulations on their academic achievements. We often take finishing school for granted and do not view it as much of a big deal. However, for many it is not so simple, especially when lacking the support or guidance to achieve their goal. Often times the first step is the hardest. At Aish Tamid, we instill in our students the importance of an education and encourage them to follow through.

Recently, we have also been speaking and meeting with representatives from yeshivas, trying to secure placement for boys seeking to study in Israel. Of course, along with the admissions process there is also the matter of the weighty price tag. If you are interested in chipping in to help sponsor boys going to yeshiva in Israel, it is a tremendous z’chus for you and your family. Please let us know!

Conversely, many of our boys are also returning from yeshivos in Israel. Many of them have had a very inspirational and productive year. Keeping in contact with the boys is a pillar of our program. We work with them before yeshiva, as well as when they come back home. For many, Israel is a truly unbelievable experience. However, if there is no structure created for them when they get back, it is very easy for them to slip into stagnancy, losing the growth and inspiration they gleaned at yeshiva. Part of our job is to help them stay connected in a Torah environment. We do that by getting them a chavrusa, learning with them, and simply maintaining a relationship. It is also highly beneficial for students to find work over the summer. It provides a way for the boys to keep busy and maintain a structured regimen. If you know of any employment opportunities, please get in touch with us!

This week, Aish Tamid attended a seudas hoda’ah by one of our students who was in a near-fatal car accident one year ago. Baruch Hashem, he not only survived but is walking again! He sponsored a beautiful breakfast for fifty boys. It was a very inspirational event.

Finally, we would like to thank our unofficial trainer at Aish Tamid, Ron Luberman, for making himself available two nights a week. In addition to providing guidance and instruction during workout sessions, Ron has also begun giving very engaging and helpful nutrition lessons.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Word from the Director: 6/17/2011

As summer approaches, many of our students are leaving town for camp or various other reasons. While discussing their trips, it’s very touching to hear them bemoan the few days they have at Aish Tamid before leaving, saying things like “only a few days left at Aish” or “I can’t believe I’m gonna be gone for so long”. It’s heartwarming for us to hear that we play such a major part in their lives that they feel they must stop by one last time before they leave. Thank G-d we have been successful in creating a place that for many is a home away from home; and for some, they spend a more time here than at their real home.

Though the school year has only just concluded, kids are already in need of new high schools or yeshivas for the upcoming year. Much of our activities during late spring and summer consist of meeting with parents and getting in contact with schools, trying to secure placement for the following year. We also work on the sometimes-challenging issue of acquiring financial assistance for kids to attend yeshiva in Israel. If you have a son or know of a young man who is looking to attend school, please get in touch with us.

I want to thank Rav Yaakov Rosenblatt for joining Aish Tamid on Shavuos night and inspiring us all throughout the evening (and morning). Of course, I would also like to thank Rabbi Neuberger for his efforts learning with the boys on Shavuos evening – and of course for all that he does for Aish Tamid. Rabbi Neuberger is often here as much as six nights a week so he can spend time with the boys. We thank him for his dedication.

We’d like to thank Selma Fisch for providing our teens with much-needed snacks.

In other news, our girls program is growing. The girls are starting to meet with our mentors and clinicians. It’s a process for teens to learn to trust and create healthy relationships with adults. Above all, it is important to convey to them that we truly care what they have to say and that what they say is between them and the mentor.

Sadly, this week our good friend Frank Menlo lost his sister, Judy Frankel, who had been ill for many years. At the levaya, Mr. Menlo spoke poignantly about the need for parents to be available for their children. He cited the use of cell phones and the common practice of parents ignoring their children while on the phone. It isn’t enough for us as parents to simply be around. We need to truly be there for them. Our children must know that they are our absolute first priority. We share our deepest condolences to the Menlo family. May you be comforted among the mourners of Tzion and Yerushalayim.

A dear friend and student of mine, Gabe Yelloz, lost his father this week. May you be comforted among the mourners of Tzion and Yerushalayim.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Word from the Director: 6/10/2011

We had an unbelievable crowd on Shavuos, with fifty to sixty boys dropping by Aish Tamid throughout the night. The age range was 14-23 years old and every room in the building was being used for studying Torah. We have students from all over Los Angeles and I was only expecting that the ones from the La Brea area would attend, I was completely taken aback when we had kids from Pico who had walked and skateboarded to be here with us! It was a very inspirational evening for me to see so many guys here from all walks of life. Many of the older boys, whom I haven’t seen in ages and who are in colleges and various programs, came to join us. The most impressive part was that our regulars – who I am always nudging to learn a little – were able to sit through a good part of the night learning dafim of Gemara. Let’s not forget about the food! We had sushi, cheesecake, and lots of other nosh throughout the night. I think Aish Tamid has really become a place for the boys to feel comfortable, almost like their second home. This year, the building is bustling at all hours of the day, whether they come to shmooze and hang out, do work on their computers, attend the GED class in the afternoons, use our gym or the new basketball court, or watch the NBA Finals; and let’s not forget we always have food for them! We’ve created an environment where they can feel comfortable. I had a student say to me a few weeks ago “We have everything here, if we could just sleep here, we’d never have to leave.”

Whenever we have the opportunity I feel it is important to introduce the boys to the people that make it all happen: Avi Leibovic, for being the visionary creator of Aish Tamid. He has spent years of selfless dedication and devotion, reaching out to hundreds of students, whether it be for guidance or for employment opportunities, his special chosson classes, or of course his trademark: INSPIRATION! Avi also recognized the importance of having a building which the kids would be able to call their own.

There are various wonderful organizations that reach out to many areas of our community’s needs. Aish Tamid has a unique niche and that is that we work with our own community’s kids. Very often, because we live such busy lives, we may overlook the needs of our children and families. Often our own kids fall through the cracks and need more attention. Maybe they have a learning issue or just don’t fit in. Whether they need a mentor, a big brother, help in school, or somebody that will reach out to them and tell them they are special. Often there are situations in a family and we are here for them to reach out to us. I spend hundreds of hours on the phone and in meetings with teens and young adults every month. Very often, I just check in with them, leave them a message, remind them that I have not forgotten them and find out if there is something we can do for them. We focus on the relationships. Rarely will I have to engage in theological discussions; these kids know what’s right and what’s wrong. What they need are people to care for them and accept them for who they are. That is what Aish Tamid is all about.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Word from the Director: 6/7/2011


As the NBA season comes to its grand finale with the great Mavs-Heat Finals matchup, Aish Tamid is proud to announce that it has recently installed a basketball hoop at the building. The boys have been playing pickup games every day on this excellent extension to our newly-furnished gym facilities! We'd like to thank Elliott Dolin for his continued support in helping Aish Tamid better meet the (exercise and entertainment!) needs of our kids.


This year we will be hosting a teen Shavuos all night learning program at Aish Tamid. As in the past, we have many interesting and dynamic classes for the teens. We will of course be providing sushi and plenty of sugar and caffeine laden treats to keep us up learning through the night. In addition, the Aish Tamid Minyan, under the auspices of Rabbi Avi Leibovic will host a variety of inspirational classes. In the past, we have had dozens of teens drop by throughout the night. We look forward to another inspirational all night program.


We’re up and running! Aish Tamid’s girls program started with six girls last week at an undisclosed location (to maintain privacy) and we have already received lots of positive feedback. The girls had a fun time hanging out and meeting the female mentors who will be working with them. A major focus of the group is for the mentors to create a relationship with the girls which continues outside the confines of the weekly meetings. The need for these young women to have a relationship with an adult figure whom they feel is not judging them and is available on their terms is crucial. One of the biggest challenges that we find with teens is their inability to trust and be trusted by adults. Our mentors and therapists do not have a history with the girls. We are capable of creating a new relationship based on trust and caring.

All parents have dreams and aspirations for their teens. However, sometimes teens need to have a relationship with another objective adult who may not be as personally involved and demanding as the parent. For example, a certain therapist and rabbi in New York ran a teen support program. His son began exhibiting some of the problematic behaviors the rabbi had dealt with in other people’s teens. This wise man however, did not get involved directly. Instead he chose an outside person to help his son. He understood that he had to give his son some space while placing him under the care of a trustworthy adult. In this way, he allowed his son to develop a relationship with his mentor in which he could be assured that his secrets would not be divulged.

Teens have to be able to trust their mentors/therapists. The building of a therapeutic relationship is in actuality the creation of a “safe place” for young adults to explore themselves and grapple with the many challenges they are facing. The development of that relationship is challenging since teens tend to be mistrustful of adults because they have often experienced “being let down” by those in whom they have confided in the past. For a relationship between an adolescent and a mentor to be successful, it is pivotal that confidentiality and privacy are highly valued. In this way, teens can begin to trust that what is shared with the adult will be safeguarded. In turn, therapists seek to help teenagers create stronger bonds with their families when possible, and will certainly involve parents if there is significant threat/danger to the teenager.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff