Friday, July 29, 2011

A Word from the Director: 7/29/2011

So often, in trying to help people, we come into the situation with an agenda and we attempt to reach out to the person on our terms. With teenagers, it is critical to the relationship building process that we work with these kids on their terms. This is how we are able to reach out to kids from so many different parts of the greater Los Angeles Jewish community. Here at Aish Tamid we feel very blessed to have such a beautiful building with all of its amenities. We’ve provided nearly every activity these boys could want! Yet, there are still those who don’t come to us, and we have to make the effort to meet them on their “turf.” Sometimes a boy will call that he’s “chilling out” at the park - so we meet at the park. During the year a kid might be having an issue at school, so we go down there to advocate on their behalf. We have been called to private homes to help resolve a parent-child conflict. In more dire instances, we have gone to hospitals, drug rehabs, or even jails to connect with a kid looking for guidance and support. We can’t help a kid who isn’t ready to be helped, so when they are ready and do reach out to us, we do whatever we can to engage them on their terms and in their comfort zone. This is how we gain their trust, build a relationship with them, and hopefully help them get to a better place in their lives.

Thursday night we had a beautiful and inspiring evening with a bbq “catered” by our very own chef Ivan, and learning with R’ Yaakov Rosenblatt. We look forward to R’ Yaakov’s words of Torah and chizuk and are very appreciative of the time he spends with us each week.

A boy approached me this week about having a CPR class at Aish Tamid. I told him to get a list of boys interested in such a venture and to get back to me. Within the hour he came back to me with a list of 8 names and cell numbers of kids who would like to attend such a class. It is always heartening to see their passion and involvement in growing the organization, and amazing how quickly they can make things happen when they take the initiative to do so.

One quick nice story: I was having coffee with a boy who hasn’t been doing much with his time this summer. I asked him if he could help me with a building project by working with the professional who was doing it for me. He said he had never done anything like that before, but was willing to try. He worked diligently for an hour and a half and looked happier than I had ever seen him. At the end he said, “Wow, I never thought I could do that!” We have to encourage kids to try new things, as we never know what may inspire them or where it will take them.

Aish Tamid would like to wish deepest condolences to the Dolin and Brodsky family on the recent loss of their mother. May they be comforted among the mourners of Tzion and Yerushalayim. May the efforts that Elliot has made and continues to make on behalf of Aish Tamid be an aliya for her neshama.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Word from the Director: 7/22/2011

We had some very important visitors this week at Aish Tamid. Rabbi Ben Shushan from Yeshivat Ruach Hayim in Yerushalayim came to see our program and interview some boys. We are always happy to facilitate such meetings as we not only send the boys to learn in yeshiva, but we then stay connected and check on their progress while they are there. We then offer opportunities for them to maintain and continue their growth when they return. Even at this “late hour,” there are still many boys deciding to go to learn in Eretz Yisrael for a year.

Thursday night we were honored to have the Roshei Yeshiva of the Mesivta of Long Beach, New York visit the Drop-In Center and offer divrei bracha and chizuk to our staff. After taking care to ensure that their attire wasn’t too intimidating, they then came upstairs to meet some of the boys. The Roshei Yeshiva were impressed by what they saw and encouraged us to continue in our Avodas Hakodesh.

Last night we were also very grateful to have our dear friend R’ Yaakov Rosenblatt come learn with a group of boys and be mechazek them. He has a special way of connecting with the boys and speaking to them in a very practical way. We look forward to having his visits become a regular part of our night program.

In last week’s newsletter we mentioned our pride in building a sense of community between the Aish Tamid boys themselves. There were further examples of this recently that I think bear mentioning. In one case, a boy who had experienced and overcome a certain challenge encouraged his friend to enter a program and actually facilitated the boy’s acceptance into that program. The feeling of “areivus” - responsibility to care for a peer - was impressive to witness and heartwarming for all involved. There is no greater nachas than seeing a kid that has succeeded, now in “helping mode” and giving back to younger boy in a similar situation.

In a second incident, a crisis arose involving a teenager who was rushed to the emergency room. A former Aish Tamid boy who was present at the scene felt secure enough to call me in the middle of the night to come down to the hospital and help navigate a very difficult situation. As I spent the night with them I realized that the relationship that had been built over years, and the trust that ensued, was the critical factor in these kids having someone to turn to in a time of need. This is one of our main goals at Aish Tamid - to build solid relationships with teenagers and young adults so that they know that we are the address for help, if and when crisis hits, no matter what time of day or night it happens to be.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Word from the Director: 7/15/2011

Visiting Aish Tamid these days, you will see many new faces. Not only do we have some new boys coming to hang out, but we are excited to introduce our new volunteer, Josh Shapiro. Josh was a track and field coach at Arcadia High School for six years. In that time, he mentored numerous teens on and off the field, building their self- esteem. Now, he continues to use his background as a coach to help teens through fun, outdoor experiences. Our boys have already connected very positively with Josh, and we are looking forward to having him create some programs on life skills building for Aish Tamid.

B”H, we continue to successfully refer both boys and girls to local therapists. There are some excellent mental health professionals in our community and we welcome their involvement with Aish Tamid. Several of them have already contacted us looking to get involved in our work with at-risk youth, and we appreciate their offers of assistance. In the near future, we hope to put together a list of such resources available to the community and encourage these dedicated professionals to be in touch with our office.

As our organization has grown, we have not only built a name for ourselves within the greater Los Angeles Jewish community, but we have been contacted by organizations on the East Coast to collaborate with them in creating specialized educational opportunities for teens. This is exciting as we are always looking for ways to network with organizations similar to our own and share ideas that have worked in the past. We pray that “a problem shared is a problem solved.”

It has been particularly heartwarming to witness several occurrences over the past few weeks that point to the Aish Tamid community the boys have created among themselves. We repeatedly hear from them that Aish Tamid is their “home away from home” as they come at all hours of the day until we finally have to ask them to leave and lock the doors late at night. But we are also discovering that they are sharing positive experiences and programs outside of the Drop-In Center as well. One boy was attending a Tae Kwon-Do class that he enjoyed, so he invited a few friends to join him and now there is a group that goes together. This week, one of our boys had his bike stolen. In a show of solidarity and support, several of his friends got together, successfully found the thief, confronted him, and had the bike returned! This camaraderie and feeling of belonging to something larger than themselves is an important part of their maturity and growth.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Word from the Director: 7/8/2011

We hope that you are all enjoying summer! We certainly have been here at Aish Tamid! We kicked off our week with an awesome 4th of July barbecue – complete with patriotic decorations, hot dogs, hamburgers, steak and watermelon. The boys who attended played basketball on our “court” and then took advantage of the regular Aish Tamid amenities for the rest of the evening.

B”H, this week we have been successful in directing a few of our teens to qualified therapists who will hopefully take them to the next level in their personal growth. Just getting the kids to the point where they are willing to meet with a therapist involves hours of texts, phone calls and meetings – but it is gratifying to see them come to the realization, on their own, that they are the ones who will benefit from such sessions.

We were also able to place some of the boys in jobs; they are quite excited about this. As they seek structure to their days, they are willing to do many types of work – even day jobs like moving. If you are in need of capable workers for either long or short term, please let us know so we can help create opportunities for accomplishment and purpose for these kids.

Back by popular demand… we’re pleased to announce the restarting of our GED program. We ran a very successful program during the year, supporting several boys through the process of studying for and passing the GED exam. This has proven to be a critical part in the process of advancement towards pursuing a higher degree and career. Recently several boys asked that we begin the program again and provide the tutors they need to accomplish this goal. We are thrilled to respond to this need and fulfill their request.

Lastly, we’d like to thank those working on the repair and enhancement of our building. Keep your eyes open as you drive down 3rd Street – we’re expecting a new sign for the front of the Aish Tamid building that will help even more people find us and seek out the help they need!

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Word from the Director: 7/1/2011

This week we would like to highlight Aish Tamid’s new girls division. The overwhelmingly positive response we have gotten over the last few weeks from girls, parents, community Rabbanim and local therapists has been testimony to the crying need of girls in distress for such an organization. Not only do girls email and call me asking for help for themselves, but some have even called seeking advice as to how to help a friend in crisis.

I have learned very quickly that teenage girls have a lot of “drama” in their lives and are often overwhelmed and not sure how to navigate it all. To that end, I have been directing the girls towards female mentors and therapists on our staff who are slowly building relationships with them. Getting the girls to open up and trust an adult figure is very challenging, but B”H we have some very good people on board with both the training and experience necessary to connect with them and help them.

The number of frum young women in the mental health field who have contacted me wanting to be involved in this program has impressed me. Many of them have gone through the same educational system and are from backgrounds similar to our girls, and as such feel they can relate and have much to offer. As our girls division grows, and we convince more young ladies to allow us into their tumultuous lives, we look forward to having more of these talented professionals involved in our organization.

It is sad to hear from parents who are so distraught over their daughters’ self-destructive behaviors. It has been heartening though to see the willingness of certain Rabbanim and Rebbetzins in the community taking such a participatory role for these families. They have lent a supportive ear and a shoulder to cry on, and we are honored to partner with them in our combined efforts to help these families in crisis. Many of the girls (similar to our teenage boys) need a structure to their summer plans. If you know of any jobs for them, please contact me at Aish Tamid.

As always, if you know of a teenage boy or girl in crisis, or parents struggling with their teenage child, please contact me at or call the Aish Tamid office at 323-634-0505 to leave a confidential message.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff