Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Roshei Yeshiva on Successful Marriage

Last night I was fortunate to be able to attend a Q&A session with noted Rosh Yeshivas R’ Aharon Feldman and R’ Reuven Feinstein.  It was an illuminating session, in addition to being unexpectedly quite funny.  One of the questions posed was a very broad question on what the keys are to a successful and long-lasting marriage. R’ Feldman offered an answer without skipping a beat, followed by an addendum from R’ Feinstein. I thought I would share their comments here.
R’ Feldman suggested three points that he feels form the basis for a solid marriage.  First, mutual respect – spouses who are not respectful towards one another cannot expect to have a fulfilling marriage.  Second, control what you say.  Words can be very damaging and a person has to be careful not to throw things out there that can’t be taken back  Third, gratitude.  A person should think about the very many things their spouse does for them and recognize that they far outnumber the perceived offenses.  Even just being married is something we should be grateful for.  It would be terribly sad if a person were 45 years old and still single; we should be grateful to our spouses for saving us from that.  (I wish I could elaborate more on the these, but his response was fairly concise.)
R’ Feinstein then added on that a person should avoid using the words “always” and “never,” as in, “you never change” and “you always do the same thing.”  His point seemed to be less about the unfair generality of such a statement and more about the necessity of letting bygones be bygones.  He compared it hypothetically to a person coming before HaKadosh Baruch Hu on Yom Kippur and doing teshuvah on some particular transgression. The next year he comes back and has to apologize for the same thing, and G-d gets annoyed. On the third year, G-d rejects him entirely, saying, “Didn’t you come for this the past two years?”  Obviously, this doesn’t happen.  So too, indicated R’ Feinstein, we should not be going back to our spouse’s past mistakes. Once s/he does teshuvah, that’s it- we accept it and move on.  He explained that by the Yom Kippur service of the Kohen Gadol, his wife is referred to as beiso, not ishto.  Why with beis and not alef?  The beis, explained R’ Feinstein, is closed on 3 sides – you can’t look back, only forward.  So too, with one’s wife, one should not look back to old grievances.  Once there’s teshuvah, it’s over.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Sexual Abuser Exposed

Earlier this week I found out that a therapist I used to work with at a community mental health agency was busted for being sexually involved with (and filming) a 16-year-old boy he was treating.  As if that’s not bad enough on its own, this therapist used to do classroom presentations as part of the sexual abuse prevention program I ran in Jewish schools in New Jersey.  It boggles the mind to think about someone walking into a classroom to teach kids how to avoid being abused, then walking into his office that night and abused a kid.  Wow.

Initially I was thinking that this could be a big blow to the agency’s credibility in offering sexual abuse prevention services – if they can’t even prevent it in their own daled amos… (note: I don’t know whether any abuse actually took place in the agency or with the agency’s clients as opposed to possibly his private clients elsewhere).  But then I realized, it can actually be used to their advantage, to wit: there really is no way to spot an abuser a priori – they come in all shapes and sizes, genders, family situations, classes, etc.  (Yes, many abusers are well-educated and are married with kids – as this man is.)  And sexual abuse education does not suggest otherwise.  Rather, it focuses on teaching adults how to spot the behaviors that are suspect (primarily the grooming process, in which an abuser gradually earns trust, provides extra attention to the victim, and introduces sexual content to their interactions), and teaching kids about body ownership (the classic “my body belongs to me”), inappropriate behaviors on the part of adults, and the importance of telling someone should they r”l find themselves in that situation.

Indeed, if I may plug myself, this is why I created a sexual abuse prevention program for Jewish middle schools – after several years of running one for Jewish elementary schools, it was clear that there is need for further education through the early teen years (and even beyond – but one step at a time). So, if you are interested in bringing my program – called Connect with Respect – to a middle school near you, please be in touch. I would love to get this out there and in use so that, B”H, we should see fewer and fewer kids falling prey to abusers.

Check out the video prospectus for Connect with Respect here.