This is the beta version of our website. We are continuously working to improve your experience.

Please Help Child Safety Advocates Warn Parents About His Whereabouts

By Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

ALERT: Yona Weinberg, a convicted, registered, New York State Level 3 Sex Offender currently living freely in Israel and no one seems to know where he is. Weinberg served 13 months in an American jail for seven counts of Sexual Abuse in the Second Degree and two counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

The New York State Division of Criminal Justice website describes a Level 3 registered sex offender, their highest level, as one who has a “high risk of repeat offense and a threat to public safety exists.”

When Weinberg moved to Israel several years ago, he initially settled in Har Nof, raising concerns among residents, as reported in Israeli’s Ivrit YNet. Weinberg eventually moved to Ashdod for a period, but has since left, and no one seems to know where he is currently residing.

In the United States, registered sex offenders are carefully monitored and are not permitted to live near schools. However, there is no public sex offender registry in Israel, which leaves Israeli children at great risk since their parents don’t have the information they need to protect them from these sex offenders.

Worded differently, you, my friends, are the only hope Israeli parents have to be warned when convicted sex offenders move to their neighborhood.

Just look at this recent story in the Times of Israel, where Malka Leifer, is accused of allegedly molesting a child in Emmanuel – despite the fact that she is in a high-profile battle to avoid extradition to Australia where she is wanted on 74 counts of child abuse!

Please help us keep Israeli children safe by informing us at ryh@thebrightbeginnings.com if Weinberg is living in your neighborhood, and please forward this to your social media contacts, and ask them to partner with you in this holy effort. I am the only one who reads these emails and your information will be kept in strict confidence.

This is not a call for anyone to harass or harm Weinberg – only to notify us so we can provide this life-saving information to parents.

Together, we can the world a safer place for our children and grandchildren.

Yakov Horowitz

My words of support for the students of Yad HaLevi at a barbecue at our home 7/30/18

Mediation is a voluntary confidential dispute resolution proceed in which a neutral third-party helps the disputing parties to communicate and negotiate.

Mediation helps the parties identify the issues, clarify and explore options for a mutually acceptable outcome.

As a mediator, even though a party presents a position and states they are not flexible.

A mediator needs to understand the position and interest to see if that can be obtained even after the inflexible presentation.

Goal and Benefits of Mediation:

  • Reduces costs
  • Reduces stress
  • Empowers both parties
  • Improves communication
  • Improves relationships
  • Results in longer lasting agreements
  • Improves the parties’ satisfaction

A common theme in the prophesies of Yirmiyahu (Jerimiah) and Yeshayahu (Isaiah) – read in synagogues throughout the world during the mourning period for the destruction of our holy Temple – is their stunningly harsh words for fellow Jews who were engaged in bringing sacrifices to the Temple in Jerusalem while relegating the core values of our Torah – honesty, integrity, and kindness – to the back burner.

This past Shabbat, we read about Isaiah (1:1-27), speaking in God’s name, and asking the Jews of his day, “Why do I need your numerous sacrifices? (1:11),” and later Isaiah exclaims that God is “weary of your sacrifices (1:14)”, and that He “will not listen to your prayers (1:15).”

Jeremiah (7:22) similarly dismisses sacrifices when they are not accompanied by the core values of integrity and compassion; “I never instructed your ancestors when I redeemed them from the land of Egypt.”

At first strike, their words would seem to be puzzling in light of the fact that sacrifices were a core element of the Temple service. Additionally, back when one’s wealth was measured by the number of cattle he owned, donating animals to the service of God was analogous to someone nowadays taking a car off his driveway and donating it to the local synagogue.

In context, though, the intent of the remarks of our prophets become very clear. It was certainly laudable to purchase and bring sacrifices, but the message driven home by Jerimiah and Isaiah was that those positive commandments were mere adornments to the core values of our Torah. And they vividly describe what the Jews needed to do in order to redeem themselves. “Purify yourselves, seek justice, strengthen the victim, and take up the cause of the widow/orphan (Isaiah 1:16-17).

It goes deeper, though. Who brought sacrifices? Rich folks and the well-connected – the “people who knew people,” as they were the only ones who could afford to donate expensive animals to the Temple. They were also best positioned to support the weak and voiceless among us – or conversely had the power and connections to crush them underfoot.

I believe that the searing words of our prophets were directed to the prominent people who held positions of power in those days – those who were sipping fine wine in the “VIP Lounge” near the Temple as their choice sacrifices were being offered. “Don’t you get it?” implore Jerimiah and Isaiah! Your sacrifices are meaningless – indeed offensive to God – so long as you don’t use the blessings He gave you to help those who so desperately need your support.”

Forgive me for being so bold, but I am confident that Jerimiah and Isaiah would be directing similar expressions if not stronger ones to the evil and soulless people in positions of power who are giving aid, comfort and protection to abusers and pedophiles while intimidating their broken victims into silence, to those people who are raising money for the legal defense of these monsters and neglecting to support the therapeutic treatment of their suffering victims.

It is for that reason that our prophets exhort us to speak truth to power when need be in order promote social justice – for this is the very essence of Hashem’s charge to us that we follow in His ways. As the Talmud notes (Shabbos 133b; Shemos, 15:2) “Just as God is merciful and compassionate, so too, you should be merciful and compassionate.” This is how we “beautify” God – by emulating His attributes.

This was a central theme of an ELI Talk I gave earlier this year, titled, “No More Standing Idly By — Ending Child Abuse” where I mentioned a meaningful quote that had a profound impact on my life. It was from Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, one of the great Torah sages of the 19th century, who famously stated that one of the main functions of a Rabbi is to advocate for and support the weakest members of his community. Why would that be the case? Because powerful and well-connected folks rarely need the assistance of the rabbi to get what it is they wish. But the weak and the voiceless desperately need him to advocate for them.

May we merit to fulfill the timeless charge of Jerimiah (9:23) in the closing words of today’s reading, “For only with this may one glorify himself; become wise and know Me , for I am God who does kindness, justice and righteousness.

In the merit of our supporting the weak and voiceless among us, may God dry our tears and comfort us with the rebuilding of our holy Temple, speedily in our times.

Instructions for Barry and Harriet Ray Child Safety Awareness Campaign

Hey Kids!
You all want to be safe,
But you’ve got to know how,
Join our summer safety program –
You can start coloring right now!

When you’ve learned the safety rules,
And your coloring is all done,
You can win a “Let’s Stay Safe!” Teddy
And be so safe, while you have fun!

Dear Parents,
In response to neighborhood challenges, last summer the Barry and Harriet Ray Child Safety Awareness Campaign of The Center for Jewish Family Life sponsored a 5-week safety coloring contest for children ages 3 – 8 in conjunction with the YATED. Matzav and The Lakewood Scoop to teach children 5 important summer safety rules from our groundbreaking children’s safety book, “Let’s Stay Safe! If they successfully completed coloring in all the five safety messages, they were sent a free “Let’s Stay Safe!” safety Teddy Bear.

We’ll be happy to send a teddy to any child in the USA who colors in and learns all 5 safety messages. Just send us contact information to admin@thebrightbeginnings.com

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz,
Director, The Center for Jewish Family Life/Project YES

DOWNLOAD COLORING PAGES:

Revised Week 1 Safety Coloring Center Spread – Copy
Safety Coloring Week 2
Safety Coloring Spread 3 – Copy
Safety Coloring Contest Week 4 – Copy
Safety Coloring Spread 5 (003)

In the petri dish of polarization that we currently live in, apparently nothing is safe. Allow me to explain.  The black-and-white all-or-nothing lens through which the world is viewed by an ever increasing amount of people breeds in the social media world, primarily when political or sensational social issues are the topic du jour.  Under the premise of ‘dialog’ a predetermined conclusion is then reinforced by argument after argument and attack after attack until the day job beckons (hopefully).

 

Unfortunately, this all-in or all-out approach has been extended to play out with virtuous causes as well.  What starts as a meaningful mission to address a need within a community, small or large, can sometimes become a blind mission, losing the ability to see any weakness or faults in how the mission is run or the platform it was built on.  Over time it can develop a leaning to extremism to one side of the sand line. For comparison sake, any business that is unable to self reflect on what is working and what is not, instead digging their heels in to stay with their initial conceptualization without hearing otherwise, will ultimately fail.  Businesses and social movements led like this can be observed avoiding acknowledgment of any weakness or faults by doubling down via heated exchange, mudslinging, more cash investment, etc. etc. In poker there is a phenomenon referred to as the sinking ship, or Titanic syndrome, where a player who has already bet X amount on a hand will continue to add to that bet even though their hand is weak.  Since money was already invested they are holding on to the ‘sinking ship’ instead of bailing and cutting their losses. Down they go with the ship. It is unfortunate that this happens to businesses, organizations, and social movements that would otherwise be the catalyst for much good.

 

A recent exchange with a client highlighted a recurring theme I have seen over the years.  It is related to the stigma often associated with mental health struggles. The issue of stigma is a topic that has been widely discussed and written about.  For demonstrative purposes just imagine the expectations and reactions people have to an amputee struggling as they inch their way through a half marathon vs the expectations and reactions to someone struggling to make it to work and through the day without a panic attack or depressive episode.  Historically, they have never been looked at the same. Medical and physical challenges and limitations elicit a response that is more understanding and compassionate.

 

For that very reason, countless individuals and organizations have taken the torch of reducing the stigma and normalizing the struggle one faces with mental illness.  Tremendous progress has been made. We are a long, long way from shackling those with mental illness to beds in out of sight institutions hoping they are forgotten. The discussion has been brought closer and closer to the dinner table.  Even slightly above hushed tones. This is amazing. Based on what clients have shared, I wonder if on some level our progress has brought with it a cost.

 

The following sequence is not that unusual.  A client comes in for treatment and engages in therapy.  The therapeutic relationship builds and they become more comfortable and vulnerable each session.  They are able to share their struggles and gain insight into the mental health disorder they are struggling with. The next step in treatment is to practice skills, moving them from where they were to where they want to be.  It is at this point they come in and express a sense of guilt. “For what?”, I ask. “I don’t think I am depressed enough to be allowed to say I have depression.” or “Is my anxiety really thaaat bad? I mean there are people I know who barely work or have no friends at all!  I have 1 friend, online at least. Who am I to make myself into a victim of mental illness when others have it much worse off.” I even had a client tell me a peer had asked in a huff, “Well, when was the last time you cut yourself? I was sooo suicidal last week. My mom wanted to take me to the ER!”

 

On the one hand we hope these individuals do not stigmatize themselves or identify themselves by their disorder.  On the other hand this ‘comparison of mental illness’ is a huge obstacle to further engagement in treatment and impedes their own progress.  So not only do they feel terrible about themselves from the outset, now they have to feel bad about feeling bad?! Seriously?! They already believe they are not good enough and now their mental illness is not good enough either? Rock. Meet hard place.  It is almost as if we transitioned from it being a stigma to being all the rage. “So have you picked up some of the latest Depression? What meds are you on? I take 3 different meds!” “ I have been in therapy for over 4 years! My therapist is awesome.  How good is your shrink?”

 

Obviously I am dramatizing this to bring out a point and this is more the exception than the rule.  We can likely analyze all day as to why certain individuals would behave this way. That is for another time.  Still, it is important to stay mindful of this. The objective of the professional is to create a space where the client can acknowledge and accept their challenges. Then work to move beyond that.  It is a stop on their journey, not a destination. Not to embrace mental illness as their new identity and feel stuck there. Not feeling the need to be more ill to merit engaging in this work.  They are not their mental illness. They are human beings who are facing challenges like everyone else who hope to move forward and see a better self tomorrow. Let us hope we can be the messenger that can facilitate such a journey.

“So what are you hoping to get out of therapy?”  Invariably, that question triggers a look of puzzlement on many clients faces.  “Umm.. I guess to stop- drinking, fighting, worrying, missing school, crying, cutting, (fill in the blank)?” Or perhaps panic “I have no idea! How am I supposed to know! Aren’t you supposed to tell me?  Stop pressuring me! Oh, the pressure!”

While we still have a way to go, it is obvious when looking into the rear-view mirror that quite a distance has been covered on the road to de-stigmatizing mental illness.  Be it how we view those who struggle with mental illness or the easing up on the resistance to seek help, as a society and a community we have made encouraging progress. We made it into the room.  Time to roll our sleeves up.

Hold up.

Winston Churchill once said “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”  On one hand, I agree with the sentiment of perseverance and never giving up.  On the other hand, I believe there is a perquisite to following through on the ‘keep going’ attitude; a why.  Even in midst of the most gruesome, tragic, and unfathomable tragedies throughout history, individuals have been able to tap into that strain of survival buried somewhere in their DNA.  I recommend picking up ‘Man Search for Meaning’ by Viktor Frankel which takes a fascinating observers perspective on why certain individuals somehow connect to that quality while others wilt and fade away.  Well worth the time. Back to Sir Winston. The only way someone will be willing to continue going through hell is if they have a reason to. Whether it be like Frankel posits, to find meaning within the journey, or like the chicken, to get to the other side, there has to be something.

What I have noticed from the other side of the couch, is that most people who make it into a therapist’s office have a form of one of the following 3 responses to this question; a) No idea why I’m here. There are at least 6 other places I can think of where I would rather be right now, one of them being the dentist. Someone else (parent, spouse, court is forcing me to be here. B) I know what brought me in.  This problem has disrupted my life enough to force me to take time out of my day and spend money to be here right now.  C) I am fully aware of what has brought me into this room, why I am here, and what I would like to get out of this process.  I have learned that the ones most likely to maximize the benefits of treatment fall in the latter category.

So what do I mean by a why and what does it look like?

A why is the true reason for taking the brave step of entering therapy and only that person can identify it.  There is no correct or incorrect answer. It can be anything from being a more present parent, to feeling good enough to pursue career advancement, or connecting with a spouse in more fulfilling manner.  It may take some hard, honest reflection to find it, but it’s there. I would argue that this is the most significant predictor of success in treatment. If there is no why, then time, money, and energy wears one down quite efficiently.  

Let’s play this out.

Dave comes in and shares his presenting concern is intrusive thoughts about the safety of his children.  Unable to sit with these thoughts, he submits himself to them by calling their school several times daily “just to check in on them”.  He also doesn’t let his children play at friends’ houses, go into the sandbox at the park, or ride the Ferris wheel. “You can never be too careful”, he posits.  “So what do you want to get out therapy?” I ask.

Pause.  The response to this is telling.

“What do you mean, what do I want?  I don’t want these thoughts!”

“Why?”

(Irritation beginning to fester) “Because its driving me nuts, that’s why!  I don’t get why you’re asking me this.”

“Let me clarify Dave.  What I mean to ask is, beyond the immediate relief of these thoughts controlling your life.  What will you gain when they’re gone, or in check?”

“Ohhhh.  That’s easy. Freedom.”

“Great.  Go on. What does freedom mean to you? What else will you gain?”

“I’ll be able to enjoy my family, be there for my kids instead of annoying them with so many rules, and just appreciate each day.”

Freedom.  Family. Present parenting.  Daily life. All fantastic whys.

 

“I can’t tell you it’s going to be easy- I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”

  • Art Williams

If you have a why that is.  

Find it. Name it. Pursue it.

 

A few tips on finding your why.  Ask yourself the following questions;

  1. What have a lost or missed out on because of this so called ‘problem’?
  2. Why would my loved ones want me here?
  3. How have they lost out because of this behavior?
  4. How would my daily life look compared to yesterday if this change magically occurred overnight?
  5. What new (and old) opportunities/feelings/thoughts/dreams/ relationships/goals would now be on the radar?

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz discusses if learning Gemara is the only path to a spiritual life. He answers the question, “What would the Baal Shem Tov say?”

 

 

Thankfully, we now have staff in place to screen crazy messages and even more thankfully, I don’t have any real people in my life who feel the need to control my religiosity, but most unfortunately, not everyone who grows up Orthodox can say the same. Indeed, the people who come to Project Makom have only experienced Judaism as a form of control.

They have felt trapped, unable to express their real opinions or desires. They have had fear of repercussions if they go outside of their community’s box. And when I explain to them that much of the Orthodox world is not motivated by controlling others’ observance, many of us are instead motivated by kindness, they are incredulous. Which makes me terribly sad that this is what Judaism looks like to many Jews.

It recently occurred to me that the Orthodox world is really broken into two groups – those who are motivated by kindness and those who are motivated by control. Sure – there are the outer trappings we normally divide Orthodox groups by: What kind of yarmulke? What kind of head covering? Beard or no beard? Long or short peyos. What kind of suit?

But those are superficial divisions. Those are outer trappings. The stuff that matters is the heart inside the suit. And the question is – what is the motivation of the mitzvah-doer?

Does he engage in Torah in order to increase kindness in the world, as it says in tehillim (Psalms) “The world is built with kindness”? Or does he practice in order to make others comply with his will?

Does he open his hand to give like the Almighty does: Pote’ach Et Yadecha U’Masbia Le’Chol Chai Ratzon (You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.) Or is the hand a vehicle used to force?

While the Torah does command us “hochei’ach tochiach,” (you shall surely rebuke), the second half of the verse warns us that our rebuke must never be done in a way that could hurt another person: “and you shall not bear a sin because of him.” If the would be rebuker does not know if his rebuke will be accepted, he is warned – in Mishlei (Proverbs) –  not to do it.

And if that wasn’t clear enough, the master of the Mussar (rebuke) Movement, Rav Yisrael Salanter, had some important thoughts on the topic: “A pious Jew is not one who worries about his fellow man’s soul and his own stomach; a pious Jew worries about his own soul and his fellow man’s stomach.” 

Let’s be motivated by kindness, like Hashem is and leave free will up to each individual, like Hashem does.