Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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20 Teves 5760 - December 29, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Inspiring Talks Organized by Nefesh UK

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

NEFESH UK, part of the International Network of Orthodox Mental Health Professionals, organized a series of public talks in London and Manchester entitled "Today's Adolescent Turmoil -- the growing problem of Children `Off the Derech.' "The guest speaker was internationally-renowned Chassidic author, speaker and psychiatrist Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski. Besides his obvious personal qualifications, Rabbi Twerski is a descendant of famed Chassidic courts such as Czernobl and Sanz, amongst others, and this provides his unique approach and presentation.

London Student Chaplain Rabbi Jonathan Dove, who is the founder of NEFESH UK and a student of Rabbi Twerski, said that there were a number ofeasons behind organizing the series of talks. "In establishing NEFESH UK we tried to find opportunities for increasing the profile of certain challenges facing our community. After consultation with rabbonim and dayanim it was decided to focus on the difficult and painful topic that Rabbi Twerski spoke on. This turned out to be most opportune as the entire latest edition of Agudas Yisroel of America's publication The Jewish Observer was devoted to the topic of `Children on the Fringe -- and Beyond.'"

In London, the evening was introduced by Rav Shimon Winegarten, who related the following powerful story. "There was an occasion where one of the rabbonim in Yeshivat Porat Yosef felt that a certain boy should be excluded from the Yeshiva. They went to the then-rosh yeshiva HaRav Tzadka to request his permission for the expulsion. Rav Tzadka asked, `Have you prayed for the boy?'

"They answered, `Yes.'

"Rav Tzadka asked, `Have you fasted on his behalf?'

"They answered, `No.'

"Rav Tzadka replied, `In that case we still have to put more effort into the boy before he is excluded from the yeshiva.'"

HaRav Elchonon Halpern then led the audience in the recitation of an initial chapter of Tehillim. Rav Winegarten delivered concluding remarks and Dayan Chanoch Ehrenteu concluded with a final chapter of Tehillim.

In Manchester, Dayan Osher Westheim introduced the evening's topic to a massive audience and Rav S. Goldberg delivered the concluding remarks.

Altogether, a total of approximately 1,200 people attended the talks, with that number evenly split between London and Manchester. Distinguished rabbonim and dayanim were in attendance at both venues.

Rabbi Twerski spoke eloquently about the issue and addressed three primary areas that could be focused on in order to improve the situation.

* Parents need to be aware that the example that they set in the home is the one that their children are most likely to follow. This includes the respect shown by parents to one another, as well as to figures of authority like rabbonim and mechanchim. Rabbi Twerski strongly advocated the introduction of parenting classes and workshops for parents as well as children nearing marriageable age.

* Observing that the schools are often under-funded and the teachers underpaid and overworked, Rabbi Twerski said that more financial support needs to be provided in order to enable schools and teachers to make better provision for pupils of different levels of ability so that no pupil is ever left behind.

* The introduction of microwaves, fax machines and mobile phones has changed the face of society. People are busier and everyone expects things immediately, which increases tension and stress. This has in turn led to a situation where parents do not spend as much time as they should with their children. This intolerable and damaging situation has to be changed.

These points were conveyed by Rabbi Twerski in an engaging and occasionally humorous manner and enjoyed a warm reception from the interested audience. Dozens of written questions were received. Unfortunately time only allowed for several to be answered.

Certain possibilities suggested by Rabbi Twerski are being actively explored by NEFESH UK, in particular with regard to further parenting workshops using interactive audio-visual methods.

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