In Tribute to Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein

April 22, 2015

Religion, I was otherwise taught, stems from the most sophisticated and complicated thinking. It probes the most difficult quandaries of human existence, metaphysical presence and purpose, identity, and spiritual makeup. It seeks to bridge ancient devotions with contemporary sensibilities. It seeks to embrace both the particularistic and humanistic aspects of nationality. It aims to authenticate and guide our creativity and drive for success in all fields of human endeavor. It is more relevant and needed than ever in the modern age.

I learned much of this complex approach to religious thinking from Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein, dean of the multi-faceted and magnificent Har Etzion hesder yeshiva in Gush Etzion. Last Friday, I was privileged to join more than 1,500 of Rabbi Lichtenstein’s students and alumni in a Torah conference marking his 80th birthday.

Since moving to Israel from America more than forty years ago, Rabbi Lichtenstein has taught the highest-level Talmud, halacha and philosophy to his tens of thousands of students. He did so while simultaneously validating their service in the IDF as a religious obligation and their subsequent pursuits of university education as a natural outgrowth of their religious personalities. Himself a former professor of English literature, he has taught that intellectual openness is a hallmark of true Orthodoxy, alongside single-minded devotion to Torah study and adherence to halachic boundaries and values.
Read the rest of this entry »

Special curriculum on Jewish preparation for burial

March 12, 2015

Rochel Berman of Boca Raton — a member of the Boca Raton Synagogue Chevra Kadisha (sacred burial society) and consultant dignity6hiResto the Torah Chevra Kadisha in Boca Raton — has embarked on a trailblazing project to develop a curriculum and study guide for Jewish high school students to learn about the Jewish preparation for burial.

Berman has partnered with Rabbi Jonathan Kroll, head of school at Weinbaum Yeshiva High School (WYHS) in Boca Raton, to introduce the eight-session course titled “The Final Journey: How Judaism Dignifies the Passage.”

The program will be launched today and will continue through March 26, highlighted by a field trip on March 16 to Levitt Weinstein Funeral Home in Coconut Creek.

Berman’s goal is to demonstrate the course at WYHS — the pilot course will be taken by 28 girls in the WYHS senior class — and then to disseminate it to Jewish high schools in all streams of Judaism throughout the English-speaking world.

Rabbi Kroll said: “I’ve been involved in Jewish education on the high school level for twenty years and this is the first time that I’ve ever dealt with this topic in a meaningful way. I believe that engaging students in the process of understanding the Jewish approach toward the end of life will lead students to live a more engaged and meaningful Jewish life.” Read the rest of this entry »

Reinventing Adult Jewish Education

January 10, 2013


Innovation and creativity have been two keys to the growth and development of the American Jewish community since its inceptions more than four hundred years ago. Each generation has left its mark on the community through its unique approaches to the issues and concerns of the times. As we look back on the last generation, one such program that captivated the North American Jewish community was the Florence Melton Adult Mini School.

Through her own personal story as an educator and the long-time director of this school, Betsy Dolgin Katz provides an historical overview of this outstanding adult learning program. Much can be learned about how an innovative idea is able to grow into a significant initiative that touches a wide cross section of the adult population and leads to the establishment of similar programs that serve other components of the community.

Katz provides the reader with insights into the origins and development of the program, the origins and development of the program, the success that it achieved in attracting different parts of the community, and the challenges faced by the school’s developers during the twenty-five years from its first classes in the mid-1980s until the present. Readers looking to learn about the evolution of the Mini School and its impact on the community will find this volume valuable.

.This review first appeared in the Jewish Book World

Utilizing Halacha To Address Difficult Social And Medical Issues

December 31, 2012


by Rivkah Blau

A writer of non-fiction for the general community has to know the topic well; a writer for the observant Jewish community has an additional requirement – to understand that Jewish law, halacha, informs our decisions and actions.

To write about such a sensitive topic as talking about intimacy with one’s children, we need a psychologist who has experience teaching children. For Jewish perspectives on genetic diseases we require a doctor who is up on the latest research in genetics. For both topics, the authors should know thehalacha, present primary Torah sources, and consult rabbis on difficult questions. Fortunately, Bernard Scharfstein at Ktav Publishing House found the appropriate authors at the moment we really need books on these two subjects.

Dr. Yocheved Debow is the perfect author for the first book, Talking About Intimacy and Sexuality: A Guide for Orthodox Jewish Parents. She has a BA in psychology and education and an MA in child clinical and school psychology from Hebrew University, and a Ph.D. from Bar Ilan, where her research was on sexuality and intimacy education in the Modern Orthodox community. Read the rest of this entry »

A Neuropsychologist’s Journal by Dr. Judith Bendheim-Guedalia

October 19, 2012

by Prof. William Helmreich

This is an extraordinary book. The author, Director of the Neuropsychology Unit at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, Israel, has done something remarkable. She has woven together a brilliant, insightful, and deeply moving book that combines Jewish religious law and thought, with rigorous scientific analysis of how the mind works.

Dr. Judith Bendheim-Guedalia draws extensively upon her experiences in treating patients, a life filled with fascinating stories, and the teachings of Judaism. The book is at once academic, yet jargon-free. The case histories are precisely presented, with the lessons clearly drawn. For example, there is the story of a man who accidentally shoots and kills his brother returning home from military duty, after mistaking him for an intruder. Using literature on Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, she analyzes the problem, while at the same time discussing the inner meaning and purpose of the “cities of refuge” that were set aside for the Israelites who similarly killed people by accident.

An observant Jew, Dr. Bendheim-Guedalia, makes no bones about her allegiance to her faith and is sometimes fiercely partisan about it. She writes, for instance: “When presented with unique situations, I work under the assumption that Judaism has over five thousand years experience in humanity, which beats any science in use today.” It’s a perfect example of how to admit your bias while, at the same time, explaining and defending it.

The book is filled with hundreds of stories that make it a real page-turner and a truly original work. Its breezy style makes it highly readable for the lay person, while its scientific evaluations grounded in the literature make it must reading for both therapists and researchers. In short, an unforgettable book.

Review of Kaytek the Wizard by Janusz Korczak

July 12, 2012

by Nancy Horner of Bookfoolery and Babble

Kaytek the Wizard is a fantasy novel about a little boy (about age 10, as I recall) who desires to become a wizard but when he succeeds at becoming a wizard, he has trouble controlling his impulses and causes loads of trouble.

Kaytek is a precocious Polish boy. He taught himself to read and loves books but he’s a little odd and doesn’t fit in at school. Kaytek decides he wants to be a wizard and practices making things happen by saying, “I want, I demand . . . [whatever he wants].” He’s a bit of a brat so he plays a lot of pranks and causes trouble. When he tries to do good, he finds that he’s misunderstood (often blamed for trouble caused by others). Eventually, he is driven from his home in Warsaw. He cares deeply for his family so when he travels the world, he leaves behind a duplicate of himself so his parents won’t be worried.

As he travels the world, Kaytek’s ego is fed but his soul is not. He finds that what he loves more than anything is his home and family. He desires to do good but plans and follow-through have a rough time getting together. Will Kaytek ever learn how to control his impulses and restrain his powers?

What I liked about Kaytek the Wizard:

Kaytek the Wizard is very Read the rest of this entry »

Abuse in the Jewish Community: An Orthodox-Friendly Resource List

November 24, 2011

Posted by JewishMom on Nov 2, 2011 on


Recently a famous rebbetzin was brought in to give us Nachlaot moms some chizuk in the aftermath of the pedophile crisis that you moms have been hearing about so much over recent months.

Afterwards, I waited in the line to ask the rebbetzin a personal question. When my turn arrived I told her how much I have enjoyed listening to recordings of her classes over the years, and what an honor it is to finally meet her in person. And then I asked her what I really had on my mind:

“Rebbetzin, maybe it’s a bad idea to remain in a neighborhood this dangerous. Maybe we should move somewhere safer?”

This rebbetzin, who up until then had been searching in her purse for something, abruptly stopped her searching, and looked up at me with sad, piercing eyes. She asked me, “And where exactly is this safe place you are planning to move to?”

The rebbetzin then went on to list, at length, the Orthodox communities throughout Israel and the world that over recent years have been hit by crises similar to the nightmare we are currently enduring in Nachlaot.

Dr. Michael Salamon, a clinical psychologist with 2 decades of experience treating frum victims of abuse, is the author of the newly-released book Abuse in the Jewish Community: Religious and Communal Factors that Undermine the Apprehension of Offenders and the Treatment of Victims (Urim). This excellent, comprehensive book provides harrowing statistics and stories that illustrate the extent as well as the causes of this widespread evil within our midst.

On behalf of all JewishMOMs everywhere I would like to thank Dr. Salamon and his publisher (and mine) Tzvi Mauer as well as Rabbi Blau, who provides the book’s haskama, for taking the brave step to publish and support this controversial book in order to keep our children safe, IY”H.

I am reprinting here the book’s extensive list of Orthodox-friendly links and resources, which I hope will enable prevention of and treatment for abuse in our holy communities throughout the world (feel free to recommend other resources in the comments below):

Abuse Prevention and Treatment Resources Confronting Domestic Violence in Israel:
Offers shelters for women, transitional housing, hostel for teens
and legal aid for all. Bat Melech-Miklat
works with families and women of all ages addressing domestic
violence, from economic empowerment to breaking the inter-
generational cycle of violence, and from advocacy in the courts to
lobbying the government. A comprehensive site
designed for parents to prevent sexual abuse of children. Programs for prevention of
childhood sexual abuse. The National Domestic Violence Hotline:
Education, resources and links.
The Child Welfare Information Gateway for
Prevention of Abuse and Neglect.!_SexAbuse.htm The American
Academy of Pediatrics: Guidelines for keeping children safe from
predators. Child protection and abuse
prevention information. The
US National Institute of Health: Source and reference site for
articles, programs and guidelines for child and domestic safety. Organized by the Pennsylvania
Coalition Against Rape: Provides consultation. The Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention: Portal to the study of Adverse
Childhood Experiences. The Family Violence Prevention Fund: Programs for children and families. National
Consensus: Guidelines on identifying and responding to domestic
violence victimization. Provides specific recommendations
for assessing and responding to domestic violence that may be
applied to health care settings; also useful as a general database.

Some Suggested Readings

For Children
[CJ Weisberg’s additions: After this list was compiled Artscroll released the 1st Orthodox children’s book ever to educate frum kids on how to protect themselves from abuse:
*Let’s Stay Safe by Bracha Goetz (Artscroll)
*No-No the Little Seal by Sherri Patterson is a highly-recommended book that enables Orthodox moms to effectively educate their kids about the dangers of abuse in a modest way.]

• No More Secrets. San Luis Obispo: Impact Publishers.
• Amazing Spider-Man and Power Pack on Sexual Abuse.
• Private Zone. The Chas. Franklin Press: WA.
• What If I Say No! Bakersfield: M. H. Cap. & Co.
• The Silent Children: A Parent’s Guide to the Prevention of Child
Sexual Abuse.
• Once I Was a Little Bit Frightened and Red Flag, Green Flag. Rape
and Abuse Crisis Center.

• Daddy’s Girl. New York: Berkeley Books.
• I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
• Kiss Daddy Goodnight. New York: Pocket Books.
• The Color Purple. New York: Pocket Books.

• The Right To Innocence: Healing the Trauma of Childhood Sexual
Abuse. New York: Ivy Books.
• Betrayal of Innocence. New York: Penguin Books.
• Victims No Longer: Men “Recovering from Incest and Other Sexual
Child Abuse.” New York: Nevraumont Publishing Co.
• AM I BAD? “Recovering from Abuse (New Horizons in Therapy).
Ewart, III, H. B. Ann Arbor, MI: Loving Healing Press.
• “EPAI” Your Life: A Program for “Recovery from Incest & Child-
hood Sexual Abuse. McKinnon, M. and Taylor, M. Ann Arbor,
MI: Loving Healing Press.
• Gifts From the Child Within: Self-discovery and Self-recovery
through Re-Creation Therapy.
• Breaking Through Betrayal: And Recovering the Peace
• The Trauma Myth
• Tips for survivors of sexual abuse: A pocket book of wisdom

• The Color Purple
• Nuts
• Something About Amelia
• Winnie the Pooh – Too Smart for Strangers