A large crowd of community women gathered at Beth Gavriel Center on Sunday evening, December 23, for an enlightening program sponsored by Chazaq.
Rabbi Ilan Meirov, Founder and Director of Chazaq, introduced the program. He noted how if you take all the jobs you have, and put them on one side of the scale, and you put raising one child properly on the other side, the raising the child is by far the most difficult job. He acknowledged that while career is important, our priority still must be our children. Do we think about this when they approach us needing help with homework or with anything else? We really must ask ourselves if we are putting our children as our priority. “We put so much planning into our jobs, but with our kids we go with the flow.” He stated, “It’s chaval that we take the most important asset we have and give it so little attention.” As parents, we must learn how to guide and mold to the best of our ability. He pointed out how Yaakov Avinu blessed his children to be like Efraim and Menashe, and this was to be the blessing for our sons for all generations. Rabbi Meirov asked, Why them? He shared that they were in Egypt living among corruption, and they were able to overcome it and to live life within the guidelines of Torah. We bless our children that they will be able to overcome challenges of today and to stay strong in our tradition.
He explained that Yaakov’s s’gulah, his secret, to raising good children in this corrupt society was tied to lighting Shabbos and Chanukah candles. When you place the menorah or the Shabbos candles, you must think carefully if this place is safe. Is there a safer spot to light? Every place you put it, you think: Is this area dangerous? In the same way, you should think about your children and treat them like fire. What does my child have on his phone? Who are his friends? We must constantly look for ways to improve and help our children be the best they can be. He concluded that there are so many challenges in yeshivah, and there are a hundred times more challenges in public schools.
Mrs. Lena Harris began the program. Her words were straight from the heart, so they had to reach the hearts of everyone there, especially the women whose children are still enrolled in public school. In a gentle way, she delivered a powerful speech that hit all the main points about why a Jewish education is so essential. She shared that she grew up in the Soviet Union where you were not permitted to practice Judaism. When she moved here she married and she and her husband became observant. She then imparted why it’s important to send children to yeshivah. “It is one of the most important things we could give our children.” She explained, “It gives them the right framework to make the right decisions.”
She then detailed what children learn in yeshivah. They learn derech eretz to parents, teachers, and other children. They also learn to respect time. They learn to dress modestly, and to behave and speak modestly.
She shared how her son said to her, “You have to learn the laws of lashon ha’ra.” She quipped, “I don’t think they teach these laws in public school.” The children learn to do chesed by doing it. They go to nursing homes, and they go to soup kitchens, hospitals, and more. It is essential for children to learn the importance of giving and not just to be taking. They give tz’dakah every day, so they learn to give tz’dakah. They learn that whatever money we earn is not just for us. In yeshivah, they gain a strong Jewish identity and a strong connection to Eretz Yisrael. They learn about celebrating and understanding Jewish holidays. There are siddur and Chumash plays. She shared how meaningful it is for children to receive siddurim and Chumashim with their names on them. It’s something they will always cherish.
In yeshivah, they learn a clear understanding of gender roles, which is not vague or skewed. “It’s important that children know clear-cut guidelines and roles.” She added that they learn Hebrew and they participate in daily prayer, which forges a fundamental belief to connect to Hashem. This helps them to develop emunah and to continue the chain of Judaism. They are among other Jewish children. She noted how she doesn’t have to worry when her children get together with friends, as to who these friends are. She knows they are other religious children. She cited a Jewish Press article that described how children with yeshivah education score higher on standardized tests in mathematics, history, language arts, etc. “As parents we want to teach our kids integrity, dignity, compassion, a sense of identity, and self-worth. This helps a person to make moral choices. In our society boundaries are less clear.” A Jewish education helps guide students in all the above areas. She lamented about the state of the secular world with unisex restrooms and no gender label on newborn babies in the hospital, so they can choose their gender. The world is so confusing for our children. “Jewish education provides an understanding of what is right and wrong.”
She pointed out that today morality is in the eye of the beholder. This is a scary reality. More things become acceptable. It is impossible for parents today to be the sole source of Jewish education and influence. The subliminal message in our society can drive children towards substance abuse. Children need a strong Jewish foundation to withstand the pressures of society. She stated, “The world rests on the shoulder of the mother. We are raising the generation. We need to provide our children with the opportunity to learn about their Jewish identity. It’s our obligation!” She concluded that success is not measured by money but who our children become as people. What kind of family are they creating? Are they spending time on becoming a better person and on helping others?
Following this inspiring talk, Dr. Tamar Perlman focused on relationships. She reiterated many of the points from Mrs. Harris and then she delved into important ideas. Our goal as parents is to forge a strong bond with our children at every stage through adulthood and that we will feel proud of that grown child. She taught that to be a good adult parent we have to be grounded ourselves. We must understand that we are separate from our children and our children cannot make us feel better. We are the adult and we are there to support them. We should not tell them everything about our own worries.
She shared an analogy of fire and water to describe how a relationship can be with a husband and wife. One spouse may be fire and more go-getter energy while the other may be calmer and nurturing. She taught that Hashem intended differences. We shouldn’t try to turn the other spouse into us, but we must recognize differences and the power of the other spouse and see how the two of us can build a foundation for ourselves and our children. When each spouse recognizes the other one’s power then each spouse becomes stronger in his or herself. “We have to now our own strengths and our power.”
When there are differences, she stressed it is important not to negotiate in front of the child. “Whatever you need to negotiate never do it directly or indirectly in front of them. It diminishes both of your powers.”
It’s critical for parents to know their own values so they know what their goals are for their children. She taught, “Prioritize your values in your head. Think about what my children are hearing from me.” Also, she said that we must set boundaries.
She then spoke about self-esteem which comes from achieving something where you cross the line of difficulty. “Every time we can help them overcome hard things like accepting no, it gives them muscle memory to meet other challenges.”
On the other hand, we must be careful when we discipline that we don’t destroy the child. We have the capacity to love and to destroy. Make sure how to set up boundaries and that the discipline we use is measured to the child.
She stressed the importance of unconditional love, and that all we do is for Hashem, and that we set boundaries for our children.
Everyone left inspired and uplifted by this beautiful life-changing program which can be viewed on Torahanytime.com
By Susie Garber