יום ראשון, נובמבר 15, 2009

Kids at risk of what????

"Kids at risk" usually refers to a population marked not only by abandoment of observance but also by engaement in socially delinquent activities such as vandalism, theft, substance abuse, promiscuity, and running away from home.
- Margolese, Off The Derech
Over the past few years one of the hot topics in the Orthodox Jewish community is that of kids-at-risk. Half of the people are talking about the problem itself and how we can deal with it and half the people are talking about how wonderful it is that we are no longer denying this long-standing problem and are facing up to the challenge. How nice.

After seeing many articles in newspapers and magazines about this phenomenon and being involved in chinnuch and with "troubled teens" of different sorts for close to a decade I have a question.
Why do all the articles/books written on these topics link breaking from religion to drug and alcohol abuse? The story is always about the high school kids from (Golders Green / LA / Monsey / Englewood) who stop keeping shabbos and are soon found shooting heroin in an abandoned house. Or at the very least smoking a joint Friday night behind the pizza parlor. Why do we not address each issue separately?

Fact: There is a problem of drug and alcohol abuse in our frum communities. This is true. This is a challenge faced, as in all communities, by teenagers and adults, by parents and children, by college students and by lawyers. As it does in most societies, substance abuse leads to disconnect from life, family and traditional values. We are no different, but in our community the early warning signs may express themselves as not going to minyan.

Fact: There is a problem of youth growing up and not connecting to out traditions. This is true. As they get older they feel that they are able to shed their facade and act as they want in public. This means that they are able to turn to their parents and so to speak, come out of their (irreligious) closet. They no longer keep shabbos or kashrus. This does not mean that they are using drugs!
The two are not connected! Yes, the problems overlap and coexist but correlation does not imply causation. (Just because lots of people eat gefilte fish and eat cholent does not mean that eating gefilte fish causes the eating of cholent)

There are two maskonos I will suggest here.
One, there is a reality of boys and girls who grow up in the frum world who never really connected and as adults walk away. This is a flaw in our chinnuch system and in our community. The response given to these children, teens, and adults must not only come from the substance-abuse community. It may not be as intuitive a response because the problem is less blatant, but these neshomos deserve appropriate help for their challenges.

Two, there is a problem with substance-abuse in our community as in all communities. The shuls that are banning “Kiddush clubs” should not only be doing it because it is bad chinnuch for our children. There should be an acknowledgement of these challenges for all ages. Perhaps community leaders and educators need to be even more vigilant regarding the adults in our communities who have the resources to both buy and use alcohol and drugs easily and discreetly.

Stopping drug use will stop drug use.
Proper Jewish education will raise educated Jews.
Please stop confusing the issues!

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5 Comments:

At 7:18 אחה״צ, Blogger mother in israel said...

Good post!

 
At 10:29 אחה״צ, Blogger LeahGG said...

you're on to something here - although you're actually missing something else entirely - I skipped minyan for 3 full years of high school cuz I was having some kind of religious problem. and yet, I've never been drunk or stoned and I'm still Shomeret Shabbat & Kashrut.
sometimes a teen just needs to take some time to figure things out, and needs guidance and support instead of punishment - especially for something like not davening, which is so deeply personal.

 
At 10:37 אחה״צ, Blogger LeahGG said...

interesting - I was thinking more about this - there were three of us who skipped minyan EVERY morning.
All three of us are still religious, and certainly not druggies or drinkers. I don't know how the others feel about davening, but it's not ... so easy or meaningful for me.

still, I'm not a "statistic"

 
At 4:07 אחה״צ, Blogger YS said...

My thoughts going in to this were the friends that I have who are no longer religious as their parents and community wanted them to be but are still doing fine.

Married.
Children.
Solid jobs.
Boyfriends.
Masters degrees.
Self-assured.

Lots of good things and some of them even have a relationship with God. Just not the standard frum one.
Ah bi g'zunt! We need to accept people for who they are and help them be themselves.

 
At 7:20 לפנה״צ, Anonymous אנונימי said...

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