Project Yes Child Safety Book Survey

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, founder of Project Yes, has been working to bring his organization’s book on child safety, Let’s Stay Safe, to every segment of the orthodox Jewish population. There is a downloadable version online here.

The book has been printed in both English and Yiddish. Rabbi Horowitz is working on a Hebrew language edition. He needs our help to answer some questions about our own experiences with the book in order to assist him in designing the best possible child safety materials moving forward.

If you have time, please take a moment to complete the survey and help Rabbi Horowitz in his important work of keeping our parents and children informed and safe.

Center for Jewish Family Life/Project YES
Your Turn

Please Help Us Help Your
Children and Grandchildren

With Hashem’s help, our   Karasick Child Safety Initiative has had an impact on our community far beyond our most optimistic dreams.

The English version of our Child Safety Book that we published in conjunction with Artscroll sold more than 25,000 copies since it was released in August of 2011 and the Yiddish version sold nearly 5,000 copies in less than a year. (BTW; there is a  downloadable read-aloud version on our website.)

We are currently more than halfway through production on the Ivrit version of our safety book, and with Hashem’s help we hope to release it in late Spring of this year. (See the sample pages below of the English, Yiddish and Ivrit versions to get an idea of the amount of effort and resources we spend to make the versions culturally congruent and appropriate for their respective readers).

The members of our team would very much appreciate your candid feedback on our safety program – including your suggestions for support materials that would enhance child safety education.

Kindly take a few short moments to complete the attached survey.

Take this survey

P.S.  IMPORTANT INFO FOR OUR READERS IN ERETZ YISROEL

My plans are to be in Eretz Yisroel Iy’H from Sunday-Wednesday April 26-29th  attending a conference on child safety. Over the past few months, we at Project YES were contacted by more than a few Israeli communities requesting that we conduct child safety/abuse prevention workshops for their parents.

Please be advised that due to time constraints we will be unable to honor all requests, but we will give preference to:

a)  Communities that have the active participation of their leaders – meaning that the local Rabbonim/Mechanchim publicly endorse and attend the workshop, and. . .
b)  Communities where several schools/shuls collaborate to plan and run a joint child safety event.

I commit to waiving my honorarium and accepting on a first-come-first-serve basis invitations from communities where 3 or more schools/Shuls collaborate to run a joint safety event that will have the endorsement and participation of the local Rabbonim/Mechanchim.

Should you wish to schedule a child safety workshop for the parents in your community, kindly send an email to yhprojectyes@gmail.com. We will use this email list to post a schedule of the child safety workshops I will be giving in Eretz Yisroel so readers from outside those areas can attend.

It is our hope that these workshops will give you the tools and language to help keep your children and grandchildren safe and secure.

Yakov

Thank you for your participation in our survey, Your feedback is very valuable to us.
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

Center for Jewish Family Life/Project YES

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UnGetted Women

agunaThere are no true agunahs today. Didn’t you know that? Agunahs are women whose husbands disappeared due to war or natural disasters or government plots. Women who are married to men who won’t give a gett or who won’t give a gett without conditions are simply “UnGetted” women.

There’s a big difference!

What is the difference between an agunah and an UnGetted woman, you ask?

The difference is all in the attitude.

You see, they don’t make good agunahs anymore. Not like in the old days. In the old days, they made agunahs like the fabled tzadeikas who was the lunch lady for years in a yeshiva. Her husband was taken at a young age by the KGB and never seen again. She was left childless and uncertain of his whereabouts for the rest of her life.

Did she complain? No!

Did she abandon halachah and remarry anyway? She certainly did not!

She poured all of her love into her students, feeding them by the hundreds to occupy her lonely days.

Now THAT’S an agunah.

What we have today aren’t real agunahs. They aren’t the aidel and menchlakeit agunahs of old. No, we have complainers and whiners. Women who can’t seem to live for themselves. It’s sad really, how many frum women can’t just be happy with their children, their careers, or their friends and family. Why these women can’t just walk out into the sunshine and enjoy the benefits of being single is beyond me.  They are divorced for all practical purposes. It’s only that one area of dating and remarriage that they are barred from.

Big deal!

This is what over 100 people were kvetching about at the March for Agunot this last Sunday? Just so some pathetic women who can’t live without a man in the 21st century have the freedom to bring home a new boyfriend to their children every week?

That’s what this hullaballoo over agunas is really all about, you know. So that all these divorcees can become promiscuous and neglect their children!

Well, I’m not having it! I want the old agunahs back again. Women who might have cried themselves to sleep in their lonely beds every night, but who showed up to work fresh as daisies and with smiles on their faces the next morning! Women who bottled up their suffering and liked it, dammit!

How do you like them apples?

You don’t?

Well, sadly, this sentiment isn’t satire. It’s actually the opinion of someone who wrote an anonymous (gee, I wonder why?) Op Ed piece on collive.com entitled, “Manipulators Aren’t My Sisters.

I will congratulate the author of the original article. If my eyes weren’t already opened up to the plight of agunahs, seeing the discrimination and callousness they endure from people like this author has made me even more sympathetic.

Using a rabbi to coerce a desired outcome

mediationI once read a heartbreaking story about a woman in a dysfunctional marriage. The wife was slowly moving away from some of the strictures of their orthodox community. Her husband was very controlling and also behaving inappropriately online. For a long time, she had asked her husband to come with her to a rabbi specializing in shalom bayis issues. She was certain that if they spoke with the rabbi her husband would finally see reason. Finally, her husband agreed to the counselling.

“A smile sneaks up on me and I quickly look out the car window. It is okay to be hopeful, I tell myself, to be nervous, to look forward to my husband’s apologies on the way home, but I can’t make it too obvious. That would be insensitive, crass even. I imagine the rav kindly explaining that sholom bayis is more important than anything and that a husband’s main goal should be to preserve the relationship, above all else. He will emphatically repeat that last part, above all else. Maybe the rav will be more forceful, more specific. Maybe he will explain that cursing out your wife about Triangle-K-hechsher frozen vegetables in front of the kids is more of a problem than eating the vegetables themselves. Maybe he will explain that sending out email requests for pictures of girls in their panties is more of a problem than my bobby socks and knee-length skirts. That pas akum pretzels and cholov akum coffee are not issues to threaten divorce over. That questioning whether the Sun literally argued with the Moon in the first week of creation does not make your wife an apikorus. That more bees are caught with honey, or however that saying goes. A balloon of satisfaction and vengeance grows greedily within me as the images pile up, one on top of the other, but I kill it fast. Can’t be too arrogant, too presumptive, too eager.”

The wife was certain that her husband would be shamed in front of the rabbi after she revealed his behavior. Instead, the tables turned against her. The husband informed the rabbi that his wife had become meikil in certain areas of halacha, and that as a result, they were having shalom bayis problems. The rabbi, after grilling the wife over her acceptance of the authority of the Shulchan Aruch, gemara, and chumash declared their situation hopeless.

“But why is he asking me this? My mind goes into overdrive and I can’t think fast enough. How is this relevant? Why isn’t he asking about what problems we are having? Why is he asking me these ridiculous questions about authority? When are we going to talk about pas yisroel? Cholov akum? Sholom Bayis?….

Why is he asking all of this, all the wrong questions? Is he going to ask the right questions soon?

The rav stands up and sighs. He looks at both of us and I look down at my lap, not willing to meet his eyes. My denim skirt has little swirly designs and flowers. I try to focus on the patterns. He shakes his head. “I am sorry. I cannot help you. There is nothing I can do.” His voice is soft and gentle and it crashes all over me with the force of a fatal tidal wave, a deadly tsunami. He cannot help us. This is what I imagine oncologists say to terminally ill patients, not what a sholom bayis rav says to a wife. Biting my lip doesn’t work anymore and my shoulders start shaking. I try to squelch the sobs, but I can’t. Some people can control their tears well but I am not one of them. It is humiliating and I hate myself for breaking down. I press my fist in my mouth as a last attempt. The two men, my husband and my rabbi, watch me carefully and they are silent. The waves of pity are palpable, they surround me, strangle me, I cannot push them back. I take a deep breath once and once again.

The rav turns to my husband and speaks, slowly, haltingly. “Look, I don’t know how to help, but if she is being good and religious, maybe you can give her a reward. Maybe you can buy her something, buy her a dress. A nice dress for Yom Tov. ” My husband nods his head, I think. I cannot see well for all the tears in my eyes. I guess I will have a new wardrobe soon, with all those lovely dresses I have earned. This is too surreal for me and I stand up, choking on my words. “Thank you. I am sorry to have taken your time.” The rav nods sadly and walks us to the front door. The serenity and silence mock me as I fumble for the doorknob. I cannot get out quickly enough and walk out first, leaving them behind to their mutual mumbles of sympathy and encouragement.”

In this case, the wife went to a rabbi hoping that he would convince her husband to allow her more freedom and flexibility in her observance. She hoped to bring up the subject of her husband’s online behavior and shame him into stopping his dalliances. Instead, the rabbi and her husband ganged up against her, and the meeting became about her lapse in religiosity. She was blamed for their shalom bayis issues.

That’s the chance you take when you involve a third party in your marital disputes.

This morning, I read about another situation of a spouse hoping to coerce a desired outcome by consulting a rabbi. In this case, it was in the form of consulting a rabbi who writes an advice column in The Jewish News UK. The question posed to Rabbi Schochet was, Ask the Rabbi: ‘Should we have another child?’

A husband writes that he and wife are both in their early 40s and have two children. He would like more, but his wife, having suffered through two miscarriages, doesn’t want to go through another one. Also, her fears about increased risk for genetic issues, financial concerns, and the worry about having enough energy and love to raise a third child have cemented her decision to stop at two kids.

Apparently, her husband isn’t about to let the matter rest and felt the need to write a public letter asking the rabbi if they should have another child.

The rabbi sides with the husband.

“….I have often advocated here that however many children a couple decide on, they should always consider having one more.

I have met many past their childbearing years who regretted not having an additional child and wholeheartedly agree with your concerns of looking back in the years ahead with regret.

On balance, I am going to say to you the following: I think the medical risks can be assessed by a doctor.

I think the underlying emotional concerns needs to be addressed by the two of you in meaningful conversation. And then I think, if you can get past all that, you should have that one more child – for every child is indeed a blessing and adds so much more to the ambiance of the home, both materially and spiritually.

As my father (of blessed memory) used to say: “We have six million to make up for.” Oh, and don’t forget to invite me to the baby blessing ceremony.”

Ummm….hello! Did we miss the part about how the wife said she’s done! Invite him to the baby blessing ceremony? How are two men having a conversation about a woman’s fertility, and deciding that her arguments against having another baby aren’t valid? Will this rav’s “psak” change her mind about having a baby or will it only make her angry that her spouse won’t respect her decision?

Is bringing a rav in as a mediator to settle marital disputes merely a way to try and shame a spouse into capitulating to your demands?

From the Mailbox – Sharon Gets a Shidduch?

spot

The shidduch world is rough. Fortunately, I was spared that particular agony by meeting my spouse in college.

I received an email last night that showed me what I would be in for if I were looking for a husband today. I receive all kinds of emails, but sometimes a few are so outstanding, I am inspired to share. Of course all names and identifying information have been deleted.

“First Things: Hello, I ran into your blog. It struck me that you may be single. As background, let me inform you that I seek a mate. I have not as yet been married. If the picture you show bears any resemblance to you, it is conceivable that I might take an interest in you (if you are single). I say this because the girl in the picture looks pretty. So the question is: Are you the girl in the picture? I notice that you have translated ‘erva’ as nakedness. I will have you know that this is a mistranslation. There is a Hebrew word for naked, but it is not ‘erva’. But you can be excused. After all, you are a woman. And, as a rule, women are not very knowledgeable – nor are they expected to be. It is easy to understand what should have led you to make this error. It is perfectly true, as a matter of sheer fact, that when a woman is naked her erva is exposed. But that is not because her erva IS her nakedness. To see this, consider the following. Suppose you peal a banana. You then have before you a pealed banana. Now suppose that you notice that the banana has a blemish (if you like, you may call it a ‘mushy spot’). Does that mean that ‘pealed banana’ means having a blemish? I think you will agree that it does not. The fact that the blemish is exposed by the fact that the banana is pealed does nothing to suggest that the banana’s state of being pealed IS the blemish that it is now seen to have. There is no cross identification. It is the same with nakedness and erva. Just as the blemish is there whether the banana is pealed or not, so too does the erva exist independently of a state of nakedness. All the nakedness does is expose it. I trust you follow the gist of my drift. Now, it is true that there is a difference. When you peal a banana, you may or may not encounter a blemish. By contrast, when a woman is naked, her erva is encountered without fail. On the basis of this, you might be inclined to conclude that her nakedness and her erva are one and the same. Still, it would be a mistake. To see why, consider the following example. Suppose she is not naked but fully dressed. Will you then say she has no erva? Of course not! You will insist that her erva is with her whether she exposes it or not. This suffices to show conclusively that the two are separate. Nakedness is one thing, erva quite another. I don’t believe you can refute this. But if you you think you can, let me know. As a parting note, let me tell you that in a dictionary you might find that ‘erva’ is given multiple definitions, one of which is nakedness. You might therefore feel vindicated. But, without going into whether this particular definition is in fact legitimate, it is clear that it is not what the word means as used in the context of ‘kol be-isha erva.’ This is my contention. Having gotten this out of the way, I presently take leave of you.”

My response is as follows:

First Things: Hello, I ran into your blog. It struck me that you may be single.”

If you clicked on the About the Author link, you will find my brief biography. It contains relevant information such as, “Sharon Shapiro lives in Chicago with her husband and five children.”

“As background, let me inform you that I seek a mate. I have not as yet been married. If the picture you show bears any resemblance to you, it is conceivable that I might take an interest in you (if you are single).”

You seek a mate? That sounds so..animalistic…kind of like a bull looking to pair with a heifer so that she can bear a few of his calves.  In any event, I am flattered that you think of me as conceivable.

“I say this because the girl in the picture looks pretty. So the question is: Are you the girl in the picture?”

I am she and she is me. Of course, after an incredible amount of photoshopping. Picture a brunette version of Ursula from The Little Mermaid. I hope this won’t be a problem.

“I notice that you have translated ‘erva’ as nakedness. I will have you know that this is a mistranslation. There is a Hebrew word for naked, but it is not ‘erva’. But you can be excused. After all, you are a woman. And, as a rule, women are not very knowledgeable – nor are they expected to be. It is easy to understand what should have led you to make this error.”

I’m honored to see that you took the time to not only glance at my picture, but also the title of my blog. I really appreciate your explaining the error of my (mis)translation. There are over 200 posts on my blog, which I’m sure would benefit from your wisdom and editing. Think of all the mistakes you would find if you actually read through my posts!  I acknowledge that as a woman I’m not very knowledgeable, and am grateful that, due to my accident of gender, you have lowered your expectations of me. I only wish that schools, standardized college entrance exams, universities, and employers would give women a few bonus points in grading and hiring decisions based on our handicap.

“It is perfectly true, as a matter of sheer fact, that when a woman is naked her erva is exposed. But that is not because her erva IS her nakedness. To see this, consider the following. Suppose you peal a banana. You then have before you a pealed banana. Now suppose that you notice that the banana has a blemish (if you like, you may call it a ‘mushy spot’). Does that mean that ‘pealed banana’ means having a blemish? I think you will agree that it does not. The fact that the blemish is exposed by the fact that the banana is pealed does nothing to suggest that the banana’s state of being pealed IS the blemish that it is now seen to have. There is no cross identification. It is the same with nakedness and erva. Just as the blemish is there whether the banana is pealed or not, so too does the erva exist independently of a state of nakedness. All the nakedness does is expose it. I trust you follow the gist of my drift. Now, it is true that there is a difference. When you peal a banana, you may or may not encounter a blemish. By contrast, when a woman is naked, her erva is encountered without fail. On the basis of this, you might be inclined to conclude that her nakedness and her erva are one and the same. Still, it would be a mistake. To see why, consider the following example. Suppose she is not naked but fully dressed. Will you then say she has no erva? Of course not! You will insist that her erva is with her whether she exposes it or not. This suffices to show conclusively that the two are separate. Nakedness is one thing, erva quite another. I don’t believe you can refute this. But if you you think you can, let me know.”

I’m trying to follow, but my female mind is feeble and easily confused. Let me see…you have a banana. When the mohel peeled your banana, he exposed an underlying blemish (with your permission, I can call it a mushy spot)? Does this mean that every man with a peeled banana has a mushy spot? No, it does not. The fact that your blemish was exposed doesn’t mean that its state of being peeled IS the blemish that has now been revealed. There is no cross identification. It’s the same with nakedness and erva.  Just as your blemish would have been present whether or not your banana had been peeled, so too does my erva (or lewdness) exist even if my clothes cover my nakedness. Your logic makes perfect sense.

“As a parting note, let me tell you that in a dictionary you might find that ‘erva’ is given multiple definitions, one of which is nakedness. You might therefore feel vindicated. But, without going into whether this particular definition is in fact legitimate, it is clear that it is not what the word means as used in the context of ‘kol be-isha erva.’ This is my contention. Having gotten this out of the way, I presently take leave of you.”

Well, you caught me. I did feel vindicated upon seeing my definition agreed upon by several sources, but I now see the folly and short sightedness of my conclusion. I salute you sir, for making your first attempt at contact an opportunity to school me in the error of my blog premise. Upon initial consideration, it would seem that your lecture bodes well for the future of our relationship….you kind of have a 50 Shades of Grey domination vibe going on. Bold move. However, I’m more of a dominant kind of gal, myself. Sadly, I must presently take my leave of you as well. I wish you and your overripe banana all the best in your dating endeavors.

This is why I would never make it in today’s shidduch scene.

What happens when the honeymoon is over?

waxTwo weeks on, two weeks off. That’s the recipe for a happy Jewish marriage. Here are a few quotes –

“The Torah teaches, “Do not come near a woman when she is tamei with her menstrual flow to uncover her nakedness”. (Leviticus 18:19) The period of being tamei from a menstrual period lasted seven days (Leviticus 15:19). Such a woman is called a niddah. In the second century C.E., Rabbi Meir attempted to give an explanation for this law. “Why did the Torah teach that a woman was in a period of niddah for seven days?…So that she will be beloved by her husband as on the day she entered the chupah (wedding canopy) (Babylonian Talmud Niddah 31b). For my wife and myself there is some truth to this teaching; mikvah night has become a kind of monthly second honeymoon.”“A Fresh Look at the Mikvah” By, Michael Gold

“How does G‑d expect us to stay married if he programmed us to crave the pleasure of a fresh relationship?

There is a manual for this program. It’s called the Torah. In it G‑d tells us to keep to the cycle of family purity. G‑d says, for two weeks don’t have a physical relationship with each other. Don’t even touch each other. During that time you are not romantically available to each other. You are not ‘entitled’ to his (or her) physical affection. Nothing is taken for granted.

You relate cerebrally, yet you yearn for a closer relationship, and it’s just not available.  Sure you’re still married. You still talk about your day and plan tomorrow. But you can’t experience physical intimacy. It’s almost like dating. You relate cerebrally, yet you yearn for a closer relationship, and it’s just not available.

And then you go to the mikvah and you can reunite. The first touch after two weeks of separation is charged with sensation. There’s an innocent excitement, even after all those years together. You walk around with a secret twinkle in your eye the morning after.” “Continual Newlyweds: The Power of Mikva” By, Rochel Holzkenner

“A great positive exists in relation to conjugal relations. Since a husband and wife are forced to be separated for at least 12 days a month, the couple experiences a virtual honeymoon every time the wife returns from the mikveh. It is anecdotally well known that couples who keep mikveh report a new zest in their relationship. This is so true that after pregnancy (during which the niddah cycle is interrupted) couples report to Rabbis that they eagerly anticipated the return to the separation periods and the monthly “honeymoon” which the niddah laws provide.””The Mitzvos of Mikveh” By, R.L. Kremnizer

The last quote touches upon an exception where a couple deviates from the two weeks on/two weeks off cycle. When a woman is pregnant, she doesn’t use the mikvah. Also, when a woman is nursing a baby and not menstruating, she doesn’t use the mikvah. If a woman has had a hysterectomy and no longer menstruates, she doesn’t use the mikvah. Also, after a woman reaches menopause, she ceases mikvah usage.

At the end of the day, the purpose of the laws of niddah have to do with being ritually impure due to menstruation, and not with providing couples a blueprint for a good sex life or a happy marriage. If the latter were the case, every couple, no matter the wife’s ability to menstruate, would have a two weeks on/two weeks off schedule.

The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine published an interesting life expectancy chart, marking the expected life span of 15 year old women in England and Wales from 1480-1989:

life expectancyThe theory of niddah creating a monthly separation throughout the entirety of a couple’s marriage was certainly more achievable when pre-menopausal women only lived until a maximum age of 48, than in 1989 when her life expectancy rose to 79 (in 2014 the age of life expectancy for women hit 81).

Making a generic example, if a married woman enters menopause at the age of 50, and she lives until the age of 80, that means that she and her husband will be living without a monthly mikvah honeymoon renewal for 30 years of their marriage!

A married Jewish couple could very well live longer together without the laws of niddah than they did with the laws of niddah pre-menopause.  Despite this reality, virtually no marital books on orthodox Jewish sexuality account for this situation.  Perhaps intimacy is supposed to end when periods do?

Today, due to the same factors that have led to increased life expectancy (e.g. better nutrition, healthy exercise, and improved medical care), both women and men are more vibrant in their later years than ever before. Additionally, for those that need a little extra oomph, Viagra and estrogen therapies have helped many couples retain their libidos.

If an enforced separation is so vital to the health of a marriage, why aren’t loads of post-menopausal couples getting divorced? If being off limits to each other half of each month is the secret to an exciting intimate life, doesn’t it follow that older couples whose marriages do not revolve around the niddah cycle have stale sex lives?

Those of us who still experience a monthly horizontal honeymoon should enjoy it now, because apparently we are looking forward to a 30 year post-flow sexual famine later – suffering the same supposed fate as those couples who never observe the laws of taharas hamishpacha at all.  Is this the lesson to be learned?  I guess we’ll all find out eventually.