I’ve had enough of the Keren story, at least for now. While gratified by the 1500 page views I received yesterday, I hope to attract visitors through my own writing on parenting, Israel, and the Jewish community. I’m still interested in the hyper-tzniut phenomenon, and I’ll continue to provide occasional updates. But I won’t be speculating about the truth of the abuse allegations and the reasons it may have occurred, nor will I be scouring the press for details.
Instead, we can learn a valuable lesson from the recent reports of severe child abuse. Every family needs to be part of a connected, supportive community. This is especially important for those of us who made aliyah without our extended families. Last night I attended the bar mitzvah of a boy who lived near the family of the severely abused children from Jerusalem. The children’s neighbors expressed shock that such terrible things could go on without anyone noticing or reporting them. This family of American olim (immigrants), living in the center of the city, did not appear to be on anyone’s radar. And according to reports, the abused baby from Or Yehuda doesn’t have any family member with him in the hospital.
Wherever you live, there are things you can do right now to make your community stronger.
- Call up a friend you haven’t seen in a while.
- Help someone with a new or not-so-new baby: watch older kids, clear the sink, shop, or do the car pool run. Some communities arrange meals for two weeks after birth, but an extra meal can be helpful months down the road.
- Don’t forget other times of transition including a move, pregnancy, illness or death in the family, hospital stay, or family simcha.
- Some people know what kind of help they need, but others will need you to make suggestions. Remember that people are most reluctant to ask when they are at their lowest.
- Don’t be intimidated by the neighbor who offers to prepare Shabbat meals for a family of ten without a second thought. You can make a different contribution.
- If you can’t help with a specific request, locate someone who can.
- When you see people struggling with their kids, give a hand or a few supportive words depending on the situation. Then make a note to discreetly check up later.
- Actively seek out newcomers to the community and get them connected.
- Seek to set up parenting education, breastfeeding support, and other services that strengthen young families.
- Often the most important thing you can do is listen to and acknowledge a person’s feelings of frustration, exhaustion, or anxiety. Afterward you can make suggestions or share a solution that worked for you, but avoid giving advice.
- Finally, set an example and ask for help for yourself; don’t pretend to be completely self-sufficient. Allow others to have the zechut (merit) of helping you.
Maybe, this way, a future tragedy can be prevented.