Anat Gopstein’s new column for this week’s Shabbat publication Gilui Da’at:
Just Love Them
“I don’t want to be religious, but I also don’t want to fall into crime, like my friends did.” He sat across from me and told me about his relationship with his family and his society, about the expectations he had, his dreams.
A young man in his 20’s, he grew up in a classic Charedi family, studied in a good yeshiva and when he got his draft order, they made it clear to him, nothing doing. He was forced to go to an army psychiatrist to put on an act, and he got an exemption from the army. But then his pangs of conscience set in, and he wanted to enlist. But his family did not accept the idea and rejected him. He was so hurt by his parents, he started to rebel, break conventions, he neglected keeping the mitzvot and connected to young people sitting on the fence and having a dialogue between the worlds.
Very slowly, he found himself on the other side of the fence, and the thing that was most painful to him is that they called him a goy.
In Lehava he has already understood the difference between a Jew and a goy; he not only brought Jews back, but he himself got close to Judaism.
“I have strayed like a lost sheep, seek out Your servant, for I have not forgotten your commandments.” The person who erred has failed, while the one who strayed has lost his way. Like the sheep, when he strays from the herd, he does not know how to get back until the shepherd is sought out. The one who strays from his opinion does not know the way back to himself, so seek out Your servant, for I have not forgotten Your commandments.
The youth of today are like lost sheep; they are looking for the straight way, they find out what their duties are in their world. This clarification (of duties) involves breaking conventions and crossing boundaries. And they so much need us adults.
The youth of today no longer accept things as they are; they break through the fences of the world, ask questions and examine.
The Charedi public used to dispossess young people who don’t toe the line. There have lately been an awakening on this subject and an accounting. Rigid criticism and throwing them outside the fence have been replaced by acceptance and inclusion, and there is awareness.
As a therapist and parent support provider, I am aware of the dialogue extant in Charedi society about the situation of youth.
I have participated in conferences and courses about the treatment of at-risk youth, and various frameworks and responses have come up for the youth. The parents and the children are no longer alone.
In contrast, the National Religious public has almost always relied on state institutions, and they thus lose our dear youth, The state sends the kids to secular, anti-religious hostels, which help them openly desecrate the first Shabbat, and the girl from a Samarian settlement has an Arab boyfriend. Hilltop youth, for example, suffer from labeling and rejection: Whoever doesn’t toe the line or the “classic” Zionist circuit, immediately becomes dropout youth, high-risk youth. By us, everything is perfect, there’s no dialogue on the subject…
The time has come to correct this. Because we cannot lose these dear young people. It’s important to take responsibility for them – and just love them.