Tuesday, July 02, 2019

"There Are No Bad Kids Only Bad Rebbes!" Rabbi Dovid Trenk

Posted originally in 2011, reposted today after hearing of the passing of Rabbi Dovid Trenk zt"l.

The above quote was said to me by a popular educator, Rabbi Dovid Trenk, in a yeshiva a long time ago. He was attempting to shed some light on the problem of children getting lost and disillusioned in yeshivas and turned off by "bad rebbes".

Not that it is necessarily the fault of a rebbe or a parent when a child leaves the fold, children have their own minds, and many times we just are not in tune with their thought process. And when we do finally figure it out, in most cases, it is way too late. But one thing is definitely certain, a bad rebbe will wreak unbelievable havoc on many kids and their families. And the scars are permanent!

What is now smacking us across the face, that for the most important jobs in our community, no license or training is required. No license or formal training needed to be a rebbe in a yeshiva, no license or formal training to be a rosh yeshiva and no license or formal training to be a tatty or mommy. For every other major profession in this country, not only do you need a license, there are years of education required in that career path that goes along with the job! And if you fail, or don't do well, you won't get the job!

To be a rebbe today - you need to be someones son or son in-law, to be a rosh yeshiva, the same - and/or wait until your father dies, unless your name is Lipa Margulies -- all you need to do then is steal the name of the yeshiva you were a bus driver for, and ran errands -- and had access to their office files, and refuse to go to bais din. EVERY yeshiva in the ultra-orthodox community has an owner or de facto owner. And the real estate and bank accounts for the most part, are controlled solely by them except for that rare isolated case!

And what requirement do you need to father or mother a child? Never mind - let's not go there.

But the short answer is NOTHING! You just knock 'em out, and hope for the best! While the vast majority of Jewish parents are well-intended, many of them are clueless on child-raising. The nurturing and focus today required to be a good parent, is so much different than even a decade ago. The "street" is a much worse place, access to bad people and bad stuff is easier, and for bad people to have access to your children is unbearably easy. And that includes all types of bad people, even Jewish ones. Yes, surprise, there are bad Jews, some very bad ones!

Truth be told, parents are overburdened; with many if not most Jewish households requiring both parents to hold down full-time jobs. So what gives? The ability to focus on the physical and emotional needs and safety of your kids gives. How much time is left, quality time that is, to really understand what your child's day looked like. You come home beat, overworked and underpaid, trying to maintain some sort of semblance of self.

Are you really able to discern if your child had a bad day? Will he or she voluntarily tell you if they did? Or are they counting on you, the tatty or mommy, to just know. Is your child able to talk to you privately? Are they able to transmit to you their inner-most thoughts and feelings without you getting visibly upset at them? Would you listen to them if they just signalled you - that something that happened to them is just keeping them from expressing themselves out of fear or shame? You brought them on to this planet, you have an obligation to be there for them, and believe in them under any and all circumstances.

Getting back to the situation at the yeshivas (including girls schools)... what do you know about their teacher or rebbe? What do you know about the rosh yeshiva or principal other than what their PR machine will bellow out?

How much checking do you do about the car you intend to purchase? How much time goes into buying a dining room set or a mattress, before you commit? Who supervises your kids in camp? Who watches them in the playground? Do you let them walk free in the neighborhood by themselves, or do you at the very least make certain your older kids walk in groups on major thoroughfares. Yes, you may need now to drop themselves off as a group, and pick them up as a group. At what age does that happen?

These issues can not go without serious soul-searching any longer. One yiddishe neshama is tragically one way too much to lose. But how many have already died a spiritual death, falling prey to vile child molesters in their schools or families, the vilest of all two-legged creatures, and/or to drugs and alcohol?

Could you have prevented that from happening?

And once you knew something was terribly wrong, what real gut-wrenching action did you actually take? Did you go to a true professional for help? Or did you shmooze it up with your rav or rabbi; you know the guy, that in most cases, knows little more than trying to figure out his own survival technique. And does he really know the dynamics of your household? What does he know about your individual child?

Or will he urge you to use a cure-all generic band-aid that was prescribed by organizations and their fundraising specialists, also known as rosh yeshivas and gedolim -- who often soil their adult diapers with מי רגלים--"mei raglayim" and other "dvarim", and use your kids as inventory in their business warehouses?

Your children are at risk every single day, both in your home, and once they walk out the door. At risk children are ALL the kinderlach, not only the ones that may have strayed (hopefully temporarily) from the path you theoretically chose for them; and I say theoretically only because if you do not help them navigate through every single day, you actually only helped them be a theoretical mensch.

As some of our Chazal pontificate; Yaakov Avinu knew that Yosef was alive after the Shvatim sold him into slavery to the Egyptians, even though he had not heard from him in twenty two years. After all, he was Yaakov Avinu. When the brothers told him "Od Yosef Chai" -עוד יוסף חי in Parshat Vayigash -- ויגש --- what Yaakov Avinu really was concerned about --- "was Yosef spiritually alive?"

How would you answer that question about your "Yosefs"?

Chazak V'nischazek!