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Impressive Insight on Suicide From the Aruch HaShulchan

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We’ve encountered two very public suicides in the last couple of weeks.  The death of Robin Williams resonated with millions of people around the world. This week, the death of IDF Lone Soldier Dave Gordon is being considered a suicide.

Understandably, suicide is a very difficult subject. Tensions and emotions tend to run high. You should see some of the emails and messages I’ve received in the wake of my article about Dave. One of the fundamental suicide issues is whether the act of taking one’s life willingly is actually a moral choice made by the deceased or is suicide just the end of a long struggle with one’s mental health and would be more accurately described as succumbing to suicide than guilty of suicide. Another important question for Jews, like friends and family of Dave Gordon, is how Jewish law handles suicide. Read…


The Lesson We Can Learn From Dave Gordon Of Blessed Memory

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For a few hours on Tuesday, the Jewish world’s attention was focused on a missing IDF soldier. David Menachem Gordon was reported as missing and Jews around the world were fearful that he had been abducted by terrorists.

David’s body was found. David was dead. He was not abducted by terrorists in Gaza. He was not killed by Hamas terrorists.

But Dave, as he was known to his friends, had been “missing” for years. He had been abducted by a different kind of terrorist in his childhood years. Terrorists in Michigan. Jewish terrorists. These terrorists took Dave’s childhood innocence from him. These terrorists took Dave’s life from him, and after all these years, the pain became too much for Dave to endure.

Dave is a victim of sex abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community. Dave was a victim of abuse and a victim of silence about abuse. Read…


My Small Piece of Seeds of Peace

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I heard about Seeds of Peace a few months ago. Dan Adler was at our home for Shabbat lunch and he asked me if I would be interested in going to visit the camp for a couple of days in the summer. Thrilled at the prospect, I said that whatever, whenever, I would figure out a way to be there.

For weeks, I had been looking forward to observing Seeds of Peace in action and I had high expectations for the experience. I spent a few hours on Monday and Tuesday this week at Seeds of Peace and my expectations were greatly exceeded. Read…


Let’s Talk About Depression and Mental Health

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It’s time we had a conversation about mental health. Two weeks ago, I lost a dear friend to a toxic combination of severe mental illness and crushing addiction, two very dangerous conditions that compound their severity exponentially. Yesterday the world lost a genius who battled severe depression and addiction until he ended it all with an apparent suicide. Losing Robin Williams was tragic and a bitter pill to swallow. But seeing some of the reaction in the Orthodox Jewish community to his death coupled with the reaction to the death of Yissy, many of my fears that we are lagging behind in our communal approach to mental health were confirmed.

I am not a mental health expert. But I know that I am not a mental health expert. That’s why I consult with experts and do my own research to try to understand things beyond my expertise. I spend a lot of rabbinic counseling time working with people who are struggling or even succeeding in their personal battles. Many of these battles are related to mental health. Many others struggle with addiction. (That will be the topic of an upcoming article.) I’ve learned a lot and I am going to learn a lot more. Most importantly, I’ve learned that the stereotypes and assumptions in our community need to be addressed. Read…


Help Send Jewish Millennials to High Holidays Services

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I’ve met a lot of Young Jewish Professionals in Los Angeles. A few months ago I attended a four session, 25 hour seminar that grappled with the issues facing the broader Jewish community and Jewish millennials. There are many issues.

One of the issues is Jewish engagement. Without parents dragging them to Jewish events and without children compelling them to participate, many Jewish millennials experience a severe dip in their Jewish involvement after high school that continues until parenthood. As the the gap between Jewish experiences increases, the odds of future engagement decrease as well.

A major obstacle to Jewish engagement is money. Events and programs cost money. Millennials are famously struggling financially. With only one income and the high cost of living in major cities across the USA, Judaism becomes a luxury that too many millennials simply cannot afford. As a nation, we cannot afford to lose them. Read…