Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Nicole Goodman
This week if you open your internet browser to any page you are most likely going to see something about Miley Cyrus at the VMAs. One side will say how trashy or tasteless her performance was and the other will talk about letting her be the sexual person she is. Why is this topic so intriguing? You don’t see anyone talking about Lady Gaga’s risqué performance, or Miley’s co-partner Robin Thicke. I believe it is such a controversy solely because she grew up as a child star, living her life as a role model to young girls. She was never meant to be ‘sexy’ like Gaga or Thicke. Her whole previous career was living this innocent life, being controlled by Disney and her young fan base. But what does this have to do with us Jews?
Jewish parents to their kids are like Disney to Miley. In today’s world we see more and more of what we call helicopter parents. These common parent breeds try to control every aspect of their kid’s lives. They need to know at all times where they’re going, what they’re doing, and who they’ll be with. Even more so they want to know what homework they have every night, what their exact grade is in every class, what they ate for lunch that day, and monitor their outfit choices. Even though this seems to have minimum consequences, how is it really affecting kids? I believe that when kids are overly restricted when they are young, there is more of a chance they will lash out when they get older.
Most people want what they can’t have. When I see parents restricting kids from normal teen experiences such as going to a party, going out with friends, eating what they want, or sexual relationships, the end result is often not up to par with the parent’s initial goal. When the kids turn into young adults and go to college, or just move out of the house they feel that they NEED to do everything they were restricted from for so long. Usually it’s not in normal doses. They excessively make up for all the years they believe they missed out on. Just like how Disney held back Miley from being a normal teen, having her constantly portray the innocent role, helicopter parents make teens feel like they are being restrained from the norm. The real question is will you wait until your son/daughter lashes out on stage twerking?
12.5.13 at 10:12 am | Every year at Thanksgiving dinner, my entire. . .
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August 28, 2013 | 1:12 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Dean Steinberg
I find myself watching less and less television every day. TV used to be the great available disconnect for me. Mind numbing escape into the wonderful world of the N.Y. Sex crimes unit, or experiencing who's getting wacked on whatever mob show or movie I'm watching for the umpteenth time: Goodfellas, Sopranos, Casino, you've seen ‘em. But the risk, while tuning in to my idiot box, of hearing a commercial, lately, has been keeping me away. Yes the lovely women slinging their dreck at me, (always women right, because the men want to screw them, and the women want their slender hips), broadcast at volume levels far louder than your regular program lest you are not paying full attention, you might miss a chance to better your odds at being perfect, whole, and complete. Somehow, the advertisement, which is in no way limited to television ads, has become a guide to helping society understand their FAR from perfect lives are in someway lacking, and purchasing whatever is being sold—toothpaste, a car, a shoe, even a vacation—will not help those in need of reaching perfection, but one will be that much closer to being perfect than they were prior to obtaining said product. How do we get perfect? Well, simply buy the next product advertised: a couch, a shampoo, maybe a different type of kibble (garbage, road kill) for your dog and low and behold you will be that much closer. Get it.
The problem, however, is that we are all (well, most of us) spiritual beings, and spiritual beings cannot be limited to the shallow solicitation of computers, phones, beer, or soap, as a way to help us evolve. That is done through connection to others. Through empathy, compassion, friendship, and attachment. That is why you can visit a community, (usually outside the U.S.) and see a low-income area where people are happy. Children are playing, adults are laughing, and these guys didn't even know the iPhone 5 was available. But wander down Stone Canyon Dr. in Bel Air, and your bound to hear some wife throwing their brand new Lladro Vase at her husband’s head.
The funny thing is, it seems that most ads are geared towards women. Even the ones for masculine products. Why? Because women have the power, and especially the buying power in the relationship. The inundation of women's handbags on consumers over the last decade has been nothing short of paralyzing. But it is all a mistake, either that or only advertised for Lesbians. Because women, if you’re spending three grand on the latest Louis Vuitton bag thinking it will help you grab a man, I've got the cheat sheet for you; those men you want to grab, it’s not your handbag that they’re looking at when you walk by.
August 27, 2013 | 1:30 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Lance Wright
That voice which speaks to us from deep within our soul, the one that speaks the truth even when we don’t always listen, the one that after we’ve done or said something out of character has us saying to ourselves, “I knew better!” So many times throughout my life have I chosen not to listen or justified going against it, and found myself worse for the ware. Some call it the conscience and that may very well be true, but I personally believe it is the place where, if I listen, I will hear the Creator’s guidance.
I was sitting in the back of a Prison Chapel 13+ years ago and for all intents and purposes, had very little direction. I remember asking this question in the silence of my thoughts, “What am I doing?” It was a universal question and in the spiritual, small voice I heard, “Continue to do the things I set before you and I will show you ever greater things.” I could go into detail about the many ways this has played out in my life, both when I listened and also when I didn’t, but the most important truth I’ve learned is that when I listen and act on that internal voice or conscience things always seem to work out for the better and the opposite has been true as well. Thankfully I have chosen to listen and act accordingly more than not and indeed I have seen and experienced ever greater things; Freedom from addiction and prison, healthier relationships, integrity and good self-identity, and so much more.
Another way in which I hear that ‘Still Quiet Voice’ is when I listen to others who show in their words and actions that they are living along spiritual lines. Early in my recovery, I used to argue with my peers about listening to anyone aside from God. I remember saying that if God didn’t speak from the burning bush I wasn’t hearing it. After a while of my obstinate behavior, a friend asked me this profound question, “Do you think the Creator stopped talking to us when The Books were finished being written or do you think that the Creator can still speak through us if we listen.” Today I rarely make any significant decisions before talking with several good people in my lives and sitting in prayer with what I’ve heard.
I can honestly say that my life is better as a result of listening to that Still Small Voice and to the voices of others who I have come to respect for their truth with me. Thank you.
This blog was about my experience with guidance as I have written on. I would love to hear how that Still Small Voice is showing up in your life and how the voices of your peers are helping you on your journey. Perhaps if we share and listen to what we hear within our soul and from others we can universally hear and be directed on a better path, where we all can live and experience ever greater things.
August 26, 2013 | 11:34 am
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Joan Praver—Board Member/Volunteer
Losing my temper is usually rare but the cause for doing so is reliable. Someone responding to me with sarcasm, an irritated look on his face, or someone giving me a patronizing answer or speaking to me like an authority with 'attitude,' can raise the hairs on my arms. I am forced to try to assert self-control and make a concentrated effort not to reply in a voice raised in displeasure.
I’ve often questioned why I find it so irritating. How come I can't ignore a superior attitude? I try to analyze my intolerance as to why I get riled, coming to the conclusion that I set out to do the right thing and attempt to be a halo wearer; therefore, I am appalled at being corrected. It is hard to accept when your attempts at perfection, rather than being accepted, are frowned upon.
The flaw is mine. Everyone, being individual, has their own values and opinions and beliefs as to what is right and who expects to express them whether or not they please, is not intentionally looking to offend. Just aiming to be perfect is asking for something that does not exist. It is a hard lesson but I will try to listen more and criticize less and maybe, just maybe, find better ways of avoiding anger.
My priorities in my old age are to be kinder, more complimentary, to go out of my way to say hello, to hold open a door, to wear a smile, to look someone eye to eye and put out my hand or give an idea to someone who asks for help.
August 25, 2013 | 12:00 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Matt Shapiro
Working with people as a spiritual counselor, one of the most frequent exercises I encourage residents to do is to write a list of the things they're oblivious to. This is designed to get people to notice things in their lives to which they don't usually pay close enough attention, positive or negative. This, of course, isn’t just limited to the people I work with, but is something I think is true for everyone. There are plenty of things that I’m aware of, yet still frequently choose to forget.
Once in a while at BTS, we have Immersion Days, programming through which we attempt to share the larger message and meaning of Beit T’Shuvah with current residents. Last Friday, we had a seasonal immersion day, in which we focused on the upcoming High Holidays and how their themes are relevant, even essential, to recovery. The focal point of the program was the High Holiday Repair Kit, written by Rabbi Mark, to elaborate on how he sees the High Holidays and give people an opportunity for writing and reflection on those concepts. As I’m sure many of you know, the crowd at BTS ranges from modern Orthodox Jews who have been in synagogue every Yom Kippur of their lives to Catholics who found out that morning that Yom Kippur is a fast day and started freaking out accordingly about if they would be having lunch that day.
Given that diverse group, I didn't anticipate was how seriously people would take the work. After Rabbi Mark spoke to the whole house, we divided into small groups for more personal work. When I asked people to take a few minutes to reflect on topics like how they have engaged in feelings of excessive doubt or worthlessness or how they can continue to bring out the gifts that God has given them, there was silence and focus as they wrote down their answers (I'm sure my promise of a free drink at Starbucks for anyone who completes the whole 21-exercise workbook didn't hurt either). The focus and the answers were intense, thoughtful and, in some cases, quite emotional. As people shared their responses to what the workbook brought up for them, I myself was reminded of many of the core concepts we try to teach at BTS:
-Positive and negative actions don't cancel each other out, and are both very real, necessitating their own individual responses.
- Though I can never repay the debt I owe God, I have an obligation to take action to pay it back as best I can.
-I have the capacity to change in every moment.
-T’Shuvah (repentance, return, response, atonement) is always possible.
I have learned these concepts before, but sometimes I take them for granted, and when I take these truths for granted, I begin to forget them.
Rosh Hashana is known as Yom HaZikaron, the day of remembering. Usually, I’ve thought of God as being the One who remembers, looking back on my actions from the past year. This year, I’m thinking about it differently. As the new year approaches, it’s my job to remember, not only what I’ve done, but also what I know that I have a tendency to forget. Even though T’Shuvah is possible at any time, it makes sense to me that a specific time is set aside for this work each year, because once I’m oblivious, I can go along for quite some time in that state of mind; I need a wake-up call, maybe even from a ram’s horn, to wake me up. Seeing people respond so viscerally and directly to these teachings during that program reminded me of my own obligation to connected to these ideas, continually working on how to remember them and put them into practice. Only then, awake and slightly less oblivious, can I learn something new.
August 23, 2013 | 10:10 am
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Rabbi Mark Borovitz
I am still in awe from an experience I had this past week! On Wednesday evening, I had the honor and privilege of having a dialogue with Father Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries. Father G, as he is known to the homies, is a man of deep faith, deep thought, generosity of spirit and who is also quite brilliant. He is the epitome of what I aspire to be, a simple man who knows and lives God's Will in every part of his life. Father Greg has impacted the lives of tens of thousands of people positively by just being who he is, a man who lives his principles of kindness, caring, love, truth and compassion all the time.
We spoke about Redemption, which is always a fitting subject and especially this time of year in the Jewish Tradition. It was a fascinating hour+ discussion for the 150+ people who attended and the video of it will be on our website, www.beittshuvah.org sometime this weekend. Please watch it, I know it will lift your spirit and give you much to reflect on in your own life.
Father G's point was and is: STOP SEEING THE OTHER AND MARGINALIZING PEOPLE! I add the capital letters because I think that we make too many excuses and rationalizations to keep doing is. Father Boyle said it so well, lets expand the circle so we step on the margins and make them disappear. Lets see every person as human, no matter what their actions are and have been. This doesn't mean that there are not consequences for bad behaviors; it means that we don't dehumanize even those people who have dehumanized others. This is so hard for most of us. We want to differentiate ourselves from "the other." Yet, Father G teaches us to see the other as part of WE. This follows Jewish Teaching so fully.
At this time of Elul, I suggest and recommend that all of us do T’Shuvah with those that we have marginalized and made into the other. This way, we will create the messianic world of our dreams and in the words of the Prophets: "Swords will be turned into plowshares and men will learn war no more." Please follow the example and emulate the life of Father Greg Boyle, a modern day Prophet, and lets stamp out the lines that separate and create a circle where all of us are part of it.
August 22, 2013 | 10:18 am
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Nicole Goodman
“Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Grossman are proud to announce the arrival of their son, Dr. Jonathan Grossman.”
Even before we, as Jews, learned to speak we were pressured by our parents and the Jewish community to be successful. The success is usually defined as a doctor, lawyer, investment banker, accountant, consultant, producer, agent, or politician. With these jobs being set as standards in a household, kids are pressured to do their absolute best from the first day of school. Kids and their parents will stop at nothing to be sure they have the best scores on the SAT, ACT, AP tests, GRE, LSAT, GMAT, MCAT, etc. Kids are trained to put everything they have into these exams because the theory is those scores will make or break their chance of success. This is a concept that pushes the abilities of kids to be the best students they can be. But when does it get to be too much? Getting into the best college is hard enough as it is, but what happens after graduation when it is time to build a career? What are the lengths it takes to be successful today even after graduating from The Deans List at an Ivy League?
With many people struggling to find jobs after college, the competition has become so extreme that people will cross completely new boundaries for a chance to become successful. Take the financial world for instance. During college many young Jews decide they want the high power, intense job of working as a banker. If they have the chance of getting a job or internship they find out that the competition is so high that they are worked liked slaves, working an average of 15 hours days and they cannot do a single thing about it. If they complain, they’ll get fired and the firm will bring the next desperate Jew around. Just this week there was a student from Michigan University who was working at a Bank of America’s London office. This student probably spent his whole life working hard to nail an internship like this. The pressure to be successful ended up taking his life. His extreme workdays took a huge toll on him and he ended up being found in his shower, dead, at 21 years old. In today’s society it is a brutal battlefield for a chance at success. But how hard will you push your body and mind to overcome your Jewish guilt? I believe life is a balance. Working hard and being motivated are extremely important but learning how to balance school, work, fun, friends, family, etc. is the most important job we have.
August 21, 2013 | 11:02 am
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Dean Steinberg
So, if all goes according to plan, in a few weeks I will no longer be just Dean, I will be Dr. Dean. So what, you ask? Lots of doctors bopping around town, I agree…but how many of them have five (yes five, that’s not a typo) d.u.i.'s under their belt. The only person I've ever known who received six d.u.i.'s in California, when all of them received a guilty sentence (none dismissed or reduced to wet reckless or driving while impaired) got 15 years in prison for that sixth one. A bit of an incentive for yours truly to stay on the good side of MADD.
How many of those Docs failed algebra one, got kicked out of two high schools, didn't learn how to read (or even fold) a map until their thirties? I could go on and on about the crazy miracle that occurred, which allowed this previously Mac-size dump truck to be in a position where I might actually help someone and do some good in this world. But, the simple fact is the reason I was able to finally accomplish something fairly cool, something I had dreamed about since I was thirteen and first sat on the shrinks couch, which had been otherwise unfeasible, is I finally got the memo. The one I never received growing up. The one which, if had I received and internalized, may have saved myself years of pain, grief, frustration, and the ever-popular, massive pop psychology term (I can't go a day without hearing) LOW SELF- ESTEEM; that memo---life's accomplishments, and ultimately happiness, is about showing up.
It sounds simple, and it is…despite at times, being incredibly difficult. That was my problem, I got simplicity mixed-up with difficulty. The difficulties such as, why show up and be present? There is always someone else also showing up who is smarter, more focused, better looking, more popular, etc.. But actually, it's true!
The hardest course in my doctoral program, statistics, was jam-packed with young, brilliant math whizzes, many of them Asian, who amused themselves during class by texting each other, while I poured over every word the instructor uttered, desperately trying to make sense of something. They were probably texting how stupid I was. Despite this miserable experience, (pulling my fingernails out with a pliers would have been more enjoyable), I never missed a minute of class. I showed up. In all honesty, I was far less anxious walking into Hill Street Court to surrender to go to prison, then I was walking into that Statistics final exam. But, I showed up.
Okay, I will add an addendum to the showing up. I guess this is the big piece, which makes the simple act more difficult. In showing up, whatever the effort requires - getting through traffic, devoting ones ever-so precious time (mine was usually otherwise spent watching Sopranos re-runs), even getting my ass out of bed - this effort, and effort by and large is not that hard for something I want and is attainable. Hell, I'd walk to Pacoima for quarter gram of dope. But in this effort, is the undeniable self-admission that what I am doing is something I really want, and anybody with half a wit knows it's far easier to stomach not getting what you want when you slept through it, compared to when you actually put in the effort. That sucks! That hurts! And for me avoiding sucking was worth not showing up for three decades. I did however finally realize the erroneous memo that I did get which allowed three decades to slip by, that memo......"don't sweat it, you can do it tomorrow".