Boys to men: Jewish education helps prepare kids for life


Raising three boys to be well-rounded, menschy men isn’t easy, and I admit to making one or two mistakes (per hour) in my efforts to guide my sons toward actions that reflect soulfulness, integrity and compassion.

As my children grow, so do my expectations of their accountability for their decisions. However, there is much that I — that all of us — can do, as our sons lurch toward manhood. In partnership with their educators, we can make a difference in helping them become stand-up young men.

Seeing the impact of an ethically based Jewish high school, both as a parent and as a professional in the school, I’ve witnessed much to give me hope. This is in spite of all the news spotlighting boys walking onto campuses to vent rage and fear with bullets, and young men at colleges assaulting women.

As an educator, I’ve witnessed how much of an effect the parent-educator partnership can have. I’ve seen boys who have reacted in anger to classroom situations learn to recognize the triggers and articulate frustration productively. I’ve seen young men poke fun at weaker kids on one day, then, weeks later, encourage those same kids when they’re teamed up on a soccer field. I’ve seen shy freshman boys who tease girls at the lockers later become superb co-leaders with young women in student government. 

All of this requires parents to engage with educators, giving context to the students’ situation, expressing hopes for their children’s maturation and staying consistent on a plan of action. Meanwhile, teachers, deans and administrators must spend ample time talking, setting boundaries and goals, and following through with the young men and their parents.

I do not profess to have easy answers. Negative things can happen in spite of all the right efforts. However, I do believe in the power of a parent-school commitment to painstakingly and repeatedly teach our boys values and behavior that help them navigate their emotions and the expectations placed on them by a society that too often rewards aggression.

One of my conclusions: Leading by example trumps everything. So many times, I have lectured my boys with a torrent of words, only to realize they don’t hear much of it. What they do gather are my actions. When they’ve seen me disagree with their mother, they’ve watched me listen to her side as much as argue my own. And when I’m wrong, I admit it (even if it’s long after the argument). When greeted by a homeless person asking for money, they’ve witnessed how I say hello and often give something, usually a food item, because I want to stress that ignoring someone in need is a missed opportunity to have a direct impact. 

I’ve also discovered that there may be no skill more important than communication. Being able to articulate an idea, concern or feeling can make life much easier in everything from business to personal relationships. This is especially important for guys to learn because, even in this more egalitarian age, males still find it difficult to express their emotions and needs, which sometimes results in the building up of tension that gets released negatively.

As an educator at a Jewish high school, I’ve noted how role modeling and communication can be addressed through tradition and text. This is why we commit a year’s worth of assemblies to hearing senior students give presentations, called drishat shalom (messages of peace and wholeness). The students each summarize a piece of Jewish text, explaining what the text has taught them about particular values and recommending ways younger students can apply the values. 

It is also why we gather our entire school for a yearly off-campus Shabbaton. Some of the programming is led by kids from all grade levels and allows them the time to value their relationships with one another and with their teachers. Because faculty often bring family with them, students see first-hand how these adults model the values they espouse.

Of course, teachers and pupils need to notice when students seem upset. When necessary, an experienced school counselor and the parents must be brought into the loop.

I feel so fortunate to raise my boys in partnership with an ethics-based Jewish school. Although I am still ultimately responsibile for rearing my children, I don’t have to be the only role model, and I don’t have to do all of the complicated explaining of why character counts so much. In these ways, I am more confident that my boys, and the many others who are educated similarly, can become the kind of role models and communicators who will make the world a little safer and better.

Orthodox youth not immune to high-risk lifestyles


A few weeks ago, Joel Bess gathered his group of 15 teenage boys and took them to the funeral of a 21-year-old who had died of an overdose. Like the teenagers, the youth who died was Orthodox and didn’t fit the yeshiva mold and wound up on a path of high-risk behavior.
After the funeral, Bess — the son of a prominent rabbi who spent his teenage years and beyond in a whirl of self-destruction — asked the boys to write their own epitaphs on pictures of blank tombstones.
 
“I wanted them to think about how people would remember them and what they would say about their lives,” said Bess, who is now 29, a father of three and has a strong relationship with his own father.
 
Bess knows how hard it is not to fit in, to fall and then to muster the strength to move toward health of body and soul.
 
“Almost all my friends ended up dead or in jail, and I’m trying to prevent that with these kids,” he said.
 
He has been meeting weekly with the boys for about nine months through Issues Anonymous, a group he helped found.
 

My son, the plumber. Amen.

 
On a hot abandoned Granada Hills playground surrounded by waves of wheat-colored brush, Rabbi Mayer Schmukler looks around and sees the future. Rather than the overgrown jungle gym and dusty rows of red Little Tikes cars at the site that once was the North Valley JCC, he sees a soccer field, a refurbished pool, maybe tennis courts behind the new dorm buildings.
 
Last year, Schmukler, a Chabad-trained rabbi, brought 15 boys to this eight-acre site to pilot JETS — Jewish Education Trade School. This year he’s got 35 boys praying, studying Torah and training to be carpenters, plumbers, chefs and elevator repairmen.
 
Schmukler is keenly aware that a Jewish vocational school faces some deeply ingrained prejudices.
 
“Everyone feels that if a Jewish kid has to become a plumber it’s a sad situation, that really he should be a lawyer or an accountant, or a rabbi,” Schmukler says.
 
But some kids aren’t cut out for academic rigor. Leaving them in a mismatched environment often leads them toward self-destructive paths to failure.
 
“We take kids that maybe have low self- esteem and show them they are good at something — or we make them good at something — and show them they can make it in this society,” said Schmukler with a smile that never leaves his eyes or his mouth, hidden though it is in his untamed beard.
 
JETS doesn’t take the most hard-core cases. Boys have to be drug-free for 12 months to get into the program, and there is mandatory drug testing every two weeks.
 
But some of his kids come from broken homes, or have emotional, learning or behavioral challenges. Most of them live on campus in classrooms converted into dorms.
 
JETS, an independent nonprofit, employs teachers, social workers, dorm counselors and a psychologist. Students get personal counseling, and classes in ethics and time management and organization as well as high-school equivalency preparatory classes.
 
It was the combination of industry and ethics that won Schmukler a California Regional Consortium for Engineering Advances in Technological Education grant and award from the National Science Foundation in May 2006.
 
Most of the trade classes are offered at College of the Canyons, an accredited community college in Santa Clarita that provides work force training.
 
Last year, the boys built a skateboarding ramp. This year, they’re building a house, from computer modeling to reading the blueprints to carpentry, plumbing, electricity and the finishings.
 
Some of the classes, such as cooking, take place at JETS. The school is building a state-of-the-art kosher kitchen, and hopes to open a kosher culinary school to the public.
On Shabbats when they stay in, boys prepare meals for each other. They have also taken trips to the Grand Canyon and Northern California.
 
Schmukler’s approach to discipline is to help the boys self-motivate. Smoking, for instance, is not prohibited. But boys can only smoke alone, and only in designated spots that might be a half-acre from the action. There is no wake up call in the morning — boys need alarm clocks to rouse themselves. Free time is scheduled up with classes in kickboxing or karate, and a whole set of bikes and the old JCC gym facilities are available to the guys.
 
Schmukler has bigger plans for the campus, and he is a strong fundraiser. He worked for years as the development director for Chabad’s Russian program, where he first set up teen centers in West Hollywood. JETS has an annual budget of about $1 million, and Schmukler works his connections well. He’s already raised $5 million for the purchase of the campus and got an adjacent parcel donated.
 
Schmukler is also giving space to the JCC for offices and some programming, and is working out further arrangements with them. He says he wants JETS to be a center for Jewish unity, especially because no one can forget the 1999 rampage by Buford O. Furrow, who wounded five people at this JCC and then killed postal worker Joseph Ileto.
 
“Because of that I really believe something positive has to come from here,” Schmukler says. “Judaism is positive, and if you open up with something positive, we’ve won.”
 
For more information, visit www.jetsschool.org or call (323) 228-5905.

 
— JGF

Issue Anonymous is one of several new programs that have emerged in the last few years to serve the Orthodox community, giving kids, their parents and local high schools more resources and options than have ever been available in Los Angeles.
 
At Issues Anonymous, the boys can express themselves freely — which they did on the blank tombstones.
 
“To our beloved son, we loved you and we wish we could have been there for you,” one of them wrote.
 
“He died on the road to recovery. He meant well and he tried hard. Had he lived longer he would have made some big differences. He will be missed by the select few that he touched.”
“We loved you, and we will miss you. You were a good friend, son and brother. You really were nice and smart.”
 
And then simply, “I hope I rest in peace.”
 
For these youths, the introspection and repentance of Yom Kippur is a full time, ongoing pursuit.
 
For nearly two decades, it has been an open secret in the Los Angeles Orthodox community that some kids are turned off by religious observance and high academic standards, and they end up turning to truancy, alcohol, unsafe sex or drugs.
 
Once on that path, many of the boys feel let down or pushed out by their schools, families or both. They feel hated by the community, and especially lost because they don’t feel they belong anywhere else. They call themselves screw-ups, and worse.
 
Some of them take a high school equivalency exam — or not — and get sent off to Israel or to yeshivas outside of Los Angeles. Some land in rehab, in jail, on the streets — or dead.
They are Sephardic, Ashekenazic and Persian. Their families are Chasidic and Modern Orthodox.
And to those who know them well, they are loveable boys who just need someone to believe in them.
 
“I think the community needs to embrace these kids with love,” says Debbie Fox, director of Jewish Family Service’s Aleinu Family Resource Center, who brought Bess in to start Issues Anonymous when four mothers approached her looking for help.
 
“I know that people are afraid that the kids will influence others. But that doesn’t mean we don’t create a place for them,” she said. “It means we need to look at how to balance things and how to do things safely and acknowledge that they are part of our community. We cannot sacrifice these kids — and they’re really beautiful kids.”
 
Los Angeles’ Orthodox community now offers some organized solutions for these boys — though none have been put forth for girls, even while most observers agree that, too, is needed.
 
The Jewish Educational Trade School (JETS), a vocational boarding school for boys who weren’t cut out for the academic rigor of yeshiva, started meeting last year at the North Valley Jewish Community Center. This year 35 boys spend part of each school day studying Torah and high school equivalency, and part of their day learning trades, such as elevator or air conditioning repair, or construction.
 
But JETS doesn’t take in the hard-core boys. Students have to have been drug-free for at least a year, and they are tested regularly.
 
Boys who are currently using drugs are welcome at Issues Anon and Aish Tamid, an organization Rabbi Avi Leibovic founded six years ago to provide a welcoming environment and support services.
 
Leibovic’s latest venture is Pardes/Plan B, a program that combines Torah study, outdoor adventure, counseling and high-school equivalency preparation. The program started in mid-September and, so far, the reports are positive.
 

Pardes: School, But Not
 
Pardes meets at Congregation Shaarei Tefila on Beverly Boulevard, where the boys pray every morning. Then they go out on a trip — hiking, bowling, boating — all the while imbibing bits of wisdom from their teacher, Rabbi Ari Guidry, and a social worker who has had years of experience with this population in New York.
 

“The rabbi is awesome,” says Aharon (boys names have been changed to protect their privacy). “He’s not like a typical rabbi. He knows how to treat us — like the humans that we are.”
Aharon has always been a good student and hopes to go to college; he is excited about the academic subjects being taught by End Result, an organization with great success in running classes in juvenile detention centers.
 

Aharon’s mother is glad he chose Pardes.
 

“Pardes is not going to be top-notch academic experience, but for me it is much more important that his soul is intact,” she said. “I believe that this year he can work on himself; he can set his own spiritual compass to know in which direction he needs to go to find true happiness in life.”
 

She is one of the mothers who approached Fox last year to start Issues Anon, after she realized that Aharon was doing drugs, taking the car out in the middle of the night when he was 14 or 15, and messing up in school.
 

“Anything I tried to do in terms of controlling him and where he was going and what he was doing didn’t work,” said Aharon’s mother, who also attends a parent support group offered by Aish Tamid.
 

Leibovic, a 33-year-old YULA graduate who can personally relate to what these kids are going through, was one of the first in Los Angeles to try to organize programs for this population. He started with post-high school young men and then expanded to the younger set.
 

Aish Tamid has Shabbat programs, career fairs, study groups and the popular Teen at the Bean, a weekly discussion and study session at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on Beverly Boulevard.

 
Mostly, Leibovic, a father of six and a full-time attorney, has made himself and a growing staff of social workers and counselors available to the boys and their parents at all hours, giving individualized guidance about everything from rehab centers to family therapy to finding employment.
 

Leibovic is still trying to find funding for Pardes. Young men who have been through Aish Tamid programs donated a van worth $22,000. Pardes only has enrolled a half-dozen students.
Leibovic is hoping eventually to fill the van with 13 kids. He said he knows of about 10 kids in need who aren’t in any program, but are still holding out to get into one of the local yeshivas, which historically haven’t dealt well with these kids.
 

“There is no way that any one school can cater to all of the students we have in our community,” said Rabbi Avrohom Stulberger, dean of Valley Torah High School. “A school’s job is to be as broad as possible and needs to see themselves as embracing and accommodating as they can be. But as good as a school can be, there is no way we can do it all.”
 

While high school principals are grateful for programs like Pardes and JETS, they know there is work to do in making such programs acceptable to the boys and their families.
 

“I think there is still a stigma in the eyes of the children about going to these schools,” said Rabbi Dovid Landesman, principal of YULA. “We have to work on the psychology to make kids accept that these schools are more suited to their needs, because I really think both of these schools [Pardes and JETS] are a bracha to the community.”
 

Issues Anon: Steak and Free Expression
 

Yossi has managed to stay at YULA through his senior year, with an inclusion aid to help him through Attention Deficit Disorder. He started smoking marijuana at summer camp after 10th grade, and then he started popping his dad’s Atavan and Valium.
 

“I really messed up my whole 11th grade year, but I was on drugs so I didn’t care,” he says.
He fights with his father, but has a close relationship with his mother. She got him into rehab, which allowed him to stay in school. Yossi’s been clean 90 days.
 

He attributes much of his success to Issues Anon, the Jewish Family Service Wednesday night group that Joel Bess runs with social worker Howie Shapiro.
 

“This is the one thing I look forward to every week, and it’s really helped me a lot,” says Yossi, at a recent dinner at La Gondola.
 

The boys were there to celebrate milestones — some had just started school, some were chalking up months of sobriety, some were just happy to still be getting up in the morning. (All of them were grateful for the glistening heaps of ribs and giant sized steaks on their plates.)
 

Some of the boys wear kippahs and some don’t, some have spiky coifs or buzz cuts, and several of them sport large Jewish stars around their necks and pants sagging well below their hips.
Regular meetings start with the boys jotting down an issue, all of which are then read aloud, without revealing the source, and discussed. The guys give each other advice about how to get through their issues.

 
Tonight, many of them note their sobriety counts — a year and half, 90 days, two months — “and I better start feeling some of those changes promised,” one of them quips to Bess.
“I threw out all of my stuff two weeks ago,” another announces, to the applause of the group.
“Damn, you should have given it to me,” another jokes.

 
“My mom kicked me out again,” a boy says quietly.

“Cool! Are you sleeping at my house tonight?” his friend asks hopefully.

 
Behind the jokes, the cursing and goofing off, the kids are there for each other.
“If you see these kids sitting in the back of the classroom goofing off, you get one impression,” says Shapiro, the social worker. “But when you hear them talking about what they don’t get from their parents or how they fell through the cracks, it’s really amazing the depth with which they can describe what they are feeling and what they need. But the school administration and the parents don’t see that depth. They just see the GPA and the drug use.”

 
The kids in the group have become close friends and relate easily to Bess, who runs a division of an infomercial company and has a hip style the kids are comfortable with. They call him or knock on his door at all hours, and he welcomes them.

 
“I feel like I can do things now. Before I wasn’t able to do anything,” says Zev, who has been clean for a year and half and is being schooled at a private home in the valley.
Zev is one of many siblings from a Chasidic home. He has an abusive father and a supportive mother. When he was only 9 or 10 years old, he got his first taste of weed in shul on Simchat Torah.
 

He’s 15 now but looks a lot older, with a scraggly beard, big eyes that hold your gaze, and a quiet voice.
 
He is a leader — several boys say it was Zev who got them started on drugs. Now, at Issues Anon meetings, they turn to him for support in staying sober. And it was Zev who instituted the idea of starting each meeting with gratitude — going around and saying something positive about your week, or your life.
 
Tonight, Yossi is proud of 90 days sober. And like the other boys around the table, his goals are basic.

 
“I just don’t want to f*** up anymore,” Yossi says. “I want to get my life together and to be able to go through stuff without relapsing. I just want to be able to function like a normal person.”
 

www.aishtamid.org (323) 634-0505
www.jfsla.org/aleinu (323) 761-8816

Seeking Redemption


In college, I tutored in a maximum-security prison for kids
who had committed violent crimes. I met a 17-year-old boy there who
had killed a 16-year-old boy earlier that year. He had been
tried as an adult and sentenced to life. Though we were only together for a
couple sessions, he left an impression that to this day still haunts me.

He kept a cracked, yellowed newspaper photo of his victim in
his pocket. And he would constantly pull it out, unfold it, gaze at it, then
put it back in — only to remove it again and stare at it some more.

The sentencing judge not only made the boy finger his
victim’s personal effects, he also made him wear the dead boy’s clothes. The
boy told me he even had to put his victim’s jacket, and it made him feel
“spooked.” “Like I didn’t know that this kid was, like, a human being or
something,” the boy said. It was the judge, in fact, who told him to keep the
boy’s photo.

But the judge never told him he had to look at it forever.

And yet he couldn’t let it go. It was as if by staring at
this two-dimensional image he was trying to reconstruct some three-dimensional
persona. As if a kind of understanding would emerge, a way of grappling with
the magnitude of his actions.

It was this relationship — these two boys, total strangers
now bound forever by one horrible deed — that was the initial inspiration for
“Levity.”

In researching the movie, I spent time with a lot of people
who had committed murder when they were kids. I met some through youth groups,
others through church and community programs. Some I interviewed extensively,
others I just followed around for a while. They were all different ages, yet
each had in common that he was trying to come to terms with the consequences of
what he’d done. Some (those who believed in God) were trying on a spiritual
level, others (those who didn’t) on a secular level. For all of them it was a
kind of obsession.

The other thing they had in common was a sense of futility.
At the end of the day, none actually thought he could ever make up for his mistakes.

When I sat down to write the script, I called a friend,
Naomi Levy, who was a rabbi at a Conservative temple in Venice. I told her I
wanted to tell a story that questions whether any number of so-called “good”
acts can outweigh one very bad one. And I told her I want the central character
to not believe in God. (It seemed to me that if he believed in God, there would
be more of a proscribed path for him to follow, and that was too easy.) I asked
her what my protagonist might have read that would underscore his belief that
he would never be redeemed.

Naomi pointed me to Maimonides, a 12th-century Talmudic
scholar who wrote about the five steps one must follow to achieve redemption.
The last three involve making right with your neighbor, making right with God
and being in the same place and behaving differently.

“Levity’s” central character, Manual Jordan, knows he can’t
return the dead boy like a stolen chicken. And he doesn’t believe in God. And
since he is convinced that time makes certain one is never in the same place
twice, Manual knows there’s no hope for him.

But Manual has a conscience, and he’s obsessed with trying
to salvage some version of a life. And even though he knows his is perhaps a
lost cause, he desperately wants his somewhat hesitant presence on the planet
to not be wasted. So he bumbles and stumbles, disconnected from the flow, never
really knowing where he’s going, yet somehow guided by what may be seen as his
best intentions.

So often I think we feel our behavior as individuals doesn’t
have any effect; that what we do doesn’t really matter. “Levity” looks at how,
to the contrary, the world around us can actually hinge on our individual
actions. What we do can have direct, instantly determinable consequences, or
our words and actions can ripple away behind us, in subtle ways we never know
and could certainly never predict.

For instance: the boy who started this whole thing off. At
18 — just two weeks after we met — he was transferred to a state penitentiary.
I never heard from him again. My guess is he’s still there. And he’d certainly
have no recollection of our time together — I was one of dozens of tutors. So
there’s no way he could possibly imagine how our brief conversation had any
effect on anything. Most likely, he was just trying to get out of talking about
math and English.

But, looking back, if I follow the steps that lead to this
very moment, right now, as I sit at this table writing this piece, I arrive at
that image of that nearly 18-year-old staring at that photograph of that
eternally 16-year-old.

And I think about how those two boys — completely unknowingly
— changed my life. Â


Ed Solomon makes his feature directing debut with “Levity,” which he also wrote. The film opens April 4 in Los Angeles and New York.

Rabbi Jailed


A rabbi accused of molesting three boys at a Chabad elementary school was arrested Dec. 3 and remained at the L.A. Men’s Central Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail as The Journal went to press.

Rabbi Mordechai Yomtov’s arrest on 10 felony counts of committing lewd acts with children came following an investigation by the LAPD after three boys, ages 8 to 10, reported last month that Yomtov was keeping each of them alone in the classroom and molesting them while the other children were at recess.

Yomtov, 36, an Australian-born rabbi with a wife and four children, pleaded not guilty. A preliminary hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court is set for Dec. 17.

Yomtov has taught 8- to 10-year-olds for six years at Cheder Menachem, a school with 220 boys, kindergarten through eighth grade, on Melrose Avenue in the Beverly Boulevard-La Brea Avenue neighborhood.

The school issued a written statement following the arrest: "Due to the sensitivity of the issues involved and to protect the privacy of our students, parents, teachers and staff, the school will be making no public comment." The statement went on, "We request that our privacy be respected. The school is cooperating fully with all applicable authorities."

Rabbi Chaim Cunin, spokesman for West Coast Chabad, expressed deep pain at the incident and said the school is doing everything possible to cooperate with the authorities.

"In over 36 years and in well over 30 schools that are under the Chabad umbrella on the West Coast, we have never had to deal with anything remotely similar to this," he said. "It is very painful to even be having this conversation."

Cunin said Chabad has arranged for therapists and psychiatrists to come to the school and give the parents, teachers and children the tools they need to deal with the incident. "We are doing everything we can do to be there for the community and the school and the parents, and we are doing anything and everything we can to make sure nothing like this should, God forbid, ever happen again, not in our school or in any school or in any community," he said.

Mental health professionals familiar with the situation said the school seems to be taking all the correct restorative steps to help students, parents and staff cope.

Dr. David Fox, a clinical psychologist and Orthodox rabbi who is not involved with the Cheder Menachem case, said situations of abuse in the Orthodox community arouse feelings of "shock and grave disappointment."

"We expect our people to conform not just to the general standards of moral decency, but to the Torah system. We expect observant Jewish people to function at the highest level of regard for people’s welfare and for own moral welfare," he said, adding that nonetheless, in the last seven years or so, "there has been a lot more openness in discussing these issues in discreet forums, and, more and more, the rabbinic community is making use of Orthodox mental health professionals who have specialized training in both prevention and treatment of perpetrators and their victims."

Fox himself is a leader in Nefesh, the International Association of Orthodox Mental Health Professionals, which, in conjunction with several Orthodox umbrella organizations, put together a think tank in September 2000 to develop prevention models for the Jewish community.

Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS), a beneficiary agency of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, has an Orthodox Counseling Division staffed by Orthodox professionals sensitive to the particular cultural and religious milieu of the community.

And, Fox said, he has seen a rise both in the number of articles in rabbinic journals dealing with maladaptive behavior, and in conferences targeting youth leaders, mikvah personnel and educators, to train them how to spot abuse or potentially abusive situations.

Still, he acknowledged, "There has not been an overwhelmingly unanimous receptiveness, because many of these groups hail from a tradition where the problems are dealt with very discreetly and in-house, and they shun publicity."

Resistance to preventive and educational programs is not exclusive to the Orthodox community, said Sally Weber, director of Jewish Community Programs for JFS, which has developed Steps to Safety, an abuse prevention program involving children, parents and educators that has been presented at some Los Angeles preschools and day schools.

There are still a lot of barriers to realizing that this happens in the Jewish community and in Jewish schools. There is a certain resistance to the urgency of it," she said.

Weber is meeting this week with several Orthodox principals to review the program and see what changes would be necessary to make the script more appropriate for the observant community.

The program involves one session each for teachers, parents and children. It begins with training educators to spot signs of abuse and reviewing the legal issues around reporting suspected abuse. JFS also works with schools to have a system in place so that any abuse can be handled appropriately and efficiently.

JFS professionals let parents know what their children will be learning and teach them how to talk to their children about body privacy and abuse. The program for children, tailored to age levels, reviews what is inappropriate behavior, how to get out of uncomfortable situations, and how to tell a trusted adult.

One Orthodox mental health professional says the work should not be left just to schools, but should begin at home with children as young as preschool age.

"The children need to be taught how and when to say no; they need to be taught that anytime an adult says ‘don’t tell your Mommy or Daddy,’ that you have to tell, even if they [the adult] says Mommy and Daddy won’t love you," she said.

Fox said that while he and other professionals are not adopting an attitude of "I told you so," there is a certain satisfaction in knowing that cases like the one at Cheder Menachem, devastating as it is, can only help increase awareness.

"There’s always been a kill-the-messenger attitude in religious circles when someone blows the whistle or tries to alert those in charge to the presence of a deviant or a molester or an abuser," Fox said. "Everyone used to hush these things up, and no one likes to be reminded that these pathologies can seep into religious circles. But when, to our chagrin, some of these situations do attract publicity, there is some satisfaction in the mental health community that now, maybe we will take appropriate steps to offer some prevention."

For more information on Steps to Safety, contact Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles at (323) 761-8800. Anyone with information relating to this case should call the LAPD’s Sexually Exploited Child Unit, Monday thru Friday at (213) 485-2883. On weekends and evenings, call the Detective Information Desk at (877) 529-3855.