As part of my work within the United Synagogue (for those who don’t know I run a fortnightly minyan in Edgware United) I was require to attend a Child Protection Seminar at Raleigh Close this week.
It was an excellent seminar, which allowed us to better understand the huge areas that Child Protection needs to cover.
The first part of the seminar dealt with examining the various areas of child abuse that the government has categorised – Physical Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Sexual Abuse and Neglect.
She then said: ‘What children see is what children do’, meaning that in homes of neglect or other types of abuse they can grow up with such wrong messages which they presume are right, as that is what they have seen growing up. It can have long lasting impact.
When the trainer was going through the category of Neglect, she read out the government definition – it really got me thinking.
‘Neglect is defined as a pattern of failing to provide for a child’s basic needs whether it be adequate food, clothing, hygiene or shelter which will likely result in the serious impairment of a child’s health or development.’
My shocking thought was that I could rewrite the definition of Neglect for the Jewish community!
Jewish Neglect is defined as a pattern of failing to provide for a child’s basic Jewish needs whether it be adequate observance of Shabbat, kosher food, celebration of chagim or involvement in shul life which will likely result in the serious impairment of a child’s spiritual health or Jewish identity
As the JPR found out in their ground-breaking study on Jewish Identity in 2014 that ‘found that the impact of Jewish educational programmes combined was six times weaker than the impact of Jewish upbringing on most aspects of Jewish identity’
Bottom line, as I have said so many times before – the Jewish home is where Jewish identity is won and lost.
We see this in the parsha.
Vayera opens with Avraham inviting guests to his home and making sure that Yishmael and eventually Yitzchak could see the midot of chesed practised in the home – the cradle of Jewish identity.
As Avraham showed us, the only way to spread a love of Judaism and to educate in a real way is to create an environment where people will be exposed to the beauty of Judaism.
It is the same for us.
Avraham didn’t just talk Judasim, he lived it and invited people in to see it – speeches don’t change people, people change people. Avraham showed people how to live, showed people the beauty of a monotheistic belief and showed people hospitality of the highest order.
Yes, he taught – but his education was hands on.
A Jewish child can know all his Jewish months, all the dates of the battles in Jewish History and all the laws of the festivals. However if he or she doesn’t see the beauty of a Shabbat at home or touch the lulav and etrog that their Dad brings home, or hear the melodies in shul for Shabbat and Yom Tov or smell the Yom Tov meal cooking in the kitchen or taste the kneidelach on a Friday night – then all it is, is just talk.
Child protection is vital – we have a duty to look out for it and report it, the seminar really highlighted the challenges of the 21st century and how it affects children and their lives.
Our children’s Jewish identity is just as vital and we know that as parents we are the ones responsible for so much of our child’s Jewish identity in the home and Jewish environment we build for them.
What they see is what they will eventually do – let’s make sure they see Torah, Chesed, community and a life devoted to God and Halacha.
Avraham started it
We dare not neglect it!
Rabbi Andrew Shaw