This morning, I walked past my building on the way to the Kotel at 7am – and saw an older man slapping what appeared to be a sleeping teenage boy on one of the benches outside my home.
That got my attention.
I was walking up behind the man, so he didn’t notice me watching him. He didn’t notice me watching him do something utterly disgusting to the teenage boy, who I quickly realized was unconscious.
I was so angry, I started yelling at him in my very poor spoken Hebrew: “What are you doing?!? Leave him alone!!! What are you doing to him?!?”
The man turned around, and started telling me that he’d called Magen Dovid Adam, and that the boy had asked him for help before collapsing unconscious on the bench, because he’d been kicked out of his house.
I was pretty sure I’d seen what I’d seen, but not 100%.
So I tried arguing with him a bit more, and then he switched to English (he was a Russian man) and told me more of the boy’s story. The boy had been kicked out, asked him for help, he’d phoned Magen Dovid Adam, then the boy effectively went unconscious.
I decided: I am staying with this boy until something gets sorted out here, and he’s safe.
I ignored the old Russian man (who I’m still convinced was a pervert), and tried talking to the boy. He had his eyes scrunched shut and was in the fetal position. He was clearly traumatized and shocked – not least by the assault on his person that the old Russian pervert had tried to pull off.
But the main thing I could feel coming off that kid in waves was fear: fear of his parents. Fear of what his parents would say once the police showed up, and they were informed that he’d been found half-frozen to death, on a bench in Baka on a Shabbat morning.
The kid was reasonably well-dressed, and seemed to be between 14-15 and orthodox. He had braces and a smart small suitcase with him, good shoes – the family that had kicked him out clearly had at least an average amount of cash.
I told the kid my address, and tried to get him to move off the bench, and come up with me to my apartment – but he couldn’t move. He was literally frozen with fear.
Just then, the police showed up, and the ambulance, and they bodily lifted him on to a chair, and took him away in the ambulance.
The whole scene shook me up tremendously, and I walked off to the Kotel in a bit of a daze.
What sort of 'frum' people could kick their own kid out of the house, on a Friday night, and leave them to be preyed on by the perverts that sadly even walk the streets of the holy city?
I was so disturbed by it all.
Keeping up with the Cohens
When I got home, my kids woke up and I told them I’d found a kid on a bench outside who’d been kicked out of his house by his parents, and did they know anyone else that had happened to? (I left out the bit about the Russian pervert – it was intense enough as it was.)
I was stunned when they told me they knew quite a few people themselves that it happened to.
“Why?” I wanted to know. “Why are the parents kicking their own kids out of the house?”
Sometimes, it’s because they’d been having a big argument. (That happens, and it can happen a lot with teenagers, where a parent says something stupid, gets all their buttons pressed, and then a bad situation turns into an absolute disaster.)
Other times, they told me the kids were being kicked out because the kid had started smoking.
Way to go, retarded parents! Kicking the kid out is the single best way to encourage him to add a drug habit to a smoking habit.
And then the last reason they told me was the most disturbing of all: parents are kicking kids out, because of shidduchim. Apparently, they don’t want to look ‘bad’ that they have a troubled kid at home, so they decide it’s better to send these 14-15 year old struggling souls out on the streets.
I literally couldn’t believe my ears.
Someone, please tell me that this can’t be true? That a supposedly ‘frum’ parent would kick out their own flesh and blood – to be abused and preyed on, on the street – just because that kid is having trouble keeping Shabbat?
I have no words.
So let me end with another plea to all the parents out there who may be reading this:
Please, please, please, love your children unconditionally, with all your might. Give way as much as you can, accept them as much as is possible, keep anger and pride out of the parenting equation any way you can.
I know it’s hard to parent teens these days – I have two myself. But I tell you this:
God will not easily forgive a parent who kicks an underage kid out on to the street just to keep up the appearance of being a heimishe family.
It’s the height of hypocrisy. It’s the height of disgusting. It's the polar opposite of what authentic, orthodox Jewish parenting and chinuch is really about.
And if that’s what is passing for normal behavior in certain sections of the frum world – then we're in big, big trouble.
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I will be migrating this blog over to a new site at: rivkalevy.com