Do Our Schools  Need a Reboot?

14

The following harrowing account of a young Neshama that didn’t quite fit in is based upon a recent interview that Reb Avrohom Klein gave to R. Dovid Lichtenstein on Headlines:

Malky was a sweet neshama. She’s our number four in the family of five. She went to a Beis Yaakov, the same place that her sister went. Her older sister. And, as young as age four, one of the teachers pointed out that we should take her for evaluation. I’m assuming they saw something off – to a degree. They told us to take her to an evaluation at the Board of Ed. We did that and the Board of Ed said, “Oh, she’s going to grow up to be running for public office one day.”

But they approved her for what’s called P3 which is some additional funding for the school so they can add one-on-one services. I think they call it Resource Room.

That was at a very young age and everything was fine. At least that’s what we thought.

When she was a little older we had to do it again, because they approve only until age five or six easily. At that time I had to write a letter because from the school’s perspective, from our perspective, she needed a little extra help, a little extra push. So, they provide resources one-on-one. In addition to all that, throughout the years, we always helped provide her with tutoring, et cetera.

All throughout this time, she was really what seemed like happy go lucky. She had a million friends, so we thought. She went to friend’s homes. She had tons of friends come to our home. As a matter of fact, we have a phone system in the house that has four lines. There were times where every single was taken. It was, “Malky line one. Malky, line two. Malky, line three.”

It seemed that everything was great. She wasn’t performing as well as her older siblings, but we were not that concerned, because to us, it wasn’t all about academics if she’s happy. So she doesn’t know it that well, and if with extra help she can actually do better, it’s fine. So they’re able to grow up to be a Yiddish momma, raising their nice, Yiddish family, and so she won’t become an accountant, she won’t become a lawyer and that’s just fine.

That wasn’t the way. The way we looked at things throughout her years. She was pulled out of class quite a bit to have smaller groups where the school tried to help out. She actually got a lot of extra help. It happens to be that when she was in the beginning of second grade, one Friday night when she was sitting at the Shabbos table, all of a sudden she just blurted out saying, “My teacher says that I belong in the first grade.”

My wife and I looked at each other in a way, we did not know how to respond. After Shabbos my wife called the teacher and asked her, “How dare you?” That was the extent to what we did and from our point of view, we were hoping, at least, that this comment went over her head. We did not know that 15 years later she’ll still be talking about that comment.

And she said it in front of the whole class. As time went on, again, she seemed very happy. School work was not her focus, but friends was her focus. Friends, fun, et cetera. And to us, that was fine. It was okay. Of course, if we would compare, and we didn’t really compare, as parents. I guess one might have called us more progressive, but we didn’t really compare. It was okay. But, if comparing to her older siblings, this was something that was very, very far away from the other ones. All my kids, in Malky’s words, are over-achievers, and she considered herself an under-achiever. That’s the way she looked at it. It’s true, but all my kids are amazing, and so is Malky. But she was amazing in her own way – not necessarily being measured by academics.

Eventually, as she grew older and at age 14, she grew out of that particular system, and she needed to get into a high school. She had a very difficult time getting into a high school. Her report cards, a pre-requisite for the next school, did not say much. She had a hard time even getting an entrance exam or an interview, whatever they called it at that time.

Finally, she was accepted to a school. A very special person was the principal at that school, that principal knew our older daughter. I think she was her teacher or her principal at an earlier time in Beis Yaakov. She accepted her into that school. It was a relatively new school. She was registered much in advance, before the summer. The deposit was paid and she went off to camp.

We knew that she had the school and everything was great and since she had the high school, as a matter of fact, she had the high school in a place where a very special person is the principal and hopefully, with Hashem’s help she’ll do very well.

It happened to be in eighth grade, moving back the clock a little. She had a teacher that took great, great, beyond great interest in her, and really showed her that she believes in her. They became very, very close and she did extremely well in eighth grade, in a relative basis, but extremely well compared to earlier years.

She, one day, got up in the middle of the class, she stood up and she said, “I am a new person. I am going to perform. I am going to be somebody different than whatever you know about me in the past.” She made a whole announcement in class, it was cute.

She was accepted, it was the end of the winter, into that school, and into that high school, I’m assuming. I’m going to make an assumption, it may be a wild assumption, that they didn’t have that many registrants at that time. Coming to the end of the summer, all of a sudden, we got a notice in the mail, I think it was actually, and I think it was with a check if I remember correctly. I’m not sure, or maybe they said it was with a check, but we got a notice saying that she’s unaccepted.

I was actually out of town. I was overseas on business at that time. My wife went over and tried to talk and then nobody really was responding. She went to the principal’s home, I told her go there at 6am and try to catch her. Make sure that you’re standing in front of the door so that if she have to leave the house, she’ll have no choice but to walk right into you. I landed on a Friday morning from overseas and the first place I went from the airport directly to the school. Again, to the same thing. The school, I think it was maybe the first day or maybe a day before, I don’t remember exactly, and I was trying to again, talked, I said, “It was the first day of school or maybe a day or two before the first day and you can’t do this. This kid has no school.” Nobody was talking to me, it fell on deaf ears, so she ended without a school. That eighth grade teacher-

That very special person did not come to face us, and that was very disturbing at the time, but it was a lack of understanding a little bit from our side. A lot from our side, we just couldn’t understand what’s happening. Her eighth grade teacher got right into trying to make sure that she gets a school, finds a school, because that teacher really believed in her, and within a week or two, the time’s a little off. I’m a little foggy at this moment.

Just before Rosh Hashanah, she Boruch Hashem, was accepted in a school and again, it was a relatively new school, I don’t know if it was the first year or the second you’re they were operational. When she started school, she couldn’t go right before Rosh Hashanah because she didn’t have a uniform yet, or whatever it took a day or two to put this whole thing together and she started school two or three days later. She was excited, she has a school, she is a kid like everybody else. We went and we bought her a new briefcase with her initials engraved in it, which we ordered because new year, new school, new place, new briefcase. All we wanted to do is lift her up and make her happy and that briefcase ended up arriving during Sukkos, because we ordered it online.

She went to school, and of course her limited abilities on a scholastic level obviously was there. We told the school right in the beginning that she struggles with learning. We didn’t have a diagnosis yet. We were never advised to actually go and make a real evaluation besides at age four where it helped the school with the P3 program to help her out. But, never to a really doctor, or whatever you call them, to do an evaluation. So, we didn’t necessarily have a diagnosis, we just say like what most people see, maybe calling it lazy, maybe calling it not interested, disinterested, whatever we see as uneducated people in that field.

Once she was in that school, she did, I guess, the best that she could, which was not much because high school was already on a little bit on a different level, or much different level. She didn’t have any extra help. The school didn’t really have it. And, right after Sukkos we were called and we were told that she could no longer … Or it was just a couple of days, three or four days after Sukkos that they could not hold onto her anymore.

We asked why, and they start giving us a lot of shtusim:. She comes everyday with a new briefcase. I was explaining that she doesn’t come everyday with a new briefcase, she had one briefcase from last year and because she’s coming to a special school, I mean a new school, we wanted to make her feel good so we bought her a fresh, new briefcase for the new school and it arrived during sukkos that’s why you saw her with one briefcase before and now you’re seeing her with a second one.

Then they said she bring expensive nosh to school. I said, “What’s expensive nosh?” They said, “Oh, sour belts. We don’t believe in these kind of things” I said “Okay, so we’ll talk to her about it, she won’t bring sour belts. She’ll bring potato chips. That’s fine.” “She breaks the school rules.” I said, “What are those?” And she says, “You know, the kids go out lunchtime to buy foods,” because they didn’t have a kitchen, so it was a very small school, “But we don’t allow for the kids to eat in the pizza shop but only to buy the pizza and they have to bring it here and eat here. And she did eat it in the pizza shop.” I said, “Okay, that’s not a death sentence, I understand. Rules are rules and we’ll talk to her about it.”

So, we might not be that much aware of it. And then they said, “Oh, she buys expensive gifts for kids.” I said, “What’s that?” “She brought earrings for a kid in class that had a birthday.” And I said, “I know about those earrings, it was $20.” They said, “Yeah, but you know, we don’t believe in that.” I said, “Okay, I hear, but let’s understand a little bit where this child is coming from. She had a school, she didn’t have a school, she’s in a new school, a bunch of kids that she really doesn’t know, and maybe she likes that kid and maybe she’s trying to buy her friend. It’s not the end of the world, again, it’s not death sentence.” Ultimately they said that the truth of the matter is that she is not following along. She sits all day in the class and she looks out the window. She’s [foreign language 00:15:52] and a kid can’t survive like this in the class and I said that’s true. I agree. So, why don’t I offer you, let’s build a whole resource room specially for her, on my tab. Whatever you gotta do, do. I’ll pay for it. Just because she needs to have a school, she needs to be some place, and let’s help her out so she can perform as best as she possibly can.

Their response was how is she going to feel being out of the class half the day? I told them a whole lot better than being in the streets all day. That’s the one thing I do know. I don’t know how bad she’s going to feel out of the class half a day. They said they can’t, they really can’t. They can’t, they don’t feel they have the tools. They just don’t feel that it’s set up and I said, you know what? I respect you for it. I really do and I cannot force you to redo your whole school for her. So, let me go out. I’ll try to find a proper school for her.

But, I need to find a school first before she’s released from this place. I’m going to go home, I’m going to start working on it right away. I’ll reach out to people to try to find another alternative place for her. The argument went a little back and forth. I’m not going to say it was an argument, it was more of a civil discussion. We can’t, we don’t think its good. We don’t think it’s right. I said do me a favor, do me a favor, I’m going to work on it. I promise you right away I’ll work on it, but do not send her away before we have a school.

When we left, my wife and I left, we ended up doing some errands and stuff. By the time we came home, my daughter was already home. As a matter of fact, all her books were thrown around the den. She was on the floor and we through that she is dead because there was no movement. We didn’t know what’s going on. I went over to check if she has a pulse. And I found that she’s sleeping on the floor in the den. I’m assuming she cried, I don’t know what happened. She cried to a point where she just fell asleep, to a deep sleep. That night.

They threw her out. They threw her out right there and then. That was the end. She called … Our daughter called the principal that night and we happened to be, we overheard part of the conversation because we heard her talking in the room. She was crying and begging saying how I’m going to show you, I’m going to show you. You’re going to see, I’m going to do, I’m going to try. It didn’t go very far. The next day, someone told us to go to Mask and talk to RuchamaClapman.

And, we went to Mask and we, my wife and I, just to see how they can help. I have no clue. I never heard of Mask in the past, but maybe they can help. So, we went to Mask and we told her the whole story, basically whatever I just said. Maybe in more detail, and I remember she picked up the phone, and she actually called that principal and she said to that principal, “I just want you to know, that if you don’t do something about this, you will have blood on your hands.” She then made a phone call to some else. She was starting to tell that other person something that we’ve got to find a school, we’ve got to this, we have a child at risk.

My wife and I were looking at each other. We had no clue what this woman is talking about. We thought that something was wrong with it. What do you mean a child at risk? So she doesn’t learn that much. She’s cute, she’s sweet, she’s everything. And one of the things, every time my wife went to PTA throughout the years, and the teachers were saying she doesn’t follow along so well, yes, the extra help helps and all that, but in class itself, she has a very hard time following along. But, they always said but one thing, she never disturbs in class. Never. And my wife always came home being happy, saying you know, she’s so good. Whatever how bored she is, she doesn’t disturb. And, she was very well behaved.

So, we just completely didn’t understand what Ruchama was talking about. I think the next day maybe, I think my daughter met the principal in the pizza shop or something because she said she was trying to talk to her and make it good. Because Ruchama told her you must talk to the girl and do something. Anyway, they spoke. I don’t know what they spoke, but nothing happened came out of that. And for three months, basically, she was not in the streets, I mean, she was home, had no school, she kept on wearing that school uniform because she was so embarrassed that anybody, and she liked fashion. A school uniform was not her first choice of dress. But she walked around with the uniform. She walked around with the school uniform more than when she was in school because she needed to make a statement that she has a school.

It’s only then that one of the people that tried to help us out, it was one of the [foreign language 00:21:30]. A lot of people were trying to figure it out. One of them said take her for an evaluation and they suggested a doctor and Queens. So we did. We asked our daughter if she wants to go for an evaluation, and she said anything that’s going to help me get into a school, which, 14 year old submits herself to evaluations. It’s like, you calling me stupid or what? But she did. She went. It was there that we got basically a horrific report. A horrific diagnosis. That was the first time that anybody said go, and they gave us a [foreign language 00:22:06] to go. I mean, it was the whole thing of taking our child to evaluation didn’t even dawn on us because our kids do well.

And the really did, all of them did well. They were all top of the class. She behaved well, she seemed happy. So she doesn’t learn much. What? We going to evaluate her? So, we took her for evaluation, a few thousand dollars and a few days later we got that report. And now, we had, finally, a diagnosis. So now we started looking for a school that would actually fit her. And one that we looked around, I don’t remember the timeframe, the timelines, the chronologic orders of things, but one of the places that was suggested was OHEL -David Mandel.

I think he was the one that at that time he was suggesting Queens Central because he thought that they would have the right tools for her. I think I sent them in the evaluation and we never showed our daughter the evaluation because we thought that she shouldn’t be seeing it. He was suggesting Queens Central and he was asking, he says, “What are you Yiddish? You’re a little away, where do you belong”? And we told him, “Yeah, we are Hasidish, Spinkaand so he was telling me that I think it’s a wonderful place. The question is if you don’t have a hashkafa issue, with she’s going to go to that type of school, and as much as I maybe, I ask what is it? They said, “You know, your daughter might not be wearing skirts that long,” and things like that and he’s trying to give me a little explanation because I didn’t know what he was talking about. And I said, “Listen, it’s not what I prefer, but if that’s what’s good for her, than that’s how it should be.”

We approached our daughter, telling her about Queens Central and we told her where it is and all that and she did the maps with us and what it is going to take to get to school every day. It ended up that she would have to wake up at 6am in order to get to school. She said, “There’s no way in the world I’m going to wake up 6:00 in the morning to go to a school. To a school? I’m not waking up 6:00 in the morning.” I remember that I was to some degree, I was actually happy with that response, because now I won’t have any hashkaffa problem. I didn’t quite realize that a year later – everything would be very different.

I was misinformed, I mean personally misinformed. I didn’t have the right knowledge and also she didn’t want, and school was a very difficult place of her to be. I didn’t totally understand it at that time. Today I know more. So, she ended up not going there, and eventually there was a school that opened up mid-year and that wonderful person that I said I couldn’t get a hold of when they unaccepted her. That person made a school, she left that original school and she made a new school of her own. One of the reasons she made that new school and left her old school is because of these type of things. She felt that she sees way too much blood and tears going on and she can’t work within that organization and she made her own school.

It happens to be that during this period of time, these three months that she was out of school, we were looking to give this girl some … spend time with her. Give her some sense of activities. We did all different kinds of things. One of them was that someone suggested is this lady from Israel. I don’t know how you call something like that. I guess the female equivalent of a mekubal – I think she’s a great-granddaughter from the Ben Ish Hai. and so we took here there. I’m not a person that really goes for these things normally, but might as well. It would give her some kosher entertainment, so to speak.

So we took her, and she was here in America and it was interesting. We all went together and my daughter wanted to go because again, she was looking for things to do. When we went in, and she asks my daughter how is school? That was the first question. My daughter responded “Great.” And then she asks my daughter, and us for permission, can she possibly talk alone to her without us. And my daughter agreed and we left. And the first thing that she asked my daughter right afterwards, she said, “You don’t have a school do you?” Which was quite interesting.

And she, all of a sudden, my daughter started talking to her, explaining her ills and all that. Anyway, this lady, she writes Tehillimperscriptions. She opens the Tehillim at random places, I’m not sure exactly what, and she writes down a couple of things. You know, you say this, this, this everyday, blah, blah, blah. You know, she gives you some kepitelsor whatever. I don’t know exactly how that works. And she told her, say this for 40 days and I promise you, you’ll have a school.

Every day she said this tehillim regimen with such kavanna, sometimes she kept on. You know, it was late at night and she says, Oh Ta, I didn’t say my tehillim yet today. But you can’t say tehillim at night. I said no nonono, what the Torah says that you have to say this within every 24 hour cycle. Night or day doesn’t matter.

On the 40th day she came to me and she said Ta, today’s the 40th day. I’ve been doing this and I still don’t have a school.

I broke down and I started really worrying. I said what a stupid idea. Now I’m going to break her whole … Now somebody’s told her say telem and everything would be okay. And now, she is not going to believe in that either. That’s what I was thinking. That’s the first thing that came to my mind, right? And I said, “Oh, you never believe in this. Why did you tell your child to do that?” Anyway, my response was, after a moment of pause, was, “Malky, today is the 40th day. You finish your tehillim. You did yours. Now let Hashem work. You will see.”

A few days later we get a phone call. The school fell apart. That original school. And, it was my wife’s friend, friend of the family, actually.

And, so she was very busy. Back and forth, they’re going to meetings because there’s a new school being opened and students going here, students going there. Whatever. There’s a lot of politics. So, that was the call because she somehow, my wife called her and she didn’t call back so she called to explain why she wasn’t returning my wife’s calls. A day or two later, someone called up and said that that teacher, I mean sorry, that principal, which I said before, that wonderful woman, she said that the first thing that came out of this woman’s mouth when this whole thing fell apart is “Now I will be able to help Malky climb.” And they called her because they heard that. And then I said, “Can you do me a favor? Can you just tell me which day this whole thing fell apart?” It was the 40th day.

I went to Malky that time and I told her that this is what happens when you said talem 40 days. The school fell apart. That wonderful lady now is making her own school, and the first thing that came out of her mouth was that now I will be able to help Malky and so I think you will have a school now. She went for an interview and she went to that school, and she was there for the rest of the year. It was about Hanukkah time. She did very well, but she worked very, very hard. She, 24 hours a day, literally, besides sleeping itself. 24 hours a day she was busy with school. It was school and homework. You never saw her without having school paperwork in her hands. She came home from school, she didn’t even eat dinner at home. She grabbed her dinner, she made herself a schedule every single day about two or three or four tutors every single day. She set up her own schedule in the tutors. She came home. She grabbed her supper, she went to the first one. She ate it there during study and then she went from there to another, from there to another. And that’s what she did.

By the end of the year, before the end of the season, she actually passed two regions with a lot of help. She had a reader and she had all the help, but she passed two regents. And we, as parents we had tremendous yeshuah. And we saw a girl coming together to a degree as misguided as it would have been, a girl finally taking herself into her hand. And we said, “Wow, finally got to a turning point in her life.” Came the end of the year, she went to camp. Before going to camp, she said really, that school didn’t want me originally and I know she did it, and I know she said, and I know this, that, she wasn’t 100% happy. She was respectful. And it bothered her very much that she never ended up going to a school of her choice and now the choice is already, not the second choice, it’s already a third choice. And, she made calculations. Oh, now they want me, they need girls, you know? But whatever the case was, she was broken at that time to a degree. Not that we knew everything or saw everything. But, she went to camp. Things were happy. I think she went to Camp Agudah at that time, and when she came back she said, “That’s not the school I wanted to go, or I want to go. They didn’t want to accept me to begin with.”

She just had, it was things about it were irking her and it was hard to understand. She went to school by herself, she actually went to school, she wrote herself a note. She wrote herself actually talking points when she went to principal talking about trying to get into a school, into their school, I don’t have the note in front of me. But, it’s heart-wrenching to read that note. I only found it later on because I didn’t see it right away.

The note read as follows.

“Please hear me out. Before telling me no for the best reasons you may have, please give me a chance. It doesn’t matter who somebody may have been, it matters who they want to be. And who do I want to be is the best that I can be. I want to grow and change and work harder. I want to see what I’m capable of because I bet it’s a lot. Most importantly, I want to go to ____. I want to go to this school more than I’ve ever wanted anything. I’m not a faker, and everything I’m saying right now I really mean it. Please, Rabbi, please give me a chance. Please take it into consideration to accept me for the 10th grade. I know school starts in two weeks. But in five seconds anything can happen. Thank you for listening to me.”

So between Rosh Hassanah and Kippur, she kept on talking about she can’t, she can. She said you know, whatever other kids do in seconds takes me hours. I got to work my butt off to get things done. I just can’t. I can’t do it anymore. And I gave her encouraging words to the best of my ability. And pretty much, [foreign lanuage 00:36:38] Kippur, during the first [foreign launguage 00:36:43], she came to the table and I saw a different picture.

I saw a girl without a skirt, being somewhat that’s called a progressive. I didn’t say a thing. It’s in my house, no big deal. That’s where she should be feeling most comfortable. Maybe she’s just decided to come to the Sader with pajamas. That’s the way I looked at it and said I’m not going to say anything. She basically was wearing leggings and she ended up going that afternoon to my older daughter. She lives in Lakewood and she put on a skirt and she went there for Yom Kippur to help out with the kids and that was that. And I figure, okay, she put on a skirt again so it must be she just wasn’t comfortable or whatever it was. I didn’t exactly know what it means.

After Yom Kippur, she came back home. The next day, my wife actually had an appointment with her to go to a life coach or something, which she had the next day after Yom Kippur and she just came without a skirt and that’s the way she was going to go to the life coach and obviously the first reaction was like okay, this is not just at home, this is something new, something real. Within, you know just a few days earlier they were always, she kept on getting dollars and back and forth and all that from the school.

They kept on having a contest, it’s the neatest thing and all that. If you come with a top button closed you get a dollar or something. And I kept asking her who is up and who is down. Are you making some good money? And the school was happy. They were, they said it’s amazing what she’s doing. Little did we know, that everything we’re seeing over there, which we had so much [foreign language 00:38:39] of, was not really a child not really building but a child overheating. Which, all came to a crash at Yom Kippur. She didn’t slip, she didn’t slide, she didn’t change. She just jumped off a cliff without a parachute.

And that was when she said not more school. I’m not going anywhere. And she dropped everything that she knew before. Everything. She held onto nothing. I don’t want to see school. I don’t want to see anything. And that was it. It happens to be that during Sukkos, we were talking and it just happened to be a certain person in the community that was in jail. Came out of jail at that time, I think it was a [foreign language 00:39:33] or something. So it was news. So, we were talking about it came out of prison for [foreign language 00:39:40] or something like that. And, all of a sudden, things came out of her mouth that I’ve never heard, because she never spoke that way.

She was never talked politics, so she didn’t have an opinion, really, and all of a sudden what came out of her mouth she says, “What? They let him out of jail? They should put all the [foreign language 00:40:00], all teachers, all principals, everybody, they all belong in jail.” You started really understanding the pain that’s going on underneath. I remember she’s telling me, “Ta, it’s okay, I’ll be fine. I think Bill Gates or Steve Jobs also dropped out of high school and look what they did.” And said it’s okay, it’s going to be fine.

I remember I made a little bit of an interesting comment, which I was, later on someone told me how damaging my comment was. And it was a very positive comment, I said, “Yeah, it’s true. Not every body needs to go through college, but I think they drop out of college, not really out of high school.” So, maybe if I tell her a little bit, I’ll encourage her.

And someone educated me later saying there was one lifeline that she held onto that she can become a Steve Jobs, you know, in many different ways. Even dropping out of high school, and you basically told her that, that’s not the case. So, I realize at that moment how little we all know, not being to a degree, educated of what to say and what not to say, because we just work with instinct and encouragement by saying hold on a little bit longer is the right thing to do. So we thought.

From that point on, she was not in school. She was in school for a while, everything changed. Her whole lifestyle changed and we saw a complete … It was a very different person.

She stopped believing in everything. There was a girl, actually, at that time, who told her. A very close friend was telling her, “Malky, don’t worry. Hashem loves you.” And she said don’t tell me that. I don’t believe there is one. It’s impossible because what kind of a sham is there. Why me? It was very …. It was a lot of anger. Eventually that subsided and she actually just started turning all that around. And, [foreign language 00:42:44] when became her number one thing. She was saying, because she was angry, she was really angry at Hashem.

But eventually, she, like, submitted to it. She was like, everything that she used to chastise me. I was saying things like this happened or that happened, and she kept on saying, “Ta, nothing happened. Everything is from Hashem. A leaf doesn’t fall off a tree without Him, so that’s the case, nothing happened. I don’t know why me. I don’t why this, I don’t know why that, but everything comes from Hashem.” Later on, she became a little bit softer. She started saying, and she has Facebook posts in this and that, you know, I trust in Hashem’s plans for me. Everything was Hashem, Hashem, Hashem.

She once posted not long ago, maybe I think a year ago, she posted on Facebook she wrote, “G-d has only three answers, yes, not right now, or I have something better planned for you, Malky.” With a little smiley. Then, eventually, she went to an alternative school for girls that don’t have schools. The girls that look a little different, behave a little different, dress a little different, run by some very wonderful people.

She went to that school and she did, I’m going to say wonderfully, relatively speaking, I mean all within her abilities and inabilities. She started dabbling in substances. And when we had the discussion one time about using drugs and stuff and I asked her to please explain to me, why? I was talking about the dangers of using drugs, I said what does it do for you, I really wanted to take interest in everything she does and everything she feels as much as possible. So, one night we had a discussion. It was like two, three in the morning. That was my daily schedule, because that’s when we were able to really schmooze and so I was asking her, “Why the drugs? What does it do?” And she was explaining to me, “It numbs me. It takes me away from my feelings.” And I asked her. I said, “Do you know how dangerous it is. I mean, this is not pharmaceutical grade. This is you never know what you’re buying, you never know what you’re getting.” And she said, “I know. And I know that I’m playing with fire every day, but that’s not the issue.

The issue is that doing the drugs allows me to live because it makes me numb, and without it, all I do is think, and think, and think, and think and think. And it creates a lot of pain.”
And I responded to her that time saying, “Oh, Malky, I really feel your pain.” And I think I even said it in this particular voice and she lashed out at me and she said, “No Ta, don’t you ever, ever say that to me. You don’t know what it feels like. You cannot feel my pain.” And I was trying to defend myself saying, “Yeah, of course I do. I feel it, you’re my daughter.” And she said, “No, no, no Ta. You do not know what it feels like being stupid every single day of your life. You can never feel that pain. That’s what I feel.”

And I said, “You always had these friends. And that’s why I don’t have friends.” And I said you always had these friends. You were the most popular girl in the whole family, in the whole school and you were always so happy. She said, “I do not remember one single happy day in my life. You saw me being happy. You saw me smiling, you saw me going to friends and calling friends, and all that was a lot, a lot, a lot of work for me. It was a façade. It was a show. It was trying to overcome my inside feelings and that is all I remember from day one. I don’t remember anything else. Every day I felt stupid.”

And she gave me a whole list of things that I’m allowed to tell her, I can feel for her, I can understand her, I can this and I can that, but she says, “But don’t you ever tell me you feel my pain. Life is pretty good for you. You go, you come, you achieve, you’re successful, but my life is very different.”

Going back into the talk of drugs. And, we were going back to it and I was saying that what [foreign language 00:48:01], something can really happen. She said I understand, and believe you me, I don’t have a death wish. I promise you I don’t have a death wish. But if G-d forbid something happens, what am I really losing? What kind of a life? Not much there. I’m sorry. It’s a little hard for me to talk. And then she went clean. She was working very hard. She made her own program, she went clean, she went to meetings and she really worked on trying to being clean. She did it for six, seven, eight months, I don’t remember exactly the time, and then she relapsed and that was her own program.

I’m not exactly sure what she was doing those days, what kind of drugs, but she was very proud of herself that she is actually working on recovery. Then, she relapsed. It was like on and off, and on and off until one day she said, “Ta, I’ve got to go to a rehab.” So, I asked her if you’re sure about it. Rehab is not home. They’re going to tell you when to wake up, they’re going to tell you when to go to sleep, they’re going to tell you when to eat. When to stop eating. They’re going to tell you and I want you to know the commitment you’re making. If you’re ready for that commitment. And I said you were ready to stop doing drugs for yourself once, and you did a program very nicely, and she said this time I do not feel I can do it myself. I said great, no problem, your choice, I don’t know anything about rehabs. I’ll try to find you a person that can actually listen to you and can guide you. Somebody that understands these kind of things.

And I actually talked to someone, the person came over, and they had a long discussion talking about everything. The rehab, and they together they chose a particular place in California. There was three things that Malky was doing at that time. She kept 100% kosher, for some reason or another, while she wasn’t doing much of other things, she took it upon herself to light Shabbos candles. And she lit Shabbos candles every Friday night. That was going on for awhile. Habbat, that’s what they do, that’s not where I come from, but that was her own doing. And, she was fasting Yom Kippur, that was her thing. That was the few things that she really held onto. She went to rehab, and one of the reasons she went to a particular rehab is because she was doing these kind of things and it’s Jewish-owned and she was told that they were sensitive to these kind of things and they even have a Kosher kitchen for the kids that want to do Kosher. And that was appealing. She went there.

Only after she went there and I went there I saw it’s not really, the Kosher kitchen is not that much of a Kosher. I mean, its a Kosher kitchen, but it’s like some makeshift thing in the garage. And it’s not really a whole lot of Kosher foods. The other kids get a fully gourmet meal done by a chef on a daily basis, and she was getting food in the trey. So, it was a little bit hard. The first week we went to visit her, so we were in California like every week, every second week. And the first week we visit, she says “Ta, you want to see the Kosher kitchen?” And she said this is the Kosher kitchen. That’s the kosher fridge, it says kosher on it, and this is the kosher microwave, and the kosher this and the kosher that. And she takes out a foam container from the thing, she says you want to see my lunch? Here it is. Two slices of salami in a roll. And I’m looking in the rest of the place and I see that there’s a gourmet meal and I’m thinking, how is this girl going to survive on Kosher?

This is a place run by Jews, owned by Jews. And she said, “You know what? Let’s buy stuff and I’ll cook myself.” That’s what she said. She was 17. And we went to the Kosher place and we filled up the freezer with chicken drumsticks and burger patties. Everything that’s easy to cook, very quick. We filled up the whole freezer and that’s what she was doing day after day. She was cooking herself to keep Kosher.

I was telling that place, she lights candles. Those are the things she’s holding onto. She’s holding onto Kosher, she’s holding onto candles and Yom Kippur. Please make sure that you provide it because what you don’t want, is what I don’t want is for her to find that she failed in one more thing in her life. Obviously she’s holding onto it. At this moment in time, I do not think that she needs to do anything. With her current condition she’s [foreign language 00:53:41] from everything. However, if that’s what she holds on to, it is important that she should be able to hold on to it because her whole life, the way she sees it, is failure, and she doesn’t need to fail more.

So, they gave me a little bit of an argument. She needs to ask and she needs to this, and because rehabs are somewhat like bootcamp or something they try. I said fine. I said there’s a thousand things that this girl needs to do and you’ll argue with everything. Can you please not argue about these three things, because allowing her and encouraging her to do what she feels good about is going to make your argument and everything else that much simpler, easier to achieve. I said provide her candles. They said, “Oh, she should ask.” I said “Please provide her candles so she doesn’t have to ask. She will not ask. She will be embarrassed to ask. That’s what’s going to be.”

So, they provided her four candles. She had two for one Shabbos, she had two for the second Shabbos. And Sunday after I spoke to her after third Shabbos she told me, “Ta, they didn’t give me candles.” That was the end of the candles. She cooked her own food for six weeks. Everyday, while everybody is being prepared meals, she cooked her own food. Eventually she became tired. She started giving the [foreign language 00:55:14] the cook, her kosher to meat to cook in the side in the pots. Eventually the whole thing fell apart.

And on, so for the last so many years I was thinking. I got to do a rehab. I got to do the right rehab. It’s not about making somebody religious or forcing somebody religious, but give a kid choice, a really choice. Have two cooks, for this and gourmet for that. So the can actually stay strong in whatever they feel like and whatever makes them feel good so they can actually build on it. So, there’s some base and so they can continue building. But certain things are out of my league.

I don’t know, I didn’t think I can actually pull it off. I’ve spoken to people, even people that wanted to put in money and volunteer. It just never materialized because the last six years, my wife and I and the whole family really we were in the triage mode. We were trying to save this kid and help her build it. Build herself. It was a little difficult to do anything else besides concentrating on that. Once you enter rehab, she was doing very well.

She was clean for 13, 14 months. She didn’t even want to go out. She didn’t want to leave. She was afraid to leave. She had a very difficult time, she didn’t want to come back to Brooklyn. She was afraid. We offered her even a, you know, we will go somewhere else. She didn’t want that. That was out of the question. She found that very unrealistic. The reality it was unrealistic for us, too, because we have other kids too and they are attending school and we can’t uproot. It’s very difficult to uproot, traumatizing other kids.

She said it’s fine. I don’t have to come to Brooklyn, and not at this time, when I’ll be strong enough, I’ll come back and I don’t need the Brooklyn stares, I don’t need the Brooklyn judgment. I don’t need this, I don’t need that. After 13 months of being clean, she went from one program to a next program. And then she relapsed. There were some very difficult times during that relapse. And then she went clean again. And now she was clean for the last nine or 10 months. Doing extremely well with a plan of finally coming back to Brooklyn being close to family, being close to home, rebuilding.

She got into different things being in rehab. She got into art. We never saw that quality in her. We never saw it. She started drawing pictures and the same time, while it’s amazing, the first time she put pen to paper she drew the most beautiful pictures from a talent perspective. At the same time, the pictures were horrific because she basically expressed her feelings through drawings. I know some of it has been going around on the internet of her drawings, and they actually speak volumes. They speak for themselves. No need to explain them. But she was going to rebuild. She was going to come back to Brooklyn and she did.

She came a week before she passed away is when she came back to Brooklyn. Final departure from California, even though she had, I’m going to call it the little relapse, just before she came home, which was just before Rosh Chodesh, for Rosh Chodesh we were in California. She got back on the wagon, so to speak, she came home. Everything was nice and dandy. We spent time together. Thursday, by day she baked Challas with my wife. She took Challas, she made a Brokah. [foreign language 00:59:37] And then, whatever happened for one reason or another, I knew she was in a slump. I knew she was down because about a week earlier, she face timed me and she started crying.

She was talking, again, about everybody around me are overachievers and I’m an underachiever. And I told her, look at your art. Look at your photography. Everybody around you doesn’t have a clue how to even look at it. And I know, because I’m an artist. I said I know what you’re doing. Ta, you’re my father, you’ll tell me anything to make me feel good. But that’s not the case. And at that day she was crying. She says its four in the afternoon. I didn’t even brush my teeth yet, because that’s me. I couldn’t get out of bed this morning, because I was feeling so down. I just couldn’t get out of bed. It’s four in the afternoon and I still didn’t’ brush my teeth.

I knew she was not in a good state, but she was relatively okay compared to other times earlier. So I made sure when she came home, I made sure to have a Narcan kit in the house just in case. And that Thursday night after ShivahChallas threw Momashei [foreign language 01:00:42] miracle because of a package. It’s a long story, that came and I saw it by the door, so I wanted to go up to the room to give it to her, and I found her in a terrible state.

She hadOD’d, and I quickly grabbed the kit and administered the Narcan and Baruch Hashem, at that time she left and within a few minutes she came back as if nothing had happened. Actually the fellow was here within a minute and they started seeing that the pulse is coming back and breathing is coming back and that day, I was actually looking to find a doctor because she had said,“I need someone to prescribeSuboxone. I need someone to prescribe it right now.” So, I was looking all over the place. Reaching out everywhere to find a psychiatrist or somebody licensed to prescribe it. We couldn’t find anybody.

We finally got an appointment for Monday and she was very, very nervous about it. And it was five minutes before Shabbos, she asked, Ta, what’s going on with this tabach and I said I’m so sorry, I said it’s not going to happen because its right before Shabbos. None of your friends are going to pick up the phones or do anything right now. I said, don’t worry, there’s people still working on it. Then, Friday night, she went to her room and a friend came, a close friend of hers and spent with her all throughout Friday night until five o’clock in the afternoon. She didn’t feel that well because she was in a withdrawal state because of the Narcan. She had the shivers and wasn’t feeling that well. She wanted to stay in bed and but the friend joined us at the meal. The friend left at five o’clock. I went to my shul in the afternoon, at a quarter to seven. I didn’t even know the friend was not here. I decided not to disturb her knowing that she has a friend there. So, I went to my shiur, I found out later, because I went to about a quarter to seven I went to Shul [foreign language 01:03:15] and about 7:15 or 7:20 whenever it was I was called, or 7:30 it was from Shul [foreign language 01:03:23] that she’s not responsive. And I came running home, Sulla I got the call at the same time. I tried to do the same thing again, but the moment I walked into the room I saw this is different than what I saw on Thursday.

She walked out of the house – at roughly 6:00. She came back at 6:30 just within a minute or two after I left for Shul. She spent time with my wife, about a half an hour, they were sitting and talking, schmoozing together, chatting, until she left. She went up to her room. My wife went up to her room 20 minutes later or so just to say goodbye because she was going to go spend some time with a neighbor. And when she saw her in that state, and this time around we were not able to bring her back. And that’s the end.

What would I say to the school that threw her out? By nature I’m not an angry person. But there are times during the day that I have a lot of anger. A lot of times a lot of pain or I think anger with pain. Sadness is, I have all different kind of feelings going through my mind, my body, my heart. And I tells you obviously, that whenever I’m in a place of anger, I really don’t like to talk to people. Simply because whatever I would say, whatever I could say, I really don’t want it to come from that place because I don’t think that anything coming from that place would actually bring any positive results.

It comes more of a screaming, yelling, argument match. Everybody tries to be right. I don’t want to be right. I don’t care to be right. If I can, I would like to be able to make a difference. What I would say to the principal, at a state when I’m not angry and I’m not right now, this is a hindsight to teach you to better educate yourself. Whole lot of other kids going through your hands, [foreigh langue 01:05:51] Heed those words. Do whatever you can, but you’re not to be laHaiem. That’s my only message I have.

When we see issues that we can identify. When we identify with issues and we relate to those issues, there is no nation, there is no people that respond to a crisis like we do. Bar none.

The world responds to an earthquake in Haiti, and they start feeding people, they don’t have what to eat all year around, because that’s the only way they respond. We feed people all year round. We make programs of [foreign language 01:07:31] so people can afford to marry off kids. We have [foreign language 01:07:36] that charge so little they can barely survive because can I to know that we have large families and we are a people of assets. That’s who we are, so inherently, I truly believe that everybody means well. I just think that people are terribly misguided.

What I would tell people, what I would tell principals, and mostly I would tell parents, really, is you don’t have to wait for a crisis to go learn something you might not know. I would especially tell it to principals, and [foreign language 01:08:14] to never think that they were born to be [foreign language 01:08:17], that it’s in their DNA. There is a lot more to learn of how to deal with kids that are not running on autopilot. Kids that need extra help, kids that need guidance. Kids that we need to be their GPS. Those are the kids that we need to concentrate on. The rest? They turn out to be whatever they turn out to be.

I once heard someone say, “Despite what we do, rather than because of what we do.” We need to concentrate on the kids that are trailing behind because those are the ones that need our help. Unfortunately, we don’t.

The principals, the yeshivas, the schools, they serve the masses. And the masses don’t have the problem. They’re the few that have the issues. And the systems are built to work that way, and therefore, the other ones don’t survive.

I’ve gotten to know Malky’s friends. I have found those kids to be extremely smart, extremely bright, extremely intuitive. All of them deep thinkers, highly sensitive, ultra sensitive. Every one of them, each and every one of them. They process and process and re-process information.

That one word. That one bad word, one time, telling a child in second grade that they belong in first grade, they never every get over it. Ever.

It makes them feel stupid for the rest of their life. If Hashem gave that person a particular level of resilience, they can withstand that. They remember it, but they will overcome. But for those that don’t have that immune system. They’re immune system is not that great, they fall part.

Those are the kids we lose. Some of them get to a point where they just can’t climb out of it.

What would I tell principals in schools? Do some introspection. Try to wipe your slate clean of everything you know – of everything you thought you know, of everything you believe you know. Do introspection and find out maybe there’s a whole lot of things that you don’t, because the moment you’ll start searching, you’ve got the answer you will find. You will find a better way to do things.

{Matzav.com}

14 COMMENTS

  1. Its high time we put a stop to the baloney form of yiddishkeit that the”frum” establishment is selling. Serving Hashem and loving Hashem means loving His children. It greatly pains me to hear of the gross insensitivity being heaped upon chushiva families in our community.

    Please, don’t take these anti Semites to heart. They have severe emotional issues. Nothing personal. They are simply transferring their self hatred onto you.

    Please Hashem, send us Moshiach and send a Refuah Sheleima too all the twisted power seekers

  2. why is their a need for so many separate yeshivas? would it be terrible to have a few bigger yeshivas with more rosh yeshivas in one building? why does every tom dick and harry open a new yeshiva just to eventually compete with the same type of yeshiva?? wasted resources that could be better spent solving issues within Jewish education. what happened to the oh so common community owned yeshivas? that would help to solve some of the power struggles faced by parents. and on to the final point why is there no “mashgiach to make sure the kitchen is kosher” in regards to if a Yeshiva has overstepped in its assessment of any student it deem not a fit for their yeshiva. why no Vaad HaChinuch/HaYeshivas? or do people think moshiach already has come and they see no problem with an in house investigation by the menahlim? would you trust a wolf to inspect a lamb without devouring it?

    (And as an aside its asinine that girls schools are so strict with regards to education considering if they were to time travel just 200 years ago a beis yakov might have been brandished as haskalah!)

  3. I would like to establish a supportive place for girls BEFORE they go off to the support of off the derech and drug friendships. Let so many girls have a place that builds friendships giving chizuk . too many girls have witnessed such cruelty from mosdos afraid of losing financial support or quality of academic reputation
    Anger does not help
    These girls need a place where they feel applauded for their bitachon despite being excluded from the socialization of frum schools that put these girls at risk from the pain that is not a priority. The hotzoas shaim to and onoas devorim are killing many. Let us set up respite places for frum young women before they become zombies from numbing feelings in a harmful manner. Let us all be human. Please Rabbi Klein set up such a place leilui nishmosso

  4. I think it’s high time we stop blaming the schools. When a child falls off the wagon there can be many reasons, and if a older child still cares about a comment a 2nd grade teacher made then there are many other things lacking in the child’s upbringing. who didn’t have a teacher say a insensitive thing to them? Schools today are a hundred times better then it used to be with teachers trained to deal with everyone whereas in yesteryear the dumb were ignored. Chinch is not the schools job in entirety, I see many parents today who are not as great as it used to be or not that intuned. Obviously i am not talking about this case, but to generalize and blame schools is wrong when our institutions are working that hard. Is there room for improvement in our schools? YES! But the same improvements and more is needed for us to be better parents. Secondly we should never excuse drug addiction and by putting all blame on everybody but the victim it glorifies and excuses OTD and drug addiction. Al po Torah she was old enough to be responsible for her actions. Lastly, to give you some more food for thought,why are we only discussing it now, why didn’t we blame and ostracize the schools when she went OTD? Wasn’t it s big enough catastrophe that a Frumi girl with drug addiction? Or are we waking up now in order to excuse her conduct and to glorify her memory

    • Where are you taking your nonsense from? How was this girl thrown out of school? Is there any justification for the insensitivity, cruelty and outright rishus?? In fact, if it is that fact you claim this type of behavior is what a religion teaches that causes people to abandon and reject it.

      Secondly, no one justified the addiction. It was explained. If you would care to understand it, then maybe many other kids could be saved.

      In a word: You are a rosha.

  5. Poor little neshamaleh, having such a short and hellish life despite her family’s valiant, tireless and nonstop efforts to help her. B’Gan Eden tihei menuchasa, and may her family have a nechama. Kudos to her parents for having the courage to bare their agony in order to help other daughters who face challenges such as those that brought down their beloved daughter. HaMakom yinachem eschem besoch sha’ar aveilei Tzion v’Yerushalayim.

  6. Yitzchok zev kleinbard, Nope. a lot of the blame is on the schools. Seriously educate yourself in the matter. YOU are part of the problem.

  7. Harav Kleinbard,

    Did it occur to you that if the school wouldn’t have thrown her out like discarded trash perhaps she wouldn’t have gone otd?

  8. I remember when I was in Yeshiva I was dislexic and had a hard time with numbers. I also needed extra help and one time a teacher told me ” your never going to learn to read.” This might have been when I was in second grade also, the truth is I don’t recall as it was many, many moons ago. The difference is no one ever tried or even mentioned tossing me out of school, EVER. The comments are annoying but the rejection I do believe can be devastating. I don’t think it fair to through out a student unless there are disciplinary problems that are sever or dangerous. If the school takes in a student they should work with them until the end of the year come H or High water and give the parents advanced notice if they will not be reaccepted.

  9. After reading many other article and comments etc. The only realistic solution to the problem will happen. if every community will have a Va’ad of a ‘Beth Din’ which, each and every Yeshiva/school will have to be approved upon any actions of expelling/accepting etc, otherwise its a hefker velt out there.
    All not complying will be publicised and thus donations will be denied by every Jew.

  10. Lots of unknowns in this tragic story. It seems that even Malky’s parents don’t really understand exactly what went wrong.
    But, while it is necessary, and praiseworthy, that we take this to heart, we should also keep in mind the broader picture. Today, especially in America but also all over the western world, people are routinely taking drugs of all kinds, legal and illegal, in order to numb pain. Many people die from legal drugs too.
    Yes, we should be trying to make the world more perfect. But meanwhile, we have to learn ways to deal with an imperfect world, because that is the reality. There is no end to the sources of pain in life. Yes, rejection such as Malky experienced is crushing. But what about, for instance, obese kids who are relentlessly teased (i.e. bullied) in school, for years and years? What about kids who are high achievers, but are relentlessly pressured by their parents to excel?
    Where are all these kids – what’s happening to them? Many are on anti-depressants. Many are on anti-psychotics. Many won’t escaped a drugged life, ever. Why? Because they were never taught any other way to deal with pain.
    What are we going to do about that? Set up a special school system for the obese? For those dealing with difficult parents? We can’t always change the circumstances, but we can learn to change our responses and make ourselves more resilient.
    This doesn’t mean becoming stoic and unfeeling. It DOES mean building emunah and bitachon, and learning to value ourselves even if the world doesn’t play along, because it won’t, a lot of the time.
    If we wait till the world changes, we’re going to waste a lot of time – and lives.

  11. In today’s environment it’s not PC to blame parents for ANYTHING. Every single one of them are absolutely perfect in every way. It is NEVER their fault. NEVER. Always look to blame yenim. Always put the fault on others. It’s so easy do to. Come on, let’s all start doing that. Never take responsibility for anything. Always blame others. I like that.

    • You apparently have trouble understanding. If a parent has trouble with a school what is one to do. What if a principal has it out for someone. What is one to do? Nobody forced Rosh Yeshivas in to their positions they choses them. The least jewish leaders can do is. Apply a simple dictum of “the buck stops here”. What is the job of a Jewish institution? To teach only the easiest moldable? We all know if a Rosh Yeshivas kid was going off. He would personally expel his son. Because he is a bad influence right. You know the answer to that question. He would pretend nothing was happening just like with the people with family names on the building have the fast lane in Yeshivas regardless of the students “madraga”!

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