Rav Salomon: Do Away With Term “Kids-at-Risk”


rav-matisyahuThe Thursday night plenary session last week at Agudath Israel of America’s 87th national convention was addressed by a number of speakers, including Rav Matisyahu Salomon, mashgiach of Beth Medrash Govoha, who focused on the fact that each day, whether we sufficiently realize it or not, we ask Hashem for chances to be mekadesh Sheim Shomayim. That, the mashgiach explained, is the meaning of Kedushah in Shemonah Esrei, which is a prayer, not a praise – a prayer that we be able to be mekadesh es shimcho bo’olam. Kevod Shomayim, Rabbi Salomon averred, is the purpose of Creation, and the purpose of our lives.

During his remarks, Rav Salomon also addressed the issue of troubled youth, saying that the term “kids-at-risk” should no longer be used by members of the frum community. These youngsters and teens are “challenged” youth, he said. Just as all of us, in our lives, are challenged on a regular basis, each in our own way, these youth are challenged in spiritual or other ways. They are not “at-risk,” they are challenged children.

{Dovid Bernstein for Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. I guess “at-risk” denotes a handicap due to a predisposition they have at no fault of their own, that seems to exonerate from the onset any future misdeed or choice this teen makes in his teen years.
    His point is that they have challenges just like the rest of us, as tough as they may seem,
    and don’t get a free pass.

  2. I think he’s saying that everyone is always at-risk – the yetzer hara is always trying to get each and every one of us, so there is always a risk for each person. The people who have a hard time overcoming it are challenged.

  3. ‘at risk implys that someone may have a higher influence of the materialistic world that may get them to do the cardinal sins or idol worship, illiciate relationships and murder. But because we all have challenges that could possibly lead us to do these sins theres no point calling them ‘at risk’ so ‘challenged’ seems something more in the lines of ‘we are all challenged by the yetzer hara but can we overcome it and stay true to torah?’

  4. reply to #1

    seriously! honestly, did you even BOTHER for a second to digest the article, or did you right away submit a post with out thinking???
    do you reeeeeeeeeely not know the difference between “at risk” and “challenge”

    when you try to stupify others, you just get it thrown back in your face.

    next time THINK!!

  5. So what? Are we now afraid of labels, ‘learning challenged’, ‘learning disability’, ‘slow learner’, ‘processing delayed’ — choose the one that works best with you.

  6. The difference is in the concept. Teens at risk is a negative description regarding kids that deal with issues outside the realm of the traditional orthodox home. Taking part in rebellious activities that are deemed inappropriate and are rightfully so.
    Challenged youth explains the notion that people commit wrong doings all the time. However, when their actions do take place, one should have clarity of the situation without pointing a finger at the kids. I think kids at risk defines the youth as a rebellious trouble maker causing havoc with no logical reasoning.
    The term challenged youth explains to us that although the youths of our generation struggle with various issues, these challenges are no different than the challenges we all face in our daily lives. In addition, not one person has the right to ever take a stand and raise his voice shouting that the challenged kids are just a bunch of bums. Their challenges are no different than ours, if anything their more difficult to withstand considering what this generation offers to the youth.
    To conclude, I think “kids at risk” defines the troubled youth as trouble makers. “challenged youth” is the same thing with one slight difference. That difference is understanding with a clarity that just because their struggle is not the typical orthodox struggle it doesn’t mean that the challenged their faced with everyday is not on the same level as your challenges. It is a challenge that requires guidence and direction from those that are able direct them in the proper direction.
    P.S. Plese learn to write like an educated gentleman, to the gentleman that posted the previous comment. As for this post, dear readers I hope it’s written professionally for there was simply no time to review the material. Thank you all.

  7. CALL it whatever you want, but let’s challenge everyone including the eminent speakers as to WHY all this is happening around us…CAN’T all be blamed on internet!

  8. Imagine living without riding in cars, and doing a lot of walking (bike riding ok) and tuning in with ‘nature’. Next, delete internet (including Matzav.com), cell phones, and all the junk that comes in the mailbox. Well, that’s the way things used to be…

  9. Let’s not forget that 100 years ago women (including goyim) wore dresses, and long ones at that. Today, walking down a sidewalk in Manhattan is really no different than strolling on a beach in the middle of summer.

  10. “At-risk” has a more pessimistic ring to it as it evokes a sense of probable or possible failure. “Challenged” is more upbeat; it implies that success is likely despite difficulties.

  11. Let it be known that simply having access to the Google search page — without clicking on any results — is toeiva. This is due to a recent Google ‘enhancement’ which allows the options of showing images (i.e., pictures) from the results directly on the search page itself. Having ‘Safe search’ turned on does not help. And needless to say, not having the ability to access the result links is also useless.

  12. I would like to note that “at risk” was created by the non-Jewish world, having the same meaning as our usage except for the religious element (except for Christians). Perhaps he wants to differentiate…

  13. Perhaps he means to imply that they cannot be said to be “at risk” any more than anyone else. (I hope that’s not it.)

    Actually, “challenged” puts more responsibility on the kids, implying that they can overcome, whereas “at risk” implies that they are endangered by something external.

  14. Quote:

    Just as all of us, in our lives, are challenged on a regular basis, each in our own way, these youth are challenged in spiritual or other ways. They are not “at-risk,” they are challenged children.

    But if we’re all challenged, isn’t the term meaningless? That’s like saying “kids”; we’re all “challenged”. Perhaps we should say “more challenged”. 😀