Kids at risk. We have all heard of them, seen them, and perhaps try talking to them. But what I have personally seen on Motzei Shabbos in the Catskills is beyond human comprehension. I unfortunately cannot describe what I have witnessed on this website, but it is nothing what you can physically imagine. I have spoken with Rabbi Yakov Horowitz from Project Yes, who has given me permission to post his article which appeared in last weeks Jewish Press.
All I can say is, if your child tells you he wants to run out for a slice of pizza, and will be back in an hour, be advised that he may never come home the same.
Rabbi Horowitz Article:
This past Sunday evening, I received a frantic call from a close friend of mine pleading with me to inform the frum public of what his eyes saw – and what his heart simply did not want to believe.
Here are his words:
I am a fifty-two-year old father and grandfather who spent the past 27 summers in the Monticello, N.Y. area. This past Motzoei Shabbos, July 28th, I received a phone call from a Brooklyn Rov asking me to gather some friends and their wives and go to Broadway (the main street) in Monticello in order to provide some adult supervision and responsible sets of eyes to the ‘scene’ in front of a pool hall situated there.
I got there at about 12:45 a.m. – at least fifteen minutes before any of our friends arrived. As I was the only Orthodox adult present at the time we got an unvarnished look at the proceedings. What I saw was beyond my wildest nightmares. Inside the pool hall and spilling out into the street were hundreds of frum boys and girls hanging out, cavorting, drinking, and snorting drugs. The kids ran the full range of Orthodox Jewry – children from very chasidish to ‘modern-Orthodox’ homes. The behavior of the boys and the dress code of the girls were simply beyond belief. In fact, it was hard to believe that these were frum kids – until you spoke to them.
Parents who are reading this: Please don’t think for a moment that this was a gathering of only “at-risk-kids.” Dozens of cars stopped by, and what you would call mainstream boys and girls got out to see what was ‘going on.’ Many of them joined the party – at least as observers. A few of the kids told us that they and their friends rented bungalows in non-Jewish colonies or rooms in hotels throughout the Catskills where they party from Thursday night until Monday morning – including Shabbos.
We circulated among the kids and tried talking to them, begging them to come home with us. We offered them a place to stay and some food to eat – for the night, or perhaps an invitation for the coming Shabbos. It was most painful to see that underneath the bravado and in-your-face mannerisms were scared kids and tortured Yiddishe neshamos.
Rabbi Horowitz, please beg each and every parent of unmarried children who are in the Catskills and not in a structured, supervised camp setting to make 110 percent certain of their whereabouts, particularly on Motzoei Shabbasos – even if your kids say that they are going for a slice of pizza or bowling with some friends. What might begin as an innocent night of fun may turn tragic – physically and spiritually.
Over the past generation, the number of our sons and daughters achieving success in our community has grown exponentially. However, our teens-at-risk population has been growing at least as rapidly. And along with their swelling ranks comes a sense of camaraderie and boldness. Thirty years ago, mischief for the vast majority of our kids was a camp prank or raid. Ten years ago, kids were hanging out and experimenting with the boundaries that our community would tolerate. Today, our disenfranchised children are forming their own community.
Do you know where your children are?
© 2007 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved – Rabbi Horowitz WEBSITE