Jul 31, 2006 — The Orthodox community, in North America and in Israel, is no longer in denial about observant adolescents who are at-risk. In the past there was an unspoken belief that being open about such issues would reflect badly on the community. However, in recent years, there has been an increase in the number of young people who exhibit antisocial behavior—a problem that Jewish professionals are now confronting head on.
Azrieli Graduate School for Jewish Education and Administration, in cooperation with the Association of Modern Orthodox Day School and Yeshiva High Schools at the Center for the Jewish Future, recently held seminars addressing an array of problems, including drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and sexual promiscuity, for educators, social workers, and psychologists in Los Angeles, New York, and Jerusalem.
“There is increasing awareness and willingness to face the growing problems, which can no longer be ignored,” said David Schnall, PhD, dean of Azrieli.
The school’s staff were surprised at the overwhelming attendance at its Azrieli Summer Seminars, which attested to a high demand among professionals for help in dealing with these problems and tools that may be beyond the scope of their training.
The Summer Seminars provided a unique opportunity for high school teachers to study with eminent Jewish scholars, and to learn from the best research in key areas of Jewish education. Very little research has been done on this topic largely because of the Orthodox community’s reticence to acknowledge the growth of various abuses among their own.
The seminars, whose overarching theme was “Understanding and Intervening with At-Risk Students,” were led by Azrieli faculty, who are experts in Jewish education and psychology: David Pelcovitz, PhD, a nationally recognized authority on parenting, adolescent development, and other child-related issues and the Gwendolyn and Joseph Straus Professor in Jewish Education at Azrieli; Scott Goldberg, PhD, assistant professor of education and psychology, and director of the Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Division of Doctoral Studies at Azrieli; and Dean Schnall.
Rona Novick, PhD, a senior psychologist in the Division of Adolescent Psychiatry at the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System and a member of the faculty of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, was also a presenter at the New York seminar.
“I now see not only a recognition of the problem, but also a recognition that we need to do something about it,” said Dr. Goldberg, who conducted the two-day event in Jerusalem. “It’s our responsibility to build a system of support to identify problems before they become a crisis.”
This is the fourth YU conference on the subject of at-risk youth since last year. Unlike previous seminars, the recent sessions also dealt with broader issues such as learning disabilities, bullying, and school interventions for younger at-risk children. The seminars were funded in part by Jack and Carole Forgash and family i