A mother holds two children by the hands during a sunset.
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
A remarkable video has emerged of Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, one of the two preeminent leaders of the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) world, advising families with children who have become non-religious not to reprimand them or kick them out of the house, but instead to show them warmth and kindness.
The rabbi even went so far as to say that in a case where a mature boy brings home a girl and ostensibly sleeps with her in the house, the parents should not reject or reprimand him.
The video was made several months ago by Rabbi Avi Fishoff, an activist in the US Jewish community undertaking outreach for people who have left the religious life. He met with Edelstein to consult with him as to the correct attitude for parents to take toward such children.
During the interview, Edelstein said that the basic attitude to children who become non-religious should be that they are being “forced” to sin by various inclinations and desires, and that they do not sufficiently understand what they are doing. Although the questions put to him were frequently rather leading, the rabbi nevertheless insisted throughout that only a non-confrontational attitude of “friendship” by the parents would have any affect in preventing their offspring from being further distanced from Judaism and the family.
“It is forbidden to shout at them; it’s like putting a stumbling block before the blind,” says the rabbi, meaning that by reprimanding them, such children would be likely to further distance themselves from religion. He said that pressure on them “damages and hurts them.”
Asked whether or not parents should insist that a boy wear a yarmulke or a girl dress modestly, Edelstein responded by saying “God forbid,” adding that doing so would only distance them.
“Parents need to accept them without laws or conditions or restrictions – only through the way of kiruv [drawing them close],” he says.
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Asked whether or not a parent should throw a son out of the house if he brought home a girl, Edelstein says simply: “God forbid!”
When a questions how one can allow “such a terrible as this to happen in a religious household,” the rabbi replies that “there is no other way.”
Similarly, when asked about an incident in which a child smokes on Shabbat while with his parents, the rabbi responds that the parents should not protest this desecration of the Sabbath.
The number of people leaving the Haredi world has increased significantly in recent years and has become a serious problem for ultra-Orthodox society. Many former Haredim speak of having been ostracized by their families, although it is also not uncommon for some families to retain close ties with such children.
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