Jewish Inspiration February 26, 2017

The “Good Kid” Myth

I’ve often heard kids described as “good kids,” and have been guilty of doing such describing myself. More and more, it bothers me. 

What is a “good kid”? In general, it means one who follows rules, studies well, has good sleep hygiene, stays away from drugs and alcohol. In Orthodoxy, it also means keeps the mitzvot, dresses modestly (girls) or with cultural norms, goes to shul regularly (boys). In both worlds it means to follow the path set forth for you by your parents without making trouble. 

The implication is clear. Kids who do not do the above are not good kids. Language matters, mostly because it reveals deep-held, often cluelessly judgmental beliefs – in our case about children. 

Here’s the truth. All kids are good kids. How do I know? Because the fact is that children who are emotionally healthy want to please. They want to succeed and do well. They want to feel good about themselves and they crave the pleasure and praise of those they love. 

So if they are not succeeding, if they can’t seem to follow rules or stay out of trouble, here’s the fact: there’s a reason. You may not know the reason. The child himself may not know the reason. The reason may be hidden and invisible. But I promise you it is there. 

No child chooses failure on purpose. No child chooses the wrath and disdain of those he loves or the ostracism of peers. No child, barring emotional turmoil, neurological differences, and mental illness, acts “bad.”

One might even argue that these kids are gooder than good, as they struggle their way through a world biased toward the “good kids.” They keep trying! They keep getting up in the morning! Their tenacity, their grit is astonishing! What terrifyingly good kids!

I invite you then, the next time you see a “bad kid,” to think to yourself: there goes a hero. A warrior. A war veteran. Respect. 

And what shall we now name the “good kids”? Who knows? Why must we name them at all? Do I know where they’ve journeyed, what dragons they have slayed or not? If I do, great. Describe the behavior. She does well in school. He’s polite and well-mannered. 

Leave the moral judgments to God. He’s much kinder than people

Interviews, Uncategorized January 10, 2017

Interview with Myself

Hey OOTOB readers,

A little while ago, Chana Deutsch from Israel contacted me. She runs a program to help Jewish women in their relationships, and asked if she could interview me. Fun, because I’ve done a number of interviews here, and now I get to be the interviewee. It’s an audio interview, and it’s going to air on January 30th right here.

Controversial Observations December 23, 2016


Exactly two years ago, at the close of 2014, I wrote a post about that year. It was a gut-wrenching year full of bad news and sad moods. Since that time, I find myself getting especially reflective this time of year, looking back on the year and deciding what I want to say about it.

Controversial Observations, Why Orthodox Jews do What they Do December 18, 2016

Synagogues Big and Small

In my neighborhood, there used to be four large Orthodox congregations: Heights Jewish Center, Young Israel, Green Rd. Synagogue, and Chabad. There was also an ad hoc congregation that had begun in a home, called “Zichron Chaim.” It was commonly referred to as “the shteeble,” which is a Yiddish word for “little house” and refers to a small, organic, grass roots congregation, loosely formed and typically without a rabbi, that meets in a home and then sometimes, if it grows, migrates to a more spacious space.

Uncategorized December 6, 2016

Jewish Women

I’ve been doing more traveling, speaking, teaching. Selling my book. I love to travel and I love to see new places and meet new people. I also love to sniff out new communities and get a feel for the similarities and differences each Jewish community has.
But there’s one thing that is constant. Jewish women. 

Uncategorized November 24, 2016

Life After Death

By Elissa Felder

Twenty-six years ago a group of my friends gathered to wash the body of my little baby that had died that same day during open-heart surgery. His death was a shock of the most traumatic proportions.