The head of a Chabad-Lubavitch educational outreach organization warned his fellow emissaries this week to be proactive in making sure their children would not be adversely affected by the aftermath of the Mumbai Chabad House massacre.
Rabbi Shea Hecht, chairman of the National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education (NCFJE), sent out what can only be called a frank warning to Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis around the world.
"'All Jews are brothers, literally,' writes Rabbi Shneur Zalman in Tanya," Hecht wrote, adding, "If there were ever any doubts as to the truth of that statement, they have been dismissed with the lives and terrible murders of Rabbi Gavriel and Mrs. Rivkah Holtzberg. The entire Jewish nation came together in hope and, later, in grief because of this young couple…"
Unfortunately, he noted, the "acute pain, fear and depression that will likely haunt us for quite some time… also haunts our children. And for that reason we should take care that we are creating a climate of healing in our households, not one of despair," he said bluntly.
Hecht, who consulted with child trauma experts Dr. David Pelcovitz, Ph.D. and Moshe Borowski, LMSW, offered the emissaries a list of practical tips to help them address child trauma issues they might encounter at home, including:
• Do not change any of your child's daily routines. Routine offers a sense of security.
• Along the same lines, don't let household rules slip – including continuing to insist on good behavior, no tolerance for "chutzpah" (disrespect –ed.)
• Insulate your child from upsetting media reports – even if your child is aware of what took place, he does not have to be exposed to details.
• Understand that your child will realize if you yourself are becoming obsessed with articles, videos, etc.
• Your child must understand that what happened in Mumbai will not happen anywhere else any time soon.
In Hecht's words, "Make clear that Tatty (Daddy –ed.) and Mommy, the Police, FBI, the Army and the Ribono Shel Olam (a Hebrew name for G-d –ed.) are there to protect them."
A child can pick up on the comments that one might think are only between adults, he said, observing, "His feelings of security are, largely, based on yours. If you have feelings of despair or anxiety your choice is either to conceal them till after bed time, or pass them on to your children."
He added that a child's need to experience a sense of mastery over the world could be met by emphasizing their religious observances, such as prayer, giving charity, and bedtime routines (tefillos, tzedaka and krias shema al hamitta). "This is how they bring aid and protection to themselves and others," he said.
Hecht also strongly urged in his letter that parents listen to what their children think has happened and reminded the emissaries that often a child will draw sweeping conclusions from even a few minor details.
"Finally, rabosai, ("my fellow rabbis" –ed.) over these next few weeks, it’s important to spend more time at home having fun with your kids. No, meetings and late nights at the office are not more precious than your family," he stated flatly. "Remember that the yetzer hora (the Evil Inclination –ed.) has no defense against a parent that spends time playing a game or reading a story with their child."