Thursday, August 09, 2007

Jewish Leadership

Last week, R. Yaakov Horowitz ran a column about how frum boys and girls in the Catskills are hanging out with each other and doing all sorts of non-frum and illegal things late at night (It’s One A.M. – Do You Know Where Your Children Are?). This week, he published a column about the impact of that article and some take-away lessons (One A.M. – One Week Later):

Well, I am pleased to report that things were far better the previous weekend – in no small part due to the awareness generated by the dissemination of the column... Additionally, concrete steps were taken to improve things on the ground. Quite a few bungalow colony owners called staff meetings with their day-camp counselors and initiated curfews for those traveling off grounds on Motzoei Shabbos. A Brooklyn Rav and his lay leaders made arrangements with the pool hall owner in Monticello to have its use limited to boys after midnight. He also rented Liberty Lanes, a popular bowling alley in Liberty, New York, for the exclusive use of girls. The Rav arranged for adult supervision in both locations and provided homebound transportation for the girls after their time in the bowling alley...

As I see things, there are several important take-away lessons to be learned from this evolving episode:

To begin with, awareness matters...

Additionally, we need not throw up our hands and feel resigned to accept things as they are...

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we should resist the seductive route of merely ‘banning’ places and activities for our growing teen population.
Some might see this and applaud the wonderful leadership of our community. Certainly Rabbi Horowitz and the unnamed people who got involved have acted in a most praiseworthy fashion. But let's be serious for a moment. Real leadership doesn't wait for a wake-up call before acting. Leaders who care about their community will know what their community members are doing and will be actively involved in trying to improve the spiritual (and physical, where appropriate) level of these activities.

We need to be proactive and not reactive. We need to honestly care and take the time to get involved in people's lives. Wake-up calls and emergencies are signs that we are insufficiently involved to know what is going on.

Now, thanks to R. Horowitz's article, we've addressed this problem somewhat. But what is the next emergency that is lurking around the corner? If we really cared and we're honestly out to be active leaders, we'd already be trying to prevent it.

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