by Rabbi Simkha Weintraub

Why Does Expressing Violence Feel So Alien to Jews?

My son is not violent but has certain special needs — and I am very aware of how the default strategy for us as parents is to struggle alone, behind the closed doors of one’s apartment instead of seeking help. That’s considered “normal,” that’s what one senses from others as “advisable” — a misplaced kind of “rugged individualism” — and I imagine that if you were to tell people about a violent child, people would recoil and avoid you or the child, or both. And within the Jewish community, mental health conditions are sometimes not given the same urgency as medical conditions. If a kid broke out in a rash, they’d rush him to a dermatologist — but if a kid is violent, they might first wait and see.  This hesitation comes from feelings of stigma and shame.

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Our Violent Children

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