Yad L’Achim reveals: 35% of the girls in their care come from frum homes. Professionals share the red flags that something is wrong, how to approach the situation, and most importantly how to try to prevent it in the first place.
Yad L’Achim revealed an astonishing statistic this week, that some 35 percent of the girls it is helping to extricate from relationships with Arabs come from religious and frum homes.
The organization’s counter-assimilation department says that this painful phenomenon cuts across all sectors, without exception. Victims include girls from the finest seminaries and even those in elementary school.
It seems unfathomable, yet Yad L’Achim shares that there are many situations that allow for dangerous relationships to develop even within religious communities.
For example, drivers who are hired to transport students to school or camp. In many instances, there is no responsible adult supervision to keep an eye on things, allowing for small gestures between the driver and the student that can evolve into terrible tragedies.
Another situation where young frum girls can be exposed is in the supermarkets. Young girls are sent to the store to do the family shopping and encounter Arab workers offering friendly assistance and enter into conversations that can develop into relationships. In some cases, the victims are inexperienced cashiers. In others, it’s women at home receiving deliveries.
Yad L’Achim is involved in a number of very difficult cases that began with casual contact between girls who were home alone and laborers doing renovations or at nearby construction sites. So maintenance or construction workers are another possible threat.
Finally, Pharmacists and doctors. These are respected professionals, who are viewed as intelligent and trustworthy. “One of the more difficult cases we are dealing with at Yad L’Achim, baruch Hashem with success, involves a doctor who gave his personal number to a young patient; from there it was a short distance to a tragedy that was averted at the last moment with siyatta D’Shmaya and supreme efforts.” one volunteer shared.
Mrs. Suri Kostlitz, coordinator of Yad L’Achim’s counter-assimilation department, notes that religious girls’ innocence and lack of exposure to the outside world potentially makes them more vulnerable to enter into unhealthy relationships. Another factor that make them easy targets is that they are taught to be obedient and respectful, making it more difficult for them to say no to adults.
When there is a crisis in the family or the girl suffers from low self-esteem, the situation is ripe for disaster.
Yad L’Achim’s social workers recommend to parents and school staffers that they keep an eye open for red flags that require immediate attention. These include; sudden absences from class, poor performance at school, fatigue and inability to concentrate, a tendency to isolate, refusal to consider or even hear of shidduch offers, an increase in the amount of time spent on the phone and an exaggerated concern with outer appearance.
Other even more alarming signs: Interest in the Arab sector, in their language or music, and, of course, hints or signals from the girl’s friends or people in her immediate surroundings that something is going on.
How should parents respond upon learning that their daughter is headed in a dangerous direction? Yad L’Achim stresses the importance of acting quickly.
“You have to understand that in the case of chareidi girls, the distance between marrying a ben Torah, and emerging from this sad episode, and moving to an Arab village, with all that entails, is not great,” says Harav Shmuel Lifschitz, one of the heads of Yad L’Achim. “Often, rescue becomes possible when a family member detects that something is off and contacts us. The earlier we enter the picture, the greater the chances of success.”
Professionals at Yad L’Achim stress the importance of acting correctly. “When there is suspicion of such a relationship, or when it’s been confirmed, the initial response is very significant,” Rav Lifschitz explains. “It is incumbent upon us as parents to show our daughter that we are here for her, at her side. She will receive all the assistance and support she needs. The door is always open.
“You have to know how to ask the right questions while giving her hope that this is a one-time thing, a passing phenomenon. In no circumstances must we point the finger of blame. This doesn’t mean we approve of what’s happening or give it legitimacy, chalilah, but rather that we recognize that this is the only way to save her. We can be sad and angry in our hearts, but have to understand our daughter, and identify with the distress that led to the tragedy.”
Another important tip from Yad L’Achim to family members, teachers, or anyone else who encounters this phenomenon: “It’s critical to preserve the honor of the girl and her family and not spread the news around.”
In many cases, the natural tendency is to want to “deal with” the Arab and recruit people who can teach him a lesson. Besides the fact that there is no room for taking the law into your hands, it can actually backfire. It’s precisely for this reason that there are professionals who know when and how to involve law enforcement officials at the precise moment it is called for.
“More than anything, it’s important to create in the girl a strong motivation to get treatment. Even if it seems that she is over the unhealthy relationship, we as parents must not be lured into a false hope that things will be okay. Without help, without treatment, there is no way she will come out on her own and be able to lead a healthy, happy life.”
Yad L’Achium offers, at no cost, long-term emotional help that is suited to the frum way of life. At the same time, the organization provides support and guidance for parents and educators, as well the services of its security department, when needed, as well as assistance in dealing with the police and courts – all with maximum discretion.
In addition, the professionals at Yad L’Achim highly recommend that parents speak with their daughters about developing self-awareness and forging healthy relationships with friends. “We can’t just shut our eyes and hope for the best,” says one official. “It’s perfectly legitimate for us, as parents, to want to know where our daughters are going and with whom they are socializing. With sensitive awareness, as we express our confidence in them, we can prevent many tragedies.”
Harav Lifschitz sums up the key message of the professionals: “It is crucial for parents to radiate love and concern toward their daughters, to give them the genuine feeling that they are important and significant to the entire family.
“Above all, we must embrace the ways of our forefathers and daven all the time to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, our Father in Heaven, that He should have mercy on us, and save us from difficult moments and guide us, so that we may merit blessed future generations who remain true to the path.”