Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Body Piercing Boy and the Bikini Clad Girl

Is there any purpose to having a couple of non Jewish rebellious teenagers being taken into the home of an observant family? One might not think so. On the contrary. One might think that is the worst thing they can do to their family. Especially if there any children in the family. What can be gained – one might ask?

We know what might be lost. Children can easily pick up the bad habits and attitudes these kids bring in from the street. Who knows what they are going to sneak into the house? Drugs? Alcohol? Sex? Porn?

Well that didn’t seem to be much of a concern to one family - Tzipi and David Shaked and their five children ranging in age from 5 to 18. They were part of a reality TV show. From Ha’aretz:

The show is part of a BBC series, "The World's Strictest Parents," in which unruly British teenagers are sent to live with strict families in different countries. The episode filmed in Israel is due to air later this summer.

I would not have had the guts to do it. But this family did. The result was a Kiddush HaShem in my view. It showed that the supposedly overly strict lifestyle of religious Jews is not only - not - oppressive - it is actually a positive experience. Even to a couple of wayward non Jewish teens.

At first rebellious - 16 year old Jack Travers and 17 year old Gemma Lyons ended up liking it so much they stopped some of their own self abusive behavior and resolved to improve their lives. During their stay they eventually went beyond the show's and the family’s requirements and kept Shabbos with the family while in the home. The final two paragraphs are the kicker:

The producers of "The World's Strictest Parents" are not allowing the teens to be interviewed, as they are still following their progress, but they said that Travers has admitted since the trip that he smuggled alcohol into the Shakeds' house, but said he did not drink it, as he found family life there enjoyable without stimulants.

It seems that some other religious concepts impressed Travers and Lyons, as well. They heard about the Jewish idea of teshuvah, or repentance, and both plan to make amends with family members and teachers and return to their studies back home. And in a surprising endorsement of Israel, they both want to go back this summer - Lyons to spend time studying in university, and Travers to work on a kibbutz.

How wonderful it is to see a story like this for a change. If only there were more people like the Shakeds. They are so secure in the Chinuch they give their children that they do not fear exposing them to these somewhat incorrigible high school dropouts. Isolationism is not for them. The result - when given an opportunity like this? A Kiddush HaShem.

Instead of the Chilul HaShem I usually have to deal with here which seems to be increasing with ubiquitous frequency - it is so nice it is to be able to talk about a public Kiddush HaShem like this once in a while.