By B. Stein
Photos: Levi Liberow
I was surprised at how vulnerable I felt on that first Thursday afternoon. As I entered the large shul where the first presentation took place—and glimpsed a sea of unfamiliar faces, I froze. There was a part of me that wanted to turn and run.
By entering this room, I would be making an admission: I am the parent of a KIP, (the vernacular for Kid in Pain.) I belong here.
I steeled myself for the dozens of pairs of eyes that would scrutinize me, and was relieved to meet those eyes, sensing only empathy, acceptance and understanding.
For four days and three nights, during which we barely slept, I connected with some of the most loving, compassionate, sensitive and caring parents that I have ever met—parents who would go the moon and back, and then make another return trip for the sake of their children.
I had the privilege of spending Shabbos in the company of giants: Rabbonim and Rebbetzins of shuls. Professionals and therapists. Artists and teachers and doctors and singers and regular fathers and mothers, all of whom have one thing in common: we are raising children who are struggling, teens and adults who are experiencing inner torment, who need us so desperately and who force us to face our deepest doubts and fears. Most of all, they compel us to keep growing, keep reaching deeper within ourselves.
If I ever harbored a feeling of guilt for being a parent of a KIP, the guilt and the shame were wiped out—because if the clientele at this weekend was any indication, the Kesher Nafshi parents are some of the most respected, caring, compassionate and elevated souls Klal Yisroel has to offer.
So, what was the highlight of the weekend? Was it the three-part workshop by Rabbi Shimon Russell, which brought us into the hearts and minds of our struggling children? Was it the entertaining and eye-opening couples’ workshop by Yom Tov Glaser?
The Motzei Shabbos address by Y.Y. Jacobson, where he spoke of our love for our children, and the strengths they brought forth from within our souls? The gripping personal story of a brave young man who bared his soul, sharing his exotic journey, and the spontaneous, heart-stirring presentation by Lipa Schmeltzer afterward?
Was it the women who courageously opened their hearts and shared their sagas, entrusting us with a most precious gift, the gift of being understood?
Perhaps it was the fascinating workshops and a concluding address by Rabbi Yossi Bensoussan, who spends his days in the trenches, and who ‘gets’ our children as no one else can. Or was it the choice of dynamic professionals, including the highly regarded Dr. Mordechai Weinberger LCSW, Rabbi Yosef Vigler, Rabbi Daniel Mechanic, Rabbi Shloime Erhlich, and so many others?
It was all of the above. But most importantly, it was an opportunity to let our guard down, sharing and confiding and laughing and crying together with people who ‘get it.’ It was understanding that we are not alone, that there are others on this journey together who are always ready to listen, to understand.
It was learning that we are not flawed, that our children are not flawed. That we must reach deep within ourselves to find those reservoirs of kindness and strength and faith and courage, and most importantly, keep davening, keep loving, and never lose hope.
For more information about Kesher Nafshi, or for future events, go to Keshernafshi.org
VIDEO: Lipa Schmeltzer sings a story of the Rebbe