It’s hard to imagine events from over 2000 years ago continuing to inspire emotional connection. That is among the challenges of the upcoming observance of Tisha B’Av or the Ninth of Av in the Jewish calendar remembering the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.
In our generation, with so few of our young people even knowledgeable about events that occurred before their birth, it’s astounding that many Jews reflect on these tragedies and weave the observance of Tisha B’Av by abstinence and fasting into the fabric of their lives.
On Tisha B’Av, we close one spiritual door as a people before opening another. An important message is that by engaging and reflecting on the past challenges of our lives, we create space in the present to appreciate the goodness of life around us. Therefore, I believe that the annual observance of Tisha B’Av, with its deep connection to past tragedies, enables us to close a painful door as we move ahead and open a new door to live our lives as Jews into the future.
This imagery may be used to describe ELEM’s work on the streets in Israel. ELEM encourages thousands of young people living on the streets and provides an environment where they want to change their lives and make the leap from a life filled with pathology and often addiction to a healthy and productive lifestyle. However, the truth remains that these youth must get the psychological help they need to reflect on their past, closing one door, and the help they need to open another door and reach the full potential of their lives.
Each day, teams of professionals and volunteers actively seek troubled youth in 43 Israeli cities. The social workers, program staff and volunteers on our ELEM team are trained to be profoundly aware of the deep emotional baggage that each youth carries. Giving these young people the safe space to explore their painful past and close one door while helping them open a new door to life is a key to ELEM’s success . This is hard work and the reward of each life saved is immeasurable.