Using personal observations, religious instruction, an occasional joke and even a song, Rabbi Gavriel Friedman brought words of caution and messages of hope to an enthusiastic crowd at the Simon Family JCC on Saturday, March 9.
“You are always affecting someone, and you are always being affected,” said the popular speaker, better known as Rav Gav. “You may think nobody is watching, but they are. Everybody is watching!”
The theme of the evening’s presentation was “Impressions: Like it or not, you’re a role model.” The 90-minute discussion and pizza party afterward were sponsored by the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, the Konikoff Center of Learning and the Simon Family JCC.
Following an introduction by community member Kevin Lefcoe, Friedman spoke frankly to the diverse crowd of 150, focusing on the impressions parents make on young children, the impact people have on one another, and the ability people have to change their behaviors.
Translating a saying from Pirkei Avot (The Ethics of our Fathers), the Jerusalem resident compared children and unknown people to fresh pieces of paper that are still untouched by ink. Once children get older and people get to know one another, that paper is smudged—it’s not longer as fresh.
“What you are going to write on that paper is so unbelievably crucial,” Friedman said. “We have to be so careful about what we teach our kids and what we say.”
Using stories to illustrate the concept, Friedman cautioned against lying to and in front of children. They’re like sponges, and like clean pieces of paper, Friedman explained, and can’t distinguish between a good lie, a bad lie or a joke.
“If you teach a kid that it’s okay to lie—sometimes—then they learn the same concept. They think they don’t have to be honest,” Friedman said. “Kids see things. They understand. And they’re always, always, learning from us.
“When it comes to our kids, when it comes to passing on our traditions, what do we want to teach them? What do we want them to know? It doesn’t matter how old the person is…you always have the ability to affect your child or the people around you, and you must understand the impact that you have is powerful.”
At the conclusion of his presentation, Friedman played the guitar and sang the sobering Harry Chapin song, Cat’s in the Cradle, reminding the audience that if they choose, they can change their behaviors, recognize their effect on others, and become positive role models for their families and, perhaps, for people they don’t even know.
To see more photos of the event, click here.
by Laine M. Rutherford