Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Reading the Body Language of Long-Term Ritual Abuse Victims: Bombard's Body Language

Bombard's Body Language is a video series by a woman who goes by Bombard (no first name that I can locate). Her videos are stunningly engaging; she herself claims to be a victim of abuse.

In this particular video, she analyzes two interviews of self-proclaimed survivors of long-term ritual abuse, whom she clearly believes, although she does not take every claim they make literally.

Bombard categorizes the outcomes for such victims as follows:
  • Abuse others - to take their power back
  • "Stay away from it"
  • "Fight those that are perpetrating it" -- "those are the people that I think are saveable (sic)...their empathy side of the brain was not destroyed. They feel for the other people. They know what it's like and do not want to put others in that position."
"There's no rehab for someone" who gets high on abusing others.

I. Survivor #1 (I do not have the name), survivor of long-term ritual abuse, which allegedly began at age 2. This survivor says that they referred to Satan as "Lucifer."
  1. They seem calm, not agitated, because they've lived through the worst and this interview is not it.
  2. They have "small tells" and "they're very good at keeping a stress-free face."
  3. They are good liars, because they've learned to lie to survive. That's why many people don't trust them, which essentially means that they're victimized twice--once in the abuse, and again for surviving.
  4. Victims normally hold something back. They don't want to tell you the whole thing. 
  5. The more they tell, the more they are likely to tell.
  6. Victims feel guilt that they did not do more or handle the situation better such that they could save somebody else.
  7. Victims look all over the place because they anticipate an attack. 
  8. If you surprise a victim, "you may get a violent response." If they aren't prepared to defend themselves, they freeze.
  9. Watch for the victim sitting in an open fetal position.
  10. Victims of long-term abuse grow up believing the abuse (including killings and watching bodies be disposed of) is normal, and if they run away it's to get a break, not because they really believe they can leave. (Their tormenters are seen as "upstanding citizens" - others ignore the signs and symptoms.) Non-victims have trouble understanding what victims went through is real, and therefore why they didn't go to the police.
II. Survivor #2 - Cathy O'Brien - whose daughter was "taken under the guise of national security" in Tennessee.
  1. Again, "small tells" -- "long-term victims keep body language at a minimum so they're not broadcasting."
  2. Talks about the abuse from her mother and "struggles to get through just a sentence of how horrific it was, struggles to get through that mental minefield....really was abused by her father, and she was abused by her mother."
  3. "She has made some claims about being a Clinton sex toy....obviously she's struggling through that mental minefield of trauma, and hiding about what she's done."
  4. "And I don't say that in a way that she's done something so horrific, but there's something in it that gives her pause. Shame, she does not want to disclose whatever she's done with Hillary Clinton has given her shame. And we can surmise, given that this was in 1996 of this videotaping, that the gayness of it was the shame."
  5. For long-term abuse victims, "killing no longer phases you," so that it would have to be an extreme version of killing for it to throw you out of joint.
  6. Talks about mind-control programming and being compartmentalized to carry out tasks for political purposes - talks about Sen. Byrd. "I'm telling you, from her ability to look at the audience...look down, look up...her body is in between this minefield of memories, to -- she has done a lot of research with (her husband), the minefield of the research she did, to explain everything. Because there are some people that have to have an explanation, it can't just be that they're evil. She gets me at...needs an explanation...to justify the hell with MK-ULTRA and CIA. I'm not disputing MK-ULTRA and CIA with her....but she did not actually witness anything with Sen. Byrd actually saying 'I want her brain--bla bla bla,' 'I want compartments,' bla bla bla."
  7. "She's not wanting to look up" as she discusses "occult rituals" -- "killings, torture" because "she's involved, she's no longer just a bystander or just a victim to it" -- "shame, those secrets that they'll never tell anyone, not even God."
  8. "Extreme malice towards her father, and if you get that anger inside you, towards an abuser, it becomes very comfortable to talk about the abuse....perceives Ford (like) her father." 
  9. "She always stumbles on the whole mind control thing....it is your brain making excuses for what you've done....she's using that as an excuse for what you've done."
  10. "It's another coping mechanism to make fun of the abuser."
Bombard ends by adding some commentary about Satanic ritual abuse: 
"Satanic rituals and the Satanic cult, it is a religion....Churches have congregations, and they all have pecking orders. So do Satanic churches. It is an idea, and it is an ideal. You cannot kill it by cutting off the high priest or high priestess."
I recall, as Bombard states in the video, when ritual abuse was more or less accepted as a fact, and somehow, abruptly, it became "impossible to believe."

This phenomenon should not be accepted uncritically, but for those who want to look for a source of data, individual and comparative studies of body language (as in this video) are a useful place to start.
Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Creative Commons CC0 photo via Pixabay.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Seizing The Momentum Of Long-Term Change

For about 60 years, the Pew Research Center has asked Americans the same question: "Do you trust the government in Washington to do what is right 'just about always' or 'most of the time'?"

During President Obama's tenure, the moving average ranged from 17 to 25%. As of December 4, 2017, nearly a year into President Trump's Administration, the figure remained low, at 18%.

There are of course many theories about why public opinion swings the way it does. One can go back to the twentieth century and do a forensic analysis, matching polls to policies, and surely there will be patterns.

But from where I sit, the single most obvious reason for public anger has to do with a process issue: While a democracy is supposed to be accountable to the people, increasingly the people do not know what's going on.

Worse, when they want to find out what's going on, or seek redress, the simplest request turns out to be utterly complicated: One needs a virtual outcry in order to make oneself heard.

Of course, there are many legitimate reasons why the public cannot know things. But reasons turn easily to excuses. And it is all too easy for the government to adopt a passive-aggressive posture, shielding information that the public wants and needs.

A perfect example of this posture is very humorously portrayed in the movie Snatched (2017), with Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn. In the film, the pair are kidnapped from Ecuador, and a State Department official gets the call. It takes their hilariously panicked brother to descend upon the government, and doggedly persist until they're picked up from abroad.

When you don't work for the government, it's easy to perceive nefarious intent behind this kind of attitude. But when you've been inside for awhile, and you've seen the kind of battles that erupt over seemingly very minor things, it quickly becomes clear that "conforming to the law while avoiding trouble" is the easy way out for some.

But what many people don't see, amid all this negativity, is the movement inside the government to improve the quality and reliability of communications with the public--for everything from outreach to secure identity documents.

What follows below are some selective highlights from my perch as a interagency volunteer in some of the efforts named below:

Of course, no matter what the government does, it will always be fun to poke fun at civil servants. Equally true, there will always be bad apples in the bunch, who do their best to hold on to information-as-power, swatting away the good people who seek only improvement.

But the world is an imperfect place, and we cannot wait for perfection in order to act. For Federal communicators are always "acting," working in some transitional space between one Administration and the next, one leadership team and the next, past policies and scandals and the ones no doubt to come. 

We cannot wait to get credit for the good things we have done, either.

As General Martin Dempsey once said, about his tenure as acting commander of the United States Central Command: 

"You get twice the work, you get none of the credit, and you get all of the blame if something goes wrong in between."

Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Photo by myrfa via Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons).

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Misusing The Torah To Enable Child Predators

Incredibly, Jewish Community Watch, a wonderful organization that protects children from child sex predators within the community, is being taken to a religious court (Beis Din) for warning people about the presence of a pedophile. Prior to this, a well known child safety advocate, Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, was also sued by a predator for doing the same thing.

Imagine a religious system that not only knowingly shelters and shields pedophiles over an extended period of time, going out of its way to protect adults about whom legitimate concern has been expressed, attacking victim advocates like the heroic Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg, and even attacking the victims and their families to the point where they even have to move out of town!

It is well-documented that pedophiles are serial abusers, because they cannot control their impulses, and are therefore never able to work around children (here's a list of characteristics to watch for). Rehabilitating them into the community should never involve jeopardizing anyone, especially the most vulnerable among us.

In the United States, sex offenders are required to sign up for a registry so that people can find out if they are living nearby. Additionally, identity protection services routinely offer the service of warning their subscribers of the presence of such individuals.

Israel already has a reputation as a haven for sex predators like Malka Leifer, who flee to seek the protection of ultra-Orthodox communities. Yet it is the Holy Land; such a reality should not be allowed to exist by religious leaders.

As Jews, we must call on our religious leaders to do the right thing and stop harboring religious predators under the false pretense that such people are somehow "rehabilitated." As Vivien Resofsky, an Australian social worker (and one of my freelance clients, so I know her work well) has pointed out, this is pseudoscientific nonsense, and poses an immediate threat in particular to children.

Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. This post is hereby released into the public domain.

Government "Good News" Stories Should Come Directly From The Citizen

She worked as a babysitter for a doctor who works at the NIH.

All her life had been about money, the money, the money.

Her diagnosis was: brain cancer, three months to live, there was nothing they could do about it. The disease had spread to the brain.

She did not speak English well, and a relative who had been educated in the United States and was familiar with the NIH somehow got the word to them. Maybe it was a note in a campus bulletin; how this happened is unclear.
“A woman has brain cancer and her case is terminal. Does anybody need help with a clinical trial?”
Miraculously, one doctor contacted the person who told me this story.
"Where is the patient?"
They did all the tests.
“This will not save your life. But it will add time. No less than two years.”
The drug cost $20,000. The NIH would not pay for it.

But by the grace of God, the health insurance did, and the patient got the medicine and went into hospice.

Every six months they evaluated her: 
“She isn’t even close to the end.”
It was nothing short of amazing.
“You have two years to do what you always wanted.”
And finally, this woman who had known nothing but struggle her whole life crossed every single item off her bucket list.

Until one day, finally, she went back to the temples of her homeland for a short visit.

And this woman, a woman whose entire life was consumed with a quest for the material, finally met up with God.

Because of the NIH — or more specifically, because of a doctor talented enough, driven enough, caring enough, and supported enough by the U.S. government to do research into brain cancer — this patient had the time to think about what matters.

I had begun to cry. I was moved because I, too, have gotten lost many times, focusing on money and forgetting faith.

Seeing my tears, the woman who told the story broke out in tears herself, and said:
“Thank God for the NIH. The NIH saved her life.”
Miraculously, in the end, the cancer patient diagnosed with just three months to live actually got four years to find peace.

I’ll admit that as a government worker myself, and as a worker with a family member who works at the NIH, I am biased toward wanting to hear this kind of "good news story."

But in a world where we hear so much bad news every day, it’s refreshing to hear about the important work our government does, straight from the heart of a grateful citizen.

From a government public affairs perspective, this is where the focus should be.

Copyright 2018 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal (CC0 Creative Commons, dedicated to the public domain). All opinions are the author’s own and this content is not intended to promote or represent the views of any other individual or organization. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health (NIH)/Flickr (Creative Commons).

Thursday, January 25, 2018

You Can't Have It Both Ways

Recently a young woman went public about her encounter with the comedian Aziz Ansari (Headline: "I Went On A Date With Aziz Ansari. It Turned Into The Worst Night Of My Life.")

This young woman's rant was especially offensive to me in light of the actual sexual assault that plagues the lives of so many women and young girls, and about which feminists are so often curiously silent.

(There is a silent clique, it seems, which picks which victims are worthy of support and which aren't, and no links are included here so as to avoid having any debate over this post degenerating into a discussion of the merits of any particular case.)

The point is, here is a woman who went on a date and made herself sexually available, and things went downhill, everybody regretted it and Anzari apologized. No crime is claimed here; no charges were filed; he even called her a cab.

"The worst night of my life?"

Just this morning I read the victim impact statement of Rachel Denhollander, one of Larry Nasser's victims and it literally made me shudder.

Laurie Penny has written a thought-provoking article on the Ansari story and its connection to the feminist movement. I agree with her primary point, which is that women should be safe at all times, and not have every movement conditioned by the violent fear of rape. But I don't agree that Ansari is a part of the problem.

Rather, the problem is culture, and we have a collective responsibility to speak out about how women are framed in culture, limited and stunted when we should be empowered and free.

Interestingly, Natalie Portman just published an article about how her growth into womanhood, pleasure and sexuality was stifled by the world in which we live--a world which, as Penny points out, frames sex as inherently married to violence and the lack of consent.

What can women do in such a world?

For one thing, we can agree that men and women need some serious re-educating about how consent works, with a particular emphasis on ambiguity. As Penny points out, consent means a very clear "yes," not the absence of a "no."

But for women, there must be some accountability as well. No matter what "society" says or how we are socialized, one cannot have it both ways.

If, to all appearances, an adult female, who is not being coerced, says "yes," she cannot later claim that the "yes" actually meant "no," and that her sexual partner "should have known that."

Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. CC0 Creative Commons photo by sasint via Pixabay.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

In Search of the Radical Middle

So I’m in the coffee shop as usual getting my coffee and it is warm-ish and I’m annoyed.

The coffee shop is nearby the White House and two men in business suits are sitting and talking to each other. Each one has their own table and they’re talking across the tables, so loud.

The first man says to the second man that he has an appointment at the White House.

“Oh, really!” says the second.

At which point they start talking politics.

“I come from California, where you can literally get in trouble just for following the law,” says A.

“I hear you,” says B. “I’m a Democrat, but many in my party don’t agree with the radical Left.”

“Been around for a lot of years and I remember when we used to go into a room and actually negotiate the legislation,” says A.

B sits there nodding, furiously.

They continue talking about bipartisanship, and how it’s missing, and we don’t understand how things have gotten so…polarized.

I chime in. “It’s too bad we don’t have a camera crew here, a Democrat and a Republican talking bipartisanship.”

The look I get is not welcoming. They were having a guy-a-thon.

But I press on, I don’t really care, and so I say to A: “Do you mind if I ask you a question?”


“Do you think that the radicalization we’re seeing nowadays is organic, or is someone engineering it?”

“Oh it’s not organic at all. You need to study the French Revolution.”

They continue talking and then they pack up and leave, and I’m left to ponder the state in which we now find ourselves.

I get on social media and it’s like literally watching a parallel reality unfold in real time.

Who are all these people we’re seeing, in headline after headline, squabbling and attacking like chicken stuck together in a coop?

What’s happened to the world I used to inhabit, where reality actually meant something, where facts were not debatable as artifacts of feeling?

I know, because I observe people carefully by habit, that most people are wedded to the world of normal: They want no extremes. In fact they want no problems with others.

But there are few — a very few, and they get literally all the headlines — who seem to want nothing but trouble. They aren’t healthy in the mind, but they know how to grab the spotlight. And of course, they attract attention.

When I was younger, I remember we used to sit at the Sabbath table, and debate. Logical point here, counter-argument there. Our model was the law, and we venerated those who had that kind of Talmudic genius, balanced by compassion and humility.

Sadly, for more than a year now, the American public has been exposed to massive abuses of power that went on right under our collective noses. Literally — we saw, but saw nothing.

How do we go about redress?

If I am to have any say in things at all, I would suggest that radicalism — of any kind — is not the way to go. The answer to lies is not more lies, told under the cloak of “reform.”

One of the biggest lies false prophets spread is the notion that “if you only follow me, all will be well.” Take any Sociology 101 class and you’ll learn that deviance (crime, corruption) is endemic to every society, and though you may expose and squelch it today, it will reappear tomorrow.

And no, it doesn’t matter whether the Republicans or the Democrats are in charge.

The great Jewish sage Maimonides famously advocated the way of moderation. He also said this, in Guide to the Perplexed:
‘Truth does not become more true by virtue of the fact that the entire world agrees with it, nor less so even if the whole world disagrees.”

As a society we may disagree on many things.

But one thing I hope we can agree on is that the notion of facts — inarguable facts, facts that stand outside your perception and mine — still has merit.

And that facts inform and impact our world.

And deserve to be dealt with rationally.

It is mentally healthy to avoid extremes of belief and behavior and stay in the middle of the road. Looking at our world through the lenses of science, compassion, and yes, also faith. Balancing them, and interacting with each other in a respectful and balanced way.

Understanding this: It takes a tremendous amount of effort to stay centered in a world that increasingly seems pulled toward chaos.


Copyright by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. Posted January 24, 2017. All opinions are the author’s own. Photo via Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons).

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

We Need A Plan for Federal Communications

As a government communicator I have always had a heightened sensitivity to the gap between what the public wants to hear and what the government wants to say.

I've also understood that the government tends to play catch-up with the communication tools used by the private sector. (It took us *years* to legitimize the use of social media.)

In 2016-2017 one of my major "labors of love" was a research paper called "Advancing Federal Communications." Dozens of us worked on this paper. It called for professional standards for federal communications, similar to the concept used in the UK.

There, the government releases an annual plan for government communication outlining its priorities.

When it comes to communication, the UK also explicitly values measurement, a.k.a. evaluation.

We all know that in the United States, trust in government is at or near what they call "historic lows." We can speculate as to why that is. No doubt performance is a significant part of it.

But so is communication.

In the "olden days," meaning when I started working for the government (2003), the preferred communication style was excessively technical, e.g. nobody could understand what we were talking about. Subject matter experts ruled.

Landmark: "The Plain Writing Act of 2010 was signed on October 13, 2010. The law requires that federal agencies use clear government communication that the public can understand and use." https://plainlanguage.gov/law/

But a lot of problems still remain.

Somebody very smart recently was asked what they would do to improve the function of an organization. That person said, let's talk about enhancing the quality of what's already there -- not knocking people down. I agree with that approach.

So let's be positive, and talk about what government communicators tend to have in common: dedication, smarts, nuanced thinking, clarity of writing, technical skill.

Let's build on that.

What government communicators tend to have in common, higher level: They are good at offering strategic, nonpartisan advice.

Another, but not so positive: Federal communicators often don't have a "seat at the table" where communication decisions are made. (Even if they're literally, physically in the room, objective advice is often not wanted.)

They are not taken seriously. And the reason for this, I believe, is a lack of standards for the profession. For example, project management has the "Project Management Body of Knowledge" (PMBOK), and related certification.

Government communicators don't even have a single unifying definition of "communication" as opposed to all other activities.

Furthermore, there is no bachelor's degree in the civil service that I am aware of.

There is no major concentration in "federal government communication."

There isn't even a guidebook that tells people what legal and regulatory authorities they're following as government communicators.

You wouldn't go on Shark Tank without a business plan. Similarly the government cannot magically operate communications without a strategic communication plan for its employees who conduct outreach or convey information.

This really has nothing to do with politics, and it shouldn't. Government communication needs to be nonpartisan.

The only way for a body of work to avoid being dragged into ideology wars is for the work to adhere to a professional set of standards. You should be able to audit government communication according to those.

But unfortunately, most of what the government has in the way of standards for communicators can be reducible to "thou shalt not," as in - "thou shalt not engage in propaganda, puffery, or grassroots lobbying."

While it's helpful to know what NOT to do, this doesn't exactly tell us what TO do. We know that communication is an affirmative duty to ensure accountability, compliance, etc. but that's about it.

There are multiple ways for the situation to be tackled, but first and foremost there has to be motivation at the highest levels to tackle it. (Not only among communicators themselves.)

Here's hoping that that the future will bring us an institutional structure dedicated to establishing standards and annual plans for government communication. Those should clearly establish what the public can expect and how they can complain, and obtain recourse, if they don't get it.

Here's hoping that the government will use its communicators to the fullest, to share as much information as we can, as accurately as we can, as clearly as we can, to ensure the most accountability and compliance possible.

Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Photo via Pixabay (Creative Commons)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

On The Wastefulness of Taxpayer-Funded Mansions

People often say that “you get what you pay for,” but in the case of communication that’s not necessarily true. Rather, “you get what you’re committed to.”

In the case of the federal government, it would be wise for leaders to consider renewing their commitment to honest, accurate, relevant reporting as to how agencies are spending taxpayer dollars. In August 2001, the GAO published “Internal Control and Management Tool,” which identified “information and communications” as one of the top 5 ways an agency can ensure accountability to the public. This term is defined from an internal point of view, as “relevant, reliable” content in all directions. However one can easily take it a step further: Great internal communication means great external communication as well.

And it doesn’t have to be costly. In September 2016, the GAO published a study of the $1.5 billion per year the federal government spends on advertising and public relations. Between FY2006–2014, on average, the federal government spent more than twice as much per year on advertising and PR contracts than on federal public affairs full-time employees: $1 billion vs. $430 million, on average.

(This data is admittedly skewed for a few reasons so consider it a general ballpark figure to compare the relative amount of money spent on contractors vs. FTEs.)

The Department of Defense does the lion’s share of the spending — 60% of the contract obligations and slightly more than 40% of the staff.

Oddly, when you consider how many headlines we regularly read about government “spin doctors” and propagandists, the government spends almost no money on public affairs specialists as civil servants— they comprise just slightly more than 1/4 of a percent (.28%) of all staff.

A recent internal audit by the Army found that much of its marketing and advertising is “ineffective,” a significant problem compounded by the fact that the DoD spends “hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars…each year” on this and plans to spend an estimated $4 billion over the next decade.

We don’t have a copy of the original audit yet, so it’s not clear how the conclusion was reached, but it’s clear that a simple Facebook Q&A is a free and effective way to reach the public. For example the State Dept. recently conducted a Q&A on applying for a U.S. passport.

For those who want to know more, Facebook & GovLoop published a guide to gov. use of FB that describes the Q&A feature (p. 9). This of course is not an endorsement of either.

The point is, there are many free ways to engage proactively with the public on topics they care about.

The trick to doing this well of course is to be receptive to public interest (they may care about a subject you don’t necessarily think is worthy of a session); prepare well (e.g. with a “murderboard” session where you think of the most difficult questions people could ask and develop responses in advance); promote the event effectively, across Facebook and Twitter (State had a great hashtag, #AskTravelGov), and have a clear moderation policy. (It should be a real conversation, not degenerate into a shoutdown.)

When it comes to good communication, commitment (and a bit of common sense) go a lot further than throwing dollars into the trash.


Posted January 9, 2018 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. This post is hereby released into the public domain. All opinions are the author’s own. Creative Commons photo by paulbr75 via Pixabay.

The Essential Function of a Rabbi

To bring people closer to the observance of the mitzvos, to help them love and fear God in the context of an existence filled with suffering and cruelty.

To provide human and humane answers to the questions people ask, taking into account knowledge of the Torah in its totality. 

To view the totality of Torah as encompassing the commandments that regulate interpersonal relationships (bain Adam LaChavero) and those that regulate the relationship between human beings and God (bain Adam LaMaKom).

To be aware at all times that there are unfortunately so many rabbis who have singlehandedly destroyed the "brand" of Judaism with their misdeeds, in particular through vile exploitation of those who trusted them blindly. 

To support those who do the opposite.

To measure the fitness of other rabbis by their results, not their restrictiveness.

To look for example at the number of people who go to the synagogue and at the increase in their level of observance. 

To be aware that one's observance level is correlated with their being labeled as good people with the potential to be better always -- not sinners from the minute they walk in the door. 

Certainly to distinguish between an actual requirement and a made-up requirement, not to mention a leniency.

To remember that they exist in a social context wherein most Jews don't even believe in God.

To bring their heads up from the books, and get out into the real world with the people.
Posted January 10, 2018 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal, adapted from a Facebook comment posted earlier today. All opinions are the author's own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. CC0 Creative Commons photo by mig-ua via Pixabay.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Those Who Know, Don't Tell

"Those who know, don't tell, and those who tell, don't know."

That was a saying I heard often growing up.

Anyone can go on television, write a book, appear at conferences, give rousing speeches, and tell you they're a messenger of some kind of truth.

But in my experience, the people who really know things, the people who are in a position to opine on what is going on behind the scenes, are not going to tell you, ever.

The following factors produce their silence:
  • Legal agreements.
  • The trust of those who have confided in them.
  • A certain level of fear as to what might happen if they spoke out.
This isn't to argue that you should therefore adopt a certain way of thinking. That I somehow magically have the key, if such a thing could exist.

It does mean that you benefit from keeping an open yet critical mind at all times.

Think about what motivates the person to say the things they say.

Think about who they hang out with.

That, more than the chapters of their book, will tell you everything you need to know.
CC0 Creative Commons Photo by daswortgewand via Flickr CC0 Creative Commons. Posted January 8, 2018 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author's own.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

#MeToo: For Any Therapist In Maryland Who Has Reason To Believe Children Are At Risk, What's Next?

Here is my best understanding, and if it's incorrect please let me know. You're a therapist in MD and an adult tells you they were molested by someone who is still working with minors. The official number to call, any time of day or night, in Montgomery County is 240-777-4417. (See links below for other reporting numbers.) The fact that this person still works with children makes it important to tell the appropriate authorities about allegations of prior abuse, even if the reporting party is an adult at the time they disclose this information.

* Informal guide to child reporting - see #7 and #9 (I did not write this)
* State-by-state reporting requirements
* Local reporting offices in Maryland

Most people are not bad, but the ones that are bad have a way of repeating their behavior till they're stopped by law enforcement.

If you're not sure what to do, please consult a competent legal authority.

Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Photo by LauritaM via Pixabay.

Vishnitzer Chassidim Doing Outreach?

Last night we had the privilege of attending a musical havdalah service with The Traveling Chassidim at Aish HaTorah of Greater Washington.

Little did I know that these Chassidim, like my family, are Vishnitzer Chassidim, from Romania.

Wow! What a powerful sight to see Vishnitzers singing the traditional beautiful melodies I heard only occasionally, on visits to Brooklyn.

What a powerful sight to see Vishnitzers talking about outreach, when my whole life has been the dichotomy between Chabadniks, who broke with tradition by recruiting Jews in the street to put on a pair of Tefillin, and non-Chabadniks, who have long believed that outreach is a bad idea.

Essentially: "If you want religion, you want it and if you don't, you don't -- we don't push."

What a powerful sight to see Vishnitzers saying that ALL Jews are one family, and one community, and come visit us, and all the divisions are really artificial.

This means so much to me because I am acutely aware that I'm not as religious as my extended family, and I often feel inadequate because of it.

What a powerful sight to see Vishnitzers saying that the arrival of Moshiach depends on such unity.

I loved the singing and the dancing, and the message of redemptive joy, joy amid all the pain and the suffering of life. (Here is Andy in full shtreimel -- now there's a sight I never thought I'd see!)

What a powerful night, a night I will never forget.

Here's what the concert looked like.

Here's the miracle that happened last night, too: The community came together and prayed, and within about 12 hours of a missing woman's disappearance being announced, it was relayed to us that Aliza (Greenberg) O'Connor, who went missing from D.C.'s Union Station on January 2, 2018, has been found and is safe and sound.

A complete, complete miracle.
As Andy said yesterday, God please save us, for tragedy always lurks, and for some the pain has struck and is terrible beyond words.

Maybe we can't all do all 613 mitzvos, but we can support one another and do the best we can.
Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. This post is hereby released into the public domain. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. Photo by Dr. Blumenthal.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

It’s Wise To Ask Before Assuming

When I was about sixteen I went into “the city” (that means New York City, to me, because there’s only one NYC!) and took a long walk across midtown.

Along the way I had my palm read, which is not okay to do according to the way that I was raised. But I did it, because I was too curious to wait and find out what my future would bring.

It turns out that spending $5 on a street psychic was overall a dumb thing to do, for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that you end up believing that what they tell you is true. In other words, life becomes a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.

But there was one redeeming part of my mistake, and that was an offhand comment the person made after the reading: “If you can avoid it, don’t gossip. Gossip is bad for the soul.”

My great-grandfather, Reb Dovid Garfinkel, may he rest in peace, is remembered by the family for his frequent admonishments about this. So much so, in fact, that this side of the family avoids prolonged conversation.

(To some who don’t understand, this can seem a little cold, but avoiding the potential for gossip is the reason behind it.)

As a neighborhood acquaintance recently put it, “There are so many things you’re not allowed to say, when it comes to the Jewish laws about lashon hara, (evil speech, Hebrew for ‘gossip’), that basically you’re left only talking about the weather.”

We sort of laughed, ha-ha laughed, like this was a joke, when she said this. But the truth is, Jewish laws about clean speech are really very strict.

So strict, in fact, that you aren’t even supposed to say something good about a person, because praising them might cause someone else to lean in with a jab.

I thought of this the other day, when a friend told me about her experience looking for an event planner.

The person she interviewed seemed good enough, but one of their references highlighted specific areas of concern.

My friend decided not to hire the person after all, based on this report. But I questioned her: Doesn’t the planner deserve the opportunity to make their case? To know what others are saying about them, and to respond?

This concept seems really important in today’s day and age, when the line between fact and opinion is so regularly blurred in conversations and in the news. People are so strongly polarized, that rarely do they spend the time to talk to one another, not to “convince” but to learn.

In organizational development they call the latter kind of talk “appreciative inquiry.”

It’s important in the workplace to have this skill. Because often, flaming disputes can arise where a discussion would have diffused it.

And most of us can probably think of a “family feud” that could have been avoided, but instead dragged on like the Hatfields and the McCoys, over not just decades but generations.

It’s true, we aren’t living in Fantasyland, and sometimes you have to speak about unpleasant things, and that often means human behavior.

But gossip — mindless, hateful, poisonous gossip — is something very different altogether. And if it is at all possible, gossip is a good thing to avoid, because it really is poison. Not just to the other person, but to your own soul as well.

Before you make a snap judgment about another human being, especially one based on what “other people” have said, consider whether it’s possible to just walk up and ask them directly about your concerns.

Posted Jan. 3 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. This post is hereby released into the public domain. All opinions are the author’s own. CC0 Creative Commons photo by Geralt.

Monday, January 1, 2018

It's January 1, 2018: Own Your Fear

So the world did not go up in flames last night, which is a good thing. 

But for many people in the world, life is nevertheless suffused with tragedy.
This Sabbath we went to synagogue and learned that someone in the community was stricken on vacation. In one freak accident, he lost his wife, his son, and his mother-in-law. He suffered many broken bones.
I saw the man standing on a cane, but I didn't know who he was, or what had happened to him.
The rabbis' wife walked over to him, and spoke to him in hushed tones.
It was only a few minutes later, during the speech, that I learned the scope and scale of the tragedy.
During his speech, the rabbi spoke to the man before all of us. He said that we are all one family, and that the community grieves with him.
Looking over at him, I saw a human being whose spirit was totally shattered.
I wondered how he got up the strength to come to synagogue at all.
The pain in his being was so strong, so palpable, it was as if the air around him was tinted a different color altogether.
And yet he was there, and he wasn't screaming or tearing out his hair.
He wasn't raging against God, against His unknowable ways.
The rabbi kept his focus on staying in the moment. We needed a minyan for the afternoon prayers. A carpool to visit the family at shiva. Could someone step up and help contribute toward a digital display, to communicate events of interest.
Life is what is happening when you are living in fear. The thing you are afraid of has already happened, it's happening to someone else, it could be in the future, you just never know.

Over the course of my life, and in the past few years particularly, I have become more aware of and sensitive to the suffering that other people go through.
Over and over again, because I think I am unshockable, I find out things that shock me, the depth of the pain, the loneliness of the ordeal, the fact that someone seemingly calm and collected on the outside is literally on fire in the heart and soul and mind.
And I guess what I want to say to you is this.
Whatever it is you're going through in life, know that other people are going through it too, right now, at this very moment.
They will survive, and so can you.
The unpredictability of world events is frightening.
You can still make this the year you ignore all that, and put one foot in front of the other.
Like in that great moment from the movie Annie Hall, when Alvy Singer freaks out and says, "The universe is expanding...some day it will break apart and that will be the end of everything."
Alvy's mother yells at him to get him back on track. "You're here in Brooklyn! Brooklyn is not expanding!"
"The world is a very narrow bridge," as Rabbi Nachman of Breslov once said, "the important thing is not to be afraid."
The truth is there is a lot to be afraid of.
Make this a year to focus on your homework anyway.
Posted January 1, 2018 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author's own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. CC0 Creative Commons photo by Alexas_Fotos/Pixabay.