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Map Quest

Barbara Bensoussan

Can you answer the shadchan’s question of “What are you looking for?” If you’ve never addressed the more basic query of: “Who are you?” Rabbi Doniel Frank wants to give you a compass to help you figure out where you’re going and how to get there.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

We hear a lot of talk about the many crises in our community — older singles, broken engagements, early divorces, unhappy marriages, disaffected adolescents, addictive behaviors, parnassah issues… and the list goes on. It seems our society is plagued by catastrophe, but all these “crises” are often symptoms of a more pervasive social ill that begs to be addressed, according to Rabbi Doniel Frank, a Monsey-based therapist who has created a movement to bring back personal integrity at the individual level. Too many frum people come off the assembly line into adult life, never having addressed three core questions: Who am I? What do I really want in life? And, how am I going to make it happen? “For the last few years I’ve been working extensively with young couples and singles in the parshah,” says Rabbi Frank, “and what they’re showing up with is a really poorly formed sense of self. The shadchan’s typical opening question of ‘What are you looking for?’ overlooks a much more basic but ignored question: Who are you?” Rabbi Frank, who served as rabbi of the Young Israel of Westport, Connecticut, and the director of the Torah Learning Center in Stamford after receiving semichah from Ner Israel in Baltimore, went on to become a licensed marriage and family therapist with training in a variety of therapeutic approaches. In 2001, Ohel approached him to head up its school-based services program in Rockland County and its mental health clinic in northern New Jersey. “I saw the struggles of students and the deficits in the educational system,” he says. “Meanwhile, I’d begun working with engaged couples, and while it’s good to catch people whenever you can, by that point it’s hard to make a paradigm shift. Young people who’ve created ways to avoid challenges can’t be instantly converted into a responsible couple. Premarital workshops definitely have value — and I offer them too — but we’re asking a lot of one workshop to redo a person from scratch, teach new habits, attitudes, and skills that should have been formed long before. The concept of personal responsibility, of getting to know yourself, these are things that take a lot longer than four hours.” And so, over the next ten years, he developed and presented school-based seminars to foster the development of life skills such as rapport-building, decision-making, self-awareness, and goal-setting. He launched his M.A.P. (Motivation and Performance) Seminars — which he also likes to refer to as your “Mission, Ambition, and Passion,” or “Meat And Potatoes” of life — in 2012, with encouragement from Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky and Rav Sholom Kamenetsky, with whom he’s in ongoing contact. The goal of the seminars — to help people develop a core, a drive, and a map for life — is the response to the phenomenon of young people who aren’t well-launched, going forward without thinking too much, and wandering through life without motivation, ambition, or passion.

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