Creating a moral legacy

Panel: Members of two religious traditions get together to discuss how to help parents instill values in their children during uncertain and troubling times.

September 21, 1999|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Members of a Jewish congregation and a Roman Catholic parish gathered yesterday at an Owings Mills synagogue for a Yom Kippur discussion on today's troubled youth and how parents, educators and religious leaders can pass on values to children.

The program, titled "L'dor v'dor, From Generation to Generation, Passing a Moral Legacy to our Children," is the start of a yearlong effort by Owings Mills' Beth Israel Congregation and Glyndon's Sacred Heart parish to help parents instill values.

The discussion takes on greater poignancy and urgency, organizers said, in the wake of the series of school shootings and other incidents of teen-age violence and alienation.

"We are gathered here out of love and concern for our children," said Dr. Daniel Levy, a pediatrician and consultant on children's issues with the Maryland State Department of Education. "We are shaken to the core by the bad news we receive as a steady diet about cynicism and violence in our society."

The panel yesterday included representatives from the media, state police, education, religious institutions and youth.

The Rev. Lloyd Aiken, pastor of Sacred Heart, said it was appropriate for the discussion to begin on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, which he compared to the Christian season of Lent.

"We acknowledge we have all failed and we need the help of our God," Aiken said. "But we also need the help of the community to which we belong to foster a desire to live justly and courageously."

Much attention yesterday focused on the media, with its offerings of violent television, movies and video games and music with inappropriate lyrics. News reports of school shootings caused concern that parents and children are becoming desensitized.

"We have become so inured to the violence we see on television that we have lost the empathetic ability" to feel horror or sadness whenever news of another incident is broadcast, said Rabbi Jay Goldstein of Beth Israel Congregation.

But teen-agers on the panel and in the audience said the media are not the problem.

"It's not the video games or movies or music that people listen to that make them violent," said Staci Zemlak, 16, a student at Owings Mills High School and a Beth Israel member. "It's the fact that these materialistic items are put in front of them instead of a real person."

Marni Abrams, 16, a student at Towson High School who also attends Beth Israel, said she watched many of the shows, played many of the games and listened to much of the music being condemned.

"The way people are talking, I should be a homicidal maniac, but I'm not," she said. "For all intents and purposes, I'm a normal teen-ager. I don't understand how people can blame things on television and the media."

Parents should not look to the media, or schools, or churches, but to themselves to ensure moral values are passed on to their children, panelists said.

"Are we examples of giving, of empathy, of tolerance?" asked Rachel V. Glaser, principal of Beth Israel Congregation's religious school. "Can this generation of adults show this generation of youth that success in life does not mean the accumulation of possessions and power, but does mean having meaningful relationships, reaching out to others and promoting harmony and understanding?

"Perhaps we can teach and model for our youth that in each of our little corners of the world, every individual has the power to be a maker of peace, by connecting with others and by nurturing in one another the ability for good and for life," Glaser said.

Pub Date: 9/21/99

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