David Mandel
Chief Executive Officer, OHEL Children's Home and Family Services

Gimmee Shelter

As the Vietnam War was raging after the Tet Offensive in 1968, which greatly increased the number of casualties Gimme Shelter by The Rolling Stones became a hit song.

The popular singers of the era Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Mary,

Jimmie Hendrix, Bob Dylan amongst many, captured in their lyrics the mood of the tumultuous street of America and beyond.

The words of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, accomplished songwriters and lead singers of The Rolling Stones rekindle in Gimmee Shelter yet another raging war.

How America and countries the world over may be divided over the issue of immigration.

“Oh a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away”

Thousands of children separated from their parents at the US border as they enter seeking safe shelter are threatened by a storm.

Many thousands more children who remain with their parents at immigration holding and processing centers equally feel threatened by the uncertainty of their future in this great country or forced to return to their country of origin.

What is your recollection of your first traumatic event in your life?

How old were you?

At a young age did you experience the death of a loved one, being bullied in school, a victim of sexual abuse, a bad accident, waiting for your parents to pick you up from school and they were very late leaving you bawling uncontrollably, a dog bite and so many other examples.

Any of these could conjure strong memories decades later, repressed memories or ongoing trauma.

No one escapes some trauma in their life.

It’s only a question of at what age and how deeply it affected you through your childhood and adult life.

“War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away”

Migrant children are caught in the crossfire of a war. A war without bullets that may not pierce the physical body and bleed.

Yet, very much a war that drives a knife into the hearts of children and creates searing heartbreak.

While adults debate the merit of immigration toddlers and children from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea are held hostage moreover separated from their mothers whilst policy is debated.

The difference between policy and trauma is that policy is debated at governmental levels for months and years to reach a conclusion and become law.

Trauma may be caused in minutes, even seconds, and then take years, even decades to undo the harm caused by that event.

While government officials may eventually forget the policy they debated  children separated from their parents may never forget their trauma.

“Ooh, see the fire is sweepin’
Our very street today
Burns like a red coal carpet”


Rome is not burning.
Nero is not playing his fiddle.

70% of Rome’s population was left homeless in 64AD when Rome burned for six days.

Immigration is burning the world over.

Policies or the lack thereof in the US cause a natural ripple effect thousands of miles away. America is a leader.

Countless octogenarians today and their baby boomer children vividly recollect their own trips from overseas landing at

Ellis Island in New York, Chicago, and in many other cities of refuge beginning at the turn of the 20th Century and continuing for many decades. Policies were hotly debated, quotas were rationed like food,migrant ships were turned back to sea.

What have we learned?

Every ethnic community the world over can lay claim to their own migration history.

Only within the last fifty years the Jewish community saw its children successfully migrating from Iran, Russia and operation Moses from Ethiopia.

We need fewer protests, less sit-ins and no photo ops. We need to get together without recrimination to establish a policy, a law that is focused on safety first.

“Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away”


The reason a song lyrics are replayed as a chorus is to make it easy for us to remember.

Like a nursery rhyme.

We have a storm threat’ning.

It is the storm of disagreement.

Children need safety, protection from harm.

While adults argue children suffer the emotional burning.

There are two words worth remembering from this popular song of 50 years ago. Gimmee Shelter.

Give children shelter.

The author thanks Chani Jaffa for her suggestions of this article.

About the Author
David Mandel is CEO of Ohel Children's Home and Family Services. For more than 50 years, Ohel has provided a safe haven for those suffering in the community. Ohel cares for more than 17,000 individuals in the New York metropolitan area and across all communities offering a broad range of mental health services including outpatient counseling, trauma, anxiety, eldercare, respite and housing.