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


There’s an old Jewish adage that if everyone were to put their “peckel”, their pack of troubles in the middle of the room everyone would take back their own peckel rather than exchange it for another.

As much as people may complain about their lot in life, given the choice of exchanging one’s problems with someone else’s problems, most people are predisposed to keep their own.


Over time, people become familiar with their situation and develop some mechanism for coping with it.
Change and uncertainty brings added anxiety. Said another way, the grass is not always greener on the other side.

Through my work at OHEL, and in my personal life, I’ve met many people with heavy peckels. In our circle of relatives and friends, doesn’t it seem that every one of us knows someone who is divorced, has a child with an addiction, a child who is turning away from religion, someone in dire financial straits or has lost his job, a couple who is experiencing infertility, someone in a bad marriage, a victim of sexual abuse, a young widow with small children, a person who has cancer, a family with a child with Down Syndrome or autism – the list seems to go on and on.

These challenges have become all too common in our community, no doubt in every community. I dare say you could bring together a group of ten friends and you will hear a plethora of troubles.

Is this a normal cycle of life?

Did these issues always exist but are only now more out in the open? Do we become more aware of life’s travails as we get older? Or is it natural for these issues to abound as our community grows in population.

The answer, no doubt, is contained
within all of the above. We live our life striving to succeed hoping all will go well yet subconsciously fearing what may go wrong.

Each person, every couple, every family, will at some point face a challenge that tests their emotional capacity and possibly even their faith. To successfully overcome the hurdle that have befallen them they will have to reach beyond their limits with strength they themselves don’t realize they possess.

There is no such thing as a perfect family. Peek through their translucent door and you will see their struggles. You may be envious, or even wish for another’s “perfect life”,
but it may only be a façade.
They may be people struggling mightily to keep their body, mind and heart functioning in symmetry hoping that tomorrow brings them long sought relief.

One of life’s valuable lessons is teaching children to cope with disapointment and failure. At some point in our life, in their life, they are sure to face a crisis.
It may be a medical or financial setback, a child struggling in school, a child experiencing infertility, or a bad marriage. Any of these and more can happen to any person, to any couple, to any family and our children are not excluded.

Oftentimes a persons ability to reach the other side of a looming catastrophe, perceived or real, depends to a large degree on the resilience each individual possesses. Resilience acts as a built-in safety valve, an extra layer of emotional skin.

Similar to how a cars GPS helps us find an address or a water bottle refreshes us on a long hike, resilience is a reserve we muster to help us navigate through a small problem or a crisis with logic and balance.

You can’t touch or feel resilience.
You just want it to be there.

Hashem is good and in His munificence places in our lives stumbling blocks that we must confront and transcend in order to grow and learn. We require physical and emotional fortitude to cope with these challenges and misfortunes both large and small.

You’ve heard the saying that surgery performed on someone else is minor but done to me it’s major.
No one is untouched by some untoward event in their life. Yet, not everyone need be scarred by these experiences.

We of course wish for ourselves and for all people good health, happiness, prosperity amongst other blessings.

We pray for this every day.
We pray that we will be spared any physical, emotional, financial or spiritual calamity.

The inner strength each of us possesses, our prayers to Hashem, the support of family, friends and the community, our relationships with those whom we love and who love us will most often helps us pass through any dark valleys we encounter.

We should prepare ourselves and our children for these realities.

If the past is a predictor of the future our past successes in life and even more so the failures we’ve experienced will embolden us and help carry through the next crisis we may face.
Teaching our children the positive experience of failure may be one of the most practical lessons they will need to use one day.

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.