Friday, December 09, 2011

Rutgers Daily Targum Cites Falling U.S. Birthrate

What I liked best about my interview with contributing writer Rebecca Welsh, was the rapid fire nature of her questions. She had prepared what seemed like 20 questions, each one expanding on the previous and in sequence. I remember reading the Targum regularly during my 13 year stint at the Rutgers PhD in Social Work program.

Here is the quote from PR Web that caught Rebecca's attention: “Splendid” may seem like a strange reaction to the falling U.S. Birthrate caused by this recession, but that is precisely Dr. Alan Singer’s reaction. “I’m not happy there are less babies,” insists Singer, “I am happy that parents are making careful family size decisions in tough economic times.”

Here is the link for Rebecca's excellent article.

Friday, November 04, 2011

"The Price of Progeny" Superbly Connects Family Size With Family Well Being

Robin Schwartz is not only a talented TV anchor for Fox in Detroit, she is also a skilled free-lance writer for Red Thread, which is the monthly magazine of the Detroit Jewish News.

Click here to read her excellent piece on Family Size Decisions which cites my book.

She brings a deeply personal perspective to the discussion of family size decisions. Click here to watch her own family struggle with infertility that won her a well-deserved Emmy award. She spent long hours on the interview, writing, and editing of this essay. Then the Red Thread graphics department spun their magic and the end result is a superb article....THANK YOU Robin!

Monday, September 05, 2011

Hometown Miami CBS Segment is Unique

Of the 18 book-related TV segments that I did this summer…..Miami, which is where I was born and raised, was both the cutest and most scientific. Strange combo?

You’ll see when you watch the clip (CLICK HERE) how adorable these infants-with-Moms are that CBS4 anchor Ms. Cynthia Demos was able to assemble on a rainy August afternoon in Coral Gables.

And I really admire Cynthia’s use of scientific design. Earlier in the day before I arrived for the taping, she interviewed each mother and asked about their family size intentions. She then interviewed me about my book and each mother listened as I described the family size guidance that I give to couples. She then went back to each mother and asked about their family size intentions again. Some Moms changed their statements and wanted to give it more thought.

It was a very rewarding experience for both me and my middle daughter, who is completing her Doctoral degree in Psychology and accompanied me to South Florida for the segment.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fox & Friends on a Hot Summer Day

Fox & Friends Weekend segment - July 24, 2011

The Right Number of Kids for You
Author creates your perfect family size

On the Friday before my F & F segment, I was driving across Staten Island, and my car’s outside temperature showed 113 degrees. I never saw a number like that on a car, not even in San Antonio last month. All day Friday, I was hoping that Fox wouldn’t pre-empt my segment because of global warming and have Al Gore sitting on that couch at F & F Weekend saying……”See!”

The original air time was 6:45 am as of one week ago. When I suggested to the producer, that young couples who will benefit most from the segment, won’t even be smelling their first cup of coffee at that hour, she agreed and moved it to 8am and then 9:45am.

Upon arrival at their 6th Ave studio, I was sent to make-up. Did anyone care to explain air-brushing to me? As I left make-up, the woman commented, “First time I ever saw someone hold their breath for an entire air-brushing”.

Bonus: Watching the segment later in the day……I noticed the book image that Fox used actually looks like a hard-cover book. There are no hardcovers to be sure; my book is only available in paperback. Now there’s the magic of air-brushing!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dr. Singer to Appear on Fox & Friends Weekend

If you are up tomorrow (Sunday) at 9:40am EST……..I will (God willing) be discussing Family Size Decisions on Fox and Friends Weekend

Friday, July 15, 2011

God, Spouse, & That Order

When Melinda Spaulding, anchor at Fox 26 Houston, asked me what I think of that prioritization (her mother's quote) she caught me off guard. After a moment of reflection, I agreed with her and praised her mother for her insight.

Not all the Book Tour interviews were that intuitive, but each was an unforgettable experience.

When Monica Malpass invited me to WPVI in Phili, I had no idea that we would be shooting the interview outdoors on a 95 degree day in June (photo by Zahava Singer). The camera man only had to stop twice and ask...."Dr. Singer, would you like to wipe the sweat off your forehead before we continue? Then Monica worked her editing magic for what I believe is a terrific segment on family size decisions. As much as I was sweating, taping is a much more relaxing experience than a live interview.

Click below at your own risk because my children tell me.....Dad, after a while, all the interviews start to sound the same!



Washington D.C.




San Antonio

Monday, June 13, 2011

Your Life's Work Summarized in 3 Minutes

As you can see from these links, the book tour is well under way. My experience in TV has been limited but apparently, all of life needs to be placed into 3 minute segments because that is what holds peoples' attention.

Above (embedded) is the WXYZ-Detroit segment. The anchor in Fox59 Indianapolis (see below) was sharp and concise. He read the back cover of my book which says that (Singer) made it his life's work to study, treat.......and began the segment with the words that are above in the title of this blog post.

If you live near central NJ, you are invited to the Highland Park Library at 7pm on June 14 for the Author here

Here is the recent Home News Tribune article about the book (yes that is where my monthly column is published).

For the Highland Park Mirror article, click here.

And last, but not least....Here is Fox59....aka my Life's Work in 3 minutes.

Your comments are always welcome.
PS: Many of you have purchased the book and I give you a million thanks. If you have a minute, please go to Amazon and post a comment. Thank you.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Where Skill and Enjoyment Part Ways...Video #10

The "parenting" self-test questions in my book
are addressed in video #10.
Water ski guy dealt with you-the-individual; washing machine guy discussed your marriage and you as a couple. For couples who already have a child, these category three questions cover two key (and different) elements:

Are you a good parent? (skills, ability, diligence)

Do you really enjoy parenting? (pleasurable, rewarding, satisfying)

Those are two very different questions, and the responses will impact your family size decision.

Cinematic Note: video #10 wins the “Where’s Waldo?” award. Few people can tell where I am and what I’m doing. Answer: in the garage pouring wiper fluid into to the hood of my car…I’m sure you were plotzing to know that!

Monday, May 16, 2011

What Do Family Size and Harry Potter Have in Common?

The book presentation/signing at Nighthawk Books in Highland Park, N.J. was unforgettable….and Mr. Steven Hart, the owner was terrific and couldn’t have been more accommodating.

Favorite Question of the Day: Asked by a married woman in her 50’s who has children and grandchildren……"Dr. Singer, is it presumptuous to give Creating Your Perfect Family Size to newlyweds as a gift?" Great question: I am going to give that one some thought. I am clearly more prepared for questions concerning the inside of the book than I am about the outside.

Click here for some other photos from the Asbury Park Press

Sunday, May 08, 2011

USA Today’s Sharon Jayson Cites Dr. Singer in Her Cover Story on Family Size

Sharon Jayson wrote another excellent column and this time it discusses my favorite topic, family size. Click here to read her column from this past Friday and be sure to join in the lively discussion by submitting your comment. Here is my latest comment on their website:

It never ceases to amaze me how a simple conversation about how many children one should have....and what goes into the thinking behind that crucial decision, quickly degrades into a tirade about welfare and government subsidies. In my book that Sharon cited in her article, I guide couples through their decision process via 92 self-test questions. This is a personal and crucial decision. And most Americans when surveyed agree that every couple should be able to have as many or as few children as they want.
Alan Singer

For those of you in New Jersey, I’ll be doing a presentation/book signing at Nighthawk books in Highland Park at 2pm….hope to see you there.
And…….Happy Mother’s Day!!!(where applicable)

Friday, May 06, 2011

Menlo Park Mall Book Sales Enhanced by Silver Jag in Background....New Feature: Favorite Book Question of the Day

You know how important product placement is these days folks.....well I placed my product right in front of the Silver Jaguar on display and it did the trick. Barnes and Noble at Menlo was just terrific and they are the only store in Central NJ (and this continent) to have actual autographed books for sale.

It was Mom's Night Out at the Mall and there were mostly Mom's enjoying the atmosphere of free food samples, makeovers, and ear piercing Lady Gaga songs played by a DJ. But there were a lot of couples chillin in the mall tonight, so as they walked by, I would just shout out, "Hey Sir.....handle the family size decision first and she'll be more amenable to you buying that jag" (OK, I did that twice in 3 hours).

Favorite Book Question of the Day: A woman in her late 20's described: My close friend wanted a first child real badly and her husband wasn't exactly on board but then turned out to be a great Dad anyway. She wants a lot more kids for sure, she says. I am wondering Dr. Singer.....if I buy your book and give it to them, will she be mad at me because he'll read all your self-test questions and start thinking over the decision too much?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Marriage Makes You Mentally-Physically-Financially-Healthier….Children Are Another #9

Video #9 is about the self-test questions that pertain to your marriage. The research is plentiful…...marriage gives individuals numerous benefits that parenting does not (an excellent resource is the book, "The Case for Marriage"). Parents must have couples time to insure a solid relationship. They need weekly date nights, occasional weekend getaways, and to be close to extended family to save $$$ on babysitting.

Please don’t think that you can put your marriage on hold from childbirth to when you are empty nesters! A child-centered family is at risk for marital problems. Nurturing your marriage benefits your child (children).

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Two Central NJ Book Events This Week

To my friends, neighbors, and colleagues: I want to thank all of you who have called and/or emailed me this week for the launching (by Wiley) of my book Creating Your Perfect Family Size. Your enthusiasm and good wishes are uplifting. The first two discussion/book signings are taking place this week in Central New Jersey.

Thursday May 5 6-8pm near the Barnes and Noble in the Menlo Park Mall, Edison

Sunday May 8 (Happy Mother’s Day!) 2-3pm Nighthawk books, Highland Park

I look forward to seeing you.

PS: please visit if you are curious how a middle age man endeavors to sell books using social media

Friday, April 29, 2011

It's All About Me.....Then We.....Then 3 (video #8)

I use my favorite sport in video #8 to make the following point: having a child means changes to "your life" not totally abandoning "your life". The self test questions found throughout my book are provided to help YOU make your decision because there is no one-size-fits-all.....perfect family size. It's up to you both to design what's perfect for your family.

The first group of self-test questions help you look at and evaluate YOU the Individual. We want you to be in good shape before you have a (another) child.

Small Request: for those of you who have already purchased the book....Thank You so much! Would you be kind enough to go to the Amazon and/or Barnes and Noble website and write your comments on the book. Thanks again

Friday, April 15, 2011

What's the Ideal Number of Children & other waste-of-time Questions.....Video #7

"What's the Ideal Number of Children?" is a great research question for the Gallup Poll** to ask.....but a waste of time for thoughtful couples to ask.

**See P. 71 of my book for 60 years of responses from individuals who answered that question.

So, What's the perfect family size? As many or as few.......(did you watch the video yet?)

Personal Note: My Dad bought me and helped me set up my first fish tank back in the 60's and I've kept up the hobby ever since. In the video you can see guppies, platties, and catfish. I assume you were plotzing to know that.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Onlies Are Lonely and Other Mistruths...Video #6

Only children are not lonelier.
Marriage isn't supposed to make you happy; it's supposed to make you married (Dr. Frank Pittman)
You can't have everything, where would you put it? (Steven Wright)

Here is how biology works; You have 1 child and you receive a new title---parent.
Here is how psychology works: How do you feel about being parents?

If parenting is "ok" and you are not all that thrilled with it....Don't-Please-Don't let anyone's comment like, you'll want to give her a little brother, won't you? influence you.

Video #6 makes the point that only children are NOT social misfits. They are wonderful, normal, and happy children. Don't have another child because of external pressures. Only do it because of your internal desire for another child.

Friday, April 08, 2011

In Creating a Family and Catching a Wave, Timing is KEY...Video #5

Timing is the keyword I stress more than any other throughout the book. Don’t waste time asking yourself, “How many total children do we want?” or “What is the ideal number of children in a family?” Those aren’t decisions you should be making. Timing is THE decision you must make; together and carefully.

The key question: Is now the best time for us to have a (another) child?

Personal Note: As embarrassed as my children are that Dad is wearing his wetsuit for this book trailer, Mr. Noah Wolfe, foremost expert on social media in North America stated, “Pops, this video has legs”. Let’s see what happens Noah!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Who Am I to Judge A Couple's Reasons? Video #4

What right do I have to advocate for The One Best Reason to have another child?

"To carry on the family name" "To be just like other couples" and "To care for me when I'm old" are very common responses to the question, What is the reason you had a child?

Here's who I am......I have helped couples fix their marriages for 3 decades. In video #4 I make this point: If the reason you are having another child is because you have a son and are now trying for a daughter, you have a 50% chance of success. Since children (on average) tend to decrease marital satisfaction, I want your marriage to have a much better chance than 50%!

Personal Note: On the right end of the piano is a photo of my Dad, Joseph Singer(of blessed memory) author of the quote that starts my book, "When all else fails, read the directions."

Saturday, April 02, 2011

1/3 Say: “No Reason, It Just Happened.” Are You Serious?.....Video #3

The Pew Research Center surveyed 1003 adults recently. The respondents were asked how important various reasons were for them in deciding to have their first child. “It wasn’t a decision, it just happened” was cited by 35% of parents as very important!

Book Trailer video #3 is the best of the worst reasons to have a (another) child. The video takes less than a minute, but it’s packed full of mediocrity.

[Note to self for next book: wait for snow, then roll out the snow blower]

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Don't Have A Baby to Fix Your Marriage....Video #2

Here is the flow of the dozen videos: the first few are about poor reasons to have a (another) child. Then comes the best reason to have a child followed by the timing of children and the myth of the only child. Last are the self test questions re: you the individual, your marriage, and your parenting skills.

Video #2 is a reflection of the fact that I NEVER tell couples that what they need (whether they report that their marriage is superb or problematic) is to have a (another) child.

First fix the relationship, then make your family size decision.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

When All Else Fails, Read the Directions....Video #1

Here's the first of 12 video trailers for my new book. The instructions from my son-in-law Noah, were explicit: each video, no matter how shticky, must have content. So I set up 12 story boards of content and then built the scenery and plot (?) around the content.

[Video 1: man in trench coat; U.S. flag in background]
After all the editing of the book was done by Jossey-Bass, lo and behold....the first lines of the book were a terrific quote from my father. To say the least, I was quite emotional. When Dr. Frank Pittman read and endorsed my book, he said...."This book is the directions". I was really honored, because he's a renowned Psychiatrist and prolific "Marriage isn't supposed to make you happy, it's supposed to make you married!"

Like I state at the end of the video, this book (and video) is not supposed to be a monologue, but rather a Please keep in touch!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Book Is Born !!!

Decades in the making and my book, Creating Your Perfect Family Size has finally arrived!

Look right >>>>>>>>>>>and you’ll see the links to your favorite booksellers. My wife says it took 28 years, because she adds the 13 years that I worked on my PhD (dissertation topic = family size decisions) together with the 15 years post-doc. My children say, “Dad’s coming out of the basement this year!”

If you follow the Wiley link above, you can read the entire first chapter on their website. That’s terrific, except that there’s only 5 chapters in the book so you’re getting 1/5 of the book for a free click. I assume the logic is that you’ll like the sample so much you won’t be able to resist the main course.

The Book Title: My working title for 3 decades was “Family Size Does Matter” but the PR experts at Wiley felt that Creating Your Perfect……was more marketable. Folks, I’ve already started getting emails, “So Dr. Singer what exactly is the perfect family size?” As I state throughout the book….As many or as few, as long as you think it through.

The Video Trailers: So how am I going to be able to keep these blog posts interesting for you, the reader, in the next month as Wiley distributes the books? Of course, by using video book trailers. The goal of each trailer is for you to Tweat it and FB it to your closest 10,000 friends and then it goes viral....hey thanks loads! My son-in-law Noah is editing each trailer and posting it to YouTube (Thanks Noah!) and then I’ll blog about each video as it is released. That’s because, at Noah’s insistence, each video is low on hoakiness and high on actual content from the book.
Please let me know what you think of Chapter 1 and the videos.

Friday, March 11, 2011

As the Economy Tanks, So Does the U.S. Birth Rate

The number of babies born in the United States fell by 2.3 percent in 2009, and the number is continuing to slide. The recent drop in births puts the U.S. total fertility rate below the replacement level of about 2.1 births per woman.

These are the findings that are posted on the Population Reference Bureau website in an informative article by Mary Mederios Kent.

"The recent fall is not surprising given the current economic downturn—couples facing economic uncertainty often postpone having children. Many had predicted fertility decline given high unemployment rates, the home mortgage crisis, and slow economic growth since 2008. The Great Depression of the 1930s and the oil-shock of the 1970s were also periods of record low fertility in the United States.

I think this quote from her article is fascinating, "For the first time in years, the rate of births to unmarried women declined. However, births to married women declined even more, which pushed the percentage of all U.S. births to unmarried mothers to 41, an all-time high." As you have seen me write elsewhere, I am on record as predicting that in 2017, the rate of births to unmarried women will hit the unprecedented level of 50%. That means that 2 million or so babies each year in the U.S. will be born to unmarried women. What Kent's statistic shows is that even though births to the unmarried dipped a bit because of the recession, relative to the larger dip in births to married women, the percent is at an all time high.

"Will fertility bounce back when the economy improves, or will low fertility become the norm for Americans, as it has for Canadians and Europeans? Will couples eventually have the babies they postponed during the recession? For now, we can expect to see continued declines over the near term."

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Children Under 5 Make Up the Bulk of Americans Treated in the ER After Swallowing Medications

Home sick today and popping medications, advil, and vitamins, gave me this chance to blog about Liz Szabo's recent piece in USA Today about child safety and medications.

According to Szabo, "Most such poisonings occur in 1- and 2-year-olds — an age group whose curiosity and climbing skills often outstrip their judgment — according to a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. About 90% of child poisonings happen in the home, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Thanks partly to better caps and packaging, child poisoning deaths have fallen by 80% since 1972.

And most people don't store medications properly, says Lara McKenzie of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. When people are sick with colds, they often leave cough syrups and other drugs by the sink. More and more people also now request "easy open" caps on bottles or day-of-the-week pill organizers, Casavant says. That can be especially dangerous when children get into a grandparent's open purse or begin exploring her house."

"Experts offer these tips to keep children safe:
•Properly dispose of unneeded or expired medications, advises the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
•Don't take medications in front of children, which may inspire them to try to imitate you, Casavant says. Tell children never to take medication unless you give it to them.
•Never refer to pills as candy.
•Because children can sometimes open child-resistant caps, keep medications out of sight, out of reach and in a locked container.
•Keep the national poison control center number — 800-222-1222 — on or next to all of your phones."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Forget Big Brother; Your Children Are Most Likely Watching You

Parental estrangement is a miserable topic to be sure, but unfortunately for some, it is a common part of family life. Several weeks ago, I planned to blog about this topic but then I came across a story that made me re-focus my thinking which I described in my monthly Home News Tribune column.

Be sure to read Dr. Woolverton's email to me (below)

Frederick Woolverton’s essay on parental estrangement, The Most Hated Son in the New York Times Magazine, had a deeper message which became apparent to me. In it, he describes his estrangement from his aging mother (now 89) and his efforts to improve their relationship after three decades of silence “before it was too late.”

Woolverton states, “We’d been estranged since I was nineteen, when I made harsh, yet true, statements about the horrors of living with her at the custody trial for my younger sister. My family’s unstated code had been that nobody was allowed to reveal my mother’s alcoholism. She was enraged that I broke the rules of secrecy.” I can only imagine what went through Woolverton’s mind before he testified against his own mother, knowing that she may never speak to him again as a result of his testimony.

What particularly caught my attention in his essay was when Woolverton described a recent trip he took with his daughter to visit his mother and described, “My mother had cut off all my siblings over the years, and my brothers and sister were shocked that I even went to see her, especially because she always hated me the most — even before the divorce trial. I was the smallest, weak and sick as an infant. She once screamed that she’d wanted to let me die, like an injured animal. Did I forgive her? Absolutely not. Would I protect her now, if she needed anything? Yes. On the ride home, my daughter said what my own mother couldn’t: You are a good son.”

In my opinion, that last sentence says a world about parental role modeling. We have all heard people say that their children hear and see everything, or that a particular incident will be permanently embossed on their child’s memory.
But what I think is more important than what a child retains from a singular event, is what she retains from the on-going series of events known as daily family life. As parents, we have opportunities every single day to be good role models, or the opposite. When we make a mistake, we need to admit it, apologize for it and our child will benefit from that experience exponentially. When you least expect it, they will hear you or see you doing something. This applies to both good and bad role modeling.

Woolverton regretted his estrangement from his mother and attempted to make amends. The unexpected byproduct of bringing his daughter along was what his daughter witnessed and the enduring impression it left. He can be comforted by the fact that he likely won’t be transmitting estrangement to future generations by showing his children that even an all but lost relationship, deserves sincere effort and determination.

Be Counted columnist Dr. Alan Singer is the author of Creating Your Perfect Family Size (Wiley 2011) and is a Marriage Therapist in Highland Park. Please respond to this column via his website

Dr. Singer,
I read your piece on my visit to my mother and appreciated your understanding and description of my daughter's unexpected part in that visit. What you wrote seemed insightful and very accurate, thank you.

Frederick Woolverton, Ph. D.

Monday, February 07, 2011

The American Dream That Beckons Your Teen; Let It Wait

Bill Doherty, who I cite in this blog every chance I get, raises some terrific questions in his Psychology Today essay on Abby Sunderland, the teenager who sailed around the world. He makes some crucial points about the role of modern parents in how they give guidance and supervision to their children.

When the American dream is calling your child, how do you say no?
How have we allowed our adolescents to become adults and our children to become adolescents?
And how do parents lose their moorings when children profess a dream of competitive success?

Doherty described his own family this way: “Back in the ancient 1980s, before the age of the super child, when my son asked to add a second sport to his schedule, we said sure, if you want to drop the first one. We were not yet burdened by the cultural norm that every child is a bundle of undiscovered potential that parents are responsible to uncover and develop, no matter the cost.

Of course, the young have always had dreams, but we used to think that they should grow up before deciding on which dreams to pursue as part of an adult life. From Abby’s blog: "It has been my dream since I was 13 years old and began single-handing, to one day sail solo around the world. I am 16 years old and this blog will contain the story of my attempt to become the world's youngest solo circumnavigator.” Note the contemporary twist on the familiar round-the-world travel dream: it's to be solo and the youngest in history.

We now know that the human brain does not fully mature until around age 25 on average; that means Abby has 9 years of brain development to look forward to. For now, it's the job of parents to provide the missing prefrontal cortex for their offspring.

Abby's father said: "Sailing and life in general is dangerous. Teenagers drive cars. Does that mean teenagers shouldn't drive a car?” When a parent of a minor child compares a year of solo sailing around the world, including in the South Pacific hurricane season, to driving a car in the neighborhood, it sounds delusional to outsiders. But it feels sane to parents who have been seduced by today's culture of competitive childhood where the dreams of youth distort the judgment of adults. Behind every super child is a supportive but ultimately wimpy parent.

Doherty wisely concludes: “The antidote is simple: let high-achieving children be children first, with time to grow up, and in the meantime let parents be the adults in the family.”

I encourage you to read Doherty’s entire piece by clicking here

Monday, January 17, 2011

Communities Can Become Extended Families

Community means a lot more to family well being than a street address. Community is support, camaraderie, and education. This post, which is my monthly Home News Tribune column is a description of the Gush Etzion communities of Israel, located just south of Jerusalem.

On a recent trip to Israel, I had the opportunity to have coffee with Mr. Shaul Goldstein, who is the mayor of the Gush Etzion Region of Israel. Located just south of Jerusalem, the communities that make up the region are home to over 3700 families. They range from large cities such as Alon Shvut, to Mayor Goldstein’s home town, Neve Daniel, which started with 17 families and now has 400. Mayor Goldstein speaks glowingly of his neighborhood, which is where he was raised and together with his wife of 25 years, they are raising their 7 children here as well. I learned that, not only are these beautiful communities, but nurturing and sharing as though each community is a big family.

When our discussion turned to how communities support couples and families, Mayor Goldstein explained the concept of “chai kehilati” which means community life. “I will give you an example. In one of our towns Karmei Tzur, there are many Peruvian immigrants, but some of them are uncertain of their family roots. So they undergo a mini-conversion to Judaism which requires another Chupah (wedding canopy). Recently, a couple went through that process and the entire wedding ceremony and reception were sponsored by their community. The couple had absolutely no family in Israel and can you believe it? The community decided we are your family now.”

“In the neighboring town of Tekoa, they have a wonderful custom for honoring newlyweds. The town hosts an evening during the week of blessings (Sheva Brachot) that follows the wedding. In the middle of the town, there is a great lawn, and that’s where they make an enormous party. The entire town shows up to dance, sing and wish the new couple well in their life together.”

Mayor Goldstein described the communal gathering that takes place after Sabbath morning services; the Kiddush. “For happy occasions such as a circumcision, naming a baby girl, Bar or Bat Mitzvah, you cannot imagine the response of the community in hosting a Kiddush. One family prepares the fruit, another the cakes, another the fish, another the paper goods and it is truly remarkable when the whole town participates in the preparation and then celebrates together.”

He described the intriguing concept of the “Gemach” in each town. It is a Hebrew acronym for doing acts of kindness for others. “Families donate appliances, furniture, even money,” explained Goldstein, “and it is a free loan society which is available to all individuals and families in the town.”
He added, “People really do care about each other here. When you read the weekly Sabbath Newsletter that each community prints, you often see in the back section, this one family wants to thank this other family and you don’t know why, and you don’t ask. The story is private, but the expression of appreciation is public.”

There is also generous support for families when they experience the sad side of life-cycle events. When Mayor Goldstein lost his father several years ago, he spent the week of mourning (shiva) in a small southern Israeli town that had no religious community to speak of. “Requiring ten men to say the daily prayers, dozens of my neighbors came before work each morning to make the quorum and again late in the day for the afternoon and evening prayers.” He remembers how many neighbors drove over an hour in each direction on each day of Shiva so that he could say the Kaddish (memorial prayer). “That is what I call community support. I was so touched by their efforts on my behalf.”

There is much that we can learn from these communities about acts of kindness in our own neighborhoods and within our own extended families. To participate in the remarkable projects of the Gush Etzion Foundation please visit

Be Counted columnist Dr. Alan Singer is a marriage therapist in Highland Park. Respond to this column via his website