Our Stories

Growing Together as Parents: Insights into the Ari Zymelman Lecture

November 12, 2015 by Tamar Nicolson (Community)

In one week, JPDS-NC will have the second annual Ari Zymelman Lecture on Parenting. As a rakezet (room parent/connector) and parent of a pre-Kindergarten student, I have heard that there were questions about who the lecture series was named after, the psychologist who will be our speaker that evening, and the topics of the lecture and facilitated group discussions. So I thought I might try to shed some light on the program, and give a little bit of personal insight into the how this lecture series was created.

My family and I knew Ari Zymelman (z”l) through our connection with JPDS-NC. Ari’s son, Yossi, was in the same pre-K class with our oldest daughter, Eliana. Our children graduated from 6th grade together in 2014. When we first met Ari, he was a parent who had been left to raise two young children on his own. He was a partner in a law firm that handled major commercial mergers and acquisitions, and he had (by his own admission) very little insight into how to raise children. But he loved his children tremendously, and was determined to do right by them, and so he began his quest to be an excellent father. He studied Torah, and he read all kinds of parenting books and went to all kinds of parenting classes in order to learn how to be a better parent for his children. Over the eight years that we knew him, he transformed himself right before our eyes. I watched him become a patient, kind, and gentle person, full of love for his children, and I watched him find great happiness. His entire demeanor changed. He met an amazing woman, Beth Gansky, and they married, and they were so very very happy together. Most importantly, his kids were very happy. On Kol Nidre of that 6th grade year, his friends and family gathered around him in the hospital to say Tehillim for him in his last moments of life. He died of cancer that night.

Parenting is a constant evolution for us because our kids are always growing and changing. They are infants and then, 5 minutes, later they are 18. (Don’t get me wrong, while the years are short, those days can be very very long. There are ages and stages when we’ve got it all goin’ on, and there are times when it’s just so hard. Some of us are better parents when they’re little, and some do better with the older kids. But while we are working hard to properly raise our children, they are also raising parents, offering us insight and wisdom that only we can receive because we parented them.

I think that Ari and Beth wanted to give all of us JPDS-NC parents, a chance to be great successes at this parenting thing, and to give us a leg up on getting it right. In the depths of their despair, they found ways to give great meaning to this terrible loss of a husband, friend, and father and chose, so generously, to share that with their community. I hope you will join me in attending this lecture series in honor of Ari, a fellow parent, who died just too darn young, but used this great sadness to do something wonderful for our school, for our community, for our children, and for us – because we all know how hard it is to get it right every single time….

Our guest lecturer will be Dr. Daniel Griffin, a licensed psychologist with extensive post-doctoral training and more than 30 years of experience in family-based therapies. I am told that Dan brings warmth and understanding to his work with adults, children, families and couples struggling with behavioral and emotional issues. He will be discussing parenting trends in society (i.e. helicopter parenting, free range parenting, etc.) The lecture will be followed by small group discussions based on two community reads. I am familiar with both of the books they asked us to read – Wendy Mogel’s The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and The Blessing of a B Minus. In a nutshell, the focus of each book is that we grow the most from the hardest experiences, and that goes for our kids too. It should be a very interesting lecture and discussion, especially with all the talk in the last year of free range parenting…. I’m curious to hear what Dr. Griffin has to say, and I’m grateful to Ari and Beth for the opportunity to hear this lecture, and to better myself as a parent.