Parents of American killed in terror attack promote tolerance with free iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad app

Daniel Wultz with Computer, April 2006

Four years after a terrorist attack that claimed the life of 16-year-old Daniel Wultz, his passion for doing good deeds continues through a free app for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.

Four years after a suicide bombing that claimed the life of a 16 year-old Florida youth, two local nonprofits have teamed up to release an iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad application to promote tolerance in the world.

Daniel Wultz, a student at the David Posnack Hebrew Day School, was visiting Israel with his parents, Sheryl and Tuly Wultz, during the Passover holiday on April 17, 2006 when a suicide bomber targeted the restaurant where Daniel and his father were having lunch. Both Tuly and Daniel were seriously injured. Daniel died 27 days later, on Mother’s Day, in a Tel Aviv hospital.

Throughout his young life, Daniel was particularly fond of performing good deeds, known in Judaism as “mitzvot.” As the fourth anniversary of the event approached, Sheryl and Tuly Wultz met with staff at the Weston-based PAIRS Foundation to consider ways to continue promoting tolerance and good deeds in Daniel’s memory. Following Daniel’s death, the Wultz Family created the Daniel Cantor Wultz Foundation to develop educational and sports programs that promote tolerance and acceptance.

Mitzvah Pjoject app

Free app for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad guides youngsters through identifying and completing projects that promote tolerance and good deeds.

The group came up with the idea of creating an iPhone app called “Mitzvah Project,” designed specifically to guide youngsters preparing for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah to perform good deeds that help them learn about tolerance and launch projects to help families, peers and communities.

Steven Steinberg, a technical specialist at PAIRS Foundation, volunteered to oversee development of the project, including design, working with team members and programmers on implementation, and assuring Mitzvah Project was released on iTunes to coincide with the event that led to Daniel’s death. Other PAIRS team members, including Veronica Nijamkin and Seth Eisenberg, volunteered to work with the Wultz family to create more than a dozen projects that promote tolerance.

Click here to learn more about Mitzvah Project on iTunes or visit the Daniel Cantor Wultz Foundation online.


Parents key to reducing youth violence

sad young person

Telling children not to feel what they feel can lead youngsters to stop confiding in trusted adults, giving more energy to bottled up feelings that can become destructive.

Why are they so angry?,” columnist Ana Veciana-Suarez asked rhetorically in a recent Miami Herald (“Senseless rage sparks inexplicable tragedy,”  4/2/10), listing five tragic examples of teen-on-teen violence that have received national attention this year.

While each story is unique, the issue of young people’s feelings of anger, sadness, fear, and frustration turning deadly is not. For each example, there are dozens more that have not been featured by the local or national media. The murders of three teens in nearby Liberty City during the first three weeks of March alone went almost unnoticed by the press.

This month marks the 11th anniversary of the horrific killings at Columbine. More than a decade later, many schools have implemented valuable lessons. Yet millions of families and communities across the country are tragically missing in action when it comes to taking actions to make America safer for all our children. While school administrators, counselors, and educators struggle to assure the safety of children on their campuses, they cannot succeed without active community support that begins in each of our homes and neighborhoods.

Rarely is violence against children as premeditated as the attack that left 15 dead and 24 injured in Littleton, Colorado. More typically, it’s a result of young people without constructive, healthy outlets for upsetting feelings either unleashing stored up emotions inward or outward. Parental messages that urge children not to feel what they feel (“Don’t be angry,” “Don’t be sad,” Don’t be scared.”) often lead youngsters to stop confiding in trusted adults, giving more energy to bottled up feelings that can become destructive.

Emotions turned inward show up as sadness, depression, and at the extreme, suicide. For those who release their feelings outwardly, they can be unleashed as anger, rage, and at another extreme, violence.

parents fighting in front of daughter

Many young people do have much to be upset about. The financial stresses that are impacting millions of families touch their lives too, both as they witness increasing conflict and uncertainty within their families and become innocent victims of marital and family breakdown.

Many young people do have much to be upset about. The financial stresses that are impacting millions of families touch their lives too, both as they witness increasing conflict and uncertainty within their families and become innocent victims of marital and family breakdown. For others approaching the end of high school or college, educational and career aspirations may feel unobtainable as traditional paths to independence become increasingly elusive. Pressures to fit in, achieve academic success, and beat an uncertain path to a successful future lead many young people to despairingly surrender their dreams altogether.

Those who do stay the course often have assets in their lives – human assets – that support, encourage, and urge them forward:

  • Parents who model healthy conflict resolution skills within their families; ·
  • Parents whose actions regularly show children they are valued and loved; ·
  • Parents in whom they can safely, consistently confide and seek comfort.

Communities in which children are regularly deprived of these vital family resources are far more likely to produce angry adolescents who are a threat to themselves and others.

Programs that encourage caring, responsible adults to spend hours each month mentoring youngsters have proven themselves invaluable when children aren’t able to seek support from their own parents.

While some parents may not naturally have the skills to model healthy conflict resolution within their homes and create relationships in which it’s safe for children to seek counsel and comfort, educational programs that teach relationship skills to adults have been shown to make a difference.

Assuring more children grow up with two parents who are actively engaged in their lives within neighborhoods where caring adults are regularly a positive influence is the most important contribution we can make to a future that’s safer for all of our sons and daughters.

The Power of Partnership

Skype Meeting with Congressman Kendrick Meek

Saylen, David, Xavier Moore Jr. and Seth Eisenberg applaud for Congressman Kendrick Meek during Miami meeting with the Congressman via Skype.

Shortly after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, I messaged U.S. Congressman Kendrick Meek via Facebook with information about a PAIRS class we were teaching in the heart of Miami’s Little Haiti community to help formerly homeless residents of a Carrfour Supportive Housing Community develop stronger relationships with their neighbors and loved ones. Almost instantly the Congressman personally responded via Facebook, directing me to his Miami District Director, Joyce Postell, with a request that I call her with information about the event. When we began the class several days later — sharing exercises to help the participants understand and express emotions, confide with loved ones, and work through conflicts in ways that deepen their closest relationships — Congressman Meek’s Director was there on his behalf.

I was immediately impressed with Congressman Meek’s responsiveness and technical savvy, his genuine concern for the residents of his District, and tangible desire to learn about innovative approaches to improving the lives of the most vulnerable citizens in our community.

We followed up with the Congressman Meek’s staff to schedule a personal meeting with him in Miami to give us a chance to share more with him about our work in his district and nationwide, hear from him directly about his longstanding efforts to support legislation and initiatives to improve the lives of his constituents, and talk about his campaign to become Florida’s next U.S. Senator.

We particularly wanted Congressman Meek to meet Xavier and Saylen Moore and their two young children, third grader David and first grader Xavier Junior. The Moore Family lives in Liberty City, one of America’s most distressed neighborhoods just miles from downtown Miami where drugs, crime, and deadly violence is part of the daily life of children and adults in the community. We met the Moore Family in February during a PAIRS’ training for parents of children at Liberty City Elementary School. The two of them represent only a small number of residents in Liberty City who are married. Recent statistics revealed that just one in ten Liberty City households include married couples. Their ability to navigate the challenges of their relationship has enabled them to actively support their children’s academic success and their own. Saylen Moore is just weeks away from completing her graduate degree in Social Work. Xavier Moore is Vice President of Liberty City Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Association and, for the past six years, has been able to stay out of the crime and violence that is often the foundation of the lives and struggles of Liberty City’s residents, most of whom live in poverty.

Xavier Moore and Saylen Moore Meet with Congresman Kendrick Meek via Skype.

Xavier and Saylen Moore listen to Congressman Kendrick Meek via Skype meeting.

At the beginning of March, as Xavier was preparing to follow-up on his experience in the PAIRS class by attending a four-day intensive program to deepen his skills and learn to help others in his community, his 19-year-old brother, Zachary, was shot to death walking home from a club. I called him after learning of the shooting, listening to his heartache over the loss of a brother he helped raise, and encouraging him to come to the training. He said he was coming for his brother, committed to learning and working in his memory to help create a different future for his family and others.

During his days in the training, other young people in Liberty City lost their lives to violence in the streets of the community. While Xavier used the tools he learned in PAIRS to release the intense emotions of his grief within the class, others were continuing to kill each other.

Xavier and Saylen Moore, along with Seth Eisenberg, respond to Congressman Kendrick Meek during meeting via Skype.

Xavier and Saylen Moore, along with Seth Eisenberg, respond to Congressman Kendrick Meek during meeting via Skype.

Saturday morning, as we were making final preparations for our meeting with Congressman Meek in Miami, his staff let us know that he had been held in Washington by the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, who had scheduled a historic vote on landmark healthcare legislation for Sunday. They said that Congressman Meek would attend via Skype so he could talk to the Moore Family and others and that his wife, Leslie Meek, had flown in from Washington to be with us in person.

Once again, the power of partnership became powerfully apparent. The Congressman’s partnership with his devoted wife allowed him to keep his commitment to our group through her presence. She listened and spoke on his behalf while Congressman Meek followed along via Skype and also offered words of comfort and encouragement to the Moore Family.

PAIRS Group with Leslie Meek

Judge Leslie Meek, wife of U.S. Congressman Kendrick Meek, with PAIRS group following meeting in Miami Beach.

I cannot imagine a more tangible example of a dedicated public servant demonstrating his commitment to using every available tool to connect to his constituents. From Facebook and Skype to the meaningful message Leslie Meek’s support showed for empowering her husband’s passions and promises, the experience left each of us impressed, touched, inspired and hopeful.

Hurt People Hurt People

Impact of bullying

“Hurt people hurt people,” a youngster shared in a recent conversation about bullying at a local elementary school.

Hurt people hurt people,” a youngster shared in a recent conversation about bullying at a local elementary school.

In an instant, I too was back in elementary school, present to 38 years of feelings about the kid who bullied me in fifth grade; remembering my mother’s boyfriend, Joe Griffis – a retired marine colonel she’d fallen in love with after his return from Vietnam – urging, insisting, almost requiring that I stand up to the bully. My adult gut still twisted in knots as I recalled the fear I felt as I realized at the age of ten that I had no choice.

I searched my mind for evidence that the boy who so hurt me with his taunts, threats, shoves and constant belittlement may have been hurting too. After nearly four decades, I couldn’t find his face, name or any other memory to identify the boy, just the feelings of shame, fear, anger, and sadness I felt and the horror that overcame me during those days as I arrived at Sleepy Hollow Elementary School on the bus from our home in nearby Lake Barcroft.

Hurt people hurt people?

Brothers who bully, David Eisenberg, center.

Eisenberg Family, circa 1963. From left, Milton Eisenberg, Lori Eisenberg (now Lori Gordon), Beth Eisenberg (now Beth Redwood), Jonathan Eisenberg; in father's lap, Seth Eisenberg; Front and center, David Eisenberg.

I thought of my older brother – seven years my senior — and his bullying that became my daily life from the time our oldest brother graduated high school and left for college. Had he been hurt, I wondered? What was he so angry or sad about that led to the physical and emotional violence he subjected me to when he thought he could get away with it?

With few exceptions, I felt very much alone during those years, withdrawing into myself or hidden behind my camera from threatening people and events.

Today I realize how much I wasn’t alone; that my experiences are repeated daily in classrooms, playgrounds, neighborhoods and increasingly in homes, retailers, offices, and courtrooms too. Story after story in newspapers, magazines, journals, television, and blogs reveal children and adults leaking bottled up feelings of anger, fear, sadness, guilt, jealousy, and frustration by bullying others.

Some seventy years ago, Albert Einstein, one of the world’s greatest scientists, said:

“The world is a dangerous place; not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing …”

Einstein was referring to a different kind of bully; bullies who capture the reins of political, economic, and military power and turn their sites on innocents. In either case, witnesses to intolerance, abuse, and the fanaticism that can be borne from both are not innocent bystanders – the very essence and meaning of their lives emerges from the decisions they make to act, speak or, tragically, look away.

Having survived my childhood, raised two sons through their own elementary, middle and high school years, and spent hundreds of hours in their classrooms and many others teaching skills for healthy relationships, here are some suggestions for people living, learning, playing, or working with a bully.

  1. Know that a bully’s actions are about the bully, not the target. When people bottle up emotions such as sadness, fear, anger, frustration, and guilt, those feelings have energy that doesn’t just disappear. For some, feelings leak out through bullying, threatening, sarcasm, taunting and other dirty fighting tactics until eventually either imploding, which looks like sadness, depression and at the extreme suicide, or exploding, which comes out as anger, rage, and at another extreme, physical violence. Either way, the actions reflect what’s happening inside the person bottling up their feelings. Those who are closest to them – at home, work, schools, and neighborhoods – are rarely the cause of the intense emotions, although they are often the targets.

  2. Share your feelings about being bullied with a trusted friend, family member, or counselor. Feelings have energy. Negative energy can be toxic, like poison. Holding in negative emotions, especially for long periods of time, is like keeping poison inside. Before long, it spreads and infects others. Finding positive ways to release negative emotional energy is vitally important to both emotional and physical health. Some enjoy nurturing conversations, meditation and physical activities; others have found benefit from PAIRS Emptying the Emotional Jug, Heart Math, Steven Stosny’s H.E.A.L.S., and similar exercises.

  3. Create boundaries that define unacceptable behavior. Differences are a natural part of any close relationship; in fact, every single human being is unique. What are the boundaries – some call them belt lines – appropriate for you in your closest relationships? It’s important to know your boundaries and clearly communicate them to others, whether at home, school, or work. Some may not be bothered by a raised voice or certain language while others might take great offense and consider those actions “below the belt.” In some cultures, people naturally touch each other; other people might consider any physical contact inappropriate. Know your boundaries and speak up to let others know what is, and isn’t, okay for you.

  4. Encourage compassionate support both for victims and bullies. When someone you know has been bullied, reach out with compassion and respect. Ask how you can help. Listen with empathy and understanding to their experience. Support the person in seeking and getting assistance needed to get through the situation. Actively help create an environment in which future threats of bullying are eliminated. At the same time, recognize that people who bully may be crying out for attention. At school, support zero tolerance for bullying by insisting that people who bully be counseled, including involving a parent, and separated from others who have been the target of their actions until they recognize their behaviors are unacceptable, accept the consequences, and apologize to those they’ve wronged.

  5. Never keep it a secret; call attention to bullying. While some think they will boost their popularity and low self-esteem by taunting, threatening and abusing others publicly, many bully only when they think they won’t be seen, caught, or prevented from lying about their abusive behaviors. Don’t let them succeed! Whether you’re the target or witness, call attention to bullying and help create a world in which others don’t have to fear emotional or physical abuse at home, school, work or anyplace else. People who are abusive to others need attention so their actions don’t escalate. People who are victims need active, compassionate support within a culture that collectively protects every human being’s right to live, learn, play and work without being bullied.

Impact of PAIRS in Reducing Bullying Behaviors

“The skills have helped me better control my anger.”

~ Kevin, 18

“The information has taught me how to show and control my emotions.”

~ Robin, 17

“PAIRS has give me so many new and positive ways to express my anger.”

~ Jessica, 16

“My experience in PAIRS allowed me to relieve so much stress and pain.”

~ Danyell, 17

“PAIRS has made me aware and of ways in which I have been dirty fighting, I now have the tools to positively release my negative feelings.”

~ Melodie, 33

“The emotional jug allowed me to release so many negative emotions.”

~ Jennifer, 31

Additional Resources:

Jerry Seinfeld’s The Marriage Ref Normalizes Relationship Differences

The Marriage Ref

Tom Papa is the Marriage Ref in Jerry Seinfeld's new comedy on the challenges of love and marriage.

Jerry Seinfeld’s The Marriage Ref premiered on NBC last night with an intimate peak into the lives of two couples navigating the unique challenges of their relationships.

While the particular issues highlighted in this first episode were unusual – a husband wanting to keep his deceased dog’s stuffed body in the family room and another eager to install a stripper’s poll in the bedroom – differences in every human relationship, especially between intimates, are not.

Together with panelists Alec Baldwin, Kelly Ripa, and Seinfeld himself, host Tom Papa navigated the very real issue of relationship differences with lighthearted humor that is too often missing when couples find themselves at odds with each other.

With weekly episodes beginning this Thursday in Jay Leno’s previous 10:00pm time slot, celebrity panelists such as Madonna, Tina Fey, Eva Longoria Parker, and Larry David are sure to bring a valuable message to millions of couples: differences are a normal part of every relationship. Learning to deal with them with humor, empathy, respect and structure is a message that can make a difference for countless marriages.

Ultimately, few couples will bring the challenges of their lives to the show’s panel of comedic commentators and analysts. In the process, however, many more will find new perspective, strategies and opportunities to become their own marriage refs. As those insights help couples reach out to each other with love, levity, empathy and respect, Jerry Seinfeld’s journey through the absurdities and inanities of modern life has the potential to be a brilliant success.

Life, Love Lessons from the Developmentally Disabled

Sanford Rosenthal introduces PAIRS at ARC Broward

Sanford Rosenthal, a veteran PAIRS instructor who lost his vision to retinitis pigmentosa, teaches relationship skills to a developmentally disabled group at ARC Broward.

Nearly 50 million Americans live with a disability. For many within this community, the challenges of sustaining relationships can be life and death matters.

This week, I joined Sanford Rosenthal, a veteran PAIRS instructor and social worker who lost the last remnants of his vision several decades ago to the disease retinitis pigmentosa, to introduce PAIRS relationship skills to 70 disabled adults and staff members at ARC Broward.

The private, not-for-profit organization provides daily support and assistance to children and adults with mental retardation, autism, Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities, delivering a continuum of support to over 1,000 children and adults.

The audience fast embraced our invitation to begin an adventure into the miracles of their own lives and relationships, eagerly sharing insights into the logic of love and emotions from the unique perspective of the severe challenges they face daily.

As we introduced Virginia Satir’s powerful stress styles of communication, the men and women eagerly offered comments and perspective on behaviors such as people pleasing, blaming, computing, and distracting through facial expressions and words many struggled to share.

When we began teaching Satir’s Daily Temperature Reading, a powerful exercise for nurturing cherished relationships, hand after hand quickly rose for a chance to participate through heartfelt, specific appreciations for the people who make a difference in their lives. Many motioned to staff members, urging them forward to thank them personally for their daily counsel, faith, and support; others turned to one another to offer a warm embrace, words of acknowledgment, and other verbal and non-verbal expressions that communicated their gratitude. The 90 minutes allowed for our brief presentation could have easily turned into a full day, as the courage and example of each class participant inspired similar expressions from their enthusiastic peers.

Although close in proximity, this group – like similar groups in communities throughout our nation — lives a world away from millions of Americans who are not afflicted with a life-altering disability. It was impossible not to be touched by the deep gratitude they expressed for those who met their most basic human needs – someone to listen, believe in them, truly see them.

I suspect Sanford and I both left the group having learned as much, if not far more, than we shared.

I returned to my nearby home, wife, and nine-week old son more aware of my ability to speak, learn, listen, and share; more grateful than ever for the resources, freedoms, lessons, and challenges of my life as I reflected on the overwhelming obstacles each of these men and women endure daily to continue their own. I recalled my adolescent experiences with the late Virginia Satir and Daniel Casriel — the energy, authenticity, and faith they brought to developing the exercises and insights we shared with this audience, trusting they were smiling upon our efforts, offering their own blessings to the lives of these extraordinary human beings, grateful that their lives, values, and passions were continuing to make a difference in the world.

And I thought of Satir’s poetic words, “I am me,” penned in response to a teenage girl decades ago who turned to her for guidance as she struggled to understand her own life:

“I am Me. In all the world, there is no one else exactly like me. Everything that comes out of me is authentically mine, because I alone chose it — I own everything about me: my body, my feelings, my mouth, my voice, all my actions, whether they be to others or myself. I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears. I own my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes. Because I own all of me, I can become intimately acquainted with me. By so doing, I can love me and be friendly with all my parts. I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me, and other aspects that I do not know — but as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles and ways to find out more about me. However I look and sound, whatever I say and do, and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is authentically me. If later some parts of how I looked, sounded, thought, and felt turn out to be unfitting, I can discard that which is unfitting, keep the rest, and invent something new for that which I discarded. I can see, hear, feel, think, say, and do. I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive, and to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me. I own me, and therefore, I can engineer me. I am me, and I am Okay.”

Answering the Call

Sleeping on Maybelle's Lap

Sleeping on Maybelle's Lap, 1965.

I’ve often wondered if my life would really be different if someone had answered my mother’s phone call in the early sixties when she reached out for a therapist to help save her marriage to my father. The story I’ve heard recounted many times since is that it was the end of summer, a last desperate attempt to rescue a 17-year marriage, but since no one was available to help, the chance for reconciliation passed. Their union, and the last hope for our intact family, dissolved forever.

By four, Maybelle, a young widow who had arrived in the Washington, D.C. area from South Carolina seeking respite from the poverty and discrimination of the time that faced many African Americans in the south, became my primary caretaker.  Her devotion, love and joyful spirit remains my fondest childhood memory.

The youngest of four, by my twelfth birthday, I became the only child regularly living in our comfortable suburban home. For the most part, it was Maybelle and me, as my mother’s constant routine included busying herself to emotional and physical exhaustion week after week, year after year, serving her therapy patients and a father lawyering himself tirelessly for elite corporate clients and the new family he quickly created, with little time, patience or apparent desire to stay engaged in the life of a son he barely knew.

Throughout it all, Maybelle and I always found reason to laugh.

I don’t remember anyone ever asking if I’d done my homework, how I’d done on a test, what was happening at school, with friends, or talks about drugs, alcohol, sex or much of anything else important. I do remember my father’s rage when he had to take time from his busy law practice to go to court with me as a young teenager after I got in trouble for being delinquent. I can still see his angry face and feel his words as he told me how ashamed he was and that he’d never forgive me for embarrassing him.

The lessons I learned came mostly from friends I found whose parents were nearly entirely absent from their lives too. Many others emerged from the promises I vowed to myself during those years to one day give my own children a different childhood. When I found myself in a painful, destructive marriage with their mother, it took years to finally surrender to the realization that I could not save them from the legacy of divorce. Although I knew that what was in my hands was the ability to stay actively involved in their lives through shared custody, coaching their sports teams, volunteering in their schools, and choosing career and life decisions that allowed me to make being their father my top priority throughout their childhood years. Together, we could learn as much as possible about breaking the cycle of divorce to help our family and others.

Nearly half a century after the phone call that wasn’t answered for my parents and the marriage that wasn’t saved, I regularly find myself seeking out the young children of couples who attend marriage education classes I now help organize and teach to thousands of couples in South Florida and elsewhere, silently pledging to each of them that I will always do my best to competently answer their parents’ calls.

Last week, I had a chance to review and report on research looking at the impact our brief workshops are having on their parents. The results brought statistical, scientific evidence to support the testimonials and grateful appreciations that have become almost commonplace at the conclusion of our 12-hour classes. I was particularly eager to see the results from the fathers of these children, hoping to finally find an answer to the question I’d asked myself about my own parents’ relationship for much of my life.

In our six-month follow-up with nearly 500 men, we found:

  • 95% reported improvement in communication with their partner;
  • 93% reported improvement in regularly sharing appreciations;
  • 92% reported improvement in their ability to resolve conflicts constructively;
  • 84% reported improvement in their physical intimacy;
  • 89% reported improvement in their ability to confide emotions;
  • 94% reported improvement in their overall relationship.

[For a copy of the full report, see]

Would that have been enough to save my parents’ marriage, I wondered? Had my parents attended our class, would it have changed the course of my own life? While I’ll never really know the answer to that question, I do know that for these children, they’ll have a better shot at keeping the childhood, support, encouragement, and resources that are lost by millions of youngsters when their parents breakup, the childhood I lost too.

From her home in heaven, I hear Maybelle’s laughter, feel her warm embrace, and find comfort in the idea that perhaps that’s the grand scheme of it all.